Sunday, January 29, 2012

Dumpling Days

Dumpling Days is the newest novel by Grace Lin and an addition to her two previous books, Year of the Dog and Year of the Rat - featuring main character Pacy.  This is my first encounter with Grace Lin - or Pacy, the main character.  I am sure I would have more background on Pacy and her family had I read the previous two novels but this is a stand alone book that I could enjoy despite having not read them.  And I did enjoy it.

Pacy is American - born and raised - but her parents are from Taiwan.   For a month of their summer vacation, Pacy's family is going to Taiwan and she is not excited about it.  When they arrive in Taiwan, she yearns for the quiet of her small suburban city.  Taiwan is loud; she does not like her painting class, even though at home she has a talent for art; and she can't read or speak the language.

The story highlights the void in which Pacy finds herself.  She is American, but in her small town she stands out as the only Asian-American in her class, and in Taiwan people think she is Taiwanese and do not understand why she can not speak the language.   Lin does a great job of bringing Pacy's search to define herself to the forefront so that any reader who has ever felt lost in the middle can relate.

Pacy learns about ghosts in Taiwan, eats chicken feet and stinky tofu, gets lost, has her fortune told and struggles to find herself and what is important to her during her month in Taiwan.  But there is not a bad day that dumplings will not help make better.

This is a great read that I highly recommend.  It is recommended for grades 3 and up, and I think that recommendation is about right.  I think readers from ages 7 to 11 or so will love this book.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, but all opinions are my own.  

Monday, January 23, 2012

Hunger Games

My husband and I are on a trip (sans children) so posting is light and pre-scheduled this week.  For our trip I suggested he read The Hunger Games.  I loved the series and am excited to see the movie in March - so I want him to be ready to watch with me.  I think the trailer looks awesome.  I might have him write up a review after he reads it . . .

The ALA book awards are announced today - go check out the results at ALA.  

Thursday, January 19, 2012

ALA Awards

The American Library Association Awards are announced this upcoming Monday.  I always love to see which books win - it enviably adds some books to my reading list.  I especially have a fondness for picture books so I love to follow the Caldecott winners.  Last year my favorite book won - A Sick Day for Amos McGee - I love the story and illustrations. Here are a couple of picture books I have enjoyed this year:

I loved Wonderstruck - both the story and illustrations.  I would have to guess that this is a frontrunner. My other two are probably not frontrunners but were two that I loved and thought were beautifully illustrated:

I am not very well read on candidates for Newbery winners but one I did enjoy this year was the third instillation of The Penderwicks.  

Monday, January 16, 2012

Enna Burning

I love Shannon Hale's style of writing.  Both The Goose Girl and Princess Academy (a sequel is coming this year!) are beautifully written and create such magical worlds and compelling characters.  So when I saw Enna Burning at my local library, I checked it out.  It is by no means new - having been published in 2006, but despite my love of the other two novels I had never read the rest of her writing.  Enna Burning is a companion book to The Goose Girl - it takes place in the Bayern world but is a story about Enna, previously a supporting character.

Bayern is set to go to war and Enna is not content to sit around and do nothing.  Enna's brother, Leifer, comes upon a piece of vellum in the forest from which he learns to command fire.  Enna wants nothing to do with these powers but with the onset of war everything changes.  Enna uses the piece of vellum to gain a power over fire and an ability to help with the war.  But fire is powerful and the urge to burn is strong - Enna has to learn how to use fire for good and not let it destroy her and everything and one around her.

I thought this was a very fun story and written very well in typical Shannon Hale style.  I think The Goose Girl is still my favorite but I would highly recommend this - especially to those who love Shannon Hale.

Friday, January 13, 2012

All Kinds of Kisses

This month Nancy Tafuri put out a new picture book - All Kinds of Kisses. It is a simple story that depicts farm animals sharing kisses with their young - baaa kisses, cheep kisses and mooo kisses.  The story begins with a beautiful blue mama bird sharing a kiss with her baby.   She can then be seen throughout the book flying through the farm with worms and caterpillars in her mouth on her way back to her baby.  The illustrations are beautiful and are done in pencil and painted with watercolors.  The animals who are kissing are always featured at the front of the illustration and are very large making their colors and strokes very visible and vibrant.

 I read this with my four-year-old son and although the text is simple he loved reading the pictures - following the bird from page to page and trying to find repetition in the other animals.  He found a snail repeated on a few pages and was quite excited.   This is a beautifully illustrated picture book for a young audience and a great bedtime story.

I received a review copy of this book - however, all opinions are my own.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Mr. Popper's Penguins

We just finished listening to Mr. Popper's Penguins written by Richard and Florence Atwater.  My children were excited to read the book after their grandmother told them how the book had been one of her favorites as a child.  The story was originally published in 1938 and is a fun read.  Mr. Popper is a painter in the small town of Stillwater but has always wanted to travel the world - specifically to the two poles.  Mr. Popper writes a letter to Admiral Drake, an explorer of the North Pole, who in turn unexpectedly sends him a penguin.  The Poppers name the penguin Captain Cook and the adventures begin. Handles are put on the inside of refrigerators, ice skating rinks put into basements, Captain Cook finds some penguin friends, and the Popper's have to find a way to support their new penguins.

My six and four year old loved this book!  They were so engaged by the story that we had to bring the cd's in from the car and finish it in the house because there just wasn't enough driving for them to get their fill.  We rented the new movie starring Jim Carrey this weekend and thought it was a fun movie - albeit very different from the book.  When I asked my kids which they preferred - the book or the movie - they both said the book.  Hooray!

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Every January I am resolute.  I started this blog in January of 2008 and wrote exactly one post.  In 2009 - I resolved again - only to get one post again.  But in 2011 I started out once again and wrote 77 posts!  Here's to 2012 - and even more reading and blogging.

We made a lot of trips to the library over the break and the big winner this holiday was the audio book.  We love audio books at our house. It seems we spend quite a bit of time in the car and instead of it seeming never-ending my kids are asking me to "please don't turn the car off" when we pull into the driveway.  If we didn't have a baby who does not like a stopped car I think we might never get out.

One of our great audio finds at the library is Roald Dahl's Matilda. I know this book is forever old but my children (especially my six-year-old) and my husband and I found this fantastically funny.  I had read this as a child and found it every bit as funny now - perhaps more.  Matilda is the story of a five year old girl who is exceptionally precocious.  She loves to read but upon asking her parents for books she is told to just watch the tellie.  She finds the library and begins to read - really read - like the complete works of Charles Dickens.  When she enters school (late because her parents did not get around to it) her teacher, Miss Honey, quickly sees that Matilda should be moved up to the highest class.  However, Miss Trunchbull, the horrible headmistress, will hear nothing of it.  What ensues are unbelievable tales of Miss Trunchbull's cruelness and hilarious stories of children trying to outwit her.  If you, or any child you know,  have not read this recently - I highly recommend a quick trip to the library.