Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 Fiction Favorites

Before the year 2012 slips away from me,I'd like to post my fiction favorites.

Two of the books that I was most looking forward to reading in 2012, did not disappoint me, and they are my 2012 favorites in fiction.

Starry River of the Sky

The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There

  • The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente (Macmillan)  and in audio book by Brilliance Audio, is a follow-up to my favorite book of last year, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her own MakingIn The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland, September returns to find and reunite with her shadow, Halloween, who has taken up residence in Fairyland Below as the Hollow Queen.  After having learned the complicated rules of Fairyland in her last journey, September must now learn to navigate by the rules of Fairyland-Below:
Beware of dog
Anything important comes in threes and sixes
Do not steal queens
A girl in the wild is worth two in chains
Necessity is the mother of temptation
Everything must be paid for sooner or later
What goes down must come up
 The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There is as good or better than its predecessor.  The levels of Fairyland and their inhabitants are rich and wonderful and magical and utterly satisfying.  I had the pleasure of alternately reading and listening to this one, and in an unusual occurrence, both versions were equally enjoyable.  The voice of S.J. Tucker is perfectly suited for the fantastic world of Fairyland.  Her voice has an unidentifiable quality which defies the listener's attempts to place a location on her accent.  Although she is American, she could just as easily be Fairylander.

My library system classifies this book as a young adult novel, however, as with the first in the series, I find it suitable for both younger and older audiences.

I can't wait to read the third book in the Fairyland series!

For a slightly younger audience (though also entertaining for all ages) is Grace Lin's,
  • Starry River of the Sky (title links to my earlier review) (Little Brown).  This is also a follow-up book, although in this case, Starry River is a stand-alone, "companion" book to the earlier Where the Mountain Meets the Moon (2009 Little Brown).  Grace Lin always shows herself to be a gentle and thoughtful writer, and never more so than in Starry River.
This is a captivating story that, while holding deep meaning, may be enjoyed in many layers. A magical fantasy, a Chinese folktale, a tale of a boy lost and found, a love story, a mystery, a journey of self-discovery -- all may be found in the tiny and remote Village of Clear Sky.

Enjoy them both!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Hokey Pokey - a review

Spinelli, Jerry. 2013. Hokey Pokey. New York: Knopf.
Advance reader copy provided by NetGalley

In the world of Hokey Pokey, populated by Snotsnipppers, Newbies, and Gappergums, and others, The Kid is king. In fact, kids are its only human inhabitants.

For Big Kid, Jack, days pass in a comfortable rhythm of regularity - hanging out with his Amigos, LaJo and Dusty, and riding his bike Scramjet, the envy of every kid in Hokey Pokey.  The rules are simple.  Just remember the Four Nevers:
Never pass a puddle without stomping in it. Never go to sleep until the last minute. Never go near Forbidden Hut. Never kiss a girl.
It's a simple life, a good life.  Until one morning, when things are not the same.  His bike is gone, and

Hokey Pokey is unusual fare for Jerry Spinelli.  It's an allegorical story of childhood delivered by a narrator following the escapades of several different children, and focusing primarily on Jack and his rival and antagonist - the girl, Jubilee.  It's recommended for ages 10 and up, but the beauty of  Hokey Pokey is that it may be read on several levels.  Though the symbolism may be somewhat obvious for older readers, younger readers may simply enjoy Hokey Pokey as a fantasy adventure in an alternate universe. Older readers will see beyond the obvious symbolism of the approaching train and will ponder the relationships between older kids and younger, boys and girls.  Short and thought-provoking. Recommended reading.

Hokey Pokey received starred reviews in School Library Journal and Kirkus Reviews.

 Preview the book here:

Interesting note: This is the second book that I've read that features living bicycles. Anyone know the other one?

Friday, December 21, 2012

Infinity and Me - a review

If you're looking for a way to inspire very young people to wonder about math and science, look no further than Infinity and Me!

Hosford, Kate. 2012. Infinity and Me. Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda. (Illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska)

Infinity and Me will open up (dare I say it?) infinite possibilities and questions!

A small girl, Uma, ponders infinity while gazing at stars,

How many stars were in the sky? A million? A billion? Maybe the number was as big as infinity.  I started to feel very, very small.  How could I even think about something as big as infinity?
Uma proceeds to ask others how they conceive of infinity, and hears it defined in quantities of numbers, time, music, ancestors - even spaghetti!  Finally, she settles on her own measure of infinity, quantified in something that is both personal and boundless.  Full-bleed painted illustrations by Gabi Swiatkowska capture the magical sense of  the endless immensity of infinity that at first perplexes Uma, and finally envelops her in understanding.

In the end, it doesn't matter how one envisions infinity; what does matter is kindling an interest in something broader, wider, more infinite than oneself.

This is an intriguing introduction to a mathematical concept.

For Teachers:

A curriculum guide for Infinity and Me is available on the author's website.
Book details from the publisher's website:
Pages: 32Trim Size: 9 1/4 x 11Dewey: [E]Reading Level: 3Interest Level: K-4Ages: 5-10ATOS Quiz #: 0.5ATOS AR Points: 3.40ATOS: 151611.00Lexile Level: 670

It's STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Nonfiction Favorites 2012

As 2012 is quickly coming to a close, I'll use today's Nonfiction Monday event to feature my two favorite nonfiction books of the year - one for young listeners and one for older readers.

Without a doubt, my favorite nonfiction book for older readers was

Educational, inspirational, celebratory!

Though I first reviewed it in March, it has remained on the top of my list.  Click the title for my review.

For younger listeners, it was a difficult choice - You are Stardust, Eight Days Gone, so many great titles - but my favorite was
Rhyming, whimsical, gorgeous illustrations!

(click the title for my review)

If you haven't checked out these two nonfiction books yet, hurry to your library or bookstore!
They're not to be missed!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Poetry Friday - haiku

On Fridays, kidlit bloggers gather for Poetry Friday and STEM Friday.  Today I offer my original haiku featuring science and the moon.  I hope you like it.

atmospheric gas
filters blue light from the sky
a red moon rises

Photo by David Saddler
Creative Commons license 2.0

Today's Poetry Friday roundup is at Jama's Alphabet Soup.

Visit them both and enjoy your Friday! I'll be going to see The Hobbit!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Musings on The Invincible Microbe

Murphy, Jim and Alison Blank. 2012. The Invincible Microbe: Tuberculosis and the Never-Ending Search for a Cure. New York: Clarion.

The minute I saw this book, I knew that I would read it, not because I am a fan of nonfiction and Jim Murphy, but for personal reasons.  While my mother would often tell me stories of what it was like to be a child during WWII, my stepfather was older.  He lived what I considered to be a fascinating, history-book life. He was an orphan. He remembered the Great Depression.   He was a runaway. He was a "runner" on Wall Street.  He had tuberculosis.  He recalled being forced to march outside in the cold New York winter wearing nothing but a t-shirt and underpants, a common aspect of a patient's "curing" regimen.  I can only imagine that a poor orphan boy's regimen was harsher than most. To this day, I cannot look at a sepia-tinged photo of poor scantily clad children in the snow without thinking of my stepfather.  The girls on the cover of The Invincible Microbe, "curing" outside on a porch, may be smiling in the photo, but I don't believe for a minute that it was by choice. To the end of his days, my stepfather loved rich foods and warm temperatures - small wonder.

So, to me growing up, TB was a thing of the past - a disease like polio, generally eradicated and of no concern to me.  Then came the late 1980's and 1990's.  My sister lived in Manhattan, and lo and behold, tuberculosis was suddenly a topic of discussion again.  There was an outbreak in the City. She was worried.  So to me, tuberculosis was then an urban thing, of no concern to me, except where my sister was concerned.  My sister moved away from the City, and I thought little of it again ... until my children were born.  Then to me, TB was "the bubble test," and I thought little of it, except that it seemed to be an easier test than the "tine test" I remembered from childhood, and I was thankful that my kids were protected...

or so I thought, until I read The Invincible Microbe.

The Invincible Microbe: Tuberculosis and the Never-Ending Search for a Cure, tells the story of TB from its known beginning, in prehistoric times, through the days of magical, prayerful, and deadly "cures," until today, when TB is still a scourge in five areas of the world (Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, The Philippines, Swaziland, Vietnam) and is only as far away from you as a plane ride.

Thoroughly researched, sourced and indexed, with numerous photographs, The Invincible Microbe is a chronological look at the Tuberculosis germ, containing first-hand accounts (including a poem written by Robert Louis Stevenson en route to a sanatorium in Saranac Lake), period advertising, and quotes from scientific journals and other sources. It incorporates both the scientific and social aspects of infectious disease, answering such questions as:

How were breakthroughs in identification and treatment of the disease achieved? How did the medical community vet new procedures and ideas?  How was public health policy created? How did the germ mutate to survive?  How did Tuberculosis attack the human body?  How was it spread?  Who decided which patients received treatment and which do not?

Sadly, these questions are still being answered, and to date, Tuberculosis has no cure.

Comprehensive and engrossing, this is a book that will appeal to ages 10 to adult.

Want to know more about TB?  Check the Tuberculosis section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website.

Friday, December 7, 2012

I'm blogging @ALSC today

I am blogging at the ALSC blog today.  Please stop by and find out why I think "Nobody does it better" than librarians.

Here's the link:

Have a wonderful weekend!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Meet Me at the Art Museum - a review

Goldin, David. 2012. Meet Me at the Art Museum: A Whimsical Look Behind the Scenes. New York: Abrams.

With a mixture of humor, photography, collage, cut paper, virtual realia, and some expressive and artfully-place eyeballs, David Goldin has created a book that takes children on a comprehensive and behind-the-scenes tour of an art museum.

Employing the friendly docent's helper, Daisy, and the unceremoniously discarded Stub, Goldin guides the reader from the practical,

"Now is a good time for a break," said Daisy.  "This is a cafe, where you can sit and rest your feet.  ... You need to get your energy back, because there's another whole floor of treasures.  You don't want to miss a single one!"

to the protective,

"Other high-tech equipment is also used to keep precious objects safe," said Daisy. "It's the conservator's job to make sure the air is not too humid, not too dry. "They control the temperature.  Not too hot, not too cold.  They control the lights, too.  You can't have it too dark or too bright.  Everything has to be just right.  The conservator also fixes damaged objects in the museum's workshop."

to the awe-inspiring,

Stub discovered ...  ancient writing   sculptures of wood, bronze, and stone   mobiles   paintings   costumes. It was thrilling! One day I'm gonna live in a museum, thought Stub.
The adorable Stub and Daisy provide the fun; and a surprise ending offers Stub the chance to live out his dream.

Back matter includes "Who's Who at the Museum" (archivist, conservator, curator, etc.), "What's What at the Museum" (exhibition, gallery, etc.), and "Art Titles" (a list of pieces depicted in the book).

The punctuation is a bit peculiar, with several instances of unclosed parentheses, but no matter, it's a book of art, not grammar.

If I were escorting a child or class to a museum, this book would be on my "must share" list.  Well worth the price of admission!

Today's Nonfiction Monday roundup is hosted by its organizer, Anastasia Suen, at her Booktalking blog.



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 ...