Saturday, May 29, 2010

Story Starter Saturday

He was afraid, but he called upon all his courage as...

Friday, May 28, 2010

Book Club Friday: Big Nate in a Class By Himself, by Lincoln Peirce

Fegan - For our first book discussion, we are taking a look a new series by Lincoln Pierce.

Squirt - Dude, you spelled his name wrong

Fegan - Did not.

Squirt - Did so. It's PEIrce.

Fegan - I belIEve it's "i before e except after c".

Freaky - "Or when sounding like 'a' as in 'neighbor' and 'weigh'."

Fegan - Yes, thank-you.

Squirt - But that's not how HE spells it. Wouldn't he know how to spell his own name?

(pause while turtles peruse book cover, bio, AND media release)

Fegan - Okay, so today we are discussing a new series, Big Nate, by Lincoln Peirce.

Squirt - Except that Big Nate isn't really new, just the books.

Fegan - Are you going to argue with everything I say today?

Squirt - Are you going to keep being wrong? (ducks flipper) Sorry! Sorry! I'm just saying. Big Nate has been a comic strip for a long time now.

Freaky - A very funny one. So did we expect the book to be funny, too?

Fegan - Yes, and it was. Some of us had reservations at first.

Squirt - It looked like copying. I hate copying.

Fegan - And who did you think it was copying?

Squirt - Jeff Kinney and his "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series.

Fegan - And what did we find out?

Squirt - Dude, you aren't my teacher or my Dad, stop talking to me like that.

Fegan - If you'll agree not to call me "Dude" again.

Squirt - Agreed. Anyway, Jeff Kinney absolutely LOVES Big Nate comics, and has for a long time. So, if anything, his writing might have been influenced by Peirce's, and not the other way around.

Freaky - Either way, it's a great book, and I'm looking forward to the next one; "Big Nate Strikes Again", due out in October.

Fegan - I'm looking forward to having something else to hand kids looking for "The Diary of a Wimpy Kid".

Squirt - Or fans of Captain Underpants.

Freaky - Is there anyone who wouldn't like Big Nate?

Squirt - Teachers.

Freaky - Certain kinds of teachers. Teachers who are a little too uptight and probably shouldn't be teaching any more.

Squirt - I had one of those.

Freaky - I think we all have - but some are pretty cool, too.

Squirt - And if they really are cool, they'll get this book for their classroom!

Freaky - Well, there you have it, folks - and if you can't trust an adolescent turtle, who can you trust?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Chapter Book Thursday: Gorgeous by Rachel Vail

While we are not huge fans of chick lit (we are turtles. male turtles.) we thoroughly enjoyed this one. We hadn't yet read the first book about these sisters, "Lucky", but it is now on our TBR list. Fortunately, this book stands on its own quite well, and we did not at any point feel like we were missing something.

Allison feels like the ugly duckling of the family, stuck between two beautiful sisters, and called - are you ready for the 'ouch'? - "interesting-looking" by her own grandmother. Geeze, Grandma, why don't you just say she has "a nice personality" and be done with it?

Allison is no idiot, however, and she has read plenty of fairy tales, so when the devil shows up in her room one evening and offers to make her gorgeous in exchange for her eternal soul, she says no thanks. After a little haggling, however, they settle on seven people perceiving her as beautiful, in exchange for control of her cell phone. Yes, that's right; Alison has sold her cell to the devil.

The loss of an "l" there is no accident - in short time, Allison becomes the much more interesting and beautiful Alison. But does that solve all her problems? Does it even matter in the face of family crises? And is it the work of the devil, the work of a new friend, or something that was bound to happen anyway? Even by the end of the book you aren't entirely sure, but you are satisfied with the conclusion - and ready for the next book, "Brilliant", just out this week!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Picture Book Wednesday: Pinkalicious and the Pink Drink, by Victoria Kann

"One hot summer day, Pinkalicious gets an idea that is simply pinkerrific - a pink lemonade stand! But before Pinkalicious can start selling her lemonade, she has to figure out how to make the pink drink as pinktastic as possible. Pink grapefruit, pink watermelon and pink frosting - if it's pink, it's the perfect ingredient!"
We were excited to see a new Pinkalicious book, because we knew our patrons would be excited - particularly the 3-7-year-old-girl demographic. Kann's books have been very popular, with copies wearing out and needing to be replaced, so we know this one will be a hit as well. We, on the other hand, are in a slightly different grouping ourselves (the indeterminately-aged male turtle demographic), so to review this one, we enlisted the help of some of our patrons.

Aeriel, age 3, was the very first person we shared the book with. Her favorite part was the pink lemonade.
Abbigail, age 8, says (giggling), "I like the part when one of the customers made a face and said something is missing and something is too much." She also thought it was funny that the piggy bank is empty again at the end of the book.

Alayna, age 8, liked the part where all the pink ingredients are mixed together, and said it reminds her of a book called "Treasure Tree", in which an otter makes a cupcake with pickle icing. (We think she is referring to this book.)

Cute story, cute pictures, sure to be a hit with the cute ones in your life. For a fairly safe extension, try a sidewalk lemonade stand. For a more adventurous time, see what happens when you mix like-colored items in YOUR kitchen!

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Sky is Falling, the Sky is Falling! Maybe. Someday.

From Miss Ami:

My family has been reading Susan Beth Pfeffer's series starting with "Life as We Knew It", and I have noticed a seeming surge of similar books coming out. (The moon is hit by an asteroid, or the world runs out of oil, or the government collapses, or a solar flare wipes out technology, or the Boovs invade the earth, and life as we know it comes to a screeching halt.) Are we totally weird in that parts of those books sound like...wishful thinking?

Don't get me wrong, all that death and destruction is kind of a bummer. We still have family in California, so tidal waves would be bad, and we really like our cats and would fight any aliens who tried to take them, but...

No technology? No strong central government? Hole up in our home in the mountains, home schooling the kids and living off the land? We could live with that. Heck, I'm a stockpiler by nature, and we had five bull elk in our front yard this morning. We just have to make sure the immediate family (which includes a doctor, an electrician, and a mechanic) just happens to be up for a visit when the world goes kaflooey.

Once my teen got over the shock of imagining life without internet, she started 'planning' with gusto, making sure certain other families would be nearby, to provide future spouses for her younger siblings. Grandma up the mountain got into the act with her freshwater spring and stream, while Grandma down the mountain is planning the massive Walmart run. Daddy, a true mountain man at heart, would think he had gone to Heaven. Most importantly, Mom has the keys to the public library and access to a flatbed truck! We're set! (And no, I'm not telling you our address.)

I still felt a bit guilty about wishing for the end of the world, until I found the link to this blog, mentioned in a post at Musings of a Book Addict. See, we're normal!

Well, at least in this respect. Really, who wouldn't relish a simpler life? But, of course, we are human at the same time, and used to our creature comforts. While there are some, whole communities even, who already live the simple life, there are still far more of us who enjoy our morning cappuccino and watching "Lost" online. Still, it can be...dare I say fun? imagine what life would be like if the moon were indeed whacked out of orbit. Would we be among the ones to survive? Do we have what it takes in knowledge, skills and personality?

Something to ponder while I tend the flock of chickens we just purchased, and the new garden out back...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Picture Book Wednesday: Dino-Baseball by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Barry Gott

It's the meat eaters vs. the plant eaters at - of course - Jurassic Park, in this rhyming tale of a baseball game.

First, the not-so-good: the pictures are a little crowded, and more thought should have been given to the centerfold - many figures are cut in half and distorted because of it. Some of the abbreviated dinosaur names could be confusing if you are not familiar with the basic dinosaurs and missed the team rosters on the second page. And of course, when it's carnivors vs. herbivors, you know who is going to pull through in the end to win.

The good: a child who is obsessed with dinosaurs will enjoy the business of the pictures, stopping to check out and identify each type. Gott managed to make cute, cartoony dinosaurs without losing the particular characteristics of each species that set them apart. The rhyme scheme is good, and we liked the way the names were in colored print. Great vocabulary, strong verbs - "plucks", "dashes", "chomps", "hustles" - and plenty of baseball lingo. And while, yes, the vegetarians win, the meat-eaters aren't portrayed as the bad guys, as in some other books (good news for those of us who like to munch on the occasional goldfish).

Great for: read-alouds, youngsters who like dinosaurs or baseball.

We give it a 4 out of 5

Review copy provided by publisher. If you click on the picture link to order your own copy, we receive a small portion of the proceeds for our library.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Word After Word After Word, by Patricia MacLachlan - reviewed by Miss Ami

"Every school day feels the same for fourth graders Lucy and Henry and Evie and Russell and May. Then Ms. Mirabel comes to their class—bringing magical words and a whole new way of seeing and understanding."
First let me point out that this is definitely NOT a "Retro" Tuesday, as this book is officially being published today. Fans of Patricia MacLachlan (and there are many) will be excited about a new release.

Unfortunately, this one just isn't up to par with "Sarah, Plain and Tall", or "The Facts and Fictions of Minna Pratt". I liked the premise, but as a former teacher, I had a very hard time believing this entire class of fourth graders remained exceptionally well-behaved for all of this author's visits, turning out poems that were just a little too mature and well-done to be realistic.

Don't get me wrong, I love fourth graders! They are just getting to be smart without getting to be smart, if you know what I mean. Fourth grade is where you would most likely find a few kids who could and would turn out some good, honest writing, but - all of them? And why does it all seem to be poetry, when the original examples given were mostly from stories? Also, while there were crises (a bit formulaic) in different children's lives, there was no clear building to a climax and satisfying resolution.

That is not to say it is without merit. Kids in this age group who already love to write, love to read, and love Patricia MacLachlan, willl melt into this book. With a reasonable suspension of disbelief, it is a very sweet story, quickly read. It's biggest value may be in its insight into MacLachlan's mind. I can see this being given to aspiring young writers, with an encouraging inscription on the inside cover, to be read and reread when the muse fails.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Nonfiction Monday: Goal! The Fire and Fury of Soccer's Greatest Moment, by Mark Stewart and Mike Kennedy

Not being terribly athletic ourselves (we prefer sitting around under a heat lamp), we thought it might take a little time to get into a book about soccer. We were hooked from the very beginning, though, as we learned that Edward III out-lawed 'foot-ball', and early church leaders thought the devil was responsible for the way the ball bounced!
From a general history of the sport, we go into famous games and spectacular goals, famous soccer players, and a list of world records. The text is written in a fashion that makes us think of someone telling about an exciting play they saw in last night's game. Apathetic sportsters like ourselves will find themselves engaged, and sports fans will love it. Definitely one to add to the library, especially for those reluctant readers!
Review copy provided by publisher. Click on the picture link to order your own copy, then go here for reviews of more great nonfiction books.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Chapter Book Thursday: A Conspiracy of Kings, by Megan Whelan Turner

We are spent. We have finished reading Turner's series (so far - please don't let this be the last one!). We highly recommend that everyone read these books (if there is anyone left in the world besides us who didn't discover them long ago), We do NOT recommend you read them back-to-back in one giant marathon - for the simple reason that you will be useless to anyone else, as we were. You may TRY to stop reading and, say, cook a meal for your family, but your mind will be so entrenched in Attolia/Eddis/Sounis and the various political intrigues, that you will see conspiracies everywhere, probably giving your toddler a little more credit for planning and sneakiness than you should (then again, maybe not).

For long-time fans of the series, this one should not disappoint. The first chapter immediately answers a burning question from the last and gives readers a huge sigh of relief. If parts of the ending are less than surprising, it is because we have grown accustomed to Turner's characters being smarter than us, and thus getting themselves out of jams we would stay hopelessly mired in.

So, Ms. the next one ready yet??!!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Retro Tuesday: Attolia series continued

Continuing the vein of last week's Retro Tuesday, we can't believe we missed this series. Have we had our collective heads under a rock? Well, we are water turtles, so we may have been doing just that. At any rate, we are very glad to have found it now, and sad that we are only 100 or so pages away from finishing the last of the series, A Conspiracy of Kings.
When we posted last week, we had just started reading The Queen of Attolia, and we mentioned how very different in tone it was.  The first few chapters were pretty horrific, and we missed the humor of The Thief. Fortunately, as most readers will know, the humor did return, without losing the seriousness of the storyline. What amazed us was (slight spoiler) how we could hate someone so thoroughly at the start of the book, and love and root for her at the end. Of course, Eugenides might wonder the same thing. Excellent, excellent books, and we are now torn between wanting to devour the latest, and wanting to stretch it out to make it last!

Monday, May 10, 2010

48 Hour Book Challenge!

What could be better than an excuse to skip the chores and read all weekend? Why, doing it all in the name of a worthy cause! Hop on over to Mother Reader and read about the 48 Hour Book Challenge. If you have a blog, sign up, and think about linking it to your favorite charity.

If you don't have a blog, then you just aren't as cool as we turtles (Fegan says we have to say "just kidding" here). You can't sign up for the contest, but you can still take the weekend to read - and post about it here! Let us know how much time you got away with, what you read, and what you thought of it.

Nonfiction Monday: Jamaica and Iran - Lerner's Country Explorers series

Other books from this series have been popular here with report writers, so we were pleased to receive these two to review. The bright, inviting covers (not to mention the manageable size) make them among the first selected off the shelf. The text is simple and short, paired with beautiful photographs and fun sidebars - in the Jamaica edition, for example, an imagined postcard from a visitor faces a guide to speaking patois.

One characteristic we really like about this series is the relevance to kids. Yes, we do learn about climate and imports/exports, but never in a dry fashion. We also learn that schools in both Iran and Jamaica are so crowded, kids have to share the school day, and in Iran boys and girls go to different schools! Those are the kinds of things we would have found interesting as young turtles.

At the end of the book we have those report essentials: a picture of the flag, and a list of 'vital statictics' (population, landforms, etc.), followed by glossary, index, and websites. We like seeing a table of contents and index in shorter books - perhaps not really needed, but they can help kids learn to use them, so that bigger books don't seem so cumbersome later.

A great series for any library or classroom! If you choose to order by clicking on the picture links, we receive a small portion of the proceeds for our library. For more great nonfiction reviews, click here.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Chapter Book Thursday: The Birthday Ball by Lois Lowry, Illustrated by Jules Feiffer

We have mixed feelings about this one, and we have decided it is the author's fault for being who she is. Lois Lowry has long been a name synonymous with good literature that makes you think and feel deeply, and - well - this is not that type of book.
It is, however, a very funny and charming story. Princess Patricia Priscilla is about to turn 16, at which point she will have to choose between three suitors, each more repugnant (and improbable) than the last. She decides to try the peasant life for a change, and begins sneaking out every day to attend the village school, under the tutelage of the handsome new young schoolmaster. You can see where this is going, right? Nothing about the story is terribly subtle, and the characters are not at all believable, but it is, as we said, funny and charming. Hand this to girls who like princess stories (or potty jokes), but don't expect them to remember the story a year later.
Completely unrelated favorite line: "You always knew exactly where you stood with a rat, and they were edible as well."

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Picture Book Wednesday: Who Will Plant a Tree?, by Jerry Pallotta, illustrated by Tom Leonard

Pallotta is one of the more prolific authors of children's nonfiction these days, and fortunately he is not one for whom quality drops off as time goes by. Who Will Plant a Tree is an easy, interesting read, chock full of facts. Creatures throughout the animal kingdom (ending with children in a classroom) 'plant' different types of trees as they move through their everyday lives. In addition to the different ways animals help seeds travel, we see the different shapes and sizes a seed can come in, from juniper berries to chestnut burrs to coconuts. Leonard's big, clear pictures complete the text, to make this an excellent read-aloud for any class beginning a unit on plants.
We received our copy from Sleeping Bear Press for review consideration. If you order one for yourself - which we highly recommend - and do so through the picture link above, we will receive a small portion of the proceeds, to buy more materials for our library.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Retro Tuesday: The Thief, by Megan Whelan Turner

Publisher's description:
"The king's scholar, the magus, believes he knows the site of an ancient treasure. To attain it for his king, he needs a skillful thief, and he selects Gen from the king's prison. The magus is interested only in the thief's abilities. What Gen is interested in is anyone's guess. Their journey toward the treasure is both dangerous and difficult, lightened only imperceptibly by the tales they tell of the old gods and goddesses."
We have no idea how we missed this one for so long - a Newbery Award winner, and the type of historical fantasy we like. While the characters' journey may be, as the publisher's description states, "dangerous and difficult", the story itself is lighthearted and fast-paced, with a suprise ending that truly took us by surprise as well as leaving us chortling with glee (and yes, turtles do chortle with glee - as well as write really long, run-on sentences at times.)
We are now halfway through The Queen of Attolia, the second book of the series, and it came as quite a shock. It is just as good as the first book, but much darker - we haven't chortled once. We received an ARC of the fourth book from the publisher, and now we are playing catch-up before we get to it. Our goal is to be able to review that one Thursday or Friday, so stay tuned!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Nonfiction Monday: Thank-you, Sarah! The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving, by Laurie Halse Anderson

Not a brand new book, but not so old that the link shouldn't have a picture on Amazon - a little disappointed here. Not disappointed in the book at all, however. We ran across this little gem when looking to update our Thanksgiving collection. It arrived, was processed, and a day later we had a young lady in, wanting to know if we had any books about Sarah Hale for the report she was doing. Every once in a while, librarians get to look absolutely brilliant when they can say, "Why yes, right over there on the new books shelf, bottom row, third book in."

In addition to offering us our brief moment of serendipity, Thank-you Sarah is a perfect combination of humor and history, challenging the idea that biographies about dead people must be serious and boring (we don't know who exactly it is that subscribes to that idea, but they sure do write a lot of books). Our young patron and her mother were at first skeptical about the value of a picture book, but lit up when they saw the copious (and interesting!) notes in the back, and we are sure once they took the book home and read it, they were happy with the story as well.

A must-have for any classroom or library, and a fun read for any age. While you are at it, hop on over to Anderson's blog and check out some of her video entries - this book reads exactly like she talks! Then skip over here for reviews of some more great nonfiction books.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Stor Starter Saturday

For a description of Story Starter Saturday or to continue a previous story, click on the tag below.

Today's beginning:

The horse pawed restlessly at the ground, a beast eagerly waiting for...