This is just your basic guided relaxation exercise for childbirth. I liked that the male narrator's voice was soothing and that the emphasis is on how...moreThis is just your basic guided relaxation exercise for childbirth. I liked that the male narrator's voice was soothing and that the emphasis is on how natural and normal the birthing process is. Women have been doing it for millions, perhaps billions, of years. Your body is perfectly suited to bring your baby into the world. Etc., etc., etc. (less)
This is my new favorite "Where do babies come from?" book. I think Sophie Blackall does everything right here. It's funny, but it also gets to the tru...moreThis is my new favorite "Where do babies come from?" book. I think Sophie Blackall does everything right here. It's funny, but it also gets to the truth. It's kid-friendly. It's beautiful. It has a fun plot, so it's an honest-to-goodness story, and it also has a section in the back with some nitty-gritty FAQs (What about kids who are adopted? What about kids with two moms or two dads?).
Nate Foster may not be the world's best singer or dancer or actor or...anything, but he's taking Broadway by storm with his enthusiasm. This charming...moreNate Foster may not be the world's best singer or dancer or actor or...anything, but he's taking Broadway by storm with his enthusiasm. This charming follow-up to Better Nate Than Ever finds Nate understudying the title role in the new musical E.T. alongside his nemesis, the perfect Jordan Rylance who's starring as Elliot. Nate is funny and charming as a bumbling success. He relies on his BFF Libby via Skype and texting. He makes friends and enemies. He does some serious growing up and becomes an even more lovable character.
One important detail is that this story, unlike the first, lets Nate explore his romantic interests a bit towards the end of the book. If Tim Federle wants to write a third installment in the Nate saga, I'll surely read it! (Or probably listen to it, as Federle does a fantastic job narrating the audiobook.)(less)
This is a fun picture book biography about one of the first hip hop DJs. It shows how DJ Kool Herc grew up in Jamaica, moved to the Bronx, and found a...moreThis is a fun picture book biography about one of the first hip hop DJs. It shows how DJ Kool Herc grew up in Jamaica, moved to the Bronx, and found a way to make dance parties even more fun. DJ Kool Herc was more of a facilitator and less a musician, but he definitely made important contributions. He introduced a new way to spin records, making the breaks last longer for "break" dancers and he popularized something DJs in Jamaica were doing: "toasting" or chanting over the beat when they played records, which evolved into what we call rapping.
There's an author's note in the back with a timeline that will put Herc's story in context for young readers. I guess I do have one criticism, which is the author's examples of how popular hip hop has become:
"...no one could have imagined that a few desperately poor kids would reinvent American culture. Who could have imagined that a hip hop/jazz infusion group called The Roots would become the house band for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon? Who could have imagined that rap would fuse with African High Life into an all-new musical form called Hip Life? Who could have imagined that a rapper would be invited to perform at the White House?"
Hip hop is insanely popular and the best examples the author could come up with are the house band on a late night TV show and a musical form I've never heard of? Come on! The White House example is excellent. The other two, not so much. He should have picked more meaningful examples, like how Jay-Z has had more number one albums than any other solo artist in U.S. history. Kids are not impressed by Jimmy Fallon or Hip Life (whatever that is).
I really loved the first 90% of this book, and then felt a little let down by the ending. It's not that the ending was bad, but I had built up certain...moreI really loved the first 90% of this book, and then felt a little let down by the ending. It's not that the ending was bad, but I had built up certain expectations during my reading that weren't met. I don't think it's quite a spoiler to say that I wanted to know so much more about the Night Gardener himself. As I've said in many a review, a shallowly developed villain character always gets my goat. If an author takes the time to flesh out the villain, to give him a compelling back story, it takes a book to the next level (Voldemort, am I right?).
Still, it's a great scary read for kids. The mood reminded me of the fabulous Splendors and Glooms, but is more likely to gain a wider readership because it's not as dense or stylized.
I'd love to share this with my young readers club someday because Molly, Kip, Penny, and Alistair are all such interesting kids. It would be great to hear what the kids think about how they change and what motivates them. Also, the quote about the difference between stories and lies (stories reveal the truth and lies hide the truth) has a lot to unpack.
Also, in closing, I must say that this is basically Faust for kids. (Only Faust is a tree.)(less)
I had a hard time getting into this book because I knew what was coming (Hurricane Katrina) and all the pre-storm plot seemed slow and cruel to me. Th...moreI had a hard time getting into this book because I knew what was coming (Hurricane Katrina) and all the pre-storm plot seemed slow and cruel to me. The beginning of the book is actually really heartwarming for the most part, but that's what makes it cruel. You see Armani's loving, happy family gathering for her tenth birthday and you just know that they are going to suffer.
And suffer they do. Once Katrina hit I barely put the book down. Survival stories have always held appeal despite how difficult they can be emotionally. I think it's because we long to see our hero triumph in the end, even when it seems impossible. Armani, as the narrator of the book, is sure to survive, but her friends and family? The same can't be said for all of them.
Armani's eventual "triumph" is definitely bittersweet and, in my opinion, truncated. I desperately wanted an epilogue or at least a glimpse into the future, but I didn't get one. The reader is left to imagine what will ultimately happen to Armani and other Katrina survivors.
Though I'd have to go back and reread it to be sure, I think I prefer Ninth Ward to this. They're both good, but Ninth Ward's more poetic style drew out the surreal quality of surviving the storm. Also, there were big moments in this book that fell a little flat for me. I'm seven months pregnant and apt to cry when I hear a sad song on the radio, and this book didn't squeeze a tear out of me. That is unusual. Even when I'm not pregnant I'm a crier! I definitely felt for the characters here, but the flow of the plot and the style of the writing kept me at a bit of a distance. (less)
1. This is like Rebecca Stead lite! And I mean that as a compliment! Stead's books explore themes in interesting and...moreMy thoughts upon finishing this:
1. This is like Rebecca Stead lite! And I mean that as a compliment! Stead's books explore themes in interesting and sophisticated ways. This explored a theme (the impacts of science on nature) on a bunch of levels in a way that is (probably) easier to grasp for most young readers. I'm very excited to talk to kids about this one.
2. Man, I love this idea of a teenage grandparent. So funny. There was something about it that was familiar to me, but I can't put my finger on where I've seen it before. It begs to be a movie with a great young actor playing Melvin with his scrunchies and polyester pants. Now, I will admit that so much of the Melvin story stretches logic past its breaking point, but I don't care. The story was realistic where it needed to be, and not so realistic in other places. I thought it all flowed beautifully in service of the story.
3. I wish I had read this earlier so I could have booktalked it at my school visits last spring. Our Summer Learning theme is science and this book pushes science in a really fun way. Ellie feels left out of her mom's theater world and her friend's volleyball world, but finds she belongs in the world of scientists.
4. I love Jenni Holm! I've never read anything by her I didn't like. The only thing that keeps me from giving this five stars is the title--well, really, the whole goldfish metaphor. It seemed a little tacked on and unnecessary, like driving home a point that's already been made, which is sort of like talking down to your audience. The only off-key note in an otherwise perfectly pitched middle grade novel. (less)
Poor Astri. She's a feisty Norwegian girl who can't catch a break. Her father has gone to America. Her mother has gone to heaven. She and her little s...morePoor Astri. She's a feisty Norwegian girl who can't catch a break. Her father has gone to America. Her mother has gone to heaven. She and her little sister have been sent to live with uncaring relatives who sell Astri to the horrible Goatman. Is it any wonder Astri tries to imagine that she's a heroine in a fairy tale?
Astri is nothing like typical fairy tale princess, though. She lies, she cheats, she steals. We're used to seeing essential goodness in characters like her, so it's interesting that she's no angel. You will not believe how she escapes from the Goatman! It's crazy.
This story has an old fashioned feel to it and (like a lot of old fairy tales) it has both a hopeful side and a dark side. Astri's reality is a combination of painful, gritty realism and fantastical legend.
I thought the writing was splendid and the whole package seemed original and fresh to me (it's rare for me to read a children's book nowadays and not be immediately reminded of some other children's book, but this one has a flavor that stands out--if I had to compare it to something I'd probably say Far Far Away or maybe Pipi Longstocking meets Out of the Dust).
My only criticism is that I was confused by the dream sequence at the end of the book. Maybe if I just read it over again it would be clearer to me, but I felt thrown off by it, like the rules of the story suddenly shifted and I was thrown off balance as a reader.
This will certainly be a challenging read for ages 9-11 because of the style and tone of the story. There are definitely parts that feel a little PG-13, e.g. (view spoiler)[when the Goatman says he's going to marry Astri and take her to his bed and then she cuts his fingers off and later watches him die from the wound (hide spoiler)]. Still, this feels like it has a good shot come awards season. It feels Distinguished. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I agree with another reviewer who found it difficult to get past all the birth art stuff. If you're interested in unlocking your subconscious thoughts...moreI agree with another reviewer who found it difficult to get past all the birth art stuff. If you're interested in unlocking your subconscious thoughts about birth through art, then this is the book for you. (As you can see by my rating, I am not super into drawing pictures that unveil my hidden feelings.)(less)
Reminiscent of All the Broken Pieces and other novels in verse about children experiencing incredibly difficult circumstances (also Never Fall Down, w...moreReminiscent of All the Broken Pieces and other novels in verse about children experiencing incredibly difficult circumstances (also Never Fall Down, which isn't in verse but I thought of it as I was reading this). The history of Guatemala was somewhat known to me, but a first-person account of a tragedy such as this makes it visceral. I felt strongly for Carlos, his mother and his village. The poetry used not only words but shapes and spaces to convey meaning. (less)
We're doing this for book club next week and I'm so excited! I'm not going to let the kids say more than three words at a time. It will be an enormous...moreWe're doing this for book club next week and I'm so excited! I'm not going to let the kids say more than three words at a time. It will be an enormous challenge for some of them. [Insert evil laugh.](less)