Tag Archive: picture books


Feb 2015 Book Reviews

I honestly have not read much this month as I keep starting and stopping books after I get bored or don’t like the book. But I have mostly caught up with the majority of my previous reviews from 2014 and Jan 2015, just a bit behind on this month’s reviews, but overall I’m pretty happy with that. I’ve managed to read 50 books so far this year. Right now I am listening to the very hilarious and bawdy Shakespeare re-telling of King Lear by Christopher Moore, entitled Fool. The book does have a bit of Macbeth and Hamlet thrown in for good measure as well. I might try his brand new book about the same character named Pocket, though the new book (The Serpent of Venice) is a re-telling of Othello and The Merchant of Venice with a bit of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Cask of the Amontillado. I have heard very mixed reviews on it so far. With Fool, I actually had to wait until I could laugh properly again (without having a coughing fit because of the bronchitis I just got over). I had tried listening to Eoin Colfer’s book The Reluctant Assassin (W.A.R.P. #1), which has been on my to-read list forever, but I just couldn’t get into it (which really sucks because I loved all of his Artemis Fowl books). So that will be going back in my donated books pile. I’m about to finish up a Children’s Advanced Reader’s copy (ARC for short) mystery book entitled The Case of the Cursed Dodo, by Jake G. Panda. I’m super psyched because I finally got approval to read Prudence (The Custard Protocol #1) by Gail Carriger, the newest book and the first in the series about Alexia Maccon’s (from her Parasol Protectorate series, which I adore) daughter. I’m actually pretty good until probably the end of March set up with sounds-really-interesting ARCs. Fingers crossed that they are.

On to the book reviews. As usual I rate books on a scale of 1 – 5 stars, with one being the lowest and five the highest. I will add illustrations from picture books that I particularly liked.

Children

Hooray for Hat! written and illustrated by Brian Won

Hooray for Hat

I loved the illustrations, though the concept was a little too simplistic for my taste. Basically, Elephant wakes up grumpy and is so for the day until a surprise package arrives at his door with 6 hats inside. He puts all of them on at once and feels better. Hooray for hat! he says. Then he goes around distributing the unique hats to his grumpy friends until they are all happy. Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.

Dancing with Dinosaurs written by Jane Clarke, illustrated by Lee Wildish

I picked this up as a possibility to read for my Toddler Dance Storytime, but it was really bad. The premise is the whole book is a dance contest with all sorts of dinosaurs, which is okay, until the judges start disappearing and the host is eating everyone, contestants and judges. Plus the rhyming just wasn’t funny. Recommended for ages 2-6, 1 star.

Found written and illustrated by Salina Yoon

Found

My son really likes this book and it has been a frequent repeat read lately. Bear finds a floppy bunny toy in the woods and wants to keep it, but feels it probably has a family somewhere. So he puts up “Found” flyers all over the forest but no one is claiming the bunny. Bear has fallen in love with it and spends his whole day playing with it until it is seen by Moose. Bear very reluctantly gives it back, but is pleasantly surprised when Moose gives it back, saying “special toys should be passed along for others to enjoy”. Bear goes home happy with his new toy. For those who like this author/illustrator’s work, you will notice a profusion of pinecones and an occasional penguin in this book (which refers to her other Penguin books). This would be a great book for a toy storytime. Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.

Baby Bear’s Big Dreams written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Baby Bears Big Dreams

I found this book when I was getting ready for my Toddler Bear Storytime and just had to read it aloud. It is an adorable book about growing up, or at least what a small bear believes happens when you grow up and outlines all the things he will do. He’s going to bed late, not picking up his toys because he’s going to play all the time, living in a treehouse surrounded by honey and berries and writing his “grown up” poem. Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.

If I Had a Dragon written and illustrated by Tom Ellerly

Morton does not like playing with his little baby brother, until he imagines him as a dragon. Only every time he imagines trying to play something with his dragon, it doesn’t quite work out. Morton discovers that maybe a brother isn’t so bad after all. Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.

Hug Machine written and illustrated by Scott Campbell

hug+machine+spread

Me and my son thought this book was funny. The little boy on the cover is the Hug Machine. He hugs anyone and everything, from his family to dogs to blue post boxes. He refuels on pizza. He does it all day and almost never gets tired. This is a cute book to read with your little hug machine, and you will definitely get a lot reading it. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

Dinosaur Rescue! written and illustrated by Peggy Dale

Dinosaur Rescue

Another awesome book from Penny Dale, which of course my son loved, this one is all about rescue vehicles. A group of dinosaurs in a pickup truck have broken down on the train tracks. They call Dinosaur Rescue to help them. The police car tells the Engineer Dinosaur that there is a truck on the tracks up ahead and he needs to stop. Once the train finally does stop (just in time!), there is a fire truck to help put out the pickup fire, an ambulance to make sure they are okay and a helicopter helping to monitor the scene. At the end of the day, the rescue dinosaurs go back to their compound to rest and relax. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

Read It, Don’t Eat It! written and illustrated by Ian Schoenherr

readitdonteatit_cover

I enjoyed this cute rhyming book, which told kids about how to handle books and going to the library, though some of the terminology needed to be explained further. Book discussions are always good though, and this book got my son thinking about right and wrong, which is always a good thing. Promoting the library is always something I try to do, not only as an employee, but as a parent and lover of libraries. The illustrations were adorable, and my favorite was the one with the sweatered bunny in the magic hat with a wand and the phrase “Rips and tears won’t magically heal”. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

A Library Book for Bear written by Bonny Becker, illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton

Bear does not want to go the library and thinks he has all the books he could ever want at home, all seven of them. His friend Mouse convinces him to go, but he is determined not to like it. He only wants to pick books at the library on pickles, honeybees and kings and queens. That is, until he overhears a storytime told by the librarian and is enraptured by it. Soon he is changing his tune and checking out all kinds of books. This book would be great for a preschool storytime about the library and how to behave at one. Apparently this book is the sixth in a series on Bear and Mouse. Recommended for ages 3-7, 4 stars.

Speed written and illustrated by Nathan Clement

I probably would’ve liked this book more if the copy we borrowed from the library wasn’t completely torn up and I didn’t want to get charged for it. My son loved it, as it is all about stock car racing. It plays out pretty much just like a Nascar race, or in the case of my son, the movie Cars. The stock cars are lined up behind the pace car to start, then roar around the track, racing each other and even crashing. Recommended for ages 3-7, 3 stars.

Annie Hoot and the Knitting Extravaganza written and illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown

Annie Hoot

Annie Hoot loves to knit, especially for other birds. Her friends don’t appreciate her gifts though, so she travels around the world knitting for other birds and animals. Eventually she decides to come home where her friends had missed her and her knitting and finally agreed to be taught how to knit themselves. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.

Ok, first off, I love books about owls and especially children’s books that add crocheting or knitting to the story. The distance between the different animal habitats was totally off, but I’m guessing the author made them closer to move the story along. Also, penguins and polar bears do live on opposite ends of the Earth, but are two animals that kids can identify so that’s why they’re in the story together (I’m guessing). And of course there’s the whole how can knitted vessels fly and float question. Aside from all that, I thought it was a cute rather imaginative story.

Hansel & Diesel written and illustrated by David Gordon

This was a bit of an odd adaptation of the Hansel and Gretel story, with two trucks named Hansel and Diesel. They are out of fuel and stumble into the junkyard surrounding their house. Soon they are lured to a gas stop by the Wicked Winch who nearly captures them, until they are saved at the last minute by their parents who get rid of the Winch and set up shop at the gas station. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.

Maude: The-Not-So-Noticeable Shrimpton written by Lauren Child, illustrated by Trisha Krauss

All of the Shrimptons go out of their way to be noticed, whether it is with a outrageous hat, facial hair, or sense of humor. Maude is completely different. She goes out of her way to blend in, literally, to the furniture. She asks for a goldfish for her birthday, but her mother thinks that is too bland and gets her a pet tiger instead. This immediately causes chaos and everyone gets eaten except the girl who can blend in. This was a weird and kind of morbid, almost an Edward Gorey-like story. Recommended for ages 5-9, 2 stars.

Young Adult

Silverwood (Silverwood, Book 1) by Betsey Streeter

Adult

Did She Kill Him?: A Victorian Tale of Deception, Adultery, and Arsenic by Kate Colquhoun

Geez, I can’t believe it took me three weeks to read this book! Part of the reason was because the book rather dragged in the beginning as it was setting up the story before the trial. I was completely absorbed in reading about the last part of the story about the trial and its outcome. I especially enjoyed the debates for and against Florence because of her gender, outward sexuality, the feminist movement she unwittingly became part of and the changing attitudes of women in regards to marriage and family during the late Victorian era.

The book is the story of Florence Maybrick and her marriage to the significantly older Liverpudlian cotton merchant James Maybrick, and his subsequent murder trial. Death by arsenic poisoning is what she was convicted of, although they never actually proved that and really what she was being punished for was her adulterous affair with another man. The all-male jury and biased (possibly mentally deficient) judge, in addition to the inability to testify on her behalf (something that apparently wasn’t allowed in court until after her trial), in my opinion, contributed to her guilty verdict. Was she guilty of murder? I don’t think so, as the author clearly outlined James Maybrick’s addiction to poisons such as arsenic and strychnine, which were prescribed for everything in those days as they were thought beneficial to one’s health. Read the book and decide for yourself whether she was guilty or not. 4 stars.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, narrated by Barbara Rosenblat and Cassandra Morris

Renee is a 54 year old concierge of a very ritzy apartment building in Paris. She maintains the aura of simple mindedness and routine that people in her profession are supposed to exhibit, but in private she is really quite brilliant. Despite only going to school till age 12 (as was common in her rural agricultural village), she has a passionate love of books, especially Russian literature. Paloma is a genius 12 year old that lives in Renee’s building. Her family is full of stupid Socialist-leaning individuals and she has decided that enough is enough. If she doesn’t find something worth living for, she will kill herself and set her apartment on fire. In the meanwhile, she has these two journals of profound thoughts that she daily adds to. One of the long-term residents has died and the family sold his apartment to a mysterious Japanese gentleman named Kakuro Ozu. Renee accidently befriends Mr. Ozu. He in term befriends Paloma, who are both convinced that Renee has “the elegance of the hedgehog”, i.e. one that is not expected but you see touches of it in unusual ways. Will Renee be able to let herself truly be friends with Mr. Ozu? To find out, read this book. 3 stars.

This was a pretty pretentious book. I would consider myself pretty educated but discussing philosophy is something I have just never been able to wrap my head around. And there was a lot of it in the beginning of the book, almost enough to put me off. However, thanks to Barbara Rosenblat’s excellent narration (really I think I would listen to her read anything, she’s that good), I decided to keep listening to the story. I rather enjoyed the middle and up to the very end of it, but not the ending (though I can see why the author ended it like she did). Renee was my favorite character, although I liked Kakuro as well. The whole scene with the bathroom toilet and the Mozart Requiem was so hilarious, and definitely my favorite one in the book. The book was all about class warfare, philosophy, beauty, life and death, and other complex material. All in all an interesting read.

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Top Books of 2014

Blue Happy New Year 2015 Greeting Art Paper Card

I hope everyone had a Happy New Year’s Eve last night. Ours was pretty quiet, in fact I’m a little surprised we managed to make to midnight as my hubby and I were both tired. Anyway, I figured since it was the first day of 2015 that I would start the year off right by posting about my favorite books that I read last year. These are not, for the most part, books published in 2014. Not surprisingly, a lot of the children and young adult books are award winners, and justifiably so. As you can probably tell, most of my reading are in these two categories. I did find it interesting that almost all of my favorite cookbooks this year were vegan or vegetarian. These books are in no particular order. If you like to know more about them, click on the link for my book reviews.

Younger Children

  • Machines Go to Work in the City written and illustrated by William Low – my son Liam really liked this book and with all the fold out pages, it was a fun book to read to learn about all the different machines. I will say that I definitely know more names for construction/work vehicles because of books like this that I’ve read to him.
  • Little Owl’s Orange Scarf written and illustrated by Tatyanna Feeney – owls + knitting = awesome
  • Fortunately, the Milk written by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Skottie Young – hilarious adventure story by Neil Gaiman with whimsical illustrations (really for older kids but was filed in picture books so it is in this section)
  • The Tiny King written and illustrated by Taro Miura – graphically probably my favorite children’s book this year
  • Locomotive written and illustrated by Brian Floca – great introduction to the early railroad in America, plus richly detailed illustrations
  • Chu’s First Day of School (Chu #2) written by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Adam Rex – didn’t think it could get better after the first Chu book, but it was
  • Thank You, Octopus written and illustrated by Darren Farrell – this book has been part of 2014 vocabulary for the entire family
  • It’s an Orange Aardvark written and illustrated by Michael Hall – another graphically awesome book
  • Julia’s House for Lost Creatures written and illustrated by Ben Hatke – a fun whimsical kind of book, perfect for sharing (although honestly I want this one for my personal collection of picture books)
  • Quest written and illustrated by Aaron Becker – even better than Journey
  • Hug Me written and illustrated by Simona Ciraolo – hugging and cute cactus named Felipe = win for me and my son
  • Tea Rex and Flora and the Flamingo written and illustrated by Molly Idle – the first book got me into the author/illustrator and I’m very impressed by all her work so far
  • The Adventures of Obadiah written and illustrated by Brinton Turkle – this little Quaker just stole my heart, I love this series of picture books!

Older Children/Young Adult

  • The Voice That Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights by Russell Freedman – I had not read any of his books before though he is pretty prolific, but I really enjoyed this nonfiction biography of a great singer and lady who stood up for what she believed in.
  • I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino – a totally unknown book to me before I picked it up for my Newberry Challenge; I really enjoyed this book and highly recommend it to children or adults who want a good story
  • Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler’s Shadow by Susan Campbell Bartoletti – a hard story to read but vital I think, makes me understand so much more about how regular Germans actually reacted to Hitler
  • Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli – honestly never thought I would like this book until I gave it a try
  • Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice by Philip M. Hoose – an in-depth look at the start of  Civil Rights movement in Alabama, which for someone who used to live there but didn’t know about, was eye-opening
  • Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Rick Allen – love the poetry and the illustrations, esp the description of an owl as the “dark emperor”
  • The Blood of Olympus (Heroes of Olympus #5) by Rick Riordan – end of the series, but what an end!
  • The Sandman and the War of Dreams (The Guardians #4) by William Joyce – seriously, this man is a fantastic writer, I love all his stuff
  • The Battle for Wondla (Wondla #3) written and illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi – love all this man’s written and illustrated works, great book to end a series
  • Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures written by Kate Di Camillo and illustrated by K.G. Campell – a funny story with even more hilarious illustrations

Young Adult

Adult

Cookbooks

  • How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food by Mark Bittman – he is a genius, great easy-to-understand recipes; this was the one cookbook I bought last year
  • The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook – a former vegetarian (so has lots of those recipes), I liked her recipes b/c of the stories that went with them and they looked fantastic
  • Roots: The Definitive Compendium – literally everything you could ever want to know about root vegetables, plus lots of tips on how to cook the lesser-known ones
  • The VB6 Cookbook: More than 350 Recipes for Healthy Vegan Meals All Day and Delicious Flexitarian Meals at Night by Mark Bittman – an interesting expansion of recipes on his original diet concept (which the author himself uses)
  • Afro-Vegan: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean, and Southern Flavors Remixed by Bryant Terry – I love it that he takes very meat-centric food and makes delicious-sounding vegan food from it
  • Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi – this man can make even the most boring vegetables look decadent

Book Reviews Dec 2014

I can’t believe this year is nearly at an end. It has definitely been an interesting one, especially in regards books and my professional life. I finally got a library job after 4 years of searching, and it’s in the area I want to be in, i.e. Youth Services. I get to do storytimes and help kids and parents find the books and other material that they need. I have beat my reading goal for the year with 345 out 321 books read. I have, unfortunately, gotten really far behind in writing reviews. But I am working to catch up on that for the new year and get back on a good schedule of writing and posting them. I am definitely going to try and write more blog posts in 2015. I already have a few ideas rolling around in my head. My son has been growing like a weed and though he is a handful, he is becoming more independent. He’s getting better with the alphabet, though we’re going to have to over the numbers again as he seems to have forgotten them in the meantime. I’m hoping he’ll be able to read soon and we can read more together.

As usual I rate books on a scale of 1 – 5 stars, with one being the lowest and five the highest. I will add pictures from books I like (and there was a lot this time around).

Children

Wow! Said the Owl written and illustrated by Tim Hopgood

Wow said the Owl

This was a very cute story about a young owl discovering all the colors that occur during the day. Added bonus about this book is that I can use it for ToddlerTime on owls and a Discoverytime (Preschool storytime + science) on rainbows. I am very happy about the last part. Recommended for ages 2-6, 4 stars.

I Love to Dance written and illustrated by Anna Walker

I was looking for another book about dancing for my Toddler Storytime, when I found this book. I liked the soft but simple ink on watercolor illustrations about Ollie, who I think is some kind of dog sock monster or maybe stuffed animal, who loves to dance. I liked the descriptions of his dancing, especially “I love to dance like jelly and shake my wobbly belly.” Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.

I’m Not Cute! written and illustrated by Jonathan Allen

This was another adorable owl book that I plan to use for a Toddler storytime on owls (not trying to be pun-y but it was). Baby Owl insists he’s not cute even though everyone he meets say he is. He insists that he is instead “a huge and scary hunting machine with great big soft and silent wings.” In actuality, both statements are true, as it is later confirmed by his mother. Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.

except if written and illustrated by Jim Averbeck

except if

I really enjoyed this book and the concept of it, and planned to use it at my Egg Preschool DiscoveryTime (though it would also be great for a Toddler storytime; didn’t arrive in time unfortunately). It’s all about an egg hatching and the possibilities about what could be hatching from it. For example, it could be a bird except if it is a baby snake, etc etc. My son loved this book. Recommended for ages 2-6, 4 stars.

Cats Night Out written by Caroline Stutson, illustrated by Jon Klassen

Cats Night Out

This was another book I chose for my dancing Toddler Storytime. The book featured dancing cats at night with all kinds of amusing costumes and dance styles/positions. Plus Jon Klassen’s illustrations are just so detailed but the cats all seem to remind me of the Jets and Sharks (ala West Side Story) as they just look so cool and relaxed dancing. Recommended for ages 2-7, 4 stars.

Rap a Tap Tap written and illustrated by Leo and Diane Dillon

RapATapTap

I was looking for a book for my Toddler Storytime on dance when I came across this gem from Leo & Diane Dillon. It’s a book about Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, one of the world’s most famous tap dancers and has a rhyming repeating text. I had heard of him before this book, but this was the first time I’d seen a children’s book based on the his life and dancing skills. Recommended for ages 2-7, 3 stars.

Waiting is Not Easy! written and illustrated by Mo Willems

Waiting is Not Easy

I borrowed a copy of this book because A. I love Elephant and Piggie and this was one of the newest ones and B. I hoped it would explain patience better to my 3 yr old son who is quite possibly the most impatient person in the world. He does kind of get it now, though he’s still pretty impatient, but is a good book for explaining the concept. Gerald is having a hard time waiting for the surprise promised by Piggie. He waits all day and is getting really tired of it, when his surprise finally comes and he realizes it was worth waiting for. This book can definitely be appreciated by kids and parents alike. Recommended for ages 3+, 4 stars.

The Littlest Owl written by Caroline Pitcher, illustrations by Tina Macnaughton

I have been looking for books to use with my owl Toddler storytime and this book was a bit too much for them. But a cute book nonetheless. I just feel like quoting Despicable Me and say that that little baby “is so fluffy I’m gonna die!”. A mommy barn owl has laid four eggs and three have already hatched. The fourth takes a bit longer and is smaller than the rest. When a storm hits, the four babies and their mother must fly away from the willow tree that is their home. The first three go with no problem, but the fourth hasn’t flown before and is hesitant. Eventually he gathers up his courage and flies for the first time. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

I’m Going to Catch My Tail! written and illustrated by Jimbo Matison

I'm Going to Catch My Tail!

 I saw this book while browsing for storytime books and just had to get it. The illustrations are so adorable and a bit cartoony. The book is about a silly cat who decides to catch his tail, who speaks with a separate voice, as he goes about his crazy everyday life, you know messing with the laundry, tearing up toilet paper and generally causing mischief. I was more enthused than my son was, but he still thought it was funny. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Snippet the Early Riser written and illustrated by Bethanie Deeney Marguia

Snippet the Early Riser

I picked this one up because I love books about snails. Honestly I liked the illustrations more than the story. Snippet is a very energetic snail, pretty much like a normal under 7 year old and likes to play soccer, draw, and get piggyback rides. Like small children, he wakes up way earlier than his parents and sister and does everything in his power to wake them up so they can all play together. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Harold and the Purple Crayon: Race Car written by Liza Baker, illustrated by Kevin Murawski

My son loved this book, but he loves cars (especially racing ones), so I’m not surprised. Harold is playing with his toy car in his room when he decides to he wants to drive a real one. So he draws one with his magic purple crayon and a second car and has a car race, along with his dog Lilac. They face fog, snow, the desert, and still manage to save the second car and finish the race. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

Julia’s House for Lost Creatures written and illustrated by Ben Hatke

julias house for lost creatures 2

I picked this up originally while I was looking up storytime books and thought the cover looked cool. When I found out First Second books was the publisher, I knew it was gonna be awesome (they just always seem to do cooler than normal books and graphic novels). The book starts off with Julia’s house being on a giant tortoise, which delighted my son to no end. She comes to a new area but is bored, so she puts a sign outside for welcoming in lost creatures. In no time at all, some start to show up, like a patchwork kitty, a bridge troll, and mermaids. The illustrations are super cute and really help to tell the story. Like Kirkus Reviews has mentioned in their review, the creatures do start up a bit of a Wild Rumpus, ala Where the Wild Things Are, and Julia quickly tires of it. She establishes some ground rules and things quickly settle down again and become more like a family. Recommended for ages 3-7, 5 stars.

By the Light of the Harvest Moon by Harriet Ziefert

Another book I picked up for Autumn Preschool Storytime, I liked this one for its great illustrations. It is a story about the Autumnal Equinox on Sept 22 or 23. A farmer and his crew have been busy harvesting and go to bed exhausted. After he goes home for the night, the leaf people come out to celebrate the Harvest Moon/the Autumnal Equinox with their families. They play games like bobbing for apples and making popcorn necklaces. The leaf kids try to see who can stack pumpkins the highest. The best part was the dessert party, where the kids proudly announce that they get to eat pie. The only thing that was off-putting about this book was the fact that the leaf people (whose heads were pumpkins) ate pumpkin pie and played with pumpkins, but I guess you have to extend your imagination to not look at their head and remember that they are made up of leaves. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.

When Blue Met Egg written and illustrated by Lindsay Ward

I thought I might use this book when I did a Preschool DiscoveryTime on eggs, but it didn’t quite work. But I thought it was cute and so brought it home to read with my son. He liked the story, though it was a bit long. Blue is a bird who lives in New York City and one day she meets the lonely Egg, who she sort of adopts as she takes him around the city trying to find his mom. They are together winter to spring when he hatches into something special. I had to explain the ending to my son as he didn’t pick up on it. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.

In November written by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Jill Kastner

I am doing a Preschool Storytime on Autumn and I found this book. I think it is a more winter book than autumn but I will probably use it as a backup book. It tells about all the different things that go on during November. There are no leaves on the trees, animals and insects are hibernating or getting ready to do so. Snow is coming down, people are baking and getting together for Thanksgiving. I loved this line from the text “In November, the smell of food is different. It is an orange smell. A squash and pumpkin smell. It tastes like cinnamon and can fill up a house in the morning…” I loved the oil painted illustrations, which just made everything seem more homey and snuggly. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.

Max’s Castle written and illustrated by Kate Banks

I have not read the first two books in this series, but found this while browsing for storytime books and thought it looked fun. Max finds some forgotten wooden alphabet blocks in his room and he and his brothers uses their imagination to create a castle with the blocks forming words that make up the features of the castle. I loved the illustrations of this fun and creative book, though it was a bit too long for my son. Recommended for ages 4-8, 3 stars.

Pele and the Rivers of Fire adapted and illustrated by Michael Nordenstrom

Pele and the Rivers of Fire

I was looking for a book to do with Preschool DiscoveryTime storytime and found this book. Thankfully there is a pronunciation guide in the back of the book as some of the Hawaiian names are rather hard to pronounce. This book tells the story of the volcanic fire goddess Pele and how she came to the Hawaiian islands. I loved the beautiful acrylic/watercolor on paper collage illustrations. It’s really cool that this book was written by a librarian and you can definitely see his passion for the subject in the book. Recommended for ages 4-9, 4 stars.

Maybelle the Cable Car by Virginia Lee Burton

I love Virginia Lee Burton’s books, so I immediately picked this one up while looking for car books for my son. It is based off the true story of how the city of San Francisco banded together to save the cable cars, despite the city fathers wanting to get rid of them in the name of progress. Maybelle, as the title suggests, is one of the old cable cars that is thankfully spared the chopping block and her and her fellow cable cars are allowed to run up and down the hilly city. She eventually becomes friends with Big Bill, one of the new modern buses, who originally thought of her as old-fashioned and as competition. The book also tells in detail how the cable cars work, so I’m sure kids will be pretending to drive one of these while reading or listening to the story. Recommended for ages 5-9, 3 stars.

Young Adult

City of Heavenly Fire (The Mortal Instruments #6) by Cassandra Clare

This is the final showdown between the Shadowhunters and Sebastian (aka Jonathan Morgenstern). Sebastian is trying to turn as many Shadowhunters and Downworlders as possible into Endarkened (mindless zombies) by using the Infernal Cup and wants a final all-out battle to establish his dominance. Everyone must decide what side they will fight on. Clary, Jace, Isabelle, Simon, and Alec travel to a demon world to find and defeat Sebastian on his own turf. Will they be able to in time? To find out, read the exciting conclusion to the Mortal Instrument series. Recommended for ages 15+, 4 stars.

Holy Moly! What a crazy book and an intriguing end to the series! I mean killing off characters in the prologue was pretty ballsy, but it definitely gets your attention. This book was long at 725 pages, but I managed to get through it in a week because it kept me on the edge of my seat trying to figure out what insane thing the author was going to do next. And she has brilliantly set the stage for her next series, entitled “The Dark Artifices”, though I will admit I’m kinda like “Geez, what else can she talk about for an entire series” as I already think this series went on for a book or two too long. However, I will probably check out at least the first book to see what she’s done. I will admit that I couldn’t for the life of me, despite having read all of the “The Infernal Devices” books, remember who Brother Zechariah actually was before he became a silent brother. I was really happy with the way the romances in the series ended, though I am curious about more Magnus stories in her e-books that I’ve yet to read (that will have to be remedied).

I would like to give a shoutout to Thomas from the blog “the quiet voice” for his excellent review of the book.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

Ok yes, I totally judged this book by its cover. The story sounded intriguing as well, so I figured I would give it a try. This ended up being one of my favorite books of the year and I was pretty bummed when it ended because it was so good. If you don’t like totally bizarre stories, you are not gonna like this book. That being said, I think the weirdness really works in this case. This is the author’s first book, which is kind of crazy because the language is so gorgeous and quotable and really makes her seem like she’s been doing this all her life. The story kind of reminded me of elements from the movie “Amelie” and “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”. To check out a more thorough review, check out this one.

The book starts off with a letter from the main character and tells the reader that to understand her story, she has to go back to the beginning and tell her grandmother and mother’s stories first. They feature nearly unbelievable tales of love and loss, which once told, make it is easier to understand the winged Ava and her silent brother Henry and how the story unfolds the way that it does. I don’t want to tell too much and give the story away, but I highly recommend this book. Recommended for ages 14+, 5 stars.

Adult

Perdita by Hilary Scharper

Finding Rebecca by Eoin Dempsey

Judy: A Dog in a Million by Damien Lewis

Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters, narrated by Juanita McMahon

Tipping the Velvet is about a young teenage oyster girl named Nancy Astley living in Whitstable, an English seaside town, in the 1890s. She falls in love with a male impersonator, at her local music hall, named Kitty Butler. She agrees to become her personal dresser and embarks on a totally different life than she ever had before. Eventually the two of them become lovers and have a male impersonator act together, before she is cruelly betrayed by Kitty and has her heart broken. The story that follows is Nancy’s journey in growing up and becoming her own person, separate from Kitty. 4 stars.

Wow this was a crazy book! I finally had a chance to listen to it after watching part of the BBC miniseries version years ago and enjoying it. Seventeen discs though, geez! I’m not sure what it is about almost all the books I’ve picked recently but they start off great, get really draggy in the middle and then pick up again at the end (including this one). Ms. McMahon was a great narrator though, and definitely made the book more enjoyable (even in the dragging parts). If you ever wanted to know about British slang for all things sexual, this is definitely the book for you. It’s a good thing I have an English hubby and have always been a bit of Anglophile or I would probably have gotten really lost while listening to this book. I did really enjoy the frank discussions of gender, sexuality, socialism and feminism in the book. I would be interested in reading more of Sarah Waters’ books in the future.

Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi

Another brilliant vegetarian cookbook from Yotam Ottolenghi, and this one is even better than “Ottolenghi”. I swear this man could make anything taste amazing. Plus there’s the gorgeous food photographs (nearly food porn lets be honest) that makes you just drool and make the recipes immediately, especially for the Taleggio and Spinach Roulade, Fig and Goat Cheese Tart and the Tomato and Pomegranate Salad. I’d like to try to make the Udon Noodles with with Fried Eggplants, Walnut and Miso (and I usually hate eggplants, but again he makes it sound amazing); Quinoa Porridge with Grilled Tomatoes and Garlic; Quinces Poached in Pomegranate Juice, and Walnut and Halvah Cake. 5 stars.

Persuasion by Jane Austen, narrated by Juliet Stevenson

Anne Elliot was betrothed to Captain Frederic Wentworth when she was 19 and was persuaded by friends and family to call it. So she did and has regretted her decision ever since. Anne’s father has managed to nearly bankrupt the family with his extravagant spending, so they have to rent out their manor house and move to Bath, England. Anne does not go immediately there, but instead goes to stay with her sister Mary in the country. She is intrigued and a little bit scared to meet up with Captain Wentworth again at Mary’s in-law’s house. It seems he is there courting Mary’s sister in laws, Louisa and Henrietta Musgrove, and Anne must sit there and watch and sort out how she feels about this. Eventually Louisa, Henrietta, Captain Wentworth, Mary and her husband Charles, and Anne decide to visit the seaside town of Lyme and Louisa has a crazy accident which incapacitates her for awhile. Anne leaves to go visit her friend Lady Russell and eventually move back in with her father. Captain Wentworth later comes to bath which really makes Anne wonder if he does still have feelings for her. 4 stars.

I have tried to read the actual book of Pride and Prejudice a couple times but the story was so slow, I could never get through very much. So I thought it would be better if I tried Jane Austen as an audiobook, but go for another of her books (whose movie version I also loved) and so picked this one. The narrator, Juliet Stevenson, was excellent. The audio version was also really slow in the beginning and I’ll be honest, didn’t pick up for me until about disc 5 of 7. But I kept listening and finally the story got more interesting and I dreaded having to leave the car and being unable to continue it until I got back in again. Anne Elliot is one of my favorite characters so level-headed, intelligent and soft-spoken. It sucks that she had such bad advice from her friend Lady Russell. The letter Frederic gives to Anne at the end of the book is one of the sweetest and most romantic I’ve ever heard, and almost tops Mr. Darcy’s declaration to Elizabeth Bennet.

Book Reviews Oct 2014

Wow, I’ve had this blog for three years and I have published over 200 posts on it. I have been pretty proud of myself for reading more adult books in the last couple of months. I’ve been on a bit of a reading lull after I finished one really good nonfiction, but it looks like it is starting to pick up again. I am finally (after months of waiting) listening to The Blood of Olympus (Heroes of Olympus, #5) by Rick Riordan, the last book in the series. His books are just so fun to listen to, and I can’t wait to read/listen to his newest series on Norse gods. I am currently reading  an advanced reader’s copy of Damien Lewis’s Judy: A Dog in a Million, an English Pointer who was most likely the only canine prisoner of war and helped comfort POWs in Japanese Internment Camps during World War II. Ooh my other great piece of book news is that I had recently entered a contest to win some Gail Carriger (one of my favorite writers, does steampunk books for YA and adults) signed books, of her first series The Parasol Protectorate and some other swag and I am one of the winners! So hope to be getting that in the mail in the next month or so.

I’ve finally started the Nobel Prize Challenge that I mentioned last month. I am currently looking up book recommendations from other people to decide what to read from the list of prize winners. I’m just hoping my library has most of these or I’m gonna have to use Interlibrary Loan (ILL) again or maybe buy some of them. Ah well, at least it will be good literature (at least in theory).  My yearly reading total is up to 290 out of 321, so not bad. Granted most of those are picture books but can’t be helped when you’re a children’s librarian who does storytimes plus has a 3 year old.  As usual I rate books on a scale of 1 – 5 stars, with one being the lowest and five the highest. I will add pictures from books I like.

Children

Bear’s New Friend written by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman

I love the Bear books! This book was super cute as well. Bear hears a noise in the trees and then on the ground while heading to the swimming hole to meet his friends. He thinks it is one of his friends. Just Whoo is it? Eventually they discover that it is a little burrowing owl who is too shy to come out of his hole until convinced to do so by Bear and his friends. Then they all go off to play together and swim. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

Hug Me written and illustrated by Simona Ciraolo

Hug Me

My son and I loved this book! Even describing this book to others made them think it was adorable. Felipe is a young cactus who is part of a very traditional cactus family. They must remain respectable and are firm believers of personal space. Felipe only wants a hug, especially after he accidently puts his friend Balloon in the hospital and is shunned by his family. He decides he must leave, but is not welcome anywhere (for obvious reasons). He is living all by himself until one day when he hears someone crying and knows just what to do to make her feel better. After that, Felipe and Camilla (the rock) are the best of friends! My son loved looking at the end pages and telling me exactly what they were doing in all the pictures. Recommended for ages 3-6, 5 stars.

Little Owl’s Orange Scarf written and illustrated by Tatyana Feeney

Little Owl's mother

My son loved this book and I did too. Little Owl’s mom knits him an orange scarf but he really doesn’t like it and tries his best to lose it at every turn. When he manages to get rid of it at the zoo, his mother is determined to make him another, but this time he is to help. He picks a better color and falls in love with it. I would love to use this for a Toddler Storytime on Owls. Recommended for ages 3-6, 5 stars.

Penguin written and illustrated by Polly Dunbar

I rather enjoyed this book though I didn’t think it was right for the storytime I had originally selected it for. My son enjoyed it as well. A young boy named Ben is given a penguin for a present and he does everything with it. He tickles it, sings and dances with it, stands on his head, and even sticks out his tongue at it, but no response from the penguin. He tries to offer it to a passing lion in his frustration, but the lion won’t take it. He eats the boy instead. Only then does the penguin respond by biting the lion’s nose. Once rescued and unharmed, the penguin explains in pictures all the things the boy and him did together and how much he enjoyed them. They are friends from then on. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3-1/2 stars.

The Tiny King written and illustrated by Taro Miura

The Tiny King

My son adored this book and asked me to read it over and over again. I loved the big bright illustrations and the simple story. The Tiny King has a huge castle, lots of food, a giant army and a giant bed. But he is lonely. One day he meets a Big Princess, falls in love and they are married. They have 10 children and soon his large castle and bed are full, he can eat all the food on his table, and he dismisses his army. He is so happy. I can’t wait to read the book about the Big Princess! Recommended for ages 3-6, 5 stars.

The Really, Really, Really Big Dinosaur written and illustrated by Richard Byrne

My son adored this book! Jackson is a small dinosaur who is counting out jelly beans for himself and his friend. Suddenly a bigger and much ruder dinosaur barges over and demands the candy because he is bigger and stronger. Jackson politely refuses and says that he has a really really really big dinosaur friend. They go back and forth until Jackson dares him to go into a cave, which the bigger dinosaur does only to be trapped in a much larger dinosaur’s mouth. He is let go though as the really really really big dinosaur is nice, and the bigger dinosaur is humbled. It is a great book for kids that might be dealing with bullies. Recommended for ages 3-6, 4 stars.

Quest written and illustrated by Aaron Becker

Quest

The two children from the Caldecott Honor winning book “Journey” are back on another adventure. Waiting under a bridge, the boy and girl are surprised by a king who pops out of a hidden door and hands them two keys. They open the door he’s come from and start gathering up all the colors and manage to save the king at the end. It is amazing that so much storytelling can be done with a gorgeous wordless picture book. I liked this one even better than the last one. Recommended for ages 4-7, 5 stars.

Neo Leo: The Ageless Ideas of Leonardo da Vinci written and illustrated by Gene Barretta

This book is all about how Leonardo da Vinci came up for the idea for many modern inventions back in the 15th and 16th centuries, 400 years before they were invented properly in the 19th and 20th centuries. The book discusses his plans and drawings for the first man-powered aircraft, a glider, contact lenses, a projector, a single-span bridge, tanks whose designs were based off of turtles and other war paraphenalia (such as grenades, machine guns and a giant catapult called a trebuchet) , the helicopter, and he improved upon the designs of scuba gear. Leonardo also figured out how blood travels through the heart, steam power and air pressure, and robots and automobiles. The book talks about modern inventors who uses his notes to create prototypes of his inventions. It’s pretty crazy to think that we still haven’t found 2/3 of his notes and just think about all the things we discovered about him already! Recommended for ages 5-10, 4 stars.

I find Leonardo da Vinci to be an amazing artist and inventor. I’ve been to Leonardo’s museum in Vinci and was fortunate to see a lot of his inventions as they were revealed in his copious notes. So when I found out about his involvement in the development of robots, the topic for my latest DiscoveryTime (Preschool Storytime + STEM), I had to add a page from the book to the storytime. Leonardo was the first person to create robots in the late 15th or early 16th century in the form of a robot knight and the drawings for a mechanical lion. There is actually a full adult book on Leonardo’s robots, but it is pretty technicial, so couldn’t use that volume.

The Sandman and the War of Dreams (The Guardians of Childhood, #4) written and illustrated by William Joyce

The Sandman the War of Dreams

I recently watched Rise of the Guardians, the movie based on Joyce’s books, which I loved. This re-peaked my interest in the Guardian series and I remembered that I hadn’t yet read this book. This version of Sandman was a lot quieter but a bit more in the front view as compared to the movie. Joyce is such an excellent storyteller, I sometimes forget that this book is intended for children, it is that good.

Lord Pitch, the Nightmare King, has abducted Katherine and the Guardians don’t know how to proceed until the intervention of the mysterious Sandman. We learn the entire back story of Pitch and his family (yes he had a wife and daughter), even more about Nightlight, and of course Sandy (who is more formally known as Sanderson Mansnoozie – great name right?). Will Sandy be able the free Katherine from Pitch’s clutches? To find out, read this fantastic fourth book in the “Guardians of Childhood” series. Recommended for ages 7-11, 5 stars.

Young Adult

Waistcoats & Weaponry (Finishing School Book the Third) by Gail Carriger

Code Name Verity (Code Name Verity #1) by Elizabeth Wein, narrated by Morven Christie and Lucy Gaskell

The book is about a young Scottish woman called Queenie (not her real name) who is part of the British Special Intelligence, aka a spy for the Allies during World War II. After she is captured by the Germans in a small French town, her story comes from having to retell it in “a confession” to the commanding officer of the Gestapo headquarters. She is tortured by the Gestapo and the other prisoners see her as a snitch for talking to the Germans. So the first half of the book we get to know Queenie’s family, find out how she gets into spy work, and how she meets her friend Maddie and how she is involved with her coming to France. The second half of the story is narrated by Maddie, an English pilot for the Air Transport Auxiliary, which is essentially the civilian branch of the Royal Air Force. Recommended for ages 16+, 5 stars.

I think this may be one of my favorite books read this year. The topic was so fascinating and unlike any teen World War II book I’d ever read. The torture scenes, which I honestly wasn’t expecting, were pretty graphic and somewhat hard to read. The narrators were fantastic, especially Morven Christie. I had never heard of the Air Transport Auxiliary before and it was cool to know that so many British and European women helped with the Allied War effort by flying planes. I also found the whole part of the story about the French Resistance intriguing and it’s kind of crazy what they managed to get away with right under the noses of the Germans.

Rose Under Fire (Code Name Verity #2) by Elizabeth Wein, narrated by Sasha Pick

The book picks up about 6 months after the events of “Code Name Verity”. Rose Justice is an American female pilot who comes to England to be part of the Air Transport Auxiliary during World War II. She knows Maddie, the English Pilot we met in the first book of the series. She ends up flying a plane to the Front and gets picked up by the Germans on her flight back to England. They put her in Ravensbruck Concentration Camp in Germany for six months. It is here where she discovers women she would never dream about meeting including medical experiment victims, a Soviet female pilot, and a documentary filmmaker. These women change her life and become her family through the course of her ordeal, as they must work together to survive. Recommended for ages 16+, 4 stars.

My biggest gripe about this book was that it moved so slow in the beginning, which almost made me give up on it. I never expected the second main character to be an American. I wasn’t too sure about the narrator when the book first started, but she did a good job on all the different accents and there were many. This book was almost as graphic as the first, in covering difficult topics, this time about the medical experiments done by the Nazis. I had heard about the experimentations on twins by Dr. Mengele, but the ones they did in this book, to illustrate the science of death/dying – said to be helping soldiers, but really just finding a better way to kill people. I was a little disappointed there wasn’t more storyline on Maddie, as the first book really just touches on her story. I loved hearing about the Soviet “night witch” pilot. I had no idea that women were even allowed to fly planes in the Soviet Union. I’m hoping the author continues the series beyond this book as it is nice to see strong female characters, especially portrayed in an era where women by and large didn’t work.

Adult

City of Lies: Love, Sex, Death and the Search for Truth in Tehran by Ramita Navai

I’ve been fascinated with Iran/Persia for awhile now, so when I saw this book in the new Nonfiction section, it definitely caught my attention. The author is a British-Iranian foreign affairs journalist, so she definitely knows what she is talking about. The book follows eight very different individuals who live in Tehran, the capital city of Iran. There is a Iranian-American extremist who is part of the MEK group (the Mojahedin-e-Khalq, the Warriors of the People) who has come to the city for an assassination , a teenage girl from a very traditional family who has no problems wearing the hejab/hijab and marrying her cousin (it is considered very auspicious to do so in Iranian culture), and a young man confronted by the Revolutionary judge responsible for having his parents killed because of their according to the government “un-Islamic” leanings. There is also a member of the local gun-selling ring and small time crook, a prostitute/porn actress, a gay member of the local basij – groups of young men who regulate vice, get rid of protesters and enforce virtue, an elderly retired gangster with his reformed showgirl wife, and a female widowed member of the upper aristocracy. All in all a very interesting group of characters. I think my favorite and the most interesting stories were the teenage girl from a traditional family and the gay member of the  basij. 4 stars.

The Silmarillion: Volume 1 by J.R.R. Tolkein, narrated by Martin West

Review of Volume 1 (4 discs unabridged):

I have tried reading this book 3 times but could never get more than about 50 pages into it before I thought my head would explode. It is one of those really dense books that requires absolute quiet to read in, but I could never get that to properly concentrate on it. The book reads like an Icelandic Creation story with so many names thrown at you that you need a character list to keep them all straight. I could see elements of Christianity, along with Norse mythology and what sounded like maybe some Pre-Columbian names thrown in for good measure. Once it got through the introductory part of the story (the creation of the earth and the Ainur) and the races of elves and men started establishing themselves, the story was starting to get really fascinating. Of course, that was about the time that Volume 1 ended. I know there’s a second volume but of course my library doesn’t have it. Thankfully, I have a paper copy of the book so assuming I can figure out where I left off, I can read the rest. For a more detailed description of this book, check out this website: http://lotr.wikia.com/wiki/The_Silmarillion 3 stars.

Sula by Toni Morrison, narrated by the author

The story starts off in 1919 and finishes up in 1965 in an Ohio town called Medallion, more specifically in the African-American section called the Bottom. We first learn about Shadrack, a shell-shocked Veteran of WWI, who is returning to his hometown. The main part of the book focuses on two families, the Peace family and the Wrights. Helene Sabat marries Wiley Wright and they have a daughter named Nel. Respectability and a high position in the community are of utmost importance to Helene, something she tries to pass on to her daughter. Eva Peace is the one-legged head of the other family. She is abandoned by her husband BoyBoy early in their marriage and must raise her two children Plum and Hannah, along with adopted children The Deweys (three boys) on her own. Hannah is considered a bit of a harlot by the community, and they think even less of her daughter Sula. Sex is very loose at their house, a complete opposite to that of the Wright’s home. Despite all this, Sula and Nel become fast friends. Their relationship makes up the bulk of the story, or rather the consequences of their friendship.

I picked this story out of Toni Morrison’s bibliography because it sounded the most interesting, and it definitely didn’t disappoint in that regard. I would be curious to read some more of her work in the future for comparison. The author won the 1993 Nobel Prize. The book is narrated by the author and she has a very quiet voice, so much so that I had to crank the volume way up to even be able to understand what she was saying (and even had to re-listen to some parts). I will admit that I’ve been putting this review off for awhile because it was such a bizarre story, at least in my opinion, and I wasn’t 100% sure I knew exactly what it was really about. I will also admit that my exposure to African-American writers has been limited to poetry, The Color Purple, and some Children/YA books. Overall, I enjoyed the story but there were points that I was pretty shocked at and not at all sure what the author actually meant by them (especially the episodes concerning Sula’s mother and uncle). 3 stars.

Graduates in Wonderland: The International Misadventures of Two (Almost) Adults by Jessica Pan and Rachel Kapelke-Dale

Jessica and Rachel went to college together at Brown University. After graduation, Jessica decided to move to China without much of a plan and Rachel went to New York City to work in a gallery. The book chronicles journal-like emails between the two as they decide what they want to do with their lives, one ultimately getting married and studying journalism, while the other pursues a Masters and then Ph.D in film history. This book reminded me a lot of me and my best friend because we have been friends for what seems like forever (17 years) and as I was living in different countries and at different points in our life, similar to the main characters. 4 stars.

 Serving Grandfamilies in Libraries: A Handbook and Programming Guide by Sarah Gough, Pat Feehan and Denise R. Lyons

I picked up this book in particular because it was completely written by graduates and a faculty member of my masters’ alma mater, University of South Carolina. Not to mention I did an independent study with Denise, so I was curious to see what they had to say about the subject. I knew Denise had done work with grandparents in Houston, which is well-documented in the book, before she came to the SC State Library. Here are some interesting factoids taken from the book. According to page 5, “One in ten children lives in a household that includes at least one grandparent. Of that number, four in ten, were being raised primarily by their grandparents.” I have of course noticed the increase in children being raised by or assisted-in-raising by grandparents in these so-called “grandfamilies”, especially after moving to Arizona. About fifteen pages later, the book mentions how beneficial it is to have intergenerational programming and I believe that to be true. The book specifically points out grants that can be obtained by the library, resources to locate statistics (in order to gain support for such grandparent-related programming), Community Partners that are available, and how you can build your collection. The book sites specific examples in South Carolina and how individual libraries set aside space or special chairs/couches for grandparents’ uses. 3 stars.

Bella: The Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice by Paula Byrne

I had seen the trailer for the movie and thought it would be an interesting. So when the book came out, I was intrigued. There was next to no material about Dido Elizabeth Belle, the person about whom the book and movie is based (which was rather sad as her story is so unique), so I was curious to see how they would talk about the book. They put her in the context of the slave trade, in particular the manufacturing of sugar in the Caribbean. I knew how precious sugar was in the 18th century but not the extent to which slavers and slaves were involved with the trade. The book also discusses the Lord Chief Justice, uncle and adopted father of Dido, and his role in legislation that helped outlaw slavery in Great Britain and its Caribbean colonies. I was especially fascinated and a little bit horrified with the ideas of the 18th century in regards to African women and their sexuality, and how white men should act towards them. I had picked up bits and pieces in the past, but it was discussed with much greater detail since the main character was a black female. 4 stars

Inglorious Royal Marriages: A Demi-Millenium of Unholy Mismatrimony by Leslie Carroll

This book was so dense with such tiny writing that even though the subject matter was fascinating – arranged marriages for political reasons: I was especially intrigued by the marriage of Queen Mary Tudor and Philip II of Spain, I could only get through about 40% of it before I gave up. 3 stars.

Book Reviews Sept 2014

I haven’t done one of these posts since July and I’m still not caught up in my book reviews, though I am trying. I have pretty much given up on the Caldecott and Newberry Challenges. Not exclusively because I am bored with them, but also because I just want to do something different. I’ve also been keeping fairly busy with advanced reader’s copies. I am currently reading a book from a local author called The Risk of Sorrow: Conversations with Holocaust Survivor, Helen Handler. I’m also listening to Sula by Toni Morrison, which is a very odd read and I’m still not 100% sure I know what is going on all the time. I think I will have to pick up some kind of guide to double check, definitely before I’m going to write the review. I’ve decided to try to read all the Nobel Prize winners for Literature, because it is always good for me to read more adult and international book. The only thing is that from what I’ve observed from my list and starting to search for some of the books in my library, most of the books seem rather depressing. I’m not sure if this is a case of  all great writers create hard-to-read masterpieces or what. For this Nobel Prize Challenge, there are 110 winners and I’ve only read a book from 5 of them (and 1 poem from another). So this will probably take me forever, but should provide some interesting material.  As usual I rate books on a scale of 1 – 5 stars, with one being the lowest and five the highest. I will add pictures from books I like. I promise I have been reading more adult books, and will add them to next month’s reviews.

Children

Herman the Helper written by Robert Kraus, illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey

HERMAN THE HELPER

This is a great book to show toddlers how to be a good helper. Although the story is a bit simple, I love it because of Aruego and Dewey’s illustrations; they make such a great team with Robert Kraus. Herman the octopus loves to help everyone: his parents, his friends, even his enemies. Once he is home for the day, he helps himself to some dinner. Recommended for ages 2-5, 4 stars.

Tea with Grandpa written and illustrated by Barney Saltzberg

This book would make a great companion to Tea Rex by Molly Idle, as part of a teatime storytime. This was a cute book about a little girl having tea long-distance with her grandfather. I love the interactions between them, you never would guess it was between two computer screens. Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.

Something to Do written and illustrated by David Lucas

This was an overly simplistic book, but with cute illustrations. Baby Bear is bored and there is nothing to do, that is until his Papa Bear finds a stick and then they start using their imagination to create their own fun all day. Then Baby Bear is hungry so they go home to Mama Bear. Recommended for ages 2-6, 2 stars.

Lola Love Stories written by Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw

One of the books I looked at for a Toddler Storytime on Imagination, I rather enjoyed this one. It could also be used in a Reading/The Library theme as well. Little Lola loves getting books from the library and hearing the stories read to her by her parents. Everytime she is read to, she uses that story to influence her play afterword, like her mother reads to her about tigers and she spends the next afternoon chasing her friend through the jungle. Recommended for ages 2-6, 4 stars.

Hugs From Pearl written and illustrated by Paul Schmid

Hugs from Pearl

I would love to use this book as part of a porcupine storytime. It is so adorable! Pearl loves giving hugs to the other animals in her class, and they love receiving them, even if they get ouchies from them. Pearl feels bad about this, so sets about to creatively solve the problem. Recommended for ages 2-6, 4 stars.

Petunia Goes Wild written and illustrated by Paul Schmid

After reading the first Petunia book, I couldn’t wait to read this one. Super cute illustrations, though I liked the first book better. Petunia is convinced that she is a wild animal and doesn’t want to be human because it means you are “too clean, have to have good manners and too many haftas”. She is determined to ship herself to Africa until she hears her mother singing in the kitchen. She realizes how much she would miss that and determines that being human isn’t so bad, as long as you get to wild every now and then. Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.

Me Want Pet! written by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Bob Shea

Me Want Pet

I picked this book for my first Toddler Storytime. It was the cute story of a young caveman who wants a pet but his family is not enthused with his choices of Wooly Mammoth, Saber Tooth Tiger, and a Dodo. These animals come in handy though when the family is attacked. So Cave Boy gets three instead of one pet. Loved the illustrations, they were very cute. Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.

You Will Be My Friend! written and illustrated by Peter Brown

You will be my friend

I know this is supposed to be a children’s book, but you definitely need to be a bit older to get the sarcasm in the book. I loved the illustrations in this book. Lucy, a young bear, is determined to make some friends in the forest. Her forceful personality is preventing her from doing so in the way she wants, and nothing seems to be going her way. She tries to befriend frogs, rabbits, a giraffe, and a beaver, though she shies away from befriending little kids. She has almost completely given up when a lonely flamingo boy finds her and asks to be her friend. They do somersaults, enjoy a picnic, and have a dance party. They are the best of friends. Recommended for ages 3-7, 4 stars.

Children Make Terrible Pets written and illustrated by Peter Brown

Written in the same vein as You Will Be My Friend, this book has underlying sarcasm that makes it more palatable for parents reading the books to their kids. Lucy, a young bear, desperately wants a pet though her mother warns that she must take of it herself. She finds a young human boy and decides to take it home as her pet, even though her mother warns that “children make terrible pets”. They do everything together until one day he runs off back home to be with his own family and Lucy doesn’t have it in her to take him back. Recommended for ages 3-7, 3 stars.

Risky Rails! (Thomas and Friends) written by Wilbert Awdry, illustrated by Tommy Stubbs

Normally I hate Thomas books for being too wordy. This one was the exception. Based off the Thomas movie The Blue Mountain Mystery, we learn the true story of a young Narrow Gauge engine named Luke (which my son has at home, but I’d never heard of him before) and how he believes he is responsible for the yellow engine’s fate. As Thomas investigates, he learns the truth and goes to help his new friend Luke from Diesel’s treachery. Recommended for ages 3-7, 4 stars.

Machines Go to Work in the City written and illustrated by William Low

Machines Go to Work in the City

This was obviously a well-loved book (from the number of taped pages) that we picked up after DiscoveryTime at one of the branch libraries. My son is fascinated by this book, might have to pick it up for him. It talks about all the cities that work in the city and even gives little info bits on each vehicle in the back end pages. The kids learn about trash trucks, bucket trucks (which my son automatically names telehandlers – thank you “Dinosaurs Dig!”), tower cranes, commuter trains, airplanes, and baggage carriers through nice fold-out spreads. This would be a great book to use for a Transportation DiscoveryTime. Recommended for ages 3-7, 5 stars.

Before You Were Mine written by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by David Walker

I was searching for a book to use with my Pet ToddlerTime, when I came across this book. I absolutely love it, though it is too long for toddlers. It is about a young boy talking about his dog, who he absolutely loves. He wonders about what life was like for his dog before they picked him. I nearly cried when they talked about the child’s previous dog dying and getting to pick up a new dog from the shelter. Such a great story and it is great for introducing a child to the concept of adopting shelter animals. Recommended for ages 4-8, 5 stars.

The Octonauts and the Sea of Shade written and illustrated by Meomi

I liked this book but it just didn’t have the flow of the other books and my son quickly got bored with it, as did I. The Octonauts realize that there are no shadows anywhere in the ocean, and go beseech the King of the mythical Sea of Shade to release the shadows back into the world, as they have been missed. Recommended for ages 5-8, 2-1/2 stars.

The Octonauts and the Frown Fish written and illustrated by Meomi

The Octonauts and the Frown Fish

I love the Octonauts, but this book dragged a little bit. The Octonauts are having a gloomy rainy day at the bottom of the ocean when they happen upon a new species of frowning fish. They try everything that makes them happy, including baking, playing on the playground, reading, singing/making music, all in an attempt to make him smile. My favorite parts was probably a couple of the Octonauts trying to deciper “Frownese” and reading in Professor Inkling’s library. The ending was surprising. Recommended for ages 5-8, 3 stars.

The Octonauts and the Great Ghost Reef written and illustrated by Meomi

The Octonauts and the Great Ghost Reef

This is probably my favorite book in the Octonaut series. The Octonauts go on holiday to Great Reef City, only to discover it abandoned and colorless. They find one lonely inhabitant, Mr. Slowtache the turtle, for whom they try to help find different accommodations for. As a result,we get to see many different kinds of ocean and freshwater habitats for turtles. In the end, he decides to stay in his home and the Octonauts decide to help find out why the reef has no color. They soon realize that the entire reef has organisms living in it, which have been completely covered by the buildings, which block out the sun and drains the color. They remove some of the buildings and soon the reef explodes in color again. As usual, I loved the illustrations and the way they presented the facts. Recommended for ages 5-8, 4 stars.

Fractions in Disguise: A Math Adventure written by Edward A. Einhorn, illustrated by David Clark

Young Adult

The Door in the Mountain by Caitlin Sweet

Lockwood & Co., Book 2: The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud

Adult

The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen by Tosca Lee

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

The Mad Sculptor: The Maniac, the Model, and the Murder That Shook the Nation by Harold Schechter

I have been feeling like some narrative nonfiction and so when I saw this, I snapped it up. I always enjoy a good true crime story as they examine how someone came to be the way they are and why they did it. I’ve never heard of this case, but found it fascinating. The title refers to Robert “Bob” Irwin, a brilliant but mentally disturbed sculptor, who in 1937 brutally murdered his former landlady Mary Gedeon, her model daughter Veronica, and an English boarder named Frank Byrnes.

The author set up the story by explaining that Beekman Place, the location of the triple murder, was the site of two previous murders in the past year and we are introduced to the man who would become Irwin’s lawyer, the undefeated Samuel Leibowitz. We get a very thorough look at Irwin’s parents and how their religious fanaticism impacted his childhood, in particular Pentacostalism. His two brothers both ended up in prison. He showed artistic tendencies early on and went to work for some famous American sculptors, though he never stayed long at any job due to his violent temper and crazy ideas. The most prominent idea was “visualization” in which he tried to remember minute details of particular piece of art, though this eventually led to him believing he could harness energy and become a god. In any case, it was a major reason why people avoided him and part of the reason, along with Congenital Syphilis, why he was institutionalized several times before committing the murders. Once he moved to Manhattan, he became obsessed with Edith Gedeon, the daughter of his landlords. This obsession lasted for the rest of his life, and was the reason he killed Edith’s mother, sister and Frank Byrnes.

The majority of the book is about Irwin’s capture by the police, which took several months, and his subsequent trial and sentencing. The book goes into great detail about the sensationalism of the press, particularly newspapers, in exploiting everyone involved (including the murder victims). I thought the section on how to determine if a defendant could plead insanity or not was particularly fascinating, as well as the fact that both Irwin’s attorney and the prosecutor both agreed that Irwin should be imprisoned for life. 4 stars.

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