Fourteen year-old Allegra Katz is a piano prodigy who has been taking lessons from Miss Pringle, the best piano teacher at Julliiard School in N...more4 1/2*
Fourteen year-old Allegra Katz is a piano prodigy who has been taking lessons from Miss Pringle, the best piano teacher at Julliiard School in New York, where 14 year-old Ally attends Pre-College. She has been taking these lessons since the age of 4, practicing at least 4 hours a day plus 2 more on her scales. With so much piano activity Ally has no time for anything else but High School, where she is also involved playing the piano.
Ally's parents are accomplished musicians in their own right. Her father plays the violin while her mother sings opera. They are extremely proud of their daughter's gift and take pride that they are a musical family. The only non-musical member is Grandma who lives in an apartment connected to the condo. She is a free-spirit.
Ally's friends are Opal, an artist who makes her art from odd objects and Brad, a school-mate with an interest in Ally. He works for his father in their restaurant and does not go to Jullliard. Ally begins to realize she is missing much of her childhood and begins to doubt her planned career in high stakes piano playing. She is afraid to tell her parents for fear they will be crushed. It also means choosing her summer at a math camp or the music camp she's attends each summer.
Four Seasons is broken up into seasons and seasons into months rather than typical chapters. Each also begin with a poem or a famous quote. The story moves at a good pace and keeps you interested. There is a lot of professional piano lingo and lifestyle, yet it will not take the ability to play an instrument to enjoy this fun book. Teen behavior abounds in the form of first loves, rivalries and all the emotions that go with being a teenage girl.
If I were asked what I did not like about Four Seasons it would be the ending; it is too long and drawn out. The story was over at the end of the third season. The conflict reached its peak and was resolved. Fall ends on a satisfying note (no pun intended). Winter is Ally's life, and those of her friends and family, after Ally's major decision. You get to see a glimpse of what those lives are now like. Those months add nothing to the story yet this epilogue is enjoyable reading. It's not often an author allow us to see the character's lives after the story has ended. Not just Ally's life but the lives of nearly every character mentioned. Opal and Brad, classmates,camp mates, parents and teachers. Nothing wrong with this, it adds a deeper satisfaction to all of the drama Ally endured the first 9 months of that year.
Who will enjoy this young adult novel? Anyone accomplished in a musical field may be enjoyably taken back to their youth. Tenn girls will love power struggles between Ally and her mother and Ally and Miss Pringle. Those that like a well-constructed story will enjoy Four Season, the new novel from Jane Breskin Zalben.
Tom Rachman's debut novel is one of the best books I have read all of 2010 and thus far this year. Each of his chapters can be read alone and make abs...moreTom Rachman's debut novel is one of the best books I have read all of 2010 and thus far this year. Each of his chapters can be read alone and make absolute sense alone, yet is a work of wonder when put together. He defies all newbie pitfalls, writing as if this were is twenty-first best seller, rather than his first.
He tells the story of an English-speaking newspaper established in Rome. The story weaves the past with the present seamlessly. He also brings the city of Rome to life as well. Each character has their own chapter to tell their story. By the end of the novel the reader will have a glimpse of the human toll it takes to run a newspaper in the twentieth century, including all the ups and downs changes in leadership can cause.
This is such an engrossing novel that putting it down is near impossible as I read "just one more page." I was raised in a newspaper family and despite this was completely enthralled. I can not wait for Mr. Rachman's sophomore novel.
Ernest’s class is getting a new fish (student). The new kid is an average sized fish with an oversized ego. He is also bossy and a bit of a bully. He...moreErnest’s class is getting a new fish (student). The new kid is an average sized fish with an oversized ego. He is also bossy and a bit of a bully. He is always right, things must go his way, and he is always the leader. At first, the other fish listened and were a little amazed. Soon, the new fish’s “mine was better” comments and “no, do it my way” orders nagged the other fish, yet no one said anything, not even when the new fish excluded some of the students from his new club. Ernest has a heavy conscience and it weighed on him. He decided to take action.
The illustrations are wonderful with edge-to-edge color and loads of funny details. I especially liked the library books. In his pile of ten books, the new fish carried, The World According to Carp and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Minnow. Mr. Blue, the librarian, has several interesting recommendations. They include If You Give a Trout an Algae Treatment, Gar in a Car, Where the Wild Fish Are, and, of course, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. The school fish are a wondrous group of variations kids will love. Nothing is made-up. All the fish are real. How many fish can your child identify? Turn it into an impromptu game.
I really like Sea Monster and the Bossy Fish. Visually, it looks fun and will catch eyes. Often the illustrations say more than the text, though the text tells a good story kids will find relatable. Ah, another impromptu game, which fish are you? And why? I love books that have several ways to communicate the story or the message, if there is one. Books with multiple possibilities like Sea Monster and the Bossy Fish kids read more often, but I think this must happen naturally from a good story with great illustrations.
Sea Monster and the Bossy Fish has the elements I like in a picture book. The new kid, who is bossy, a bully and a braggart has no name, meaning any child can slip his name into the story. Color runs boarder-to-boarder and the illustration details are terrific with small details having the biggest payoff. Sea Monster and the Bossy Fish is a relatable story kids and parents will enjoy. With the start of school lurking around the corner—or already started—Sea Monster and the Bossy Fish is a good back-to-school story that reinforces inclusion and a positive, helpful attitude. Preschool through second grade classrooms would do well to have Sea Monster and the Bossy Fish in their classroom libraries.
Ms. Hopkins writes a note to readers stating that this book, while a work of fiction, is based on the trials her daughter and her family went through....moreMs. Hopkins writes a note to readers stating that this book, while a work of fiction, is based on the trials her daughter and her family went through. I find it amazing that she could write so fluently and competently from a teenagers point of view given she is the mother this story is based on. What parent can go through something like this and see the teen's side so clearly? And then to write it for the world to read? A big BRAVO! to Ellen Hopkins for this novel (and her other books as well). To go through this a second time had to have been an extremely difficult journey.
That said, I found this book depressing. The subject matter is dark and gritty and that is the way it is written - true to life. The protagonist is Kristina. On her vacation with her father, one she vaguely knows, she becomes addicted to crank, a substance that hooks most users with the very first use. It is also near impossible to stop using once addicted. It shows how one decision can irreparably redirect the course of your life.
The book is a work of poetry - hundreds of individual poems make up the whole. They are beautiful, graceful, intriguing, haunting, and imaginative. It is difficult to explain the concept of individual poems making up a complete story. It also reads like prose. One must read one of Ms. Hopkins' novels to truly understand. Her writing is an experience no one should miss. Though this is a large book it is a fast read; one poem per page. It is also a page-turner.
A cautionary tale that should be required reading for all teens.(less)
**spoiler alert** A Mormon extremist home and community, and a teen finally seeing a different way to life is the subject of Burned. Pattyn Van Stratt...more**spoiler alert** A Mormon extremist home and community, and a teen finally seeing a different way to life is the subject of Burned. Pattyn Van Stratten is questioning most everything she has been taught and the way she has been raised. Her abusive and alcoholic father catches Pattyn with a boy and sends her away for the summer to his sister's ranch. He expects her to find herself and salvation in wild west Nevada. Pattyn does find herself but salvation? She meets Ethan, her soul mate. She also experiences the love of a parent in Aunt J. At summers end all of this ends for Pattyn who returns home. What happens next will completely change her life and the lives of everyone in her family. On a . . . oops, almost told you. Go read it yourself.
A cautionary tale of the restraints religion and home can put on a child, especially a teen. The entire story is written in poetry, making the book a fast read despite it's numerous pages. The poems are amazing. Some take on shapes and others have double meanings or can be read from side to side and from top to bottom both with the same meaning. Ms. Hopkin's work is fascinating and amazing. The subjects she tackles are dark, desperate, sad, and a commentary on society, usually the underbelly most people do not see or wish to ignore. Of all of her novels, this one may actually be the "lightest" in terms of subject.
The authors ask, “Suppose, just suppose, one hundred elephants come to tea and you discover you don't have any tea bags. Uh, oh. What will you do with...moreThe authors ask, “Suppose, just suppose, one hundred elephants come to tea and you discover you don't have any tea bags. Uh, oh. What will you do with a herd of thirsty elephants? Now that's a worry!” That sure is a worry. What on earth do you do for thirsty elephants when there is no large pond in sight? This and other questions are pondered in this delightful book that is designed to help children cope with worrying.
Many of the scenarios are deliberately silly. What if your teacher is a brown bear and you forget your homework; a bald eagle turns your hair into a nest; a gorilla takes your skateboard. Silly and funny, yet offers advice along the way. Kids will love these scenarios and are sure to some up with their own, along with a solution. Along the way they learn creative ways of dealing with problems.
Then there are the snippets of advice that adults can take to heart along with their children. For instance, “most of the time, something you worry about never happens.” Run a web search and there will be figures stating from 40 to 90 percent of the things we worry about never happen. That may be a hard thing to remember or believe while we are worrying, yet if this is true, we are worrying way too much. The authors also state that “a worry is as big or as small as you let it be,” and “will stay as long as you let it.” Pretty sound advice for kids of every age.
For a relatively short picture book (32 pages), it packs quite a lot of information, advice and fun. The illustrations are just a tad darker in tone than most other picture books, but then worrying is a rather dark endeavor. The pictures tell the story well. It took two talented authors to write this book. Given the weighty subject and the imaginative way it is handled, it is not hard to understand why. They have done a wonderful job of explaining a difficult subject that now even a child can put into perspective. Kids learn t worry is mostly a subjective emotion they can control with patience and perseverance. The use of imagination as a problem-solving device is wonderfully illustrated throughout the book. Plus, if an eagle ever lands on their head and makes a nest out of their hair – your child will know exactly what to do about that pesky eagle without worrying for a moment.
note: received from netgalley, courtesy of the publisher (less)
When a little dog appears at a family picnic, the girl and boy [lay with him all afternoon, and they name him Willy. At day's end they say good-bye. B...moreWhen a little dog appears at a family picnic, the girl and boy [lay with him all afternoon, and they name him Willy. At day's end they say good-bye. But the dog has won their hearts and stays on their minds. The following Saturday the family returns to the picnic grounds to look for Willy, but they are not alone—the dogcatcher is looking for him too.
A stray dog wanders in on a family's picnic. Mom thinks he looks hungry.. The kids feed, name, and play with the dog until it is time to leave. The son wants to take him home but dad refuses, saying Willy belongs to someone. His daughter is convinced. Maybe Willy doesn't belong to anybody.
All week, each member of the family becomes preoccupied with thoughts of Willy. The next Saturday, they return to the park and try to find Willy. The dog runs past the family while running from the dog warden. The dog warden gets Willy into his net, but the kids claim Willy as theirs. The dog warden doesn't believe the kids.
"He has no collar. He has no leash. This dog is a stray. He doesn't belong to anybody."
The quick thinking kids prove the dogwarden wrong. The small boy takes off his belt proclaiming "Here's his collar."
The boy's sister removes the ribbon from her hair saying "Here's his leash."
With Willy properly collared and leashed, the family takes Willy home. I like the story because it mildly brings up the leash requirement that is now law almost everywhere. Mostly, I love this book for the illustrations, also drawn by the author, Marc Simont.
Mr. Simont's drawings can tell the story without the text. His attention to detail is fantastic. I love details. When the boy removes his belt, his shorts pop down and he grabs them. As the kids play with their new pet, he is still holding up his pants. Even with both hands holding tightly, the shorts sag a little.
The neighborhood dogs are drawn with breed-specific features, along with their distinguishing owners. If it is true that an owner and their pet eventually look alike, Mr. Simont's illustrations are spot on. Kids will enjoy Willy's story and will heartedly cheer for him to out run the dog warden, who is in his full dog warden outfit.The attention does not stop with those examples. Each spread has little details that make the illustrations some of the best I have seen since I began reviewing picture books.
The Stray Dog is a Caldecott Honor Book. If you are a collector of wonderfully illustrated picture books, The Stray Dog is a must have.
Norbert is having an especially rough day. “It’s the worst day of my life,” he said. He had to sit by himself on the way to school, sit with Heidi the...moreNorbert is having an especially rough day. “It’s the worst day of my life,” he said. He had to sit by himself on the way to school, sit with Heidi the Hippo at lunch, (she thinks she is Norbert’s girlfriend), and does not get to play baseball with his friends. Norbert is definitely having a bad day. Mom tries to comfort a tearful Norbert but he thinks one of his friends is more deserving of a hug, another of Mom’s cheers and a third is actually someone special while a forth has the exciting future. Mom is trying to comfort Norbert with what the author calls the “5 Blessings.” Norbert’s mom tries to give those to Norbert through her hugs, cheers, a “you’re special” medal, help for a wonderful future and help understanding that he is special in God’s eyes – always.
This is a cute way for children and parents to connect and value each other as they read the story. All of us, at some point, shrug off the affirmations we receive just as Norbert does in I’d Choose You. Mr. Trent uses five blessings from the Old Testament in this tale to show how God loves us just the way we are. He explains all of this in the first pages of his book. The illustrations are colorful renditions of wild animals that are cute and help move the story. Children will be delighted when they see Heidi the Hippo who believes she is Norbert’s girlfriend (Norbert denies this), or Puffy the Panda in his suspenders and blue jeans, Ralph the Rhino as he dives into the pool or Florence the Flamingo twirling on the ice, and Norbert, the star, who doesn’t think he deserves what is mother offers him. This is a fun, reader-to-me book, that will help parents and children connect each time they read I’d Choose You together.
Note: received from Net Galley, courtesy of the publisher(less)