Monday, April 30, 2012

Monday Morning Miscellany v.3

It's Nonfiction Monday again (where do the weeks go?) and because I'm busily working on several projects, it will be a Monday Morning Miscellany edition.

    First up, the Nonfiction Monday roundup is at Gathering Books today.  If you're a fan of nonfiction or want to be, stop by and check out the great posts. 

Next on my agenda, the Minette's Feast blog tour begins today at Anastasia Suen's BooktalkingMinette's Feast: The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat, due next month on a shelf near you, tells the story of Julia Child vis-à-vis her cat, Minette. (I'm sure that throwing French around is de rigueur in a discussion of Julia Child)   The blog tour will feature reviews, interviews and guest posts.  I am most excited that the blog tour will stop here next Monday, when I will get to interview Chad Beckerman, art director for Abrams Books, publisher of Minette's Feast, and all-around creative genius or "evil design mastermind," depending on whom one asks! ;)

The Hobbit - I'm thrilled that a (hopefully) good version of The Hobbit is finally in production. The Hobbit and the LOTR trilogy have been on my list of favorites since I was a teenager. The movie trailer looks great -

but as a purist who still bemoans the fact that Tom Bombadil was left out of the movie version of LOTR, here's what I'm wondering: Why does the IMDB cast list include Cate Blanchett as Galadriel and Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel?  First of all, there are no women characters in The Hobbit - zilch, nada.  And Tauriel?  Who the heck is that?  Just venting.

And finally, if you haven't heard the "dirt" on The Dirty Cowboy, or specifically on Adam Rex's illustrations for The Dirty Cowboy, check out the brouhaha here, and here and here.
"The Dirty Cowboy by Amy Timberlake A filthy cowboy, a bath, and a wrestling match with a dog. This one has it all."
From the book's description on Adam Rex's site.

Oh, c'mon, school board, where's your sense of humor?

That's it for today.  Have a great week!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Looking for Me - a review

April is National Poetry Month, and I realize that I've almost let the month slip away without any poetry book reviews.  Just in time, I came across my Advance Reader Copy of Looking for Me, which went on sale April 17.

Rosenthal, Betsy R. 2012. Looking for Me. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Based on the real stories of her mother and many aunts and uncles, Betsy Rosenthal tells a story in verse of her mother, Edith - the fourth child in a large, Jewish, Depression-era family in Baltimore,

Family Portrait, Baltimore, 1936

We're lined up:
girl boy, girl boy, girl boy, girl boy, girl boy

and in the middle of us all, Dad,
who ordered us to smile
right before the Brownie clicked,
standing stiff as a soldier
no smile on his face,

and Mom's beside him,
a baby in her arms
and in her rounded belly
another one,

just a trace.

Girl, boy, girl, boy, count them up - twelve children in a row house, sleeping three to a bed, always short of money, new clothes and food.  Edith's teacher asks her to write about her family, but she doesn't write about herself.  After all, who is she in this great big family?  Looking for Me chronicles Edith's quest to find individualism in a time when, seemingly, there was no time for such frivolous thoughts. Rosenthal's poetic style varies from free verse, to concrete to metered rhymes.  The subject matter varies as well - following the ups and downs of a year in Edith's life, which, while harsh and disciplined, also held moments of great joy and fun,

They're Lucky I Found Them

Lenny, Sol, and Jack
said Mom left them sleeping
on the sofa bed,
or so she thought,
and ran to the store.

But after she left,
they started to bounce
and bounce
and bounce some more.
Then the bed closed up

and they were stuck
until I came home
and changed their luck.

Some poems are heart-wrenching depictions of life as an 11-year-old Jewish girl who has been touched by death, poverty, meanness, bigotry, and indifference.  Others are uplifting,


I am a bubble
blown full
with Miss Connelly's words,

floating out of the classroom,
bobbing across the grassy lot,
drifting by Levin's Bakery,

letting the breeze carry me to the diner.
Dad yells when I come in,
but I just float right by him.

It's always said that it's best to write what you know.  This is Betsy Rosenthal's family, and she knows it well.  The poignant stories of her mother, aunts, uncles and grandmothers have lived on in her home, and she has done us the very great favor of inviting us in to hear them.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy - a review

Wise, Bill. 2012. Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer Willliam Hoy. Ill. by Adam Gustavson. New York: Lee & Low.

No one today would call a deaf person "dummy," but from 1888-1902, Major League Baseball player, William Ellsworth Hoy, wore that nickname with pride. 

Deaf from the age of three, his chances of becoming a major league baseball star were slim to none.  At the turn of the century, deafness itself was a great hurdle to overcome.  Attitudes were different, and his early years were difficult until his parents sent him to the Ohio School for the Deaf, where,
Nobody stared or pointed him.  Nobody felt sorry for him.
Presumably, this is where he learned the confidence and persistence (he already had a love for baseball), that helped propel him to the top of his game as a major league outfielder. Bill Wise chronicles his early life, his rise to stardom, and the unique challenges he faced in the game of baseball.  His baseball challenges were not necessarily due to his disability, but rather, just the way the game is played. If the opposing team has a weakness, exploit it.

Because he could not hear the home plate umpire shouting balls and strikes when he was at bat, Hoy had to turn around to look at the ump after each pitch.  The umpire would repeat the call, and as Hoy read the ump's lips, opposing pitchers often quick pitched Hoy, throwing the next ball before he was ready to bat.
This didn't stop Hoy for long, though.  There's a "workaround" for nearly everything.  Some historians argue that Hoy's deafness may have been the impetus for the umpire's use of hand signals.  In any case, the fans loved him - knowing that he could not hear their cheers, fans waved their arms and hats and threw confetti to show their approval.

Gustavson's mostly double-spread illustrations depict Hoy as a determined and confident young man.

 Much of the text is presented in text boxes which appear as aged scrapbook or autograph pages outlined in faded fountain pen.  The subdued tones of the illustrations, along with the many undefined faces, help give Silent Star the appropriate "old time" feel.

The Afterword offers additional information and photos of Hoy's baseball card and a Hoy-autographed baseball.  Biographical sources are included on the dedication page.  As for baseball sources, they're unnecessary, for that is one of the many beauties of baseball.  There are official statistics for everything! (read or watch Moneyball, anyone?)

See all of "Dummy" Hoy’s major league stats here.

Although he is not in the Baseball Hall of Fame, you may read two entries about William Hoy on the Hall of Fame's website:

This is a particularly worthwhile addition to the growing collection of nonfiction, baseball-themed picture books because of the inspiring nature of Hoy's story.

I received this review copy from the publisher, Lee & Low, who could not have chosen a more interested or appreciative reviewer. It’s no secret that I’m an avid baseball fan, but I have also become interested in deaf culture, and am slowly learning sign language thanks to a very kind and patient deaf co-worker. I may not always get the right sign, but we sure have some good laughs - mostly at my expense. Who knew that counting past ten could be so difficult!

Today's Nonfiction Monday roundup is at Books 4 Learning.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Remarkable - a review

Foley, Lizzie K. 2012. Remarkable. New York: Dial.

I often seek for a passage from a book that sums up its mood, purpose or theme. Lizzie K. Foley’s generally light-hearted writing style in Remarkable does not lend itself to finding this insightful quote. However, as I neared the end of this madcap romp through the remarkable days of the remarkable town of Remarkable, I found the passage I was seeking in the wise words of John Doe to his granddaughter, Jane, the only two unremarkable people in town,

“The world is a wonderfully rich place, especially when you’re not trapped by thinking that you’re only as worthwhile as your best attribute.”

Remarkably wise advice for brilliant people everywhere, which slyly points out the converse advice for a world full of John and Jane Does - just being ordinary can be extraordinary. That Lizzie K. Foley can deliver this important message while humorously entertaining us with a peg leg pirate, the delightfully evil Grimlet Twins, a cryptozoological lake creature named Lucky, a "townful" of positively remarkable characters, and of course, unremarkable Jane Doe, is, in itself, remarkable.

This is a debut novel for New Jerseyan, Lizzie K. Foley. Visit her website at

Advance Reading Copy

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Falcon Quinn and the Black Mirror - an audiobook review

Below is my review of Falcon Quinn and the Black Mirror by Jennifer Finney Boylan and read by Fred Berman, as it appeared in the April 2012, edition of School Library Journal.

Falcon Quinn and the Black Mirror (unabr.). 10 CDs. 11:56 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2011. ISBN 978-1-4558-5811-8. $49.97.

Gr 5-8--Twelve-year old Falcon Quinn has never fit in. He begins to understand why on the morning that an enchanted school bus takes him and fellow classmates, Max and Megan, to the Academy for Monsters, located on an island in the Bermuda Triangle. His friends discover their monster identities, but Falcon still feels like an outsider, unsure where he belongs. When it becomes apparent that the purpose of the Academy is to teach students to suppress their monster natures, Falcon and his friends must make a dangerous choice. Although the first title (Katherine Tegen Books, 2010) in a new series by Jennifer Finney Boylan has many parallels to the Harry Potter series, the author has created a complex and unique magical universe. After a somewhat sluggish start, the combination of adventure and humor, with more than a few plot twists, will propel listeners to the conclusion. Fred Berman's considerable talents channel the voices of 30 characters. His voicing of Irish leprechauns, English hunchbacks, Egyptian mummies, zombies, ghouls, and other characters is spot-on. Listeners will absolutely love his portrayal of Falcon's spunky friend, Pearl, "La Chupakabra, the famous goat-sucker of Peru." Fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson will enjoy Falcon Quinn.

Copyright © 2012 Library Journals, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. Reprinted with permission.

More Falcon Quinn:
  • Browse inside the print version
Want more? 
Falcon Quinn and the Crimson Vapor will be out next month!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Life in the Ocean - a review

I've just returned from vacation and have some catching up to do, but I didn't want to let Nonfiction Monday pass by without highlighting Claire A. Nivola's beautiful picture book, Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle.

Nivola, Claire A. 2012. Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux.

Born in 1935, Sylvia Earle rode in a single passenger airplane at the age of 5, was diving by the age of 16, went on an expedition in the Indian Ocean (the only female member of the expedition!), helped design a submersible diving bubble, once lived for 2 weeks under water, and served as the chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Ostensibly a biographical story of the admirable, Sylvia Earle, Life in the Ocean: The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle is this and more.

Life in the Ocean inspires the reader to follow his dreams, wherever they may lead, and for the reader already interested in the natural world, and marine environments in particular, Life in the Ocean calls him to explore,

     We have explored only 5 percent of the ocean.  We know more about the planets in outer space than we know about the sea on our very own home planet!
Claire Nivola's detailed paintings illustrate her intense interest in the natural world, showing even a lone mussel or skate egg sac on the ocean floor.  Most of the illustrations are large and surrounded by white space, offset by manageable blocks of text in a simple font.  However, smaller square illustrations are used to highlight the two more biographical pages of the book - each square featuring a milestone in Earle's life. The painting of a humpback whale swimming past Sylvia is stunningly serene, but calls to mind our individual insignificance on the planet. Check out Macmillan's Flickr gallery of artwork from Life in the Ocean to see this (though truncated) and many other illustrations from the book.

A lengthy and illustrated Author's Note contains additional information on Sylvia Earle and the current state of the earth's oceans. A Selected Bibliography rounds out this engaging and informational text.

Beautiful, inspiring and enlightening. Highly recommended.

Other reviews @
Waking Brain Cells
Kirkus Reviews

While Sylvia Earle may have "lost her heart to the water," after leaving her home in New Jersey for Florida, the ocean here in New Jersey is also a source of constant wonder, where my family has enjoyed sighting whales, dolphins, bio luminescent creatures lighting up the evening breakers, wave-surfing manta rays, and all manner of other more mundane, but nonetheless fascinating creatures.  Life in the Ocean reminds me that these everyday marvels may not always be so. They need our support as well as our admiration.

Dr. Sylvia Earle displays samples to aquanaut inside TEKTITE.
  Source: NOAA Photo Library
OAR/National Undersea Research Program (NURP)

If you're interested in what Sylvia Earle is doing today, visit Mission Blue: Sylvia Earle Alliance.

Today's Nonfiction Monday roundup is at The Nonfiction Detectives.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Picture Book Roundup - April edition

A quick picture book roundup for April ...

  • Gibson, Amy. 2012. Split! Splat! Ill. by Steve Bjorkman. New York: Scholastic.

April showers bring May flowers and delightful books about rain! Enjoy this rhyming, cumulative book with bright watercolor illustrations. It begs to bed read aloud - perfect for storytime!

I sing a little mud song,
a puddle song,
a muddle song,
a no-shoes, toes-ooze,
slip-slap-and-thud song.
  • Schaefer, Lola M. 2012. One Special Day. Ill. by Jessica Meserve. New York: Disney/Hyperion.

Bold, "digital oil pastel" illustrations accompany bold and simple text that describes a bold young boy, who was "strong as a" [bear], "fast as a" [horse], and many other wonderfully bold things, until

he was gentle,
for the first time ever --
Spencer was a brother.
A fun, participatory (the animal names are provided in illustration only), and touching book about welcoming a new baby.

As any younger sibling can tell you, the old repeat-everything-you-say and copy-everything-you-do is one of the oldest tricks in a young one's toolbox.  The reason it's so popular is that it is virtually impossible to defend against - as Little Puffin finds out in Don't Copy Me! The very-funny Jonathan Allen has a great time with this one (click the title link for a peek inside).  Call me politically incorrect, but what I like best about Don't Copy Me! is that all does not end well for Little Puffin.  Score one for the little guys!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Independent Book Blogger Awards

I'm on "spring break" this week (read that as college tours and baseball games), but in my absence, I humbly ask for your vote on Goodreads for the Independent Book Blogger Awards.

Independent Book Blogger Awards
Vote for this blog for the Independent Book Blogger Awards!

If not my blog, then another independent blog of your choosing. Thanks.

If anyone's wondering, I've packed Remarkable by Lizzie K. Foley, brought the Advance Review Copy of The Sisters Grimm: Book IX: The Council of Mirrors audiobook (due out in May), and loaded Rick Riordan's, Son of Neptune on my mp3 player.  That should keep me.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Seeing Symmetry - a review

I'm on vacation this week, but wanted to point out Loreen Leedy's latest.

Leedy, Loreen. 2012. Seeing Symmetry. New York: Holiday House.

A teacher's dream, Seeing Symmetry is so much more than a book about symmetry.  It is the intersection of math, art and nature in a clearly illustrated book that is entertaining, participatory, and educational.  It's also correlated to 4th grade core curriculum standards for geometry (see Loreen Leedy's website). Notes, activities, math concepts and vocabulary are included as well.

More kids would like math if it were always presented like this.  Worth checking out!

Watch the video below, narrated by author/illustrator, Loreen Leedy, and read a detailed review @ Kirkus Reviews.

Free download of Spring Mirror Word Puzzles for teachers.

Today's Nonfiction Monday roundup is at Ana's Nonfiction Blog.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Jinxed! a review

It's opening day for MLB!  Let's start off the season with another baseball book.

Scaletta, Kurtis. 2012. Jinxed! A Topps League Story. Illustrated by Eric Wright. New York: Amulet.
(Advance Reader Copy supplied by publisher)

I don't review too many early chapter books, and I admit that I'm not usually (OK, almost never) fond of "tie-in" books, but here's an exception. Topps, of trading card fame, has teamed up with Amulet books for a series of baseball-themed chapter books - complete with trading cards. So, what's the trade-off here? What does Topps get from this publishing deal? It appears that the books' protagonist, Chad, a young baseball fan with a huge baseball card collection, will use information about real players from real cards to help solve problems within the story line.  But hey, baseball cards have worked out well for Dan Gutman (his latest is Ted & Me, Harper Collins, 2012), and I think they'll work out well for Kurtis Scaletta as well. Here's why ...

he knows baseball, he can write with a boy's voice, and he's pretty funny.  What more do you need?

Jinxed! begins with Chad hoping to land a job as a batboy for the minor league Porcupines. His dad suggests that he send a resume.

     "What's a rez-u-may?" I asked him.  That's how he said it: "rez-u-may."
     "It's a list of all your past jobs and your accomplishments," he said.
     "I've never had a job."
     "Good point," my dad said.  "But you do have a lot of accomplishments."
     So I got on the computer and typed up my accomplishments.  It took me all day.
 [an image of Chad's resume appears here]

     "I've never seen "I have my own resume" on a person's resume before," Dad said when I was done.
     "But I worked really hard on it."
     "Good point.  It looks great.  Let's mail it tomorrow."
Chad gets the job with the Porcupines, along with another boy from his class.  He's thrilled to find that one of his major league heroes, Mike Stammer, is down with the Porcupines, though it's due largely to the fact that he's getting on in years and slumping badly.  Everyone is convinced that Mike has the jinx. Could Chad be the guy to break it?

A perfect choice for elementary school fans of baseball and series books.  My library doesn't have these yet, but I hope I'll be seeing them soon.

The illustrations will be done by Eric Wight (of Frankie Pickle fame), but were not completed in my galley proof. Here's a link to one illustration on the author's website.
The second book in the series, Steal that Base!, is also on shelves now.

It's opening day. "Hope springs eternal ..." (Alexander Pope)
In baseball, there is no day filled with more possibility than this one. Go Phils!

Monday, April 2, 2012

There Goes Ted Williams - a review

Tavares, Matt. 2012. There Goes Ted Williams: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived. Somerville, MA:Candlewick.

Whether I review a book or not, I tag it, rate it, and add it to my LibraryThing account.  LT makes it easy to sort through books by tag or date when the title escapes me and patrons await me.  I've been doing it for years, but somehow I never noticed that there is an option to add a haiku summary of each book. Once I saw it, I had to try,

Ted Williams, the best 
living and breathing baseball
Swing! it’s a home run

Of course, a haiku review leaves me no room to gush over Matt Tavares' illustrations - the green of the field just pops out at you when you begin the story - the same way that it does inside the ballpark when you exit the cool darkness of the breezeway, face the field, and step out into the open air as you head for your seat. Ah, there's nothing like it, and Matt Tavares gets it right.

Fenway Park turns100 this year. 
This photo is from my vacation in 2011.
I'm not a Sox fan, but you can't deny the greatness of Ted Williams (my aunt would have my head if I did!).  This is a stirring book about Ted Williams, but also about what makes baseball so great.  I love it! It's a home run.

One video just isn't enough.  Watch 'em both!

Opening day can't come soon enough for me!  I've already got tickets to see the Baltimore Orioles, the Durham Bulls, and the Lakewood Blue Claws - and that's just for April. 

Today's Nonfiction Monday Round-up is at Rasco from RIF.

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 ...