"Books to the ceiling, books to the sky, my pile of books is a mile high. How I love them! How I need them! I'll have a long beard by the time I read them!" -Arnold Lobel-

Friday, September 11, 2015

Pleasant Dreams!

Tomorrow is a Chance to Start Over
Bedtime Story and Dream Songs
written by Hillary Grist
Storybook and Music CD
The Secret Mountain 2015
48 pages
Creative Recording Studios 2015
ISBN-10: 2924217296
ISBN-13: 978-2924217290
Ages 0-5

The book, Tomorrow is a Chance to Start Over, tells a sweet story in rhyming verse form about two young children who have difficulty sleeping in the noisy world of the city. The children decide to take their boat and sail away to a quieter place. Floating across the sea, lit by a“moon-kissed sky,” they eventually arrive at a special land filled with twisty trails, bubbling rivers, and colorful trees. It's a dreamlike place where wishes are made and the children take flight.

The music cd which accompanies the story book is remarkable. It begins with Ms. Grist's narration guided by her wonderful song, “Tomorrow is a Chance to Start Over.” Eight additional songs fill the air with gentle floating melodies.

This peaceful bedtime treasure will carry any child and even adults towards a contented and satisfying sleep.

I received this book set in exchange for a review.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Faulty Facts Form Feverish Frenzy!

Holy Enchilada!
written by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver
illustrated by Tim Heitz
Grosset & Dunlap, 2004
ISBN-13:  978-0-448-43353-0
157 pages
Ages 8 - 12

Sometimes we make judgments about a person based upon their looks, actions, speech and even their nationality. When we hear the word, disability, we might assume the person with a disability is weird or dumb. People from other countries are often considered peculiar and even unpleasant.

The Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary defines the word, stereotype, as, “[an] idea or image that many people have of a particular type of person or thing, but which is often not true in reality.” (1).

The sixth book in the Hank Zipzer series, Holy Enchilada!, tackles this subject of stereotypes with an amusing and eventful story.

The first chapter opens with Hank Zipzer reeling from a math test on fractions. He has some difficulties in general with math but when it comes to fractions, Hank feels that he is worse than worse.
Distracted by his frustrations, Hank misses part of Ms. Adolf's introduction to a special school event.

Hank's school, PS87, is hosting a celebration of Multi-Cultural Day and Ms. Adolf's class has been chosen to cook foods from other countries for lunch on that particular day. Ms. Adolf also informs her class that Yoshi Morimoto, son of the principal from a “sister school” in Japan will be their special guest. Yoshi and his father are touring schools around the United States and have chosen to visit PS87 for two days. To make the event extra special, Yoshi will be allowed to stay overnight with one of the students in Ms. Adolf's class. Names are put in a hat and Hanks name is chosen.

The book continues on with Hank and his friends discussing Japan and what Japanese kids must be like. Yoshi will probably have short hair, wear short pants and even have thick glasses. Ms. Adolf shares her concern with Hank about the fact that his family isn't really a “typical American family” and she wants to make a good impression on the visitors, but Hank's name was chosen so Ms. Adolf agrees to let their Japanese visitor stay overnight with Hank.

Yoshi and his father finally arrive at the school and the class discovers that some of their assumptions about Japanese kids isn't actually true. Hank and Yoshi get better acquainted and we find out that Yoshi loves to eat enchiladas. Later that day, Hank and his friends get together and decide to make enchiladas for the international lunch celebration. Hank finds a recipe and the ingredients are purchased. Each member of the group has an assignment for helping with the cooking. Hank's job is to read the recipe. Oh no! Hank has dyslexia and he gets a bit confused when he reads the fraction measurements in the recipe, especially the amount of chili powder that is needed. Hank is embarrassed about his dyslexia and doesn't tell anyone. He just guesses.

The enchiladas are finished and the next day the food is taken to the school. Hank is concerned that he may have read the recipe wrong and added too much chili powder. He frets all morning long.

The luncheon begins. Ms Adolf gets sick. The problem turns extreme and finally, the truth reveals lots of interesting facts about Ms. Adolf, about Hank, and about their Japanese visitors. Hank learns some valuable things about himself and his new friend, Yoshi.

Mr. Winkler and Ms. Oliver tell a delightful story which succeeds in presenting some important issues about learning disabilities, people of other countries, and stereotypes.

(1) Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary, “stereotype,” 2015, Online posting, Oxford University Press.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Teens Face Challenge in Solving Museum Heist!

Pieces and Players
written by Blue Balliett
illustrated by Bret Helquist
Scholastic Press, New York, 2015
ISBN:  978-0-545-29990-9
306 pages
Ages 10 +

The creek of a broken window and the wail of wind moving through the corridors startle a night guard of the Farmer Museum in Chicago. As the guard sets off checking each hallway, his scalp tingles and the hair raises on both arms. Is it the ghost that haunts the old building or just some badly neglected repairs needed on the museum. Suddenly, he rounds the corner to the Dutch Room and what he sees next sets off a formidable investigation for three local teens.

Calder, Petra, and Tommy are famous for solving strange mysteries in the Chicago area but a few years have passed since their last investigation and things have changed. The insecurities and discomforts of adolescence have invaded. Miss Hussy, a favorite school teacher, and Mrs. Sharpe, an eccentric old lady, ask the three teenage sleuths, once again, to examine the particulars of this robbery of thirteen valuable art pieces from the Farmer Museum. There's only problem. Mrs. Sharpe wants two other teens to help out. Early Pearl comes from the other side of Chicago and has a knack for solving word problems. Zoomy Chamberlain, classified as legally blind, notices things that others take for granted. Has Mrs. Sharpe lost her confidence in Calder, Petra, and Tommy? Will the new kids interfere with the strong bond between the original three friends?

Each teen has their own self doubts to deal with. Can they trust each others' judgment, or better yet, can they trust the adults around them? The group of five begin their search for the truth of what really happened by acquainting themselves with the missing art. Each encounters a strange, almost haunting link between certain missing pieces. Is the art trying to reach out to the teens and tell them where they're hidden. Who is Eagle Devlin and why are strange people in black jackets following the five teens?

I found Pieces and Players to be a more challenging book than Ms. Balliett's earlier five books. It is interesting that she has decided to combine all five protagonists from the earlier books in an adventure that is more difficult than each has experienced. Ms. Balliett plays on the teens' difficulties of adolescence, but shares some inspiring thoughts, by way of haunting quotations from a book, “The Truth About My Art,” authored by Sarah Chase Farmer, the late founder of the Farmer Museum.

With much delight, Ms. Balliett includes puzzles for the reader to decipher once again using pentominoes, silly nursery rhymes, prime numbers, and coded messages. New discoveries of unusual art sculptures are revealed as the teens travel through out the Chicago area.

Pieces and Players is a complex book with many interconnected parts and I may suggest that you read one of Ms. Balliet's earlier books to give you more confidence when reading this book, but it isn't necessary to solve the crime.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

August 9th is National Book Lovers Day!

I love reading all kinds of books but some of my favorite types are mysteries.  

A new mystery that has just been published by one of my favorite authors, Spencer Quinn, is,  "Sense and Sensibility."  I'm off to the bookstore today for mine!

Check out Chet the Dog's web site too.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Mischievous Monkeys Cause Maddening Mayhem!

Caps For Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business

Written and Illustrated by Esphyr Slobodkina
Addison-Wesley, 1940 (first publication)
ISBN-10: 9780064431439
48 pages
Ages 4 - 8 years

A hat peddler has been trying to sell his colorful caps all morning without any luck so he decides to sit down under a tree to take a nap. He carefully checks all of the caps still balancing on top his head and then falls asleep. When he awakens, he makes a surprising discovery! His hats are missing!  Where have they gone?  

The author has created a lively and humorous story filled with delightful illustrations.  The rhythmic patterns of words creates a fun tale that children will love reading over and over again.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Everyone is Trying to Boss Moose Around…

Al Capone Does My Shirts
by Gennifer Choldenko
G.P.Putnam's Sons  2004
ISBN: 0-399-23861-1
215 pages
Ages 10 and up
2005 Newbery Honor Winner

At least, that is the way Moose Flanagan feels about it.  They’re all telling Moose what he can and cannot do, what he must do, what he should do.  No one seems to care what Moose wants.  No one seems to care how it might affect him.  So, what can Moose do?  Comply.  “Good Moose.  Obedient Moose.  I always do what I’m supposed to do.” (31)

Peer pressure affects all people. It is especially hard on children and teens, but even adults find themselves being pressured to comply with what their peers expect from them.

Twelve-year old Matthew Flanagan, known by his friends as Moose, enjoys playing baseball with his friends at school.  He’s pretty good at it.  Things are going great and then, suddenly, Moose finds himself living on “the Rock,” Alcatraz, where murderers, rapists, hit men, embezzlers, and kidnappers are sent.  The worst of the worst live here.

Natalie Flanagan, Moose’s older sister, has autism.  She thinks and acts differently than most people expect.  Many of the family and friends of the Flanagan’s think Natalie should be placed in a special institution.  Natalie’s parents think a new program offered at a special school located in San Francisco can help her but it takes lots of money and Mr. Flanagan needs a good job. So, here he is, “Moose Flanagan, Alcatraz Island Boy.” (3)

The first day on the island people begin telling Moose what’s expected of him.  Warden Williams informs Moose that he must always follow the rules, or else.  His parents expect Moose to be responsible and take care of Natalie even if it means giving up his ball games.  Piper Williams, the warden’s daughter, tells Moose that he has to help her with a certain “school project” or she’ll tell her dad that he isn’t cooperating.  Everyone bosses Moose around. 

Moose gets angry with everyone, everyone except Natalie.  He loves his sister and want to help her, even when she gets upset and embarrasses him in front of his friends. Despite his mother’s objections, she thinks she knows what’s best for Natalie, Moose figures out how to keep Natalie calm by allowing her to play with her favorite buttons.

More problems develop and Moose is given more restrictions. Moose decides that enough is enough and determines to take matters into his own hands.  Will things change for Moose Flanagan?  What do Al Capone and prisoner 105 have to do with the outcome?

Gennifer Choldenko writes a believable story about the struggles of a boy who is overwhelmed with pressures from other people and challenges to his self-esteem.  She also shares a glimpse of the difficulties that families face when dealing with disabilities.  

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Murder in Echo Falls!

Down the Rabbit Hole
Harper Collins Trophy  2005
ISBN-10 0-06-073703-4
204 pages
Ages 12 and up

“Long-time Echo Falls resident, Katherine Eve Kovac was murdered Thursday, according to Echo Falls police chief, Gilbert L. Strade.” (39) 
It had been a chance encounter that Ingrid had met the strange woman.  All Ingrid was trying to do was get to soccer practice on time.  She didn’t mean to get lost in that part of town.  She didn’t mean to forget her bright red cleats at Cracked Up Katie’s house earlier that day of the crime.  Will the police find her shoes and suspect that Ingrid is involved in the murder?

Ingrid Levin-Hill decides to do some investigating on her own (just like her favorite detective, Sherlock Holmes) and learn the truth about why Katie was killed.  Soon Ingrid learns that she and Katie have a connection with the local theatre group.  Ingrid plays the lead in the upcoming production of Alice In Wonderland and Katie had once been a brilliant actress and star with the Prescott Players.

Each bit of information Ingrid discovers leads her down another trail and soon our amateur sleuth becomes tangled in another unsolved mystery. It isn’t long before Ingrid finds herself tumbling down the rabbit hole just like her character’s namesake. 

Peter Abrahams weaves a suspenseful tale that keeps the readers clinging to the edge of their seats.  His use of animated personalities and descriptive references to Sherlock Holmes and Alice in Wonderland contributes to the twists and mounting tensions of the story.  It is going to take everything Ingrid can muster and some help from her friend, Nigel, to solve this riveting mystery.   

Down the Rabbit Hole is the first in the Echo Falls mystery series.  What new mysteries await the residents of Echo Falls.  Be sure to read Peter Abrahams other titles in the series:  Behind the Curtain and Into the Dark.