Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Tacky the Penguin is...well...tacky. He doesn't quite fit in with the other proper penguins. He's always doing things a little different. The others think he's just too weird, until his crazy antics save them all from a bunch of penguin hunters.
We have a lot in common, Tacky and I. In fact, my good friends know my "Penguin" nickname and how it came to be. It's a story I don't need to tell here because its not that exciting really, but let's just say that like Tacky, I've always tried to embrace the things that make me a little different.
Children's picture books require a good illustrator almost as much as a good author, and Lynn Munsinger does not disappoint. This is a lovely and funny book that shares a great message about being yourself. There are also a number of other Tacky books that further share this lovable bird's unique personality. Make this a birthday or Christmas gift for any of the young readers in your life. Or even the old ones like me!
Thursday, August 26, 2010
There's nothing better to read on a road-trip than a road-trip story. So if you are taking a big trip before fall arrives and school starts, pick up this book and laugh and cry along the way. Salamanca Tree Hiddle travels from Ohio to Idaho with her eccentric and hysterically funny grandparents. They are going to visit her mother's grave, which is near where she died in an accident. Salamanca doesn't tell anyone that the real reason she wants to go is because she believes her mother is not dead and she can bring her back. And even though much of the book is concentrated around Salamanca and her mother, the real story is about her relationship with her father and the new woman in his life.
I love the layers of this book, the different and complicated relationships of the family, as well as the stories stacked on each other. As the trio travels, Salamanca tells her grandparents the story of Phoebe Longbottom, a girl who has many interesting adventures, and who also is searching for her lost mother. Her story is very similar to Salamanca's own, and the way she uses it to explain and sort out her own life gives the book a depth and richness that keeps you intrigued. But the real stars of the book are Gram and Gramps, who keep you laughing the whole time, but also touch your heart with the love they share.
Another Newbery Medal Winner that is worthy of the honor.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
by Mark Dunn
Don't let the subtitle scare you away. To do a rough translation, it means "a fable about letters that is written in a progressively limited way." To some of you this may sound a little boring, but trust me, it is a fascinating and fun story with an underlying message that reminds us all of the importance of our freedoms, particularly the freedom of speech. At first it seems like a simple little story about an imaginary land called Nollop, which is named after a man who invented the pangram (a sentence which uses all the letters of the alphabet). Their society is focused around words and language, and all is well until the letter Z falls down off the monument commemorating the pangram. Some see it as a simple accident, while others see it as a "sign" and decide to make it illegal to use the letter Z in any spoken or written communication. This begins a chain of events which leads to, as one review says so well, a "linguistic siege". Ella Minnow Pea is a girl living in Nollop who sets out to save her society.
What is particularly clever about this book is that the author himself is under his own writing constraints, as laid out by the book, and reading his sentences as letters disappear is challenging, funny, and sometimes infuriating. The title alone gives you an idea of the word play throughout. It is engaging and an easy read, despite all the "wordy" references. A cleverly written book that makes an important point about how we should never become complacent about fighting for our freedoms.
Monday, August 16, 2010
I know a lot of you may have already read this series, but just in case you haven't, I had to get this recommendation done because the third book in the series will be released soon and I can't wait!
This is considered a young adult sci-fi fiction book, but adults can enjoy it just as much as youth, and I personally found it quite gripping. I can see why it is considered a sci-fi book, but it is more about the human spirit than anything. It will keep you on the edge of your seat, or in my case bed, since I finished it at 3am.
Set in a future post-apocalyptic time where 13 districts of people are ruled over by one powerful Capitol government, the Hunger Games are forced to be played every year by a boy and girl from each district. It is a game of survival where they are supposed to kill each other until only one remains the victor. The Games are used by the Capitol as a form of entertainment, but also as a reminder to the districts of their lower status and to keep them in subjection.
It sounds disturbing and it is. However, I am a fairly sensitive soul when it comes to disturbing and scary topics. I often have nightmares about books and movies that are just not worth it, no matter how good the material. This book did not bother me. I felt Collins covered the graphic parts with restraint, but did not gloss over them either. I have heard some say that it was too disturbing for them, so take that as you will.
The characters feel real and their relationships are complicated. Collins does a good job of leading you to think something predictable will happen, and then turning it to something you wouldn't expect. It leaves you satisfied and interested for the next book, but does not wrap up everything into a pretty, happy ending. The second book, "Catching Fire" did the first book justice and I won't tell you about it because if you read the first, I don't doubt you'll be hooked. The third book "Mockingjay" is being released August 24th.
It's refreshing to find a new series which everyone is talking about, and which is worthy of all the attention.
Friday, August 13, 2010
All Creatures Great and Small
All Things Bright and Beautiful
All Things Wise and Wonderful
The Lord God Made Them All
Every Living Thing
Herriott, whose actual name is James Alfred Wight, tells stories about the people and farmers and animals of the Yorkshire countryside, with laughter, thoughtfulness, at times sadness, and often with a good eye for the absurd. The way he describes the life of a vet will give you a new appreciation for the job, but he also covers his brief stint in the military, as well as his family life. He gives forthright details about the illnesses and procedures, covering a period of time when new advances in veterinary medicine were slowly starting to be implemented. Yet Herriot constantly keeps his focus on the humanity of both the animals and their people, without getting overly sentimental. There are characters in every book that you will never forget, some good and some bad, but mostly ones that will just make you laugh. Herriott pokes fun at himself as much as any other.
These are not books just for animal lovers. I myself am not much of an animal-lover. We have a cat, which truthfully I wish we didn't. I will never get a dog, at least not of my own volition. I liked the cows and goats and chickens that my parents raised us with just fine, but didn't particularly mind when butchering time came around either. I love these books because it goes beyond the animals, to observe and comment on how people interact with the natural world around them.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
by Kathryn Stockett
I've been telling everyone about this book lately, so if you've already heard my thoughts or read it yourself, then you can ignore this post. If not, go find a copy. Its been on the LA Times bestseller list at #1 for a year, so you may have to get on a library waiting list unless you can find someone to loan it to you.
Monday, August 9, 2010
Friday, August 6, 2010
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
She wasn't supposed to survive the accident. But she did.
From the beginning, you know there is something odd about Jenna Fox and the circumstances surrounding her accident, coma, and now her reawakening. It's hard to review this book without giving away the secret, so you'll just have to believe me when I say this is a fascinating book about a girl that is trying to discover herself and the mystery surrounding her recovery. Not only does she deal with having been moved clear across the country abruptly and trying to make new friends, but she also must deal with strange ways her parents and grandmother act toward her.
I figured the mystery out shortly before it was revealed, but up until then it kept me in quite a lot of suspense and made me feel slightly uneasy. I love when a book can do that so subtly. What really surprised me was the questions and issue that it brought up, which made me thing long and hard about my beliefs in the soul, science, life, and mortality. Yet the book was not heavy-handed with this issues and did not feel like it was preaching to me. It only placed the questions before me and made me really think about how far I would go to save someone I love.
I wish I could say more, but I can't. So please go read it and then I'll finally have someone to talk to about it.
Monday, August 2, 2010
Many other authors since L. Frank Baum have tried writing Oz books and I have read some of them, but none are as good as the originals. I highly recommend reading these to or with your kids, just as my mom did with me. Leave your boring Kansas lives for a moment each day and go visit the wonderful world of Oz.