Tag Archive: illustrators

Book Reviews May 2014

I have read about 125 books so far this year. It probably would be more but I got stalled a bit this past month trying to decide what to read. So many good books have come out in the last few months or will come out very soon, and I keep putting them on hold at the library. However, they have been arriving at my house too quickly. I’m currently reading the behemoth last book in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor called Dreams of Gods and Monsters. I’m on listening hiatus until I can get to the library on Wednesday, so I’m just rocking to my mp3 shuffle list now.

As usual I rate books on a scale of 1 – 5 stars, with one being the lowest and five the highest. I am still trying to finish my Caldecott Challenge, and with all the winners and honors. I’m down to 13 books left to read. I’m also completing a Newbery Challenge, where I’m reading all the award winners and at least one honor book.


A Moose That Says Moo by Jennifer Hamburg, illustrated by Sue Truesdell

A Moose That Says Moo

I rather enjoyed this very silly book, probably more than my son did. With rhyming text, we find a girl is sitting in the backyard who says that if “the moose ever says moo then she will decide to create her own zoo, which would include sharks reading books.” There are singing tap-dancing pigs, an all-duck jazz band, a goose serving juice, and tigers lazing in trees and making macaroni and cheese. Then the animals start causing mayhem and things start getting out of control, and she must step in to save everyone. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

Window Music written by Anastasia Suen, illustrated by Wade Zahares

Window Music

According to the Publishers Weekly review of the book, the title refers to 1880s railroad slang about “passing scenery.” The one thing that really stands out to me in the book is the gorgeous pastel-painted illustrations. My son asked me to re-read this one multiple times as the pictures were so fascinating to him. The story is about a young girl who travels with her mother from her grandparent’s house back to her father and their own house. It is cool because the train goes everywhere, through farmlands of grapes and orange groves, by the ocean, through a snowy mountain range and back into the bright lights of the busy city. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

Daisy and Josephine written by Melissa Gilbert, illustrated by Julia Kuo

I love French bulldogs, which is why I picked up this book. Apparently Melissa Gilbert, star of “Little House on the Prairie” does also, although she actually owns one. This book was based off the actresses’ own childhood. Daisy’s father is a famous singer and entertainer, and travels all over the world. His daughter Daisy follows along with her homeschool teacher. Daisy adores her father, but she is lonely, so her daddy gets her a friend. Josephine is a French Bulldog who can actually speak French and her and Daisy play dress-up and have all sorts of fun. This was a very girly book. Neither my son or I really enjoyed it, as there wasn’t much of a story. Recommended for ages 3-6, 2 stars.

A House for Hermit Crab written and illustrated by Eric Carle

This was a cute book which my son and I enjoyed. Hermit Crab is too big for his shell. He goes in search of a new one, but it is too plain. So he adds a sea anemone, a starfish, some coral, a sea urchin and a lanternfish to make it more beautiful. By the time he finishes decorating his house is too small and he needs another. He is not happy to give up his lovely home and friends, but finds a younger crab who will take care of them. Then he finds a new shell and can decorate to his heart is content. The back of the book has informational blurbs on the sea animals featured in the book. Recommended for ages 3-7, 3 stars.

I’m Fast! written & illustrated by Kate & Jim McMullan

My son really liked this one, though I think most boys would as it is a race between a sports car and a train. You would think the train would be slower because of the different freight it has to pick up before it can start, but it has some tricks up its sleeve. Even though the car is faster and lighter, it comes in second. My son and I loved the illustrations and no wonder as this done by the same husband and wife team that did the rhyming trash truck book “I Stink!”, which my son also loves. You can even hear the same intonations in the way both books are worded. Very fun to read aloud. Recommended for ages 3-7, 5 stars.

Emma’s Turtle written by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Marsha Winborn

Emma has a pet turtle that she keeps in her backyard. She takes good care of him and always reads to him about far-off places like India and Africa. One day the turtle decides to escape and see these places and after walking for what seems like forever, he believes that he sees these places in the everyday details like a beetle and a striped cat (which he mistakes for a tiger at first). He is finally found by his owner and put back in his enclosure and given his dinner. She was very worried about him. He is amazed when he learns that he only made it across the backyard. My son liked the book because it was about a turtle. It was an alright story, but nothing to write home about. Recommended for ages 3-7, 2 stars.

The Train to Glasgow written by Wilma Horsbrugh, illustrated by Paul Cox

The Train to Glasgow

Based off Horsbrugh’s poem from 1954 and illustrated by modern-day illustrator Paul Cox, we see the delightful rhyming text that tells the story about a young boy trying to catch a train to Glasgow from out in the country. He is dragged aboard by the conductor, and stops some chickens from escaping into the carriage and causing total chaos. He is rewarded by the conductor and his wife by being invited to have tea with them. It was a little too long for my son, but I loved it for the illustrations. Recommended for ages 4-7, 4 stars.

I Can Read with My Eyes Shut! By Dr. Seuss

I’ve never read this book before, so it was fun to discover it with my son. Even though the older cat in the hat could read with his eyes shut, or so he claims, he was telling the younger cat in the hat about all the things you can do with your eyes wide open, like reading and learning new things. The book rhymed and as it went on, the rhymes got sillier and sillier. Things like owls on noses and crocodile pants were mentioned. I definitely want to add this book to my Seuss collection. Recommended for ages 4-7, 4 stars.

The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss

I grew up with Dr. Seuss, so I’ve seen this book in various animated and live-action movies and cartoons. However, I’ve never actually read it. And since he’s Dr. Seuss’s unofficial symbol (on all the Dr. Seuss easy reader books), I figured it was time to read it to Liam. Geez, the book was long. Even I got bored with reading it about halfway through, as I tried to re-gain my son’s attention so I could finish reading. Everyone knows the story, so I’ll just sum up. Sally and her brother are stuck at home on a rainy day, while their mother is out running errands. They are bored. The Cat in the Hat shows up, but their pet Fish thinks he is bad news from the beginning. He pretty much is, especially as he starts trashing their house with kites. Then he invites out Thing One and Thing Two, who also make a huge mess. Their mom is coming home and the Cat in the Hat quickly cleans up the mess and gets rid of Thing One and Thing Two right before the mom steps through the door. The kids don’t mention any about what happened. Recommended for ages 4-7, 2-1/2 stars.

Horton Hatches the Egg written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss

Surprisingly, I’ve never read this book. My son was interested in elephants, so I decided to give this book a try. I actually enjoyed reading the story, as hit features the famous line, “An elephant is faithful, one hundred percent,” plus it has a good moral. Horton the elephant is tricked into sitting on a mommy bird’s egg, after the mommy decides she’s had enough and wants to go on a vacation. She leaves for nearly a year. Horton, meanwhile, is still patiently sitting on the egg. Some hunters come and intend to shoot him, but after they see him sitting in a tree on an egg, they decide to sell him to the circus instead. This was the only part of the book I was a bit unhappy with, as it just reminds me how cruel people can be sometimes when taking an animal out of its natural habitat and exploiting it (well not completely natural in this case, but you get my point). Horton is sad to be part of the circus, but happy when the egg finally hatches, which of course happens just as the mother bird find him again. It is an elephant bird, and the people at the circus are completely overwhelmed at the sight of it. Horton did all the hard work and is rewarded by a baby elephant bird. My son liked the book, but not sure he understood most of it. Recommended for ages 4-7, 4 stars.

Pamela Camel written and illustrated by Bill Peet

Pamela lives with the circus but can’t do any tricks and so is on display with the rest of the animals. She knows there are bigger and better things out there in the world, and so escapes from the circus, following the railroad tracks. She comes upon a torn-up rail and remembers a train wreck she saw, long ago, when she was still in the circus. She knows she should tell someone about the track but is not sure how to until a train does come down the track. She does the only thing she can do, which is stand in front of the broken rail and pray the engineer will stop in time. He does, though he is very angry with her for blocking his path. Then he realizes how she has saved them and she becomes a hero. The circus claims her back and she becomes the star of the show. I wasn’t a great fan of this book, but my son liked it because there were animals and a train. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.

Caldecott Challenge

Lion written and illustrated by William Pene Du Bois

I will admit that I actually found a copy of this book awhile back at a library booksale, but it looked kind of boring, so I didn’t buy it. But as I am at the end of this Caldecott Challenge, I need to read the last twenty books and this is one of them. It won a 1957 Caldecott Honor award, and actually isn’t as bad as I originally thought, rather it’s kind of a cute concept. Angels are in charge of creating new creatures on earth and the Foreman is in charge of these Drawing Angels. Only he hasn’t actually drawn anything in years. So he decides to create a creature called a Lion, which has four thin legs, a mane and face covered in feathers, a body covered with fluffy fur and a tale with fish scales on the end. Only he doesn’t feel that it is quite right, so he asks other angels’ opinions and corrects it until he feels it is right. His finished drawing has four sturdy legs, smooth fur and a puffy mane, what we think of when we think of a lion. The cute thing is that he thinks the lion should say “Peep Peep”, until he shows the Creator his drawing, and he says the lion should say “Roar!” instead. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Bear Party written and illustrated by William Pene Du Bois

This was an odd book. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have picked this up if it weren’t for the fact that it was a 1952 Caldecott Honor winner. The Koalas cannot get along. So the eldest wisest Koala decided that they should have a costumed ball, so they can be together in the same room without being angry. I liked that they all had head-to-toe costumes complete with headwear, outfits and shoes. They also had a band so they everyone could dance. Unfortunately it didn’t really work the first time when they tried to remove their costumes and be together, as they took everything off and they couldn’t identify each other after being separated and mad for so long. So they put the costumes on again and the elder said they could have one piece of their costume on and after awhile, they could live together without any costumes. Both my son and I were bored by this book. Recommended for ages 3-6, 2 stars.

Children and Young Adult

Newbery Challenge

Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow by Susan Campbell Bartoletti

I’d never read a book on the Hitler Youth, though I did have some basic previous knowledge gleaned from other historical texts. When I discovered that this book had won a 2006 Newbery Honor and a Robert Sibert Honor, I knew this would be a good place to start to learn more. Hitler and Nazi Germany is not an easy subject matter to broach, but I thought she did a very good job. I was especially horrified on the section on how the Nazi systematically prescribed euthanasia to get rid of disabled people because they were deemed “defective”, and how the technology from this program allowed them to discover how they could use these same gas chambers in the concentration camps for mass extermination.

The book is taken from the viewpoint of twelve children who were involved with or protested against the Hitler Youth organizations, and uses their interviews to supplement the historical research on the subject matter. The Hitler Youth programs started in 1926 before Hitler really came into power in 1933. To really understand the popularity of the Hitler Youth Programs, you have to understand about the Treaty of Versailles, which effectively ended WWI. The Germans had to pay the equivalent of $20 billion in reparations, which pretty much bankrupted the country and put millions out of work. In addition, they had to give up Alsace-Lorraine to France and the Rhineland area of NE Germany to Poland, and reduce their once great army down to 100,000 troops. This severely disheartened many Germans, and all of these things combined to lead to a worse Depression than the US was experiencing at the same time. Therefore, when Hitler came onto the political scene and promised jobs, returned land, and employment, the citizens of Germany were undoubtedly excited about him. This extended, to an even greater extent, to their children who became some of his biggest supporters, not to mention his biggest labor force.

The Hitler Youth programs were from ages 10 – 18. After the Nazis came into power in 1933, they started teaching their propaganda in the schools and isolating the Jewish population. Because of this continually aggressive campaign, the Nazis were able to enact Kristallnacht where they destroyed Jewish synagogues, businesses, and homes. This led to these same Jews being relocated into ghettos, and later being killed by firing squad and concentration camps. The Nazis instituted military training for boys and girls as young as twelve, which prepared the boys for future military service in SS, the Army, Navy or Air Force. The girls were prepared for air raids and helping with nursing duties. When Hitler decided to reclaim areas where Ethnic Germans were living in Czechoslovakia, Austria and Poland, the Hitler Youth was there evacuating the former residents and helping the German people resettle there. In 1936, Hitler Youth membership became the law. Despite this, there were still young people called Swing Youth (as they liked to say Swing Heil instead of Heil Hitler), in addition to college age youth, fighting against the Nazi party. These young people all ran the risk of ending up in special concentrations camps for youth, specifically created for these brave souls.

One of the things I always wondered was whether or not the German people outside of the military actually knew about concentration camps or not. According to one Holocaust survivor and author quoted in the book, they practiced “willful ignorance,” as the Germans became used to Jewish people being rounded up and sent to camps. Not only that, but former Hitler Youth members were recruited into the SS, which staffed the camps as guards. Recommended for ages 11+, 5 stars.

Number the Stars written by Lois Lowry, narrated by Blair Brown

I’ll admit, I was hesitant to read another depressing book about World War II, even one that was a 1990 Newbery winner. Lois Lowry really surprised me with this book. It was a very grown-up and hopeful book, despite being about a ten year old girl and how she deals with the Nazis. I liked that children can learn about the true meaning of “pride” and “bravery” through the story. I also thought the author’s note at the end was particularly fascinating, especially the part about the boat captain’s handkerchiefs.

Ten-year-old Annemarie lives with her younger sister Kirstie, her parents in Denmark in 1943 during the German-occupation of her country. Her best friend is a young Jewish girl named Ellen Rosen, who lives right next door to Annemarie, with her family. One day the Germans start re-locating the Jewish people of Copenhagen and her family decide immediately that they will help the Rosens. The Johannesen’s split up the Rosens so they will be easier to transport, taking Ellen with them as their daughter. They go out to the country where Uncle Heinrich lives as a fisherman in the family home. Will the Rosens be able to escape to safety or will they be found out by the Germans? Will Annemarie be able to face her fears to save her friend? To find out, read this fantastic book. Recommended for ages 8-12, 4 stars.

I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino, narrated by Joanna Ward

I, Juan de Pareja is about a black slave boy born in Seville, Spain in 1607, who belongs to a wealthy older woman. His mother, also owned by the woman, died when he was a boy. His mistress treats him well and teaches him the alphabet and how to write letters. Sadly she and the rest of the household die from the plague. Juan is sent to live with the woman’s nephew, Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (known predominantly as Velazquez in the book), a painter in Madrid. Juan longs to paint, but is unable to because of a law forbidding slaves to learn the arts. So he helps his master in any way he can, by prepping the master’s canvasses, paint, and arranging props. Eventually Velazquez becomes the court painter to the Spanish King Phillip IV, and his studio is moved into the palace. He meets the famous painter Peter Paul Rubens, and on Ruben’s recommendation travels to Italy with Juan, to copy and buy Italian works for the king. While there, Juan secretly teaches himself to draw and paint.

After much practice, he is able to paint a Virgin Mary, though his secret shames him so much that he finally tells an apprentice of his master Bartolomeo Esteban Murillo (great name, right?) the truth. Thankfully Murillo is kind to him, and praises his skill, but tells him to hold off telling Velazquez until later. Juan goes with his master to Italy a second time, and Velazquez ends up getting a commission to paint Pope Innocent X’s portrait, along with many Roman nobles and their families. Disaster almost strikes Juan’s master before they get to Rome when his painting hand becomes infected, but Juan’s prayers to the Virgin Mary are heard and his master is healed. Of course, Juan had promised the Virgin that he would tell his master his secret if he became well. They come back to Spain and paint for several more years before Juan finally admits, before the King, that he has been painting secretly and begs forgiveness. He is forgiven and freed by his master Velazquez, who then hires him as an assistant. He soon after marries his former mistress’s slave and they live with the Velazquez family until they die. Recommended for ages 9-12, 5 stars.

I picked this up after a quick browse of the children’s audiobook section. It looked interesting as I saw it was about painters, specifically Velasquez, whom I did not know much about. I had no idea until after I finished the book that it had won the 1966 Newbery Medal, and rightly so. The visual description and rich language of the story is what makes it so well-done, as it really draws you in from the beginning. The reader can really imagine what life was like in 17th Century Spain and Italy. I thought maybe the narrator had a speech problem as she read the text, but according to my mother (who has lived in Spain), the lisping is an affectation, particularly for Castilian Spanish people. Learn something new every day. The only slight downside to this book is that it is a bid dated in the “modern” terminology at the end of the book. In the afterword by the author, she notes that major points of the story is true, although not much is known about Velazquez himself or Juan de Pareja. Juan was owned by the master, who did later free him and add him on as an assistant. The King Phillip IV did have a good solid relationship with his court painter and did posthumously bestow upon him the Knighthood of the Order of Santiago (St. James), the highest honor in Spain. See here for more information.

Young Adult

Of Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday

Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii by Vicki Alvear Shechter

Library Wars: Love and War, Volume 11 written and illustrated by Kiiro Yumi

Ever since I found out there was a Volume 11 (back when I got Volumes 9 & 10), I’ve had this on hold. So I was very excited to get the newest book to the series. This volume was way more high-octane than the others I’ve read, in more ways than one. I wish it didn’t take so long to get English translations, as I know I will have to wait forever for the next volume to come out L.

At the end of the last volume, the Library Task Force was set to guard a controversial exhibit from the Media Betterment Committee (MBC), who wanted to get rid of it. The MBC, in this volume, attacks the Task Force and Kasahara experiences her first real battle with guns, which leaves her a bit traumatized, thinking she has killed people (she just stunned them). Instructor Dojo helps her work through it. After the attack is over, the Task Force heads inside where they are ambushed first by the Anti-Violence League and then by a couple of MBC operatives, who try to destroy the artwork. Their commander steps in front of the work, physically protecting it with his body and they try to gun him down. In a work room, the director of the museum (who has been working with the Anti-Violence League) tries to burn the exhibition pamphlets but the leader of the local military base stops her, but is injured doing so. Once Kasahara finally comes back home, she realizes the depth of her feelings for Dojo and finally tells her roomie the truth (she is of course overjoyed having known forever). Dojo tells her that they are to meet up for tea (an actual date!!) in a few weeks time. My favorite part was the bonus manga at the end where Dojo, Kasahara and the instructor who likes Marie (whose name escapes me right now) are trapped in this un air-conditioned basement helping with holds and they start hallucinating. Recommended for ages 13+, 5 stars.

A Bride’s Story, Volume 5 written and illustrated by Kaoru Mori

This volume starts with the twin girls Laila and Leily from Volume 4 getting married. So much preparation was needed to decorate, make sure the brides were properly decked out, that enough food was prepared not just for each of the families involved but their neighbors and even strangers. The wedding preparation and ceremony reminded me of a Pakistani wedding I’ve gone to, at least in the length and the rituals involved. The twins cracked me up because they got so bored they made their husbands-to-be sneak them food and help them escape as they had been sitting under heavy veils for hours. The twins cry when they finally realize they are no longer part of their father’s house. Mr. Smith and Ali sneak away in the middle of the celebrations and head towards Ankara. Amir and Karluk and his family come back into the story in the second half of the volume. Yay! It also seems that they are to be the subject of the future books. My favorite story was the “Queen of the Mountain” where Karluk’s grandmother uses a goat to climb the side of a mountain to save a stranded child. Amir is further settling into her duties as wife. There was also the cool story at the end of the book where Amir is out hunting with her bow and kills a large goat to bring back home. While she is out there, she discovers a wounded hawk and takes it back home. Since the men in her family take care of the hunting hawks, she’s not exactly sure how to proceed, but starts spending a lot of time with the injured hawk. This makes Karluk jealous for the first time in his life and Amir must attend to him. In the end, the hawk has to be put down, but Amir and Karluk grow closer because of it. Recommended for ages 13+, 4 stars.

Eleanor & Park written by Rainbow Rowell, narrated by Rebecca Lowman and Sunil Malhotra

I’ve wanted to read this book for awhile as all the people I know who read YA books have said it was awesome. So I was excited to finally get a copy. It starts off a little weird and took me about 1-1/2 discs to really get into the story. I liked that there were two narrators, one for each of the main characters. As other reviewers have mentioned, I loved the first hand-holding episode, where he describes her hands as “butterflies” or “heartbeats”. I love that he’s so fascinated with her, even just lightly touching her hands or her arms. I was a little frustrated with the ending, but enjoyed the book overall.

It is 1986 in Omaha, Nebraska and Eleanor is a 16 year old white girl who has recently moved back into her mother’s house after previously being kicked out by her abusive stepfather. She is getting used to a new smaller house with her four brothers and sister and a new school. Her real dad’s presence is non-existent. She is a natural red-head, a bit chubby, and dresses weird. She doesn’t fit in at school because of this. Park, a skinny half Korean 16 year old boy, has been at the school for awhile and hangs out with the cool kids. He’s very quiet and keeps to himself mostly, listening to music on his Walkman and reading comics. They form an unusual friendship after Eleanor ends up sitting next to him on the bus, and starts reading his comics. He starts making her mix tapes (aww the ultimate declaration of love back in the day) and she borrows his Walkman to listen to them, and they bond on how much they both like the music. Soon seeing Park is the highlight of her day, and thinking about him makes her forget how screwed up her life is right now.

She is so down on herself that she can’t believe that anyone, let alone Park (who she thinks is absolutely perfect), can really want to be with her. In order to be with him, she lies to her mother and stepfather and tells them that she is seeing her friend Tina (a girl she not only hates but who returns the feelings), but just heads over to Park’s house instead. Things are going pretty good until her brother and sister find out about Park, and Eleanor is sure that it is only a matter of time before her mother and stepfather find out and they are separated. When he finally does find out, all hell breaks loose and she runs to Park for help. Will they be able to escape her vicious stepfather? Will they ever really be happy together? Recommended for ages 15+, 4 stars.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and other Tales of Terror written by Robert Louis Stevenson, narrated by Michael Kitchen

I picked up this audiobook because I had just finished Jessica Verday’s advanced reader’s copy Of Monsters and Madness which borrowed heavily from the text, so I figured it was about time I read The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I had seen movie and musical versions before reading Verday’s book. I will say one thing about Stevenson. He is fun to read as his vocabulary is so rich and descriptive. The basic story is that Dr. Jekyll, a good man and well-respected older doctor decides that he wants to do an experiment to see if he can isolate his other half, the evil side of him. In doing so, he literally becomes a different person. Whereas Jekyll is a tall, thin, and well-put together elderly man, Edward Hyde (his alter ego) is short in stature, young and looks a bit off. He has all the bad influences that Jekyll could never have and uses his strength for ill, i.e. trampling a child and killing a lord. We learn their true story at the end, after Dr. Jekyll writes a confession to his friend and lawyer, Mr. Utterson. The novella is very well-written and even though I knew the story, it kept me in suspense about how it was done until the very end. I was a little surprised at the ending, as it seemed a little unresolved.

The first short story is called The Body Snatchers and I can see how these were considered scary stories back in the day. This tale was set in Edinburgh, Scotland and is about two medical students, Fetters and MacFarlane. Their instructor was Dr. K, who is based off Dr. Robert Knox, who famously bought cadavers from the infamous murderers and resurrectionists Burke & Hare in Edinburgh 1828. He teaches anatomy and because of the restrictions on obtaining cadavers (they were only to get bodies of criminals that were condemned and executed), many anatomy teachers including Dr. K turned to Resurrectionists, or Grave Robbers, to get a surplus. At first, Fetters and MacFarlane just pay the men who give them the bodies and get them set up in the operating theaters. However they soon graduate to snatching bodies themselves, until they have “the fear of God put into them,” and stop their wicked ways.

The second short story is called Olalla (pronounced O-lie-a) and is about a Scottish military commander staying at the home of a formerly-aristocratic family in the Spanish countryside for his health. He is fascinated by the family whose son and mother are both slow-witted, probably do to all the in-breeding of the family. The daughter Olalla, however, is a well-read mysterious young woman who the visitor falls in love with at first sight. The only problem is that their mother might also be a vampire, as evidenced when she attacks the foreigner later on in the story. I was not a fan of this story, it was way too long and rambling without ever really having a climax to the tale, plus Stevenson just seemed really condescending towards women. Yes I know it’s the time period, but it seemed worse than usual. Recommended for ages 14+, overall I would give it 3 ½ stars.


My Paris Kitchen by David Leibovitz

The All-New Vegetarian Passport by Linda Wooven

I finally finished this book after having it forever; had too many other cookbooks I needed to sort through. I thought it was a pretty good cookbook as it featured vegetarian cuisine from all over the world. Plus the recipes are really easy to make; a double bonus in my book. I would be interested in making the Chickpea, Greens and Walnut Soup, Thai Mango Salad, Shiitake and Adzuki Bean Soup, and the Peach Tofu “Mousse”. 3 ½ stars.

Plum: Gratifying Vegan Dishes from Seattle’s Plum Bistro by Makini Howell

Always on the lookout for vegan and vegetarian dishes that I can try, I was drawn in by the lovely photos of the food in this book. The author and owner of the Plum Bistro was raised vegan and encourages veganism, though she no longer completely practices it herself. I will admit that almost all of the dishes looked tasty, this like a lot of other restaurant-inspired cookbooks, have dishes that I’d rather eat in the actual restaurant by professionals. Of course there were three or four dishes that didn’t look as complicated and I would definitely attempt like the Tempeh Vermouth, the Roasted Beet and Blood Orange Salad with Cilantro Pesto, and the Polenta and Orange Salad with Fennel Salsa. 3 stars.

The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Dessert Cookbook: 100 Delicious Heritage Recipes from the Farm and Garden by Josh Kilmer-Purcell, Brent Ridge and Sandy Gluck

I had watched reality TV show on “The Beekman 1802”, which I really enjoyed. Two of the authors Josh and Brent are a gay couple from Manhattan that decided to move out to the country, buy a historic house and raise goats and an organic garden. Josh is the cook and Brent is the manager. So when I found out they wrote a cookbook, I snatched it up at the library. They were trying to focus on classic desserts handed down from generation to generation, but also included some new ones as well. I would try out the Malted Milk Chocolate Cake, the Sugarplums, Lemon-Toasted Poppy Seed Cake, Lemon Lavender Squares, and the Baked Stone Fruits with Cannoli Cream.

Vedge: 100 Plates Large and Small That Redefine Vegetable Cooking by Rich Landau and Kate Jacob

I had never heard of the vegetable restaurant Vedge in Philadelphia, but I had heard good things about the cookbook from some of the vegetarian and vegan blogs I frequent, so I decided to give it a try. I will say that I am impressed at not only the selection of vegetables used in the cookbook (and therefore in the restaurant), but also the many different and ingenious ways to cook them, especially as the recipes are entirely vegan. I honestly didn’t think it was possible to create such simple and yet sophisticated dishes, especially ones that also look very appetizing. I will say that this book, like the cookbook for Plum, mostly feature recipes I’d rather try in person rather than create at home. Though in the case of this cookbook, it’s because of the ingredient list instead of the complicated nature of the recipes. I know I could sub ingredients, but the originals just sound so intriguing, I’d rather try them instead. I’d love to try the Shiitake Dashi, Saffron Cauliflower Soup with Persillade, Hedgehog Mushroom, Turnip and Barley Stew, Figgy Toffee Pudding with Madeira-Quince Ice Cream, Sweet Potato Turnovers with Sweet Kraut, the Sherry Temple and the Kyoto Sour.

Monday I came across an article on The 20 Most Beautiful Children’s Books of All Time, which one of my friends had posted on FB. I finally got a chance to look at it on Tuesday and for the most part I agree with their choices. Some of the best include The Arrival written & illustrated by Shaun Tan, Flotsam written & illustrated by David Wiesner, Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears: A West African Tale written by Verna Aardema and illustrated by Leo & Diane Dillon and Lon Po Po: A Red Riding Hood Tale from China written & illustrated by Ed Young. I’m not the only one to think so, but the Caldecott committee liked what they’ve seen to, as three out of the four books have been awarded the Caldecott Medal. These five illustrators are some of the best out there. I happen to love David Wiesner‘s wordless picture books: Flotsam, Sector 7, and Tuesday as they are some of the most imaginative picture books out these days. Leo & Diane Dillon have been an illustrating couple since the 1960s (though Leo started in 1957), and are the only couple to win the Caldecott Medal two years in a row for Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears and Ashanti to Zulu: African Traditions (which are both excellent books). I just found out today that they did the cover art illustrations for the Garth Nix Abhorsen series, i.e. Sabriel, Lirael, and Abhorsen. Sadly Leo Dillon passed away in May of this year. Shaun Tan is an Australian illustrator who creates picture books as well as traditional paintings. While his work tends to be for older children and young adults, I love his crazy Bosch-like drawings, like the ones in The Arrival or Tales from Outer Suburbia. Ed Young has won the Caldecott Award once and the Honor twice for his illustration work, although I think he should’ve won for Wabi Sabi as well. For more information on this artist, check out his website.

In addition to the five listed above, there are so many great illustrated Children’s books out there. Some of my favorite older illustrators (1900s to 1980s) include Dr. Seuss, Maurice Sendak (more about him in this post),  Kate Greenaway (more about her further on in the post), Randolph Caldecott, Beatrix Potter, Arnold Lobel of Frog and Toad are Friends fame, and Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey (my favorite being How the Sun Was Brought Back to the Sky, which I still own, pictured below).

How the Sun Was Brought Back to the Sky, 1975

I also enjoy Mercer Mayer (especially his Monster books and grew up with his Little Critter series that I’m sharing with my son) and Charles Mikolaycak. The last artist only did work from the 1970s-90s, as he died in 1993. The first book I saw of his was his illustrated version of the famous poem The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes. Below are examples of his work.

Bess, The Landlord’s Daughter from The Highwayman, 1983

I bought the following book after I moved to Arizona, as I thought the artwork was beautiful. Definitely not a kid’s book, but it is gorgeous.

Orpheus, 1992

Some of my newer favorites are Tony DiTerlizzi, Jerry Pinkney, Paul O. Zelinsky, Sylvia Long, Lane Smith, Brian Selznick, Tom Murphy and Mo Willems. Tony DiTerlizzi’s work is just phenomenal and it’s an added bonus that his writing is great as well. I got into his work by reading the beginning of The Spiderwick Chronicles, then moved to Kenny and the Dragon, and now my favorite books of his are his Wondla series (2 books out so far and can’t wait for the third!). Jerry Pinkney has been illustrating books since the 1960s but I only recently discovered his work while doing my Caldecott Challenge. Now I am just in love with his work. He has won tons of awards, including two Caldecott honors and one Caldecott Award. My favorite book at the moment is Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star which he wrote last year, pictured below.

Most people know who Lane Smith and Mo Willems are. Lane Smith classically teamed up with one of my favorite children’s writers and all-around crazy nice guy Jon Scieszka (sounds like “Fresca), for such works as The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales and Science Verse. But he also produces his own author/illustrator books such as It’s A Book and Grandpa Green (which won a Caldecott Honor). He was also the Conceptual Designer for the Disney film James and the Giant Peach. For more info on Lane Smith, check out his website. Mo Willems has become incredibly popular with his Don’t Let the Pigeon… series and my personal favorite, the easy reader series Elephant and Piggie. I also love his book Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed. Willems drawings are simple but hilarious and so expressive, it’s no wonder kids love them. Brian Selznick is also pretty well known thanks to the fact that his Caldecott Award winning book The Invention of Hugo Cabret has recently been turned into a movie. Hugo and Selznick’s newest book Wonder Struck are my favorites and I’ve even managed to get my mother to read both of them, which she really enjoyed.

Now for the somewhat lesser known artists from my newer illustrators list, or more likely you have seen their work but had no idea it was from them. Paul O. Zelinsky has been illustrating children’s books since 1978, but I think really hit it big when he stared illustrated Beverly Cleary’s books. He did the artwork for Strider, Ralph S. Mouse, and Dear Mr. Henshaw. I am fascinated by these because I read them as kids, well two of the three at least, and never thought about the artwork until I got to graduate school and began studying it. I did have a chance to meet him in person a few years ago and get my copy of Rapunzel autographed, though I did act like a total nerd when I found out that he also studied art history in college. I find that book to be particularly amazing because it was done completely in Northern Renaissance style, which happens to be one of my favorite artistic periods, but also I would think, very hard to copy. I found an interesting blog post on this page, where I found the Rapunzel picture (personally I’ve always loved fairy tales, and my aunt used to read my cousin and me the real Grimm versions, even if they were scary – we loved them).

Rapunzel, 1997

Sylvia Long is the illustrator of the Dianna Hutts Aston’s gorgeous nonfiction picture books.  These books include A Seed is Sleepy, An Egg is Quiet, and A Butterfly is Patient. I can’t wait for the day when my son is old enough to read these books. Tom Murphy has illustrated four books with author Sean Bryan, including The Boy and His Bunny, The Girl and Her Gator and The Bear and His Boy. The illustrations and the text are so cute and funny.

An Egg is Quiet, 2006

If you ever want to check out some museums that feature children’s book illustrations, check out the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature (NCCIL) in Abilene, Texas or a little bit better known is the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA. The NCCIL has an exhibition on The Lorax on at the moment, and the Carle Museum has one on the art of Ezra Jack Keats and his book The Snowy Day, one on Lucy Cousins’ heroine Maisy, and The Art of Eric Carle and the Birth of a Museum (as the museum has been open 10 years in 2012). I was lucky enough to see a great collection of material including original copies of illustrations by Ezra Jack Keats, H.A. and Margaret Rey (creators of Curious George), Kate Greenaway, and Randolph Caldecott at the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi when I was down visiting family. I grew up with Kate Greenaway books when I was a kid, so I knew who she was even before I learned about the British Illustrator’s Award named after her. For any adult seriously interested in illustration and/or children’s literature, I highly recommend checking it out after making an appointment with the curator.  I would love to go to the Eric Carle Museum as they always have cool workshops going on plus I’m sure their collection is awesome (that’s the museum nerd in me coming out, lol). The Carle Museum has a number of book lists with tons of great picture books to recommend for the moms, dads and other caregivers out there.

R.I.P. Maurice Sendak

For those who haven’t already heard the news, author/illustrator Maurice Sendak passed away yesterday. He was 83. Most people know of his work from his most famous 1963 book Where the Wild Things Are, which won the Caldecott in 1964. It was later turned into an animated and live-action movie and an opera. The initial reaction to his book was not as good as people who think, especially in light of how popular and well-loved the book is now. According to this LA Times article, “the book was a startling departure from the sweetness and innocence that then ruled children’s literature. ‘Wild Things’ tapped into the fears of childhood and sent its main character — an unruly boy in a wolf costume — into a menacing forest to tame the wild beasts of his imagination. Librarians banned the book as too frightening. Psychologists and many adults condemned it for being too grim.” Sendak based the Wild Things on his relatives, according to the New York Times, “who, in his memory at least, had hovered like a pack of middle-aged gargoyles above the childhood sickbed to which he was often confined.”

This book was however not the only of his books to be banned. One of my favorite of his books, In the Night Kitchen, was banned because of the nudity of Mickey, the main character. The book, according to the preceeding NY Times article was ” a tribute to the New York of Mr. Sendak’s childhood, recalling the 1930s films and comic books he adored all his life. (The three bakers who toil in the night kitchen are the spit and image of Oliver Hardy).” In another article in the Times published yesterday, the authoer Dwight Garner says that In the Night Kitchen was his and his kid’s favorite book. “The whole thing is supple and serene and terrifying at the same time. Some have also objected to its would-be sexual innuendo (milk, phallic bottles and the like), and it was on the American Library Association’s list of the “most frequently challenged books” of the 1990s.”

I actually didn’t read Where the Wild Things Are until I was in graduate school. The Sendak collaboration I remember as a kid is “Really Rosie,” the animated show he did with singer Carole King, especially the Chicken Soup with Rice song. The song was from a book of the same name, which was part of a series of four small books called The Nutshell Library. I still think of that song and hum a bit of it every time I see a can of Chicken Soup with Rice.

I love that he was a mentor to another of my favorite children’s book illustrators, Paul O. Zelinsky (who I’ve met and fawned over when I found out he had also been an art history major in college). Zelinsky has gone on to illustrate some great books like the 1998 Caldecott award-winning book Rapunzel (my personal favorite), Beverly Cleary’s Strider and Dear Mr Henshaw, and Anne Isaacs folktale book Dust Devil.

Almost forgot one of the coolest things, lol. I wanted to give a shout-out to the Children’s Department Main Branch at Richland County Public Library, not only for being awesome, but for having the only endorsed-by-Sendak mural of  Max and the Wild Things at the entrance/back of their department. I always think of it whenever I see the book.

This year celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the Caldecott Medal, the highest award for a children’s picture book. Check out the ALA’s new medal designed by one of my favorite children’s author/illustrators, Brian Selznick. It’s so cool how he has worked in so many classic children’s books such as Madeline, The Invention of Hugo Cabret (Selznick’s own 2008 award winning book), Where the Wild Things Are, Make Way for Ducklings and other characters. Because of the anniversary, I figured I would start my Caldecott challenge. Every year since 2008 (basically since I started library school), I have tried to read as many Caldecott winning books as possible. At first, it was because I was taking a Children’s Literature class and we had to read a bunch. Later it was because I just enjoy reading picture books and I was curious why that year’s winners and honors got picked. I’ve read 63 of the Caldecotts, but that’s not that many considering there’s a total of 240 books. So I’ve got quite awhile to go. Here’s the list in case you are interested.

According to the American Library Services  for Children (ALSC) today is Randolph Caldecott’s birthday! Caldecott,  along with Kate Greenaway and Walter Crane, was a 19th century English author and illustrator of children’s books. For more information about the author and his works, see this website. I was lucky enough to visit the University of Southern Mississippi’s deGrummond Collection which features some of his original work. Anyways, the American Library Association (ALA) decided in 1937 to create the Caldecott Medal to honor the most distinguished book published during that year, and the first one to be awarded was for Animals of the Bible: A Picture Book in 1938. There are also up to five honors books awarded each year. Here is a list of all the Caldecott winners and honors from 1938 to the present. I believe that I have read 60 off the list myself, though I should’ve read a bunch more than that as my focus is youth services. Ah well, maybe that can be one of my goals this year, to read all the Caldecott winning and honor books.

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