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Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Loud Silence of Francine Green, written by Karen Cushman. Clarion, Thomas Allen & Son, 2006. $19.95 ages 10 and up

"The girls shouldn't have called her names, and I shouldn't have let her walk away alone. Abbott would never have let Costello go alone. Or Laurel desert Hardy. And there were always Three Stooges, not two. But I let Sophie walk away. Why, if I had been one of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste who faced the soldiers of the Thundering Legion, there'd be only Thirty-Nine Martyrs."

I have no idea why I waited so long to read this book. It has been on a shelf in the library for a long time, obviously. It is surprising it took so long because I have loved reading every single book by Karen Cushman. This is the only one I missed. Not so any longer. I am thankful for that.

She is a truly talented crafter of books that matter. This book has much in common with her others. It's a great story, peopled with characters who resonate with the reader and whose tale is memorable. It is set in 1949, as McCarthyism is taking hold and it explores how Americans are feeling about communist Russia.

Francine is a young Catholic girl who is very proud of the fact that she does everything 'right' and
'good'. She sits when she is told to sit, speaks when spoken to and rarely offers an opinion about anything because she is rarely asked for such a thing. She is unlike Karen Cushman's other young women for those reasons.

After meeting Sophie and getting to know her better, Francine finds herself changing. She is encouraged by Sophie's outspoken nature and Sophie's father's willingness to include Francine in conversations. She begins to think about a variety of issues....the atomic bomb, peace, communism...and learns to speak for herself about them. It is not in her nature to do that. She has always been obedient in those family and school settings that encouraged her to be. As she watches what happens to Sophie at school and listens to talk about greater world issues, she begins to think outside her comfortable and convenient box.

Since the timing is just about right for me, I was interested in the many cultural references that Karen Cushman makes for her story. I, too, thought Montgomery Clift was a very handsome man and would have loved to be able to attend a movie premiere. There are references to Harry Truman, the atomic and hydrogen bombs, to school safety measures such as 'duck and cover' and to building bomb shelters to keep families safe in case of a communist attack. It was a time when fathers were the head of the household and made the rules that everyone was expected to follow.

The dialogue carries the story along whether between school friends, teacher and students, family, or adults and children. It leaves readers with a lot to think about and some historical issues to ponder. There is a good deal of unfair treatment for Sophie, for the girls who attend the private girls' school, for Mr. Mandelbaum and for Sophie's father. It does not have a happy ending for the two friends, but it can be described as hopeful and heartfelt.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Maudie and Bear, written by Jan Ormerod and illustrated by Freya Blackwood. G. P. Putnam's Sons, Penguin. 2010. $19.50 ages 4 and up

"Would you like some porridge?" asked Bear. "I just want tea," said Maudie. "Not too hot, not too sweet, in my very own cup, sitting in my own chair. And I don't want anybody else sitting in it!" Then she burst into tears. "I wouldn't sit in your chair," said Bear. "It is far too small for me. But you are very welcome to sit in mine sometime."

Here are two characters who are the very best of friends. In their five forays together, we learn about each of them and their shared world. We also learn that Bear is the kindest and most thoughtful friend it is possible to be and to have. Maudie can be very annoying and demanding; Bear stays the course and supports her through each new escapade.

He takes her on a bike ride when she thinks that exercise must be a good thing. Maudie sits in the basket. He provides tea and solace after she has a near drastic encounter with three bears whose home she has been ransacking for porridge and rest. When a snack is required, he makes her favorite foods, and prepares a terrific and appealing table. When they have a little tiff, it is Bear who does all he can to bring peace and harmony back to their friendship. When Maudie wants to share a story at the end of a long day and Bear is tired, he listens with patience. When he succumbs to sleep, and is awakened, he apologizes by taking Maudie for a walk and letting her sleep while he finishes the story. It's just lovely!

The artwork is earthy with touches of red and blue. It is as soft and lovely as the stories themselves.
The loose pencil lines enclose the gentle feel of the watercolor illustrations and add a magical quality with  tiny, imaginative boxed scenes and the gentle nature of the large bear. The changing perspectives add interest and an invitation to spend extra time perusing the scenes. They are a complement to every written word.

The Dark, written by Lemony Snicket and illustrated by Jon Klassen. Harper Canada, 2013. $19.99 ages 3 and up

"In Laszlo's living room was
the biggest window
in the house.
Laszlo looked out at all the
dark outside. Above him
the roof creaked, and he
closed his eyes. Now the
dark was all Laszlo could see.
"No, no, " said the dark again.
"Not there."

How lucky was I to be at home when the doorbell rang this morning, and I signed for a package I was not expecting. Lucky too, that the package contained this wonderful new book by a stellar team of artists. Lemony Snicket is up to his old 'dark' tricks and Jon Klassen simply continues to amaze with his brilliant vision and remarkable illustrations.

Laszlo appears to have reason to fear the dark. He's little, the house is big and creaky, and there are a number of places where the dark might hide. There is little in the house of warmth and comfort. He is a boy in his pajamas with a vivid imagination and a healthy fear of the unknown. Not unlike others his age, he occasionally talks to the dark, seeking reassurance that it might answer.

One night, the dark does talk. Laszlo sleeps with a flashlight hand and the subdued illumination of a night light. When the night light burns out and the dark wants to make its  presence known, it calls his name with the need to show him something. With the help of his flashlight's beam and a modicum of courage, Laszlo follows the dark's directions hoping to find it in any familiar place. That is not to be....the dark wants Laszlo to follow it to the basement. It has a surprise in store for the young boy.

Just before the dark reveals its surprise, the author creates a dramatic pause and holds suspense with the suggestion that those dark places that can terrify us have purpose:

"Without a closet, you would have nowhere to put your
shoes, and without a shower curtain, you would splash
water all over the bathroom, and without the dark,
everything would be light, and you would never know
if you needed a lightbulb."

It holds the reader in suspense until the dark is ready to reveal its secret.

Have I told you how much I love Jon Klassen's work? Of course, I have! It isn't possible to see it and not be impressed. He creates such a sense of that feeling of fear with his shadows and darkness in the gouache and digital art. The stark surroundings of the house and the darkness broken only by very small areas of light make the dark as real a character as Laszlo is. You can almost feel it breathe. Young readers need not be fearful of the is gentle and reassuring and ultimately, a triumph for the small boy.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Poems to Learn By Heart, chosen by Caroline Kennedy and illustrated by Jon Muth. Disney Hyperion, Hachette. 2013. $19.99 all ages

"The best time to start memorizing is when we are young  and remember things easily. Children can recite their favorite books by heart, and through repetition, even exhausted parents will learn them eventually. In my house, we can all recite The Poky Little Puppy, Caps for Sale, and The Owl and the Pussycat..."

This is the second poetry collection that pairs Caroline Kennedy and Jon Muth, and it's a stellar follow-up to A Family of Poems (Disney-Hyperion, 2005). Ms. Kennedy worked with friends Destiny Campbell and Denisse Cotto to choose poems meant to be memorized by those who share this lovely book.

There are more than 100 entries in the collection and they are presented in themed sections about family, friendship, love, sports, school, self and others. The poets are as widely varied as is their poetry. In Manitoba nearing the end of March, we are left to wonder if spring is on its way. This morning the temperature at 8:00 a.m. was -22C. That is much more in keeping with January weather. So this poem was needed to give me hope for spring:

John Updike

Now children may
    Go out of doors,
Without their coats,
    To candy stores.

The apple branches
    And the pear
May float their blossoms
    Through the air.

And Daddy may
    Get out his hoe
To plant tomatoes
    In a row.

And, afterward,
    May lazily
Look at some baseball
    On TV."

Here's hoping!

The moods are ever-changing, the meanings strong, and Jon Muth's artwork is glorious. I am such a fan! The watercolor illustrations are as meaningful and varied as the text itself. His funny, expressive characters in the nonsense section are memorable and endearing. The poems about war are shown in muted hues and shadow. He graces every single page with faultless images and an obvious love for the words.

This last poem I want to share is very powerful, and makes me mindful of the way I want to spend my life:

"First They Came for the Jews
Martin Niemoller

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out -
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the communists
and I did not speak out -
because I was not a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out -
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me -
and there was no one left
to speak out for me."

It should give us pause.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Tooth Mouse, written by Susan Hood and illustrated by Janice Nadeau. Kids Can Press, 2012. $18.95 ages 5 and up

"...until she found herself in the great hall of the cathedral, where a crowd of mice had assembled.

A hush fell over the room. Sophie stood on her tiptoes to see a stern but elegant old mouse appear from the shadows in a shower of moonlight.

Sophie gasped. "It's the Tooth Mouse! La Petite Souris!"

The children in France do not leave their teeth under their pillows for a fairy; instead, they leave them to the safekeeping of the Tooth Mouse. She is regal and refined, and aging. Her time as the reigning mouse in charge to tooth collection is coming to a close. She is ready to begin the search for her replacement.

To all newcomers interested in the job, she announces a set of three tasks to be completed. The first is to bring her a cat's whisker; the second is to procure a coin through honesty; the final is to suggest a viable way to use the many teeth that are collected each and every day.

Sophie is keen to have the job, despite her young age and tiny size. She is certainly brave enough to easily and quickly bring back a cat's whisker. She is honest in her dealings, and the coin is soon obtained. The final request proves a bit trickier. She struggles to find a worthy use for the teeth collected. Her dreams teem with teeth. After a fitful sleep, she awakens with the seemingly simple solution. Only three mice are left to present an idea concerning the fate of the teeth collected. Sophie is among them. You will have to guess at her success!

I have read this story aloud numerous times and I had to do a little French practice to get it right. But, it is great fun and the lovely language used to tell it is a pleasure to read. I will enjoy it again and again. The illustrations have a gentle charm, in keeping with the text. They are detailed and done with watercolor and pencil, in a muted pastel palette. Those many details will attract readers' attention and keep them looking for more within the lovely artwork.

With its talking mice, three quests and overall tone, it reads like a fairy tale and is sure to garner interest in how baby teeth are collected beyond our borders. Pair it with Throw Your Tooth on the Roof, by Selby Beeler to add interest.     

Monday, March 25, 2013

Into the Woods, by J. Torres and Faith Erin Hicks. Kids Can Press, 2012. $17.95 ages 6 and up

"I don't usually look like this.
You do look kind of funny
for a bear, eh?
But I'm not a bear. I'm a boy.
You look even funnier for
a boy.
I don't know what happened...
one minute I'm putting on this thing you know,
I'm this...this...
Bigfoot Boy?"

Rufus lives in the city and is unsure about the woods that back onto his Grammy's house. His mother tells him there is magic there! He isn't too concerned. Left with Grammy while his parents are away for a few days, it doesn't take long until Rufus tires of soap operas and drinking prune juice. Perhaps a jaunt into the woods will stave off dying of boredom.

In the woods he meets Penny, who in none too friendly. When Rufus meets Aurora, Penny's older sister, she assures him that Penny is worth pursuing as a friend. He heads back into the woods and notices a necklace hanging on a tree. Reading the words on the back of it causes an inhuman transformation. Rufus turns into Bigfoot Boy!

In keeping with his physical traits, he has red hair. But, he is also hairy and BIG! Oh, and he can talk to animals. He gets friendly with Sidney the flying squirrel who helps him find his way home. There is further danger in the forest. Penny disappears and with help, Rufus uses the necklace to rescue her.

Kids will love this graphic novel...especially the magic, the fun in the relationships and a bit of a scare. What's not to love about that? The text is written in dialogue speech bubbles which make the reading accessible and enjoyable for the target audience. Full of action, a new relationship and a hint that there may be a future for Bigfoot Boy, I think there will many fans ready for his next adventure.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Binky Takes Charge, written and illustrated by Ashley Spires. Kids Can Press, 2012. $16.95 ages 8 and up

"Or at least there will be when
Binky is done training him.
Binky is no ordinary house cat...
or even an everyday space cat.
He is Lieutenant Binky.
Protector of humans!
Demolisher of aliens!
Passer of space gas!
And now, trainer of
F.U.R.S.T. recruits!"

He's back and his fans are going to be delighted. One thing about Binky; his personality never changes although his stories do! His new assignment makes him a trainer of recruits in F.U.R.S.T. (Felines of the Universe Ready for Space Travel). Can you tell it's a VERY important job?

Binky knows the importance of good training and he is about to pass on all that he has learned 
en route to being made responsible for his first recruit. Pardon? A dog??? Yep, it's very true. Gordon is a DOG! Binky is undeterred. He knows what being a trainer is all about, and he is not going to let a dog ruin his first foray into proving himself capable and competent.

Gordon, however, is not up to the challenge. He might even be leaving messages for his poop! If Binky and Gracie can prove that he is a double agent, imagine the fame and notoriety. They just need proof. The lengths they go to get the goods will have everyone laughing and wishing for further adventure.

Ashley Spires has a wicked sense of humor which she shares abundantly in her graphic novel series about this spunky, suspicious and supercilious cat. Her graphic panels are filled with action and reaction, with sensitivity and surprise. You won't want to miss Binky's fourth adventure if you are a fan. If you haven't met him before, you are in for a laugh-out-loud treat!


The Runaway King, written by Jennifer A. Nielsen. Scholastic, 2013. $19.99 ages 12 and up

"I had arrived early for my own assassination. It was the evening of my family's funeral, and I should have been at the chapel. But the thought of mourning alongside the arrogant coxcombs who would also be there sickened me. If I were anyone else, this would have been a private matter. For a month, I had been King of Carthya, a role for which I had never been prepared..."

This is a rip-roaring sequel to The False Prince. There was much to admire in
Sage from the moment we meet him. He is ferociously independent, quick to anger, intelligent, opposed to any kind of pain inflicted upon him, and has a wanton disregard for others' advice. It could make him a pain in the neck; and he is for some. For me, while I was constantly bewildered by his decisions, he dragged me along on this next part of his journey.

As the newly named King of Carthya, he is a target for those who want control of his kingdom. The first assassin is his old nemesis Roden. After that attempt, Jaron decides that he will run from his kingdom in order to save it. With every decision he makes, I grew more concerned for his safety and that is what kept me turning the pages and caring about him. While the choices he makes seem sure to have dire consequences, and do at times, you just keep hoping that it will all turn to good. The characters remain worthy, and the new ones add to Jaron's league of friends and enemies. I can only hope we will meet some of them again.

Kids who are fans will find just what they want in this second book: tension, sword fights, pirates, stunts that make you close your eyes and hope for the best. It moves quickly and is a worthy middle book for The Ascendance Trilogy. Jennifer Nielsen does a smashing job of leaving us just as war is about to break out with questions about Jaron's leadership, his future and some of our favorite people. Come on, final installment!

Games of Survival, written by Johnny Issaluk. Inhabit Media, Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2012. $12.95 ages 6 and up

"These games came from hundreds of years ago, when Inuit lived in iglus and tents. They played the games so that they would be physically strong and mentally healthy enough to survive in the -50 degree weather in which they had to go hunting, catch caribou, and so on."

Arctic athlete Johnny Issaluk and photographer Ed Maruyama provide instruction for traditional Inuit activities used to teach kids survival skills for Northern climes. Johnny explains each of the three basic types and why they were essential to the Inuit, names the games within them and gives explicit instructions for achieving success. The clear photographs are very helpful and I really liked that children were used to carry out his instructions and take part in these traditional games.

In the foreword, Thomas Johnston describes them:

"There are three main categories of games: strength, endurance, and my favorite, agility. In the strength games you face an opponent, and you challenge the person to see who is stronger. In the endurance games, you see how much you can take compared to others. In the agility games, you are competing against yourself, demonstrating how much you have practiced."

In his final thoughts, Johnny tells his readers that:

"The games are as important as our language, our throat singing, and our drum dancing. They are vital because traditionally they were used not only for fun, not only for celebration, but for survival."

I think this book would be great fun to share in classrooms, and with physical education teachers. It would add to any learning the class is doing about the Arctic and the Inuit people. These games are described, photographed and explained with step-by-step directions. My poor old knee aches just thinking about them, but I think I could use some for stronger shoulders and arms.

Friday, March 22, 2013

We Go Together! Written and illustrated Calef Brown. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Thomas Allen & Son. 2013. $11.99 ages 4 and up

"You always remember
the type of tea I enjoy,
how much milk,
which spoon to employ,
the correct teapot, 
and whether to steep it or not.

Noticing things, 
about me, especially, 
seems to be your speciality."  

I love this little book about friendship! While it would have been a great Valentine's Day gift for a good pal, it's a gift to be given anytime you are thinking about someone special. It is filled with memories, shared experiences, the things we do for those we love and much more. There are 14 poems and I have already chosen my favorites, and added a few to my reading journal.

It's great for little hands, and is filled with original and entertaining artwork ( a Calef Brown trademark). All characters are unusual, making them memorable and worth revisiting. They share double page spreads with poems about love and affection, about good company and the fun to be had together.

If someone makes a crack
or puts me down,
you back me up
and stick around.
Always there
when I get in a tangle.
I lean on you
at a steep angle -
I'm so inclined.
A better friend
I'll never find."

It might be a tough read in a classroom setting because of its size, but is is just right to share sitting side by side with a friend who makes you feel the way these lively poems make you feel!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

MIce, written by Rose Fyleman and illustrated by Lois Ehlert. Beach Lane Books, Simon & Schuster. 2012. $19.99 ages 3 and up

"I think mice
are rather nice.
Their tails are long,
their faces small.
They haven't
any chins
at all."

I have always loved this little poem. Although I don't remember memorizing it as a child, I must have. As soon as I began reading this new book by Lois Ehlert, it came back to me, word for word. Such is the power of poetry, and why we want to be sharing it with children at every opportunity. It's worth it!

To add Ms. Ehlert's bold and beautifully designed and colored illustrations is definitely the icing on the cake, wouldn't you agree? I love the two brilliant white teeth sticking out of their mouths, their knotted string leg and arms, their crimped paper tails and the lovely pink ears. We have begun to recognize personality; that's all on the cover.

The gently rhymed text is the perfect foil for the playful, witty collage illustrations that characterize this illustrator's work. The textured, torn-paper collages bring life to each page and show the tiny rodents scampering across the black backgrounds of the nighttime,  getting into mischief and eating anything that is visible to them. The labels are helpful to little ones who love independence when they are reading, and also to budding artists as they pore over the deft artwork with eager eyes.

The appealing scenes are numerous, and there is a lot for us to see. Some pages will evoke memories and invite discussion. Her little surprise at the end is perfect. I know that I had never thought seriously about who, or what, might be reciting this bit of whimsy. What a lovely and lively book to share with a group of little ones!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Jack and the Baked Beanstalk, written and illustrated by Colin Stimpson. templar books, Candlewick Press. Random House, 2012. $18.00 ages 5 and up

"Early the next morning, Jack woke up to find his room bathed in a curious green light. Strange branches twisted in through the window. At the end of each shoot dangled a can of baked beans. "It's a magic baked beanstalk," Jack whispered to Bella..."

In this reworked version of the familiar Jack and the Beanstalk fairy tale, Jack and his mother are operating a popular diner. It is housed in an old burger truck that has enough mechanical problems to keep it stationary. They run a great business!

Then progress rears its ugly head. To get its people to work and back home in quick time, the city constructs an overpass. Once operational, it cuts off customers to Jack and his mother and their burger business slows to a trickle.Soon they are as poor as church mice with only pennies to their name.

Now, to familiar territory. Jack's mother sends him off with their last pennies for milk and coffee beans. You knew he would be enticed by magic beans, right? This time they are baked beans. His mother is as furious as the original one. She throws them out the window and sends Jack to bed hungry.

The beanstalk grows; Jack and his dog Bella climb it to find a huge castle, replete with a nattily dressed, gold-counting giant, a chicken and a magic radio that looks remarkably like the Chrysler Building. The giant is benevolent and a would-be chef. He loves to cook for company, and does so with great glee. Not only is he hospitable, he is understanding of the both the chicken and the radio wanting to explore new places. He is sad but walks them to the top of the beanstalk and wishes them well as they leave with Jack.

An unexpected split in the beanstalk's stalk and all are tumbled downward where they find new work, happiness in life and a happy ending for all.

I love the atmosphere that Colin Stimpson creates in his digital illustrations. They feel as if you are watching a movie set in 1930s New York. The backgrounds, the clothing, the vehicles...everything points to an historical place in time. The characters are friendly, helpful and happy...and the message that being so might be better than being rich is quietly observed. I like this new version!


NIGHTSONG, written by Ari Berk and illustrated by Loren Long. Simon & Schuster, 2012. $19.99 ages 5 and up

"His mother folded him in her wings and whispered into his waiting ears, "Sense is the song you sing out into the world, and the song the world sings back to you. Sing, and the world will answer. This is how you'll see."

What a lovely book this is to share with little ones who might be feeling frightened over some new exploit. Chiro is a little bat who has been learning from his mother since birth. It is  time for a solo flight. His mother gives gentle and thoughtful advice, allowing her son to take it and make his first foray into the darkness alone.

She lets him know that he will be able to see in the darkness by using his 'goodsense' and it doesn't take long for Chiro to recognize what that is. Echolocation is a tough concept for young learners to grasp. In the whimsical and meaningful words of Ari Berk, Chiro's singing shows them exactly what
is happening as he makes his way to the pond where the bats from his colony feed.

He uses his 'goodsense' to find his way around trees, past a flock of geese and under a row of electrical wires until the pond was located. Once there, he eats his fill from 'thousands of tiny, flying, tasty things, each one humming a different tune'. His hunger satisfied, he is prepared to fly home. A tiny niggling thought comes to mind and he decides to fly beyond the margins of his own world. Now, he is all alone!

In that solitude, he continues to learn about the nighttime world and wanders until he feels the call of home, and his mother's warm embrace. Your audience will be thrilled to have shared his successful first flight, and with his willingness to step outside his comfort zone . Chiro is a brave little bat!

Loren Long surrounds Chiro with black inky night using acrylics and graphite for his adventure. The soft golden browns elicit the warmth and comfort of mother and child being together. The deep dark offers a feeling of danger while Chiro makes his way from safety to the unknown. I love the light that shines around him as he flies beyond the boundaries set by his mother. But, my favorite illustration when he is sitting by the pond, hunger sated and wings wrapped around a tiny, bulging tummy. So charming!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Night Fairy, written by Laura Amy Schlitz and illustrated by Angela Barrett. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2012. $20.00 ages 6 and up

"A tiny green light appeared above the grass. Then another. The lightning bugs were rising. One by one they lit their lamps and floated toward the sky. Flory gazed at them, rapt. All at once she realized how homesick she had been for the night. She was not sleepy. She had been up  since dawn, but she knew she would have no trouble staying awake."
Flory is a night fairy with a problem. One night while flying, a bat injures her wings and she can no longer fly. She is forced to use a tiny birdhouse for protection and shelter. As she watches, she sees all the wonder of the daytime world. The yard belongs to a giantess who leaves food for birds and squirrels, sugar syrup for hummingbirds and solace for every creature who makes its home there.

Young children who love fairies and fantasy will find delight in this beautifully illustrated tiny package.  Flory is tenacious, yet struggling to make sense of her new surroundings. She works hard to make a place for herself there. She befriends a squirrel, worries about bats, protects two tiny hummingbird eggs, and rescues their mother from a spider's web. Her magic protects her and proves useful when she is trying to help others. She eventually opens her heart to forgiveness.

The lovely, soft illustrations add another element of beauty, making Flory live for her audience and giving a clear and lovely look at her new environment.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Leepike Ridge, written by N. D, Wilson. Random House, 2007. $7.99 ages 10 and up

"The lamp hit Tom's hand and fell. He wasn't watching. He was staring at a place in the darkness that he knew was filled by a creature larger than he was. Without thinking, he pushed his legs back against the rock and jumped, the beginnings of a yell stifled in his throat. Reg was reaching out to catch the lamp, but Tom was coming right after it."

I'm not sure if the time change had me not sleeping well, or that I was reading a great book and didn't want to stop reading until I made myself stop two night in a row at 2:30 a.m. By then, I had finished Leepike Ridge and couldn't wait to share it.

One thing I know for sure now that I have read three of his books, N. D. Wilson is a writer. There were many places in this book that I reread for a turn of phrase, a lovely passage or that stopped me in my tracks. Here's just one of them:

"Tom had traveled around the sun eleven times when the delivery truck brought his mother's newest fridge, but a number doesn't really describe his age. His father had been gone three years, and that made him feel older. He was the sort of boy who had many friends when he was at school, but what they knew about him was limited to his freckles, brown hair, long arms, and the clenched determination that settled onto his face when he was angry or competing."

The action was so real there were times I had to stop and take a deep breath. My claustrophobia would kick in, and my heart would race trying to fathom doing what Tom and Reg did because they were trapped in the mountain. So descriptive and full of action, I just tore along from one chapter to the next, never asking where that chapter might end.

There is so much here for many different types of readers. I have told you about the action. The relationships are layered, the characters strong, the back story a mystery whose pieces just keep falling into place; and despite the dire circumstances, there is even occasional humor.

Tom doesn't like Jeffrey though he is his teacher and wants to be his Mom's new husband. Jeffrey is grating to Tom, and annoying to this reader. Tom is angry that his mom is even thinking about accepting Jeffrey's proposal and goes off in a pout. He rides a large piece of packing foam on the stream near his house...and disappears! What he finds when he finally stops rolling in the churning current is a big surprise...a lake, a corpse, a castaway, buried treasure and the way home. It is an exciting and memorable journey.

It is sure to earn N. D. Wilson new fans if they have not read any of his other books. Wow!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Infinity and Me, written by Kate Hosford and illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska. Carolrhoda Books, 2012. $19.95 ages 5 and up

"...what would I like to do forever? At first, I thought that I might like to have recess forever. But if there's no school before recess, and no school after recess, is it really recess anymore? Maybe I'd like to be eight forever, but I didn't know if Samantha would still want to be my best friend when she was eighty-five and I was still eight."

The meaning of infinity is almost impossible to imagine. In this lovely book, Kate Hosford evokes a spirited consideration of this mathematical construct.

Uma looks to the night sky and wonders how many stars might be winking down at her. It causes her to consider infinity. Her questions for others begin and so, too, the answers.  As varied as the people asked, the answers overwhelm young Uma. With all her thinking about it, she has forgotten about her stunning new red shoes. Nobody has even noticed them.

After checking with her friends and some important people at school, Uma is no closer to an answer that she was when she started. Thoughtful and meditative she leaves school behind and makes her way home where her grandmother greets her with great pleasure and a heartwarming observation:

"Uma, I meant to tell you this morning - those are the most beautiful shoes I have ever seen!"

Her grandmother has helped Uma begin to understand infinity in her own terms:

"I didn't hear the rest of what Grandma said. I was too busy smiling. Right then I knew - my love for her was as big as infinity."

Gazing at the night sky with Grandma beside her makes it less intimidating to her eyes and to her heart; now, Uma can see it as a 'sparkly blanket' all warm and snuggly.

Gabi Swiatkowska’s beautifully expressive illustrations give life to each character and offer readers an invitation to stop and pay rapt attention to every spread. They glow with life and wonder. 

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Beyond Courage, written by Doreen Rappaport. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2012. $27.00 ages 13 and up

"For six years, I have lived with the people you will meet in this book. I've gotten to know most of them through the words and photographs they left behind. I have had the privilege of speaking directly with survivors, and I have even had the good fortune of meeting a few in person. All are enshrined in my heart."

Doreen Rappaport has chosen for her newest book to tell stories  of Jewish resistance during WWII. Few are well-known, and her research has taken six years to complete. As she says in her introduction she felt blessed to spend the time it took to learn these stories and to be able to share them in this thoughtful, heartbreaking book.

It's a big topic to choose to share. There were times when I had to stop and take a breather from the atrocities that were inflicted on so many while Hitler and the Nazis held sway over what happened during their march through Europe. The author takes small bits of everything she learned and presents them with integrity in trying to help her readers understand the bravery that so many displayed while refusing to give in to their enemies. She tells stories of individuals and the parts they played in resisting the onslaught of murder and mayhem.

The first section deals with the years that led to the start of the war, when Hitler gained the power to rule with his iron fist. In the second section she shares the stories of brave Jews who got children to safety in various parts of Europe. She talks about happened in the ghettos as people fought to keep their friends and families from being transported and murdered in concentration camps. She includes the Warsaw ghetto, the escapes from the Vilna ghetto and the secret magazines and pictures that were written and drawn by the children at Theresienstadt. Each showed the strength and hope that refused to die in the fight against the Nazis, despite unbridled cruelty and unkept promises.

Few of their stories have been told. She lets her readers know that many brave men and women fought for their freedom and their rights in a multitude of ways. Many memorable stories are included in and each holds some small victory for those who chose to resist.

The book includes archival photographs and maps which are helpful in following the stories told. Be sure to go to Ms. Rappaport's website to hear conversations with survivors and to find links to other resources.  Extensive back matter is useful, including a timeline that dates from 1933 until the war ended in 1945. Highly informative and readable, this is a book filled with stories you will not soon forget.

It is an outstanding piece of nonfiction and should find a permanent place in many classrooms and libraries. It is the best we have to offer, and we are lucky to be able to share it. Many people chose to fight rather than succumb, to maintain hope in a hopeless time. We now know some of them.    

Monday, March 11, 2013

When You Meet a Bear on Broadway, written by Amy Hest and illustrated by Elivia Savadier. Farrar Straus Giroux, Raincoast Books. 2013. $18.99 ages 4 and up

"What is your business on Broadway?" you ask. (You must ask this politely.) "It's my mama. My mama is lost!" He shivers and droops and covers his eyes and cries. "Boohoo!" Softly at first. Then louder. "BOOHOO!" And louder still. "BOOHOO!"

Well, what would you do? You would do exactly what this polite and concerned little girl does...she helps. After she reassures him and the crying subsides, they set off together to search for his mama.

The little girl wants to know about the mama so she asks questions of the bear about her appearance, and her singing, and her hugs. That's the last straw for the bear, he wants his mama's hugs and he wants them now!

They look uptown and downtown, by the river and in the park. When they see a tall tree, the little girl gives the bear a boost and a chance to climb up and up. Perfectly placed near the top of the tree, he sings mama's  name again and again. The wind carries his plaintive call to his mama's ears...all the way to Broadway. That is all Mama Bear needs!

A warm reunion , a happy, warm, familiar hug and a gentle goodbye is shared (politely, of course!)

Now, it's time for the little girl to run all the way home and tell her mama all about her adventurous day!

The lovely drawings bring an Upper West Side neighborhood to life with shops and people bustling from place to place, in front of tall apartment buildings. It's easy to see the two main characters...they shine brighter than all those around them.

Be sure to carefully peruse each and every page, including the endpapers and title page. They have their own story to tell. There is gentle humor and fashionable spirit and charm as the little girl proves she is up to the task:

"When you meet a bear on Broadway
and his mama is lost, 
just take his hand
and surely you will find her." 


Sunday, March 10, 2013

The False Prince, written by Jennifer A Nielsen. Scholastic, 2013. $7.99 ages 10 and up

"Mott began riding us back to the stables. The springtime night had cooled, and I shivered in my wet clothes. Mott must have felt sorry for me because he spent most of the ride instructing me on how  to manage a wild horse. Unfortunately, I had other things on my mind, so I missed most of the lecture. Too bad, because what I did hear actually sounded interesting."

Wow! I just finished this wonderful book and need to tell someone about it. It was one of those books that I stopped reading with about 30 pages to go. I didn't want it to end!

Knowing that I had its sequel on my TBR pile helped, and I am already almost 100 pages into it. But, stop! I want to tell you about the people who are the characters you will be delighted to meet. Sage is a boy with an independent nature, a mischievous manner and grim determination. He is one of the chosen ones; that is, Conner chooses him from an orphanage to see if he can meet the requirements for making him King of Carthya. Conner is a nobleman of the court, knows that he must find an impersonator and install him as a puppet for Conner to control before he takes over as ruler of his beloved land which is on the brink of a civil war.

Sage is not amenable to be treated as badly as he is being treated but knows that his life means nothing unless he can pass himself off as the heir apparent. Everything he does makes Conner angry and is a threat to his own life, but he will not go willingly to be Conner's pawn. The other orphans know that their lives are at stake if they cannot prove themselves worthy of the crown.

Danger, deceit, secrets, alliances and perpetual action will keep you glued to the chair you are sitting in until you have turned the final page. A twisting plot, wonderful characters, a constant feeling of unease will assure that you will do just what I did...not stop reading until the story is told!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Greyhound of a Girl, written by Roddy Doyle. Amulet Books, Abrams. Canadian Manda Group, 2012. $18.95 ages 10 and up

"Tansey went across to the big chair with Emer still in her arms. The chair had been Jim's father's, but Tansey had never known the man. He'd been dead for a year before she slid on the ice and met Jim. But all the same, she thought she knew him, because a part of him - his tobacco, and the smells he'd brought in from the four corners of the farm - still seemed to be in the chair."

Here are four generations of women in one family. Tansey is a ghost from the past who died too young and has always kept tabs on her daughter Emer, who was left motherless while a very young girl. Emer is mother to Scarlett and Grandmother to Mary; she is in hospital dying and fearful of death. Each of the women have a powerful bond, and I love the conversations between Mary and Scarlett:

"Great idea!" said her mother.
"Stop talking like that," said Mary.
"Like what?!"
"Oh, no!" said her mother, whose name was Scarlett.
"I don't really talk like that! Do I?!"
"Yes, you do."
"What?! Always?!"

Roddy Doyle sets his story in Ireland, and uses alternating chapters to tell each character's story, and then numbered chapters to provide the shared story being told. Although they have lived at different times in history, the women exhibit similarities that are uncanny. Once all four have found each other, they embark on a road trip together to the family home. The trip has its disappointments, but also its great pleasures for the women (well, three women and one young girl):

"It was quiet. Scarlett just drove. Mary looked out the window. She didn't ask for music or food. Her granny was asleep and Mary knew it was special, this trip. It was something that hadn't been planned. It was actually impossible. Four generations of women - "I'm a woman," Mary said to herself  -heading off on a journey in a car. One of them dead, one of them dying, one of them driving, one of them just starting out. I'm a woman. She looked out the window..."

The conversations and flashbacks are lovely. They show the way that each generation relates to the other, adding humor, poignancy and a healthy dose of life in the every day. Roddy Doyle is incredibly adept at creating dialogue between them, and giving us characters to love and admire.

This is a book about love and the connections that make us family. Charming, sad, funny and so worth reading.

A Dog Called Homeless, written by Sarah Lean. Katherine Tegen Books, Harper. 2012. $18.99 ages 10 and up

"Dad looked more worried when we left that when we went in. And it made me feel scared of Dr. Colborn. I started to think that she was going to make me tell her that I saw my dead mom and then tell me it wasn't true and make me say it wasn't true. And worse, if I said it wasn't true, it might make Mom go away forever, and then I might never see Homeless again. Already I hated Dr. Colborn."

Poor Cally! She is having a terrible time coming to grips with her Mom's accidental death a year ago, on her father's birthday. Everything has changed for the family, and Cally is even worrying that she might be losing her father. An anniversary visit to her mother's grave results in Cally believing that she can see her mother watching over her bright red raincoat and green rain hat. When she tells her father and brother, they show concern for her. Of course, they don't believe her.

At school, things have changed, too. Cally is often in trouble and decides to take on the challenge of not speaking for a whole school day to help raise money for Angela's Hospice, a place whose work is to help sick children have their dreams come true. The challenge turns into something quite different for Cally, as we learn on the book's first page:

"My name is Cally Louise Fisher, and I haven't spoken for thirty-one days. Talking doesn't always make things happen, however much you want it to. Think of rain; it just happens when it happens. When the clouds are ready, when they're full, they drop the water. It's not magic; it's just putting something back where it belongs."

The changes that take place for her family result in Cally's meeting some truly amazing people, and an even more spectacular dog. He comes to school, to the park and she sees him with Jed, a homeless man from their new neighborhood. He is called Homeless and he seems to have a special affinity for Cally. She also meets Mrs. Cooper, a neighbor in their new apartment building and her son Sam, who has numerous difficulties. He is blind, almost deaf and has a weak heart. Sam's heart is also so remarkably full that you will not forget him!

Sam helps the heartbroken Cally understand that her mother remains with her, and will always be close. As days go by, and Cally deals with the many changes in her life, we watch her find ways to cope with the loss so fully felt by her family.  Her voice is remarkably strong, and yet bewildered by all that she sees happening around her. Will her mother disappear forever if Cally finds her voice? Why does Homeless seem to be just the dog for their family? Who is Jed?

I smiled, sighed, cried, marveled and fell in love with Cally, her family, her friends and with Homeless. What a truly special story this is.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

A Little Book of Slime, by Clint Twist. A Firefly Book, 2012. $9.95 ages 9 and up

"Some sea slugs feed on marine plants, but many of them are predators. Most live on the ocean floor, where some species hunt sea snails. Others nibble at the tentacles of sea anemones, or specialize in eating sponges."

EWWWW! creepy and crawly is that? Here's a book that is filled with the stuff! Slimy Stuff in Water on land, water and other slimy stuff is discussed in two page spreads that include the slimy subject, a full page colored photograph, its place on the slime-ometer (on a scale of 1 to 10) and a Slime alert!

Readers will get a kick out of the face-scrunching, body-constricting responses of those appalled by the thoughts of slimy creatures and their sticky ooze. The author uses slimy language while describing those who count on slime to keep bodies moist, to collect food, and to provide defense against predators. Some of the slime is poisonous, all is sticky and often it can even be 'utterly revolting'.

If you can keep it together to read your way through its pages, you are sure to learn that slime is everywhere. The author uses small bits of description to inform his audience, and ensures that readers will be able to find their way back to their favorite parts by adding a table of contents, section introductions, a glossary of highlighted words and an index.
He writes in a way that makes the information easy to understand and process.

"Running your fingers through the plants in a meadow can be a very pleasant experience - until you find a glob of slimy wet bubbles that look like spit."

Some types were familiar to me; many were not. Some of them are too gross to consider. Others, including our own phlegm (what a positively ugly word!) are part of our experience and hold interest. There is a lot to learn here, and the design of the book makes that learning quick and fun, for the most part.  The photographs lend authenticity to the author's descriptions.  They are clear, detailed and suitably 'gross'.   You know the kids who are going to LOVE this book!

While You Were Sleeping, written by Steve Murrie & Matthew Murrie and illustrated by Tom Bloom. Scholastic, 2012. $10.99 ages 9 and up

"If you slept 10 hours and 14 seconds each night, that would equal ONE DAY on SATURN. You could go to sleep just as the sun was going down on Saturn and by the time you woke up, the sun would be going down again! There's another problem. If you actually tried to spend a day on Saturn - you wouldn't be able to stand. Saturn is a gas giant. That means it doesn't have a solid surface to hold you or your bed."
You know those kids who love to gather trivia about any number of subjects?Here's another book for them! It's filled with a plethora of enlightening and entertaining facts about the body, space, animals, sports, popular culture, the earth we live on, and technology. It's easy to breeze from one section to the next, starting with where your interests lie and moving on as you grasp the tone of the book, the fun in the illustrations and a whole new list of 'facts' that you can regale others with the next time you get together.

"Every night when you fall asleep, the experiences you have while you were awake are sorted; some are deleted while others are kept and REPLAYED OVER AND OVER so that you won't forget them when you wake up. This may sound like science fiction, but it's all a part of your brain's process of converting short-term memories into long-term memories."

This is a follow-up book to the Murries' first, Every Minute on Earth. It's another great collection of facts that will hold attention and give readers a real sense of all that is happening while they are getting their ZZZZs. So much goes on, and we have little awareness of it all. This book helps us process that information for future reference.

Readers in the intermediate grades enjoy fact-filled books that allow them to wander through pages, and share what they are learning with their friends. This is a perfect addition to that much-perused basket of like books.

And here's one that made me want to crawl back into bed, and get some extra hours of shut-eye. Made me tired just imagining it happening:

"You've heard of ROCKING YOURSELF TO SLEEP, but rocking yourself awake? That's exactly what Suresh Joachim did for 75 hours and 3 minutes from August 24 to 27 in 2005, when he set the world record for most time rocking in a rocking chair."

I would have been asleep in a New York minute!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Dodger, written by Terry Pratchett. Doubleday, Random House. 2012. $29.95 ages 12 and up

"This caused such a silence that he realized this was probably not a sensible idea. As he thought this, he suddenly also thought, I'm talking to this gent like I'm his equal! It's amazing how a shonky suit and a plate of bacon and eggs can make a man feel set up! But I'm still the lad that got up this morning as a tosher, and they're still the gent and missus who got up in this big house..."

I finished reading Terry Pratchett's latest book a week ago; every scene is still fresh and memorable. I must admit that from my initial meeting with the Artful Dodger in the high school play Oliver in the mid-1960s he has been my favorite character. I loved his style, his chutzpah, and his take on life as one of Fagin's minions.

This book had me from its first page...I could have filled my journal with favorite quotes. Terry Pratchett is a superb storyteller and captured my attention immediately. Was he really going to make Charles Dickens a character in his story? Indeed, he does! Mister Charlie is one of the first people who makes an impression on Dodger after he helps a young woman who is being treated badly by the men sent to return her to her abusive husband.

Mister Charlie is impressed with Dodger's bravery in the face of great danger to himself, and he takes him under his wing and helps him find safety for the young woman. Her name is Simplicity. Dodger is a young and charming man, who knows his place in Victorian London society. His life with his landlord Solomon has prepared him well for the changes in his circumstance. Dodger is a tosher, foraging in the sewers and finding daily treasure that he shares with Solomon  in exchange for room and board. Solomon admires the young man's pluck and tenacity.

With twists and turns galore and a new identity to protect Simplicity, Dodger's life path is changed and Solomon helps him deal with those changes. He becomes a much admired member of society, rising quickly and astonishing many:

"The following day the coach arrived exactly on time and with Serendipity on board. When they set off again Solomon, who seemed to know everything about these matters, said: "This is, of course, a private audience. But just remember, Her Majesty is in charge. Do not speak until you are spoken to. Never, ever interrupt and - and I stress this, Dodger - don't get familiar. Do you understand?"

While solving the mystery of the young woman, Dodger meets a number of historical figures making this smart and thoroughly entertaining tale perfect fare for those who love history, particularly of the Victorian England kind. Witty wordplay such as Dodger wanting to be a 'successful urchin'  by 'studying how to urch' makes it a reader's delight and makes me want to read it all over again. He is a wonderful character, worthy of our attention and forever memorable.

Were I a screenwriter I would want to adapt this story for the silver screen so that those who won't likely read his story might still come to know this witty, intelligent and oh, so charming young man.

Andrew Drew and Drew, written and illustrated by Barney Saltzberg. Abrams, Canadian Manda Group, 2012. $17.95 ages 3 and up

was like making...


This lively book will seem like magic when you share it with young artists, and entice their imaginations with this little boy's adventures in art. When we first see Andrew he is sharpening a number of pencils at a large desk, and a white wall that displays two drawings. We quickly learn that 'Andrew was a doodle boy'.

Oh, what fun! A pencil line crosses an almost double page spread that leads right to him. The action of line drawing is stopped just prior to the edge and we turn the page, allowing us a look at a pair of eyes which, with another partial page split, turn into an open-mouthed hippo (?) whose bottom jaw becomes a path for a skateboarding pig!

As he creates his own world with his doodling, Andrew reminds readers who might remember him of Harold, who created a new reality with his purple crayon. This book should  lead parents and teachers to look back at that iconic little book...something that I am sure would delight Barney Saltzberg.  Andrew's joy in life comes from creating, and the magic of those images he creates will have young readers going back again and again to admire the fruits of  his labor.

I love the flaps and gatefolds, and I know that kids will, too. It is always so intriguing to see where a line might lead. Get out the white paper, a pencil and see where your imagination can take you!

For a little taste of Andrew's artistic ingenuity, check this out:

This book would be perfect to accompany Anthony Browne's The Shape Game, Peter Reynolds' Ish and The Dot, and Crockett Johnson's Harold and the Purple Crayon. Don't let the list stop there!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Hattie Ever After, written by Kirby Larson. Delacorte Press, Random House. 2013. $19.99 ages 10 and up

"Aside from learning that he'd roomed at the Sutter, I hadn't made much progress. But I was getting quite the education about this town around the time of the Panama Pacific International Exposition. San Francisco had been determined to show it had completely recovered from the earthquake, and the Exposition was just the ticket for proving that. The marvel drew visitors by the thousands..."

One year after selling her land and most of her possessions, Hattie is working a job in Brown's Boardinghouse in Great Falls, Montana. In a letter to her friend Perilee, she shares her dissatisfaction with her lot in life at the moment:

"The good Lord has quite a sense of humor, plunking me down here in Great Falls, in just the sort of job I left Iowa to escape, though I must confess, it was pure pleasure this past winter to have indoor plumbing. No more walking to the necessary when it's forty below! And I've certainly perfected the essential cleaning skills. I'll have you know I can now make a bed, scour the washbowl, and Hoover-sweep the carpet in a lodger's room in fifteen minutes flat."

Her hard work has enabled her to pay off all of her Uncle Chester's outstanding debts back in Iowa and now allows her to take a job with a travelling acting group...their destination is San Francisco. At least in the big city, Hattie might have a shot at finding her dream job...newspaper reporter.

Once again, Hattie tells her own story, with letters and newspaper articles adding interest. There are more people for Hattie to meet, including the troupe she works with, a working reporter, Ruby who provides a connection to her Uncle Chester...some prove worthy, others do not. We learn that Charlie is back from the war safe and sound, has never loved anyone as he loves Hattie, and he wants her to be his wife.

Hattie cannot let her dream of reporting die; so, she refuses the marriage proposal by explaining that she must pursue it. Hurt, Charlie acknowledges her need to be independent, accepts a job in Seattle and moves on. As we learned earlier, Hattie is a fiercely determined young woman. Her skills as a writer are recognized and she is given assignments of varying importance. Always present in her thoughts is Charlie, his support and his wish that Hattie find peace and happiness.

Hattie is adept at counting on herself to find her place at the newspaper, and in life. Her disappointment in two people she trusts only makes her a stronger person, and more aware of her true feelings for Charlie. Bravo, Hattie!

Hattie Big Sky, written by Kirby Larson. Delacorte Press, Random House. 2008. $7.99 ages 12 and up

"So much fuss about age! Men can enlist in the service at eighteen but cannot vote until age twenty-one. Women are thought old maids at twenty-four. My time on the prairie has shown me that age has very little to do with one's mental acuity or physical ability. My "old hen" neighbor - her own label for herself - is sought after like a debutante at a grand ball for her horse-training skills."

I have no excuse for waiting so long to read this beautifully told story. It has been on my bookshelf for far too long. Then, Hattie Ever After arrived in mailbox and I knew it was now or never. So, pick it up I did, and put it down I could not! The mix of historical fiction laced with admirable and likable characters made it a perfect read for me. Historical fiction is not one of my reading gaps, as it can be for so many. Nor are stories that introduce wonderful characters meant to make our lives better for having know them.

Hattie Inez Brooks is tired of moving from one place to the next. She calls herself Hattie Here and There, as she cannot find a loving and permanent foster home. When Uncle Chester, a man she has never met, leaves her his homestead and belongings in far-off Montana, she takes a chance on finding a place for herself. She is sixteen, and unaware of the difficulties that might arise for a young girl on her own. Add to that the fact that she must prepare 40 acres of ground for planting and set 480 rods of fencing, all within a year of her arrival. It is a daunting task.

Hattie's first person narrative, mixed with letters to her Uncle Holt in Iowa and to her friend Charlie, who is fighting in Europe, as well as essays she writes for a newspaper back in Iowa, helps  us imagine how difficult life truly was for those who tried homesteading in the early twentieth century. She knows nothing about farming, about fending for herself in the wilds of Montana, or even about the growing racism against the people of German descent in America during the First World War.

She has much to learn. Luckily, she meets wonderful neighbors who make her life worthwhile and promising. Karl and Perilee Mueller and their young children are her closest neighbors and are a godsend in helping her learn to farm, feed and fend for herself. Rooster Jim provides appreciated company and a chess partner after long days alone working from morning until night. And, he entrusts her with some hens and a rooster that will provide sustenance and occasional entertainment. Leafie keeps her spirits up and teaches her about healing and first aid. She has much to be thankful for in a lonely and desolate land.

Hattie has respect for that land, and a healthy dose of persistence to make it hers. Life is very difficult for everyone. First, they must deal with the unbearable cold of a long and arduous winter; then, with mud, drought, hail, hard work and the threat of wild animals during spring and summer. Hattie has pluck, and the love of friends to help her make a new life for herself. Her struggles are many, her successes hard won. In a letter to Charlie she talks about the heartbreak of a hailstorm:

"As I thanked my neighbors at the end of the day, I felt as if I was at a funeral. And in a way it was. A funeral for a dream. How could months of work be destroyed in a few minutes?"
In an author's note, Kirby Larson lets readers know that her story is a family one. Her great-grandmother Hattie Inez Brooks Wight had worked a homestead in Montana when she was only sixteen years old. Discovering this tidbit of family history set the wheels in motion for a journey that let to this book and its compelling narrative.

Now, on to Hattie Ever After. I, like so many other readers, want to know what happenes to this very fine and independent young woman!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

What's Up, Bear? Written by Frieda Wishinsky and illustrated by Sean L. Moore. OwlKids, 2012. $16.95 ages 2 and up

We're up, Bear.
We're down, Sophie.
Isn't it fun to go fast?
I like slow better."

In this concept book which deal with opposites, we meet two cute characters who couldn't be more opposite than they already are. Sophie and her teddy bear are making a plan to travel to New York City. One is excited, the other is miserable. One is enticed by the big city and its many sights. The other would rather stay right where he is...on Sophie's bed, and under the covers.

There are fourteen different opposing pairs here for young readers to observe and understand. Most of them are easily recognized; the least common pair is likely to be forget and remember. Each is given perfect context for gaining knowledge. They are placed on opposing pages, making them easy to pair for little ones.

The phrasing is easy to see on the detailed pages, the concept words stand out in bold print and the book's design is bright  and clear. Sean L. Moore does a commendable job of making the cartoon-like characters and the big city setting stand out. His expression-filled faces, and the colorful backgrounds make this trip to New York both exciting and overwhelming. 

When Bear is left behind, it seems that all of his worries were worth worrying. Some of Sophie's exuberance is as lost as Bear is. His return assures that they share one strong feeling...happiness! 

On the back endpapers, information is provided about each of the seven New York landmarks visited. I enjoyed that addition!