"I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books."


Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Incredible Book Eating Boy

The Incredible Book Eating Boy
Author/Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers
Publisher: Penguin Philomel
ISBN-10: 9780399247491

The Incredible Book Eating Boy was a title that immediately caught my attention. I love books and I always want to read books about books. Imagine my delight when I found this gem by Oliver Jeffers. I was intrigued.

Henry is a boy who one day just took a bite of a book and liked it so much he started eating books. He found that the more he ate the smarter he got so he kept on eating them. Red ones are his favorite. Soon Henry is super smart but he’s also getting sick. Worse, his stomach and the knowledge he got from the books is getting all jumbled up and he’s making mistakes – big ones. What’s he going to do?

I loved it! The story was so funny. I just laughed and laughed and laughed all through it. I loved Henry and how he loved books. He loved them even more than I do. The illustrations were so clever and funny as well. I just couldn’t stop smiling through it. I loved the little bite taken out of the corner of the cover too. Very clever touch!

I loved it so much I couldn’t wait to share it with my grandchildren, Aiden and Jasmine. I had to have them over a day earlier than I usually do. I handed Jasmine, the four-year old the book solemnly and waited. I didn’t wait long. She looked at the cover and smiled. Then she turned it over and saw the bite and her eyebrows crinkled. “Grammy”, she said in her ooh you’re in trouble tone “who was bad and bit the book?”

Then I read it to them. Aiden kept laughing and pointing to different sections of the pages (he’s 18 months) and Jasmine laughed and laughed at the story and the drawings. At the end of the book she laughed and said, “Grammy, Henry was silly. Everyone knows you get smart by reading books, not eating them.” Smart girl. I asked if she liked it and she said, “I loved this book! May I take it home?” It lives at her house now and I’ll have to get another.

Bottom line? It’s quite wonderful.

Roxie and the Hooligans

Roxie and the Hooligans
Author: Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Illustrator: Alexandra Boiger
Publisher: Aladdin
ISBN-10: 1416902449
ISBN-13: 978-1416902447

Recommended for grades 2-4

Roxie Warbler is 9-years old, happy at home and miserable at school. Her uncle Dangerfoot, world traveler, adventurer and companion to the famous author and fellow adventurer Lord Thistlebottom has inspired her with his wild adventure stories of survival in the oddest of situations. Lord Thistlebottom’s book, Lord Thistlebottom's Book of Pitfalls and How to Survive Them, Roxie has committed to memory. It’s almost a bible to her. Unfortunately, the book doesn’t explain how to deal with Helvetia's Hooligans, the gang of four mean kids at her school that pick on her unmercifully because of her big, pink, cup shaped ears.

One day the Hooligans chase her into a dumpster and follow her tumbling into it. The dumpster gets taken away and Roxie and the Hooligans end up trapped on a desert island with some very scary robbers and it’s up to Roxie and her survival skills to help get them food and water, off the island and safe from the robbers.

Roxie and the Hooligans is a marvelous book for young children just starting to read chapter books. The story is fast-paced and the character of Roxie is completely both loveable and believable. You really find yourself cheering her on. It’s also a great book for children who have to deal with bullies. We learn in the story that the bullies are all too human and that there is a reason for their meanness.

The book is also a good one for sharing by reading aloud – it will keep adults engaged as well as delight the children. The illustrations in black and white are completely wonderful, whimsical and fun.

Fred Patten Reviews Command Decision

Command Decision
Author: Elizabeth Moon
Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine Books
ISBN 10: 0-345-49159-9
ISBN 13: 978-0-345-49159-6

This is the fourth annual novel in Moon’s “Vatta’s War” series, following Trading in Danger, Marque and Reprisal, and Engaging the Enemy. I have been enjoying this series, so I eagerly dove into Command Decision, and I was not disappointed. Yet it begins in mid-story. Mysteriously disgraced Rafe Dunbarger, son of the CEO of ISC (InterStellar Communications), lands on the planet Cascadia in disguise, seeking to learn what has happened to his family; while harried Stella Vatta on an orbiting space station begins rebuilding Vatta Transport, the family’s sabotaged interstellar shipping fleet. Kylara Vatta, the main protagonist who is trying to make three tiny merchant spaceships into the nucleus of an anti-pirate military space fleet, does not appear until chapter three. “Vatta’s War” is a wonderfully exciting, fast-paced galaxy-spanning adventure saga, but readers unfamiliar with it should definitely begin with Trading in Danger, the first novel.

“Vatta’s War” takes place in a galactic society bound together commercially by merchant spaceships, and technologically by “ansibles”, interstellar communication devices that are a monopoly of the powerful ISC. In the previous novels 21-year-old Kylara Vatta, a member of the family that owns one of the largest fleets of merchant spaceships, is unfairly expelled from her homeworld’s Spaceforce Academy. Her father creates a job for her by appointing her captain of an old freighter being flown to a wrecking yard; a ceremonial assignment that Ky tries to make more profitable by signing a contract to deliver cargo to a nearby planet en route. She gets caught in an interplanetary war, attacks by space pirates, a bloody mutiny, and more. While this is going on, the ansibles that provide interstellar communication suddenly go silent, and an unknown enemy kills most members of the Vatta family and destroys their spaceships. Ky, using the skills she learned as a military cadet, gradually finds herself leading a tiny group of armed freighters acting as privateers against the space pirates that take advantage of the breakdown in communication between the worlds.

Command Decision is full of suspense ranging from space battles and commando raids to corporate hostile takeovers. Moon, who served in the U.S. Marines, writes taut military action scenes. This series is in the tradition of the “Heinlein juveniles” that have introduced teens to s-f for over fifty years, with a quietly assured young woman commander who makes these novels good escape reading for girls as well as boys.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The Guardian Has a First Look of HP7 Cover Art - ooooh

It's beautiful.

The link is here.

Fred Patten Reviews Vampire Hunter D, Volume 1

Vampire Hunter D
Author: Hideyuki Kikuchi
Illustrator: Yoshitaka Amano
Publisher: DH Press/Digital Manga Publishing
ISBN 10: 1-59582-012-4
ISBN 13: 978-1-59582-012-9

This Japanese novel was known to anime fans for twenty years as the basis for the popular 1985 anime movie, one of the first American anime releases. Kikuchi became known as the author of a large series of Vampire Hunter D novels and short stories, but none were available in English until DH Press began publishing translations by Kevin Leahy in 2005.

Kikuchi has synthesized the American pulp genres of science-fiction, adventure fantasy, horror, and Westerns. In 12,090 A.D., civilization is slowly rebuilding after millennia of destruction by global atomic war and terrorism by mutated monsters, followed by dominance by vampires who formed a ruling class of immortal Nobility until they became decadent. Human townships are now throwing off the rule of their local vampire lords, often with the help of wandering mercenary Vampire Hunters.

Doris Lang, a young woman near a frontier town trying to run her late father’s farm, is bitten by vampire Count Magnus Lee. Lee is amused by her proud spirit and intends to make her his latest wife instead of a common mindless bloodthirsty vampire. Doris is also threatened by both her own townspeople, who want to kill her before she becomes a vampire, and Count Lee’s haughty daughter Larmica who tries to eliminate her rather than suffer the humiliation of gaining a human stepmother. Doris’ plight is desperate until a lone stranger rides into town on his horse; the mysterious Vampire Hunter known only as “D”.

Kikuchi’s writing style is awkwardly both stilted and florid, possibly in a deliberate emulation of 1930s pulp fiction, or World War I-era French thrillers such as Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera. Here Count Lee is talking with his daughter after they have temporarily trapped D under their castle:

“Last night, when you returned from the farm and spoke of the stripling we just disposed of, the tone of your voice, the manner of your complaints – even I, your own father, cannot recall ever hearing you so indignant, yet your indignation held a feverish sentiment that was equally new. Could it be you’re smitten with the scoundrel?”

Unanticipated though her father’s words were, Larmica donned a smile that positively defied description. Not only that, she licked her lips as well.

The setting is colorful, though; an original blend of horror stereotypes and decayed futuristic s-f technology. And old-fashioned pulp writers still have many fans. Kikuchi’s style may not be for everyone, but more than just anime fans will enjoy this first Vampire Hunter D novel.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

First Crossing: Stories About Teen Immigrants

First Crossing: Stories About Teen Immigrants
Editor: Donald R. Gallo
Publisher: Candlewick Press
ISBN-10: 0763632910
ISBN-13: 978-0763632915

Recommended for grades 7-10

Wow! Eleven well known authors write about the immigrant experience for teenagers. The stories are as different as the countries each immigrant comes from and completely absorbing. There are stories from Cambodia, Korea, Romania, Mexico, Venezuela among others.

Pam Muñoz Ryan's First Crossing tells the story of a young teen boy from Jalisco’s first trip across the border in Tijuana. It’s so heartbreaking. The story tells of the coyotes, how much people pay for the crossing and the dangers involved in doing so. It made me cry.

I loved David Lubar’s story of a Romanian boy that gets sent to Alaska rather than Arkansas with his family as they’ve been told. When his new school friends find out he is from Transylvania, they find new ways of testing him for vampiric abilities. It’s funny, quirky and different.

In My Favorite Chaperone, a girl from Kazakhstan describes the differences in culture and learns to fit in. This one was one of my favorites, especially when she is translating for her parents about her little brother and changes the translation to minimize the trouble her little brother gets into.

I think this is an important book for both the YA crowd as well as adults. The stories promote tolerance, explain the immigrant experience and really do a good job explaining all the very real reasons why people come here.


Author: Cynthia Leitich Smith
Publisher: Candlewick Press
ISBN-10: 0763627917
ISBN-13: 978-0763627911

Tantalize is a very delicious and thrilling dark fantasy. It was a page turner that kept me glued to the book till the very unexpected ending.

Quince Morris is a 17 year girl with a lot on her plate. Her parents have died, she’s living with her uncle, managing a restaurant and trying to keep it going all the while trying to get the guy she loves to see her as more than just a friend. Oh yeah and the boyfriend Kieran happens to be half werewolf.

Adding to the things she has to deal with, Quince’s boyish uncle is remodeling the restaurant to have a vampire flare and flavor – they’ve renamed it Sanguini’s – A Very Rare Restaurant. He also has a very weird girlfriend that is drives Quince crazy.

After the mysterious death of the chef and Kieran is a suspect, a new chef steps in and boy is he is creepy with his red contacts and always plying Quince with wine. His menu item – baby squirrels with honey sauce totally creeped me out. Yech!

There’s good stuff here and it’s all very original and different. Quince made a great narrator and character. The other characters in the book were different, multi-dimensional and interesting. My only disappointment was that it ended. I smell sequel!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Set in Stone

Set in Stone
Author: Linda Newbery
Publisher: David Fickling Books
ISBN-10: 0385751028
ISBN-13: 978-0385751025

Recommended for grades 8- up

Set in Stone is a very mysterious, very creepy and very thrilling modern day take on the Victorian Gothic novel. Set in a beautiful mansion in very rural England, the story begins with a young artist arriving late, walking through a lonely wood and getting to his destination only to find a young girl running out in the dark hysterically ranting about the North wind. Exciting, yes?

The artist is Samuel Godwin, hired by the owner of the mansion called Four Winds to teach his daughters Juliana and the wild Marianne. It was the beauteous Marianne whom he found the night of his arrival.

Samuel quickly becomes entrenched in the family. He feels nothing but the highest admiration for Ernest Farrow, his employer who’s appreciation for the most beautiful art appeals to Samuel’s own artistic nature. He grows fond of the girls and their plain governess Charlotte but soon becomes quite obsessed with Marianne.

He finds out soon enough that everything is not what it seems and that the house has its share of dark secrets of the nastiest sort.

The book is narrated alternately by both Charlotte and Samuel and is done in such as way as to build the mystery while providing more and more clues. The story gets darker and darker, revealing a web of deceit, lies, suicide, incest, cover ups, a secret baby and murder.

Set in Stone is a thrilling and unconventional story that is completely gripping. I couldn’t put it down.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Samurai: Heaven and Earth

Samurai: Heaven and Earth
Writer: Ron Marz

Artist: Luke Ross

Cover Artist: Luke Ross

Colorist: Jason Keith
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
ISBN-10: 1593073887
ISBN-13: 978-1593073886

Samurai: Heaven and Earth is simply astonishing. Both the artwork and the story are just gorgeous. It is the story of Shiro, a Samurai warrior who was the only survivor in a great battle. He returns home to find his love, the beautiful Yoshiko, only to find she has been taken by the victors in the battle. Determined to find her, he sets off to the stronghold of the Warlord Hsiao only to find she has been sold and sent to Europe.

What follows is an incredible tale of love and devotion, of Shiro’s vow to Yoshiko that nothing on Heaven or Earth will keep them apart.

Shiro travels to Europe, meets the Musketeers, even lands in the palace of Versailles. He will do anything, go anywhere to get Yoshiko back.

The story is mesmerizing and riveting and each page is a dream. The pages look like paintings, they are so lush and vivid. The battle scenes are action packed and vividly intense. The sword fight with the Musketeers is just unbelievable and realistic. The page where the Musketeers and Shiro are in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles is just glorious. The light literally bounces off the page and you get the feel of light bouncing off mirrors. Incredible!

Samurai: Heaven and Earth is one of the most beautiful and evocative comics I’ve ever seen. Shiro is an incredible hero – determined, completely ruthless and vicious in battle yet so tender and devoted to Yoshiko. It’s quite the contrast and completely compelling. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

Adventures in Oz

Adventures In Oz
Author: Eric Shanower, Frank L. Baum
Publisher: IDW Publisher
ISBN-10: 1933239611
ISBN-13: 978-1933239613

Adventures in Oz is the collection of five comics that were published by Eric Shanower from 1986-1992, The Enchanted Apples of Oz, The Secret Island of Oz, The Ice King of Oz, The Forgotten Forest of Oz and The Blue Witch of Oz.

I hadn’t read the original comics but I fell completely in love with this collection. The stories are told in a voice very much like the original Baum stories but the stories are original. His love for his subject really shines and Oz fans will really like these original stories.

Shanower expands on the Oz myth with some amazing and imaginative little tales. I loved the flying Marlin especially. I loved the fact that Ozma, one of my favorite Oz characters is brought back to life in this book. I’ve always had a soft spot for her and thought she was wonderful. I also loved Flicker and his head of fiery hair and Knotboy.

The illustration, especially in The Blue Witch of Oz is lavish and simply gorgeous. The colors of the forests are just tremendous. There is this unbelievable page with all the wood nymphs in front of Zurline that is just gorgeous. It’s very Art Deco in style and the lines just flow so elegantly. You almost could just step right into the page and touch their hair.

Adventures in Oz is a worthy addition to any library and most especially to those Oz fans who want more Oz stories. I’ve read many attempts to capture the feel of Baum’s timeless classics, but none so spot on as Eric Shanower’s.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Whole Days Outdoors: An Autobiographical Album

Whole Days Outdoors: An Autobiographical Album
Author: Jim Arnosky
Photographer: Deanna Arnosky
Publisher: Richard C. Owen Publishers
ISBN-10: 1572748591
ISBN-13: 978-1572748590

Whole Days Outdoors is the story of Jim Arnosky, prolific nature writer of titles such as All Night Near the Water, Armadillo's Orange, Big Jim and the White legged Moose among many others. His sketches of animals and nature are some of the most detailed and lifelike illustrations.

In this autobiography in the Meet the Author Series, Mr. Arnosky tells of growing up in Philadelphia, living on a farm in Vermont and being out in nature. He learned drawing from his father. This book, like the others in the series is insightful and fascinating.

The photographs that compliment the text are wonderful and give added depth. I found it both interesting and highly entertaining to find he sometimes writes a paragraph for a manuscript while sitting on his lawnmower.

I love how these books really make writing so accessible to children. The authors who do these books are really contributing something of value to children. I can see whole generations of children inspired to write because of these books. It will give a deep appreciation for the process and of the work that goes into writing a book.

Call for Guest Bloggers in Classic Children's Literature

Hello everyone!

I spend so much time these days trying to review so many great children's books out there, that I've sadly neglected what I originally wanted to do - review and recommend some of those great children's books from the past. You know, books like Little Women, The Secret Garden, the Little Prince, The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, Oz books, etc. Any book you came across as a child or adult that made a profound impact, the ones that made you love kidlit.

If you're interested in reviewing, add a comment with the title of your book/s that you want to review and then I'll get you set up with a guest account so you can post away. It's that simple. There is no deadline and no end date.

I'm hoping some of the wonderful Children's Lit bloggers on my blogroll will contribute.


Bee Frog

Bee Frog
Author: Martin Waddell
Illustrator: Barbara Firth
Publisher: Candlewick Press
ISBN-10: 1844285413
ISBN-13: 978-1844285419

Recommended for baby-pre-school ages

Bee Frog is the cutest little story and very young children will be charmed by it.

Bee Frog is a little frog that wants to play make believe with her parents. She want’s to be a dragon! But Mom and Dad frog are very busy and just can’t give her game the attention it deserves. What’s a little frog to do? She tries to get her Grandma’s attention but Grandma is busy too. Bee hops off, running away from home but is suddenly feeling very lonely and scared all on her own.

When her family comes looking for her, Bee is all too happy to come home.

I loved this little story. Young children relate to the little frog not being paid attention to while the adults that are reading to them relate with the busy lives of the parents. It’s a gentle reminder that children need attention and we need to take time from our busy days and just play with them. Having been a working single mother and now a working single grandmother, I find less and less time to just play with the kids.

This little book hit home and I’m going to make a real effort to just stop and smell the roses or rather play with the grandkids a little more. So often, like now while I am writing this review, they are trying to get my attention and I’m too busy writing, reading or just working on things around the house. I don’t always give them the attention they deserve when they come here so this book really packed a punch.

I stopped writing this review to watch them stick stickers of the next book in the review queue to their little faces and they were happy to get the attention.

Buy Bee Frog, it’s completely lovely and the illustrations are as soft and gentle as the story.

The Chestnut Soldier

The Chestnut Soldier
Author: Jenny Nimmo
Publisher: Scholastic
ISBN-10: 0439846773
ISBN-13: 978-0439846776

Recommended for grades 5-7

The Chestnut Soldier
is the third in the fantasy Snow Spider series set in the hills of Wales. Gwyn the magician is back, along with Emlyn and Nia. This story takes place two years after Emlyn’s Moon. The children are older now and settling into their lives when things take a turn when the mad prince Efnisien’s dark spirit is accidentally released. At first, the children think that everything is okay, but when a mysterious relative – a soldier appears things really start to get interesting.

This is by far the strongest in the series and a worthy ending to the trilogy. The children are teenagers now and have their tumultuous emotions to deal with as well as the mysterious stranger, dark magic and danger.

Gwyn’s magic is challenged as he desperately battles to save his friends and the world from the dark soul which has captured the troubled soldier all the while trying to save his friendship with Nia as well.

Once again Jenny Nimmo has created a magical and completely believable fantasy. Her ability to mingle legend and the everyday modern life and make it completely plausible is nothing short of masterful. The Chestnut Soldier is sure to be an all time favorite.

Meet the Authors Series: Before It Wriggles Away - Janet S. Wong

Meet the Author Series
Before it Wriggles Away
Author: Janet S. Wong
Photographer: Anne Lindsay
Publisher: Richard C. Owens Publishers
ISBN-10: 1572748613
ISBN-13: 978-1572748613
Autobiographies for grades 2-5

Last week I read George Ancona’s story in the Meet the Author series by Richard C. Owen Publishers and I loved it. Today I read Janet Wong’s story. I find myself hooked. Completely. I love this series!

Before It Wriggles Away is a completely engaging story written by children’s book author Janet S. Wong. In it she tells of how growing up she never thought she’d write books. She tells how she fell into writing and of how happy it has made her, how much she loves it. In the book Ms. Wong tells how she went back to school and had a great teacher which turned her dislike of poetry to a love of it, made her into a poet.

The story is a simple one but it’s a great one. The whole writing process of this amazing author is told in words and photographs. Janet Wong tells of writing poetry, how she gets ideas and wandering thoughts that eventually become a story or poem. It’s completely fascinating.

Before It Wriggles Away
is written for children in grades 2-5 but I feel that adults, especially those interested in writing are going to find this and others in the Meet the Author series completely necessary to their library. I certainly do.

What a great project this is! How fascinating and wondrous it is to peek into the lives of these authors and what makes them tick. How inspiring to young children. The authors I’ve read (so far only two) make writing not just an impossible dream, but something completely doable and accessible. That’s inspiring. These books aren’t preachy or textbookish, they are interesting and fun and very, very likeable. Highly recommended.

Pirateology: The Pirate Hunters Companion

Pirateology: The Pirate Hunters Companion
Author: William Captain Lubber
Editor: Dugald A. Steer
Publisher: Candlewick Press
ISBN-10: 0763631434
ISBN-13: 978-0763631437

For ages 9-12

The fourth in the Ology series and purported to be written by Captain William Lubber, a pirate hunter, Pirateology is an information-packed early18th century log of the Captain’s hunt for the pirate Arabella Drummond.

The book documents Captain Lubber’s travels and is filled to the brim with letters, codes, maps, charts and much more. There are both color and black and white illustrations and the drawings are detailed and informational. Pirateology, like the other Ologies is very tactile and fun for young children. There are envelopes to open, gold dust to examine, a compass on the front cover. The book offers instruction on how pirates dressed and the weapons they used as well as tons of pirate facts and stories.

I loved the little nautical dictionary that is set into one of the pages, a booklet within a book as well as the nautical knots instructions complete with leather to knot. The story is fun and readers will eagerly follow Captain Lubber on his hunt for the dangerous and vicious Arabella. My grandson loved the drawing of a pirate ship with the flap that lifts up to show what the inside of the ship would look. My granddaughter loves the gold dust.

Pirateology has something for everyone in the family and it’s an education in history and lore. The book will definitely fascinate even adult readers and will be sure to send both young and older readers hunting more books on pirates.

I always love when books lead to other books and ignite that passion to read. Pirateology does this in a fun and exciting way. My grandchildren’s shining eyes as they pore over the pages and their excitement as they find yet another treasure say it all.

I love the Ology books for so many reasons, the ones listed above as well as many more and this one on pirates is a worthy addition to the series.

Book Description from the publisher
Aar! Hoist the sails for a lavish new discovery filled with treasures — a magnificent resource for pirate lovers everywhere. The eagerly awaited new title in the best-selling ’Ology series — more than 5 million sold worldwide!

Step lively, pirate foes and fanciers! Mysterious booty found inside a long-lost sea chest, hidden for hundreds of years off the coast of Newfoundland, has just been uncovered for your enjoyment. Within these covers is the fascinating eighteenth-century journal of Captain William Lubber, an earnest soul who sailed the seas in search of the vicious female pirate Arabella Drummond. Prepare for a mesmerizing tale of the golden age of piracy — from storm-tossed sailing ships to tantalizing treasure islands, from pirates’ flags and fashions to their wily weapons and wicked ways. An extraordinary find for pirateologists, here is a true and complete companion for the dedicated pirate hunter.

Pirateology’s special treasures include:
— a stunning cover bearing a working compass and glittering gems—treasure map with a missing piece — for the canny reader to find
— multiple flaps, maps, charts, and booklets harboring codes and clues
— intricate drawings of ships’ interiors
— a packet of gold dust — a pocket sundial
— a cache of pirate letters, pieces of eight— and a jewel as a final reward

PIRATEOLOGY offers adventurers and treasure hunters, landlubbers and sailors alike heretofore hidden knowledge of the exploits of one wickedly daring woman pirate and the lore of pirate ships, weapons, dress, customs, codes, and pirate routes..

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Coolest News I've Seen Today

AWN.com has the coolest news today! Animation being created in subway tunnels! Here's the link and I want to know what everyone thinks!

A Seed Is Sleepy Contest from Chronicle Books

In this new A Seed Is Sleepy giveaway contest we're offering autographed First Edition copies of this wonderful new book (and its award-winning companion), plus a mixed assortment of amazing organic sunflower seeds (from Seeds of Change) as prizes.

Contest details can be found here: http://www.chroniclebooks.com/kidscontests/

Fred Patten Reviews The Secret Country

The Eidolon Chronicles. Book 1, The Secret Country
Author: Jane Johnson
Artist: Adam Stower
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
ISBN 10: 1-4169-0712-2
ISBN 13: 978-1-4169-0712-1

12-year-old Ben Arnold is about to buy Mongolian Fighting Fish at Mr. Dodds’ Pet Emporium in the British city of Bixbury, when a talking cat persuades Ben to buy him instead. Ben, a shy preteen loner, suddenly finds himself thrust into a miasma of unseen magic all around him, which is leaking into our world from the dimension of Eidolon, the “Secret Country” of dragons, unicorns, goblins, centaurs, and all the creatures of faerie that exists alongside ours. The villainous Mr. Dobbs, actually the dog-headed Dodman (Dead Man) from Eidolon, has been kidnapping intelligent animals from Eidolon and selling them as exotic pets in our world, both to make money (with the help of Ben’s greedy Uncle Aleister) and to weaken Eidolon so he can seize its throne. Iggy (Ignatius Sorvo Coromandel), the talking cat who has come to our world to get help, persuades Ben that he is the only one who can rescue Eidolon, and not incidentally save the life of his dying mother.

In today’s world of Harry Potter mania, this British import (the first in a trilogy) is a Harry Potter-lite. Still, 9-to-12’s will enjoy its breezy, humorous adventure. What kid can’t identify with a young hero who finds that he can talk to all animals, gets to ride on dragonback, thwarts some comically nasty adult villains, and discovers that he is really a lost prince of a magic world? American readers will also be introduced to selkies, the Horned Man, and other colorful characters of British and Celtic mythology that are relatively unknown in this country. The Secret Country ends on a cliffhanger, as the Dodman escapes and threatens to reappear and kill Ben’s mother after he has finished conquering Eidolon. The next novel, The Shadow World, will be published in August.

Fred Patten Reviews The Spriggan Mirror

The Spriggan Mirror
Author: Lawrence Watt-Evans
Publisher: Wildside Press
ISBN; 10: 0-8095-5672-3
ISBN; 13: 978-0-8095-5672-4

This ninth of s-f author Watt-Evans’ popular “Legends of Ethshar” light fantasies stands on its own, but it helps to have read the second novel, With a Single Spell, first. In it the neophyte wizard Tobas accidentally conjured a mirror that became a doorway allowing small, green, froglike manikins to enter the world. In the subsequent novels spriggans remain in the background, rather like intelligent mice; annoying vermin to be shooed away.

Now the spriggans have multiplied to plaguelike numbers. The all-powerful Wizards’ Guild decides to destroy the mirror that is their entry portal. Since the mirror has been lost, and Tobas is clearly incompetent, the Guild drafts Gresh the Supplier to help him find and destroy it – or else. Gresh specializes in finding the rare and often dangerous items that the many kinds of magicians of Ethshar – sorcerers, witches, warlocks, necromancers, diviners, theurgists, demonologists, and others -- need for their spells. So if anyone can find a hidden magic mirror, he should be able to; right?

The Spriggan Mirror is Gresh’s adventure. He is not reluctant to search for the mirror; his reputation is at stake, and the reward offered is high. But he resents being ordered to drop everything else to do the wizards’ bidding. The quest is complicated from the start when the well-meaning but ineffectual Tobas’ two wives insist on accompanying them on his flying carpet into the Small Kingdoms where the mirror was last seen and the spriggans are coming from.

What follows is more of a magical domestic comedy than the usual Ethshar adventure. Gresh finds himself mediating between Tobas’ two squabbling wives while the latter is temporarily transformed into a fire-breathing dragon. Gresh is nonplussed when the spriggans frantically plead that breaking the mirror will kill them all. The tiny green creatures are nuisances, but Gresh does not want to be responsible for a Holocaust of any intelligent beings. Yet it is dangerous to ignore the orders of the autocratic Guild. Does Gresh have the time and the skill to work out a solution that will satisfy everyone?

Watt-Evans has admirably crafted a tale that is amusing yet thoughtful, cleverly original, and that adds new dimensions to his Ethshar canon. The Spriggan Mirror is highly recommended to fans of sophisticated modern fantasy in the Arabian Nights tradition.

Fred Patten Reviews Amid Amidi's Cartoon Modern

Cartoon Modern: Style and Design in Fifties Animation
Author: Amid Amidi
Artist: Adam Stower
Publisher: Chronicle Books
ISBN 10: 0-8118-4731-4
ISBN 13: 978-0-8118-4731-5

Up to about 1950, there was only one art style in theatrical animated cartoons; the “pictorial realism” established by Walt Disney. Then, beginning in the late ‘40s, new studios emerged with radically different cartoon styles that could never be mistaken for Disney’s.

This beautifully designed 200-page book examines in detail, with color illustrations on almost every page, the explosion of “modern art” styles in cartoons of the 1950s. Amidi traces it back to the early 1940s, when a non-Disney style began to appear in industrial films produced by small, new studios. The ‘50s not only brought new studios like UPA (the Mr. Magoo cartoons, among others) to theater-goers’ attention, but the new medium of television brought cartoons into every home with animated TV commercials for adults, not to mention TV cartoons produced for children. In addition, established theatrical animation studios like Warner Bros., Terrytoons, and Disney itself began to embrace stylized modernism in their works.

Amidi studies the American cartoon animation of the 1950s on a studio-by-studio basis. Some studios, especially those that concentrated on TV commercials, are virtually unknown by name today, but their work was highly influential at the time and is still remembered by nostalgic fans of “classic TV”: the Hamms Beer Bear, Bucky Beaver promoting Ipana toothpaste, and the like. Warner Bros. and Disney are shown to have adopted modernism to an extent often forgotten today, such as WB’s heavy use of abstractly stylized backgrounds by Maurice Noble and Disney’s surrealistic Tomorrowland TV features like “Mars and Beyond” by Ward Kimball. The cartoons of UPA (United Productions of America) represented the pinnacle of “anti-Disney” modernistic art, and Cartoon Modern devotes many pages to its most daring and critically-acclaimed cartoons such as “Rooty-Toot-Toot” and “The Tell-Tale Heart”.

Academy Pictures. Grantray-Lawrence Animation. John Sutherland Productions. Playhouse Pictures. Shamus Culhane Productions. These and other studios are profiled, along with the directors and art designers that created their works. The graphics include animation model sheets, design sketches, cels, background paintings, candid photos, posed group photos, and more, many never published before. Cartoon Modern is an essential book for anyone who wants to know about American animation in the 1950s, when it was transitioning away from dominance by the theatrical market to television, and the “classic Disney look” was being added to by dozens of more modernistic art styles.

Toys Go Out: Being the Adventures of a Knowledgeable Stingray, a Toughy Little Buffalo, and Someone Called Plastic

Toys Go Out: Being the Adventures of a Knowledgeable Stingray, a Toughy Little Buffalo, and Someone Called Plastic
Author: Emily Jenkins
Illustrator: Paul Zelinsky
Publisher: Random House
ISBN-10: 0375836047
ISBN-13: 978-0375836046

Kindergarten-Grade 3

I loved this book! Toys Go Out is the enchanting and completely charming story of the secret lives of toys. They come to life at night and have worries and concerns just like children do. They can also be jealous of each other and the attention and love each one gets which makes it a great book to get for siblings.

The cast of characters is wonderful. There’s Lumphy the Buffalo, who is afraid of taking a bath in the washing machine but finds it’s not so bad after all. Then there is sweet and gentle Plastic who isn’t quite sure of what he is and feels terribly left out until he finds out just exactly what he is (won’t tell you what he is – read the book). Lastly, there is Stingray who thinks he’s a real stingray the day he finds himself in the bathtub. Each of these wonderful toys belongs to Little Girl and they all love her dearly and want to be her favorite.

The story is lovely and each chapter is a separate but connected adventure in the life of these toys. Any child who has ever loved one of her toys will love this book as will adults. The suggested age is kindergarten to grade 3, but older children will love this as well. My granddaughter Jasmine who is four, loves this book to death and laughs aloud at certain parts. Her one year old little brother loves it too and he loves pointing to the drawings of the characters.

The illustrations are just as enchanting as the story and are very expressive. This book makes me think of the Velveteen Rabbit, although these toys definitely do not get forgotten. It just has that same sense of wonder and magic. Highly recommended!

Book Description from the publisher:

Lumphy is a stuffed buffalo. StingRay is a stuffed stingray. And Plastic... well, Plastic isn't quite sure what she is. They all belong to the Little Girl who lives on the high bed with the fluffy pillows. A very nice person to belong to.

But outside of the Little Girl's room things can be confusing. Like when Lumphy gets sticky with peanut butter on a picnic, why is he called "dirty"? Or when StingRay jumps into the bathtub, what will happen to her fur? And where in the house can they find the Little Girl a birthday present that she will love the most?

Together is best for these three best friends. Together they look things up in the dictionary, explore the basement, and argue about the meaning of life. And together they face dogs, school, television commercials, the vastness of the sea and the terrifying bigness of the washing machine.

With all the appeal of a classic, here are six linked stories form Emily Jenkins, and illustrated by Caldecott winning Paul O. Zelinsky that showcase the unforgettable adventures--and misadventures-- of three extraordinary friends.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Jack Hightower

Jack Hightower
Created and written by Will Vinton and Andrew Wiese
Artist: Fabio Laguna
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
ISBN-10: 1-59307-392-5
ISBN-13: 978-1-59307-392-3

Imagine you’re a secret agent. Think James Bond times a million in sexuality, power and brains. You’re one hell of a hot guy and you know it. You have women falling out of their clothes and all over you. You rock.

That’s Jack Hightower’s everyday life till he gets in the way of the Hello Kitty t-shirt clad, long-time nemesis and evil genius, Dr. Litigious Savant and his shrinking ray. Now Jack’s ten-inches tall, forced to wear Ken (as in Barbie and Ken) clothes and the women aren’t falling so hard.

Oscar award-winning animator Will Vinton and his longtime writing partner Andrew Wiese have created a hilarious masterpiece in Jack Hightower. The story is fast clipped and funny. Jack’s fall from grace isn’t a pretty one but there’s humor in it. Jack is made fun of, put on sabbatical by the agency, falls into boozing it up and fighting in bars. Only the thought that the evil Savant is not dead gets him out of his depression and on the move to get his man.

He learns along the way that it’s not the size of himself that matters, rather the size of his heart. The art fits the story and Laguna draws some gorgeous images. The women are full-bodied voluptuous creature spilling out of their blouses and Jack – well Jack is just wonderful. His facial expressions are mobile and very real. The background scenes are colorful and action packed. I really enjoyed it and look forward to more.

Ghost Ship

Ghost Ship
Author: Mary Higgins Clark
Illustrator: Wendell Minor
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
ISBN-10: 1416935142
ISBN-13: 978-1416935148

Prolific and first rate author Mary Higgins Clark has turned her pen to a children’s picture book and the result is fantastic.

Ghost Ship is the story of Thomas, a 9-year old boy who is visiting his grandmother on Cape Cod. His grandmother lives in a 300-year old house above the beach with steps leading down to the shore. The house was built by Andrew Hallet, a great sea captain and an ancestor of Thomas. His picture hangs on the wall in the house and Thomas often wonders about him.

One day after a storm, Thomas wanders down to the beach and finds an ancient buckle in the sand. As he dusts it off and wonders about it, a ghost of a boy appears and speaks to him. That ghost is Silas, a cabin boy to the very Andrew Hallet Thomas has so often wondered about. Silas speaks, using thee and thou, which I thought was a very realistic touch given the fact that he was alive in 1690. He tells Thomas of life in his time and how hard it was. He speaks with pride of Andrew Hallet and of how he and the other boys of his town banded together to set a huge fire that eventually saved Hallet’s boat from thieves.

Thomas has many questions for Silas as well and Silas is eager to tell his story. I thought the book was lovely and interesting. It brings back a lost time and is so vividly told that you can almost smell the sea air.

The vivid and colorful illustrations by Wendell Minor are amazing and make me think of those great, sweeping oil paintings of seascapes, sailing ships and storms. Each page is like visiting a museum. The book is simply beautiful.

I think Ghost Ship will be a favorite of any young child that loves the sea. Adults too will find it highly readable and a visual delight.

Book description from the publisher:

"I am so pleased to have written my first children's book and to have my dear friend Wendell Minor illustrate it. I thought it would be a daunting project, but with six grandchildren and eleven stepgrandchildren, I've been telling stories to children for a long time."

-- Mary Higgins Clark

Thomas loved his summer visits to his grandmother's on Cape Cod. He spent hours wondering about the sailing ships of the past and imagining their stories. He dreamed of being on a sailing ship himself. One afternoon after a night of terrible thunderstorms, Thomas finds, deep in the sand, a weathered, old-fashioned belt buckle. When he picks it up, a boy his own age, Silas Rich, who was a cabin boy on a ship called the Monomoy that sailed almost 250 years ago, appears. Suddenly the world of sailing ships is very near as Silas tells his tale.

Beloved and bestselling author Mary Higgins Clark tells a story of mystery and adventure that will transport readers to a time and place beyond their imaginings in her first book for children. Wendell Minor's inspired paintings make a time long ago very real.

Text copyright © 2007 by Mary Higgins Clark
Illustrations copyright © 2007 by Wendell Minor

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Chronicles of Fairie: The Light-Bearer's Daughter

Chronicles of Fairie: The Light-Bearer’s Daughter
Author: O.R. Melling
Publisher: Amulet Books
ISBN-10: 081090781X
ISBN-13: 978-0810907812

Earlier this month, I reviewed and highly recommended the second book in The Chronicles of Fairie: The Summer King and I couldn’t say enough good things about it. I hesitated a bit reading The Light-Bearer’s Daughter because I was afraid it wouldn’t be as good. Typically, sequels tend to disappoint me and I wanted so much for this one to be good that I dreaded picking it up.

I finally picked it up on a Sunday morning when I had errands to run, laundry to do and a closet to clean. I figured I’d read the first page and get on with my chores and go about my day as planned. From the first sentence, I was swept away and couldn’t put the darned book down. I literally gobbled the first two chapters, looked at the pile of laundry and the list of errands and begrudgingly put the book down only to grab it and run out the door with it in my bag. As soon as I got home, I picked up the book and didn’t put it down till I finished. Needless to say, I was doing laundry at midnight.

The Light-Bearer’s Daughter
is the story of Dana, a pre-teen girl living with her single Dad in Ireland. Gabe her father is a poor musician and has decided to move back to Canada and take a teaching job there. Dana is angry and heartbroken. You see, her mother disappeared when Dana was just a baby and she fears that her mother will never find her if they move.

Once again the present day world and the world of fairie collide. A demon has entered the world and is seeking to destroy everything. The Fairie need help.

One day as Dana wanders about a section of the forest that is being threatened with development, she comes across a beautiful tree house where she finds a fairy queen who gives her a task to complete. If she can get a message to King Lugh by a certain day, he will grant her a wish on Lughnasadh, his special day.

What follows is an amazing and magical adventure. The writing is lyrical and exciting. I got so caught up in the beautiful language of the book. The imagery is so vivid, so gorgeous. The descriptions of nature, of leaves, of the smells and sights of the forest really leap off the page. The author’s love of her homeland shines through. It’s an amazing story and also makes a strong case against development and destruction of nature. I loved it.

Book Description from the publisher
The third book in this critically acclaimed trilogy, which Booklist described as “shimmering with magic, myth, and romance”

Dana has few memories of her mother, who disappeared when she was small. But she has always dreamed, despite her father’s discouragement, that her mother would come back one day. When her dad decides to leave Ireland and take a job across the ocean in Canada, Dana is heartbroken. How can she leave her home and the only chance of seeing her mother again? She runs away, high into the fairy mountains of Ireland. Following ancient paths, with a mysterious wolf companion at her side, Dana encounters a world of tragic enchantment and fairy romance, and discovers a great secret about herself.

With lush descriptions and rich Celtic lore, plus cameo appearances by characters from the previous books, this latest chronicle will satisfy fans of the series and entice new readers.

About the Author

O.R. Melling was born in Ireland and grew up in Canada with her seven sisters and two brothers. She is the author of many beloved fantasy novels, which have been translated into numerous languages. She lives in her hometown of Bray, County Wicklow, Ireland, with her teenage daughter, Findabhair. Visit her Web site at www.ormelling.com.


Author: Alison McGhee
Illustrator: Peter H. Reynolds
Publisher: Atheneum
ISBN-10: 1416928111
ISBN-13: 978-1416928119

Someday tells the beautiful story of a mother and her baby daughter in eloquent but spare prose accompanied by simple, yet powerful illustrations.

The book is very moving. It tells the story of a mother and her baby daughter from babyhood to childhood, "One day I counted your fingers and kissed each one", moving on to present day, "Then, you were my baby,/ and now you are my child", finally imagining the future of the child, "Someday I will stand on this porch and watch your arms waving to me until I no longer see you."

Someday is very touching and almost made me cry thinking of my own children and how they’re grown now with families of their own. The emotion builds with each page and I found myself smiling, teary, wistful and hopeful. The book portrays a young mother’s hopes and dreams for her child in such a beautiful way.
The simple pen-and-ink and watercolors quietly and profoundly emphasize each page in a way that compliments the text perfectly. The colors give a sense of the dreams and hopes in a soft, almost wispy way.

I found this story to be absolutely lovely. It makes a wonderful gift for a new mother, an expectant mother or a grandparent. The age range is pre-school, but I think it will be much loved by us moms, much more so than the daughters. It’s also a wonderful baby shower gift.

Book description from the publisher

A mother's love leads to a mother's dream -- every mother's dream -- for her child to live life to its fullest.

A deceptively simple, powerful ode to the potential of love and the potential in life, Someday is the book you'll want to share with someone else...today.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Harry Potter Announcement from Scholastic

I don't normally post press releases on AmoxCalli, but I think this is an important one. Being far too lazy to write my own up, I'm copying the original press release from Scholastic.


65 percent of the 16,700 tons of paper to be used in U.S. first printing will be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, and all paper will contain at least 30 percent post-consumer waste fiber

New York, NY (March 20, 2007) -- Scholastic Inc., the global children’s publishing and media company, announced today that all 12 million copies of the U.S. edition of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will be printed on paper that contains a minimum of 30% post-consumer waste (pcw) fiber. Moreover, 65% of the 16,700 tons of paper used in the U.S. first printing will be certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), the global standard-setter for responsible forest management. This historic commitment is the largest purchase of FSC certified paper to be used in the printing of a single book title.

In addition, the company announced that the deluxe edition of the book (100,000 copies) will be printed on text paper that is FSC certified and contains 100% post-consumer waste fiber. All jackets will be FSC certified and contain 30% post consumer waste and will be manufactured using energy generated from wind power. For future printings of all books in the Harry Potter series, Scholastic plans to use paper with a minimum content of 30% pcw, and that is FSC certified when available.

The vast amount of paper needed to print 12 million copies of the 784-page Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows makes the decision by Scholastic to invest in environmentally preferable paper a significant step in the company’s ongoing commitment to responsible environmental stewardship.

Scholastic worked with the Rainforest Alliance, an international non-profit conservation organization, in making its decision to use FSC certified paper and is continuing development of an environmentally and socially responsible paper procurement policy. FSC certification means the paper comes from forestlands that are managed responsibly and have met a host of criteria covering biodiversity conservation, worker and land-use rights, and compliance with laws and international treaties, among other things.
“We applaud Scholastic’s progressive and bold commitment to support responsible forestry practices by buying FSC certified and recycled papers,” said Liza Murphy, senior marketing manager in the Rainforest Alliance’s sustainable forestry program. “We hope that all businesses follow this lead by using paper that comes from forests that are managed in a way that protects soils and waterways and benefits local communities.”

Lisa Holton, President of Scholastic Trade Publishing and Book Fairs, added, “Scholastic worked hard with our suppliers and the Rainforest Alliance to secure this extraordinary amount of recycled and FSC certified paper for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. As a company with an ongoing commitment to protecting the environment for this generation and generations to come, we believe producing this book and our future reprints of Harry Potter books with a minimum of 30% pcw recycled paper is an important publishing decision.”

The seventh and final book in J.K. Rowling’s phenomenally successful series will be released at 12:01 a.m. on July 21, 2007. The fastest-selling book in history, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, J.K. Rowling’s sixth Harry Potter book, was released on June 16, 2005 with a first printing of 10.8 million. It sold 6.9 million copies in the first 24 hours. All six Harry Potter books, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, as well as Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince have been number one bestsellers in the United States, Britain, and around the world. The American editions of the Harry Potter books are published under Scholastic’s Arthur A. Levine imprint.

About Scholastic
Scholastic Corporation (NASDAQ: SCHL) is the world's largest publisher and distributor of children's books and a leader in educational technology. Scholastic creates quality educational and entertaining materials and products for use in school and at home, including children's books, magazines, technology-based products, teacher materials, television programming, film, videos and toys. The Company distributes its products and services through a variety of channels, including proprietary school-based book clubs, school-based book fairs, and school-based and direct-to-home continuity programs; retail stores, schools, libraries and television networks; and the Company's Internet site, www.scholastic.com.

About Rainforest Alliance
The Rainforest Alliance works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behavior. Headquartered in New York City and with offices around the world, the Rainforest Alliance works hand-in-hand with land owners and businesses in the forestry, agricultural and tourism sectors to make their practices environmentally and socially responsible. The Rainforest Alliance is the world’s leading certifier of forestlands to the standards of the Forest Stewardship Council, which is the global standard-setter for responsible forest management. To learn more, visit www.rainforest-alliance.org.

Kyle Good
Rainforest Alliance
Gretchen Ruethling

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Author: Jeff Kinney

Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers

ISBN-10: 0810993139

ISBN-13: 978-0810993136

Diary of a Wimpy Kid was originally a very popular webcomic on Funbrain.com and was absolutely hilarious. I loved the idea that it was going to be a book and was thrilled to see it adapted and made into a “novel told in cartoons”.

Greg Heffley is a middle school aged boy whose mother forces to keep a diary. He’s not happy about it being called a diary either. "I know what it says on the cover, but when Mom went out to buy this thing I specifically told her to get one that didn't say 'diary' on it". He documents his days at school in a wry, witty, matter of fact and very funny way.

Greg is a pretty believable pre-teen boy. He gets into trouble, tries to wiggle out of things and is VERY concerned with his popularity and status. He and his best friend Rowley are great buddies till Rowley gets a little fame from a comic that they originally worked on together.

Greg’s daily adventures are pretty hilarious and readers will be sure to laugh aloud. I did quite a lot when reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I loved the parts about the wrestling matches, the taunting of the high school boys which result in his grandmother’s house being T.P.’d. It’s all very reminiscent of raising my own boys and the trouble they’d get into.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a must have and highly recommended.

Book description from the publisher:

Book Description
Boys don’t keep diaries—or do they?

The launch of an exciting and innovatively illustrated new series narrated by an unforgettable kid every family can relate to

It’s a new school year, and Greg Heffley finds himself thrust into middle school, where undersized weaklings share the hallways with kids who are taller, meaner, and already shaving. The hazards of growing up before you’re ready are uniquely revealed through words and drawings as Greg records them in his diary.

In book one of this debut series, Greg is happy to have Rowley, his sidekick, along for the ride. But when Rowley’s star starts to rise, Greg tries to use his best friend’s newfound popularity to his own advantage, kicking off a chain of events that will test their friendship in hilarious fashion.

Author/illustrator Jeff Kinney recalls the growing pains of school life and introduces a new kind of hero who epitomizes the challenges of being a kid. As Greg says in his diary, “Just don’t expect me to be all ‘Dear Diary’ this and ‘Dear Diary’ that.” Luckily for us, what Greg Heffley says he won’t do and what he actually does are two very different things.

Since its launch in May 2004 on Funbrain.com, the Web version of Diary of a Wimpy Kid has been viewed by 20 million unique online readers. This year, it is averaging 70,000 readers a day.

You Searching for Me?

I recently read a great post by Liz Burns over at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy, one of my favorite blogs to read in the morning. Liz listed search strings pulled from her web counter and came up with some interesting and funny results. I then popped over to The Shady Glade (another favorite) because they also posted their searches as well. Charmed, I decided I'd post my own web counter search strings from AmoxCalli.

This is what I came up with:

Chuchas - this must mean Tia Chuchas, Luis J. Rodriguez' bookshop/cafe/cultural location that recently was turned into a laundrymat, forcing Luis and Trini to rush to find a new location. Read more about that odyssey on Xispas.com

ALA 2007 Best list - okay, it must be because I posted the list

"children's book" "done in clay" - no words for this one, although it would give new meaning to Harry Potter...

roman riddles - you know some?

rebec@aol.com - email address? um, why?

the silver donkey recommendations - is the donkey recommending? What is the donkey recommending? Books?

Emlyn's moon summary - okay

manga animation maidens and dragons - interesting and long search string

are mermaids real? - I'd like to think so. What did you find out?

ciudad juarez murders gustave - um who's gustave? has he committed murder? creepy.

abc - learning alphabet?

the beekeeper mermaid - this one really got me thinking. Mermaids as beekeepers? Underwater?

Victor Villasenor - Love him!

The Invention of Hugo Cabret - gorgeous book! buy it!

Misunderstandings + Stories + chicken - ???? That was bizarre.

That was fun. Let's do it again in six months.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Meet the Authors Series - Self Portrait - George Ancona

Meet the Authors

Self Portrait by George Ancona

Publisher: Richard C. Owen Publishers

ISBN-10: 1572748605

ISBN-13: 978-1572748606

I get a lot of email these days because of the blogs and websites I write for as well as from new people I meet each day. A couple of weeks ago I received a most interesting email telling me about a series of books I had never heard of. That in itself is unusual. I follow the trades, read for at least four hours a day on publishing stuff alone. So how could I miss this great sounding series?

The series is called Meet the Author and they are published by Richard C. Owens Publishing. There are currently 35 books in the series. Each one is hard cover, 32 pages long and designed to give children an inside view of the writing process. The books are geared for the 7-10 year old range.

I just finished the first of three new books in the series and was incredibly impressed. The book I chose to read first was George Ancona – Self Portrait. I’ve been a fan of Mr. Ancona’s books for quite some time. Both his books and the photographs in them are arresting and gorgeous. I have my favorites like El Pinatero which I reviewed some time ago (check the archives).

To find a book that he wrote for children telling them about his process of writing and photography as well as a little background on himself and what got him started was fantastic. The book reads like a conversation and it’s just wonderful. Mr. Ancona talks about his days, how he takes a notebook with him and sketches out ideas. There are accompanying photographs and each one adds warmth and depth to the conversation.

I couldn’t think of a better idea and a better way to get children interested in writing. If the rest of the series is anything like the one book I read, then I want them all! Look for my reviews on the next two in the coming weeks. I can’t say enough good things about these marvelous little books. A must for any library and any parent’s list!

Mira, Mirror

Mira, Mirror
Author: Mette Ivie Harrison
Publisher: Penguin Puffin
ISBN-10: 0142406430
ISBN-13: 978-0142406434

Mirror, mirror on the wall
Who’s the fairest one of all?

Whatever happened to the magic mirror when the wicked queen in Snow White died? What actually was the magic mirror? Where did that wicked queen come from?

Mira, Mirror answers all that and more in this dark and interesting modern fairy tale that has very little to do with Snow White.

Mira, the poor daughter of a peasant is sold by her mother to a witch who requires an apprentice. Affection starved, she bonds quickly, desperately with the other apprentice, a beautiful dark haired girl who has her own nefarious plans and becomes Mira’s adopted sister.

The beautiful girl befriends Mira and shares her magic with her, but it is a dark and scary magic wrought from the killing of little animals. As the adopted sister grows more and more beautiful with the magic she steals by killing, her purpose becomes clear. She will become a queen at any cost. One day she tricks Mira into holding a mirror for her and Mira feels herself change to glass and wood.

Mira is now a mirror and forced to do her sisters bidding for years as she hangs trapped in the old witch’s ramshackle cottage. One day the sister queen never comes back and Mira is left hanging (literally) for 100 years until a peasant girl named Ivana finds her.

Determined to free herself, Mira convinces Ivana to take her with her as she escapes from an arranged marriage. This flight leads her right into Talia who has her own escape to make. She and Ivana switch places with Mira’s magic and things get really interesting. Their adventures take them through another fairy tale loosely based on Beauty and the Beast.

Mira, Mirror is an interesting and dark take on the two fairy tales. It is narrated by Mira who is a pretty complex character. The strong and determined women characters make the story very interesting and layered. These are girls who forge their own way and change their expected roles in unexpected ways.

The story shows how true friendship, love and respect can transcend even the darkest of souls and change lives. It shows that you can become something else if you try hard enough. Another thing I loved about it was that it shows that beauty isn’t superficial, it comes from within. I think that Mira, Mirror is an excellent book with strong role models.

Book description from the publisher:

Two sisters. One a witch and a queen. The other transformed by her sister's touch into a mirror—a mirror with voice and memory and magic, but no power to transform herself back to the girl she once was. And then, mysteriously, the queen disappears and another girl finds the mirror. This girl has troubles of her own, but she is also a means to escape and soon the girl and the mirror are on their way to find the magic that will bring both pain and hope to both of them. Mette Harrison's mesmerizing voice spins a breathtaking tale of love, lies, and redemption.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Penelope Jane: A Fairy's Story

Penelope Jane: A Fairy’s Story
Author: Roseanne Cash
Illustrator: G. Brian Karas
Publisher: HarperCollins
ISBN-10: 006084230X
ISBN-13: 978-0060842307

"Tall as an eyelash, quick as a plane was the tiniest fairy, Penelope Jane..." Grammy Award winning singer, Roseanne Cash has written the most adorable little rhyming fairy story. Penelope Jane de la Fesser is an eyelash high French fairy that lives in her best friend Carrie's dresser drawer with her mother. One day she decides to go to school and promises not to be much trouble but unfortunately, Penelope Jane just seems to attract it trouble in bunches. Hmm reminds me of some little girls I know.

She gets stuck in a sandwich and falls into glue among other mishaps till the teacher sends her to sit in the corner. When the trash can catches fire and the school is in danger, Penelope Jane the quick thinking fairy remembers a song her mother taught her called How to be Strong and manages to save the day.

The rhyming story is upbeat and fun. Penelope Jane, although an unlikely and very small heroine is very winning and you find yourself cheering her on. Her sense of adventure is sure to get little girls to love her. She made me smile.

Bright and beautiful illustrations by G. Brian Karas really enhanced the book's sense of fun and adventure. His gorgeous images of fairies sitting at little acorn desks were so whimsical that they made me laugh aloud and exclaim over their beauty.

A CD with the song is included and really makes the whole package an experience. My granddaughter loves both book and song so much. She loves Penelope Jane and I think you will too.