Archive for June, 2014

The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones and Ursula Jones

The Islands of ChaldeaThe books of Diana Wynne Jones were a constant throughout my childhood and teen years. Of the nearly 100 books by her listed in our library system’s catalog, there isn’t a single one that I haven’t read at least once, if not repeatedly.

After Jones passed away in 2011, I naturally thought that I would never again read a new book by her. But first there was the posthumously published Earwig and the Witch, a short, snappy book about an orphan and her curious adoptive ‘family.’ It was definitely appealing, but it had that abrupt, unpolished quality that posthumously published books often have. I would recommend it to a reader, but it didn’t capture my imagination the way so many of Jones’ books had. Yet again, I thought that was that.

Fully three years after her death, though, a full-length novel by Jones has appeared–it was discovered amongst her papers, and polished and completed by Jones’ sister, Ursula Jones, already an author in her own right. This was the final (?) Diana Wynne Jones novel that I had been waiting for–it has a story that sucks a reader in almost instantly, characters who are defined simply but indelibly, and a setting so well-described that one can see it.

Aileen is an apprentice Wise-Woman, cared for by her Aunt Beck, the Wise Woman of Skarr, one of the group of sovereign islands known collectively as the Islands of Chaldea. Aileen has only just attempted her first initiation when she and her aunt–and a prince, and a castle servant–are sent off on a whirlwind quest that requires them to visit every island.

As is typical for Jones, our heroine has more reserves than she believes (but is never a wet blanket about her insecurities), there are wonderful animal companions, and adult authority figures are often Very Cranky.

I hope that it is taken as a compliment when I say that I cannot tell at all where Ursula Jones’ contributions come in–the book hangs together perfectly as a whole, with no disjointed transitions or developments that ring false. I highly recommend the book, both on its own merits, and as a satisfying send-off to Diana Wynne Jones’ magical oeuvre.

Posted by: Sarah

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Get Real! A Non-Fiction Video Book Review

This month, Sarah shares a book that ties in with Paws to Read, our summer reading club: Mice Mischief: Math Facts in Action, by Caroline Stills.

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The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

Most Magnificent thingThomas Edison said, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” Ashley Spires’ new book The Most Magnificent Thing is the picture book embodiment of that quote. Spires’ little heroine has a vision. She has a plan. She is going to make the most magnificent thing. However, when the result of her handiwork does not live up to her expectations, she is forced to try again and again and again but it never turns out quite right. Eventually, her frustration gets the better of her and she is ready to give up, until her assistant/best friend/pug convinces her to take a little walk and cool down. Upon their return, she feels refreshed and calm and suddenly she knows exactly how to build the most magnificent thing.

Frustration is a part of life. We all experience it from time to time, but it can be so difficult for our younger counterparts who are just learning how to cope with their emotions. The Most Magnificent Thing shows one way to deal with those feelings without being overly didactic. Spires’ digital artwork is composed of simple, charming line drawings for the background with richly colored and expressive characters providing the action in the foreground. The little girl and her adorable pug are sure to please readers of all ages. This book would be a great read aloud for bedtime or any time for kids ages 4-7. Older kids in particular will get a kick out of the revenge the little pug dog takes on one failed invention.

Want more? Check out the book trailer from Kids Can Press.

Posted by: Staci

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Where’s Mommy? by Beverly Donofrio

Where's Mommy?Maria (a girl) and Mouse Mouse (a mouse) live in the same house. Maria and Mouse Mouse are playmates, but they must keep their friendship a secret from their families. Maria’s family would not be pleased to discover there were mice living in the house, and Mouse Mouse’s family would be frightened if they knew they had been discovered. One day, as the two friends are each preparing for bed in their respective parts of the house, each calls for their mother, and each discovers that their mother is missing! Simultaneously, Maria and Mouse Mouse search throughout their house, eventually running into each other and a very surprising resolution to the mystery!

This simple story is brought to life with detailed illustrations by Barbara McClintock. In each spread, we see both households side by side, so readers can compare and contrast details of each home. The mouse house has a “borrower” element – an upright flashlight serves as a floor lamp, a seed packet is wall art, and a thimble is a teacup. This is a cozy, sweet story with illustrations that kids and parents will pore over for their charming detail. The story ends with a question that will prompt children to tell their own stories. Where’s Mommy? is the sequel to Mary and the Mouse, the Mouse and Mary.

Posted by: Parry

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The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henkes

Year of Billy MillerBilly Miller is about to begin 2nd grade and he is worried. He’s worried that he won’t be smart enough; especially after hearing his dad read the letter from his new teacher saying how 2nd grade will be a “wonderful, exciting challenge.” It’s the word “challenge” that worries Billy.

Billy gets off to what he worries might be a rocky start with his teacher, Ms. Silver, who is wearing red chopsticks in her hair on the 1st day of school. He feels his joke of making “devil’s horns” with red crayons could have been misunderstood and that Ms. Silver might have thought he was making fun of her. After thinking about how he can make things right with her, he comes up with an idea to give her a special gift to show her that he really is a nice boy.

Papa, an artist, is also a stay-at-home Dad who takes care of Billy and his younger sister. Billy struggles with how to tell Papa that he wants to start calling him Dad, instead of calling him by the childish name of Papa. The conversation goes great and Dad takes the name change like a champ! Billy is also somewhat responsible for helping his Father with a much needed breakthrough in his art work.

His sister, Sal, may not be his favorite person, but Billy hopes she will help him with his master plan of staying awake all night. Their parents are away overnight and Billy patiently waits for their babysitter to go to sleep before he quietly creeps into his sister’s room. He wakes her up to be his “stay up all night” partner and entertains her to keep them both awake. They make it to about midnight before drifting to sleep.

Toward the end of the school year, the 2nd graders are going to put on a show about Families and each student will recite or read an original poem that they have written for a special person. Billy struggles with who to write about, but finally chooses his Mother. He discovers that writing a poem isn’t exactly easy. Armed with some advice from his teacher, he spends some wonderful moments with his Mother discovering some things about her that are “poem worthy.” Billy Miller’s poem entitled “Quiet Mom” couldn’t be sweeter and more heartfelt.

This book is divided into four separate episodes that are each devoted to a significant person in Billy’s life – Teacher, Father, Sister and Mother. There are many humorous and heartwarming moments that are delightful to read about from the viewpoint of Billy, who is a very sensitive and thoughtful 7-year- old boy. It would be a great read aloud, especially to someone about to enter 2nd grade.

Posted by: Wendy

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Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell

Dear ZooThis oldie but goodie is one of my favorites, and it is the perfect read for our summer reading club. A child is looking for a pet and writes to the zoo to get one. The zoo has quite a hard time finding the correct pet and sends an elephant, a giraffe, a lion, a snake, and a monkey. Of course, none of the animals are just right and must be sent back. The zoo finally finds the perfect pet and sends a dog. Little ones will have fun discovering what is under each flap and making animal sounds along the way.

Posted by: Liz

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A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na

Book of SleepHave you ever wondered how animals sleep? For many little ones, it will be a surprise to find out that some animals sleep standing up, and some animals sleep in the daytime, and some animals sleep alone and some sleep in a group, and some even sleep with one eye open. Even though this book doesn’t have many words, it doesn’t need them to move the story along. I think this book would be a perfect story to read at bedtime with its peaceful illustrations and simple message, but it also lends itself to fun conversation too. Sleep tight!

Posted by: Mary

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