Monday, August 30, 2010


Weaver, Janice. 2010. Hudson. Illustrated by David Craig. Ontario, Canada: Tundra.
(Early Reviewer Copy from LibraryThing)

The Hudson River, the Hudson Bay, the Hudson Strait - all bear the name of Henry Hudson, the English explorer.  Though he never found the northern passage to China that he was seeking, Janice Weaver’s new book, Hudson, shows that he was likely a competent and fearless seafarer, and ultimately helped to advance humankind’s knowledge of the world.

Working with the very minimal details available about Henry Hudson’s life, Weaver creates a compelling, understandable portrait of Hudson’s complex life, using period quotes whenever possible,
"I hoped to have a clear sea between the land and the ice,” wrote Hudson in his journal, “and be able to circle north of this land.”  
The book is divided into short, chronological, illustrated chapters that recount his early life, his four major voyages (1607-1610), the mutiny that likely claimed his life, and its aftermath. Text insets offer additional information to add interest and context to the story.  “The Art of Navigation” inset contains a photograph of a seventeenth-century astrolabe and a short explanation of its use and of the many difficulties of sailing in an age when sailors had to rely on the stars to determine their location.  Other insets highlight the whaling and spice trades.  Particularly interesting is “Of Mariners and Mermaids,” in which readers are reminded of the superstitions of the time.
In Hudson’s journal entry for June 15, 1608, he records matter-of-factly that his men have spotted a mermaid swimming alongside the ship.  “She was close to the ship’s side,” he reports, “and looked earnestly at the men.... As they saw her, from the navel upward, her back and breast were like a woman’s... and she had long black hair hanging down behind.  In her going down they saw her tail, which was like the tail of a porpoise, and speckled like a mackerel.”
David Craig (Amelia Earhart: Legend of the Lost Aviator) contributes original paintings depicting life as a seventeenth century mariner. Full-page illustrations of sailors chopping ice, facing stormy seas, and braving icy decks highlight the extremely dangerous nature of early seagoing exploration, particularly when traveling North of the Arctic Circle in a small wooden boat. In addition to the original artwork, images of period maps, paintings and other realia add more interest to an already fascinating story.

Further reading sites, historic sites, credits and an index follow this fascinating look at a fascinating explorer.  Interesting and well researched.  Recommended for ages 9 and up.

Note: Don’t seal down the dust cover on this one. The inside of the jacket is an attractive poster with map!

It’s Nonfiction Monday!  Today’s host is thebooknosher.  Stop by!


Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Limit

This is the final cover
art.  Advance Review
Copies differ.
Landon, Kristen. 2010. The Limit. New York: Aladdin.
(Advance Reader Copy)

from The Limit

...I heard a sharp gasp from Mom’s checkout worker.  My eyes shot up.  Checkout Lady had her hand over her mouth.  Mom seemed unflustered.  Checkout Lady must have made a mistake.  I kept reading. ... The usual noise and confusion of the megastore around me dimmed.  It was like it faded to almost nothing, leaving only the voices of my mom and Checkout Lady  Even Abbie put a lid on her usual nonstop chatter and stuck her thumb in her mouth.  I thought she’d stopped sucking her thumb a long time ago. 
   “I’m sure it’s a mistake,” Mom said.  “A computer glitch somewhere.”
    Checkout Lady punched a few buttons on her computer while her front teeth gnawed her lower lip like a beaver working a tree.  “I’m sorry.   It’s not a mistake. You’re over your limit.”
   An electric current zapped through me.  No. Wait. Stuff like this didn’t happen to our family.

But 13-year-old Matt was mistaken.  It did happen to his family, and now he was the one chosen by the Federal Debt Rehabilitation Agency (FDRA) to repay his family’s debt under Federal Debt Ordinance 169, Option D which decrees compulsory service in an FDRA workhouse.  Whisked away from his family by a burly guard and smooth-talking, Miss Smoot, Matt is taken to a workhouse without so much as a change of clothes.  Likely based on his above average intelligence, Matt is designated a “Top Floor,” and receives a challenging job, a rigorous school curriculum, and plush accommodations.  Unable to contact the outside world, he learns to live with his fellow “top floors,” Coop, Jeffrey, Isaac, Paige, Neela, Kia, Madeline, and the unseen and mysterious Reginald.  At first glance, all appears in order at the workhouse, but Matt and his friends begin to discover something more threatening than unpaid debts at the Midwest Federal  Debt Rehabilitation Agency workhouse.

Matt narrates this thriller about a high-tech society in which the government assigns every family a spending limit based on its income - not just any limit - the limit, the limit that cannot be exceeded without the direst of consequences. Eye scans and Big Brother-style monitoring are commonplace in this society that readers will find much like our own, where advertising and consumerism reign supreme. Although The Limit’s premise is the consequence of negligent overspending, the heart of the story is the high-tech, cat-and-mouse game between the brilliant “top floors” and the outwardly beautiful but sinister Miss Smoot, as Matt and his fellow inmates make increasingly shocking revelations as they attempt to discover the story of the other workhouse floor assignments and the headaches plaguing some inhabitants. Cautionary, but not didactic, The Limit is sure to hit a nerve with readers old enough to understand even the most basic aspects of family finances. The financially illiterate have even greater reason to read The Limit. Highly recommended.

Ms. Landon’s site offers Lesson Plans and other resources for educators.

On shelves in September.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Manolito Four-Eyes

Lindo, Elvira. 2010. Manolito Four-Eyes: The 3rd Volume of the Great Encyclopedia of My Life. Ill. by Emilio Urberuaga. Marshall Cavendish.
(Advance Reader Copy)

Manolito Four-Eyes is a refreshing addition to the world of middle grade fiction.  Set in Carabanchel, Spain, a suburb of Madrid, the Manolito Four-Eyes series, gives the American reader a hilarious glimpse into the life of a 10-year Spanish boy.  While many aspects of young boyhood are universal - bullies, practical jokes, and general shenanigans, Manolito's adventures (or misadventures!) take place amidst a backdrop of

afternoon siestas, 
Anyway, the Bozo and I began going down to Luisa's to watch cartoons while my grandpa and my mom snored in unison upstairs.  We'd take off our shoes, we'd have a deadly cheese fight, and then we'd lay down to watch the cartoons.  Since there were only two or three cartoons, after a week we knew them all by heart, and I could fall asleep halfway through and then wake up right before the end.  I highly recommend this experience.  You only need: a couch, a VCR, and a cartoon you've seen fifty times.
overly dramatic women,
"I can't live without you, my babies, my Cata, my grandpa Nicolas. . . . You're my real family." Our Nosy Neighbor Luisa took out a handkerchief from her sleeve and wiped away a tear that none of us really saw.  She must have wiped it away before it came out her eye. "Nothing is more silly than getting mad over a video, Cat, I want you to accept a Reconciliation Dinner next week."  My mom wiped away her own invisible tear and said, "We'll be there."  When Luisa left, my mom changed to her police inspector face and thought out loud, "I wonder what she wants me to do this time?"
 and an outdoor fiesta for St. Peter's Day with grandpa,
The first ones in all of Carabanchel on the dance floor were my grandpa, me and the Bozo. I did it partly for the singer: it's sad when no one dances to the song you're singing.  Luckily, by the third song other people started to dance, and I could go back to my place at the food stand and keep drinking Coke with Big Ears, who was sitting on one of the stools.  Every once in a while, my grandpa and the Bozo would leave the dance floor and come over to have more Coke and "the usual."  I don't know how many trips they made.  There are some versions of the story that say ten - others, twelve. And the Bozo isn't even allowed to have Coke! ... What happened next is still being talked about in Carabanchel.
In this installment, Manolito's family is staying home for the summer, and while other families flee the city for vacation, Manolito notes that,
like every summer, we were the only ones left on this side of the Mazanares River... Summer in Carabanchel is like everywhere else in the world: there's a swimming pool, there's ice cream, there's siesta time, and there's a time when it's cool out.  Me and my grandpa and the Bozo go down to Hangman's Park every afternoon, we buy a super-duper ice-cream cone, and we flop down on the bench until it gets dark and my grandpa says, "Your mom doesn't realize it, but there are times when we live like millionaires."
Yes, they do.

Manolito has the wry eye of a Greg Heffley, but a bit more of a conscience.  Occasional sketches add humor to an already funny dissertation. It appears that Caroline Travalia has done a fine job of translating the text from its native Spanish. This is The 3rd Volume of the Great Encyclopedia of My Life. Manolito Four-Eyes is a "whole lotta cool" and a whole lotta funny! Highly recommended.

Read an excerpt from the first book here.

And now, after a very busy and successful summer of "Make a Splash @ Your Library," I am going to take a break for a few days and enjoy what's left of summer.
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Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Emperor's Code

I'm finally caught up (almost!) in the hunt for the 39 Clues!  The final book, Into the Gauntlet (#10) is due out this month, and I'm just now starting Storm Warning (#9) by Linda Sue Park. These last two books in the series are the only titles with female authors.  Will it make a difference? I'll find out soon.  In the meantime, here's the quick scoop on:

Korman, Gordon. 2010. The Emperor's Code. Read by David Pittu. Scholastic Audiobooks. (on Playaway)
(Book #8 in the 39 Clues series) which
Dan and Amy travel to China, Tibet, and the summit of Mount Everest; suspicions about the au pair, Nellie, are reignited; the siblings become separated; and Jonah Wizard surfaces once again.

Although these are books for 9-12 year-olds, Gordon Korman throws in a few words worthy of PSAT prep - troglodyte, stymied, and more.

As with all of the audiobooks in the series, bonus material follows the story - this time, Cora Wizard's Nobel Prize acceptance speech - not too enlightening.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Early chapter books - the audio versions

Elizabeth Bird of Fuse #8 recently posted about the lack of great early chapter books. To quote, the quality chapter book is
 Rarer than quality board books. More elusive than good picture books for older readers. The goal, the gem, the one kind of book all children’s librarians seek but know are so difficult to find . . . . the really well written early chapter book.
I agree, and would like to add that rarer still is the great audio version of an early chapter book.

Perhaps there are focus groups of giggling seven and eight-year-olds that choose the character voices for kids' audiobooks, and it's only my older ears that are affronted; but I find the vocal adaptations in most of the short chapter audiobooks to be overstated, over-the-top, exaggerated.  Maybe I just don't watch enough cartoons these days to appreciate the style, but the audio characterizations are more caricature than reality.  Is that what children like in an audiobook?  I don't know, but I'd love to hear other opinions.

In the meantime, here are a few excerpts and comments about audiobook titles that I've recently downloaded.

McDonald, Megan. 2010. Stink: Solar System Superhero. Read by Nancy Cartwright. Listening Library

Most recently, I listened to Stink: Solar System Superhero, in which Stink is distressed that Pluto has been downsized to a dwarf planet and, with the help of his classmates, organizes a campaign to reinstate Pluto into the solar system. The voice for this book is none other than Nancy Cartwright, famous voice of Bart Simpson!  Cartwright does a great job of creating individual voices for the many characters in the book. Understandably, however, they all sound like cartoon characters - particularly the teacher - imagine a long face, pinched nose, and pursed lips and you'll have the voice.  Kids will probably like this one, though, and may even recognize the famous voice.

Gifford, Peggy. 2009. Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Practicing Piano: But She Does Love Being in Recitals. Read by Clea Lewis. Listening Library.

Truthfully, I couldn't finish this one.  I think I'll have to try the printed version.

Feiffer, Kate. 2009. The Problem with the Puddles. Read by Halley Feiffer. Listening Library.

This is a title  I reviewed last year, but I enjoyed the quirky premise. Halley Feiffer's drier style of delivery suited the story, which is madcap enough on its own!

If you have a suggestion for a great early chapter audiobook, I'm all ears!

Finally, oops! My apologies. Today is the first time that I accidentally published a post before it was finished (actually it was barely started!)  I deleted the post and apologize in advance if you receive a blank email or corrupted RSS feed.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Sir Charlie Chaplin, the funniest man in the world

Fleischman, Sid. 2010. Sir Charlie: Chaplin, The Funniest Man in the World. New York: Greenwillow.

For many, particularly the younger generation for whom this book is written, Charlie Chaplin is an icon,   but not an icon in the sense of its earlier definition - as a symbolic star, an iconic idol of the silver screen, but an actual icon - a face with a ridiculously small mustache and bowler hat; a silhouette with bowed legs, a cane, and over sized shoes. Sid Fleischman's book, Sir Charlie Chaplin, The Funniest Man in the World, breathes new life into this icon, the genius of the silent screen.

From Chaplin's meager beginnings as the son of minor vaudevillian performers, a drunken father and a mother beginning to lose her voice - Chaplin fell still farther into the depths of London's Cockney slums.  Already educated in the school of hard knocks, seven-year old Charlie and his older brother Sydney were sent to a workhouse in 1896, "owing to the absence of their father and the destitution and illness of their mother," according to the ledger entry at the "booby hatch." His mother, as she would many times throughout her life, was admitted to a ward for the mentally ill.

Using period quotes and engaging prose packed with personification and similes,
...Chaplin was losing confidence in his isolated and bullheaded judgment.  Disaster holding aloft a mallet, as in one of his slapsticks, might be waiting for him in the theater.  Silent films had become as out-of-date as the once-stylish spats he still wore over his shoes. 
Fleischman gives a chronological account of Charlie's rise to fame with the creation of his signature character, The Little Tramp, his personal foibles (including paternity scandals), his wartime contributions, his fall from favor with the American people (including his investigation by the House Un-American Activities Committee and J. Edgar Hoover during the notorious "red scare" years), and his eventual arrival at the place of elevated regard that he finally held in his later years and beyond.  He was belatedly honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1972, and knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1975.

In the book's preface, Fleischman reveals that he arrived in Hollywood in the 1950s to write movie screenplays only shortly after Chaplin had left for Switzerland, but "his (Chaplin's) footprints were everywhere."  Fleischman credits Chaplin's films with tutoring him in the school of "spectator theater" and the gift "of the visual."  Fleischman's interest in and connection with his subject is apparent throughout.

Fans of Chaplin will appreciate this intense look into the ups and downs of a life devoted to the entertainment of others; sometimes at great cost to Chaplin himself and those closest to him.  Those who know Chaplin only as a bowler-wearing icon will (hopefully) scurry out to the public library in search of a Chaplin film on DVD.

Recommended for upper middle grades to adult. A thoroughly researched and referenced look at the diminutive film giant, Charlie Chaplin, from a giant of children's literature, Sid Fleischman.
Sid Fleischman passed away in March of this year at the age of 90, before this book was published, a great loss.

(A scene from Charlie Chaplin's 1921 movie "The Kid". Copyright has expired and the photo is in the public domain. Taken from
A personal aside: I once took a course, The History of Film.  I'd pop the silent comedy classics into the DVD player,  and my children would quickly dismiss or deride the grainy black and white images; but they would hear me laughing in the silence, and slowly wander in and take a seat on the couch, watching the antics of the Keystone Cops, Laurel and Hardy, or the Little Tramp.  Soon, they were asking which films I would be borrowing next.  Never underestimate the power of a pie in the face.

It’s Nonfiction Monday again!  Today’s host is Moms Inspire Learning. Stop by and visit all the contributors. 
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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Babymouse Burns Rubber

Holm, Jennifer L. and Matthew. 2010. Babymouse Burns Rubber. New York: Random House.

In pink, white and black, Babymouse is back.  Can it be almost 5 years since Babymouse first made her debut? Time flies when you're daydreaming and eating cupcakes.

Time to see what our favorite pink, sassy, messy-whiskered mouse is up to!

In Babymouse Burns Rubber, Babymouse leans heavily (a bit too heavily perhaps?) on her friendship with Wilson as she endeavors to enter the soap box derby.  The fact that she can barely ride a bicycle and has no skill in building or fixing things never even enters her mind, which is, of course, full of daydreams - Babymouse's alien encounter, Babymouse the race car driver, Babymouse the worldwide traveler, Babymouse the captain of the Titanic. Will Babymouse win the race?  Will her selfishness cost Wilson the chance to enter?  You'll find out in Babymouse Burns Rubber!

Siblings Jennifer and Matthew Holm keep the fun coming in this latest installment of the very popular Babymouse series. Holm pays tribute to Star Wars films (imagine the scrolling text rolling into deep space),
It is a dark time for the REBELLION. The brave pilot,
 BABYMOUSE, has badgered her
best friend into building her a
for the blah blah blah blah...
are you still reading this?
and Margaret Wise Brown's, Goodnight Moon.
In the great pink messy room ...
there was a telephone (somewhere on the floor underneath the dirty socks)
and a plate of half-eaten cupcakes.
Goodnight cupcakes.
Goodnight cupcakes being eaten by Babymouse.
Goodnight math homework that's not finished.
Of course, the illustrations complete the package.  Simple, yet expressive and full of humorous details like aliens wearing bunny slippers, "Goodnight aliens hiding in the closet."

Next up: Babymouse Cupcake Tycoon - coming in September.

When I first checked in with Babymouse, she was Queen of the World in 2005. Since then, she's gone on to bookshelf fame as a Rock Star, Beach Babe, Skater Girl and more. This is the 12th book in the graphic novel series.

Click here to go to the Babymouse homepage.  (don't worry - you can turn the music off) You can find more information about Babymouse, create your own comics, make posters, or play other Babymouse games.

A Random House Babymouse Educators Guide for Babymouse is also available.

I'm in the midst of a great ALSC sponsored course, Out of this World Youth Programming.  My assignment for this week is to create a new library program for elementary school-aged children.  I think I just did my homework.  Come this fall, I'll be "Calling all Cupcake Tycoons!"
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Beneath the Waves - a review

As we read disturbing news accounts of dying manatees , environmental disasters caused by toxic waste, and ocean pollution on the scale of ...