What Really Happened to Humpty?

April 22, 2009

humpty

In this new picture book by Jeanie Franz Ransom, Joe Dumpty (Humpty’s detective brother) sets out to prove that Humpty’s fall was no accident.  Kids will recognize lots of nursery-rhyme characters from Little Miss Muffet to the Three Little Pigs.  Adults will recognize the spoof of classic detectives.  The story, which has quite a bit of narration, includes mystery and crime, but not murder – Humpty is not dead, just broken (since all the King’s men can’t put him together).  However, the bright, full illustrations will help readers who may have trouble with lots of words.  All in all, this is a very fun book and would be great as a read-aloud.

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The Most Fantastic Atlas of the Whole Wide World

April 20, 2009

atlasA friend once told me that a great place to learn about something is to start with children’s books.  This non-fiction picture book illustrated by Lisa Swerling and Ralph Lazar and written by Simon Adams is a GREAT place to learn about Earth, world culture, and geography.  It’s jam-packed with information – from the solar system to weather to oceans to people to Earth’s structure and surface.  Alternated between these more general topics are fold-out pages of each continent.  Individual countries and their capitals are clearly labeled, and significant geographical features are mentioned in the margins.  When the pages are unfolded, the four-page spread goes into more detail on the countries that make up the continent, providing facts on history, architecture, and culture.

Each page is fully illustrated and has several sections begging to be observed.  At times there almost seems to be too much information for one read-through.  It is, however, perfect for reading again and again.  The sixth time through readers will surely see something they had missed before – even if it’s the clever quips the little Brainwaves have to say on each page that parents will love.  The Most Fantastic Atlas of the Whole Wide World is more entertaining than the Eyewitness non-fiction books, and I highly recommend it!


2009 Teens’ Top Ten

April 19, 2009

YALSA recently released the nominees for this year’s Teens’ Top Ten!  Voting will take place during Teen Read Week in October, so there’s plenty of time to read them.  Last year’s top ten included Eclipse, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  Here are the nominees…

Cashore, Kristin – Graceling
Cast, Kristin & P.C. – Untamed
Clare, Cassandra – City of Ashes
Collins, Suzanne – The Hunger Games
Fukui, Isamu – Truancy
Fukui, Isamu – Truancy: Origins
Gaiman, Neil – The Graveyard Book
Green, John – Paper Towns
Harris, Joanne – Runemarks
Hopkins, Ellen – Identical
Leitich-Smith, Cynthia – Eternal
Lockhart, E. – The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks
Marriott, Zoё – Daughter of the Flames
McMann, Lisa – Wake
Meyer, Stephenie – Breaking Dawn
Moran, Katy – Bloodline
Ness, Patrick – The Knife of Never Letting Go
Noёl, Alyson – Evermore
Palmer, Robin – Geek Charming
Pierce, Tamora – Melting Stones
Scott, Elizabeth – Living Dead Girl
Smith, Sherri L. – Flygirl
Weingarten, Lynn – Wherever Nina Lies
Werlin, Nancy – Impossible
Yee, Lisa – Absolutely Maybe


If I Stay

April 17, 2009

if-i-stay1This new young-adult novel by Gayle Forman has only been out for a few weeks, but already it has quite a bit of buzz – an interesting and serious plot, its own website complete with book trailer, and a movie deal (with Twilight‘s Catherine Hardwicke slated to direct).  From these alone, it’s on the fast-track to be one of the most talked about books of the year.

Seventeen-year-old Mia has a great life with her cool (no, really) parents, adorable younger brother, and fantastic boyfriend.  She’s a classically trained cellist, whose most difficult decision at the beginning of the book is whether to leave behind her family, friends, and boyfriend to go to Julliard in the fall.  However, tragedy strikes during a family car ride, and Mia discovers her family has been killed and she is in serious condition.  Now she must decide whether to let go and be with her parents and brother as a family or stay with her friends and boyfriend and live with unbearable loss for the rest of her life.

I did not love this book from the start, but as I got further into it and after I finished, I discovered I liked it better than I thought I would. If I Stay is extremely sad.  More than once I had to put it down because it was too depressing.  The book uses flashbacks juxtiposed with Mia’s out-of-body experience so that readers get a sense of what her life is like.  Her family seems a little too perfect since they get along all the time, but this is probably just to show how difficult it would be for Mia to not have them in her life should she choose to stay.  Mia also annoyed and frustrated me at times because I could see how much she still has to live for – lots of extended family, close grandparents, close family friends, her boyfriend, her best friend, her future, etc.  If I Stay is definitely a great book for understanding mortality and how hard life is.  As Mia says in the book, dying is easy, living is hard.  I can’t say this was one of the best books I’ve read this year (though that may just be because of how heavy it was), but I definitely think it’s worth reading!


Abe’s Honest Words

April 13, 2009

abeshonestwordsAbe’s Honest Words: The Life of Abraham Lincoln is the second picture book by Doreen Rappaport that I have reviewed on this blog, the first being Martin’s Big Words.  As good as that one was, I think the Lincoln biography is even better.   This one, unlike the last one, is illustrated by Kadir Nelson.  The pictures are beautifully realistic – large and filled with detail.  Rappaport’s words are mixed with quotations from Lincoln.  They’re easily distinguished from one another yet flow perfectly together.

This is a great biography.  While reading it, I felt as if I were listening to a documentary and hearing the narrator speak, offering background, before Lincoln’s own voice came in.  The book goes through a quick rundown of Lincoln’s life.  Although it doesn’t go into many real details, overall it is extremely well done and should definitely be one of the frontrunners in the new batch of books on Lincoln to come out over the past year.  The end of the book offers a timeline of important dates, as well as a suggested bibliography.

For more nonfiction books, check out Nonfiction Monday Round-Up at Abby (the) Librarian!


Sorcery & Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot

April 10, 2009

sorceryceceliaWritten in letters between two cousins, this 1987 (re-issued in 2003) book by Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer is a fresh change from the typical novel style.  Throw in a setting of early 1800s England and some magical elements and the story becomes extremely interesting.  While Kate is off in London for the season, Cecelia is stuck back in the country without her.  The two describe their encounters with new friends, “odious” men, and mysterious events and soon realize their separate adventures are connected.

The story begins a little slow.  I had to start it twice after putting it down for awhile the first time, but it was great once I got into it.  Both Kate and Cecelia are relatable characters despite the time period that may be foreign to readers.  They possess a spunk that will make readers laugh and forget about the (now) strange customs of 19th Century England society.  Sorcery & Cecelia is perfect for readers who love the elements of Jane Austen but have trouble with the language of the classics.  If you like Sorcery & Cecelia, I’ve just discovered that there are two follow-ups:  The Grand Tour or The Purloined Coronation Regalia and The Mislaid Magician or Ten Years After.  I’m adding them to my to-read list now!


United Tweets of America

April 6, 2009

unitedtweetsUnited Tweets of America: 50 State Birds, Their Stories, Their Glories by Hudson Talbott is a picture book about (surprise!) the U.S. state birds.  Each state is featured in alphabetical order, and readers may be surprised by some of the birds they find on each page — New Mexico’s state bird is the roadrunner, and the cardinal is the state bird of 7 states!  Besides the state bird, each page offers a few other facts about the state or the bird.

However, although United Tweets of America is definitely informative and interesting for learning about the state birds, it doesn’t offer a lot of good facts about the state – just a few here and there.  If you’re teaching or learning about the state birds, this is a great book, but if you’re more interested in the states themselves, I recommend Our 50 States by Lynne Cheney, which is a great picture book full of information.