Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Oh No, George! by Chris Haughton

Last year my youngest son and I loved Chris Haughton's Little Owl Lost. This year he is equally smitten with Oh No, George!

George is a tubby and loveable dog who really wants to be good for his owner Harry, but how can he when he loves to dig in the dirt and chase the cat?  What will George do? is the common refrain which begs kids to answer back. George is delightfully naughty and later repents, offering Harry his favorite toy as a peace offering. Harry takes George walking where he has a second chance to behave encountering more dirt and the cat. What will George do? Read along and have fun.

Also, there's a storytime waiting to happen if you can round up another dog-named-George-book.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Game of Thrones: Deep Thoughts

After waiting several months on the gigantic waiting list of doom for it to finally be my turn, I recently had the privilege of actually watching Game of Thrones. I had already read the first two books in the series so I was well aware of what I was in for. I am almost finished the third book and am still enjoying the series. Here are some of my thoughts:

The books have a lot of people in them. A lot. I couldn't keep up for the first two books so I just started ignoring people who didn't seem that important. You know what?  I think my strategy worked. The TV series wisely cuts down on them to the point where the show is as strong or maybe even stronger than the first book.

Peter Dinklage is awesome. He is everything Tyrion should be. And one of the most interesting characters both in the books and on the show. I am on tenterhooks in book three to see where his story goes.

What the eff is up with Daenerys hair!?! And her brothers hair? Holy mother of bad wigs. I was overjoyed when her brother finally died and I could stop looking at his hair. Daenerys has always been one of my least favorite characters. In the third book I can see she might have some potential, but not enough that I didn't wish she'd just go away.

Arya is going to be awesome in season two. She is one of my favorite characters. I love how tough she is even though she's just a young 'un. In the third book she starts spending time with the Hound and I CANNOT wait to find out where that goes. The Hound is so freakin' interesting. What is going on in that head of his? What are his motivations? You know, besides hating his brother for burning half his face off.

The Saturday Night Live skit with Andy Samberg was pretty on target.

The actor playing Jon Snow is dreamy.

I'm really happy that Martin kills off main characters. It is a pet peeve of mine where only secondary and unbeloved characters die. That being said, I'm awfully sad at some of the deaths. But then, by the end of the first book I wished some people dead and now in the third they've become some of the most interesting characters. Case in point: Jaimie Lannister.

Speaking of Jamie Lannister, the actor playing him looks exactly like Prince Charming in Shrek. It is uncanny.

Chris Van Dusen

I stumbled across this picture book author/illustrator when I picked up one of his newer books - Randy Riley's Really Big Hit. My son had just finished his first season of t-ball and so I was looking for baseball books to read with him. This one couldn't have fit the bill better. It is about a boy (Randy Riley, of course) who can't play baseball very well. He likes it. He has fun. But he just isn't all that good at it. Of course, when he spies a giant flaming meteor headed toward earth he has to combine his love of science, robots, and baseball to save the earth. This book is a blast. I loved reading it because it has a great rhythm and practically begs to be read aloud. And I loved that Randy Riley didn't let the fact that he wasn't good at something affect his enjoyment of it. He was good at other stuff, he didn't have to be good at everything. I really liked the illustrations too. Retro inspired robots, mid-century modern houses, it is quite a nice looking book. It is also obviously the author/illustrator's style because after reading this title we quickly moved on to the rest of them.

We particularly enjoyed Circus Ship. Once again, it is very fun to read aloud with a nice rhyming rhythm. And a very cute story where a big bad circus owner loses his circus animals in a storm. They wash up on the shore in a small sea-side town. At first the townspeople think the circus animals are pests, but they soon discover that they are actually pretty handy to have around. The image where the animals are hiding in plain site was a particular favorite with my son who poured over the pages and giggled when he discovered the camel hiding as as a heap of straw and the Tiger camouflaged with the hanging laundry.

The Mr. Magee books are also very cute. We particularly enjoyed Learning to Ski with Mr. Magee because of the huge ravine and danger. My son LOVED it when the moose was climbing over the "bridge" only to discover a very worried looking Magee directly underneath him. He was less thrilled with A Camping Spree with Mr. Magee, but I attribute that a bit to his lack of understanding of how camping works and so the hijinx didn't resonate with him as much as it could have. I'm looking forward to reading Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee next.

If the artwork on these covers looks familiar, it might be because Van Dusen illustrates the Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo!
Book Source = Library Copies

Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham and illustrated by Paul O Zelinsky

Z is for Moose is a title that I keep running into. My Goodreads suggests it, Amazon suggests it, my kidlit blogs suggest it, and finally my children's librarian handed it to me knowing my son would like it.

It's a hilarious twist on alphabet books. Moose just wants to be in the stage production. He jumps ahead of line into D and is told by Zebra, the director, that he is on the wrong page. Anxious Moose sneaks into letters H-L ready for his big entrance for M... except M is for mouse. Oh no, poor Moose doesn't handle that well at all and Zebra's solution, way at the end of the alphabet, makes for a great story of friendship.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Earwig and the Witch by Diana Wynne Jones

Diana Wynne Jones passed away last year. (Read Neil Gaiman's journal.) Earwig and the Witch , Greenwillow Books 2012, has the distinction of being her final book. It clocks in at a jaunty 128 pages, including full page illustrations by Paul O. Zelinsky, and is marketed for ages 8 and up. It really would make an excellent read aloud for even younger children.

There is so much to love:
Earwig, a feisty orphan with and a penchant for getting people to do what she wants,
A mean witch for a foster parent,
A demon for the other,
Thomas the talking cat,
A house with magic rooms,
Spells gone awry,
Several references to (British) food.

As enjoyable as this story is on its own, readers will pick up on several loose ends like Earwig's witch parents who left a note about coming back for her, Earwig's BFF Custard who is still at the orphanage, and what will Earwig do now that she is also capable of magic. Perhaps Diana Wynne Jones planned a sequel. Maybe there's a manuscript somewhere out there. (Sing it with me Fievel .."beneath the pale moonlight. Some-one's thinking of me and loving me tonight." /silliness) Still, the story works on its own merits and kids can imagine all the future hijinks Earwig and her crew cook up.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen recently earned the 2012 Boston Globe-Horn Book Picture Book Award. Visually the book is such a treat. I sincerely adore Jon Klassen and both of my sons loved seeing Bear and Rabbit make an appearance in this story. Sneaky!

Annabelle finds a magic box of never-ending yarn. She in turn knits sweaters for every one and every thing in her small woodland town. But lo, an evil archduke desires the yarn and Annabelle refuses to sell it to him. He puts a curse on her.

Which doesn't work.

I love it! I love that he can do nothing to her. Curses aren't real. If you currently have The Giving Tree as your book about selflessness and citizenship, toss it and put this one it its place. Barnett and Klassen offer a much better book to ponder.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On: Things about Me

I first heard about Marcel when I caught a news interview with Jenny Slate, the SNL castmember who was fired in 2010 not long after dropping the f-bomb on live tv.  I immediately checked out the Marcel videos online to see what the fuss was about, and, well, then totally forgot about him.

I saw this book on display at my library and snatched it up. Sure, the videos were cute and odd, but how would that make for a children's book?

Both of my sons enjoyed this book.  The 8 year old gets the odd humor. He also likes reading the cursive.  The 3 year old likes pointing out what Marcel is doing even if he doesn't get why Marcel thinks playing is a soup ladle is fun.

Our favorite part? Going to bread. Both boys giggled over this and it became a nightly joke. "I'm going to bread! I'm in my breadroom going to bread!!" A bonus: The book may work as a before bed story because it ends with Marcel going to bed and asking the reader to close the book.  Another of Marcel's great qualities.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Two more great books

I've been reading up a storm. Somehow life arranged itself so I could read both of these yesterday and watch several episodes of Game of Thrones. What luck! Both were fabulous so that might have helped with the quick reading. I also managed to make dinner. How awesome am I?

Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks
A YA graphic novel that was fantastic. It looks like you can read the first 20 pages online! I loved the art, the kids were so expressive and everyone looked very hip and cool (and freaking adorable) regardless of what "type" they were. The story was really good too and it is basically a coming of age story with a couple of twists. I enjoyed following Maggie on her first day of high school after being homeschooled by her mother. Her older brothers are already at the high school, but this will be the first time she's ever gone to school with other kids. As you can imagine, it is a big changd. I really liked the family dynamic, the policeman father, the absent mother, the 3 older brothers who all had distinct and lovely personalities.I enjoyed her new friends as well (and her potential love interest). There was a secondary story throughout about a ghost that didn't work as well for me. I didn't hate it, it just didn't feel that well integrated into the story.
[library copy]

The Year of the Beasts by Cecil Castellucci (art by Nate Powell)
This one grew on me as I read along. It had a powerhouse of an ending that left me sobbing - so be forewarned before you read. I went into this knowing nothing other than the fabulous Castellucci wrote it. I think this is a possible Printz contender. The writing was top-notch, the story was tight, and it had a graphic novel interspersed that as you read you begin to understand its connection to the story. A story of two sisters, jealousy, love, regret, and moving on. It is an emotional read that I bet a lot of people will flip to the front to re-read as soon as they put it down.
[library copy]

Sunday, June 10, 2012

John Green's Competition

I said a little while ago I thought John Green's newest was the strongest book that I had read so far in 2012. I think he's got some competition.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Holy moly, this one is good. No. This is a great one. A solid historical fiction that kept me on the edge of my seat for the entire book. It is set in WWII England, the war effort is revving up and two women become fast friends. One is a pilot, the other a spy. The spy gets caught and we get her version of events first, then her friends version. I was captivated the entire time. The characters are extremely well developed, especially since we are getting a very one-sided tale that we can't quite trust. The action and the drama are front and center and I believed every word. I loved how the second version of events explains what really happened in the first - because it is obvious something is going on beyond what is being told to us (I mean things are underlined for goodness sake. And we aren't told why!!!).  Brilliant. I think this has a good chance to win the Printz. I would have read this one cover to cover if life hadn't of gotten in the way.
[publisher copy]

Ask the Passengers by A.S. King
I love her books. I loved her Printz speech when she won her honor for Please Ignore Vera Dietz. My love for this book is no different (I actually think this one might be more of an honor book, but I think it is one that the committee will be discussing and taking second looks at). I knew nothing about this book going in, but I can tell that A.S. King has some overarching themes. Poor parenting being one. Once again, we've got some clueless parents and their cluelessness is having a serious impact on their teenage child. Simply put, Astrid is a lovely character to spend some time with. She's aware of her environment, self-effacing, but not to the point where she hates herself (just to the point where she is a hyper-aware of her environment and how it impacts her). Anyhow, she has decided to send her love off because she doesn't need it. She sends it to the passengers on the plane, she gives it to the people she meets, and it has some interesting repercussions. Normally, this type of thing can bug me. I don't always get along with magical realism. But just like Everyone Sees the Ants it worked for me. I thought it was well integrated into the story, I liked the breaks where we visit the passengers on the planes that Astrid sends her love to. And I really, really liked Astrid. I read this in less than a day.
[publisher copy- ARC]

Friday, June 8, 2012

Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey by Mini Grey

A new Mini Grey book is a wonderful thing and a new Mini Grey Traction Man adventure is a cause for celebration with party hats and cake. You know how Traction Man loves any excuse to break out a new outfit. Patti wrote about the first two books and was my first heads up on this one.

Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey (Brought to you by Beach-Time Brenda™ and the Flavor of Raspberry Ripple), published by Knopf, arrived the same day as Every Cowgirl Loves a Rodeo. That was a good day.

Traction Man, Scrubbing Brush, and family head out for a holiday at the ocean. Traction Man dons his new scuba suit to discover creatures of the rockpool, executes operation picnic, and spends quality time with Grandma's exuberant dog.

But alas, all is not calm in these seas. Soon our hero and his pet find themselves lost and in the strange company of Dollies, who turn out to be more tenacious than their sparkly pink appearance. It's a wonderful play on the image of ditzy Barbie lookalikes. Girls to the rescue!

The hilarious front end papers poke great fun at the dolls with quotes like "may disintegrate if wet" and "unrealistic vital statistics".  The manufacturer's description of the Dollies superficial potential versus what the girl and boy use them for is a great twist, the message being that what something looks like is not all it can be when you use your imagination. Like... Scrubbing Brush!

The back end papers include another comic strip that mimics the one from Traction Man Meets Turbo Dog. Reading all three books together will provide quite an activity for a child who can pick up on all of the inside jokes that Grey uses throughout the books. (For instance, they pack Hoopos snacks "ingeniously made of Potato! wear them or eat them!" for the beach which were used as medals in the first book.)

Brilliant and hilarious wonderfulness. A great addition to summer reading.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Every Cowgirl Loves a Rodeo and Jammy Dance by Rebecca Janni

I'm here with a belated double post today. Not only is a cousin of mine a children's book author, an author whose books can be purchased at Scholastic Book Fairs and Target, but she already released two books this year! Brava, Rebecca Janni!

First came Jammy Dance, published by FSG and illustrated by Tracy Dockray, which arrived on Valentine's Day. Jammy Dance began as a song Becky would sing to her kids at night to get them ready for bed. While the jumping and dancing don't exactly lend to sleepiness for my 3 year old, we do like reading it at night. The children at the end of the book snuggle together in bed and I love that image of sibling love.

The end of May brought the third book about our favorite cowgirl Nellie Sue. In Every Cowgirl Loves a Rodeo, published by Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin, spunky Nellie Sue takes Beauty to the county fair. She and Beauty enter a bike rodeo which, true to Nellie Sue style, results in wranglin' critters, a rescue, and a badge of honor. Nellie Sue's friend Anna returns and we meet a new boy, AJ, who is Nellie's competition in the rodeo. So lasso a youngster or two and give this one a read.

Today is the last day of school for the 3rd grader. Here's to a great summer and to lounging around reading!