Monday, October 29, 2012

Bear Has a Story to Tell

The Steads have collaborated again and the result, Bear Has a Story to Tell, is a book well worth owning.  I gave it to my son for his 5th birthday, and it has been loved by everyone in our family.

The story begins with a tired bear: It was almost winter and Bear was getting sleepy. But first, Bear had a story to tell...  Bear goes from mouse to duck to toad to mole seeking an ear to hear the story he has to tell.  But alas, it is late fall and everyone is busy preparing for winter, so Bear's story has to wait.  The story is quite charming, and I love its circular nature and homage to the story telling process.  

And the illustrations.  Oh, the illustrations.  If you have read any of my posts on Erin Stead's work, you know that I love her style of art.  The detailed simplicity and carefully chosen and used colors create scenes that tell the story and move the seasons from fall to winter to spring.  The Steads have collaborated again to create a picture book where the art and story equal each other.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Princess Academy: Palace of Stone

Fall has been flying by for me.  Mostly it has been the same old but we have had family visiting and some traveling.  One trip was a train ride to New York for a girls trip and so I could attend the KidLitCon.  It was a fast trip filled with hot chocolate, rain boots and Mary Poppins the musical - I highly recommend it.  I also went to the KidLitCon pre-conference which consisted of visiting two publishing houses for a fall preview.  I loved it.  It was so fun to watch as a panel of editors talked about books, about to come into the hands of readers, that they clearly loved and had spent a lot of time reading and editing.  Their enthusiasm was contagious.  I now have a huge pile of books that I can't wait to read and a few with bookmarks placed in the beginning just waiting for me to be decisive.

But one book I have finished this fall is Shannon Hale's latest book, a sequel to Newbery Honor Princess Academy - Palace of Stone. As I type this and look at the cover above I can't help but wish it had an illustrated cover as Princess Academy did - I love illustrated covers.  But alas, it does not and I suppose I too must follow the old adage that I quote to my daughter often as I hand her an older book to read -  "don't judge a book by its cover."

I really enjoyed this book.  It was a fast paced read with many of the same characters I came to love in the first book.  And yet it was a book in its own right with new characters, plot and growth that is not dependent upon the first story.  Miri and the academy girls (Peder comes along to work as an apprentice for a stone carver) come down Mount Eskel to the capital for the wedding of Britta and Prince Steffan.  When they arrive things are not as they imagined and the capital is on the verge of a revolution.  Miri is attending the local academy and is learning not only academics but of the revolution from her new friend Timon.

Miri is torn between opposites in all direction: Peder and Timon, the wealthy and the "shoeless" and loyalty and new found friends.  The French Revolution echoes through and influences Hale's creation of Miri's Revolution.  And the result is an enjoyable story with thought-provoking conflict and relationships. The first half of the story reads a little slower than the second half as it is filled with set-up.  However, that being said, it is the detail and description throughout that make Miri's tale captivating.