31 August 2009

What's on My Desk September 2009

Ten Flashing Fireflies by Philemon Sturges and Anna Vojtech. Preschool level. DONE
This dimly-lit book shows children delighting in catching that perpetual favorite summer bug - the firefly (which I insist is a lightning bug). This was on a list of summer reads for preschoolers. Thumbs up.
Disney's Little Mermaid Read-Along. Children's Fiction. 1st - 3rd grade level. Comes with book, cassette, and CD-ROM. DONE.
I like that this set held by my library is flexible. I was able to use both the cassette and the CD at different times. It doesn't fully utilize the CD-ROM to add games, etc. but that isn't supposed to be the focus anyway. It is supposed to help children read better by learning to recognize words and sounds, which it does well. I will have to check out more in this series.
Recess Queen by Alexis O'Neill and Laura Huliska-Beith. Ages 3-6. DONE.
Mean Jean is the class bully. How will new kid Katie Sue interact with the bully? The text is sing-songy, like chants on a playground and the author makes up some words. This is a pretty entertaining book with a suprising and satisfying ending.
One Tractor: A Counting Book by Alexandra Siy and Jacqueline Rogers. Ages 3-5. DONE.
A boy plays with his toys outdoors and imagines adventures featuring little pretend people in and around his toys. The lettering is large and clear and the pictures give a soft, outdoorsy feel to the book.
Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner. YA Fiction. DONE.
I didn't know anything about this book when I checked it out. It is really, really sad. Sorrow over the main character's dead sister permeates the book. The book is set after a devastating war between humans and faeries where people have tried to banish magic, but it keeps coming back. Can 15 year old Liza find peace about her sister's death? Can they fight the magic or should they give in? Recommended for those into teen girl angst. This is one of those books I didn't want to put down. I had to know what would happen about baby Rebecca and her family. Fortunately it was short - 247 pages.
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult. Adult fiction. DONE.
Jodi Picoult does it again. Ask 10 readers which one is their favorite Picoult and you will get 10 different answers. These contemporary, American novels have a way of drawing in a wide variety of readers with modern dialogue and ethical topics. In this case, Anna is conceived to be an organ donor for her big sister, Kate. By age 13, she has had enough, however, and sues to be medically emancipated from her parents. It is heartbreaking. It is warm. It is impossible to put down! I did not guess the ending at all. (I didn't guess the ending of Nineteen Minutes either).
Disney Fairies Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure: A Read-Aloud Storybook by Lisa Marsoli and the Disney Storybook Artists. Ages 7-8. DONE.
Why does this say "read-aloud" it is WAY too long to read all at once. Maybe take 2 or 3 nights to read it.
Zoom, Zoom, Zoom: My First Reader by Kirsten Hall and Viviana Garofoli. Ages 2-5. DONE.
This is a good book for a beginning reader or any young child that enjoys vehicles. A little boy plays with his toy cars. That's all, but for the purposes of this book, that's enough. This is a very simple, quick read.
Anna's Table by Eve Bunting and Taia Morley. Ages 3-7. DONE
Anna collects things from her outdoor adventures (rocks, bones, feathers) and keeps them on her bedroom table to remind her of nature's wonders. Not recommended for the pack rat in the in the family, but for the rest of us it is a fine book.
Buried Treasure: All about Using a Map: Beastieville. by Kirsten Hall and Bev Luedecke. Ages 4-7. DONE.
Like Dora the Explorer, these characters learn to use a map. Luedecke has a style all her own with cartoon characters that could be Hallmark greeting card critters. Her pictures remind me of Suzy's Zoo.
The Scholastic web site says "every home and school with Preschoolers through first graders needs a set of Beastieville books in their library". I don't know that I would go that far, but it looks like this might be a set worth exploring. The book has a vocabulary list in the back, questions for the reader, and "let's talk about it" for comprehension testing.
Dora's Perfect Pumpkin: Ready-to-Read: Nick Jr. Dora the Explorer by Kirsten Larsen and Victoria Miller. Ages 4-6. DONE.
The back of the book says it is "level 1, starting to read, simple stories, increased vocabulary, longer sentences". Cool rebus icons show words like "pumpkin" and have the word "pumpkin" printed under them so students can read and identify the picture. I should find more rebus books to read. It reminds me of my "Highlights for Children" magazine childhood...
Ladybug at Orchard Avenue: Smithsonian's Backyard by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld and Thomas Buchs, narrated by Alexi Komisar. Audio plus book. Ages 4-7. DONE.
This nonfiction book follows the life of a ladybug. Illustrations are good, but the text and narration were boring. My audience lost interest and so did I.
Wild Wild Sunflower Child Anna by Nancy White Carlstrom and Jerry Pinkney. Ages 4-5. DONE.
This was on a list of books to encourage reading and love of nature. You can see the joy and curiousity on the main character's face. You can tell that she is a nature girl and loving life! I don't know if this book won any awards, but it is so joyful that it should have. Both the author and artist are famous, so it may have.
Relatives Came by Cynthia Ryland and Stephen Gammell. Audio cassette and book. Ages 4-7.
I wanted to tell you the name of the narrator, but it is not listed on the cassette or in our catalog. I heard it on the tape, but do not have that information in front of me. This is a Caldecott Honor book. I work with genealogy and have been to a number of reunions, so this book will go on my list of books for genealogists to read.
This is a hearty, earthy, funny book exaggerating what the author remembers about families visiting each other in the summers. It isn't a tall tale, but it reads like one. The author remembers so many people hugging and hugging and hugging some more, then laughing, sleeping on the floor, etc.
You never know which part is going to matter most to a child audience, however. The characters in the book are visiting from Virginia, so the narrator has a southern accent. My audience of Ohio children kept asking why she was talking funny and were distracted by the Virginia drawl. I thought that the accent was appropriate and the narrator did a good job. Everyone has their own opinion...
Sea Change by Aimee Friedman. YA fiction.
This is a romance/fantasy book set in current day New York and Georgia. I don't know how to say much more about this without giving away the ending. The main conflict is figuring out if Leo and maybe even Miranda (age 16), are merfolk, or if it is just Miranda's imagination. I was not really satisfied with the ending, but it did make some internal sense. I don't even know if I should recommend it or not, based on the ending.
Too Much Garbage by Fulvio Testa. Ages 3-7.
This is a precautionary tale about the problems of making more and more garbage. The text is simple and easy for a new reader to tackle. The pictures are rather Salvadore Dali-ish and the cover has an entertaining picture of a toilet being tossed out of a window. This was on a list recommended by our park system.
Limited Collector's Edition Disney Fairies TinkerBell and the Lost Treasure: A Read-Aloud Storybook adapted by Lisa Marsoli, art by the Disney Storybook Artists. Ages 7 or 8.
I don't know why they said this is "read-aloud". It is way too long to read aloud in one sitting. My library put it in with the preschool books, but there is far too much text for preschoolers. Once children are reading on their own, this is probably a fine book. The illustrations and story are fine, but I think this was advertised and cataloged incorrectly.
Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors by Joyce Sidman and Pamela Zagarenski. Ages 3-6.
The author writes about the colors of the seasons. This is probably a good book for teachers to use to inspire students (adult or children students) to write poetry about seasons. The artist uses pictures that look like cutouts. For some reason I could not explain to my child audience, the people and animals all wear crowns. It is amusing to look through the book to find all the tiaras, diadems, coronets, etc. I suspect the artist also hid some other things that I didn't find the first time around. Is that a whale in the background? Why is there a wagon wheel in the tree? I don't know but it is kind of funny to see it there. This was another on the parks reading list.
In the Woods: Who's Been Here? by Lindsay Barrett George. Ages 3-7.
Apparently I am not such a great naturalist because I am not able to guess "who's been here" without reading the book 3 or 4 times . I don't recognize animal tracks or scat or claw marks. I think George will forgive me, however. I am sure she would like to know that I learned something from this series of realistic fiction books. It has a read-more-about-it dictionary in the end talking about birds, squirrels, etc. I always give bonus points to books that have a map in the front or back showing where the characters have gone so this one scores(think of Billy from Family Circus). I see that this book uses the same brother and sister team as another book in the series (Cammie and William). Once again, this was on our local park system's reading list.
Ready-to-Read Level 1 Robin Hill School Class Mom by Margaret McNamara and Mike Gordon. Ages 4-6. DONE.
The pictures are cartoony and perfectly fine. I can not say the same for the text. The plot was not so good. Nia says her mother will be class mom and make cupcakes, but then Nia is ashamed that her mother might do something "Spanishy/Mexicany" instead of the regular American way, so she doesn't tell her mom. What happens next doesn't make sense and there doesn't seem to be any moral at all for the daughter's bad behavior. The author should read "Funny in Farsi" for some real life ideas about children of immigrants. Firoozeh Dumas is a much better writer. Then maybe the author can read some Judy Blume to find out about how kids think.
Stella Princess of the Sky by Marie Louise Gay. Ages 4-7. DONE.
This was recommended by our park/library reading club. Wise older sister Stella tells little brother Sam about the stars, camping out, lightning bugs, etc. Delightful dialog and sweet interaction between the children make this a winner. I see that there are other Stella and Sam books, so I will have to get on hold for another in the series.
Seven Blind Mice by Ed Young. Caldecott Honor Book. Boston Globe Horn Book Award. California Children's Media Award. Ages K-3. DONE.
A take on the old lesson about different people (in this case mice) perceiving an elephant different ways depending on their experiences. The pictures are simple and bright, using ripped and cut paper.
I think I reviewed his book Lon Po Po already.
Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George. YA Fiction. DONE.
This is in the YA section, but children over about age 8 or adults could read it. This is a retelling of the 12 Dancing Princesses tale. I wonder why she didn't call it Princesses of the Midnight Ball? It does focus on the eldest sister, but all the princesses are mentioned. George's books are cleverly told with her own spin.

17 August 2009

When should you start reading books? Age zero!

This lad enjoys a Sesame Street book and one about farm animals.

14 August 2009

A Day with a Librarian, Welcome Books

Day with a Librarian: Welcome Books by Jan Kottke for kids starting school. DONE.
Hey, we made the cut! Others in the Hard Work series are more glamorous professions such as doctors, mail carriers, firefighters, paramedics, and police officers, but thank you Jan Kottke for including us.
This book simply explains what librarians do and how they can help children. The librarian is probably a school librarian, but may be a public librarian.

I especially like the font.
This should be our new credo:
page 20

A librarian has a busy job.
I am never too busy to answer a question.
I am always here to help.

08 August 2009


Literature is mostly about having sex and not much about having children. Life is the other way around.

David Lodge,


quoted in the London Guardian Magazine and The Week Magazine

05 August 2009

What's on My Desk August 2009

Prisoner of Trebekistan by Bob Harris. Adult nonfiction.
Who knew that a Jeopardy! champion was a Hollywood writer and so witty? Harris offers "how to win at Jeopardy!" hints and advocates the use of a number of memory devices to stuff ones' head full of trivia.

Daughters of the North by Sarah Hall. Adult science fiction. DONE.
In a post apocalyptic society Sister tries to make her way to a commune for women on the England/Scotland border. Reviewers have compared it to the Handmaid's Tale (which I read) and Children of Men (which I have not read, but I saw the movie).
The author uses a lot of Scottish words that I don't know like fell (a hill or moor) and spean (wean). Then there is the British spelling of words like "moulded". I think I missed some of the nuances of this book that refer to Scottish legends, etc. I was confused when I found references to a different title - "the Carhullan Army", which is the name of the book in the UK.

Other Scottish or British words I encountered (this may not be a complete list):
rucksack (backpack)
waterproofs (galoshes/rubbers)
motorway flyover (highway overpass?)
Wainwright (must be some sort of hiker or adventurer. I didn't figure this one out).
tin (can)
becks (pothole? I didn't figure out this reference. Upon further reading and research, I think it is a small brook/creek/stream. The book had a jeep going through becks).
tyres (tires)
garth (courtyard)
brow (edge of a steep place)
harebells (a perennial flower)
"It's probably wacky butter they're flogging". I guess this means they might be high on drugs.
reivers - see some other websites for a discussion of this group of borderlanders
Graine Warrior (is this a name? a legend? Grandma?)
a Westmorland kitchen (is this something special?)
byres (cow barns)
paddocks (small enclosed field)
bields (shelter)
brant slopes
gill (stream, area with a lot of rough up and down areas like the gills of a fish)
veld (open, grassy country)
gorse (evergreen shrub of the pea family)
Abaddon (place of the dead. Okay this one wasn't a Scottish word, but I wasn't sure what it meant).
eyries (eagle's nest. I thought it was, but it is spelled differently than I thought. I was thinking aerie).
sago palms
frogs pawn
brio (vivacity, zest)
murrey (maybe this is a word for lesbian, I didn't figure this one out)
tin opener (can opener)
bothies (a basic shelter)
Clough's syndrome
bint (dirogatory word for woman/girl, from the Arabic for ibn - daughter of)
navvies (unskilled laborers)
tarn (small lake)
quim (Scrabble anyone? vagina or vaginal fluid)
slake (peat?)
spinney (small wood, copse)

I am also ignorant of the places that our heroine passes in her journeys. Maybe another printing can include a map of England and Scotland with places listed along with a British to American glossary.
Even though I didn't know the geography or all the words, this book was hard to put down. It seems like it has to have a tragic end as the suspense builds, but maybe this utopia can survive somehow - will they leave England? Go out in a blaze of glory? Reintegrate into the feeble society? If you can, read this in one fell swoop. It is only 207 pages, so this can be done. It took me about four days to read it because of time commitments, but this would be a good one to devote a day or weekend to reading.

Around the Pond: Who's Been Here? by Lindsay Barrett George. Ages 3-6. DONE.
Learn about observation, animal tracks, and nature with this book. I see that others in this series are being used by our local park district as recommended reads about nature and inspiring kids to interact with nature. I especially like that there is a map in the front cover. It has additional animal facts for those readers who can't get enough nature facts.

Welcome to Kindergarten by Anne Rockwell. Ages 5 and 6. DONE.
Good ol' Anne Rockwell. I remember having a book by her about the pilgrims when I was a kid. She has to have written hundreds of books. I see that this one she illustrated herself. As to the content, it is straightforward and the title says it all.

Clown in the Gown Drives the Car with the Star: A Book about Dipthongs and R-Controlled Vowels: Sounds Like Reading Book Eight by Brian P. Cleary and Jason Miskins. Beginning reader. DONE.
See comments on others in the series.

Peaches on the Beaches: A Book about Inflectional Endings: Sounds Like Reading Book Seven by Brian P. Cleary and Jason Miskins. Beginning reader. DONE. See comments on others in the series.

Whose Shoes Would You Choose: A Long Vowels Sounds Book with Consonant Digraphs: Sounds Like Reading Book Six by Brian P. Cleary and Jason Miskins. Beginning reader. DONE. See comments on others in the series. For the record, I have no idea what a consonant digraph is.

Firefighters to the Rescue! A Golden Go-Along Book Disney Pixar the World of Cars by Frank Berrios. DONE. Beginning Reader.
Lightning McQueen and the others become volunteer firefighters. Humor is provided by Mater, as usual. I didn't know Little Golden Books made board books like these. This cardboard book has a carrying handle. I read it in my car, so that was handy.

Swing Otto Swing: Ready-to-Read: Pre-Level 1: The Adventures of Otto by David Milgrim. Beginning reader. DONE.
This has a Dick and Jane format with humor. "See Otto Swing. Swing Otto Swing. Crash", etc.
I should check out more in the very simple Adventures of Otto series.

Ride Otto Ride: Ready-to-Read: Pre-Level 1: The Adventures of Otto by David Milgrim. Beginning reader. DONE.
Funny, but not quite as good as the Swing one. There seemed to be more character's names to read, making this one a slightly higher reading level.
Care Bears Oopsy Does It by Samantha Brooke, Kelly Grupczynski and Josie Yee. Ages 4-6. DONE.
Nothing memorable here.

My Little Pony Pinkie Pie's Special Day by Jennifer Christie and Lyn Fletcher. Ages 4-6. DONE.
Again, nothing memorable. These last two books are sweet, feminine books. Hasbro and American Greetings have name brand loyalty with Care Bears and My Little Pony (insert trademark symbol here).



History of Love by Nicole Krauss. Adult historical fiction. For a book discussion. DONE.
13 August. Leo sure is crotchity. This book had good reviews and I am reading it for a discussion. I should have paid closer attention to the review that said "if you like Woody Allen". Well, I don't like Woody Allen, so I am suffering/struggling through this book. It is a downer book.
17 August. It got better as it went along and the story developed. By the end I almost liked the book. Maybe a movie version or Readers Digest Condensed Book version would be better. I was confused by the back and forth in time periods and main characters in each chapter. Maybe a different, shorter, edition would be less confusing.
It wasn't until near the end that I noticed that at the beginning of each chapter there is a small image sketched near the chapter title indicating who the main character of that chapter is and what it is about. I pointed this out in my book discussion and the others had not noticed either, so we had to go back and look again.

My Trucks: My First Reader by Kirsten Hall and Patti Boyd. Emerging Reader. DONE.
This is very simple and useful for a child interested in vehicles. Kudos on the choice of fonts. In the front it even lists the 41 words that are used in the story. I should probably look into others in this series, too.

Kindergarten Countdown by Anna Jane Hays and Linda Davick. Children's Fiction, ages 5 or 6. DONE.
The little girl in the story counts down until school starts and guesses what school will be like. This book helps teach or reinforce days of the week and counting.

My New School: My First Reader by Kirsten Hall and Barry Gott. Beginning reader. DONE.
A little Asian American boy shows the reader around his school. It appears that he is in kindergarten or first grade and proud of it. I like the end where he tells his little sister that soon it will be her turn to go to school. She looks happy about that. Obviously we need some positive books telling kids that they will like school and this is a good one to give to a child who is starting school.

Marshmallow Kisses by Linda Crotta Brennan and Mari Takabayashi. Preschool. DONE.
This very simple book was on a list of books about summer. Somehow I found its very short sentences to be annoying, but that's just me.
For instance: "Buttered corn". That is a sentence. I guess it has a verb, but no subject. Where are the subjects to these sentences? The pictures were not so hot, either.

When the Fireflies Come by Jonathan London and Terry Widener. Ages 3-7. DONE.
Again, this was on the summer book list. Some of the imagery in this book is profound. It is a magical/ordinary summer night. The author obviously loved summer as a child. The text is kind of stream-of-conciousness, moving from description to dialog and back again. It isn't poetry, but uses every syllable to the best advantage. The illustrations reminded me of Tuesday. I guess my brain was thinking "Wiesner" not "Widener". Go ahead. Read these books together - fireflies, frogs. There is a theme.

Bringing up Boys by James Dobson. Adult nonfiction.
Generally I respect and agree with Dr. Dobson on many issues, but not all. Whether you agree with him or not, this book brings up some very good points about the challenges and opportunities afforded to parents, teachers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. in raising a generation of boys. Obviously a lot of people will disagree with him on his viewpoint of homosexuality and he does come across as bitter about the women's right movement, although he does admit that he admires what they accomplished with Title IX and equal-pay-for-equal-work and he is glad that his daughter has these opportunities.
page 177 of ISBN 0-8423-5266-x
"As I see it, boys are desperately in need of friends. They are the victims of a long and costly battle between the sexes that has vilified the essence of masculinity and ripped into the world of children. And that is not good. Pitting boys and girls against each other as competitors and enemies cannot be healthy for anyone! As Kathleen Parker writes, 'It is moronic to continue insisting that one sex is the victor while the other is the victim, which being untrue is dastardly in effect. Boys made to feel superfluous, if not inferior, can't help but resent girls".
In other words, give boys a chance as well as giving girls a chance!
page 245
"Our objective as moms and dads is to transform our sons from 'immature and flighty youngsters into honest, caring men who will be respectful of women, loyal and faithful in marriage, keepers of commitments, strong and decisive leaders, good workers, and men who are secure in their masculinity.'"
Who can disagree with this? Although how we achieve this goal is where opinions differ.
page 248
Quote from Dr. Francis Schaeffer in 1972
"The dilemma of modern man is simple: He does not know why man has any meaning...This is the damnation of our generation, the heart of modern man's problem."