Wednesday, December 12, 2012


by Tim Jessell, Random House, 2012.
ISBN: 9780375868665

Breathtaking vistas and views greet the reader as an imagined flight of a falcon  sweeps them from the plains through mountain heights, over oceans and cliffs to a city-scape where a skyscraper becomes the falcon's eyrie.  Jessell's landscapes spread over two pages and evoke wind and sky and majesty from the falcon's point of view.  The child's imagination takes the falcon to the city where it dives towards people on the sidewalk and swoops away.  Jessell's landscapes and realism is fresh and welcome. 

His website gives an overview of his work and a look at his process for sketching and painting. 

Tim Jessell website

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

TED Talk -- Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Jarrett J. Krosoczka writes books that kids connect with on so many levels, through his artwork, his humor, his understanding of childhood.  When I am asked for a recommendation from a parent going in to a classroom to read, I want to give them a sure fire hit. I give them a Krosoczka picture book. 

I did not think I could be a bigger fan girl but now I've viewed his TED talk.

Krosoczka's TED talk should be a must view for everyone.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Sadness: Thomas Locker

I just learned that the wonderful Thomas Locker died this year in March, 2012.  This is the Publishers Weekly obit for him.  I feel as if I've lost a friend.   At some point over all these years, I should have written him and let him know how much I admired his artwork.

I love Locker's books.  For years I've marked his books at "required" for library start-up collections and added his titles to  acquisitions lists for established libraries.  I realize now that I own very few in my personal library.

His landscapes showed such a reverence for the majesty of the natural world. PW likened his work to 19th-century Hudson River School of painting. His work also evoked the English painter, John Constable and the great Dutch painter,  Jacob van Ruisdael.  His brooding Dutch skies in The Boy Who Held Back the Sea are a direct homage to van Ruidael.

For science connections his Cloud Dance is an exquisite rendering of the hydrological cycle (water cycle) as is Mountain Dance which depicts the rock cycle.

 His pairing with Jean-Craighead-George produced the lovely To Climb a Waterfall taking the reader on a climb up the Hudson River Valley's Kaaterskill Falls.

I always add Sky Tree to lists of books for my art teachers.  Each page is a study of the same tree during all seasons and at different times of the day.  It is breathtaking.

I feel a little poorer today and I have a new set of books to start collecting for my personal library.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

I Like Old Clothes

With the pending arrival of the first grand-entling, I am once again regarding picture books with an eye to snuggle-up reading and inclusion in the best library a grand-entling could dream of.  I've put down the knitting needles here to look at some that delight me.

I Like Old Clothes
by Mary Ann Hoberman, illustrations by Patrice Barton, Knopf, 2012. ISBN: 9780375869518

Hoberrman's words exult the hand-me-down and rejoice at the charity thrift store find.

"Clothes with a history, Clothes with a mystery"

Patrice Barton has re-imagined Hoberman's original 1976 version of this book with softly washed pictures "using pencil sketches and mixed media, assembled and painted digitally." The illustrations seem to appear on a background of "old clothes."  Fabric textures, prints, plaids and buttons serve as a backdrop for children who are playing dress-up and using old socks for hand puppets. There is no stigma to used sweaters or shirts here. Old clothes upgrade to  "vintage' in the hands of these junior fashion-istas.  Lovely.

Patrice Barton, illustrator website

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Jack Gantos Newbery Speech 2012

The reviews from in the hall were true.

So very Gantos.  Highlights "the slippery lives of Newbery winners" including Will James and others.  He also announces that Daniel Radcliffe has purchased the rights to Hole in My Life.  
Daniel as Jack???

Friday, August 10, 2012

Revisiting Harry Potter

As a girl, I wore out the binding and covers to many books on my childhood bookshelves by frequently re-reading my favorite books. There are members of my family who read Lord of the Rings annually. The exhausted, almost non-existant binding of entling no. 3's copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Book 1) is the stuff of family legend and lore.

As what passes for a grown up now though, I rarely revisit a book. Too many books so little time, as the saying goes.

To my surprise, I have spent my summer listening to Jim Dale's readings of the Harry Potter books. It began early in the summer with an inability to settle on a book to read. I started many, only finished and enjoyed a few. I have a summer book club assignment to read George Eliot's Middlemarch, which I am over a third of the way through and enjoying but...

I felt an overwhelming desire to visit with Harry, Hermione and Ron again.  I have joined Pottermore but have not invested much time there to understand it.  I re-read the books in a sporadic fashion over the years, usually prompted by the pending release of a new volume in the series or in preparation for a  movie's premier. I have never worked all the way through from book one to book seven before. That is what I did this summer. The experience rewarded me with new insight into the story arc overall, renewed feelings of love and kinship for the characters and awareness of details and events that I overlooked or forgot from my previous readings.

As I read Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Book 4) I chuckled over the Ministry of Magic's preparations for the Quidditch World Cup while I was also hearing about the difficulties of running the Olympic Games in London. The lighting of the Olympic flame happened as the Goblet of Fire kicked off the Tri-Wizard Tournament.  I found new thought provoking links to my faith in the stories that did not have the same meaning to me in my previous reads.

As I listened I found myself marveling at how timely and timeless Rowling's themes are. I was struck anew at how much I enjoyed the movies but how some of the movie's shortcuts and images had overwritten the books in my imagination. Even though I was only listening to the books I found Mary GrandPré's iconic illustrations coming to mind at different points.

As I finished the epilogue of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)I found myself quite content with its place in the narrative. It had seemed oddly tacked on the first time I read the book but today I was perfectly happy with every aspect of it. As I listened to the last sentences about Severus Snape and Harry's scar I enjoyed that happy experience of a book making me cry.

Even though I continue to circulate the books to students at the different school libraries where I work, I have wondered if Harry's story will continue to call to readers without the media buzz, the midnight bookstore events and movie celebrations that were such a part of my family's life over the years.,  My experience this summer has assured me that Rowling created something classic and timeless and fine with these books. Like Tolkien, the stories hold up to re-reading and bless the reader with new insights and experiences along the way.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The False Prince

The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen. Scholastic, 2012

This book will be one of my you-must-read-this recommendations when school starts this fall.
Part Prisoner of Zenda, part Count of Monte Cristo, The False Prince is a grand adventure that kept me listening continuously and avidly.  Nielsen has written an old fashioned tale of revenge, conspiracy, mysterious identity and betrayal.  The book works as a stand alone story but will be part of a planned Ascendance Trilogy. For the audio version that I listened to, narrator Charlie McWade provided a competent performance and kept the story moving along.

Thirteen year old Sage is an orphan, a thief and a smart mouth who has learned his street smarts the hard way. A conniving noble named Connor acquires him from the orphanage and along with three other youths from around the country, sets out to teach them the skills they will need to impersonate the long lost prince of the realm.  Knowing that the young prince is dead, lost at sea, Connor seeks to place an impersonator that he can control on the throne. He maintains that he is a patriot and trying to save the country from civil war.  Only one of the boys can go forward as the heir so the boys are pitted against each other to earn the spot. To lose the contest though means death for the others as the secret can never get out. To win has its own dangers because if the false prince is discovered he will be guilty of treason.

Sage is caught up in a game of politics, power and intrigue. There is no magic in this world, no ring of power, no invisibility cloak to help him. This is a story that echoes Robert Louis Stevenson more than JKRowling.

Great fun.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Robot Zombie Frankenstein!

Robot Zombie Frankenstein! by Annette Simon.  Candlewick Press, 2012

As a child of a certain decade, I remember ColorForms.  I see there is a anniversary edition of the toy available.  There is even an app for iThing users.  I hold the original version of the toy develops a sense of shape and color.  Young imaginations were enhanced and fine motor skills are enhanced as the plastic shapes were carefully peeled and applied to the shiny surface.

Annette Simon's mixes that same spirit of creativity with her imaginative use of shapes, vivid color and popular themes. The end papers offer a menu of the shapes that will be deployed in what at first seems a very simple narrative.  Robots made up of squares, triangles, rectangles, ovals, circles and crescents morph into zombie robot, then Frankenstein robot then pirate robot.  Add in a pie and a fork and there is an opportunity for the two robots to share some delicious pie.

There are so many ways to use this book in a school library or classroom or art class.  Shape identification, colors, build your own robot, friendship, sharing, collage are just some of the ways I can envision using this title.

This is going in my Go bag for this new school year. What a deliciously entertaining book.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Movie: The Leaf Men

It appears William Joyce's The Leaf Men has experienced an interesting journey to the big screen including a title change. It now called Epic.

Lovely trailer!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

48 Hour Book Challenge 2012 Finish Line

Well, I managed to finish The Likeness by Tana French for my last 4 hours of reading. I've read all three of French's Dublin mysteries now and I understand a fourth is due this year.  These are not YA books.  Her writing is very compelling.

I split my time evenly between blogging and reading this year.
 Time Reading  5.5 hours
 Time writing and visiting other blogs  5 hours

 Glad I had the time to write some posts anyway.  Will be making a $20 donation to RIF in honor of this annual event. I knew I would be pressed for time and attention this year but it is an annual event that MotherReader heroically organizes and I have managed some level of participation every year.

Kuddos to everyone!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

48 Hour Book Challenge 2012 #3

I confess that ordinarily, I do not read animal stories.  I avoid horse stories due to my fourth grade reading of Black Beauty and the image of the expired Ginger being carted away that is seared into my imagination.   No Marguerite Henry for me, thank you very much.  To this day,  I am ignorant of  Misty of Chincoteague and King of the Wind: The Story of the Godolphin Arabian despite having happily handed them over to many passionate horse story loving girls over the years.  Even entling no.1's enthusiasm for the entire Black Stallion series complete with matching Breyer horses did not move me unil I saw the beautiful Black Stallion movie.   I did get through Smoky the Cowhorse by Will James one summer because it was on my grandparent's bookshelf and I was out of reading material.

The glorious cover of this new Iain Lawrence novel called to me though. I adored Pam Munoz Ryan's sweeping Paint The Wind and IT had a horse on the cover. I did not read the jacket blurbs but dove right in.   It was not until I was well in to the story, told by the horse James (Jimmy) Pigg himself,  that I realized the pony was in the hands of the doomed Robert Falcon Scott and would be part of the race to the South Pole.


The story is compelling and Lawrence has remained faithful to history. He skillfully inserts bits of Scott's own words, from his journals to move the story forward.  The end of the story is poignantly told.  The race to the South Pole between Amundsen's Norwegian expedition and Scott's British group was something I knew about as a child. I suspect I would be hard pressed to find a student today who could even name the two explorers.

My initial reaction to this book was that it was but I have found myself reflecting on the story again and again in recent weeks since I finished it.  I attribute this to the excellent "Author's Note" which  puts the entire story in context. Lawrence recalls his own  negative childhood feelings about Amundsen and the more recent research that has painted Scott in a more realistic light. He posits the view that it was Scott's compassion for the animals that doomed the expedition early on. Lawrence cautions about judging the past by modern standards.  The love and compassion of the handlers, some feeding the ponies their own food rations, helps the reader empathize with the animals AND the men.  He lifts the tragic story at the end by suggesting an afterlife for the horses which is gentle and appropriate given the USAF naming of navigational waypoints on the route used by "all air traffic between New Zealand and McMurdo Station in Antarctica" after Amundsen’s sledge dogs and Scott’s ponies including this story's Jimmy Pigg

"Polar Sidekicks Earn a Place on the Map" by John Noble Wilford.  NYTimes, September 27, 2010

48 Hour Book Challenge 2012 #2

My Sister's Stalker by Nancy Springer. Holiday House, 2012.

There is no pigeonholing Nancy Springer as a writer.  I have been follower from Sherwood Forest to Camelot to the London of Sherlock Holmes.  When I realized The Case of the Gypsy Goodbye: An Enola Holmes Mystery was going to be the last Enola Holmes book, I purposely delayed reading it because I did not want the series to end.  Springer's new book is a tightly written thriller.

Children of divorce, Rig and his older sister, Kari do not see each other very often. Kari is at college and Rig is still in high school. He is living with his space cadet mother (you can understand why his parents divorced) when he googles his sister's name one day and discovers an entire website devoted to her.  Kari is a sophomore in college but there are photos of her on the site dating back to her high school years.  Many of them seem to be recent photos taken from afar.  Who is behind this site?  Who is stalking his sister?  Rig turns to his estranged father for help when his mother refuses to see the photographs as anything threatening. 

One of the gratifying aspects of this book, as an grown up reader, was how realistically Rig's father responds to the threat to his daughter. In approximately 100 pages Springer sketches a story that should give young adults pause before they post every moment and location of their lives online.  This is a great "quick picks" book.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

48 Hour Book Challenge 2012 #1

Lunch lady and the Mutant Mathletes by Jarrett J. Krosoczka.  Random House, 2012.

Dee, Hector, and Terrence are assigned to the school mathlete team in lieu of detention for skipping out on the class field trip to the museum (Lunch Lady and the Field Trip Fiasco: Lunch Lady #6.)  The team must compete in the Math Match Competition against the never defeated private school Willowby Academy kids who sneer at the public school teams.  There is something strange about the kids on the Willowby Academy team.   Lunch Lady and her trusty assistant Betty investigate and ride to the rescue wielding their high tech lunch room gadgets

Krosoczka absolutely connects with young readers through his art and his sense of humor. I personally believe his insight stems from his time working at the Hole in the Wall Gang camp.  It may be a chicken and egg thing. Did he work there because of this focus or did he gain it from working there. Dunno.  My niece told me that she really, REALLY liked the Babymouse books I sent her but she LOVED the Lunch Ladies.

48 Hour Book Challenge 2012

Starting my mini-version of MotherReader's 7th Annual 48 Hour Book Challenge.
Off to see what is on top of the reading stack.  See ya!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Jennifer Holm has a blog!

This will be a fun blog to follow:  Jennifer L. Holm, Author (I wear slippers to work)

Here, I learned that she will be appearing with her brother Matt Holm at the Dallas BookSmart Festival  at the Dallas Museum of Art this weekend.

On her "Coming Soon" tab she talks about the new Babymouse for President book and Eighth Grade Is Making Me Sick: Ginny Davis's Year In Stuff which is the sequel to her absolutely brilliant Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff.  These books tell their stories in a scrapbook fashion. What is astonishing is how Holm manages to tell a humorous, poignant and tender story through a collection of post-it notes, texts and the flotsam and jetsam papers of daily life.
I'm looking forward to seeing what she wants to share on her blog.