Reviews of children's and young adult books old and new

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Parasols, Poison, and Preternaturals

Changeless: An Alexia Tarabotti Novel by Gail Carriger

To begin, let me say that this book is not intended for a young adult audience, not to say that they would not enjoy it, but it was not written with young adult readers in mind. I am reviewing it because I mistakenly thought the first book in this series Soulless, was a YA and now I am hooked on the series.

Changeless begins right where Soulless left off with Alexia being married to Lord Maccon. All of the regiments have been recalled to England in order to be redeployed so many of the Woosley pack on actually camped on Alexia's front lawn. There is a strange phenomnon going on in London and throughout the countryside, supernaturals are losing their powers and returning to their mortal state. This throws all of London into chaos for a few days but then inexplicably their powers are restored. Lord Maccon goes to Scotland to investigate and Alexia follows. On her journey to Scotland a few attempts are made on Alexia's life, but she survives being no worse for her experience. After a rude welcome to her husband's ancestral home in Scotland Alexia tries to discover the source of what is causing this werewolf pack to lost their supernatural abilities. She succeeds, but in the end it is not appreciated.

I did like this book, I love the characters that Carriger created, however the ending to this book made me so mad I almost threw it across the room. I was reading last night alone in my apartment, and I got to the end of the book and literally started to yell at it. Like the author could here me and come and fix how unhappy I was, it was so ridiculous. My only defense is that I was completely absorbed into the world that Alexia lives in and to have the book end the way it did made me mad, to say the very least. It is a brilliant ending though because now I have to read the next book Blameless but it is not out until October, so again I am miffed that I have to wait four months to find out what happens.

Now, the main reason I would be hesitant to recommend this to a young adult reader is that there is a lot of sex in this book, or more accurately a lot of foreplay and then it is implied or stated in one sentence that sex occurred. The sex is between a married couple but I am not sure how I feel about recommending a book to a teen where every twenty pages or so the clothes of the main character are being removed. The scenes are not gratuitous and nothing like you would read in a romance novel, much more tame than that, but again, teens think about sex enough as it is without having to read about a Victorian heroine 'getting it on' all the time.

If a little bit of steamy reading is O.K. for you, I highly recommend this book. I loved it. I could not read it fast enough, and it when it was over I was sad that I had read it so fast. I want to read it again just because I like the characters and how they interact with each other and this Victorian supernatural world so much. Carriger does a great job of writing a witty and smart woman in the Victorian era. Alexia has so much to offer the reader in terms of layers of personality and depth that although you think you can predict where the story is going next there is always a twist that you did not see coming that fits perfectly into the storyline. And that happens quite a few times. As in the first book there is an equal amount of science mixed in with the paranormal that provides for such a fun juxtaposition of ideals and social conventions. I would recommend reading the first book before you start this one as this book builds on a lot of the information we learn in Soulless. Overall, a fun and witty read with a strong heroine that is not afraid to take charge and be in command.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Princess

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Sara Crew and her father are very close, neither of them like the idea of Sara going to boarding school but it is a social convention that must be followed. A very intelligent, imaginative, and odd child Sara almost instantly makes an enemy of the headmistress Miss Minchin. Sara's father instructs the headmistress that Sara is to have every luxury and comfort, and Miss Minchin follows his request because of his fabulous wealth. On the day of Sara's eleventh birthday news comes that her father is dead and that his fortune is lost. Far from being compassionate Miss Minchin decides to treat Sara like a servant or worse. For three long years Sara lives in the attic of her school and tries to imagine away hunger, cold, and fatigue. Little things start to change in Sara's attic and she believes it is a magician who is helping her. Finally it is revealed that her fortune was not lost and that the "magician" who had been helping her was a close friend of her father's that had been searching for her in vain for many years.

This was my favorite book when I was in fifth grade. I must have read it ten times one summer. I would finish it and then start it over again immediately because I loved it so much. I think what I liked about it then was that Sara was intelligent and imaginative. The book does mention that she is pretty but in an odd way and it was her intelligence and imagination that were her better qualities. I liked having a main character that was smart. I also loved all the wonder that was in the book. Even when things were terrible for Sara she still tried to make them better by telling stories or even just helping others. There is something magical in the stories Sara tells herself and others.

The story is masterfully told and it should be no surprise that I also loved A Secret Garden by Burnett. I was pleased to find that there are many free versions of this book online to either download or read on your computer screen as well as a few free audio versions of the book. In addition to that you can watch most of 1995 movie on YouTube in about eight installments. I did like both the 1939 and 1995 movie although they both took some liberties with the story I think they did capture the essence of the novel. I highly recommend this classic to girls ages 7-12.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

An Unlikely Hero

The Tale of Despereaux by Katie DiCamillo, illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering

The instant Despereaux was born everyone knew that he was different. Even for a mouse he was too small and his ears were too big. But Despereaux does not mind being different, he is looking for adventure when the other mice simply cower and run away. In looking for adventure Despereaux meets the Princess Pea and decides that he wants to devote his life to her service. It is because of Despereaux that an evil plot by a rat will be foiled and that soup will once again be eaten in the kingdom.

The movie version of The Tale of Despereaux like all adaptations of books takes some license with the story. And unfortunately like most movie versions I do not think it was as good as the book. I did enjoy the movie version though despite the changes to the story. The movie version is at the same time lighter and darker than the book. In the movie version our villain Roscuro is not the true villain and finds redemption and happiness at the end. While in the book Roscuro is given forgiveness but his heart was too crooked to ever really be happy. The real villain in the movie is Botticelli, and he gets killed at the end. While in the book nothing happens to Botticelli, he stays in the dungeon with the other rats for the rest of his life.

What I liked about the book and movie version is Despereaux's desire to be a knight and to live with honor. It is always fun to read a children's book with a true hero figure, no matter how unlikely that figure may be. Despereaux is everything a hero should be, honest, brave, and courageous, even though he is a mouse. I like that DiCamillo gave children a different hero, to let them know that you do not have to be big and strong to do the right thing. I also love children's books where the hero is on a quest or adventure that has some danger in it. The reader is worried quite a few times for Despereaux's safety and it only makes him that much more likable when he is victorious in overcoming his obstacles. I highly recommend this book for boys or girls ages 8-12. This could also be a great read aloud for a younger audience.

I would read the book first and then see the movie if you could, I find that it is more fun to have read the book before I see the movie version. Are there any strong opinions you have about book or movie first?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Bunny Icon

Miffy and the New Baby by Dick Bruna

Miffy learns from Father and Mother Bun that there is going to be a new baby bun soon. Miffy is very happy and decides to make some presents for her new baby brother or sister. Very soon baby bun is born. Miffy is very quiet because she did not realize the baby would be so small. Miffy is happy when she is able to hold baby bun and eat cake to celebrate with her class at school.

Miffy is a great series that was started back in the 50's. The colors for Miffy are very unique and the creator actually invented a 5-tone color for Miffy. The pages are very minimalist with few extras. This story is told in rhyme and is intended for children ages 2-4. I find reviews of books that are intended for such a young audience difficult for me because it is so far removed the from elementary school world that I know about. But, I can say that this book had a good story about welcoming a new sibling, and that the story is told mostly through the written word and not by the illustrations. I like how simple these books are for this age group because at that age (2-4) attention spans are very short and this will keep them interested in the entire story.

The website for Miffy is fantastic. At the top are resources for parents and at the bottom are icons for kids. You can have a book read to you, watch videos, play games, and color. I really enjoyed my time in the kids section of the Miffy website. It was engaging and the directions for how to use each icon are read to you, so if your little one is on the computer they can use the site with little assistance. I think it is wonderful to have a devoted website to series like Miffy so that kids can get excited about continuing to interact with the characters after the story is over. And this website is free to use so they can play as many games as they want or color as much as they can.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

From Pouts to Puckers

The Pout Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen, illustrated by Dan Hanna

Told in rhyme this book tells the story of a very sad fish, the pout pout fish. All of his friends wish that he would not be so gloomy but the pout pout fish is convinced that he is destined to be sad and grumpy because his mouth forms a pout. One day a new fish swims right up to the pout pout fish and kisses him. The pout pout fish is stunned but after a moment he realizes that he is not a pout pout fish but a kiss kiss fish. From then on he spreads happiness wherever he goes.

I am torn about what to think about this book. I like the rhyming pattern that the book follows and the portions that are repeated. Both of those things are great for children who are learning to read. I also like the illustrations. The pout pout fish is so funny and so reminiscent of a child who is just convinced that he or she is having a bad day. What I do not like is that at the end of the story the pout pout fish becomes a kiss kiss fish. I personally think that is funny and great but having been a teacher I think this is going to cause problems.

I was working in a school once where a kindergarten student was possibly going to be disciplined for sexual harassment for kissing another kindergarten student on the cheek. I thought then and still do now, that that was ridiculous. Yes, we should teach kids to not go around just kissing everyone but sexual harassment, seriously, it was just out of control what these parents will do. So my main concern is that if you have a book like this that is very innocent, and kids that are innocent, in a school where nothing can be innocent anymore you are going to have a problem. I would hate to have some little five year-old think that a good way to make his or her friends happy would be to go up to them on the playground and give them a kiss because you don't know how that will be taken in today's world. I think it is sad but that is where we are at.

Other than that though I did like the book. I thought it was cute and age appropriate. The illustrations of the sea life are a bit cartoon like but you can still tell what every animal is supposed to be, and that is always good in a book about animals. I do recommend for children ages 3-5 but be sure to have the talk with your kids about not just kissing people without their permission.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Picture the Dead by Adele Griffin and Lisa Brown

New from Sourcebooks in May this paranormal, historical, young adult romance is sure to please. Jennie Lovell lost her parents when she and her twin brother were only twelve, forcing them to live with their Uncle Henry, Aunt Clara and their two sons Will and Quinn. Jennie and Toby instantly bond with Will and after a few years Jennie and Will are engaged. But then the Civil War comes and her brother and Will are both killed in the war. Jennie's aunt does not care for her and she is left with nothing. But strange things start occurring in the house after Quinn returns home. Jennie feels that she is haunted by something or someone. With a spiritualist photographer to guide her Jennie tries to free herself from this demon this is tormenting her, only to find the demon may not what it seems.

This is one of the books I picked up at BEA. I saw that there was an author signing and decided to wait in the very long line to get a signed copy. It was well worth it. The two authors were were lovely and very passionate about this story and the characters they created. I am so glad that I met them before I read the book, it makes me like it that much more now. I must say that from the first line I was pulled in, "A ghost will find its way home" is a strong way to start any story. Added to that first line is so much artwork throughout the book it is staggering. At the beginning of every chapter is something else from "Jennie's scrapbook", from letters to pictures and newspaper clippings you really feel immersed in this world.

The story moves along a bit slowly at first, giving you small hints and details while you watch Jennie go unloved and forgotten. But after the family visits the photographer the story moves very quickly. The story gets to be more creepy then scary and you, the reader, are always questioning the truth of what is going on. By the last 40 pages or so you are so engrossed in this book that nothing will distract you. I literally had my mouth open in shock and horror for at least 25 of the last 40 pages, making me look quite ridiculous but very entertained. The end is great and I am glad the authors added an Epilogue or I would have been very angry to not have the characters a bit more settled.

The book's website is wonderful and has a lot of interesting extras for you to read through and play with. Below is a video about how the authors came up with the story, it is interesting to hear their creative process. In the end I highly recommend for girls ages 13-adult.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Guns in School

I was talking with a teacher from the DC area yesterday (my husband's aunt) about my blog post of Roald Dahl's poem "Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf". She was saying that this poem, with the original illustrations that I had posted (to the right), would no longer be allowed in her school because of the image of the gun. That got me thinking about what exactly was forbidden in schools today. Are all images of guns forbidden, even those on a police or army officer, who are allowed/supposed to have the weapon? And is it just the images of guns that are not allowed. Can guns be mentioned in a book or poem? If you take every book that has a gun mentioned in it out of schools you are going to be removing a lot of classic literature. I think there was even a gun in Black Beauty, although I could be wrong about that.

My next question is, are other images of weapons allowed? I realize that guns are more prevalent in society than bows and arrows or even knives but they can still be used as a deadly weapon. And does intent with the weapon matter? If a fourth grader is learning about the Civil or Revolutionary War are they not allowed to look at photographs or paintings that depict soldiers or civilians with guns? One assignment I remember getting throughout elementary school was to come up with my own illustration for a chapter in a book we were reading as a class. If that book had guns in it for whatever reason would I not be allowed to illustrate that?

I understand the need to teach children that guns are not toys and not something to be taken lightly or used, but does removing all images of guns from school accomplish that goal? I also realize that every school is different and has come up with their own set of rules for this sort of issue. I am curious what you think about this rule of no images of guns in schools, and if you know similar rules in your area.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fur is the New Red

"Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf" by Roald Dahl from Revolting Rhymes

As soon as Wolf began to feel
That he would like a decent meal,
He went and knocked on Grandma's door.
When Grandma opened it, she saw
The sharp white teeth, the horrid grin,
And Wolfie said, ``May I come in?''
Poor Grandmamma was terrified,
``He's going to eat me up!'' she cried.

And she was absolutely right.
He ate her up in one big bite.
But Grandmamma was small and tough,
And Wolfie wailed, ``That's not enough!
I haven't yet begun to feel
That I have had a decent meal!''
He ran around the kitchen yelping,
``I've got to have a second helping!''
Then added with a frightful leer,
``I'm therefore going to wait right here
Till Little Miss Red Riding Hood
Comes home from walking in the wood.''
He quickly put on Grandma's clothes,
(Of course he hadn't eaten those).
He dressed himself in coat and hat.
He put on shoes, and after that
He even brushed and curled his hair,
Then sat himself in Grandma's chair.
In came the little girl in red.
She stopped. She stared. And then she said,

``What great big ears you have, Grandma.''
``All the better to hear you with,'' the Wolf replied.
``What great big eyes you have, Grandma.''
said Little Red Riding Hood.
``All the better to see you with,'' the Wolf replied.

He sat there watching her and smiled.
He thought, I'm going to eat this child.
Compared with her old Grandmamma
She's going to taste like caviar.

Then Little Red Riding Hood said, ``But Grandma,
what a lovely great big furry coat you have on.''

``That's wrong!'' cried Wolf. ``Have you forgot
To tell me what BIG TEETH I've got?
Ah well, no matter what you say,
I'm going to eat you anyway.''
The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers.
She whips a pistol from her knickers.
She aims it at the creature's head
And bang bang bang, she shoots him dead.
A few weeks later, in the wood,
I came across Miss Riding Hood.
But what a change! No cloak of red,
No silly hood upon her head.
She said, ``Hello, and do please note
My lovely furry wolfskin coat.''

The Children's Poetry Archive has the audio of Roald Dahl reading this poem, it is wonderful to be able to hear his voice and inflection as you read along. If your young readers enjoy poetry and rhyme this is a great free resource to use.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dogs at Work

Jack's House by Karen Magnuson Beil, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka

This is the real story of the house that Jack built. A twist on the classic poem "This is the House that Jack Built" by Mother Goose we read how the house was built and get to see who actually did the work. With rhyme and repetitive verses we learn that Max, Jack's very resourceful dog, actually built the house.

This book is very cute. I am a dog lover, so anything with cute cartoon dogs has mostly won me over. The fact that all the construction work is done by dogs is just too adorable to not like. Aside from being cute the illustrations are very well done and convey a lot of the story in their detail. The book, like the poem, is very repetitive and it continues to build on itself until the end. The repetition is great for new readers and will help them as they start to read on their own. The rhyming pattern is also good for new readers as it will help them to anticipate words and help them sound out words they do not know. The story itself takes the reader through the various construction phases of building the house. I think that kids will like the ending where Jack gets taken away and Max lives in the house, Jack's expression is great. Overall this is a very good book for children who are starting to read or for younger children who enjoy dogs, construction, or rhyme.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Expect the Unexpected

The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Yoko Tanaka

Peter Augustus Duchene lives in the city of Baltese with his guardian Vilna Lutz. One day while in the market Peter sees a fortuneteller's tent and has to go in and ask her one question, if his sister is alive how does he find her. The fortuneteller's answer fills Peter with equal amount of hope and despair. His sister is alive and he must follow the elephant to find her. There had never been an elephant in Baltese, so how could he follow it to his sister? But later that week a magician, meaning only to summon some lilies inadvertently summons an elephant through the theater roof right on top of a noblewoman. Peter is filled with hope that he might find his sister and set things right.

Let me begin by saying that I am a big fan of Kate DiCamillo, so forgive me if this review gets to be a bit gushy from time to time. Needless to say I loved this book. It was so sweet and so filled with the hope that only children have, I was completely taken in and held by this wonderful character of Peter. The book is actually very short although when you pick it up it does not seem to be, the pages are smaller than most books and it has wide margins so it will be a quick read. The chapters are not very long which is perfect for seven to eight year-olds reading this book. We meet many different characters throughout the story that don't always seem to fit together but in the end most of their stories are intertwined. Peter though is why you want to read on to find out what will happen. DiCamillo puts all the wonder and hopefulness of childhood into this character. He is good and honest but also caring, he is the perfect child without being unlikeable. I think what I appreciated most in this story was the hopefulness to see things made right and that the world could be changed to be a better place. It was refreshing to read something that had that kind of blatant optimism. I highly recommend for girls or boys ages seven to nine.

Author Interview and Author Reading

Friday, June 11, 2010

Hard as Stone

Reckless by Cornelia Funke

Coming out September 14th from Little Brown, this story is about Jacob Reckless and his brother Will. Jacob misses his father, he knows he is not supposed to go into his father's study but he doesn't understand why his father left him and his brother. In the study Jacob finds a mirror and when he touches it he is taken to another world. Many years later Jacob's younger brother Will is on a trip with him in this other world and Will gets hurt very badly. It is up to Jacob to try and save his brother. But in this world of magic there is danger at every turn and nothing comes without a price.

The tagline for this book is "If you're looking for happily ever after you've come to the wrong place" and nothing could be more true. I read this book over the course of a week and would get depressed and sad after every reading. To the point where my husband could not wait for me to finish so I would stop being in a bad mood. I think what upset me most was the lack of hope in the story. There is not real good or bad guy, no noble knight, no optimistic and honest young hero. In addition to that there is a sense that this other world of magic is slowly being destroyed by the inventions from our world. You get the sense that this is the end of an era, that magic will soon no longer exist in this world and that is a sad thing. Lastly there is no great love. There is the love of the two brothers but it is given begrudgingly and there is no romantic love story to fill that void.

The story is well written but much of it is told through a person's thoughts or intentions which just adds to the overall depressing feel of the book because so much between the characters is left unsaid. We are given a little background information about Jacob and Will but then we are thrust into the story with little more than their names. It takes awhile to get oriented in the story and figure out who we are supposed to be pulling for as the tale unfolds. There is a lot of adventure and fighting, and the fight scenes are very good but it felt like there was something missing. In the end I think that children will like this book. There is adventure and none of the mushy love stuff. I can appreciate the great story telling and that there is so much tension throughout the entire book that you just want to read it in one sitting so you can know how it ends. But it is true, there is no happily ever after, so beware if you pick it up that the ending will not give you a warm fuzzy feeling.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Licious Fun

Pinkalicious, Purplicious, Goldilicious by Victoria Kann and Elizabeth Kann

Pinkalicious and her mother and brother make cupcakes one rainy day. She loves them and the color pink so much that the next day she has turned pink. Her parents take her to the doctor and the doctor says she has Pinkititis, the only way to cure it is to eat a lot of green things and nothing else that is pink. Pinkalicious does not like that idea and sneaks another pink cupcake, but the next morning she has turned from pink to red. Pinkalicious is very upset and eats all the green food she can. Soon she is back to her normal color.

Purplicious and Goldilicious follow Pinkalicious through her other adventures at school and with her imaginary unicorn Goldie. She does not turn colors again but starts to learn to like some new colors in addition to pink.

I liked Pinkalicious, I thought it was a bit silly but loving the color pink myself I can see how fun this would be for little girls. Purplicious and Goldilicious lost me though. I didn't really see the same carefree story telling in either of those books. Not that they were bad or poorly written but the main character of Pinkalicious without outrageous pink things going on just doesn't feel as whimsical or fun. I do like the illustrations in all three books. They seem to be a combination of drawings, photographs, and collages. It has a very distinctive feel to them that is all Pinkalicious.

In looking for other interesting items about these books I found that there is a Pinkalicious show in New York and more merchandise than you can shake a stick at. I now understand why the books are so popular. If you can get a Pinkalicious doll, sticker set, coloring book, pajama set, and cupcakes it is hard not to sell a few books as well. I would probably have wanted all of that as a child so I can't really fault the marketing department for making the product tie-ins. Many little girls want to feel like a princess and dress up and pink for some reason seems to embody all of that.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Online Reading

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner: An Eclipse Novella by Stephanie Meyer

For the next month (until July 5th at midnight) you can read, for free, the complete novella The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner. Click the title or cover to go to the site and have fun reading.

"Fans of The Twilight Saga will be enthralled by this riveting story of Bree Tanner, a character first introduced in Eclipse , and the newborn vampire world she inhabits. In another irresistible combination of danger, mystery, and romance, Stephenie Meyer tells the devastating story of Bree and the newborn army as they prepare to close in on Bella Swan and the Cullens, following their encounter to its unforgettable conclusion."

I am very excited to start reading this novella. I loved the Twilight series and it is always sad when a story you love ends. I am a bit nervous though about reading this from Bree's perspective. In Eclipse you hate the newborn army so I am not sure how Meyer is going to make us care enough about Bree to make her story interesting. Either way though this should be a fun read and it is very wallet friendly. Also very timely with Eclipse the movie coming out at the end of June.

If you get a chance to start reading the book on the website let me know how you find the reading experience. I like reading on my Kindle but am not a huge fan of reading books off a computer screen. I will do it though when no other option presents itself. (I once read Phantom of the Opera on my computer at a temp job where I was answering phones, I got one call a day for four days, needless to say I needed a distraction.)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Poem A Day...

"Ma and God" by Shel Silverstein from Where the Sidewalk Ends

God gave us fingers--Ma says, "Use your fork."
God gave us voices--Ma says, "Don't scream."
Ma says eat broccoli, cereal and carrots.
But God gave us tasteys for maple ice cream.

God gave us fingers--Ma says, "Use your hanky."
God gave us puddles--Ma says, "Don't splash."
Ma says, "Be quiet, your father is sleeping."
But God gave us garbage can covers to crash.

God gave us fingers--Ma says, "Put your gloves on."
God gave us raindrops--Ma says, "Don't get wet."
Ma says be careful, and don't get too near to
Thoses strange lovely dogs that God gave us to pet.

God gave us fingers--Ma says, "Go wash 'em."
But God gave us coal bins and nice dirty bodies.
And I ain't too smart, but there's one thing for certain--
Either Ma's wrong or else God is.

Like many children Shel Silverstein was my favorite poet when I was growing up. My copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends is literally falling apart from being read so many times. This poem was one of my favorites from that book. I remember reading it and getting to the end and thinking, 'I can't let my parents read this one, they will not think it is funny and I will get in trouble for thinking it is funny.' It turns out all my fears were unjustified and my parents did see the humor in the poem. I loved the way Shel wrote but I was not a fan of his illustrations, I always thought they looked too dirty, too unfinished. It was the first time as a child I was confronted with a piece of art that was not perfectly polished and pretty. I didn't really know what to do with it and for awhile was confused as to why he would have these "ugly" drawings in his books next to the great poems. When I got a little older I started to understand how much his drawings were apart of the book and the presentation of the poems and I learned to love them.

Do you remember your favorite poet or poem from growing up? I would love to know what you liked.

Friday, June 4, 2010

"The End is Rear"

Chicken Cheeks by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

There is a bear who sees something in a tree, but he needs something or someone to help him to reach whatever it is that he sees. He starts getting animals to help him by standing on each others shoulders. The only text on the page though is the name of the animal and its backside, "moose caboose, rhinoceros rump, hound dog heinie" and so on. In the end they are all reaching for some honey but beware of the "bumble bee bum."

I read this book and didn't realize that the author was Michael Ian Black, for those of you who don't know he is a stand up comedian and actor. I told this to my husband and all of a sudden he is a bit interested in this blog post. Then I found the video below, of Michael reading his book and now I can't write the blog post because we are watching the video. At first I thought the book to be too simple and too silly, it is really just a list of backsides. After watching the video with my husband and seeing him double over with laughter I think I was thinking about this book too much as a teacher and not enjoying the humor in a good butt rhyme. I think three to six year-olds will giggle with glee at all the silly names for each of the rear ends. In addition to the silliness of the writing the expressions the animals make as they try to climb on top of one another are very funny too. I would avoid this book at bedtime though as you might inspire a fit of giggles that will make sleeping an impossibility.

Now there is always some debate in the publishing community over books that go for the "potty humor", are these books good for children? Should we be encouraging kids to laugh at butts? I am curious to know what you think, is it ok to read books that have a bit of the potty humor in them?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Leave the Dark Magic for the Grown Ups

Voodoo for Kids?

While wandering through the Children's Pavilion at BEA (Book Expo America) last week I stopped at Hinkler Books' Booth. They had a lot of educational books and some interesting kits. I was looking at a spinning display, when on the top I saw a Voodoo Kit. I am assuming this was for kids and I must say I was very taken aback. Voodoo for kids, really? I mean I am all for a healthy expression of frustration or anger but teaching children to poke pins into a little doll while pretending that is a friend or other child that upset them does not seem like a good idea. I went to Hinkler's website and did not find the product. I am not sure if that means they were just testing it out at the show or if it is too new to be on their website. The image to the left is one that I found online that looked similar to the kit I saw but not the exact one.

In doing a quick Google search though it appears you can buy voodoo kits with instructional books from a few reputable publishers, most notable Macmillan and Running Press. I am surprised but, at least those kits are marketed to adults. I think I am still hung up on the idea of marketing something like that to children. I realize that kids go through a morbid phase somewhere between 5-13 but giving them a voodoo kit seems unnecessary. Not to mention giving any boy under the age of 12 a sharp object just seems like a bad idea. I feel like kids are so impressionable that we should be teaching them to forgive and let go of things not to try and hurt people that upset them. Doesn't it seem like giving children a voodoo kit is just encouraging them to hold grudges and is teaching them that they have the right to decide how someone else should be punished for a mistake?

I obviously think this is a bad idea but I would love to hear from you what you think about voodoo kits for kids and if you have seen any available.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Friends Forever

Forever Friends by Carin Berger

A small blue bird and a little brown bunny meet one spring and become friends. They play in the forest all spring, summer, and fall. But then the blue bird must fly south. The bunny misses her friend but when spring returns so does the blue bird and they are happy to be together again.

This is a very sweet story about friendship. But the real reason to pick up this book is for the illustrations. They are beautiful. The collages are made using ephemera, such as catalogues, old books, receipts, ticket stubs, and letters. I would love to see the original pages because you can see where the edges overlap in the collage and you just want to feel that texture rather than the flat, smooth page. This is a good read aloud for a classroom or at bedtime because there are only a few words on each page making it easy to hold the book open and read. The color choices for the illustrations are very warm and fit each season (spring time is filled with yellow and green). This is a good book to start teaching colors as well because there is not too much action on each page which makes it easier for young children to identify what is what. I highly recommend and if you want to take a look at the book before you buy it or pick it up from the library use the browse inside below to get a feel for the book.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Exciting New Titles

Top Ten Books
These are the top ten books I am excited about that I either picked up at BEA or are coming out this summer.

1. Sapphique by Catherine Fisher coming out in December from Penguin. This is the sequel to Incarceron, for ages 12 and up. I will be giving away a copy this summer, contest details to come soon.

2. Reckless by Cornelia Funke publishes in September from Little Brown and is for children ages 10 and up (middle grade). It looks amazing and was well worth the hour wait to have my copy signed by the author.

3. The Search for Wondla by Tony DiTerlizzi publishes at the end of September from Simon & Schuster and is for children ages 10 and up (middle grade). From the author of the Spiderwick Chronicles this promises to entertain.

4. Linger by Maggie Stiefvater is available in July! The sequel to Shiver this YA paranormal romance will hopefully answer a lot of questions I was left with after devouring Shiver.

5. Guardian of the Gate by Michelle Zink book two in the Prophecy of the Sisters Series coming in August. Another YA paranormal with a little romance thrown in. Very excited to know what is going to happen with Alice and Lia.

6. Torment by Lauren Kate coming in September this is the second book in the Fallen Series, YA paranormal with angels. I am definitely team Daniel!

7. Ascendant by Diana Peterfreud the sequel to Rampant (which I need to read ASAP) comes out in late September from Harper Teen. I am intrigued by the idea of a unicorn hunter and Rampant has gotten great reviews as a YA paranormal.

8. Halo by Alexandra Adornetto published in September and is a YA dealing with angels. Beware though this is book one in a trilogy that is scheduled to be finished in late 2012. I honestly picked this one up for the cover it is so stunning, I am excited to read and see if the story can match it.

9. Firelight by Sophie Jordan publishing in early September from Harper Teen this is Ms. Jordan's first YA novel. Unlike her historical romances (I am reading In Scandal They Wed now, and it is very good) this will be a paranormal tale.

10. The Agency: The Body at the Tower by Y. S. Lee is the sequel to The Agency: A Spy in The House from Candlewick Press publishes in August. This book is for children ages 12 and up and I am excited to read about this world set in Victorian England, where there is a all-female detective unit protecting Queen and country.