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Four great kids’ reads

Adventures oThe Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friendf Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat

This is a story that begins in a land where imaginary friends wait to be imagined by boys and girls. All the friends get imagined…except for Beekle. But Beekle gets so anxious to have a friend of his own, he decides to go searching for him. He looks everywhere; in the park, in a tree but his friend is nowhere to be found. But when all seems lost, Beekle becomes imagined.

Santat’s illustrations are beyond adorable. During Beekle’s search, the reader comes across the other imaginary friends and their kids. It’s a great story, not just about friendship, but also the creative power of a child’s mind.

Here Comes the Easter CatHere Comes the Easter Cat! By Deborah Underwood

Cat wants to take over the Easter Bunny’s job. But there’s a problem: Cat doesn’t realize all the responsibilities that come with the job. But Cat has a solution for all but one and it’s a bit of a deal-breaker. Before Cat can think of a solution, the Easter Bunny comes by and he is so tired from all of the work. Now is the time for cat to take over and become the Easter Cat! Will he do it or will he let the Easter Bunny keep the job?

The writing style of this book is different from most picture books. The reader becomes the narrator and interacts directly with Cat. The illustrations are also well done with soft lines and colors. Each page has the minimal illustrations needed to get the story, and its humor, across.

Puddle PugPuddle Pug by Kim Norman

Pug loves all kinds of puddles – big, small, deep, shallow, and so much more. Pug knows where all his favorite puddles are. One day he comes across the perfect puddle. The only thing is, the puddle is home to Pig and her three piglets. Pig does not want Pug in her puddle. But then something horrible happens to the piglets. Can Pig and Pug forget their differences and work together to find the piglets?

This is a sweet story told in rhyme and the illustrations capture the playful and caring soul of a dog perfectly.

FoundFound by Salina Yoon

A young bear finds a stuffed rabbit. Waning to make sure it gets back home, Bear makes a “Found” flier and hangs it all over the forest. Bear finally finds the rabbit’s owner, who has a surprise reward for Bear.

Yoon’s illustrations are simple, but adorable with bold colors and broad lines. The part of the book I liked best was when Bear posted his flier to a community board that was filled with other lost and found fliers. The fliers are mostly common sayings, like “Lost: My Mind”. There’s even one flier that tips its hat to another beloved children’s book. But I won’t spoil it for you here – just go pick up a copy of Found (and all the other books) today!

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Posted by on May 13, 2014 in Literature

 

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Picture this

I worked in the children’s department at a bookstore for two years before I made the move to be near my sister and nephew. It was those two years that prepared me not only to tolerate tantrums but to know a good children’s book when I see one.

I’ve read several young adult* books that I will share when José is old enough, but he is still of the age when one is read to and picture books are way to go.

As I posted previously, my friend Lisa has a picture book blog, which I like to use as a reference for new and classic picture books. I hold her opinion high so if she says it’s good, then it must be. Another reference I’ve recently found is The Barnes & Noble Guide to Children’s Books by Kaylee N. Davis. It was published in 2012 so there are books that were published this year that aren’t listed. The book breaks down into sections for different age groups as well as different non-fiction topics. It then lists the Newbery, Caldecott, and Coretta Scott King medal winners from their inception until 2012.

As I find, read, and share picture books with José, I will post quick reviews of my (and hopefully his) favorites.

I Want My Hat BackI Want My Hat Back and This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen

In I Want My Hat Back, a bear goes to different animals in the forest to see if anyone has seen his hat. Everyone says they haven’t but when the bear starts to describe the hat, he realizes where it is. There is a surprise ending that will have both kids and adults laughing. This Is Not My Hat won the 2013 Caldecott Medal. The story is about a little fish who stole a hat from a very big fish. The book teaches kids sarcasm and irony, my two favorite things. I once had a customer who said that the illustrations were awful as she quickly flipped through the book, and that no kid would like something so dark (color-wise). José owns this book (thanks to Tia Liz) and enjoys looking at the pictures. It just goes to show you, don’t judge a book by its illustrations (especially when said book won the highest achievement for children’s illustration).

BB and the Big Road RaceThe Berenstain Bears and the Big Road Race by Stan and Jan Berenstain

This was one of my favorite books when I was growing up. I had a lot of the Berenstain Bears books, but I was drawn to this particular one because of the rhythm and rhyme. It’s also a favorite of José’s but I think it has more to do with the race cars and “vroom!” noises they make than anything.

Cloudy with a Chance of MeatballsCloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett

I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t read this book until recently. A good friend of mine bought it, along with a few other books, for José. I hadn’t even seen the movie. I knew about it, of course, and its sequel Pickles to Pittsburgh, but that was it. When I finally sat down and read it, I not only found a deliciously funny story, but succulent and fulfilling illustrations as well. If you’ve read the book but never took a good look at the illustrations, do so. There’s a lot of humor in the background.

PartsParts by Tedd Arnold

A kid notices that his hair comes out in his comb and that fuzz is coming out of his belly button. To him, it means only one thing: the glue holding him together is falling apart! This book is a quick, funny read. The illustrations are colorful and fun, as they depict impossible things, like the kid’s head falling off or his arm coming loose. As with Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Parts has a lot of humor in the illustrations. It also has rhythm and rhyme, making it a great “just one more” book at bedtime. There are two other parts to the series: More Parts and Even More Parts. I can’t wait to get them from the library!

*Grades 4-6

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2013 in Literature

 

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Tuesday, Wednesday, happy day!

Tuesdays at the CastleCastle Glower is no ordinary castle. Its alive, or as alive as a castle can be. On Tuesdays while King Glower is busy hearing his subjects, the castle rearranges itself to stave off boredom. Sometimes it even builds new rooms. Princess Celie, the youngest of the four royal children, has a special bond with the castle; it seems to favor her. Perhaps it’s because she’s the first person in its long history to attempt to draw a map of the castle, but no one knows for certain. What is obvious, though, is that Castle Glower helps Celie, along with her sister Lilah, brother Rolf, and friend Pogue, when the king, queen, and eldest son go missing. The royal council declares them dead, making 14-year-old Rolf king, but the children don’t give up hope so easily. The castle helps them sneak around and spy on guests to see if they are friends or foes.

Although Tuesdays in the Castle by Jessica Day George is a children’s book, it captures the hearts of all ages. The writing is light but the action is packed and there’s comedy throughout. The book was a fast read for me, but I enjoyed every bit of it. Prince Lulath was a particularly fun character because his English isn’t very good and he always has his four precious doggies with him. Celie is the main star of the show and readers will be drawn to her kind heart and loyalty to her family and Castle Glower.

***Spoiler Alert***

The sequel, Wednesdays in the Tower, is set to be released May 7, 2013. I had the privilege to read a digital ARC.

Wednesdays in the TowerIn the second book, the king, queen, and eldest son Bran have returned to Castle Glower. This time the castle shows Celie a tower with no roof and a rather mysterious occupant – an egg. It’s no ordinary egg, though. It’s huge and orange, like the color of flame, and is hot to the touch. At first Celie thinks it might be a dragon egg, but soon she learns that it’s actually a griffin egg. Griffins were thought to be mythical creatures, but Celie knows that it is not so. Bran, Pogue, and Rolf all help Celie gather information about griffins, from books in the castle library to old tapestries hanging on the wall depicting humans riding griffins in battle. They know that all of this ties into the history of the castle, where it came from (legend has it that it just appeared one day), and why it has started acting strangely. They just need to figure out how it all ties together.

Again, the writing was light with just the right mixture of action, comedy, and mystery. The history of Castle Glower starts to come to light in the sequel, as well as its capabilities. Celie starts questioning where all those rooms come from on Tuesdays and where do they go when the castle gets rid of them. Many readers probably asked the same questions when reading Tuesdays and George found a good way of addressing those questions without giving everything away right at once. In fact, she doesn’t give everything away in the book, but leaves it with a cliffhanger, an open ending just begging for another sequel. Which brings me to my totally selfish whine: I want to know what happens! The next book likely won’t be out until summer of 2014. I can’t wait that long! Why did I foolishly pick up the first book (and enjoy it, along with the second book) when the series is still being written? Argh!

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2013 in Literature

 

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Check this out!

Happy First Day of Spring!.

The above link is to a blog written by my dear friend, Lisa. It is dedicated to picture books. I always love her recommendations – they are always on the mark! Please check out her blog!

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2013 in Literature

 

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Best of both worlds

Splintered by A.G. Howard

Alyssa is the great-great-great granddaughter of Alice. The Alice – the one that Alice in Wonderland is based on. She creates morbid art with the bodies of insects and parts of plants, hoping to quell the voices she hears. That’s right – she can hear plants and insects talking to her. But telling her dad would mean a one-way ticket to the same asylum as her mom, who shares the same infliction.

During one of her weekly visits to her mom, Alyssa begins to question whether or not the voices are real. Her mom hears the bugs and plants saying the exact same things she hears. If she were making it all up in her head, then the conversations wouldn’t match up word for word, right? Alyssa’s mom says that the family is cursed because of what Alice did, though she doesn’t explain what that is exactly. To break the curse, they would have to go down the rabbit hole. Since Alyssa’s mom isn’t going anywhere, it’s up to her to find the rabbit hole and right Alice’s wrongs (whatever they may be).

Let’s start with the cover. Gorgeous. Absolutely eye-catching. The thing with pictures, though, is that it doesn’t portray just how brilliant the colors shine. Go to your local bookstore (once you’re finished reading this blog) and find a copy. You will be blown away.

Next, the type. I’m not usually one to comment on the format of a book, font and otherwise, but perhaps that is because most books are just black type on cream paper. This book, however, is a little more lavish. The type is in purple, which I thought at first might be a strain on the eyes, simply because I’m used to reading in black, but that was not the case. I actually stopped noticing it after a while. The beginning of each chapter also has a little more decoration than the rest of the book. I don’t know how to describe it, really, except to say that there are intricate designs flowing across the top of the page. The best likeness I can think of is that it could be a wrought-iron gate design. The chapter title even has an enticing font; it has a little bit of a flourish but not so much that it’s illegible.

Everything about the book is appealing to the eye and intriguing to the mind. Before the reader even begins at the very first word, she is drawn in and excited about the adventure that awaits her.

The writing was beautiful and descriptive. Of course, when reading the book, I couldn’t help but think of the movies that have been made of Alice – the Disney version as well as Tim Burton’s version. I also thought about Lewis Carroll’s book, which I’d read most of a decade ago. From what I remember of what I read, Howard’s imagining of Wonderland fit well with Carroll’s tale.

This is no children’s story, though. The opening scene is Alyssa creating one of her dead-bug murals. And it just gets creepier from there. After finding the rabbit hole and making her way to Wonderland, Alyssa soon discovers that Carroll’s book wasn’t an exact depiction of the other world. The white rabbit, for example, is a creature that looks like a rabbit but with antlers instead of ears and most of his skin and muscles have been rotted away, leaving mostly bones behind. He claims he is of the White lineage and he is rabid, rather than a rabbit. It’s a dark and twisted version of the Wonderland that Alyssa grew up with. As she journeys through the world, though, she discovers things about herself that she never knew.

This is a definite must-read for any Alice in Wonderland fan.

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2013 in Literature

 

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Underpants!

This is a review for Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella. I was granted access to a digital Advanced Reader’s Copy (ARC) through Edelweiss. The book is scheduled to come out in May 2013. This review contains spoilers.

Wedding NightWhen people ask me for a good beach read, one of the authors I recommend is Sophie Kinsella. Her books are light and fun, often with quirky characters and laugh-out-loud moments. I’ve read almost everything she’s written under the pseudonym (her real name is Madeline Wickham and I have yet to read any of those books, though I want to). She’s most known for her Shopaholic series, of which the first book was made into a movie. While the Shopaholic series is fun, I think Kinsella’s best works are her stand-alone titles. Remember Me? and Can You Keep a Secret? are my two favorites.

Kinsella’s next book is another stand-alone titled Wedding Night. Lottie expects that her long-term boyfriend Richard is poised to propose at a special lunch date. When he doesn’t propose, and seems downright frightened of marriage, Lottie tries to save face by dumping him. The next day she makes plans with Ben, an ex she hasn’t seen in 15 years. When they meet for lunch, a mixture of alcohol and nostalgia causes them to do the unthinkable. Ben proposes and Lottie accepts. But there’s one condition: no sex until the honeymoon.

Lottie’s older sister, Fliss, reviews hotels and spas for a travel magazine. She’s going through a divorce from Daniel, who doesn’t seem to care about their seven-year-old son Noah. After a two-week trip abroad, Fliss comes home to find her sister engaged – and set to marry the next day! Fliss disagrees with the choice, seeing as Lottie just got out of a relationship and Fliss hasn’t even met the bridegroom. But Ben and Lottie elope anyway and jettison off to the Greek island where they first fell in love. Determined not to let Lottie ruin her life through a messy divorce like her own, Fliss does everything in her power to stop the couple from consummating their marriage. Acting through the VIP concierge at the hotel (whom she bribes with a five-star review and personal profile), Fliss manages to keep the two apart.

In the meantime, Fliss is on her way to the Greek island to rescue her sister. In tow is her son, who provides great comic relief to awkward moments. At the airport, Fliss spots Ben’s business partner, Lorcan, who needs some papers signed, and Richard who is finally ready to declare his love for Lottie. Everything comes to a head when Lottie discovers the truth about Fliss, Ben, and Richard.

The plot is right up there with Kinsella’s other books – unusual and inventive. It had its predictable moments, like Fliss and Lorcan ending up together, as well as Lottie and Richard. But how they got there was still quite creative. I don’t think I could have come up with so many ways to keep people from consummating their relationship! There were a few actual laugh-out-loud moments, which is usually a guarantee in any Kinsella book. There were also lessons that different characters learned, which was good, but what was even better was that Fliss forgot hers right away and had to re-learn it. It’s something that a lot of us do, I think.

So, would I put Wedding Night up there as one of my favorites? No, but it was good entertainment and would recommend it to anyone in need of a laugh or needed something for vacation. That is, if they haven’t already read Remember Me?

 *If you want to understand the title of this post, then you’ll have to read the book.

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2013 in Literature

 

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Books I think everyone should read (part 2)

(Continued from Part 1)

These are feminist and women’s history books. I believe both men and women should read these. If you don’t believe in feminism, or think it’s a bad word, all the more reason to read them. Also, women have been forced to read about men’s history – or, “history” as it is commonly known – for years. It’s time to give some of the love back, guys.

FlowFlow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation by Elissa Stein and Susan Kim

The book takes the reader through an intense and confusing journey of womanhood from the ancient world to today’s society. Stein and Kim show how society views of menstruation have changed (and not changed) over the course of time, as well as the products and marketing that go along with many female “problems”. The book is littered with colorful (and rather eye-opening) advertisements for women’s products from the 1950s and 60s. They’re a lot like car wrecks – horrible to witness but you can’t take your eyes off them.

The Purity MythPurity Myth by Jessica Valenti

Many of us have heard about purity pledges (not having sex until married) and may have even signed one when in high school. But have you ever witnessed a purity ball? Valenti describes them in full detail, which I recounted and reacted to on my blog post Purity Balls and Sexy Virgins. But there is more to the book than the “rituals” people partake in. Valenti drives home the point that women are self-standing humans. We do not need men to take care of us or give their permission to live our lives. Valenti argues, and backs up her argument with many detailed examples, that expecting young women to stay “pure” until marriage is a damaging concept.

Full Frontal FeminismFull Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti

Do you live in an anti-vibrator state?* Yes, there are states that have “anti-erotic massager” laws on the books. If you think this is absurd, then this book is definitely for you.

Full Frontal Feminism is aimed at young women, with a chapter geared specifically for young men as well. The word “feminist” can draw many images to one’s mind so a lot of women (and men) don’t identify themselves as a feminist. Take this little test to see if you’re a feminist: What are the worst names you could call a woman? Perhaps you thought of slut, bitch, whore or something along those lines. Now, what are the worst names you could call a man? Did you think of pussy? Bitch? Nancy-boy or girly man? Final question: Do you think that it’s really fucked up that the biggest insults to both men and women are a derogatory terms for a woman? If you just answered yes, then congratulations. You are a feminist. Anyone who thinks that the way women are treated is sexist and unfair is, in the truest sense, a feminist. So what should young feminist women and men do? Valenti offers advice in all kinds of scenarios, along with shocking examples of the way women are treated and viewed in modern society.**

*Turn to page 39 to find out if you do.

**I emphasize modern society because some of the acts are so barbaric, one may mistake the scenario as happening in the ancient world.

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2012 in Literature

 

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