Archive for August, 2008

Where the Giant Sleeps by Mem Fox

Where the Giant SleepsThis new picture book by Mem Fox includes many of the wonderful make-believe characters from storybooks presented in such a charming and non-scary way.  In addition to the giant, the book shows us where pixies, pirates, and fairies sleep — but not the elves, because of course they are wide awake sewing all night.  The illustrations are just magical with soft edges and colors.  The text is rhyming in a sing songy way.  What a fun picture book, especially if your child already has some experience with ogres and wizards and trolls and other fairlyland characters.

Posted by: Mary

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What Pet to Get by Emma Dodds

What Pet to GetIn this story, Jack wants a pet but he can’t decide which one to get.  While his mother isn’t really listening when she agrees to let him get a pet, she starts paying attention when he suggests getting an elephant, a lion, or even a Tyrannosaurus Rex.  For each animal, she has a convincing reason why they shouldn’t get it.  Finally they find an animal they can agree on – a little dog.  Readers and Jack’s mom are in for a funny surprise.

Posted by: Liz

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Five Children and It by E. Nesbit

Five Children and ItIf you happened to find a sand fairy who could grant you one wish each day, would you know what to wish for? Would you be careful enough to not accidentally wish for something silly? You probably think you would make some very good wishes and thereby solve all of your problems.

If so, read “Five Children and It” by E. Nesbit to see how wishes that seem to be pretty reasonable can lead to some pretty strange results and how accidental wishes led these kids into amazingly complicated and funny adventures. This is an old story that is worth being read by a new generation of kids or being revisited by adults who read it as kids.

Posted by: Iris

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Don’t Talk to Me About the War by David Adler

Don't Talk to Me About the WarIn 1940, 13-year-old Tommy Duncan is mostly interested in listening to the Brooklyn Dodgers on the radio, playing baseball with his buddies, and spending time with Beth, the girl he has a crush on.  Beth is mostly interested in reading the daily papers for news about the war in Europe.  Their friend Sarah, who has emigrated from Germany, is mostly interested in hearing from her aunt who is in Europe hoping to find her husband who has been taken away from his family.

Tommy meets Beth every morning before school at the local coffee shop so that Beth can peruse the newspapers.  Beth worries about the war and Tommy worries about his mother who has been experiencing blurred vision, shaking hands and weak legs.  He has increasing responsibilities at home; helping with the shopping and cooking.  There has even been talk of his family moving.  He doesn’t want to have to change schools and move away from his friends.

Tommy’s father is opposed to the United States entering the war and Tommy agrees with him.  But then his friend’s brother joins the Navy and Tommy hears an inspirational speech given by England’s Prime Minister Winston Churchill.  As Tommy gradually begins to take a bigger interest in the war news, it looks certain that the war will touch everyone’s lives.

Posted by: Wendy

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The Burning Bridge by John Flanagan

The Burning BridgeThis is the second book in the Ranger’s Apprentice series.  The Kingdom of Araluen has prospered but now there are preparations for war.  Will an apprentice ranger  is sent on a diplomatic mission with the young  ranger Gilan and Horace who is a Battleschool apprentice.  On their way, however, they are attacked by bandits and pick up a survivor from a Wargal attack.  Wargals are big hairy creatures with animal faces and they obey the orders of their evil master Morgarath.  Morgarath’s troops have pushed King Swyddned to the south  so Gilan rides ahead to warn King Duncan.  Will, Horace and the survivor, Evanlyn are going to follow but they encounter more Wargals and decide to follow them. 

Eventually, Evanlyn and Will become partners in a desperate attempt to cut off the access of Morgarath’s troops through the mountains and Horace faces Morgarath himself in a fight to the finish. 

This book is recommended for boys and girls grades 5 and up who enjoy adventure fantasy.

Posted by: Fran W.

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The Invisible Rules of the Zoe Lama by Tish Cohen

The Invisible Rules of the Zoe LamaThis children’s book was cute and fun.  It tells the story of 7th grade Zoe who is the school’s go to girl for anything they need help on.  She has held this coveted position since Kindergarten when she faced down the biggest bully on the playground.  But events in her life are spiraling out of control and it looks like Zoe will lose her spot as advice girl.  Taking on too much, Zoe soon realizes that maybe she can’t do it all as she tries to chair the school dance, do a makeover on the new girl, keep everyone from finding out her grandmother needs help, and find her mom a husband.  Luckily, she has many great friends who can help her out and everything gets sorted out (although not in the way Zoe originally planned) by the end.    Cohen does a great job at portraying a regular girl who is trying to find her way in the world and understand what it happening around her.   The second book in this great series is The One and Only Zoe Lama.

Posted by: Kate

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The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall

The Penderwicks on Gardam StreetThere’s good news today!  The Penderwick girls, Rosy, Skye, Jane and Batty are back and–if possible–even more charming.

This time they’re wrestling with everyday incidents on their home turf, Gardam Street, a neighborhood reminiscent of 1950’s and 60’s television shows like “Father Knows Best,” “Leave It to Beaver” and “The Donna Reed Show.”  It’s a wonderful place where the people next door are more than neighbors, they’re friends.  On Gardam Street, kids can play outdoors unchaperoned, grownups have seemingly unlimited time to interact with little kids and every home has a responsible adult who can be counted on in time of need.  It’s the place where we all wish we lived.  It’s fiction but not fantasy.

And the truly wonderful thing, is that it’s also a place where “real things”—things that readers can empathize with–happen to the sisters.  They worry what other girls in their class think about them.  They have “teacher trouble.”  The boys across the street, best friends when they were all little are becoming show-offs and pests. There’s even a “mystery man”—if Batty is to be believed—prowling around the house next door.  It’s a lovely world; a sort of Pollyanna meets Hannah Montana.

The main thrust of the story this time is Rosy’s need to keep her father from fulfilling a promise he made to his wife right before she died. After coming up with her “Stop Daddy Plan”, Rosy lassoes her sisters into a plot to keep their father from dating.  Especially dating someone would could possibly end up being—gasp—their stepmother.

This plotline, in the hands of another author, could be cloyingly sweet at best and downright annoying at worst.  However, Ms. Birdsall manages to not only carry it off but, leave the reader wishing for more.  Even with the addition of a subplots involving mistaken identity that would make Shakespeare proud and Batty being just a little too “batty,” she’s written a book that is even better than its award-winning predecessor.

As the sage Mr. Penderwick might say, “tempus fugit.”  Let’s just hope that not too much time passes before we get a chance to visit the family on Gardam Street again—and again.

Posted by: Eileen

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