Through the "voices" of the instruments of a remarkable all-female jazz band, The International Sweethearts of Rhythm, Marilyn Nelson tells of the ban...moreThrough the "voices" of the instruments of a remarkable all-female jazz band, The International Sweethearts of Rhythm, Marilyn Nelson tells of the band, its members, of Jim Crow, of WWII, and of jazz itself. Each poem is built around a particular tune,say "That Man of Mine: 'Tiny' Davis on Trumpet". As she has done with her previous works for young people, Nelson uses big words and big ideas. There is sound, there is rhythm, pain, joy, and history all rolled into captivating wholes of verse.
The poems would be fabulous enough, but coupled with Jerry Pinkney's art and you have a truly remarkable work of art. Pinkney's style will be familiar, but for the first time he has added collage to his work and it brings these images to a really heightened level, bright and brash like the music, quiet and sad like aspects of the life of the band members and their loved ones during this time. (less)
Wow --- I now see and agree with all the accolades heaped on this book. I'd had it sitting around for weeks before I reluctantly began reading it ---...moreWow --- I now see and agree with all the accolades heaped on this book. I'd had it sitting around for weeks before I reluctantly began reading it --- once I did I was engrossed. Hoose's research is remarkable, but it is the way he seamlessly interweaves Claudette's own memories with his third person account (sprinkled with other quotes) that is just wonderful. I absolutely loved, loved, loved this book. (less)
Absolutely superb. I always meant to read me some Kelly Link and am so glad I finally did. I loved each and every completely different story in this c...moreAbsolutely superb. I always meant to read me some Kelly Link and am so glad I finally did. I loved each and every completely different story in this collection. Link is clever, witty, imaginative, and remarkable. And she writes like a dream. So many wonderful lines and bits. Here's just a tiny one I thought was hilarious (partly because of a certain writer-of-a-very-famous-boy-wizard's overuse of a certain part of speech): "The goats are sneezing emphatically." (In the title story, page 285.) The stories are at times very funny, very scary, very thrilling, and always very wonderful.
Whew, this is an amazing book. I started it a while ago and stopped because it was too intense. After reading other enthusiastic reviews I returned to...moreWhew, this is an amazing book. I started it a while ago and stopped because it was too intense. After reading other enthusiastic reviews I returned to it and I'm glad I did. It all feels so fresh and original. While the world Lanagan has created is a familiar one of fairy, it stands alone--- the language, living, and magic feel completely unique.
How Lanagan pulled off the shifting points of view is impressive. I still can feel and smell and hear what it must have been like to be Bear. While issues of good and evil tend to be simplified in traditional tales, that is not the case here. No one is perfect in this book. Each of the major characters has flaws and makes mistakes. And I loved the way this author completely turned upside down and inside out the way someone would respond to extreme trauma. I don't want to say more for fear of spoilage, but it is brilliant.
A variation of this review is at my blog here. This is a lovely book. I became a Horvath fan years ago with The Trolls and quite liked Everything on a...moreA variation of this review is at my blog here. This is a lovely book. I became a Horvath fan years ago with The Trolls and quite liked Everything on a Waffle. This one has the same episodic quality of these and feels a bit gentler too, somehow. It takes place in an unnamed Massachusetts town where the narrator, 12 year-old Jane, lives with her poet mother and younger siblings in a beach house. It is indeed a series of "adventures" that have a number of connecting threads (family, fathers, friendship, and more). There is a charm about this book and I recommend it highly.
Horvath always has a dry, deadpan humorous style that I've always loved. For example, in this book, at one point Jane mentions that her mother has a large stockpile of rice and there are other references to the fact that money and food are a bit scarce in their household. In a later chapter they are sitting about mourning the death of another character and that rice is elegantly referenced thus:
We don't feel much like having a barbecue now. We sit around and eat a little rice.
(And again a few paragraphs later when someone stops by to discuss the funeral.)
"Of course we will be there. We will all be there," says my mother and then offers Mrs. Merriweather a little rice, but she cannot stay. She has other arrangements to make.
There is something in this book that lingers with you. At least it sure is lingering with me. (less)
After reading a review of this book I requested an ARC from the publisher. I casually started reading it and then was unable to stop till I was done....moreAfter reading a review of this book I requested an ARC from the publisher. I casually started reading it and then was unable to stop till I was done. Boy oh boy; it is one hell of a read.
The Knife of Never Letting Go is a dystopic novel involving settlers who created a New World because they wanted a simpler life (a la those Mayflower passengers of our yore). According to Todd, the last boy of the settlement of Prentisstown, years earlier an illness resulted in all males being able to hear each others’ thoughts. This Noise, a brilliant concept, is superbly evoked by Ness in all its hellishness. Without really understanding quite why Todd is forced to flee Prentisstown, the only place he has ever known, with his dog Manchee. (And, by the way, Ness’s presentation of the Noise of animals is absolutely amazing.) Todd’s resulting journey is harrowing, moving, disturbing, and enthralling. One of Ness’s many literary feats is the way physical hardships mirror the emotional ones. Another is the idea of knowing an individual’s thoughts without the Noise. Another is the idea of manhood. Another is…well, I’ll stop now. This is one heck of a coming-of-age novel, I can tell you.
A few warnings: it is violent and raw, there are deaths (some are very upsetting), and it ends on a huge HUGE cliffhanger (as this is evidently the first book in the Chaos Walking series). (less)
I've enjoyed every Werlin novel I've read, but this is definitely one of my favorites. The fantasy elements are new for her, but the intensity, the su...moreI've enjoyed every Werlin novel I've read, but this is definitely one of my favorites. The fantasy elements are new for her, but the intensity, the superb prose, the deft plotting, and the gorgeous characterizations are not.
The story involves a fairy (or elf) curse, a race against time to break it, a heartrending romance, teen pregnancy and marriage like you probably have never seen before, folk music, and a lot more.
Wow. Don Wood’s Into the Volcano is one powerhouse of a graphic novel that you won’t want to miss. In fact, as far as mi...moreJust rewrote this for my blog.
Wow. Don Wood’s Into the Volcano is one powerhouse of a graphic novel that you won’t want to miss. In fact, as far as missing goes, I almost missed my bus stop so engrossed was I in this totally wild adventure in and under and around an erupting volcano. The word gripping is completely apt for this (here comes another trite but accurate word) roller coaster of a read. Wood grabs you on the first page as brothers Duffy and Sumo are called out of their classroom to meet their father who immediately turns them over to a cousin they have never met before, the burly Come-And-Go. Before any of us can take a breath, the two boys (who appear to be between 8 and 12 years of age) are flying off to their just-learned-about mother’s home island of Kocalaha. Once there they and we are thrown into an extraordinary adventure involving questionable people (are they good or bad?), an erupting volcano, secrets (of every sort), life and death circumstances, heart-stopping moments (many of them!), and family ties. A truly brilliant work. It is due out in October; be sure to look out for it!(less)
This was a very quick and enjoyable read. I read the ARC (as the book is due out this fall) and will be curious to see how it looks in its final form....moreThis was a very quick and enjoyable read. I read the ARC (as the book is due out this fall) and will be curious to see how it looks in its final form. It consists of a series of short amusing stories about the author's childhood. Very boyish, lighthearted, and a lot of fun to read. There are stories that made me think of other books (e.g. several...er...pissing...episodes), but there didn't seem to be as many injured animals in this one (especially if you don't count Jon's youngest brother). One thing about those pissing stories --- I remember being around five and having quite the argument with a neighbor boy about girls not being able to piss as easily as boys and trying to prove him wrong. But, hell, while I may have been able to pull down my pants and do what I needed to do in the backyard bushes, I did not have the necessary equipment to have fought the Scieszka bros pissing wars.
The book is direct, the author doesn't shy away from not-so-nice behaviors (such as charging his brother to allow him to stay up late when babysitting), and it just gives a sense of a rather happy childhood in the vein of Christopher Paul Curtis's Watson's Go to Birmingham (which takes place in Flint during the same time period although, of course, is much weightier themewise) in terms of humor and a close-knit family.
I'm guessing (not having been a boy myself) that many of these stories are going to really grab boys in particular. The intent, no doubt. Do look out for it!(less)
Wow. What a book. What a story. What an amazing piece of writing.
Now I admit it took me a while to read this one. While I definitely enjoyed sad anima...moreWow. What a book. What a story. What an amazing piece of writing.
Now I admit it took me a while to read this one. While I definitely enjoyed sad animal stories as a child, now, with the occasional exception, I avoid them. And so, when I received a gorgeously packaged ARC of Kathi Appelt’s The Underneath, I admired it (as it is handsomely illustrated by David Small) , and then read the flap. “An abandoned calico cat, about to have kittens, hears the lonely howl of a chained-up dog….” Nope. Not for me. Until someone told me it reminded her of Russell Hoban’s The Mouse and his Child which happens to be one of my favorite books. So yesterday, feeling lousy with allergies, a head cold, and a painful hip (can’t run which is misery for me), I pulled out the ARC and read it.
And was immediately and utterly drawn in. I read without pausing till I was done. What a remarkable book. It is an adventure, a story of myth and magic, of sadness, of family — and is very beautifully done indeed. Yes, it is sad. Yes, there are abused animals. Even worse, some dead ones too. But, oh my goodness, is it rich and complex and gorgeous. I would have loved, loved, loved it as a child.
While I can see why someone might compare it to The Mouse and his Child because of the journey aspect of the story, the setting, and the sentiment within (and the illustrations as Small also did an edition of the Hoban book), it seems extremely different to me. Another book this reminded me of was Kate DiCamillo’s The Tale of Despereaux. The darkness, the multiple plot threads (from different points in time) all coming together slowly, the allegorical qualities, the magical elements are in both. But DiCamillo’s like Hoban’s has humor. Be warned that Appelt’s book is deadly serious. Actually, the more I think about it the more it reminds me of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Books, still books I love, love, love.
What is it about? Hard to describe. It takes place in a deep Southern swamp — a place full of sentient trees, of intelligent animals, of shapeshifting creatures, a place of misery and mystery, a place of magic and myth. Within this magical yet hyper real place are two twisting and intersecting groups of beings. There is the bad man, an abused dog, a calico cat and her twin kittens. And then there is the other group. The magical and mythical one. The story threads swirl and twist around each other, a mix of the past and the present.
Just writing this makes me get all hyperbolic. Sorry! Suffice it to say I recommend it and look forward to hearing what others think about it.(less)
First of all, I admit that I've become friendly with the author. (She wrote me one of my very few fan letters for my book about teaching with primary...moreFirst of all, I admit that I've become friendly with the author. (She wrote me one of my very few fan letters for my book about teaching with primary sources: Seeking History.) But I'd known and admired her Ben Franklin's Almanac before she ever wrote me and some of her other picture books as well. (Her book, also in scrapbook style, about Eleanor Roosevelt, is also terrific.)
But back to The Lincolns. This is a fantastic way to learn about this particular iconic First Couple. I love Candy's scrapbook method --- stuff to look at it, various stuff to read, to consider, all in any order. You can dip in here, there, now and then. Her research is impeccable, her writing lively and engaging. What's not to like?
This book is definitely one (says prejudiced I) that is award-worthy!
The terrific JonArno Lawson has put together a completely charming book, INSIDE OUT: CHILDREN’S POETS DISCUSS THEIR WORK. Delightfully illustrated, th...moreThe terrific JonArno Lawson has put together a completely charming book, INSIDE OUT: CHILDREN’S POETS DISCUSS THEIR WORK. Delightfully illustrated, this small book (just right for fitting in a hand) contains twenty-four marvelous poems. Each is accompanied by a commentary by its creator and these are fascinating and delightful, invariably as poetic and quirky as the poems themselves. The poets included are John Agard, Carol Ann Duffy, Philip de Vos, Jackie Kay, X.J. Kennedy, JoArno Lawson (and if you don’t know his other award-winning books of children’s poetry go find them now!), Dennis Lee, Margaret Mahy, Adrien Mitchell, Roger McGough, Stephen Mitchell, Pat Mora, Grace Nichols, Naomi Shihab Nye, Sally Farrell Odgers, Jack Prelutsky, Annushka Ravishankar, Christopher Reid, Michael Rosen, Jeanne Steig, Matthew Sweeney, Souvankham Thammavongsa, Richard Wilbur, and Nancy Willard.
I got to see a prototype (at least I think that is what it was) of this book and it is very, very cool. The book trailer gives you a pretty good of it...moreI got to see a prototype (at least I think that is what it was) of this book and it is very, very cool. The book trailer gives you a pretty good of it. (less)
At the time I first fell in love with Chaplin the rest of the world seemed more taken with Buster Keaton. Evidentl...moreHere's what I just wrote on my blog:
At the time I first fell in love with Chaplin the rest of the world seemed more taken with Buster Keaton. Evidently he was more cerebral (as much as a slapstick comedian can be called that) and at my college there were often screenings of Keaton, never of Chaplin. Now I do like Keaton yet I have had little luck getting my students to connect to him. Once they have fallen for Chaplin, no one else, it seems, will do. (Is my own teen-crush to blame? Possibly.)
At any rate, this year I’m more hopeful because of a remarkable new picture book biography of Buster Keaton. When I read Betsy Bird’s enthusiastic review of Catherine Brighton’s Keep Your Eye On The Kid: The Early Years of Buster Keaton I was eager to see it for myself. Happily, the publisher sent me a copy and it is everything Betsy said and more. The illustrations are amazing with angles and perspectives that echo those of Keaton’s films. Within the illustrations are wonderful references to other illustrated stories such as Little Nemo in Slumberland and Struwwelpeter. It is a spectacular book and I can’t wait to read it to my students, show them One Week, Our Hospitality, The General, and more to get them hooked!(less)
I'm a big Mark Twain fan and thought Fleischman did a splendid job giving young readers a sense of the young writer through energetic and humorous wri...moreI'm a big Mark Twain fan and thought Fleischman did a splendid job giving young readers a sense of the young writer through energetic and humorous writing. Goes down easily, well researched (Fleischman is clear that it is hard to separate fact from fiction with Twain), and designed too (at least the ARC was). (less)