30 June 2010

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
Jamie Ford
adult historical/romance fiction

Henry is Chinese American, born in Seattle, Washington twelve years ago. Keiko is Japanese American, also born in Seattle twelve years ago. They are the only Asian students in their public school in 1942. As such, they are both outsiders and ridiculed. Their friendship develops as the school year goes on and as World War II escalates Keiko's family is increasingly ostracized. Henry's father is one person who can not stand that his son, whom he sees as Chinese, not American, can possibly be friends with the enemy. Japan is not only at war with the U.S.A. but with China. Even before WWII Japan had been bombing China.
Henry and Keiko see themselves first as Americans. Why can't other people understand this? In addition to the hatred between the Chinese and the Japanese, the children enjoy Black music - specifically Seattle based jazz. Again, they don't see a problem with this.
This book is, as the title implies, a sweet and bitter story. These children who are on the verge of adulthood are innocent and naive, but the world is spinning out of their control. Keiko is taken away to an internment camp. Henry is expected to go to China to study after the war dies down. Can their fledgling friendship, or is it love, survive?
This is a very well written novel I would recommend for teenagers, adults, and senior citizens alike. It is more likely to appeal to females, but men like it for the jazz scene or other aspects of the book. I can safely recommend this to our gentle readers who do not want sex or violence in their reading.

29 June 2010

Peek a Baby!

Peek-a-baby : a lift-the-flap book
Karen Katz
children's fiction, ages 0-3

This is a cute little book that shows a baby playing peekaboo. This could be used by a children's librarian, preschool teacher, or child care giver to encourage parents to play finger games with their children.
Unfortunately, this book suffered the fate that many books of this type suffer in libraries and at home. There was already one lift-a-flap missing and while I used it with a 1 year old RIP went another flap as the toddler grabbed it. We will have to get out the book tape for this one.
For some reason a certain six year old that was listening in to this story is now running around yelling "Peek"! as she looks around corners and laughs. I guess this book is a hit with 6 year olds as well as babies.

22 June 2010

Big Book of Trains

Big Book of Trains
DK publishing with the National Railway Museum, York, England
children's nonfiction
ages 4-10

This book is about 14 inches high and about 10 inches wide so it is, indeed, big. It will probably be found on your library's oversized shelf or on its spine.
This is a very colorful art book about trains, featuring photographs of trains of different time periods.
There is some text that serves as captions, but there is not a theme throughout the book except that all the pictures are of trains.
This is a good book to keep a kid occupied on the rug for quite some time learning about locomotives. Even kids and adults who are not into books about vehicles should find something to like in this book.
A glossary and index of famous trains by name is in the back.
Other books in this series are good reads as well.

21 June 2010

Barbie in the 12 Dancing Princesses

Barbie in the 12 Dancing Princesses
Step into Reading
Reading with Help
Step 2
preschool - grade 1

This book has a good font and large colorful pictures appropriate for a beginning reader. The plot is more complicated than I expected because it condenses the whole DVD movie of the same title.
In Barbie's take on this classic tale Princess Genevieve and sisters dance each night in a secret place below their bedroom. Rather than the fairy king being their enemy, it is their father's evil cousin that they must fight. A valiant shoemaker helps them and becomes Genevieve's beau. Lovely costumes are featured throughout.

Fancy Nancy: The Dazzling Book Report

Fancy Nancy: The Dazzling Book Report
I Can Read Beginning Reading 1 - Simple sentences for eager new readers
by Jane O'Connor
pictures based on the art of Robin Preiss Glasser
children's fiction ages 4-7

Nancy is excited about writing a book report about Sacajawea. She spends oodles and oodles of time getting just the right picture for the cover, but...
Read it and find out what happens next.
This is another entertaining episode in the life of Fancy Nancy who is the girliest of all girls.
A treat for librarians is the cover showing Nancy thoroughly enjoying a book on Sacajawea at the library. Other children in the background look very happy to be selecting books as well.

Family in His Heart

Family in His Heart
Gail Gaymer Martin
Love Inspired
Inspirational Romance by Steeple Hill - the January 2008 selection
adult romance fiction

I understand that this is a mass produced paperback romance novel, so my hopes were not very high, but this book is LAME! I think the author took a formula, inserted some names and a setting and called it a book. The plot is reminiscent of the mass produced Grace Livingston Hill books of yesteryear. Here is a typical Hill plot: Man is a hard working Christian. Woman is also hard working but not saved. There is usually a little old lady (sometimes a Scottish immigrant) that can guide the unsaved soul to salvation. Some others help her along the way as well. By the end some bad guy has been vanquished and the unsaved member of the couple has come to salvation. They kiss and marry.
That is pretty much the plot of this one, too. In this case the little old lady is from Michigan. There the man has a troubled son. The bad guy is the woman's brother. The setting is the picturesque shores of Michigan.
If you want a good clean read this summer, look elsewhere.

My First Pets Board Book

My First Pets Board Book
(Dorling Kindersley)
edited by Mariza O'Keeffe
children's nonfiction
ages 0-3

Since this book is a series of photographs about common household pets and does not have a plot or even use sentences there is no author listed. DK has produced another colorful book of photographs intended to help the smallest readers with vocabulary. We find cats, dogs, birds, rabbits, and more featured in this photography book. It shows what these animals look like, where they sleep, and what they eat and play with. This is a sturdy book that will hold up to being chewed on by the reader or his or her pet.

Where Is the Green Sheep?

Where Is the Green Sheep?
Mem Fox and Judy Horacek
board book
children's fiction, ages 0-3

Sheep seem to be pretty popular in children's books - disproportionate to the roll they play in our everyday lives. Sure, we know about Mary who had a little lamb, and Sheep in a Jeep, but how many of us actually own a sheep or even eat sheep on a regular basis any more? I don't even own anything made of wool. I suppose it is because historically, especially in England, sheep were a bigger part of people's lives.
In this book we find all kinds of sheep doing all kinds of anthropomorphic things like surfing and fixing automobiles. Horocek's sheep are kind of like the Busy Town (Richard Scarry) animals. They are cartoony and cute. Here they all are - except for the green sheep. Where did he go? Hint: At the end we were reciting and singing an old nursery rhyme.
In terms of grammar the author takes liberties with using a number of words as adjectives that are not normally adjectives. I was wondering if this would be confusing to new readers or if I am being too picky. This book won a number of awards, so maybe it is just me. Personally, I think the illustrator is better than the author, so I am going to see if my library has more books by this illustrator.
ALA Notable Children's Book
Child Magazine Best Book of the Year
Horn Book Fanfare Selection

Adventures of Max and Pinky: Superheroes

Adventures of Max and Pinky: Superheroes
Maxwell Eaton, III
children's fiction
ages 3-6
or adults can read it as a funny comic strip

Today Max the boy is pretending he is a superhero. His sidekick stuffed pig, Pinky, wants to be one, too, but Max wants Pinky to be a sidekick. Pinky doesn't appreciate being demoted to sidekick, but the sidekick comes through in the end.
If you have not read any Max and Pinky, give these funny guys a try. I wonder if they will base a children's television series on this? They certainly could.

Still Alice

Still Alice
Lisa Genova
adult fiction

Alice is a successful professor at Harvard. She has a good family life and takes care of herself. None of this matters to the disease that confronts her. She is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease. The unique take on this book is that it is told from the patient's viewpoint. She knows she will be going downhill and has to prepare for this. She is still herself, but knows that she will be forgetting more and more.
It is heartbreaking and a book that is hard to put down. I stayed up late reading it - each time thinking "no!" as she declines in health.
A discussion guide and interview with the author are included. This is a must read book for family, friends, and patients dealing with dementia.
A fellow librarian noted the lovely cover with the blue butterfly and the pages with butterfly silhouettes.

18 June 2010

Wonder Woman The Rain Forest

Wonder Woman The Rain Forest
Festival Readers - 1st grade reading level
written by Nina Jaffe
illustrated by Ben Caldwell
Wonder Woman created by William Moulton Caldwell
children's manga
ages 4 - 7

I was pleased to find this paperback book on the shelves of my library. Fondly I remember Lynda Carter jumping around with her magic lasso fighting evil from the 1970's television show.
In a laughingly simple plot, Wonder Woman saves the rainforest by talking loggers and forest people into helping one another. Oh, how I wish it were so! That is what our superheroines are there to accomplish - inspire us to do good deeds, save the planet, love one another, etc.
I plan to see if my library has more of these books. My audience enjoyed this book and so did I.
As a note to feminists - in an effort to make Wonder Woman family friendly I see that she has a practical spaghetti strap shirt on and a midcalf to knee length skirt on. Her belly button is covered. Her tall boots are flats, not heals. Sorry, Dads. This is not sexy Wonder Woman but Save the Rainforests while Accompanied by Kids Wonder Woman.

Runny Babbit

Runny Babbit: A Billy Sook
Shel Silverstein
performed by Dennis Locorriere
children's poetry audiobook

It's giggly fun for the whole family! This is an audiobook version of the book of poems which feature Runny Babbit. Each silly poem about nursery rhymes and animals features mixed up words. Silverstein inverts the first letters of phrases like runny babbit/bunny rabbit. It is so simple, yet so funny! It is like another version of pig Latin or Spoonerisms.
If you are brave, you will try to read these poems aloud yourself. Your brain will probably attempt to CORRECT the words! Have fun with a classroom or a teammate as you try to say the words the wrong way - I mean the right way that is the wrong way - I mean...
I don't know how Dennis Locorriere managed to read this whole book correctly. I wonder how many takes it took to get it right for the audio publication?

The back cover quotes Maurice Sendak who said "I wish I had done this book!"

We were reminded of the humor in "The Hungry Thing" and the sequel, "The Hungry Thing Returns". Now I and two children will be saying "runny babbit" and "flamburgers and sneeze" for an inside joke. (You are now on the inside as well, since you now know where these phrases originated).

I will probably have to check this audiobook out again later this year to have a laugh on a car ride.

16 June 2010

Big Read

For your consideration:

Here are three very good books that you should consider reading. One of them will be the 2011 Miami Valley Big Read book.

Color of Water: a Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother by James McBride.
A memoir.
McBride grew up in 1960's NYC the son of a Black preacher and a Polish Jewish immigrant. Read how the family triumphs over adversity.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford.
Historical fiction.
A Chinese American boy and a Japanese American girl are friends. She is sent to an internment camp during World War II. Henry wonders whatever became of Keiko.

Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.
In 1951 scientists took cancer cells from a poor African American woman who was dying. These cells have formed the basis of a number of significant medical cures that we have today. Read this fascinating story of 20th century science.

10 June 2010

Stories from the Jungle Book

Stories from the Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
dramatized by Laurie Klein
audiobook on cassettes
children's classical fiction

I listened to this in the car and the reader did a pretty good job of reading "Mowgli's Brothers", but in my flawed memory of reading the Jungle Books as a child, I didn't remember that the creatures spoke in antiquated English. I have forgotten that there were a bunch of "thees" and "thous" and "hasts" in there. For some reason it didn't grip me the way it should, so I didn't listen to the rest of the cassettes. I heard some of "Kaa's Hunting" but skipped "The White Seal" and "Rikki Tikki Tavi".
Now that I think of it, the reason I checked it out was to listen to "The White Seal" which recently came up in a conversation. I was talking to someone about the cartoon version of "The White Seal" from the 1970's. My friend hadn't seen that one, but I remember it being on television more than once, along with "Rikki Tikki Tavi".
Sometimes stuff isn't how you remember it. I guess I was more familiar with the Disney movie than with the words that Rudyard Kipling originally used. I do know that I read Rudyard Kipling when I was some age between 8 and 12, though. I don't remember having trouble with the "thees" and "thous". So much for my memory.

The Wizard of Oz and Philosophy

The Wizard of Oz and Philosophy: Wicked Wisdom of the West: Popular Culture and Philosophy
by Randall E. Auxier and Phillip S. Seng
adult nonfiction.

Being a Wonderful Wizard of Oz fan I thought I would enjoy this book. The problem is that this book is a series of serious essays about philosophy as seen in the MGM movie "The Wizard of Oz".
I now realize that I know NOTHING about philosophy. In college I took psychology and world religions and those met my liberal arts requirements so I didn't take a philosophy class. Right away the authors start discussing Plato and Socrates and Langer and Kant. I had no idea what they were talking about.
This is probably a perfectly fine book for a philosophy major or someone who has read a medium to large amount of information about philosophy. That wasn't me. I gave up on the book after browsing a number of essays. The essay about "The Wiz" looked pretty good, but I would have to watch the movie again to remind myself what happened in that film.

07 June 2010

Growing up With Books Boosts Child's Education Attainment

Growing up With Books Boosts Child's Education Attainment

Children who grow up in households where books are plentiful go further in school than those without books, a new study finds.
This book benefit was seen across countries, and held regardless of the parent's educational background, the country's Gross Domestic Product, father's occupation or the political system of the country, the researchers say.
The results, based on data from 73,249 people living in 27 countries, including the United States, show that having a 500-book library boosted a child's education by 3.2 years on average.
"You get a lot of 'bang for your book,'" said study researcher Mariah Evans, a sociologist at the University of Nevada, Reno. "It's quite a good return-on-investment in a time of scarce resources."
For instance, a child born into a family that had only 1 book but was otherwise average in parents' education, father's occupation, GDP, and similar variables, would expect to get 9.4 years of education themselves. Another person from an otherwise identical family with 500 books would expect to get 12.6 years of education (a senior in high school has 12 years of education), the results showed.
For years, educators have thought the strongest predictor of attaining high levels of education was having parents who were highly educated. But according to the findings, a good-sized book library is just as good as university-educated parents in terms of increasing education level.
"Even a little bit goes a long way," in terms of the number of books in a home, Evans said. Having as few as 20 books in the home still has a significant impact on propelling a child to a higher level of education, and the more books add, the greater the benefit.
In some countries, such as China, having 500 or more books in the home propels children 6.6 years further in their education. In the United States, the effect is less, 2.4 years. But, Evans points out that 2.4 years is still a significant advantage in terms of educational attainment.
For example, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, Americans who have some college or an associate's degree, but not a bachelor's degree, earn an average of $7,213 more annually than those with just a high school education. Those who attain a bachelor's degree earn $21,185 more each year, on average, than those with just high school diplomas.
Having books in the home is twice as important as the father's education level, and more important than whether a child was reared in China or the United States.
The results are published online in the journal Research in Social Stratification and Mobility.