Archive for October, 2016

Review of We Found a Hat, by Jon Klassen

Saturday, October 29th, 2016

we_found_a_hat_largeWe Found a Hat

by Jon Klassen

Candlewick Press, 2016. 52 pages.
Starred Review

A new hat book by Jon Klassen! And first I’ll answer the burning question: No one gets eaten in this book! (Yes, this was something of a disappointment to me.)

However, we do have a creature (a turtle in this case) battling with covetousness over a hat. This time, actually, generosity wins out.

The story is simple. Conveyed with simple words and flat pictures — where so much emotion is conveyed, once again, in those simple eyes.

Two turtles find a hat. It looks good on both of them. (Or so they say. The reader notices that it doesn’t actually fit either turtle very well.)

But there is only one hat and two turtles. They leave the hat behind, but one turtle can’t get it out of his mind.

When the first turtle starts to go to sleep, the second turtle sees his chance.

But the first turtle tells about his dream, a dream where they both have hats and both the hats look good. The second turtle decides to go with the generous dream option.

Now there are some impracticalities with this solution. Will it really satisfy? But one thing I like is that, once again, there’s lots of room for discussion with kids about what actually happened. And how the characters are feeling.

And this time nobody gets eaten.

As before, this contains surprisingly deep simplicity.

A hat book! Like all the rest, it leaves me smiling.

candlewick.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of A Pig, a Fox, and a Box, by Jonathan Fenske

Saturday, October 29th, 2016

pig_fox_box_largeA Pig, a Fox, and a Box

by Jonathan Fenske

Penguin Young Readers, Level 2, 2015. 32 pages.
2016 Geisel Honor Book

This beginning reader has the pay-off kids learning to read will love.

Pig and Fox are friends, but Fox likes to play tricks. In the first two parts, Fox tries to be sneaky and play tricks on Pig and both times, it backfires badly. In the third part, we see that Fox has learned his (painful) lesson.

First, this book manages to use rhyme well, a thing that isn’t easy. The story is never sacrificed for the rhyme.

I also like the way the author has the reader make inferences from the pictures. After the first part, Fox has a Band-Aid and a mark on his tail. After the second part, he’s got a cast, a black eye, and two large bandages. Also, when we see a box in the second part, it’s been taped back together after its collapse in the first part.

It’s also fun the way the reader will see that it’s not Pig’s fault at all that Fox gets hurt. The whole book is an exercise in seeing things from another perspective.

There’s also repetition, which is nice for beginning readers. In this case, it adds to the humor when each part starts the same way — but Fox, who is in bad shape, decides in the third part that he’s had enough hiding and playing today.

penguinyoungreaders.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Some Writer! by Melissa Sweet

Friday, October 28th, 2016

some_writer_largeSome Writer!

The Story of E. B. White

by Melissa Sweet

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016. 161 pages.
Starred Review

This book is amazing. I’ve seen Melissa Sweet do picture book biographies, such as Balloons Over Broadway and illustrations as in A River of Words. But this is a full-length children’s biography with 161 pages, with illustrations or photographs or clippings or maps or mementoes or other visual aids on every spread.

I’ve read a biography of E. B. White for adults. While it did include much more detail, this book was far more entertaining. The visual material includes many quotations from E. B. White’s work, typed out on a manual typewriter.

I was particularly impressed with the map Melissa Sweet made of E. B. White’s (Andy’s) trip across the country in a Model T with his friend Cush in 1922. She painted a map of the United States on wood. There’s a zigzagging trail with numbers and little mementoes attached to the numbers. A Legend on the side explains what each memento represents. For example, number 5 is a piece of sandpaper, and the Legend reads, “Sandpapered a dance floor earning $3.00.”

As a children’s biography, this book does linger over his childhood. He spent lots of time outdoors, but was also writing at a young age, submitting pieces to St. Nicholas. A picture of the magazine and an article clipping is included.

His time at The New Yorker is covered, and his move to Maine. There are all kinds of mementoes illustrating these. One of the pages has at the top a quotation from The Letters of E. B. White:

I have discovered, rather too late in life, that there is nothing so much fun as building a boat. The best thing about building a boat is that it allows absolutely no time for writing; there isn’t a minute to spare.

Below the quotation is a page from a book describing how to build a boat, complete with diagrams. The page also shows some old tools he would have used. Across the page in the main text, we learn that Andy built his son a boat after they moved to Maine.

There’s a chapter on each of Andy’s children’s books and a chapter on The Elements of Style. The chapter on The Elements of Style surprised me. Melissa Sweet takes quotations from three award-winning children’s authors telling their favorite parts of The Elements of Style.

Here’s a paragraph from the final chapter:

His obituary in The New Yorker read, in part, “White had abundantly that most precious and least learnable of writerly gifts – the gift of inspiring affection in the reader.” Whether he was working on a poem, a cartoon caption, an essay, or a children’s book, E. B. White felt it was a writer’s obligation “to transmit, as best he can, his love of life, his appreciation for the world.” His friend and editor William Shawn said: “Even though White lived much of his life on a farm in Maine, remote from the clatter of publicity and celebrity, fame overtook him, fortunately leaving him untouched. His connections with nature were intimate and ardent. He loved his farm, his farm animals, his neighbors, his family and words.”

I can’t overstate how thoroughly and meticulously this book is crafted. Melissa Sweet follows E. B. White’s advice and wastes no words or images. The complete package is stunning.

There’s an Afterword by E. B. White’s granddaughter, but there’s also an Author’s Note. In “About the Art,” Melissa Sweet tells us:

I set out to capture two things as I began the art for this book: the sense of place in White’s writing and the small, vivid details he describes.

She achieved this goal beautifully.

melissasweet.net
hmhco.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Rilke’s Book of Hours, by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy

Thursday, October 27th, 2016

book_of_hours_largeRilke’s Book of Hours

Love Poems to God

by Rainer Maria Rilke

translated by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy
with a new Introduction by the translators

Riverhead Books (Penguin), 2005. 257 pages.
Starred Review

Although this book was published in 2005, our library recently purchased new copies of it, so I saw it on the Wowbrary list and checked it out. I liked it so much, I purchased my own copy and slowly went through it at the rate of a poem per day.

Anyone who has seen my Sonderling Sunday posts know that I love the German language and I love looking at the ways the German and English languages try to express the same thoughts. So this book, with the original German text on one side and the English translation on the other, is perfect for me.

This is poetry, so you’re not going to find a literal translation. I think I liked it better for that. Again, how best to express an idea, in this case a poetic idea, in each language?

I’d read a poem each day. First I’d read it in German and try to get the idea. Then I’d read it line by line with the translation and find out where I’d gone wrong.

The poetry is beautiful in both languages. Don’t let the subtitle throw you. Rilke has some nontraditional thoughts about God. But they do get you thinking and meditating about some deep thoughts.

This is the 100th Anniversary Edition, and there’s a reason these poems have lasted so long.

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on my own copy, purchased via Amazon.com.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Spontaneous, by Aaron Starmer

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

spontaneous_largeSpontaneous

by Aaron Starmer

Dutton Books, 2016. 355 pages.
Starred Review

The premise of this book got my attention: Dozens of Seniors at Covington High School are suddenly, without warning, spontaneously combusting. They’re going about their days, minding their own business, when they suddenly explode, splattering blood and guts all around them.

The story is told by Mara, a member of the Senior class. Here’s how the book begins:

When Kate Ogden blew up in third period pre-calc, the janitor probably figured he’d only have to scrub guts off one whiteboard this year. Makes sense. In the past, kids didn’t randomly explode. Not in pre-calc, not at prom, not even in chem lab, where explosions aren’t exactly unheard of. Not one kid. Not one explosion. Ah, the good old days.

How would you respond if your classmates started randomly exploding? How would the world respond? That’s what this novel is about.

I did think it was a nice touch that the second explosion happened in Group Therapy, in a group that had been formed to deal with the first spontaneous combustion. That group didn’t continue.

Mara was present during the first several explosions. Eventually, sports and classes get cancelled. Only the Senior class is combusting, so they are isolated from the rest of the world.

Various theories are put forward as to the cause, and some seem more likely than others. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that ultimately which theory to believe is left to the reader.

The story here is compelling. I liked Mara, if I did feel sorry for her. She doesn’t cope real well — drugs, booze, and sex — but who would cope well?

There’s a little bit of a message: Essentially, I was able to pull out of it “Live for today and do the best you can, because that might be all you’ve got.” But I’m straining to get that much message out, and the whole thing felt pretty bleak.

What caused the spontaneous combustions wasn’t the only issue left unresolved at the end. A little more resolution might have made it easier to find a point to the book.

For a book about explosions, it didn’t end with a bang, but seemed to trail off.

So I didn’t feel satisfied at the end of this book, but I enjoyed the ride tremendously. Spontaneous is actually a funny book about a lot of teenagers dying. Pulling that off is rather amazing.

Besides, what would you do if you were part of a Senior class that started spontaneously combusting?

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of When Green Becomes Tomatoes, by Julie Fogliano and Julie Morstad

Monday, October 17th, 2016

when_green_becomes_tomatoes_largeWhen Green Becomes Tomatoes

Poems for All Seasons

by Julie Fogliano
pictures by Julie Morstad

A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, New York, 2016. 56 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a lovely book that goes through the seasons with poetry. Each poem’s title is a calendar date. The book begins and ends with March 20 as the seasons go around.

The poems have nice variety. Some rhyme and some don’t. The styles and thoughts cover many different moods. The wonderful pictures make a lovely accompaniment. This is a meditative book and will help you notice the moments.

A few examples:

march 22

just like a tiny, blue hello
a crocus blooming
in the snow

march 26

shivering and huddled close
the forever rushing daffodils
wished they had waited

may 10

lilac sniffing
is what to do
with a nose
when it is may
and there are lilacs
to be sniffed

june 15

you can taste the sunshine
and the buzzing
and the breeze
while eating berries off the bush
on berry hands
and berry knees

Okay, I should stop with Spring! These are only some of the shortest poems, and the book does go through all the seasons. (The “When Green Becomes Tomatoes” poem falls on July 10.)

I will copy out one more, which I just love:

January 5

i would not mind, at all
to fall
if i could fall
like snowflakes
(more drift and swirl
than tumble thump
more gentle float
than ouch and bump)
the most perfect way of all
to fall
is to fall
and fall
like snowflakes

These are lovely. I like the simple child-voice, but with beauty that adults can appreciate.

mackids.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Sonderling Sunday – Meeting the Heffalump

Sunday, October 16th, 2016

It’s time for Sonderling Sunday! That time of the week when I play with language by looking at the German translation of children’s books. Tonight I’m continuing a look at Winnie-the-Pooh, otherwise known as Pu der Bär.

pu_der_bar

Last week, I began Chapter 5, “In Which Piglet Meets a Heffalump,” In welchem Ferkel ein Heffalump trifft. We left off on page 63, Seite 69. Piglet has dug the Very Deep Pit, and Pooh has placed the bait of honey in the Cunning Trap.

We’ll start with the first sentence of the section:

“And off Piglet trotted to his house TRESPASSERS W, while Pooh made his preparations for bed.”
= Und Ferkel trabte zu seiner Wohnung BETRETEN V, während Pu seine Vorbereitungen für das Ins-Bett-Gehen traf.

“the night was beginning to steal away”
= die Nacht gerade anfing sich davonzustehlen

“sinking feeling” = Gefühl des Sinkens

“murmuring a murmur” = murmelte ein Gemurmel

Okay, I have to reproduce the “murmur”:

“It’s very, very funny,
‘Cos I know I had some honey;
‘Cos it had a label on,
Saying HUNNY.

A goloptious full-up pot too,
And I don’t know where it’s got to,
No, I don’t know where it’s gone —
Well, it’s funny.”

= Dies ist ein echtes Rätsel mir;
Ich
weiß, ich hatte Honig hier,
Mit einem Zettel, richtig fein,
Und HONICH drafgeschrieben.
Ein Riesentopf, voll bis zum Rand,
Und jetzt ist er mir durchgebrannt.
Wo kann er hingegangen sein?
Wo ist er nur geblieben?

Try to use this in your conversation:
“It all comes of trying to be kind to Heffalumps.”
= Das kommt alles daher, dass man versucht Heffalumps gut zu behandeln.

And here’s a Useful Sentence:
“The more he tried to sleep, the more he couldn’t.”
= Je mehr er zu schlafen versuchte, desto mehr konnte er nicht schlafen.

“making straight for a pot of Pooh’s honey”
= begab sich schnurstracks auf den Weg zu einem Topf mit Honig von Pu

(I love that word schnurstracks! Google says it means “footprints” or “directly.”)

“eating it all” = fraß ihn völlig leer (“devoured it completely empty”)

“licking its jaws” = die Lefzen leckte

“half-light” = Dämmerlicht

“jiggering about” = herumhüpfte

“Was it Fond of Pigs at all?”
= Konnte es Schweine überhaupt ausstehen?

“a Clever Idea” = eine schlaue Idee

“heffalumping” = geheffalumpt wurde

“Oh, dear, oh, dear, oh, dear!” = Owei, owei, owei!

“bumping” = schmettern

“made a loud, roaring noise of Sadness and Despair”
= stieß einen lauten Ton der Trauer und Verzweiflung aus

“a Horrible Heffalump!” = ein unheimliches Heffalump!

“scampered off” = hoppelte davon

“Help, help, a Herrible Hoffalump!”
= Hilfe, Hilfe, ein unheffliches Heimalump!

“Hoff, Hoff, a Hellible Horralump!”
= Heim, heim, ein heffunliches Hilfalump!

“Holl, Holl, a Hoffable Hellerump!”
= Heff, Heff, ein lumphässliches Limpfahump!

“an enormous big nothing”
= ein wahnsinnsriesengroßes Garnichts

“awful” = grässlich

“Smash” = klirr

“Foolish Piglet” = törichtes Ferkel

And we’ll finish with Christopher Robin’s words at the end of the chapter:
“Oh, Bear! How I do love you!”
= Ach Bär! Wie sehr ich dich liebe!

Now you know how it sounds when you meet a Heffalump and you try to report it in German.

Review of Duck on a Tractor, by David Shannon

Saturday, October 15th, 2016

duck_on_a_tractor_largeDuck on a Tractor

by David Shannon

The Blue Sky Press (Scholastic), 2016. 32 pages.
Starred Review

Hooray! A sequel to David Shannon’s classic, Duck on a Bike! Though as is best with a picture book series, you don’t have to read the first one to appreciate the second.

The beginning of the book does refer to the earlier one:

Down on the farm, Duck sometimes got wild ideas. One day he decided he could ride a bike, so he did. Then he spotted the tractor.

“I bet I can drive a tractor,” he said. The other animals weren’t so sure, but they all said, “Well, if he can ride a bike, maybe he can drive a tractor, too!”

So Duck starts driving a tractor and convinces all the other animals to ride along. The fun part here is where we hear what each animal says (an animal sound) – and then what that animal is thinking.

The animals are thinking things like “This is the silliest thing I’ve ever done!” “This sure beats walking!” and “I was going to take a nap, but this should be very interesting!”

The Duck manages, somehow, to drive into town, with a full load of animals on the tractor. Then we hear what the people of the town say – and what they are actually thinking. For example:

Deputy Bob blabbered, “If that don’t beat all!” But what he thought was, “How am I gonna explain this to the sheriff?”. . .

The Mayor almost choked on his pie. “Good gravy!” he sputtered. But what he thought was, “Those pigs are even fatter than I am!”. . .

Farmer O’Dell observed. “That’s a dang nice tractor.” But what he thought was, “Hey, that’s my tractor!”

This is silly fun, and I’m looking forward to trying it for my next storytime. I think it will work best with older preschoolers and early elementary school kids, since there are lots of words on each page and some inside jokes.

We’ve got farm animals, a big tractor, and a silly situation. This one’s destined to be another classic.

scholastic.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of The White Book, by minibombo

Saturday, October 15th, 2016

white_book_largeThe White Book

by minibombo

First published in Italy in 2013 as Il libro bianco, by Silvia Borando, Lorenzo Clerici, and Elisabetta Pica.
Candlewick Press, 2015. 44 pages.

This book makes me smile.

It’s a wordless picture book. The background, like the title says, is white.

We see a boy with several buckets of paint and a paint roller.

Each time he rolls a different color of paint on the pages, a different animal appears, made of the new color of paint, and outlined in white. This makes the boy smile.

But then the animal does something to make the boy frown. The birds fly away. The fish swim away. The dinosaur is scary. The elephant is too big. The giraffe is too tall.

The final animal is – you guessed it – a dog.

Without words, we can easily see that this animal is just right.

This book is for young kids who won’t even wonder how using a roller could outline these animals. Without words, with just simple expressions on the boy’s face, there’s so much to talk about. You can start with colors and animal names, but it won’t be long before kids will be talking about the boy’s feelings and maybe how they would feel about each animal appearing before them.

I do think it’s funny that there’s a copyright notice for the “English translation” at the front. Okay, they did translate the title. And the copyright notice information. I looked at minibombo’s website, and I hope that more titles from this Italian publisher are forthcoming.

minibombo.com
candlewick.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Everyone Brave Is Forgiven, by Chris Cleave

Friday, October 14th, 2016

everyone_brave_is_forgiven_largeEveryone Brave Is Forgiven

by Chris Cleave
read by Luke Thompson

Simon & Schuster Audio, 2016. 12.75 hours on 10 discs.

First, let me say that Chris Cleave’s writing is magnificent. His use of language is rich and evocative. Narrator Luke Thompson’s voice and dreamy accent is wonderful — the voices of the different characters were distinct and clearly distinguishable throughout.

This is another World War II novel — but showed me aspects and details of World War II that I knew nothing about — the siege of Malta, the fate of children who were not evacuated from London, the treatment of Negroes in England, and what it was like to be in London during the bombing.

But — it’s another World War II novel. Yes, I was enthralled. Yes, I was never tempted at all to stop listening. (Did I mention the author’s magnificent and evocative use of the language?) But I’m afraid, sadly, I’m getting tired of World War II stories. I’ve read so many good ones in the last year: All the Light We Cannot See, Anna and the Swallow Man, Salt to the Sea, and The War That Saved My Life.

This one, I’m afraid I never was very fond of the characters. They were interesting. I liked Alistair best — but mostly it was sympathy for all he had to go through. (And his voice was the dreamiest.) The rest were all right, but not necessarily people I’d ever be friends with if they were real.

And the main love story didn’t quite work for me. As far as I could tell, it was some sort of spell cast on them when they laid eyes on each other. Despite obstacles. I just couldn’t quite get behind that, even though they kept telling me how strong that attraction was. I didn’t feel like they actually knew each other well, despite some flirtatious letters (which were fun to listen in on).

And Chris Cleave can think up horrors like no one else! He still hasn’t topped the scene in Little Bee for the most horrific scene I’ve ever read. But this was a book about war, and there were several truly awful moments. They were warranted — this is a war story. But that may be partly why I’m getting tired of World War II stories.

So — I can’t stress enough that this is a well-written book that shows you the daily lives of a group of people caught up in World War II. It lets you peek into their hearts. But those are a few reasons why I personally liked and admired it but didn’t love it. If you take it up, be sure you’re ready for a story about war.

chriscleave.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?