Monday, February 28, 2011

While You Are Sleeping

Bernhard, Durga. 2011. While You are Sleeping: A Lift-the-Flap Book of Time Around the World. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.

Just a quick post today on a great little title for the 2011 Cooperative Summer Library Program, "One World, Many Stories."  Each page features a small inset map and a local time, with an illustration of a child sleeping, playing, eating, doing whatever is common for that time.  The adjacent page features a circular illustration depicting another part of the world. Lift the flap to see another child in his own time zone.  The following pages continue the story, each child in his own country at his local time.  (Interestingly, the local time in India is at half-past the hour, as the entire country of India is set in the time zone, regardless of the standard longitudinal divisions between Greenwich Mean Time and the Prime Meridian.)

The final pages feature a map of the world with the delineations for each time zone.

While You Are Sleeping is an attractively illustrated multi-purpose book, suitable for the summer reading theme, "One World, Many Stories", or for teaching multiculturalism, time zones, geography, or the
rotation of the earth around the sun.

A Discussion and Activity Guide is available from the publisher.

Today's Nonfiction Monday is at Rasco from RIF. Please stop by.

 And a reminder - Women's History Month begins tomorrow.  Check out a month's worth of great posts from talented children's authors and kidlit bloggers at

Friday, February 25, 2011

Lemonade, Won Ton, and the Book: a poetry preview

A librarian plans early.  My mind is often several months ahead, planning library programs. I recently attended Booklist's webinar, "Spring into Books: Terrific New Titles for Youth."  There were many books previewed that I look forward to seeing, but I had an eye out for poetry titles, with April's National Poetry Month bubbling in the back of my brain.

I don't have these books yet, but here are three just released or soon-to-be released poetry titles that look very promising.

Wardlaw, Lee. 2011. Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku. Ill. by Eugene Yelchin. New York. Macmillan.

It's the story of a shelter cat who finds a home - written entirely in haiku. 

Also from Macmillan, Bob Raczka's, Lemonade: and Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word. (Ill. by Nancy Doniger)

Just like the title says, these  poems are each created from a single word. How much fun can you have with that? Lots!

And finally, from Holiday House

I Am the Book, a collection of poems selected by Lee Bennet Hopkins and magically illustrated by Yayo.

Jane Yolen, Naomi Shihab Nye, and others are included in I Am the Book. This one's due out in March and it looked delightful.

I'm hoping that all of these arrive at my library soon! 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Batter up! Baseball book reviews

Opening day for the 2011 baseball season is March 31. (not that I'm counting or anything) Informed of my fondness for America's Pastime, Sleeping Bear Press sent me their spring baseball offerings.

First up,

Michelson, Richard. 2011. Lipman Pike: America's First Home Run King. Ill. by Zachary Pullen. Ann Arbor, MI: Sleeping Bear.

Everyone is familiar with Babe Ruth, but Lipman Pike has hardly been a household name.  Nevertheless, he was America's first home run king, and arguably, its first professional ball player.  Born in 1845 to Jewish immigrants from Holland, Lipman Pike joined the amateur National Association of Base Ball Players.  He became a star, playing for teams in New Jersey and New York.  However, more than just the story of his baseball career, Lipman Pike, is also a glimpse into society, politics, and daily life in Civil War era America.  The game of base ball was so popular at the time that even the infamous Boss Tweed was involved,
He joined the New Jersey Irvingtons until a man named Boss Tweed invited him to play closer to home.  Lip was excited because the New York Mutuals were one of the best clubs in the league.

"Of course, we can't pay you, " Boss Tweed explained.  "That would be against Base Ball Association policy, and as New York's Commissioner of Public Works, I would never break the rules."  He waved Lip closer so he could whisper.  "But I can offer you a job in our government office at Tammany Hall.  You would have little work to do and plenty of time to play ball."

Of course, many players were paid, and the league went professional soon after, in 1871.  Throughout his career, Lipman Pike was known as a gentleman as well as a slugger.

Follow-up information on Lipman's career and life, and an author's note complete the book, but no sources are offered.  The illustrations and primarily brown text on sepia-toned pages firmly establish the story in the mid 19th century.  Zachary Pullen's illustrations feature over sized heads with great detail and expression. An interesting picture book biography for older readers and baseball fans in general. How I wish that more teachers would accept picture books for middle grade biography projects.  In any case, this one could easily be shared in school, relating to units on biography or immigration.
Teacher's Guide available here.
On shelves now.

Herzog, Brad. I Spy with my Little Eye: Baseball. Ill. by David Milne. Ann Arbor, MI: Sleeping Bear.

Each double-spread, mirror (or is it?) illustration features an "I spy" rhyme,
I spy with my little eye, a colorful cardboard collection. Pennants switch places, cards get new faces, and a Tiger changes direction.

along with a baseball-related Photo Fact, and a challenge to spot the differences on the two pages.  A great gift for baseball fans, and a great way to pass the time on trips, doctor visits, etc.  I love "I spy!"

On shelves now.

also by Brad Herzog,

Little Baseball

A small board book with baseball riddles,
Give yourself a great big hand.  It's where a batted ball might land.

Answer: Baseball glove.

This will make a fun and interactive book to share at storytime.  The riddles are difficult enough so that kids won't guess them right away, but not hard enough to be frustrating.

My only frustration is the fact that this will be published in board book format. I wouldn't hand this one to a toddler - too difficult.  This seems to be a trend with many publishers lately. We can no longer count on board books to be simple, concept offerings. Still, this is a fun book with catchy rhymes and upbeat illustrations.
Due on shelves in April.
Review copies were galley proofs, not final copies.

Today's Nonfiction Monday is at Three Turtles and Their Pet Librarian.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Between Two Ends

Ward, David. 2011. Between Two Ends. New York: Amulet.

Yeats' father has always suffered from depression, triggered by a traumatic event from his childhood.  It has been a constant source of friction in the family, pushing his parents' marriage to the brink of disaster.  Now, in a final attempt to rid his father's mind of its troubles, Yeats and his parents travel to the ancestral home of  Dr. William Trafford, Yeats' father. They hope that a visit with Yeats' peculiar grandmother in her mysterious home on Poet's Lane, will shed some light on, and perhaps relieve William's miserable condition.

But Yeats and his mother are in for quite a surprise.  Mr. Trafford's condition is not a case of mental illness as they had thought; it is a real and palpable fear and despondency over events that occurred at Gran's house, the house of dead poets, many years ago.  Gran's house contains more than an abundance of rooms and books, and a wishing well - it contains magic - a magic that once took Dr. Trafford and a young companion into the written world of The Arabian Nights.  But Dr. Trafford was the only one to return.

Now, with the help (hindrance?) of two magical pirate bookends, Yeats must travel to the Arabia of legend to rescue William's childhood friend, Shari, Shaharazad, the vizier's daughter, who has been trapped in the tales of The Arabian Nights for twenty years!

Between Two Ends is a mysterious story of adventure.  The reader begins the story with the prologue - a scene from the past?  a memory? a story? He doesn't yet know,
The girl tugged at her long black curls, she made to kneel, to reach out to the boy, but strong hands kept her on her feet.  The boy's fair hair and pale complexion contrasted sharply with  the people in the market, but she couldn't remember why that was important.  Hardly distinguishable from the overwhelming odor of cattle dung and fruit, a spicy, pungent smell hung in the air. The girl's heart raced with excitement now at the wonders around her.  Her feet wanted to dance. Wherever the black-robed men wanted to take her she felt no danger going with them. After all, they knew her name.

From here, the reader vaults into the silent, foreboding trip to Gran's house.

Once Yeats disappears into The Tales of the Arabian Nights, the story moves rapidly - full of danger, palace intrigue and adventure.  The location shifts between Arabia and Gran's stately English home, with most chapters following the adventures of Yeats and his quest to break the magic spell and rescue Shari. Third-person omniscient narration offers an easy transition between the two locations and many characters. Also separating the "real" world from the world of legend is an actual "river of words," one that must be navigated by boat. (the pirates are useful here!)

It's hard to read Between Two Ends without recalling Cornelia Funke's Inkheart Series - there are many parallels to the two, but Between Two Ends is a less complex story for a younger reader and comes in under 300 pages with a satisfying conclusion.  Although, the door (or book, as it were) is left open for a sequel.  Treasure Island anyone?

Between Two Ends is a satisfying adventure story with a strong characters in both Yeats and Shaharazad that may well spur an interest in the legendary 9th century tales of One Thousand and One Nights. Fans of many genres will enjoy this story.  Best for middle grades.

Advance copy supplied by publisher.  Due on shelves in May.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

February picture book roundup

Here are a few of my recent favorites - mostly silly

  • Bardhan-Quallen, Sudipta. 2011. Chicks Run Wild. Ill. by Ward Jenkins. New York: Simon & Schuster.
The Caterpillow Fight (Candlewick 1997) was(is) an old favorite of mine.  This is a similarly silly tale of siblings who run amok after Mama has tucked them in for the night. Of course, these aren't caterpillars, they're chicks.  Mama gets increasingly angry after each time she checks in on them,
Wings on hips, she warns those chicks, "No more games and no more tricks!"
One quick peck for each sweet child,
she slams the door . . .
those chicks run wild!
In the end, Mama beats them at their own game.  The illustrations are bright and cheerful and funny. The chick in the over-sized black frame glasses is a riot all by himself!

Illustrator, Ward Jenkins, offers a great preview and some bonus material on his site.  Check it out!

  • Czekaj, Jef. 2011. Cat Secrets. New York: Harper.
This meta fiction picture book is funnier than its trailer. (see below) The cats discover the readers of the book and attempt to verify their identity,
It has come to my attention that someone other than a cat may be reading this book.

Shame on you.

Hey, you!  Yes, you! You don't look much like a cat!
None but cats are allowed to read Cat Secrets!

Cat Secrets by Jef Czekaj -- Book Trailer from HarperTeen on Vimeo.

  • Dormer, Frank W. 2010. Socksquatch. New York: Henry Holt.
A tiny quirky book about Socksquatch, a monster in search of his socks.  Few words,
Flowers tremble.
Trees quake.
Socksquatch lumbers.
Got sock?
with hilarious illustrations in a style reminiscent of your funniest grade school pal's drawings. Funny!

And last, but certainly not least, my only serious pick today, the absolutely perfect, Little White Rabbit.

  • Henkes, Kevin. 2011. Little White Rabbit. New York: Greenwillow.
Little White Rabbit is beautifully illustrated in a way that is deceptively simple.  The illustrations are clearly understandable, yet convey and invoke a child-like wonder and imagination.  The text is simple and calming.  This is pitch-perfect picture book.  I can't wait to read it aloud at my next storytime!

Activities to accompany Little White Rabbit.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Can you remember this?

What do Cam Jansen (Cam Jansen mystery series), “Steel” Trapp (Steel Trapp series), Sticky Washington (The Mysterious Benedict Society books), Coke McDonald (The Genius Files series) and Dan Cahill (39 Clues series) have in common? Of course, if you read adult fiction, you’re likely familiar with Lisbeth Salander  (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series) as well. 

Photographic memories!  

I believe that I’ve read another photographic memory book recently too, though, not possessing a photographic memory (or even an above-average version), I can’t remember the name of it.

So, just wondering ...

  • What other children’s books have characters with photographic memories? and
  • Do you know anyone who actually has a photographic memory?

Clipart copyright: Classroom Clipart

Monday, February 14, 2011

Astro: The Steller Sea Lion

It's Nonfiction Monday again.  Be sure to stop by Wrapped in Foil for the day's roundup of nonfiction gems.

Harvey, Jeanne Walker. 2010. Astro: The Steller Sea Lion. Ill. by Shennen Bersani. Mt. Pleasant, SC: Sylvan Dell.

Steller sea lions are a threatened species; so when a scientist spotted an abandoned pup swimming off the coast of California, the Marine Mammal Center was contacted to save the it. Following the rescue, workers at the Center prepared the sea lion, nicknamed Astro,  for his return to the wild - the usual course of action. However, after multiple attempts to return Astro to the ocean (including one in which Astro swam for three days to return to shore, where he came aground and participated in an elementary school's walk-a-thon!), researchers and scientists finally concluded that Astro was not a candidate for reintroduction into his native habitat.  After a stop at UC Santa Cruz, Astro found a permanent home in at the Mystic Aquarium in Mystic, Connecticut.  You can see him there today.

Astro: The Steller Sea Lion is an engaging teaching tool for readers and students seeking to learn about animal rescue, Steller sea lions, or threatened species.  Astro's unique adventures make his story as entertaining as it is informative,
Finally, he let go. With a huge splash, Astro swam deep into the ocean.  His friends cheered.  But . . .  10 days later, Astro swam under the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco bay.  He climbed onto a sandy beach in someone's backyard - not far from The Marine Mammal Center.
Astro had bonded with humans and was not interested in returning to the ocean.

The text is large and the vocabulary is fairly simple, making this a book that children can enjoy without help.  Plain font, black text appears in the open spaces of sea and sky in Shennen Bersani's stunning illustrations.  The double-spread ilustrations are near photographic quality, though the book jacket notes that she uses colored pencils primarily, "sometimes using a mixed-media technique of colored pencils, crayons, and paint."  The results are precise and strikingly realistic.

Back matter includes species facts, information and maps on Steller sea lions, life cycle information, and "Sea Lion or Seal?"

This is a story that does not have the happy ending that children may be expecting; Astro cannot be reintroduced to the wild, however, this is a good lesson on the limits of man's influence over nature. The best that we can do is the best that we can do.

Curiously, the book's cataloging summary lists it as fiction. Though minor details may have been changed, Astro and his adventures are most certainly real. A video about Astro and a link to a related newspaper article are below.

This is an attractive and informative book that will appeal to students, teachers, and marine life enthusiasts.
Preview Astro the Steller Sea Lion here.
A link to a 2007 newspaper article about Astro's surprise participation in a school walk-a-thon.
Teaching resources are available from the publisher.

QUEST on KQED Public Media.

Review copy received from author.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Storytime favorites for Valentine's Day

Better late than never, here are some of my kid-pleasing favorites for Valentine's Day storytime.  Nothing new, just tried and true.

Schaefer, Lola. 2009. Guess Who? A Foldout Valentine's Adventure. New York: Little Simon.

Rhyming, foldout, guessing fun for the littlest listeners.

Weeks, Sarah. 2006. Be Mine, Be Mine, Sweet Valentine. Ill. by Fumi Kosaka. New York: Harper Collins.

More rhyming, guessing, foldout fun.
Modesitt, Jeanne. 2002. 1,2,3 Valentine’s Day: A Counting Book. Ill by Robin Spowart. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills.

Count and rhyme with Mr. Mouse as he delivers his Valentine's Day gifts and greetings.

Jackson, Alison. 2002. The Ballad of Valentine. Ill by Tricia Tusa.  New York: Dutton.

Get your drawl on and sing this one to the tune of "My Darling Clementine." Great fun!

And as long as you're singing, don't forget ...

Karas, G. Brian. 2001. Skidamarink: A Silly Love Song to Sing Together. New York: Harper.

Have a happy Valentine's Day. <3

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Moon over Manifest

Vanderpool, Clare. 2010. Moon over Manifest. New York: Delacorte.

Moon over Manifest is this year's winner of the John Newbery Medal, "awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children."

I admit that, like many other librarians, I hadn't read it before it was announced the 2010 winner - but no matter, other librarians wiser than I had picked this stellar gem out of last year's mine full of gems.

...and I learned something about cover art.  For better or worse, I do pick books by their covers (I'm fond of quoting Mary Rose Wood from the Mysterious Howling, "all books are judged by their covers until they are read")  The minute I saw this cover, I loved it, but I didn't read it.  Why?  Because I thought that this winsome little Midwest gal in overalls might not appeal to my little East coast customers.  I thought I might be completely enamored by it, as I was with Ruth White's 2008 book, Little Audrey, and then disappointed when it didn't garner the attention that I'd hoped for.  Well, it looks like Abilene Tucker and her creator, Clare Vanderpool will get plenty of attention - and believe me, they deserve it.  Next time I'll follow my instincts.

Photographer, Richard Tuschman gets credit for the inviting cover art. Check out his original photo of "Abilene" on his blog, Richard Tuschman Images.

Manifest is not only the fictional location of the story, manifest (both the verb and the noun) are an integral part of the story.  Manifest,Kansas, the dry (Dust Bowl and Prohibition style dry) Midwest town is revealed, or made manifest, through the stories of its people, most of whose names can be found on the manifests of ships that passed through Ellis Island. 
The story begins in 1936, with Abilene Tucker arriving by train.  Her dad, a drifter, has uncharacteristcally sent her away for the summer - to Manifest, a town she knows only from stories her dad has told her as they've ridden the rails throughout the country.  She hops off the train about a half mile before the Manifest stop, reasoning that
it's best to get a look at a place before it gets a look at you. 
 Abilene has been to enough towns in her short life to know that there are certain "universals" - the rich kid in town that looks down on everyone, the poor kid, and so on.  But as she gets to know the people of Manifest and uncovers bits of their lives through old newspaper articles and a box of hidden mementos, she comes to a realization,
Maybe the world wasn't made of universals that could be summed up in neat little packages.  Maybe there were just people.  People who were tired and hurt and lonley and kind in their own way and their own time.

Abilene tries to figure out why her father has sent her Manifest.  When did he live here?  Why did he leave? Is he coming back? The answers come slowly, with the help of the Hungarian Woman, a diviner, a storyteller who breathes life into the Manifest of 1918, during the Great War, a Manifest run by a wealthy mine owner, a Manifest where the immigrant mine workers are intimidated and exploited.  Abilene uncovers Manifest's secrets (and her own) from Miss Sadie's Divining Parlor, from faded copies of "Hattie Mae's News Auxiliary," and from letters found in the memento box - letters from a boy named Ned fighting overseas, to his hometown friend, Jinx.

Moon Over Manifest begins with a cast of characters, both from 1918 and 1936, and switches from Abilene's first-person account of the events of 1936, to the diviner's stories of 1918 Manifest happenings.  Wartime correspondence from Ned to Jinx, and Hattie Mae's newsy column (along with the occasional advertisement for healing elixirs and such) fill in the blanks or corraborate the Hungarian Woman's stories. Different fonts and points of view are used to help the reader transition from the past to the present. 

Moon Over Manifest is a many-layered story of parental love, redemption, determination, and community. It's also a mystery, and the story of the ultimate con job.  And it can be funny, heartbreaking and pointed at the same time, as shown in this article from "Hattie Mae's News Auxiliary" following a cross burning at the German Fraternal Hall,
July 20, 1918
Since the recent unfortunate happening at the German Fraternal Hall, everyone has been on edge and the mood of the town has been somber.  It is unclear if the motive was the Germans' nationality or their attempt to organize at the mine.  Mr. Keufer says future meetings of the order have been postponed until further notice.
     It is in times like these that this news column cannot provide the needed comfort and solace.  But as I was instructed in my journalism correspondence course through Harper's Magazine, a good reporter must continue to do her job, even in the most trying of times.  These are certainly trying times.
     It has been one year since the first "Yanks" went overseas, and the country hoped they would be home by Christmas past.  However, our boys rally on.  The American Defense Society continues to push for abolishing Hun names in America. For example, changing sauerkraut to liberty cabbage and frankfurters to patriotic pups.  However, many folks in Manifest seem to think that a bit unnecessary.  Especially Mr. Hermann Keufer, who rather likes his name and does not consider himself or his sauerkraut to be a threat to national security.
     Many of the soliders from Camp Funston had a rought boat ride overseas and are still feeling indisposed with flu symptoms.  The army doctor says he's never seen such a fast-spreading outbreak but it should soon be under control.  The troops will be pleased to know that Velma T. has sent off more relief parcels with her newly concocted elixir.
     For Mrs. Larking, who hasnt' been feeling herself of late, the elixir went down fairly easy the day of the Women's Temperance League meeting.  After consuming nearly an entire bottle, she appeared to be feeling better, and although her rendition of "how Dry I am" was a little off tune and a somewhat surprising selection for the gathering, she did seem to have a healthy glow about her.  ...
Hattie Mae Harper
Reporter About Town
A wonderful book!  Highly recommended.
Listen to Clare Vanderpool explain the inspiration for Moon over Manifest, and read a short excerpt.

Browse inside

Sunday, February 6, 2011

An Interview with Leland Purvis

 The Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour, sponsored by the Association of Jewish Libraries, kicks off today!  One of the Honor Award Winners for Older Readers is Resistance by Carla Jablonski with art by Leland Purvis (First Second, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group)

Today I'm pleased to be interviewing the artist, Leland Purvis

Congratulations on your Sydney Taylor Honor Award for the artwork in Resistance, and thanks so much for participating in the Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour

SE: I’m always curious about the manner in which great books are created. In  graphic novels and nonfiction, is the story generally written in its entirety before the artwork is conceived, is it a collaborative effort, or something completely different?

LP: Not all graphic novels are made the same way. In the case where the writer and artist are different people, often the working method grows out of the creators themselves, and the skills they bring to the table. In this case Carla did a full script but (unusual in comics) no panel-by-panel descriptions. The page design, shot-choices, and character design were all on me. Also, Carla had never done comics before. There are peculiarities of visual storytelling unique to the medium. Carla was very collaborative when occasions arose where I thought things needed changing for clarity, and really open to suggestions of solutions, which made it very satisfying. 
SE:  In Resistance, you often use Paul’s sketchbook to portray people or events  in the story. I found it interesting that, in most cases, Paul’s sketchbook depicts events not through the filtered eye of the young boy, but as they are. In my mind, that tells a story in itself - that the behavior of Nazi  Germany was so horrific that exaggeration, even for an imaginative young boy, is impossible. Was that the point that you were trying to make, or does the sketchbook have another purpose in the story?

LP: The sketchbook serves a couple of purposes, which is why you were sensing a dual-role, essentially. On the one hand it was a narrative device by which Paul could be valuable to the Maquis resistance in a credible way. Also it does provide a look into Paul's head about his reaction to the town and people around him. We very much included panels that were strictly Paul's P.O.V. This has continued into the sequels.

Copyright 2010 Leland Purvis and Carla Jablonski

P.O.V. shots can alter perspective and focus without necessitating exaggeration. Horror exaggerates itself. In this case, though, most of those scenes that really depict some of that were not so much in the sketchbook as they were shown from overheard conversations, or witnessed by the characters themselves. I think it was best to give the emotional landscape through the eyes of the children in the story. Otherwise, as horrific as we might have displayed a context, the readers wouldn't have related as fully. Carla did a wonderful job with that and it made my work much more engaging. 

SE: Your Blogger profile states that you’re from Brooklyn, but I read an earlier interview in which you hailed from Portland, Oregon . Two drastically different cities - one brooding (no offense, NY) and one earnest (ditto, Portland); where are you now, and are you happy there?

LP: I've fixed that now! It's funny that you see these cities as so different. In fact Portland, Oregon and Brooklyn, NY are sister-cities in a lot of respects. I know quite a few people who have lived in both places. There's a lot of do-it-yourself creative energy, artists, writers, bicycle riders, musicians, a really vibrant cultural life going on in each. Brooklyn is more diverse, Portland less stressed, but there are many similarities. And there are more comics-artists in Portland than anywhere but Brooklyn. After six years there (sixteen for my wife) we moved to my hometown of Portland last Summer.
SE: Based on Vox, Suspended in Language, Resistance and other projects on which you’ve chosen to work, I take it that you are a very serious thinker. But then, there’s Pubo. So, I’m puzzled... is your stated interest in “fighting entropy to soften the dreams of reason,” lighthearted or serious? Do you care to elaborate?

LP: Art, or making anything, really, is an 'organizating' that soothes the mind and offers some defense against the slings and arrows. So in that sense it's serious. But if you're going to take your work seriously, I think it's important to not take your Self too seriously. It's never out of place to lighten up a little. PUBO, while on the surface looks like just a funny-animal comic, does yield more to a closer read. It has some things to say, or at least questions to ask, about trust, fear and survival, what it's okay to do to our fellow Man, and how there is a distinction between that and what's allowed in the natural world. At least I hope it does. I meant it to. The first idea with PUBO being that a character who is a physical map of how we feel, would be a metaphor all by himself.
SE: And finally, what’s next?

LP: Next I'll be finishing up the three-book Resistance series. So there's more to hear from Paul and Marie and their little town. After that, I'll be stepping out of YA but continuing with historical work with writer Jim Ottaviani on a book called The Imitation Game, a biography of Alan Turing the British WWII codebreaker.
Many thanks to Leland Purvis for his time and thoughtful answers,
and to the Association of Jewish Libraries for sponsoring this tour. 

Friday, February 4, 2011


Anderson, Laurie Halse. 2010. Forge. Read by Tim Cain. Brilliance Audio.
(This is the second book in a series with began with the award-winning Chains.)

forge - noun
1. A furnace or hearth where metals are heated or wrought; a smithy.
2. A workshop where pig iron is transformed into wrought iron.

forge - verb
1.To form by heating in a forge and beating or hammering into shape.
2. To give form or shape to, especially by means of careful effort
3. To fashion or reproduce for fraudulent purposes; counterfeit

Forge - noun
1. a valley, Valley Forge

Forge, the historical fiction novel by Laurie Halse Anderson is all of these things.  Ostensibly the story of the brutal winter of 1777-1778 suffered by patriot soldiers at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, Forge is also the story of the forging of a nation.  And while the nation forges ahead toward freedom, it forges not only weaponry and tools of war, but also tools of bondage against fellow men.  And while some may forge lies and deception, the harsh Valley Forge winter is itself a forge, forging a united army of determined men (and women) who cannot be disuaded from the path to freedom.

The story begins where Chains left off.  Runaway slaves Isabel and Curzon escape from New York, Isabel from household servitude, Curzon from a British prison.  They travel together, forging a wary companionship, but Isabel - stubborn and defiant, is insistent on following her sister who was sold South.  The more thoughtful and deliberative Curzon believes that North, towards Albany is the safest route.  They part ways and Curzon survives many dangerous situations, eventually ending up with a Massachusetts Regiment at Valley Forge. The horrific conditions of the starving, freezing, over-worked, poorly clothed men at Valley Forge are better, however, than the life to which Curzon is forcibly and unfairly returned. He is warm, well-fed, and well-dressed, but he is no longer free. Eventually, he reunites with the "pigheaded" Isabel and they forge a true alliance, no longer allied by chance, but by choice.

Told in chronological fashion, each chapter beginning with a period quote relevant to the story, Forge is a perfect mix of moving historical fiction and fast-paced adventure with intrigue. Laurie Halse Anderson is in the midst of writing a YA book.  If it's not the conclusion, I hope she gets back to Curzon and Isabel soon!

Tim Cain's voice has a youthful sound and a lively spirit. His is a believable Curzon. He reads Curzon's speech with the measured tones of a young man who must carefully weigh every word that he speaks.  Any mistake can cause danger, even death.  The voices of every soldier and officer have a distinct, though not dramatically different tone.  Even the voice of Isabel is plausible.  A young woman of her stubbornness and determination might be assumed to have a strong manner of speaking. An excellent performance.  I enjoyed Forge even more than its predecessor, Chains.

Read a few pages of the print copy of Forge here.
A reading group guide for Forge is available from Simon & Schuster.
Enjoy this interview with author Laurie Halse Anderson.

Another review @ AudioFile

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour

Just a reminder that the Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour starts this Sunday.  The Sydney Taylor Book Award and honors are "presented annually to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience."

The blog tour kicks off on Sunday, February 6, right here at Shelf-employed, along with stops at Biblio File and Jewish Comics

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2011 tour schedule

  • Carla Jablonski, author of Resistance, Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Older Readers Category at Jewish Comics
  •  Leland Purvis, illustrator of Resistance, Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Older Readers Category  right here @ Shelf-Employed 
  • Sarah Gershman, author of Modeh Ani: A Good Morning Book, Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Younger Readers Category at Biblio File

All the blog tour stops, dates and details are available at The Association of Jewish Libraries Blog.

See you Sunday!

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