Archive for February, 2012

Saint George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges

St. George and the DragonIt’s difficult to believe that though we have been writing this blog for five years, I have never mentioned the picture book I loved the most as a child. Most of the picture books I had were purchased at library book sales, but given its publication date (1984), my copy of Saint George and the Dragon was bought new.

I spent hours pouring over the gorgeous, intricate illustrations, more fascinating to me in their beauty than any number of search-and-find picture books; though there was no particular item I was meant to search out, discovering a beetle on a flower in the border of a painting was just as rewarding.

St. George and the DragonEven at the age of five I was already familiar with most of the common fairy tales (and some of the uncommon ones), so it was a treat to hear a story that was new to me, especially since it was adapted from something that sounded evocative and wonderful: The Fairy Queen. Due no doubt to its exerptation from this longer work, the narrative seems to start after the beginning of the story (helped in this regard by several pages of illustrations before the title page), and stop before the ending, but the incredible depth found in both the text and paintings make it completely satisfying.

This book cemented my love for myths and legends, medieval history and literature, and provided an introduction to medieval illumination in illustrator Trina Schart Hyman’s wonderfully referential artwork. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Posted by: Sarah

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Fatty Legs A True Story by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton

Fatty LegsEven though I thought I knew what was coming before I even began this book, I was appalled. Not by the writing, description or characterization but by the story itself.
Fatty Legs is the autobiography of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton and how in less than two years, her longed for, dreamed about, wish to get a “real” education, was dashed to the point of making each day in her school a story of brute survival.

Margaret, born Olemaun Pokiak is Inuvialuit, an Inuit., one of the First Peoples of Canada. Born and raised on a remote island in the Arctic Ocean, all she really knew of school was that both her father and older half sister had gone when they were young. It meant living away from home in a boarding school dormitory. It also meant learning to read. If she went to school, Margaret would be able to read stories like the one “Rosie,” her sister read to her. It was a book about a girl named Alice who went down a rabbit hole and met a curious rabbit.

Reading meant everything to Margaret and though her father was reluctant to send her and her sister refused to talk about school, Margaret badgered her father until he gave in and let her go at age eight. That was the day her life turned upside down.

School was a nightmare of bullying not only by other students but, horribly, by her teachers as well. Fatty Legs is the tale of how Margaret learned not only to read but to stand up for herself and fight back. Although it’s hard to read about the abuse she suffered at the hands of the Catholic nuns—especially as I’m a product of 20 years of Catholic schooling—her strength and inner spirit make Margaret a strong and worthy heroine–and adversary.

Although not many middle school students would choose Fatty Legs for a school biography assignment, any who do may, like Margaret, have a life changing experience.

Posted by: Eileen

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Get Real! A Non-Fiction Video Book Review

This month, Eileen celebrates Presidents’ Day by talking about two new favorites: The Worst of Friends by Suzanne Jurmaine, and I Grew Up to Be President by Laurie Calkhoven.

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Hugo Movie Companion by Brian Selznick

Hugo Movie Companion

Movie Awards Season is upon us and I am always excited about watching the Academy Awards, mostly because I love seeing what the stars wear, oh, and of course enjoying the artistry of the cinema . But, besides being excited to see all of the stars in their elaborate garments this award season, I am thrilled to see Martin Scorsese’s film adaptation of The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, getting so much attention. Like many other readers, I absolutely loved this book. The story is captivating and uplifting, the format is unique and intriguing and the illustrations are beautiful. I must admit, I was a little concerned when I saw that the book I loved so much was being adapted into a film. Even though cinema played a big part in the Hugo Cabret story, and the book is already very visual and even with venerable director Martin Scorsese at the helm on this picture, I still was pretty uneasy.  However, all of my fears were assuaged when Hugo Movie Companion arrived on our Library’s shelves. 

First of all, the Hugo Movie Companion was written by the author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret himself, Brian Selznick, which means Selznick, was present while the movie was being made. Second, the book itself shows the care and creativity that was put into creating the movie Hugo. This is not your run of the mill behind the scenes movie companion book. Hugo Movie Companion features interviews with the cast and crew like many movie companions and there are also beautiful full color photographs from the movie and the movie set. But, the photos from the movie and behind the scenes are shown alongside original illustration from The Invention of Hugo Cabret so readers can see how Selznick’s vision was transformed for film. The content extends beyond a behind the scenes look at the movie to include information about automatons, an important part of the Hugo story. There is also fascinating background information on filmmaker Georges Melies, whose work is featured in the film and referenced in the movie. Finally, there is an essay by Martin Scorsese on the birth of film that is written on a level that both parents and children will appreciate. Fans of the movie, the book, or both will want to check out Hugo Movie Companion this Awards season.

Posted by: Kelly

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The Donut Chef by Bob Staake

The Donut ChefA donut chef opens up his cozy donut shop and soon people eagerly line up to buy his yummy donuts. All is good until another chef decides to open his donut shop right next door. Donut World and Donut Land stand side by side and people begin to wonder whose donuts are the very best. Thus begins the competition! First the chefs lower their prices, then they give out free donuts and then the real fun begins when they bake the most bizarre shaped and flavored donuts! Things continue in this crazy baking frenzy until one little girl pipes up that all she really wants is a glazed donut. A simple glazed donut. Imagine that!

This picture book is in rhyme and more than likely will leave you not only smiling, but also craving a donut!

Posted by: Wendy

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Lily Pond by Annika Thor

The Lily PondThis book is the second in a series. The first book is titled Faraway Island. The first book won the Batchelder award in 2010 and this book took a Batchelder Honors award this year. I did not read the first book and I still enjoyed this one.

Stephie and her sister have been evacuated from Vienna because of the Nazis and sent to live with families in Sweden. They are Jewish and their parents are still in Vienna but are trying to leave. The girls have been separated because there wasn’t a family able to take them both. Stephie has been awarded a scholarship and at thirteen is going to continue her education at a school in Goteburg. She has to cross from her island on the ferry and she will be living with a family in the city.

I really liked Stephie. She was a loving and responsible big sister, a good student and a good friend. She is attached to her adoptive family and respects their opinions. Life is really hard for her though. She has to handle a lot of situations, some of them very upsetting and frightening, some of them confusing, at a time when she is growing up and experiencing her first love and at a time when the world is engulfed in war and prejudice. There are two more books I believe planned for the series.

I recommend this book for girls in grades 5 through 8 who like historical fiction and particularly for girls who like books about the Holocaust.

Posted by: Fran

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The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

The Long WinterI like to reread The Long Winter in January or February – after the holidays and during that long stretch when winter feels most cold and bleak to me. It tells the story of how Laura Ingalls and her family survived the harsh winter of 1880-81, enduring seven months of near constant blizzards in their little house in town in the Dakota Territory. Through this winter, the Ingalls family is together but cut off from all supplies (the trains can’t run) and often even cut off from their neighbors living yards away. The Long Winter tells of stories that I cannot even imagine; like how, when the first blizzard hits, Laura and her classmates must leave the schoolhouse and make their way home not a mile away, yet all the while the threat of being lost out on the prairie is imminent, for they cannot see in front of them and apart from their little prairie town there is nothing for miles and miles. It tells of the kind of resourcefulness Laura’s family displays, making kindling out of twisted bunches of hay when there is no firewood to be had. And it tells of how Laura’s family manages to create moments of joy throughout the dark months, making a pie out of green pumpkins and celebrating a festive Christmas with what little food and treats they have, song, and stories.

I love this book because I am inspired and comforted by the way Laura’s family never compromise their love for each other or their dignity during some of the harshest circumstances, and I always close the book with new resolve to meet life with courage and joy. And as with all of the Little House books, I relish in the details of a way of life so different from my own – so that if the need should ever arise, I now know to make a lamp with a button, a little grease, and a bit of cloth.

Recommended as a family read-aloud, preferably by the fireside of a cold winter’s evening.

Posted by: Parry

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