Monday, March 31, 2014

The Mad Potter - a review

Greenberg, Jan and Sandra Jordan. 2013. The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius. New York: Roaring Brook.

This book, recognized as a Robert F. Sibert Honor Book, one of 2013's most distinguished informational books, is a photo-filled biography of George E. Ohr, a master of art pottery. A colorful character and far cry from the reticent or taciturn artist stereotype, Ohr was a self-proclaimed,
 "rankey krankey solid individualist," the "Greatest Art Potter on Earth," and "born free and patriotic, blowing my own bugle."

George E. Ohr pottery workshopSadly, his bravado did not serve him well in his lifetime, as one fan wrote,

"Mr. Ohr is by no means a crank, but is a naturally bright, even brilliant man, who has been led into the belief that the way for him to attain publicity is through the channel of preposterous advertising, and the signs which he placed round Biloxi do him more harm than good."
Still, he was confident in his own mastery of his craft, and future generations came to recognize that he was indeed brilliant.  The Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art was built in his honor, and houses a permanent exhibition of his work.

The Mad Potter is a narrative chronology and includes a history of the museum, instructions on how to create a clay pot, extensive Notes, Bibliography and Picture Credits, and my favorite - "How to Look at a Pot," a useful interpretation of the language and method used in describing and evaluating pottery.

A fascinating glimpse into an artist's life, the art of pottery, and the nature and mindset of the art-collecting world.

Note:
Want to see the works of George Ohr?  There is a Pinterest board titled, "George Ohr & His Biloxi Pottery," dedicated to displaying photos of George Ohr and his creations.  Be sure to take a gander.


Today is Nonfiction Monday, and also the final day of our KidLit Celebrates Women's History Month celebration.  Please be sure to catch up on all of the wonderful posts!

http://kidlitwhm.blogspot.com

Friday, March 28, 2014

It's Friday

Happy Friday!
It's been a very long and busy week for me (and I've been sick with bronchitis), but things keep moving on, and so will I.  Here's your news for Friday.


I'm blogging at ALSC today.  I hope you'll check out,  "You know you're a children's librarian when ...


Our annual celebration of Women's History Month and literature for young people continues.  Today features artist Jill McElmurry and her new book, The Tree Lady, which I reviewed earlier.  Please check out all the wonderful author, artist and librarian posts at KidLit Celebrates Women's History Month!


And finally, it's STEM Friday, the weekly roundup of posts dedicated to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math in children's literature.  

Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I Even Funnier - an audiobook review


Below is my review of I Even Funnier: A Middle School Story, as it appeared in the March, 2014, edition of School Library Journal. I loved it!


PATTERSON, James & Chris Grabenstein. I Even Funnier: A Middle School Story. (I Funny Series, Bk. 2). 3 CDs. 4 hrs. Hachette Audio. 2013. $18. ISBN 9781478925156.

Gr 3–7—Wheelchair-bound Jamie Grimm is working on new material for his upcoming entry in the regional finals of the Planet's Funniest Kid Comic Contest. Patterson and Grabenstein pay homage to the timeless comedy of Abbott and Costello, Groucho Marx, and other greats, while introducing new jokes that speak directly to the middle school experience. Though it will date the series more quickly, references to trendy Vegas casinos and comedians such as Ray Romano, Ellen DeGeneres, Steven Wright, and Chris Rock give the book an air of hip relevancy. Can Jamie find humor in his bullying cousin, Uncle Frankie's medical emergency, and confusing relationships with Gilda Gold and "Cool Girl?" Yes, he can. And if you're wondering if a heavily illustrated comedic novel can make it as an audiobook, that's a yes, too. Young Frankie Seratch is perfectly cast as the narrator of this heartfelt and very funny look at middle school and family relationships. Seratch ensures that the humor comes across as intended, without a hint of mockery or maliciousness. A PDF companion file of the book's illustrations is included on disc three.

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Copyright © 2014 Library Journals, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc.
Reprinted with permission.



Note: I did not read or listen to the first book in the series, and had no trouble getting up to speed with the characters and story.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Art Detective: Spot the Difference! a review

Remember when the Summer Reading theme was "Be Creative?" If you have an artistic inclination, those were the days - with painting, sculpture, and other creative arts in the forefront!  With the continued focus on the CCSS, and the upcoming science-driven theme of "Fizz, Boom, Read!", art runs the risk of being lost in the shuffle.  Thankfully, there is an effort to combine them - turning STEM into STEAM - adding Art to the traditional Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.

Here, however, is a book that's all art - specifically, painting.  Enjoy!

Kutschbach, Doris. 2013. Art Detective: Spot the Difference! New York: Prestel.

With the help of a cartoon dog named Charlie, readers explore famous paintings in an attempt to convict an art forger.

Hello! My name is Carl, but my friends call me Charlie the Sleuth.  I'm a detective who solves art crimes, and right now I'm working on a very difficult case.  It's about a shady artist and his forgeries - paintings he offers for sale that aren't really what they appear to be.   ...   Do you think you could help?  

... and with that, the reader (now an art detective) begins a page-by-page quest to spot the differences between famous paintings and forgeries.  Some are humorous.  In "The Sunday Stroll" by Carl Spitzweg, the portly father in the forgery sports a Pinocchio nose and a baseball cap.  Others are more subtle - the color of a parasol, insects in the tall grass.  In all, nineteen paintings (and their accompanying "forgeries") are presented, including VanGogh, Gaugin, Rousseau, and Cézanne. Each has 15-25 differences.

What makes this book so wonderful is that it invites a deep exploration of each painting.  Is greater realism produced by the blemish on a Cézanne melon?  Does the addition of a bird in Passarro's "Place du Théâtre" detract from the hustle and bustle of Parisian citizens? These are not questions that kids will answer, but subconsciously, they may begin to see them. The reader cannot simply flip through the pages.  If he does, the forger will not be found. By noting each mistake, he is compelled also to notice the aesthetic produced by the artist's choices.

The final pages offer thumbnails of each painting with the differences marked by X's.  A note is included about each painting, it's painter, and noting its current location.

Enjoy the search!


Note:
This book is marked with the seal of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), indicating that its paper was derived from "responsible sources."  This is the first time I've seen this logo.  I hope to see it more often!

Don't miss today's Nonfiction Monday postings, and be sure to catch up on all of the great posts on 
Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month

Monday, March 17, 2014

Baseball Animals - a review


Whether or not you buy MLB's position that Opening Day is March 22, 2014 in Australia (Sorry Australia, baseball "down under" just doesn't feel right), baseball season, will soon be here. Opening Day for the US and Canada is March 31.

If you are a baseball fan, are raising a young baseball fan, or are trying to connect with a young baseball fan, here's the book for you - a marriage of baseball and animals!


Jordan, Christopher. 2014. Baseball Animals. Plattsburgh, NY: Fenn/Tundra.

Which MLB team shares its name with a songbird that loves acorns?
This blue, black and white bird is thought to be responsible for spreading the oak tree across North America.

If the beautiful photograph of my favorite bird on a stark white background doesn't give you the answer, just turn the page to reveal a full-page action shot of a Toronto Blue Jays batter. (Sorry that I don't know which one. Since they beat the Phillies in the 1993 World Series, I refuse to pay attention to the Blue Jays. We fans have long memories.)

Each baseball page features the team's logo, a full-page action photo taken at the ballpark, and some team uniform trivia.  Did you know that the Cardinals (often called the Redbirds) were not named for the beautiful bird, but rather for the color of their original uniforms? Their uniforms were cardinal red. So, presumably they are named after the traditional color of a Catholic cardinal's cassock.  Now that's a great baseball trivia question!

Fun and informative, this is a must-have for little baseball fans. I don't know why someone didn't think of it earlier!  An Appendix of MLB Teams and Logos rounds out the book - featuring all of the teams - even those sans animals on their logos.


Advance Reader Copy supplied by LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program.



In addition to being St. Patrick's Day, today is Nonfiction Monday.  Be sure to stop by the Nonfiction Monday blog for all of today's featured books.




Thursday, March 13, 2014

Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot - in color!

Pilkey, Dav. 2014. Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot. New York: Scholastic. Illustrations by Dan Santat.

While at ALA Midwinter, I picked up an Advance Reader Copy of Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot. I know what you're thinking - that's not a new book, that was published ages ago!  Yes, but it's back again, and this time in full color, with glossy pages and new "mini-comics" inside.

All of the Ricky Ricotta books will be reissued with new illustrations, and two brand new books are planned for January and March of 2015.  A big campaign is in the works ... stay tuned.

Read an excerpt and see the new illustrations on Scholastic's new Ricky Ricotta web page.

Coming to a bookshelf near you on April 29, 2014.

BTW, my Advance Reader Copy went home with a very happy young boy, one of my best readers. He was looking for my library's "checked-out" copy of the original Ricky Ricotta's Giant Robot. Imagine the smile on his face when I gave him a new, as yet unpublished, full-color copy! (Luckily, I had read it at lunchtime.)

The original Ricky Ricotta artist, Martin Ontiveros deserves credit for helping to create a series that captured the imagination of a nearly a generation of children.  Dan Santat will refresh the series for the next generation.  Long live Dav Pilkey!





Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Night Gardener - a review

A short review today.  I rushed to finish, as I knew the kids in my book club would surely want to get their hands on it last week.  I was right.

Auxier, Jonathan. 2014. The Night Gardener. New York: Amulet.

Set in England aground the 1840s, The Night Gardener features an Irish gal with the gift of  blarney, her10-year-old brother with a lame leg and stout heart, a mysterious storyteller, and a strange family inhabiting a creepy mansion on an island in the middle of the sourwoods.

Separated from their parents and forced to flee Ireland due to famine, Molly & Kip have no choice but to accept employment with the Windsor Family, the only inhabitants of the only home in the sourwoods,

At the far end of the lawn stood Windsor mansion.  The house had obviously been left vacant for some years, and in that time it seemed to have become one with the landscape. Weeds swallowed the base. Ivy choked the walls and windows. The roof was sagging and covered in black moss.
But strangest of all was the tree.
The tree was enormous and looked very, very old. Most trees cast an air of quiet dignity over their surrounding. This one did not. Most trees invite you to climb up into their canopy.  This one did not. Most trees make you want to carve your initials into the trunk. This one did not. To stand in the shadow of this tree would send a chill through your whole body. 
Even Molly's indomitable spirit and knack for storytelling cannot shield Kip and the young Windsor children from the horrors that lurk within the shadow of the giant tree.

Historical fiction and horror intertwine in this absolutely gripping story. With similarities to Claire LeGrand's The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls, The Night Gardener is the stuff of nightmares.

Coming to a bookshelf near you in May, 2014!


Notes:

My Advance Reader Copy was thrust upon me by none other than the wonderfully funny, Tom Angleberger (of Origami Yoda fame), who insisted that I read it.  Thanks, Tom!

Also by Jonathan Auxier, Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, which I reviewed in 2011.

The book's cover was drawn by Patrick Arrasmith and designed by the talented Chad Beckerman, whom I had the pleasure of interviewing a while back.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Winter Prince - an audiobook review

One of the things that I love about reviewing books for School Library Journal and AudioFile Magazine is the opportunity to review titles that I might not otherwise choose.  For example, Code Name Verity is such a popular title, but I don't read a lot of YA books and hadn't picked it up - but I was given the assignment of reviewing a new audio version of an older Elizabeth Wein book, The Winter Prince.

Below is my review as it appeared in the February/March 2014 edition of AudioFile Magazine.

THE WINTER PRINCE 
Elizabeth E. Wein
Read by Basil Sands

Basil Sands's impassioned delivery brings new life to this 1993 book steeped in Arthurian legend and mystery. The ongoing struggle between Medraut, the eldest and bastard son of the king, and Lleu, the kingdom's legitimate heir, is intensified by Sands's dramatic and measured narration. Medraut, the story's narrator, speaks with gravity and a heavy sense of foreboding, while Lleu sounds youthful and often petulant. One finds a small fault in the voicing of the scheming Queen Morguase, whose portrayal is neither as menacing nor as enchanting as the story demands. What begins as a battle of strength and knowledge between brothers ends as an intense and compelling battle of mind and will--with the fate of a kingdom at stake. Wein is also the author of CODE NAME VERITY.







Copyright © 2014 AudioFile MagazineReprinted with permission.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Women's History all year long!




The 4th annual celebration of Women's History Month and literature for young people begins today at

The blog is maintained by me and fellow librarian blogger, Margo Tanenbaum
 of The Fourth Musketeer, and is a collaborative resource 
of inspiration and information  created by authors, artists, librarians and book bloggers.

This year, we have a new look, and if you prefer, you can find links to the blog's posts on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter!

Please check the blog often during Women's History Month!  You won't be disappointed.

Today's post is "Women's History all Year Long."