Archive for June, 2011

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Girl Who Circumnavigated FairylandRight. Well. I have been rendered speechless.

Lest you think that the only fantasy books being published now are all a bunch of Harry Potter clones, may I introduce you to the most original fantasy novel I have ever read?

September is an ordinary girl with a slightly lonely, but ultimately normal life, until the day that The Green Wind, riding on a leopard, appears at her kitchen window. Minutes later, he’s whisked her—willingly—off to fairyland, and her stunning adventures have started.  September meets a wonderful Wyverary (a cross between a wyvern and a library), a terrifying marquess, and a captive Marid, not to mention witches as you’ve never imagined them (who are missing A Spoon), a person made entirely of soap, a little girl who can change into a jackal, wild velocipedes, academic leaf people, a sentient lampshade, and whole countries of amazing and unbelievable things. 

What does the Marquess want, really?  And why does she think that September can get it for her?  All the while we are finding out the answers, we are bouyed along by the vivid, astounding, and moving prose.  The story works its way into your mind to the point that you’ll still be thinking about it days after you’ve finished.  The only book I can compare it to in any way is The Neverending Story (the original book, which is much longer and more fantastical than the movie), but this is a book for any child who enjoys fantasy, has an imagination, and still possesses a real sense of wonder. 

If you’d like to see the publisher’s book trailer, which shows some of the illustrations from the book and is much better at conveying the flavor of the book than I am, I have included it here:

Posted by: Sarah

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Joey Fly Private Eye 2 in Big Hairy Drama by Aaron Reynolds and Neil Numberman

Joey Fly Private Eye 2 in Big Hairy DramaOne might think that elementary-aged kids wouldn’t understand the humor of noirish detectives like Sam Spade or books like The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep. When you stop to think about it, though, those books are full of clever wordplay and dangerous adventures, two things that are very appealing to young readers. What could make such a book more exciting to kids? Add humor. And also bugs.

The first Joey Fly: Private Eye book was published in 2009, and kids have been laughing uproariously about it ever since–now there’s a sequel to keep them laughing even longer. Joey Fly is a detective in Bug City, a squalor-filled metropolis that is paradise for bugs. In this latest adventure, Joey (and his hilariously annoying sidekick Sammy the Scorpion) have been hired by an enormous tarantula (and theater director) to find a kidnapped butterfly–a famous actress. Joey and Sammy find themselves confused, befuddled, and ultimately in danger, but without ever missing an opportunity for a deadpan quip. Who stole The Painted Lady? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

Posted by: Sarah

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Get Real! A Non-Fiction Video Book Review

Here’s Sarah to talk about Come to the Castle by Linda Ashman:

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Hurricane Dancers by Margarita Engle

Hurrican DancersThis story involves a fierce hurricane at sea in the Caribbean in about 1509 when the Spanish were exploring and conquering the new world. A pirate ship goes down and the three survivors are a boy who had been taken captive and made to work on the ship, the pirate captain and his prisoner, the cruel governor of Venezuela who killed many natives and sold some into slavery. The boy called Quebrado by the pirate, finds a home with the Indians on the island where the hurricane has left him and warns them about the pirate and the governor. Quebrado also becomes a friend of a fisherman, Narido, and the girl he loves, Caucubu. Caucubu’s family want her to marry a powerful cacique but she and Narido have been close since they were both little and they want to marry.

The story is told in various voices and various viewpoints in free verse. It is a fast read and the language is very beautiful. The story weaves together the mystery and power of the Caribbean, history, and folklore. I recommend this to children who enjoy stories in verse and /or historical fiction. Recommended for grades 5-8.

Posted by: Fran

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The Middle Sheep by Frances Watts

The Middle SheepAs a middle child myself, just the title alone made this book a must-read, and the old-fashioned illustrations completely drew me in. This new series is about Ernie and Maud, a superhero duo performing good deeds and superhero tasks all over town. Ernie Eggers, or “Extraordinary Ernie”, is a boy who was thrilled to win a superhero contest and now performs his superhero duties on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays after school and all day Saturdays. Maud, or “Marvelous Maud” is Ernie’s sidekick, and much to Ernie’s initial surprise happens to be a sheep. In Ernie’s estimation, there has never been another sheep quite like Maud. The two of them patrol the little town of Baxter, and fearlessly perform their superhero duties, like the time that Ernie found Mrs. Evan’s lost purse which she had dropped into a pile of bananas in the supermarket, or when Maud threw herself in front of a runaway stroller, or when Ernie chased after Mr. Carter’s toupee that blew off his head with a sudden gust of wind! They take their responsibilities very seriously, but sometimes run into small snags along the way, like when Maud’s sister used his superhero cape for dress-up. Maud is feeling a little gloomy and almost invisible as the “middle sheep” in her own family, and so she decides that she deserves a sidekick and calls for try-outs, but with little success. This ends up causing some hard feelings between Ernie and Maud, but eventually they find a way to work it out and work together to save the day once more. I think young readers would love this as a read-aloud, and readers maybe 2nd – 4th grade would just plain love it!

Posted by: Mary

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Hug by Jez Alborough

HugLast month I mentioned that I liked monkeys. So I thought I would follow up last month’s review with another book starring a member of the primate family! Hug is a book of few words – three to be exact. While walking through the jungle, Bobo, a young chimpanzee, is on a quest to find a hug. As he sees more and more animals hugging and his request for a hug go unanswered, he become sadder and sadder. Luckily, mom comes to the rescue and knows just what Bobo needs. The illustrations show just how good a hug can feel. This is a story to share one on one while having a good cuddle.

Posted by: Liz

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All the Broken Pieces by Ann E. Burg

All the Broken PiecesMatt Pin lives what seems an ordinary life for a 7th grader—he has tried out for his school’s baseball team and is on his way to being its star pitcher, he has parents who love him, and a little brother who adores him. But Matt is not an ordinary boy, not exactly. Born in Vietnam to a local mother, and an American-soldier father who took off as soon as his Tour of Duty was up, Matt witnessed the bombings and brutalities of the War first-hand. His mother had him airlifted to the States, where a wonderful couple adopted him. Now two years later, Matt is haunted by the memories of his biological mother’s ‘abandonment,’ of the bombs dropped on him, and of the wounded little brother he had to leave behind.

This Rebecca Caudill nominee book is told in free verse, which I usually find distracting, but in this case, it works. Its fractured style mirrors Matt’s fractured life. We follow Matt’s nightmares of Vietnam, the hatred of some of his teammates toward him for the slant of his eyes, and even the support group of Vietnam vets he is invited to visit to help them all heal—Matt included.

All the Broken Pieces is definitely recommended for the older reader, since it touches upon war, bullying, wounded soldiers and Matt’s feelings of confusion about loving his new life while missing his old. It also has a lot of baseball but nothing too technical for baseball-phobes.

Posted by: Cindy

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