Monday, March 23, 2009

Nonfiction Monday: Machines Go to Work

Dewey: 612.8

Machines Go to Work by William Low, Henry Holt, 2009

William Low brought a long-gone train station to life in his book Old Penn Station. Here, Low brings us working vehicles such as fire trucks, helicopters, backhoes, container ships, cement trucks and even railroad crossing signs that vibrate with color and strength.

This is not Little Toot, the anthropomorphic tugboat nor Thomas the Tank Engine. Low's brush strokes do suggest a presence and power as his machines rumble across the two page spreads. The reader can see the helicopter's rotors whirl and the front tire of a cement mixer deflating. Illustrations open with full page flaps to extend the reach of a backhoe or the length of the fire truck's ladder.

The narrative is set up to suggest a problem for each machine which is then gently resolved as the flap unfolds. A fire truck roars past cherry trees in full bloom, not because of a fire but to rescue a cat. A news helicopter races to the scene of a traffic tie-up but happily, an accident is not the cause of the problem.

The last two pages unfold to present a 4 page an aerial view of the city in eye-popping color. All the machines are visible from on high as they go about their work. It is fun to try and find them all. At the end of the book, small paintings of the machines are labeled along with some brief facts. The parts of the Cement Mixer are labeled: the water tank, the cement chute, the engine exhaust. The cement drum is "like a big mixing bowl. Just add sand, gravel, portalnd cement, water and mix."

Low paints with realistic and technical accuracy. People are there, operating these machines and giving the reader a sense of scale as well as the machine's purpose.

This is a "must-have" for school libraries and for young truck-boat-train-heavy machine enthusiasts.

Trained in traditional oil technique, Low used Adobe Photoshop and Corel Painter to create this book. He demonstrates how he works in this series of videos.


Part 2

Part 3

Nonfiction Monday round up is at MotherReader today.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

More Jacky Faber

Under the Jolly Roger: Being an Account of the Further Nautical Adventures of Jacky Faber, by L.A. Meyer, Harcourt, 2005

L.A. Meyer's character Mary "Jacky" Faber is a kind of YA female version of George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman. In addition to being on the scene of historic events such as the Battle of Trafalgar, characters from other books, including Moby Dick and Dicken's Oliver make cameo appearances in her story.

In the third book of the series, Jacky is back in the Royal Navy, against her will. She's been carried off to a British warship by a press gang who mistakes her for a boy (because she was dressed that way.) The ship is on blockade duty off the coast of France and is under the control of an evil and corrupt captain. Jacky announces that she is a female in order to gain her freedom but it is apparent the captain has other cruel plans for her. Not able to escape, she demands the rights and privileges of the rank of midshipman that she earned while on HMS Dolphin in the first book. Faber is a born leader and natural seaman. This installment of her story is my favorite as Jacky takes command of her situation and the ship.

In the Belly of the Bloodhound: Being an Account of a Particularly Peculiar Adventure in the Life of Jacky Faber by L.A. Meyer, Harcourt, 2006

In book four, Jacky decides to return to her school in Boston because she is wanted for piracy back in England. Hoping to just hide out there until her name can be cleared or her beloved Jaimy can come for her, Jacky and the girls of the Lawson Peabody School are kidnapped by slavers and smuggled onto a slave ship bound for north Africa. Jacky's seafaring and command experience help her formulate escape plans which give the girls a purpose and structure to their days.

The story is a sort of mix of The Great Escape and The Arabian Nights, as Jacky tells the girls stories from her past, every night.

My least favorite of the four books, still, even with the predictable cliffhanger ending, I cannot wait to hear more. I cannot imagine reading these books now as I am so fond of Katherine Kellgren's narration. I did not realize she was also the narrator of Shannon Hale's Austenland and The Diamond of Darkhold: The Fourth Book of Ember which I enjoyed greatly.

I hope they are planning to release the rest of this series in audio format very soon.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Author: Neil Gaiman

Gaiman appeared on Colbert's show last night.

I just love, love, love how Colbert can show off his Tolkien knowledge at the drop of a (Tom Bombadil) hat.

Monday, March 16, 2009

NonFiction Monday: Cookbooks

Dewey: 641.5

My experiences as a school librarian have taught me the importance of having kid friendly cookbooks in a library's collection.

These cookbooks are not geared towards a very young chef but they are engaging to peruse and with some adult support in the kitchen, they would be fun to use and would produce some yummy food.

Cakes for Kids: 35 Colorful Recipes with Easy-to-Follow Tips & Techniques by Matthew Mead, Chronicle Books, 2008

I absolutely love fancy decorated cakes, birthday or otherwise. This cookbook offers basic cake recipes for chocolate, yellow and marble cake. There are also recipes for royal icing, icing glaze, creamy white icing and Seven Minute icing. Personally, I cannot make seven minute icing without adult supervision but otherwise, the instructions are kid friendly and easy to follow.

Choosing which cake to build is the challenge. There is a pirate's treasure chest, an Easter Egg, a royal crown, a rainbow, a robot, a giraffe, a castle with ice cream cone turrets, a ghost cake with soft peaks of seven minute icing ghosts festooning the layers. Clown face cupcakes, ladybug cupcakes, a moose cake made up of cupcakes...hmmmm...

Cereal, candy and cookies are used to embellish to great effect. OK, seriously, I want to go mix up some icing and lick the beaters now.

Green Eggs and Ham Cookbook: recipes inspired by Dr. Seuss concocted by Georgeanne Brennan and photographed by Frankie Frankeny, Random House, 2006

A quote from a Dr. Seuss book introduces each recipe. These are serious recipes for real-we-can-eat-that-for-dinner meals. The recipes are framed with characters from various Dr.Seuss books such as Cat's Mac and Cheese (made with ricotta and Parmesan cheese) and the Grinch serving Who-Roast-Beast which is a recipe for roast chicken.

Not all the recipes require a stove or oven but most of them do. A great deal of the cooking would require an adult to oversee the process. Hoop-Soup-Snoop Group Potato Soup calls for peeling and boiling potatoes, chopping an onion, crisply cooking bacon and grating cheese (hmm, that sounds good) which means an adult needs to be on hand but in a time when I'm trying to shop on the perimeter of my grocery store where the whole foods are, it is not a bad thing for kids to realize that soup does not have to arrive in the bowl from a can

The nice spiral binding allows the book to lie flat for frequent consultation and the theme should engage kids.

Nonfiction Monday round-up is over at L. L. Owens!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

NonFiction Monday: Be Water, My Friend

Dewey: B LEE

Be Water, My FriendBe Water, My Friend: the early years of Bruce Lee by Ken Mochizuki, illustrated by Dom Lee, Lee&Low, 2006

Ken Mochizuki and Dom Lee have teamed once again, this time, to tell the childhood story of martial arts master, Bruce Lee. In the author's note, Mochizuki acknowledges that parts, his story were "extentions of the facts, based on the author's knowledge of the times and circumstances of Lee's life." Because he makes this clear, I feel more comfortable with the "recreated" dialog and storyline presented.

The known facts from his appearances in movies as a child and his early training in martial arts are included. The book ends with Bruce sailing for the USA to avoid further entanglements with gangs and his own propensity for fighting.

The rest of his story is told in an after word. His struggles in the American film industry and his success in the Hong Kong movie business are chronicled as is his untimely death at the age of 32.
The author also notes that the title of the book is a quote from Lee, himself.

Dom Lee's distinctive sepia tone paintings evoke instant authenticity in every book he illustrates. He uses encaustic beeswax painting to achieve this effect. His style advances the story with panels to convey action sequences and more reflective single pictures that extend beyond the confines of one page. His research into period clothing and settings is astonishing. Truly, his paintings allow readers a look back in time.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Series: Sluggers

Phil Bildner and Loren Long announce that their series, Barnstormers, is getting a new look and a new title, Sluggers.

The series weaves baseball history, American history and fantasy into the story of the three Payne kids, Griffith, Ruby, and Graham, who are trying to understand the magic in a special baseball that belonged to their father. Along with the Travelin' Nine baseball team, they travel from city to city, around the country to earn money to pay off the Payne family's debt. When the games begin, strange things start to happen.

Loren Long's characters bend, twist, stretch, and arch. To me, his style evokes the New Deal/WPA art of the 1930s /40s. The pictures anchor the series with a strong sense of Americana and history.

Nice new trailer about the series:

Author/Illustrator: Don Tate

The Texas Library Association Disaster Relief Fund helps Texas libraries that have suffered damage from disasters such as Hurricane Rita and Ike.

Each year, as a fund raiser for the Fund, a piece of original art by a generous, kind, wonderful children's book illustrator is raffled. Here is this year's fantastic piece, a study of Duke Ellington by Don Tate. I buy tickets for this effort every year.

Don blogs at Devas T. Rants and Raves!
Don Tate's website

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Movie: The Lightning Thief

Rockstar Rick Riordan announces the casting choices for the Lightning Thief movie.