Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
The classic WKRP Turkey Drop.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Nonfiction Monday: Enrique Esparza and the Battle of the Alamo

Enrique Esparza and the Battle of the Alamo (History Speaks: Picture Books Plus Reader's Theater (Quality))Enrique Esparza and the Battle of the Alamo (History Speaks: Picture Books Plus Reader's Theaterby Susan Taylor Brown; illustrated by Jeni Reeves, 2011. (review copy)

Texas history is the focus of fourth grade social studies in the Lone Star state. That is a happy year for those students as they study the story of the state's founding and its struggle for independence. Texans regard their state's symbolic birth at the Alamo with a mixture of pride and reverence.  I have observed that by the time they revisit the story in 7th grade with its overlay of government and civics and junior high ennui, their enthusiasm wanes.
I am always on the lookout for books that embrace that high level interest in elementary school.
Susan Taylor Brown's Enrique Esparza and the Battle of the Alamo is part of the "History speaks" series from Millbrook Press. Brown focuses on the family of eight year old Enrique Esparza in the days leading up to and following the battle for the Alamo.  Enrique's father Gregorio Esparza was one of the Tejano defenders who fought along side of the likes of Bowie, Crockett and Travis.

The Esparza family joined Gregorio inside the Alamo for the thirteen day battle.  Gregorio died along with the other Anglo and Tejano defenders as Santa Anna gave no quarter for the fighters inside the mission. Esparza's wife and children survived.  The story acknowledges the role of Tejanos in the fight for independence and their role in shaping the future of the state.

Jeni Reeves uses a warm and vivid Southwestern color palette to illustrate Enrique's story.  She paints with broad brush strokes and captures the tension and fear in the family's faces as they endure the battle and the aftermath. Texas school librarians are always on the lookout for "Texas" books. The reader's theater adds another dimension to the story for classroom use.   This is an excellent addition to the Texas school library.  I wonder if it is available in the gift shop at the Alamo?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

From Zombies to vampires and werewolves.

Bad Taste in Boys by Carrie Harris.  Delacorte, 2011 (review copy provided by publisher)

This incongruous book cover does not begin to hint at the story between the boards.  Kate Grable works as the student trainer for her high school's football team. She is smart, knowledgeable and takes her job seriously.  She takes good care of the players even though the coach is not as concerned with their health as he is the team's performance.
When she discovers vials of drugs in the coach's office, she suspects he is foisting steroids on his team.  When the football players begin falling ill and developing zombie-like symptoms (such as taking bites out of their classmates) she fears it may be something far worse.  This is a very clever story and Kate is a smart and worthy heroine.

Cynthia Leitich Smith  has one of her excellent interviews with Carrie Harris today at her blog Cynsations.  And speaking of Cynthia...

Cynthia Leitich Smith, has extended her story, Tantalize as a  graphic novel, Tantalize: Kieren's Story, Candlewick, 2011 (review copy provided by publisher). This is not merely a redo of the original story in graphic novel format.  Instead she tells the story from the point of view of Kieren, the werewolf boyfriend of Tantalize's main character, Quincie. Quincie is the young Austin restaurateur who has unknowingly hired a vampire as her head chef.  The graphic novel rounds out the original storyline adding more insight into Kieren who is one of the story's most interesting characters.  Ming Doyle's black and white artwork employs close-ups and emotion filled facial expressions that reminded me of the old True Romance comics only with weremonsters.

At a recent author appearance at Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, Cynthia described the process of working with an illustrator in this kind of storytelling.  She described a collaboration which made me think of the relationship between a movie director and cinematographer with each of them sharing both roles.