Friday, May 28, 2010

Dog stories

Finding SusieFinding Susie by Sandra Day O'Connor, illustrated by Tom Pohrt. Knopf, 2009.

In this picture book memoir, the end papers feature photos of Sandra Day O'Connor as a child  and give the reader a view into the childhood of the first female member of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Sandra loved animals and collected many wild creatures as a child. She adopted 
a tortoise named Hercules, a rabbit named Daisy, a coyote that she dubbed Slim Pickins, and a baby bobcat called Bob.  She had to release all of her pets because they were wild animals and could not thrive in captivity for long.  When she is given a little white dog named Susie, she finally owned a pet she would not have to give up.   

Pantaloon (A Golden Classic)Pantaloon by Kathryn Jackson, illustrated by Steven Salerno, 2010

Tawny Scrawny Lion (Little Golden Book)This story has a nostalgic feel. A French poodle named Pantaloon is thwarted in his desire to become a baker but when the owner of the bakery is injured and cannot work, Pantaloon swings into action and saves the day.

Kathryn Jackson is well known for her Little Golden Classics, The Tawny Scrawny Lion and The Saggy Baggy Elephant.  Steven Salerno's fluid retro-ish illustrations do evoke the style of 1950s Paris and the joie de vivre of a Parisian poodle making his mark in the pâtisserie

Stella is a Star: With CDStella is a Star by Bernadette Peters, paintings by Liz Murphy, Blue Apple Books, 2010

Bernadette Peters is well known Tony Award winning actress. This is her second book.  She is an animal lover and her own dog inspired this story.  Ms Peters  is a celebrity author so it is not a  surprise to read that the character, Stella "learns the lessons of dedication and practice, self-acceptance and most important that it's okay to be yourself."   (How do we know it is a celebrity book? It teaches a LESSON.)  Still the CD recording of Peters reading the story and singing "Stella's Song" is enjoyable and well produced with sound effects and musical bridges. I recommend the CD because she really is a gifted performer!

The proceeds from the sale of Peters's book benefit Broadway Barks an animal adoption charity

Please Take Me For a WalkPlease Take me for a Walk by Susan Gal, Knopf, 2010

Cesar Millan, call your office. This book is for you. 

This jaunty little dog begs to be taken for a walk and details all the things he/she is going to see and do around the house, out on the street and on the town.  Fans of the Dog Whisperer program know that Millan advocates daily walks to improve the mental and physical health of dogs and their owners.  Big backyards don't replace a daily walk.

Who could deny this adorable little canine?  The dogs eyes look right into the reader's and evoked such  sympathy in me that I almost grabbed a leash and went looking for a dog to walk because I don't own one right now.  Gal's artwork is a palette of wonderful green and brown hues and depicts a lively multicultural neighborhood.  Enchanting! 

Hip Hop DogHip Hop Dog    Words by Chris Raschka, pictures by Vladimir Radunsky, Harper Collins, 2010

Chris Raschka continues his offerings of picture books that celebrate music in all its forms and styles.  This dog has the cap, he has the moves, he has the smarts.  This is a hip hop rapper dog with attitude but sadly, no home.
I come free , but no one needs me.
No fine biscuits, no cute collar,
When I'm hungry, no one feeds me.
I'm the saddest and the baddest, and the baddest and the saddest

His spirit is undaunted though as his rap lyrics spiral into the page:
I'm the coolest,go to school-est, not a fool-est, doggies rule-est. I'm the quickest tha the slickest, tocky-tic-est, finger lick-est. I'm the brightest, no need to fight-est, pure delight-est, y'know I'm right-est. I'm the Hippy Hippy Hippy Hippy, Hip Hop Dog.
 Here's hoping he finds a loving home but if he doesn't, we think that he will be ok.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Nonfiction Monday: A Journey Through Literary America

A Journey Through Literary AmericaA Journey Through Literary America by Thomas R. Hummel, photography by Tamra L. Dempsey. Val De Grace Books, Napa, Calif., 2009.

This is a book I keep coming back to again and again.  Thomas R.Hummel and photographer Tamra Dempsey place twenty six American writers on the map, drawing portraits of their homes and lives and the landscape that shaped them. The writers are grouped  in seven, interesting, literary regions:   

Beginnings: (Washington Irving, and James Fenimore Cooper)  
New England: (Emerson, Hawthorne, Melville, Frost) 
Reeling Westward: (Willa Cather, Wallace Stegner, John Steinbeck, Robinson Jeffers)  
Not Forgotten: (William Faulkner and Thomas Wolfe)  
Main Streets (Sinclair Lewis, Sherwood Anderson) 
The Inner Migration:   (Langston Hughes, Toni Morrison, Rita Dove) 
Twentieth Century Excursions: (Henry Miller, Ernest Hemingway, Flannery O'Connor, John Updike, Philip Roth, Raymond Carver, E. Annie Proulx, Richard Ford)
He draws on the writers' own words in his sketches of their lives.  Washington Irving describes the area known as Sleepy Hollow and poet Rita Dove pens a tribute to Akron's Goodyear zeppelin plant.

His words and  Dempsey's photographs light up this literary landscape. The Great Smoky Mountains in Asheville, NC stretch across two pages as a backdrop to the life of Thomas Wolfe.  The camera captures the Harlem brownstones of Langston Hughes as well as the frontier of James Fenimore Cooper. The featured photo of Flannery O'Connor's Andalusia is not of the house itself but of its porch with white rockers that appears in her story "The Enduring Chill."  Dempsey also captures the view,
through the screen, which O'Connor would have looked upon after being diagnosed with lupus.

The reader visits Carmel and Big Sur which figure in the writing life of Robinson Jeffers and Leadville Colorado's Main Street which was home to Wallace Stegner. We see interiors such as William Faulkner's study and Robert Frost's cabin in Vermont. 

The book itself is oversized enough to appreciate the full color photographs but not so tall (27 cm.)  that it does not fit in your lap.  You will not need a coffee table to enjoy it.  

The book serves as a resource to the places that formed some of America's best known writers. This is not a detailed field guide but it provides an armchair traveler with a virtual visit that might spur a real trip to Walden or Sleepy Hollow, Cannery Row or John Updike's Reading, Pennsylvannia.   Locales in the book can be found at the book's website, -- and specifically at

It would be an excellent addition to a high school library but please, do not restrict it to the Reference shelf.  This is a book that needs to be taken home where it can picked up again and again and enjoyed.  I am looking forward to sharing this book with my book group. 


Friday, May 21, 2010

Books for new big brothers and sisters

The arrival of a  new baby brother or sister is a momentous occassion in the life of a family.

Bringing Asha HomeBringing Asha Home by Uma Krishnaswami, illustrations by Jamel Akib. Lee&Low, 2006.

Uma  Krishnaswami follows a family through the process of adopting a child from India as seen through the eyes of the seven year old, Arun.  He wants his new sister, Asha to join their family as soon as possible.  Arun  is frustrated by delays from paperwork and government forms.  Her room is ready and the family shares photos of the baby on her birthday which they celebrate from afar. 

When Arun's father is finally allowed to fly to India to bring Asha home, he takes along a special paper airplane from Arun.  When the family unites at the airport, Asha is wearing a rakhi which is a bracelet worn on the holiday of Rakhi which celebrates the special bonds between brothers and sisters.  

Ten Days and Nine Nights: An Adoption StoryTen days and nine nights: an adoption story by Yumi Heo. Schwartz&Wade, 2009

The big sister-to-be says goodbye to her mother at the airport and counts down the days until her mother returns with her new baby sister.  She helps her grandfather redecorate the baby's room,  her grandmother sews a pink dress that matches hers, she scrubs her teddy bear to place in the new crib that her daddy puts together.  As she marks the days, we see what her mother is doing in Korea, meeting officials, visiting the children's home, holding the new baby, and then, traveling on the airplane toward home. 

These  two books are both told in the first person voices of young siblings who are anticipating the  arrival of a new sister to their family. In both stories the children are involved and coping with the anticipation. There are challenges and time delays involved in the international adoption process.  These two families model patience and love as they welcome their new family members.

What a Good Big Brother! (Picture Book)What a Good Big Brother! by Diane Wright Landolf, paintings by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher. Random House, 2009
The focus on the brother's face was a sweet choice for the cover. when, often all eyes are on the new baby.  Here, Landolf features what siblings can do to help out and feel important.  Cameron's assistance and contributions to the baby's well being are  included in the illustrations as words:  kiss kiss (kissing toes) pat pat (patting a head) wipe wipe  (handing dad wipes for a diaper change) rub rub (rubbing a tummy) 

The baby's waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa travels across the pages, as a graphic element of the illustration.    The perspective is often at Cameron's eye level.   The family works together to make baby Sadie happy but sometimes, only a  big brother can save the day.

This is a  sweet and tender look at the trials and rewards of being a new big brother.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Interview: Rockstar Rick Riordan

Ahem, for the record, I believe I was one of the first to dub him a rockstar in December of 2006, I'm just sayin'.

Nice interview with RRR on NPR, 'Percy Jackson' Author Takes On The Pyramids' about his new series. I loved his pitch about families reading together and this bit of advice to parents:

Strike up a good relationship with your children's librarian. They are a wealth of information for good books. Find a good independent bookseller in your community. They're another great source of information.

UPDATE:  AND Hokey Smokes Bullwinkle, look at the crowd at the last stop on the Pyramid tour! 

Kids, excited to see an author whose imagination and writing has thrilled them.  No matter which author it is, that is a grand thing!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Coloring Book

The Coloring BookThe Coloring Book by Hervé Tullet. Abrams, 2008

The thinking person's coloring book is the best way to describe this coloring book.  This book invites, urges and requires the artist to THINK about COLOR. 

No popular television or movie or licensed  characters  here.  Follow the directions and you will have to consider COLOR and all its shades and hues. 

Some examples:

A series of empty circles progress across the page and the directions say, "Color the shapes, from light to dark and back again."  It allows the choice of color to the artist. 

Outlined numbers from 0-9 overlap like a collage in the center of the page.  The directions ask, "How old are you? Color in the right number"  The eye has to isolate the number.

The pages are part puzzle, part I Spy, and engage higher level thinking.  

One page features two triangular warning road signs with the symbol for  "road work,"one to be colored (probably) in yellow.  Do kids notice that warning signs are yellow?  Clever! Those directions call on previous knowledge of road signs. Then the second one is labeled: Color in "holiday" colors!   The choice of holiday is yours. 

Scribbles: A Really Giant Drawing and Coloring BookA maze that appears to be a tangle of spaghetti invites the artist to select a strand and follow its twistings and turnings with their crayon. 

A page of flags from around the world invites a dip into a World Almanac or some other reference source to discover the colors. 

Visual discernment, color selection, creativity, higher level thinking, and the imagination, are all engaged between the covers of this delightful volume.  Some children might need help reading the instructions.

Doodles: A Really Giant Coloring and Doodling BookA shiny new box of crayons, markers, and water colors along with this book and/or  Taro Gomi's Squiggles: A Really Giant Drawing and Painting Book or Doodles: A Really Giant Coloring and Doodling Book be a great present to offer at a birthday party, from a grandparent or godparent.  These books have no upper age limit.    They would work as a  graduation gift or something for grown ups needing a "stress" break or just for fun.   I found myself longing for the scent of a new box of Crayola crayons as I turned the pages.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Do the Write Thing for Nashville

Do the Write Thing for Nashville

Writers reach out to support victims of the terrible flooding in Nashville, TN.   Meg Cabot is offering 
Check out Meg Cabot's offer of Vampire Ken

Mission:  To accept donations from publishing professionals to auction for middle Tennessee flood relief. Proceeds will benefit ...

The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee Activates Disaster Response Funds to Support Flood Relief Foundation Activates in Partnership with the Office of the Mayor and Davidson County’s Office of Emergency Management

Nashville, Tennessee – The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee has activated its Metro Nashville Disaster Response Fund, in partnership with the Office of the Mayor and Davidson County’s Office of Emergency Management, to support relief efforts necessitated by flooding, which has impacted so many lives. Grants from the fund will be made to nonprofits supporting relief, restoration and clean-up efforts in the Davidson County area in the aftermath of the flooding and storms. Donations are being accepted through The Community Foundation’s website at
or by mail at P.O. Box 440225, Nashville, TN, 37244.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Celebrity: Tyra Banks

Operation: No Celebrity Left Behind continues as Tyra Banks and Delacourt announce a book deal for a new series, MODELLAND    You can always detect a "celebrity book"  when the word LESSON appears in the description.

Harry Potter had a wand, Percy Jackson has his pen/sword, Riptide.  Tyra's characters will, no doubt, wield  their Cell Phones of Death.  

The highlighting below is from BookMoot.
New York, NY, May 11, 2010—Delacorte Press has acquired MODELLAND,  the first novel in a three-book series written by international, entertainment, and media icon Tyra Banks, it was announced today by Beverly Horowitz, Vice-President and Publisher, Delacorte Press. Drawing from an area of expertise she is avidly passionate about,
Tyra’s MODELLAND  is the story of a teen girl in a make-believe society who finds herself competing for a way of life that's both hotly desired and woefully out of reach at an academy for Intoxibellas, the most exceptional models known to humankind. As the plot unfolds, readers will uncover lessons that are buried beneath the surface of this magical world. The premise of the 3-part fantasy series is deeply rooted in Tyra’s core mission of expanding the definitions of beauty. In MODELLAND, Tyra’s innate ability to connect with women on issues ranging from relationships to body image finds a natural extension to the page. MODELLAND will launch in summer 2011 and will be supported by a major national marketing and publicity campaign.

The Tooth Fairy Meets El Ratón Pérez

The Tooth Fairy Meets El Ratón PérezThe Tooth Fairy Meets El Ratón Pérez by René Colato Laínez, illustrated by Tom Lintern. Tricycle Press, 2010.

René Colato Laínez shares the story that inspired this book on his website.  In his native El Salvador, when a child loses a tooth, "El Ratón Pérez, the Hispanic tooth collector" takes the tooth and leaves a small present in exchange.

So what would happen if El Ratón Pérez ran into the Tooth Fairy while both were about to lay claim to a little boy's first lost tooth?  El Ratón Pérez declares, "I collected his papá's, mamá's and his abuielito's." Miguelito, sleeps, unawares, while the two  struggle over his tooth.  When their arguing causes the tooth to almost be lost forever,  they decide to form an alliance to retrieve it.

I have known the Tooth Fairy all my life and never suspected there was another character in the tooth collecting canon. The legend of a a mouse in the biz is extends beyond Central and South America to Europe according to the notes at the end. A list of Spanish terms is also included to aid English speakers with some of the Spanish expressions and terms.

Tom Lintern's El Ratón Pérez is a robust rodent sporting a gaucho look while the Tooth Fairy hovers in a delicate pink frock.  Lintern uses a dreamy color palette and includes nice details like English and Spanish language books on Miguelito's bookshelf.  The boy's tooth goes missing on that bookshelf, next to the book Tooth Fairy Lore
The loss of a tooth is an important milestone in a child's life and Colato Laínez and Lintern honor the cultures that celebrate it. 

This book will be an outstanding addition to a any school library and librarians at bilingual schools should definitely consider this title for their collections.

René Colato Laínez's website

Tom Lintern's website

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Theatre: War Horse

War HorseWar Horse by Michael Morpurgo, Scholastic, 2007

I have this book on my TBR bookcase but I've been wary.
Ever since I read Black Beauty as a child, I am wary of horse and dog stories. 
Ok, just listening to this NPR story and watching the video, I'm crying. 

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Stoneheart Trilogy

Stoneheart Trilogy, Book One, The: Stoneheart (The Stoneheart Trilogy)I am late to the table discovering  this series.   

Stoneheart (Hyperion, 2007) by Charlie Fletcher is a page-turner with an intriguing focus for a fantasy novel.

George , 12 years old, breaks off the head of a dragon carving from the wall of the museum during a class field trip.  Uh-oh.  This action opens the way into an unseen dimension of London where all the statues of the city are good (the spits) and trying to help him or bad (the taints) and trying to kill him. He meets a girl named Edie who has the unwanted ability to see past events. 

For this Anglophile, the most delightful aspect to these books (I am in the middle of the second volume, Ironhand) is identifying the REAL statues and public art in London that are characters in the story.   
Stoneheart Trilogy, Book Two, The: Ironhand 
The cover art for Stoneheart IS the  Temple Bar Griffin or Dragon.
Locating the statues and memorials in the story has turned into a kind of obsession right now.  Some of the ones that I have identified include Boadicea and her daughters, Peter Pan, the Royal Artillery monument,  the Black Friar Pub and more

The audio books are read by the wondrous, Jim Dale. He is so firmly the voice of Harry Potter for me that I do not always enjoy his readings of other books, but this series is OUTSTANDING.  The storyline, characters and locales play to all his strengths as a narrator.  
The Stoneheart Trilogy, Book Three: Silvertongue

Fletcher is improving as a writer.  Ironhand is stronger than the first volume. (Must identify the statue on the cover now.)  The final volume Silvertongue should be a cracking read.

Update:  Found the statue on the cover of Ironhand.  It is  the Cnihtengild, Devonshire Square.

More statues:

Terra-dactyl from Natural History Museum (Stoneheart, Silvertongue)

Arial (Ironhand)
Hodge (Silvertongue) 
Wellington Arch (Silvertongue)
Dictionary aka Dr. Johnson 
The London Stone (Silvertongue)
WWI Memorial - the old soldier and the (grand, bloody, panjandrum of the painfully bleeding obvious) young soldier   (outside the Royal Exchange) (Silvertongue)
The Duke with no stirrups outside the Royal Exchange  (Silvertongue)
The Firefighters Memorial (Silvertongue)
Anteros from the Shaftesbury Memorial in Piccadilly Circus (Silvertongue)
Cleopatras Needle Sphinxes- Victoria Embankment - another view and another (Stoneheart, Silvertongue)
Merchant Navy Memorial - Jack Tar (Silvertongue)
Richard the Lionheart and a close-up (Silvertongue)
Queen of Time at Selfridges
Shackleton aka Shack @ Royal Geographical Society
Queen of America and "Bill" the buffalo from Albert Memorial
Is Railway Man Isambard Kingdom Brunel?
The Knight of Wood @ Southwark Cathedral

Renaissance Man holding a feather quill @ Southwark Cathedral

The Admiral
Boy with a Dolphin

Discovering London Statues and Monuments
 By Margaret Baker

Monday, May 03, 2010

Stories of Dance

Drumbeat in Our FeetDrumbeat in Our Feet
by Patricia A. Keeler and Julio T. Leitao, illustrated by Patricia A. Keeler, Lee&Low, 2006

The authors honor the Batoto Yetu dance troupe and celebrate African dance in this uplifting picture book.  Julio T. Leitao founded the troupe in 1990

Children from all over the New York City area arrive at the dance studio where their teacher leads them in songs, drumming and dance.  The meanings of the dances are reflected in traditional dress, masks and body paint as they prepare for a show.  As the children learn the steps, they also learn history and embrace  different cultural traditions.

Keeler's layout features background information in the left margin of colorful two page spreads. She portrays an African dance class to the right.  As the children prepare for a performance, facts about the origins of different types of dances, costumes, and musical instruments accompany vivid illustrations of students leaping and stepping through traditional dances.

Additional information about Batoto Yetu, which means "our children" in Swahili,  rounds out the book with photographs of young performers.  A map of the African continent helps orient the reader and a pronunciation guide and author's sources are included.
We are the children of the ancestors, singing the songs, dancing the steps to a story that never ends.  African rhythm in our steps. African drumbeat in our feet!

My Friend Maya Loves to DanceMy Friend Maya Loves to Dance
by Cheryl Willis Hudson, illustrated by Eric Velasquez, Abrams, 2010

Maya loves ballet and every other form of dance. Hudson follows Maya into her ballet class where the reader can hear the teacher's voice directing their movements in French.  Maya loves tap, African dance and performing during worship at her church. 

Eric Velasquez discusses his approach to the illustrations in an interview at The Brown Bookshelf.  He tenderly paints the awkwardness of the young girl executing a  jeté, while capturing the promise of the future dancer.  I appreciated his use of  poster-like backgrounds to depict Maya's wide-ranging musical interests. from Dizzy Gillespe to Oscar Peterson, from classical to gospel. 

Although the text does not refer to her directly, the illustrations reveal that Maya's friend who is the narrator of the story,  is in a wheel chair which brings meaning to the closing lines, 
Maya dances strong, and free
With joy all can see. 
Dancing is magic for her and for me.