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March 2008 Reviews

Oregon Coast Preview Center for Young Readers
March 2008
S.E. Volunteer

Fiction

Fredericks, Mariah, In The Cards...Love .  Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, NY, 2007. $15.99.  ISBN 978 0689 876547.  270p.  Anna is an eighth grade girl who has been bequeathed a set of Tarot cards along with a very old and strange cat by an old lady who had lived in her apartment building and who had died.  Anna has two best friends and all together they set off to find out if the future can really be foretold by a set of cards.  This is a first in a series of three In the Cards books with the same characters...Anna, Eve, and Syd, and I can’t wait to read the other two books in this series.  I enjoyed this novel and it is an uplifting book for girls in this age group who are unsure who they should like and what they should look like and who they should hang with.  Q8P8 Ages 11-13

Knowles, Jo, lessons from a dead girl. Candlewick Press, Ma. 2007. $16.99.  ISBN 978 0 7636 3279 3.  215p.  This is a story of a young girl’s, Laine’s, adolescent life, from 5th grade  through  high school and of Leah, the one time friend  who would have Laine  go into the little bedroom closet to “practice for when they got older.”  It messes with Laine’s head throughout the years (and so does Leah) and Laine carries this confusion all the way through high school until she is following Leah in her car, trying to catch up with her when Leah doesn’t even try to make a turn in the road they both know so well and she ends up dead.  Laine has to deal with the gossip and taunting of her peers through this difficult period in a girl’s life, and when she realizes that Leah had been sexually abused by her uncle for all those years, she comes to the realization that she was the object of Leah’s sexual abuse the way that Leah had been the object of her uncle’s sexual abuse and used Laine to get rid of all that Leah had experienced through what her uncle did to her all those years.  Leah turns out to be a promiscuous teenager, involved in alcohol and drugs and Laine ends up trying to make sense out of it all.  It was a somewhat depressing book but a few lessons can be learned from it, namely, that experimentation is just that and not necessarily a prelude to lesbianism. Q7P7 Ages 14-18


 Clarke, Judith, Night Train.  U.S publication, Henry Holt and Co., 2000, originally published in Australia 1998 by Penguin Books Australia Ltd. ISBN978 1 932425 92 5.  $9.95.  155p. Luke is a mentally disturbed young man who is having a hard time in his senior year of high school.  His folks have sent him to two other schools but he was kicked out of both for what I believe to be non legitimate reasons and this is the last straw for him to “make something of himself” as his stern father puts it.  He is passed in the hall by his father without him even being acknowledged and he hears a night train that no one else hears and that everyone says doesn’t come by at that time of the day (2 AM)   His sister hates him and his mother is an ineffectual person in any sense of that world that he lives in.  He can’t sleep at night and the girl that he is infatuated with, the only person with whom he can talk, is prevented from seeing him by her parents who believe that this young man is just plain nuts and not good for their daughter.  The story is a dark story of the misery that he has to go through just to live each day.  He dies at the end of the story by having his shoe get caught in the train tracks when he decides to go to the station at 2AM to see if the night train is real or not. He decides to find out if he really is going crazy as people around him seem to think.  It is real.  Q8P8 Ages 15-18


 Schlitz, Laura Amy, il. Max Grafe, The Bearskinner, A tale of the brothers Grimm.  Candlewick Press Ma. 2007.  ISBN 978 0 7636 27300.  $16.99. This tale of a soldier who has lost everything he has loved and makes the proverbial wager with the devil. For 8 years the soldier has to travel the land in a bear skin and not pray to God and also has to help people with his never ending gold supply in his purse.  The people in return are asked by him to pray for him, which they do. Very dark but nicely done illustrations make this short book well worth the turning of each page.  Q8P8 Ages 7-12.

 Harris, Joe, The Belly Book.  Beginner Books A division of Random House 2008.  ISBN 978 0 375 843 402.  $8.99.  A really cute read aloud book about different kinds of bellies.  Q8P8 ages K-1

 Dewdney, Anna, Nobunny’s Perfect.  Penguin Young reader’s gp. NY 2008 ISBN 978 0 670 06288 1.  $12.99   By the author of the llama llama books, this is a cute book on manners and what constitutes good and bad manners.  Q8P8.  ages K-1

 Scarry, Richard,  Little Golden Book Favorites.  Random House, a Golden Book, NY. 2008  ISBN 978 0375 845 802.  $5.99.  Stories include “Goodnight Little Bear,” “Chipmunk’s ABC” and “The Bunny Book”  It is another Richard Scarry favorite.  Q8P8 Ages K-3.

Non Fiction

Schubert, Ingrid and dieter, Like People.  Lemniscaat, an imprint of Boyds Mills Press Inc, Penn.  2006.  Under title net mensen.  ISBN 978 159 078 5768.  $16.95.  This is a wonderfully illustrated book about animal parents and their offspring.  It is a great read aloud book.  Q9P9 ages K-1

 Einhorn, Kama, Il. Christopher Moroney, My first Book About Horses and Ponies.  Random House children’s books NY in conjunction with Sesame Workshop 2008.  ISBN 978 0 375 84210 8.  $7.99.  This is an informative book being told by Grover and Elmo of Sesame Street fame.  There is a lot of information but the pages just are too busy.  I love the pictures and the descriptions of the horses manes and tails and withers and the different kinds of ponies and horses.  I am sure that kids will love it.


Q7P9.  Ages K-3.

 Joinson, Carla, Civil War Doctor, The story of Mary Walker.  Morgan Reynolds Pub. Inc., NC 2007.  128p. ISBN 10 1 59935 0289, 13 978 1599 350288.  Price unknown.  Mary Walker was the first woman to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.  Dressing in manly attire because being a farm girl, it would have been impossible to do her chores were she to dress in the womanly styles of the day, and were she to dress in those styles, she wouldn’t have been taken seriously as a doctor in that period of time, she was a volunteer doctor for the Union Army...her father believed in education for all his children. She took a heavy stand on dress reform, and opposed alcohol and tobacco in the 1860 and she was vociferous in the women’s right to vote movement but by the 1870, even the suffragettes turned against her.  She was the first woman to run for the United States Senate but was unsuccessful.  In 1917, her Medal of Honor was revoked because the government revised the standards for receiving that medal.  She fought endlessly for her right to be a doctor when women of that time were only nurses and she fought for the rights of women to get fair pay, to get divorced, to receive pensions.  By the time she died in 1919, two of her causes had gained some success...dress reform and women’s’ right to vote.  Q9P8 ages 10-17.


 Stille, Darlene R., Madam CJ Walker, Entrepreneur and Millionaire.  Compass Point Books, Min.  2007. ISBN 13 978 07565 18837, 10 07565 1883 0.  112p.  $ price unk.  Madam CJ Walker was born Sara Breedlove, a woman of color, to a cotton picking family on a plantation in Louisiana and was a washer woman for white folks.  She came up with a remedy to help workers itchy scalps and an aid to keep their hair from falling out.  She started a company not unlike today’s Mary Kay but for African American women’s hair products to be sold and distributed by other African American women in 1917.  The company would eventually employ over 3,000 black men and women and would become one of the largest black owned and operated businesses in the US at that time.  She employed black lawyers and businessmen to tend to her business affairs.  On her death, the Associated Press named her “the wealthiest negro in the US, if not the world.”  She was active in the NAACP and in all civil rights movements and spent time lecturing throughout the United States for not only her hair products, but all civil rights.  In 1998, the postal service issued a postage stamp in commemoration of her heritage.  Q8P7 ages 10-17

 Jones, Victoria Garrett, Eleanor Roosevelt, A Courageous Spirit. Sterling Biographies Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. NY. 2007 ISBN 13 978 1 4027 3371 0, 10  1 4027 3371 2.  124p.  $5.95.  This is a wonderful telling of the life of a courageous, intelligent woman who became the first woman of substance to fill the duties as the First Lady.  It tells of her childhood and her endeavors to press for legislation to protect children workers in America as one of the first successful changes that she made in her lifetime. She worked tirelessly for civil rights and against segregation. Her husband was the only man to hold the office of President of the United States for more than two terms and she was instrumental in his campaigns.  She was the first First Lady to hold her own press conferences and she admitted only female reporters, making the newspapers and magazines hire female reporters.  She was the first First Lady to receive a presidential appointment, testify before a congressional committee, write a syndicated column, earn an income and speak on the radio as a commentator.  This is a truly inspirational book.  Q9P8 Ages10-14

Batten, Jack, Silent in an Evil Time, the Brave War of Edith Cavell.  Tundra Books, Toronto Ontario. 2007.  $16.95 ISBN 9780887767371.  132p. Edith Cavell was born in England and was educated there became a nurse.  She was a nurse in Brussels when the first World War broke out in 1914 and until 1918, she helped British soldiers escape from occupied territory and she was consequently executed for her bravery.  Q8P8 Ages 12-17


Havelin, Kate, Victoria Woodhull, Fearless Feminist.  Twenty First Century Books, a division of Lerner Publishing Gp. Mn.  ISBN 13 978 0 8225 59863.  112p. Born to a poor family in Ohio, her first money making schemes involved her being a medium and contacting the spirits in the next world for city folks. Who believed in such things.  More than once she was run out of town on a rail for her trickery.  She offered flavored alcohol as tonics to cure all ails.  After the civil war, the government cracked down on all spiritualists when they met Cornelius Vanderbilt, one of the wealthiest men in America who believed in spiritualism and wanted to contact people in the other world and he befriended Victoria and helped make her rich by having her invest on Wall Street.  Her investments went untouched when the market crashed in 1869 and she opened her own brokerage even though women weren’t allowed on the stock markets floor..  She met and befriended Susan B Anthony who wrote Victoria and her sister up in the suffragette’s paper, The Revolution, naming them the first women’s firm to mark the new era.  Although the book seems to think them important, it bothered me that the sisters used trickery to catch the wealthiest man in America to help them become so rich and powerful and I wouldn’t use them as role models, but who am I to say?  Q7P7  ages 8-12

St. George, Judith, Il Matt Faulkner, Stand Tall, Abe Lincoln. Penguin Young readers GP, NY.  ISBN 978 0399 24174 1. 2008. $16.99. This is a wonderfully told story of one of America’s most beloved President and how his life led him to be just that.  The illustrations are great and the story is told so that small children could identify with what is being told to them through this very large book.  Q9P9 ages 6-11.

First Thursdays Book Review Group

March 2008
L.R. for Siletz Library

Picture Books

Atkins, Jeannine. Anne Hutchinson’s Way. Il. Michael Dooling. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2007. unpgd. Ages 8-12. ISBN 9780374303655 $17.00. P3Q5

A fictionalized story based on a real family who came from England to the Massachusetts Bay Colony to settle, it takes a grim turn when the mother of the large family is put into isolation for hosting neighbors in her home and “preaching” to them. The children in the family are devastated and eventually, the mother is freed and the family relocates to an island in Narragansett Bay. The illustrations are beautifully rendered water colors of browns, blacks, white and muted gray-blues which add to the mournful quality of the story. It captures the feeling of how hard and intolerant life must have been for the early settlers, but I wish there could have been more of a hopeful note at the end!

Christian, Mary Blount. If Not for the Calico Cat. Il. Sebastia Serra. Dutton Children’s Books, 2007.unpgd. Ages 5-8 ISBN 9780525477792 $16.99. P7 Q8

This is a “Disneyish” tale of a calico cat who is unwillingly brought on board a Japanese trade ship as a good luck token. Of course, the innocent little cat creates all kinds of onboard havoc and causes the boat to sink and the inhabitants of the boat to retreat to an ice flow before being rescued by another Japanese sailing ship! In the end, the captain is grateful that the presence of the little cat kept them from a worse fate and all is well. The cartoony illustrations are quite charming and do give the reader an idea of what life was like on a sailing ship and what cargo was brought aboard.

Kay, Verla. Rough, Tough Charley. Il. Adam Gustavson. Tricycle Press, 2007. unpgd. Ages 6-12 ISBN 9781582461847 $15.95. P4 Q8

Written in what the author calls “cryptic rhyme,” this tale of very few words tells the life story of an orphan boy who goes west to become a renowned stage coach driver. When he dies, it is discovered that “he” was a “she.” The last stanzas sum up the plot of the book: “Charley did though----


 As she would.
 Drove and voted,
 Cause “he” could.”
 At the end of the book there is more information on the real character that the book is based on. This is an interesting story that could appeal to many ages. The prose would be fun to read aloud and the large, realistic illustrations would be appropriate for showing to a group. This would be a good purchase.

Middle Grade Fiction

Choi, Sook Nyul. Echoes of the White Giraffe. Houghton Mifflin Company, 1993. 137 pgs. Ages 12-17. ISBN 9780618809172 $6.95. P7 Q8

A sequel to a book called “Year of Impossible Goodbyes,” this book starts with the 15 year old character as a refugee in Pusan, in South Korea. She and her mother have been separated from her father and older brothers while fleeing their home in North Korea.  Sookan sings in a choir with a local boy and they form a very sweet bond. Eventually, the girl and her mother are allowed to go back home and she doesn’t even get the chance to say goodbye to her friend. In the end, Sookan mother (who comes across as a very tolerant and understanding character) engineers a chance for the two to see each other one last time before adulthood pulls them to their separate fates. This story is very charming and the reader learns a little about the Korean war, the geography and the culture of Korea.

Swoish, Tammy. Hot Scots, Castles and Kilts. Delacorte Press, 2008. 201 pgs. Ages 13-16. ISBN 9780385734479 $7.99. P2 Q2

There are some good teen books based on the formula of first person accounts of day by day events, but this isn’t one of them. The plot is vaguely Nancy Drewish without the adventure and the character development is thin. The language isn’t even very interesting, and it could have been, with characters from America meeting Scots. The cover isn’t even enticing. It looks like a 5th grader designed it. I would save the money and buy something by Louise Rennison.

Teen Fiction

Pagliarulo, Antonio. The Celebutantes in the Club. Delacorte Press, 2008. 327 pgs. Ages 15-18. ISBN9780385734738 $9.99 P3 Q3

This book may appeal to teens who are very high-fashion minded and obsessed with the way celebrities live. Initially, the descriptions of the very rich and very shallow triplet teen heroines is very off-putting. They are constantly applying make-up and moisturizers, even before inspecting the dead body of a classmate. Their idea of relieving stress is to drink a cocktail of Dom Perignon and milk, or order up in-home massages. They are horrified when the murder weapon appears to be a cheap (not designer) stiletto shoe. These characterizations do not appear to be tongue-in-cheek or humorous. I think the author may be fond of his crime fighting fashionistas. But if you can get past these rather repugnant teens, it actually is a pretty fair mystery. Still, not worth buying for a library.

Oregon Coast Preview Book Center for Young Readers


March 2008 Reviews by M.D. ASPIRE

Merz, Jennifer J. Playground Day! Clarion Books. New York. 2007. $16.00. Ages 1-3. 30 pgs. P/Q


The illustrations are interesting and engaging, they are made of cut or torn colored paper. Simple preschool words would make this a quick story time reading book. The words are simple and fun about a playground day but the illustrations are fun to look at. The book has the ability to be used as a question game. One page says I hide like a…and turn the page and it says squirrel. Therefore children could answer questions and would enjoy reading this book over and over again.

Schneider, Josh. You’ll Be Sorry. Clarion Books. New York. 2007. $15.00 978-0-618-81932-4. Ages 4-6. 30 pgs. P6/Q7


This simple story has a moral don’t hit your brother or you’ll be sorry. Samantha does and her brother, a little mouse starts crying and crying. He cries buckets and the whole town is flooded her soccer game is cancelled because the field is under water. She apologizes and then gets the urge to pincher brother but decides that she would be sorry and doesn’t do it. The drawings of the mouse sister’s nose are a little strange- not sure if they are mice because of the illustrations

Montana, Eva. My First. Houghton Mifflin Company. Boston.2007. $17.00. 978-0-618-64644-9. Ages 4-8. 30 pgs.P7/Q7


This is a goofy funny story about a young girl who wanted a doll for her birthday but instead got a book. Her mother told her it was alive and could tell her stories that would always be with her. She pretended to have a baby doll in her carriage when she played with her friends. One day the tricked her and said her baby wet himself and she had to change him. They found the book and laughed. She ran away but when she returned to get her baby book her friends were reading and listening to stories. The illustrations are different and intriguing. They make the people look strange and sketchy but it grabs your attention... This book would have to be explained to younger children to have them understand the magic of the written word.

Johnson, James Weldon. Illustrated by Bryan Collier. Lift Every Voice and Sing. Amis tad an Imprint of Harper Collins Publisher. New York. 2007. $16.99. 978-0-06-054147-7. Ages 4-8. 30 pgs. P 6/ Q.7


The words are from a song written in 1900 to celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. It is an African American song of hope threw difficult times such as slavery and prejudice. The illustrations have many layers (like quilt fabric) as there are floating faces that appear to be clouds and water that the author uses as a symbol. The music and lyrics is in the back of the book so a music teacher could teach this to an elementary class in the month of January to celebrate martin Luther King Jr. day. The illustrator also has a paragraph in the back to explain why he brought this forward at this time after hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.

Coleen, Cocky. BABY! BABY! Random House. New York. 2008. $6.99. 978-0-375-84207-8. Ages 0-4. 15 pgs. P7/Q.6 This is a sturdy card board book with simple pictures of different kinds of babies- that are posed the same way the animals are on the opposing pages. For example a baby and a kitten both with their tongues art asleep with their hands or paws near their chins. No words just fun photos are a part of this baby book.

Winter, Jonah. Illustrated by Francois Roca. Muhammad Ali Champion of the World. Schwartz & Wade Books. New York. 2007. $16.99. 978-0-375-83622-0. Age 4-8. 30 pgs. P8/Q8.
This Book has beautiful art work that depicts Muhammad Ali and other Africans in a very favorable way. The story may be confusing to some younger children as it reads like a bible verse- with phrases such as “God said, let there be Joe Louis” etc. It has very poetic verse and words but may be over some younger audiences as it has many quotes from Muhammad Ali the great poet.

Sheldon, Dyan. I Conquer Britain. Candlewick Press. Massachusetts. 2006. $15.99. 978-0-7636-3300-4. Grade 7-12 201 pgs. P7/Q8.


The author was born in Brooklyn, New York but now lives in London. This makes perfect sense as Cherokee switches places with the Pitt- Turnbull’s daughter Sophie for the summer. Cherokee leaves New York and lives in London for the summer. It is an enjoyable journey of how a Goth girl from New York helps the British family loosen up a little. She learns to enjoy the simple pleasures of gardening and helping the Pit-Turnbull’s grandmother. Most teen girls will enjoy this story but it isn’t a book that will grab every reader’s attention and keep it as there is a very mild story of a summer in London to tell.

O’Connell, Tyne. True Love, The Spinx, and other Unsolvable Riddles a comedy in Four Voices.  Bloomsbury. New York. $16.95. 2007. 978-1-59990-050-6.  9-12 grades. 228 pgs. P8/Q7.

Once I got into the story I really enjoyed the book. It is told by four different characters that is depicted by the characters name at the beginning of the chapter.  If you have to stop reading during a chapter it is a little confusing when you pick up later.  It is a story about a high school fieldtrip to Egypt on a cruise of the Nile.  The boys are from New York and the girls come from a school in England.  Its all about hooking up and of course it ends the way the characters want.

Blank, Jessica. Almost Home. Hyperion Books. New York. $15.99.2007. 978-1212310642-5. 250 pgs. 9-12 grade. P8/Q7

This story will grab any young reader as it is about homeless kids and how they try to survive on their own in California.  One downside of the book is each paragraph is written from a different characters voice and is a little confusing.  Eeyore is the main character and finally leaves home after she is beaten up by the popular girls.  She has been sexually abused by her strep brothers for years and doesn’t fare much better living out on the streets.  This book has many moral issues – rape, pornography, drugs, abuse, homelessness and prostitution.  Eeyore figures out how to stand up to her step brother and demand that her mother listen to her. 

Nye, Naomi Shibab. I’ll ask you three times, are you ok? Tales of Driving and Being Driven. Greenwillow Books. New York. 2007. $16.89 978-0-06-085393-8. 238 pgs. Adult audience P5/Q7.

I don’t believe any young reader would keep reading this story but adults would find it something they could relate to.  It is about an adult woman who tells of different people and experiences she has during her world wide travels.  Most stories are about cab drivers and their families.  The cover and type size would make a young reader think this book would be a good read but I believe they would put it down after just a few paragraphs. 

Van Draanen, Wendelin. Confessions of a Serial Kisser.  Random House Children’s Books. New York. 2008. $18.99. 978-0=375-94248-8. 12-18 ages. 294 pgs. P8/Q8.

Most young girls would find the story captivating and engaging.  Evangeline a high school girl finds a romance book “ A Crimson Kiss” under her mothers bed and reads it and makes a plan to find the perfect kiss. She remakes herself and starts looking for the kiss by kissing about any guy who will stand still long enough.  Things don’t go well and her life is falling apart as her dad and mom are getting divorced.  She hates her dad because he cheated on her mom.  She has lots to learn about forgiving others and growing up. 

Mazer, Norma Fox. Ten Ways to Make My Sister Disappear. Arthur A Levine Books, Scholastic Inc. New York. 2007. $16.99. 978-0-439-83983-9. grades 5-7. 148 pages. P7/Q8

My eleven year old daughter Olivia read this book in just a few days and really enjoyed the book. The book has chapters titles and numbers.  The cover and font print make the book an inviting presentation.  The story is about a girl named Sprig a ten year old girl and her sister Dakota.  Sprig is having a horrible year her father is away, her neighbor – her best friend is ill and she gets a boyfriend. 

Oregon Coast Preview Book Center for Young Readers March 2008  Reviews by N.W.


Nonfiction

Albert, Michael.  An Artist’s America.  Holt, 2008.  $17.95.  978-0-8050-7857-2.  48p.  Ages 7-10:  Combining his art style with his recycling philosophy, this modernPop artist uses materials from consumer packaging, old photographs, and discarded cardboard to make elaborate collages that interpret such historic and epic events such as the Gettysburg Address.  With each piece of art, Albert describes why he used the design.  Two pages at the end describe workshops he has given and a brief instruction on make these collages.  His art is difficult to read with lettering and logos from many past products.  Also young readers will probably not understand his art references in the explanations.  The book would have been more useful in art study if he had talked more about layout and design rather than relating generalities, yet the illustrations will serve as a beginning to more elaborate collage work.  P6Q6

Kostecki-Shaw, Jenny Sue.  My Travelin’ Eye.  Holt, 2008.  $16.95.  978-0-8050-8169-5.  unp.  Ages 5-8:  As a seven-year-old, the author had a “lazy” wandering eye, glasses, and a patch, resulting in frustration and ridicule from her classmates.  Using childlike cartoon drawings, she tells about this experience, describing the issues that she suffered and the difficulties from the ophthalmologist’s solution.  Fortunately, her sympathetic mother showed her how to make the other children envious instead of sneering by creating “fashion-patches” and fashion glasses.   P9Q9

Steggall, Susan.  The Life of a Car.  Holt, 2008.  $15.95.  978-0-8050-8747-5.  unp.  Ages 3-6:  Very basic language with few words and brightly colored vehicles show the the car from building to recycling after a crash.  Lines are all three words, ending with “the car” except for the last page, reinforcing two words for the beginning reader.  A positive point for the book is the diversity of race and gender in the illustrations.  The slightly fuzzy edges of the pieces of torn paper making the collages make this a better read-aloud from a distance than close up viewing.  A great beginning book to understand the passages an object moves through in its lifetime and the importance of recycling.  P9Q8

Stone, Tanya Lee.  Elizabeth Leads the Way:  Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote.  Il. Rebecca Gibbon.  Holt, 2008.  978-0-8050-7903-6.  unp.  Ages 6-10:  This biography about the early life of the famous suffragist begins with asking girls to imagine not having rights, an excellent device for Stanton’s leadership in the first few decades of the movement.   The picture book, illustrated with gouache and color pencils in a naïf style, covers Stanton’s life for the first 33 years, ending with the historic meeting at Seneca Falls (NY).  The narrative is passionate and succinct, clearly showing the need for women’s rights.  One disappointing part of the book, however, is the glossing over of her father’s disappointment that Elizabeth was a girl, explaining it away with his sorrow that her life would be harder as a girl.    Even so, this is a valuable addition to a children’s collection with the depiction of women’s struggle in the first half of the nineteenth century.  P7Q8


Poetry

Cotton, Cynthia.  Rain Play.  Il. Javaka Steptoe.  Holt, 2008.  $16.95.  978-0-8050-6795-8.  unp.  Ages 3-6:   A rainy day celebrates its many delights through cut-paper collage/paint and joyous rhymes as three African-American children and their parents go to the park.  Together they romp in puddles and float boats before running from the thunder and lightening.   The movement of the people amidst the long drops provides the same energy as a rain storm, and the few words move gracefully across the pages.  Children on the Northwest coast may have some trouble understanding the feeling of the book, however, because part of the family’s joy is the escape from heat, something that rain doesn’t bring here.  Winner of the Coretta Scott Illustrator Award, Steptoe’s father, John Steptoe, was also an award-winning author/illustrator.  P7Q9  

Picture Books

Howie, Betsy.  The Block Mess Monster.  Il. C. B. Decker.  Holt, 2008.  $16.95.  978-0-8050-7940-1.  unp.  Ages 4-8:  When a monster keeps Calpurnia from cleaning up her room, her mother has to intervene, persuading the monster to clean the room himself.  Soft watercolors (unlike the bolder colors on the cover) contrast with the variety of positions and costumes Calpurnia shows off as she tries to cope with the huge monster that her mother cannot see.  A delight for children because of the monster and the room-cleaning angles with spectacular visual perspectives.  P9Q9 

Lazo, Caroline.  Someday When My Cat Can Talk.  Il. Kyrsten Brooker.  Schwartz & Wade, 2008.  $16.99  978-0-375-83754-8.  unp.  Ages 4-8:  A young girl  follows her cat’s adventures from Nantucket toEurope in a fantasy as he travels by boat and tricycle across the continent.  End papers give a map of the route, and illustrations provide a peek into the country’s cultures.  Also helpful to understanding seven European different countries are the two pages in the back that give major and trivial facts.  A delightful read that slips in interesting information.  P8Q8 

Portis, Antoinette.  Not a Stick.  HarperCollins, 2008.  $14.89.  978-06-112326-9.  unp.  Ages 3-6:  Follow the rudimentary figure of a pig as the character uses a long narrow object to fish, march, paint, lift weights, gujde a horse, etc.  Very simple dialog goes between conventional warnings regarding the safety of the “stick” and the response, in a variety of ways, that it’s NOT a stick.  The simulated wood cover and the simple figures (except for a reproduction of “Starry Starry Night”) provides a sophisticated innocence, making this book a delight for young and old alike.  P9Q9


Fiction


Cadnum, Michael.  The King’s Arrow.  Viking, 2008.  $16.99.  978-0-670-06331-4.  208p.  Ages 13-16:  Life can change in an instant, as 18-year-old Simon, son of a Norman nobleman and an English aristocrat, discovers when he accompanies the king on a deadly royal hunt.  The politics of England in 1100 are not always easy to follow in this adventure, but the excitement keeps the reader on track as Simon flees the authorities after his new friend kills the king.  Based on true events, the heart-pounding tale tries to solve the mystery of why the king was murdered.  P7Q8

Ferguson, Alane.  The Circle of Blood:  A Forensic Mystery.  Viking, 2008.  $15.99.  978-0-670-06056-6.  238p.  Ages 14+:  Once you get over the 17-year-old protagonist being the assistant county coroner in southwestern Colorado, this fast-paced adventure is a great read.   In the third of the series, Cameryn Mahoney lies to the police about knowing a murdered girl in order to protect her bi-polar mother who has returned to the girl’s life after 14 years disappearance.  The solution to the murder turns a bit weak, but the cliff-hanger at the end will have readers wanting more.  And Cameryn is an engaging character who shares a great deal of forensic information.  P8Q7 

Fletcher, Christine.  Ten Cents to Dance.  Bloomsbury, 2008.  $16.95  978-1-59990-164-0.  312p.  Ages 14+:  When her father dies and her mother falls ill, 15-year-old Ruby Jacinski drops out of school to support her family, working in a meat-packing plant.  Inspired by stories about her great aunt’s “taxi dancing” for dimes and her romance with a prominent gangster, Fletcher brings the poverty of the Chicago’s Yards district and the seedy underworld of the 1940s alive when she describes Ruby’s turning to taxi dancing, living a double life as she conceals her new work from her conservative mother.    Ruby’s experiences are sometimes over-dramatized and her solutions to her problems are not always realistic, but the novel illuminates an interesting setting.  P7Q7

Godbersen, Anna.  The Luxe.  HarperCollins, 2007.  $18.89.  978-06-134567-8.  433p.  Ages 14+:  Jane Austin meets Nora Roberts in this romance set in the wealthy social scene of  1899 New York.  Beautiful sisters Elisabeth and Diana, one very traditional and the other adventurous, struggle against the backstabbing nouveau riche Penelope Hayes as all the young people in the book love someone who doesn’t love them or can’t have because of their class.  Once again the formula follows three female protagonists, all very different, with the hope that at least one of them will appeal to all readers.  And there’s a sequel in the works!  P7Q7

Hale, Shannon.  Book of a Thousand Days.  Bloomsbury, 2007.  $17.95.  978-1-59990-051-3.  308p.  Ages 13+:  This delicious read in diary format follows 15-year-old Dashti, a maid who is so devoted to her mistress that she is willing to be shut up in a tower alone with her for 932 days before putting her life in danger while working in a neighboring castle for another 178 days.   This imagined variation of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale “Maid Maleen,” reset on the central Asian steppes in a fantasy land, benefits from the author’s illustrtated additions—drawings that  Dashti has sprinkled throughout her diary.  Good adventure, romance, and common sense!  P7Q9

Springer, Nancy.  The Case of the Bizarre Bouquets:  An Enola Holmes Mystery.  Philomel, 2008.  $14.99.  978-0-399-24518-3.  170p.  Ages 12-15:  Dr. Watson has disappeared in this third book starring Sherlock Holmes’ sister, and it’s up to Enola (alone spelled backward) to find Holmes’ right-hand man without getting caught by her brother.  This time, Enola masquerades as a beautiful woman and provides lots of information about the customs of flowers during the late nineteenth century.  Like the two earlier books, this is fast-paced with delightful characterization in a Dickens-like world.   P7Q9

March Book Reviews
J.L., NHS Student

Fiction Selections

Block, Francesca Lia. Psyche in a Dress. HarperCollins Publishers, New York,  $16 ISBN: 0060763728  116 p.  Gr.11-adult    Psyche in a Dress is a wicked romance: Psyche is on her own adventure to find love.  She found her love named Eros; she calls him “god of love.”  Once she betrayed his wishes Psyche feels she needs punishment.  So, she finds her way to her own hell.  Driven out and drowned by her father’s actions, she flies away.  Her long lost mother comes to save her, but Psyche was too scared.  Grieving over lost love, she buries herself with fresh flowers and sex-appeal.  In the end, the gothic love craving is fascinating and Psyche sees she is a Goddess.   I loved this book!  It’s weird, but very understandable.  It wasn’t hard to read Psyche in a Dress, but you have to pay attention or you will get lost in the poetic adventure.  P10 Q 10

March Book Reviews


K.Y., NHS

Early Readers

Cullen, Lynn. Moi & Marie Antoinette, Illustrated by Amy Young.  Bloomsbury Books, New York, 2006.  $16.95 ISBN: 1-58234-958-4 np. Gr. 2-5  This story is told from a dog’s point of view.  He is a pug who lives with Marie Antoinette as a girl, and he accompanies her through her lifetime.  She is married to a prince, who will become king and she is led into the unknown.  She becomes queen, and loses interest in her dog.  When she has a child, however, the child falls in love with the dog and together they show Marie the true meaning of happiness.    I really liked this book because it taught a simple history lesson in a fun and exciting way.   The illustrations are very detailed, bright, and expressive.   The only thing I found disappointing about this book was that some children might not understand what “moi” means.  P5 Q10

Jahn-Clough, Lisa.  Little Dog.  Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 2006.  $16  ISBN: 0-618-57405-0   32p.  Gr. Preschool – 2   The story is about a dog named “little dog” who is a mutt living in a big city.   Little dog was hungry, tired, and wanted to eat, sleep, and chase things.  Most of all, he wanted someone to love him.  Everywhere he goes, people tell him to go away, but he kept hoping.  He soon meets Rosa who paints with only dark colors. Rosa takes him in and tells him he can stay.  The next day, Rosa didn’t feel like painting with gray colors anymore.  Little dog leaders her out into t he country where everything is colorful. Rosa paints while little dog runs around and plays. When Rosa hangs up her paintings, little dog sees that he is in every one.   I really like the illustrations in this book because they are very abstract and would really appeal to younger children.   It would also encourage them to do their own art work.  The cover on this book could be a little more vibrant or exciting; a cover needs to draw in the audience.   Young children are looking for bright colors and clear pictures and this cover won’t make the cut.  I liked this book because it is a very cheery story and helps children to be happy for all of the color in their lives.   It has a very good ending and is very lively.   P7 Q9

Book Reviews 
Belva Rice

Whybrow, Ian and Adian Reynolds.  Harry and the Dinosaurs go to School.  Random  House, c 2006.  ISBN 0375841806.  Unp. $15.99. Grades PreS-1st.  (Q7, P7)


The first day of school is a very special event in any child’s life.  This story portrays the anxiety of meeting the teacher and Mom and Dad leaving them for the whole day.  Harry loves his dinosaurs and takes them to school.  There he meets another boy who doesn’t want to talk.  They come together and help each other’s difficulty of their first day of school.

Castle, Kate.  My First Ballet Book.  Kingfisher, c2006.  ISBN 0753460262


 48 pgs.  $9.95.  Grades K-3.  (Q9, P7)
This is a wonderfully written book with an abundance of excellent photos to illustrate directions and instructions. This book covers all aspects of learning ballet from explaining what ballet is to what to wear, from warming up to different dance steps.  It also includes famous ballets, what happens behind the scenes and what happens at the performance.  The book includes a glossary and an index.  A magnificent book that will appeal to both boys and girls interested in learning ballet.

Bond, Rebecca.  The Great Doughnut Parade.  Houghton Mifflin Co. c2007. 


 ISBN  0618777059. Unp. $17.00   Grades PreS-2nd.  (Q4, P6)
Billy ties a string to a doughnut and then to his belt.  As he goes through the town he attracts attention from everyone and everything he passes.  The hen, the cat, the dog, and farther down the street, a cast of a play, a group of joggers, even fantasy figures join the parade.  The lively watercolor illustrations fill the pages with wonderful images for children to admire.  At first reading I found the writing hard to read aloud, with subsequent readings it became easier but still not flowing easily.  At the beginning the rhyming was every four lines and later in the book it became every two lines.  Somewhat confusing.

Valerie Wilding.  Real Princesses an inside look at Royal Life.  Walker Publishing Co.,  c2007.  ISBN 0802796753.  $16.95.  64 Pgs.  Grades 2nd-5th.  (Q9, P8)


Every little girls dream is to become a princess.  This book gives a quick look about many aspects of being a princess.  What is a princess? Where do they live?  Clothing and education, wedding dresses and feasts are discussed.  Fantastic photos and some drawn illustrations bring to life the well written text.  This book will attract the attention of not only young girls but adults alike who would like to learn about the life of princesses.

Stainton, Sue.  I Love Cats.  Ills. by Anne Mortimer.  Harper & Collins, c2007.


 ISBN 0060851546.  Unp.  $15.99 PreS-1st.  (Q9, P9)
Big Cats, little cats, happy cats, angry cats, all kinds of cats are portrayed in this delightful book celebrating cats.  The illustrations are life like with many of the cats seemingly to be photographs.  Simple and to the point, children will love to spend hours devouring the pictures in this book.  The rhythm of the words helps make this an easy read aloud. 

Puttock, Simon.  Earth to Stella.  Ills. by Philip Hopman.  Clarion Books, c2006. 


 ISBN 0618585354.  Unp.  $16.00.  PreS-2nd. (Q8, P9)
This is a delightful story about a Father and daughter’s relationship.  They have a bedtime routine which works for them.  Stella’s imagination takes her to outer space while keeping a close tie to earth with her communications with her father. “Earth to Stella” Father keeps contact with Stella. 

Gran, Julia.  Big Bug Surprise.  Scholastic Press, c2007.  ISBN 0439676096.  Unp.


 $16.00.  Grades K-3rd.  (Q7, P8)
Bugs, bugs, bugs abound in this book.  Prunella loves bugs and had a hard time deciding which to take to show and tell at school.  While trying to tell everyone about bugs their response is always “Not now, Prunella”.  When it is show and tell a queen bee flies into the classroom and all her worker bees fly after her.  Prunella handles the situation and everyone cheers her.  This is an amazing book that will capture the attention of children.
The final page gives informational facts about the different bugs in the book.

Reviewed By James Dale, Yaquina View


Bloom, Suzanne.  Un Amigo De versa.  Boyds Mill Press, c2005.  ISBN 1590784898.
 Unp. $15.95. PreS-K.  (Q6, P8)
Beautiful illustrations.  Spanish translation Pensar en hambre, pensando?
Thinking question.  Nice story very basic.  Good for smaller kids.

Krishnaswami, Uma.  Remembering Grandpa.  Ills. by Layne Johnson.  Boyds Mills


 Press, c2007.  ISBN 1590784243.  Unp.  $16.95.  Kind-3rd.  (Q9, P9)
A year after Grandpa’s death, Daysha finds Grandma very sad.  She sets out to find a cure for her sadness.  Daysha gathers simple things that reminds her of her grandfather and makes a special memorial for him.  Afterwards her and Grandma goes out and gets ice cream (something that Grandpa always did).  This story works well for those who have lost a loved one.  Maybe using humans in the story would be more effective, but the delightful bunnies work well.  The oil paintings are simply amazing.

Flanagan, Alice K.  Women of the Union.  Compass Point Books, c2007.


 ISBN 0756520355.  48 pgs.  $8.95.  Grades 4-6th.  (Q6, P4)
This easy to read this book provides limited information about its subjects, although for complete information additional resources are needed.  The book includes a glossary, important date timeline; want to know more information, also websites, and an index.
Reproductions of drawing and paintings, maps, even some vintage photos help make this book interesting.

Fisher, Valorie.  When Ruby Tried to grow Candy.  Schwartz & Wade Books, c2008.


ISBN 037584015X.  unp.  $16.99.  Grades K-3rd. ( Q9, P9)
Ruby had a neighbor who scares her.  When her ball bounces over the fence and she tries to recover it, she meets Miss Wysterious and her magnificent garden.  Growing on bushes, trees and plants are teacups, eggbeaters, and shoes and just about anything.  Miss Wysterious gives Ruby some candy to plant and up come the most unusual plants all growing candy.  This book portrays a child’s fantastic fantasy of the never ending candy supply.  The pictures are bright and colorful with the background rather fuzzy leaving the characters standing out.

Manushkin, Fran.  How Mama Brought the Spring.  Ills. by Holly Berry.  Dutton


 Children’s Books, c 2008.  ISBN 0525420274.  unp.  $16.99 Grades 1st-3rd.
 (Q8, P8)
When Rosy wakes up on a cold wintry morning in Chicago and is reluctant to get out of bed, Mama tells her a story about how Grandma Beatrice brought spring to Minsk.  Only when they had eggs, milk, flour and sugar could this remarkable feat of making blintzes happen.  The working together of mother and daughter creates a delightful story.  Included on the back page is a recipe for the blintzes so everyone can try to bring spring to any country.

Jenkins, Emily. Daffodil, Crocodile.  Ills. by Tomek Bojacki.  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, c21007.  ISBN 0374399441.  unp.  $16.00.  Grades K-3rd.  (Q8, P8)


Daffodil, Rose and Violet are triplets who are always being described and “Nice little girls, like a bouquet of flowers”.  Daffodil is tired of hearing this so when her mother has made a papier-mâché crocodile head, Daffodil claims it and it’s her chance to act different, to be someone else or maybe just herself.

Chatterson, Martin.  A Joke a Day: 365 Guaranteed Giggles.  Kingfisher, c2007. 


 ISBN 0753461285.  64 pgs.  $5.95.  3rd-6th.  (Q8, P9)
A joke a day to keep you going.  This has seasonal jokes as well as some silly but real observance days, May 23 World Turtle day.  Children will love to read these jokes to each other.

Pfeffer, Wendy.  A New Beginning, Celebrating the Spring Equinox.  Ills. by


 Linda Bleck.  Dulton Children’s Books,  c2008.  ISBN 0525478744
 Unp.  $17.99.  Grades 3rd-6th.  (Q9, P5)
Many cultures are represented in this book which celebrates spring.  With engaging language and bright illustrations, this book describes rituals and celebrations from as far back as 3,000 years.  It explains the science of spring and includes activities and ideas for celebrating at school or home. This book will be wonderful for the teacher who wants to make the spring season a learning unit. 

Book Reviews for March 2008 A.G.



Howe, James.  Totally Joe.  NY: Ginee Seo Books (Atheneum), 2005.  $15.95  189 pp.  ages 10 up  ISBN 0-680-83957-X    P7/Q8
Seventh grader Joe Bunch discovers things about himself as he writes an “alphabiography” (his life story from A to Z) for a class assignment.  Along with the usual self-identity issues and social adjustments, Joe admits that he is attracted to another boy.  In a light-hearted way, this author of “Bunnicula” stories explores the challenges Joe faces in “coming out of the closet”, coming to terms with himself and with his peers.  I particularly liked the positive example set by his parents in accepting who he is and continuing their loving support.  Whether or not that’s the average response by parents, it can serve as a model for other parents.  The book is totally inoffensive and often humorous, and as a class read-aloud it would stimulate some discussion about diversity and bullying.  Recommended for middle school libraries.
 
Mills, Claudia.  Illus. by R.W. Alley.  Being Teddy Roosevelt.  NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007.  $16.00  90 pp.  ages 7-10   ISBN 0-374-30657-5   P7/Q7
Riley’s fourth grade teacher assigns them to do a biography on a famous person; he got Teddy Roosevelt.  Riley is not a very organized student, but he has passion.  While studying Roosevelt, he takes some hints from Teddy’s life.  When he decides he wants to learn to play saxophone for the school band class and his mother can’t afford an instrument, he develops his “pluck” and, like Roosevelt, decides to “keep on working and never give up”.  This short, large-print chapter book should appeal to early readers and develop vocabulary (mustache, indignantly, astonishment, simultaneously).
 
Blacker, Terence. Boy 2 Girl.  NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004.  $16.00  296 pp.  ISBN 0-374-30926-4  P7/Q7
This story is a cute romp using the ancient schtick of cross-dressing.  A newly-orphaned seventh grade boy, Sam, comes from England to live with his aunt, uncle and cousin. As part of a group "hazing", the new boy is challenged to come to the first day of school dressed like a girl.  He was very difficult to be around before, but after dressing as a girl he finds a new level of charm and comfort and is soon tight with the other girls and becomes popular.  The story explores differences in how people react to different appearances, and how people can change.
 
Keaney, Brian.  The Hollow People: The Promise of Doctor Sigmundus.   NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2006.  $16.99 224 pp.   ISBN 978-0-375-84332-7  P6/Q6
     This is an anti-utopian futuristic story of a society pushed into conformity and strong social stratification.  As children "come of age", they are started on a lifetime regimen of a pacifying drug.  The story's hero, a kitchen boy, the lowest in the social ladder, turns out to be the son of two leaders of a nearby country that doesn't practice this social oppression.  This young hero-in-training teams up with another social misfit and foment a rebellion.  The book definitely has the feel of a first in a series.
 
 Banks, Kate.  Lenny's Space.   NY: Fararr, Straus & Giroux, 2007.  $16.00  152 pp. ages 8-12  ISBN 0-374-34575-9  P7/Q7
     Lenny is 9 years old and is a troubled kid.  He's very intelligent but socially behind (perhaps he's autistic but the book doesn't bring up that possibility).  His mom is distant, always wearing gloves to protect her model's hands.  Lenny begins to see a counselor who gives him a space on her shelf to display things that express Lenny.  He meets a boy in the park and makes his first friend. This becomes a letdown, though, as the boy has leukemia.  lenny learns empathy, compassion, and some social skills.  The book deals with both the socially challenged and the process of grieving.
 
 Cameron, Peter.  Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You. NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007.  $16.00  229 pp. ages 15 up   ISBN 0-374-30989-2  P7/Q7
     James is 18 and has an enviable vocabulary and wit.  He works for his mom (who is very distant) in an art gallery, along with a man who he very much admires, and who is gay.  During a slow time, just to be funny, James anonymously answers this man's online posting on a gay matchmaking site.  The joke goes too far, and when he finds out he becomes very angry at James.  A lot of the book is James talking to his (completely obtuse) therapist.  It isn't until pretty far into his story that James admits that he himself is gay but hasn't ever done anything about it, and doesn't feel it's the most important thing about him.   The story gives some insight into the unfolding of a boy’s awareness of his sexuality without going into actual sexual activity.  The literary style is witty, and will tend to appeal more to the older teen, especially those of above-average intelligence.
 
Erskine, Kathryn.  Quaking.  NY: Philomel Books (Penguin), 2007.  $16.99  240 pp. ages 13-18   ISBN 978-0-399-24774-3 P7/Q7
     Bitter teen Mattie goes to live with Quakers, her last chance before institutionalization.  They have a severely disabled other adopted child who she distances herself from.  There is a lot of political tensions in school--and in the town--led by an intolerant, flag-waving World Civ teacher who promotes war and disparages people who don't "support our troops".  Mattie naturally reacts, and in the process finds that the Quaker ideals of her new family may come closer to her own than she thought.
  
Shusterman, Neal.  Unwind.  NY: Simon & Schuster, 2007.  $16.99   335 pp.  ages 12 up  ISBN 1-4169-1204-5   P8/Q8
     In this futuristic, Orwellian novel, a US civil war between pro-life and pro-choice groups ends up in a bizarre compromise:  Unwanted children can’t be aborted before birth, but between ages 13-18 they can be “retroactively” “unwound” for transplant parts.  Like the proverbial pig in the slaughterhouse, 94 % of them is used, and since all their parts are “kept alive” in other people, they are technically not put to death.  This story is about those headstrong teens who have been slated for unwinding but rebel.  It’s well-told, with characters you care about, and the concept is not so outrageously impossible that it isn’t dangerously close to a possibility.  The book will no doubt bring issues up for discussion, but mostly it becomes an encouragement for teens to use their talents, however unappreciated they are now, to further the common good.

 

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