Archive for March, 2012

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke

The Thief LordVenice is a magical city, as almost everyone knows. Prosper and Bo know this–their mother always told them so. When their mother dies and their aunt tries to separate them, the two brothers run away from Germany to Venice. They live by their wits until they meet Scipio, a masked boy who claims to be the lord of thieves. He protects the two boys, along with several other orphans, by bringing them the proceeds from his midnight raids.

They should be safe, but Prosper can’t keep from looking over his shoulder for their aunt, and for the child-finding detective she’s hired. And what happens when Scipio is tempted to steal something that might be beyond his abilities? And what could be on those islands out in the lagoon?

Cornelia Funke has created a jewel of a world in what is technically a fantasy, but what is really more like the ordinary world lit with glimmers of the extraordinary. Each of the characters is perfectly drawn and each is consistent in their behavior and believable as a real person. The slow, sunlight-on-the-water atmosphere of Venice notwithstanding, the plot propells one through the story, without ever dropping its hold. What makes these feats even more impressive is that the story was originally written in German, and the delightful setting, plot and characters survived the translation process.

Much thanks to Cornelia Funke and her translator, Oliver Latsch, for releasing this book to readers on both sides of the ocean.

Posted by: Sarah

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Get Real! A Non-Fiction Video Book Review

This month, Sarah talks about the book Did Castles Have Bathrooms? (and Other Questions About the Middle Ages) by Ann Kerns. En garde!

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The Worst of Friends: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and the true story of an American feud by Suzanne Jurmain

Worst of FriendsThe French have a phrase, “plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose,” which means “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” There can be no better illustration of that sentiment than Suzanne Jurmain’s new book, The Worst of Friends.

Ostensibly, it’s a story about Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. Despite their differences—tall, short, quiet, talkative, etc.–the two were great friends, boon companions before and during the American Revolution.

However, when it came to getting our fledgling country up and running, they stood on opposite sides of the fence. Especially, when it came to the question about whether the United States should have a strong or weak presidency. They argued bitterly, privately and publicly, ending up as the leaders of opposing political parties. Making matters worse, they had to serve together as President (Adams) and Vice President (Jefferson).

That’s when things went very, very wrong. Republicans and Federalists would cross the street to avoid one another. Criticism, complaining and name-calling ruled the day. There were even fisticuffs in the streets. Nothing was getting accomplished in Washington. Sound familiar? It seems our current problems are as old as the republic.

I’m happy to report however, that there is appositive resolution to this story. It’s more 200 years later so obviously Jefferson and Adams were able to reconcile. Want to know how? You’ll have to read The Worst of Friends.

Posted by: Eileen

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Water Balloon by Audrey Vernick

Water BalloonIt is the summer before eighth grade and Marley’s world has been turned upside down. Her father and mother are separated. Her mother has gone to visit old friends and Marley has to live with her Dad whose house is in a different neighborhood. To make matters worse, her best friends for forever are both going to theater camp and are making new friends and not including her. When she is invited to a pool party at her friend’s house she decides that this is the perfect opportunity to do the water balloon blitz that the friends have been springing on each other for years. But this time her friends’ reactions are not surprise and delight as Marley anticipated. They are angry and embarrassed at her juvenile behavior.

Marley has a tough summer ahead of her but there is a cute boy next door who seems to like her, her father is working at reconnecting with her, and the job that her father arranged for her, a nightmare caring for difficult twin girls, uncovers a lot of quick thinking and creativity that Marley didn’t know she had. I liked Marley and you will too. Recommended for girls grades 5 and up.

Posted by: Fran

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Little Treasures: Endearments from Around the World by Jacqueline K. Ogburn

Little Treasures: Endearments from Around the WorldLittle Treaures: Endearments from Around the World is itself a little treasure, a little bubble of joy, a little sunny sun. It is all these things, and it is a joyous collection of terms of endearment from all around the world. Did you know that in France, parents might call a child ma puce? That means “my flea.” Or, in China, a parent might call their child xiao pie dou*? That means “little mischevious pea.” Each term is presented in its original language, in English, and spelled out phonetically so that English speakers can pronounce the term correctly. Chris Raschka illustrates the book with ink, watercolor, and gouache in his lovely signature style; the colors are soft and splashy, and the lines and figures dance on the page.

Little Treasures is recommended for kids preschool and all the way on up. I can see cuddling up with a little one and reading this one-on-one, saying the words together (and to each other!). I can also see reading this aloud or recommending it to older children, just for fun or in conjunction with language or social studies.

Kids and adults of any age will appreciate the book for its celebration of the playful ways we humans use language to express ourselves, and of the universality of family love.

Posted by: Parry

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Ruby Lu, Star of the Show by Lenore Look

Ruby Lu, Star of the ShowI have recently become a huge fan of the author Lenore Look. How can you not love an author who describes herself on Twitter as: “writer, re-writer, deadline misser, wrong-turn maker, detour taker, yoga pose messer-upper, raconteur extraordinaire.”

Look’s first professional titles were picture books that were both heartwarming and funny. She has continued that tradition with her juvenile fiction series, Ruby Lu, and the bestseller Alvin Ho. All of her titles feature Asian characters living in America that are easily relatable to readers of every nationality. Look’s Alvin Ho books have gained a lot of critical acclaim and popularity among young readers, but the Ruby Lu series is not one to be missed either. Ruby Lu is written for slightly younger readers and can be found in our Easy Fiction section.

The series begins with second grader Ruby Lu introducing readers to her large family and her daily struggles as a second grader. Ruby Lu, Star of the Show is the third book in the series. Ruby is starting 3rd grade. She lives with her large family in a household that consists of her parents, her baby brother, and cousin Flying Duck and Flying Duck’s parents who are all from China. The book touches on some important issues facing today’s children. Ruby’s father loses his job, her mother joins the workforce for the first time in Ruby’s life, and Flying Duck’s family assimilates to life in America. Add to that Flying Duck is deaf and is fluent in Chinese Sign Language, but not American Sign Language, and you have a lot of issues that kids in all neighborhoods can relate to.

The story centers around Ruby trying to adjust to life on a very tight budget and has a great subplot about her relationship with her dog, Elvis, which it turns out, knows all of kinds of tricks because he comes from a very special background. Although heavy on issues, this story is never heavy handed. Ruby is a delightful child and the characters in these books are funny and touching, and never overly sarcastic or mean to each other. It is a great choice for kids who have liked Judy Moody and Clementine who are a little too young to read Alvin Ho.

Posted by: Kelly

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The Red Sled by Lita Judge

The Red SledAlthough there hasn’t been much snow for sledding this season, kids can still enjoy the fast, downhill journey in The Red Sled. Sound effects and expressive illustrations tell the story of a sled that continues its downhill journey even after its owner puts it away. One winter night, some woodland animals discover just how much fun they can have with a “borrowed” sled that they discover outside a house. This book is sure to be shared for more than one ride!

Posted by: Liz

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