Sunday, July 7, 2013
The story begins: “There was one little baby who was born far away. And another who was born on the very next day. And both of these babies, as everyone knows, had ten little fingers and ten little toes.”
The book continues to introduce children, born all over the world, some with sneezes and chills and others wrapped in eiderdowns, but all of the children "had ten little fingers and ten little toes.” This simple refrain points out the common in all of us.
The illustrations match the simplicity of the text. Drawn in pencil and watercolor the images are large and uncluttered surrounded by a lot of white space on the page. Babies are introduced in pairs and as the story progresses the babies continue on to meet the others - each one as huggable as the next.
We have the full size board book version of this book and love it. Whether you are looking for a good book to add to your young child collection or a gift for an upcoming baby shower - this is a book you will not be sad to have or give.
Sunday, May 5, 2013
I’ve decided that May is the new January for me this year. Or perhaps it is the promise of spring and warm weather ahead, but we finally seem to be crawling out of a winter filled with the usual sickness and stuck indoors-ness. And I am ready. I am ready to de-clutter my house, paint my walls a new color, plant spring flowers and share my favorite books. So welcome back. Here’s to a great (new) start to the year. Welcome Spring.
One book that has been pulled off the shelves time and time again this winter is Bob Staake’s new book, Look! Another Book! It is everything you loved about Look! A Book! but with new pictures to peruse and lists to find. The colors are bright and the quirky, creative illustrations fill every corner of space – telling their own mini stories throughout the book.
My 5-year-old son LOVES this book. It always makes his stack of books to study during quiet time. He is a reader in progress so he needs help with the lists – but can spend hours flipping from page to page in search of just one more robot. Or, by himself, he finds everything that makes him laugh on the page. And trust me, there is a lot to find.
Thursday, December 20, 2012
The month of December is quickly passing and somehow Christmas is just around the corner. If you are like me you are frantically finishing up the last loose ends of shopping and so I thought I would post about one of our latest reads in case the last thing on your list is a great book. Starry River of the Sky is Grace Lin's latest book and is considered a companion novel to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.
Starry River of the Sky features Rendi a young boy who has run away from home and is working as a helping hand at the inn in the Village of Clear Sky. It is a village where nothing is quite right. Master Chao, the innkeeper, and Widow Yang are always fighting, Peiyi and Rendi don't get along and her brother is gone to who knows where. Mr. Shan is a permanent guest at the inn who appears clueless and forgetful but every so often makes a comment that makes Rendi question how crazy he really is. And the moon. It is missing. But only Rendi seems to notice its absence and the loud crying that comes every night.
But one day Madame Chang comes to stay as a guest at the inn and with her arrival begins the telling of enchanting tales. The stories are craftily woven throughout the book, each bearing significance in the greater story and the unraveling of the conclusion. And for the readers of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, some of the tales will ring familiar.
Grace Lin's lyrical writing creates a magical story that left my kids begging for "just one more" chapter each night. And the complexity of plot combined with the beautiful writing made me more than happy to oblige.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
For the past month and a half our nights have been filled with Grace Lin's Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. It was published in 2009 and was a Newbery Honor recipient. Our local librarian recommended it as a great book for my seven-year-old so we read it aloud one (or two, or three or more) chapter a night. My five-year-old came in and out of listening - but in the end both really loved this book.
Minli lives at the foot of Fruitless Mountain in a small shack with her Ma and Ba. Her life is filled with hard work, sparse rice and nightly folktale stories by her Ba. When Minli hears the story of the Old Man of the Moon, who knows the answers to life's most important questions, she decides to leave in the middle of the night to seek him out and change her fortune.
The story follows her journey to meet the Old Man of the Moon and the many adventures she encounters. Along the way she meets Dragon, who can not fly and has only ever been called Dragon. He decides to join Minli and ask the Old Man of the Moon to help him fly. Along the way they encounter a monkey filled jungle, a meeting with the King, and a ferocious green tiger, among other things.
This story is well-written and magical. I love the folktales that are intertwined throughout the main story. Each story adds to the mystique of the novel as well as being an important part of the final woven tale. My daughter fell in love with this story and with Grace Lin as an author. She is on a quest to read all things Grace Lin and whenever she hears a big, seemingly unanswerable, question she says, "That is a question for the Old Man of the Moon."
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Lemony Snicket (aka Daniel Handler) has struck again with his latest book "Who Could That Be at This Hour?" I enjoyed this book from start to finish and loved the quirky characters from the elusive Ellington to the car driving duo Pip (who sits on the yellow pages and works the wheel) and Squeak (who sits on the floor and pushes the brakes.)
A young Lemony Snicket, 12-years-old to be exact, has taken his first case as an apprentice to one Miss S. Theodora Markson. There was a list of 52 chaperones and of said chaperones S. Theodora Markson was 52nd but as Lemony said, "She was not excellent at her job, and this was why I wanted to be her apprentice."
Lemony ends up at Stain'd-by-the-Sea - a deserted town, with a drained sea. They take their first case in procuring and returning The Bombinating Beast to its rightful owner, presumably Mrs. Murphy Sallis. As the story unravels it becomes clear why S. Theodora Markson is not great at her job and the case is further complicated. The Bombinating Beast does not appear to be Mrs. Murphy Sallis' and Snicket and Markson are not the only ones after it. Meanwhile everyone seems to be asking all the wrong questions.
As is to be expected from author Lemony Snicket, this is a great read. Snicket has a quick witted edge to his style of writing that is not to be duplicated. The characters are interesting and varied and at the story's end, the reader will have more questions unanswered than when she began. This is the first of what will be a four book series and while it does not have the biting darker edge that the Unfortunate Events series does it delivers the same quirky and fun tone that readers will love.
I highly recommend this for the middle graders on your list this holiday season.
I received this book from the publisher but all opinions are my own.
Monday, November 12, 2012
I just finished Kelly Barnhill's latest novel Iron Hearted Violet. It is a longer novel - over 400 pages - aimed at a middle grade audience. The hook on the cover says, "The end of their world begins with a story. This one."
Violet is an intelligent, determined, adventurous, but not very pretty, Princess who is beloved by her kingdom. Her best friend is a stable boy, Demetrius, who is constant and kind and loves to explore with Violet. When Violet's father, King Randall, sets out with a party on a quest to capture the last living dragon everything begins to unravel. Violet's mother falls sick and Violet begins exploring the hidden corners and takes a book, a forbidden book, through which she begins communicating with the Nybbas - the evil 13th God. With the Nybbas trying to escape his imprisonment and gain power - the world as they know it hangs in the balance. Violet, Demetrius and the Dragon must work together to try and keep the Nybbas from overtaking their world.
This is a beautifully written book. Barnhill weaves together internal stories to create a complete tale and an interesting and appealing world. The story has many facets to it and touches on some more serious themes on its way to a emotionally conflicting ending.
I really enjoyed the relationship between Violet and Demetrius. The realness of their friendship was one of the keys for me that carried the book. In the middle of the book Violet becomes very unlikeable, perhaps too flawed, but it is this relationship and the hope associated with it that carried me through waiting for Violet to grow and develop.
The story is told by the master storyteller of the kingdom - Cassian. The telling, and sometimes lack of telling, of stories is essential to the plot at large so I can see why Barnhill choose this point of view. At the same time I sometimes felt this to be a little too intrusive and would have preferred a younger narrator with less overall knowledge. It would have helped, specifically in the middle of the story, to have known Violet on a more personal level and seen the world through her eyes.
Overall, I found this to be an enjoyable read set in a complex world. I think the character development could have been stronger, but that the development of the world and its stories was very strong and created an interesting setting for a story that twists and turns to a hopeful, although not happy, ending.
I received this book from the publisher but all opinions are my own.
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
My baby just turned two. Hard to believe. She had a fun balloon filled birthday and she thought it was fantastic. Her grandmother sent out a birthday package and inside was Deborah Underwood's The Quiet Book. This book was new to us and we loved reading through it.
The entire book is understated. On a two page spread, one page is simple with a white background while the other has a more detailed illustrations and background. Each page has a huggable furry animal with a one line sentence telling about some kind of quiet: "Hide and seek quiet," "Last one to get picked up from school quiet,""First snowfall quiet."
With few words, this book is able to bring forward the varying emotions that can come along with quiet: excited, sad, scared, awe, naughty and peaceful. This is a great book to read through slowly and I am sure will be enjoyed in our house amidst all of the varying degrees of quiet.