Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Weebeasts Plight by Micah Linton

The weebeasts are yellow creatures with human-shaped, pot-bellied bodies and heads that resemble those of the crows in the Disney movie “Dumbo.” They are not human, which probably is why they run around naked, except for a bracelet or necklace. Perhaps the yellow is some type of fur, but it looks like skin.
The weebeasts seem to live communally, in places they construct of rocks, with interesting holes and windows, and creative use of levers and other basic tools. They hang hammocks from one rock pillar to another, and sleep in them. There are also a few huts, perhaps for the less sociable weebeasts.
They sound pretty nice. But, this book says, “they didn’t play nice with the creatures who lived nearby.”
As a result, they found themselves having to leave, abruptly. In their lengthy search for a new home, they learn some things, and invent some things, and eventually become much nicer than they were to begin with.
This book has few words but great pictures and a good message.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Borrowers by Mary Norton

Imagine a world of tiny people who live in the nooks and corners of your house, inside a clock, or under the floorboards, in the heating ducts and among the plumbing pipes. They seldom see the sun, because the only safe time for them to venture into the domain of human beings is at night, and even then it’s risky. Someone could see them! But venture they must, because it’s the only way they can survive.
This is the world of the Borrowers, as imagined by Mary Norton. Borrowers have to borrow from humans to obtain the materials they need to make clothing, furniture, books, tools, and of course, food. Their greatest fear, aside from being seen, is of what most humans do after seeing them: Get a cat!
Aside from their size, the Borrowers are very much like humans. They look the same, have mostly the same needs, and have very similar feelings. In this first book, Pod and Homily Clock live with their daughter Arrietty. Arrietty is bored with her very restricted life, so when her father decides it’s time to teach her how to become a successful Borrower, she’s terribly excited. But on her very first trip to the outside world, the unthinkable occurs: She is seen by a human boy. And life for the Clocks changes dramatically.
This is a great book! Read it!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Jeremy and the Enchanted Theater by Becky Citra

This little book is mixes Greek mythology with modern theater to tell the story of a boy who learns how to be brave.
Jeremy’s on his way home from school and he’s scared! He hates going past the house of a mean boy and a house where a mean dog lives. He’s scared of them both, and he wishes he were brave. The mean boy throws a rock at a cat, while Jeremy hides. Little does he know that the cat will be his guide on an amazing adventure!
Jeremy discovers that he’s lost, so he follows the cat into a building labeled The Enchanted Theater. And before he knows it, he and the cat, whose name is Aristotle, have time-traveled back to ancient Greece, where he tries to solve a mystery about the theater. In the process, he has several terrifying experiences, including confrontations with the gods Zeus and Ares, that teach him that he’s braver than he thought.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Bird, by Rita Murphy

I wanted to read “Bird” because of the picture on the cover. It’s of a house, a cockeyed Victorian with four stories, all seeming to teeter in the wind, and with trees growing around it -- for stability? Atop the house is a fifth floor made of glass and surrounded by a widow’s walk, where a woman could gaze across the ocean to see if her husband’s ship or fishing boat was in view.
The house is called Bourne Manor, and in it live a creepy woman called Wysteria and a very tiny girl called Miranda, who was blown there by the wind. Wysteria takes Miranda into the Manor, which, Miranda tells us, gives its shelter to the lost and aimless. She makes Miranda wear a pair of boots with steel plates in the soles, to keep her from blowing away again. She teaches her the basics of reading and figuring, and has the tiny girl work by mending fishing nets. She basically keeps Miranda prisoner in the Manor, most of which is locked up so the girl can enter only enter a few rooms. As a result, Miranda becomes fearful of the outdoors and the outside world in general.
Then Miranda finds a key. She gains entrance to the glass room and the widow’s walk. She also can enter Wysteria’s dead husband’s room, where she finds several kites. When she flies the captain's kites from the widow's walk, she rediscovers the forbidden joy of letting her hair fly in the wind.
Indirectly, a kite that gets away brings her a new acquaintance, a boy named Farley. And soon afterward, Wysteria becomes ill and Miranda’s life changes dramatically. Among other things, she finds out what she really is.
This is one of the better written children’s books I’ve found. It’s only about 150 pages long, but the story is full and engrossing, mysterious and haunting.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Priscilla Superstar!

The third book in the Priscilla series by Jocelyn Hobbie and her brother Nathaniel Hobbie is cute and pink, like Priscilla herself. In this book, she's "looking for something to do. Something exciting and different and new."
And she finds it, as this rhyming tale explains. After investigating a dozen or so possibilities, Priscilla and her friend Bettina go to see the Princess Rollerina in action. And Priscilla is hooked. She wants to become the world's next great roller princess!
Both girls sign up to take roller skating lessons at L'Ecole Rolleret. It's painful and exhausting, but Priscilla is up to the challenge. "Hard work and practice. That's what it takes."
Does Priscilla achieve her goal of becoming the roller princess in the school's play? Read the book and find out! Hint: Priscilla learns an important lesson about life, and the book ends happily.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Ain't Nobody a Stranger to Me

This beautiful book is a story that takes place in about half an hour, as a grandfather takes his young granddaughter out to see his apple orchard in bloom.
She tells the story, perhaps to her own grandchild, of how her grandfather smiled and waved at everyone who passed by, and she asked him, "How come you know so many people?"

His classic reply: "Ain't nobody a stranger to me!"

Why? "Cause both me and my heart is free."

Such was not always the case, though. Ann Grifalconi's short book takes the reader on a powerful emotional journey through this country's past of slavery. The grandfather, his wife and baby daughter escaped to the North by crossing the Ohio River into freedom. The kindness of a stranger, a Quaker conductor for the Underground Railroad, taught him that there are really no strangers, and that by trusting the Good Lord, we get through.

The apple trees have significance too. Before his escape, the grandfather would keep apple seeds in his pocket to remind him that the day of freedom would come, when he could plant them on his own farm. He makes his granddaughter promise never to forget the story he's told her. And that's why she tells this story, which is based on a true story.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


I know, I know. It's not Christmas. But the library just got a new copy of "Nutcracker" by E.T.A. Hoffmann, and it is simply gorgeous. The story is the same as always, about the wonderful Christmas toys made by Godfather Drosselmeir for Fritz and Marie and given to them on Christmas Eve, when the Christ Child comes. The Nutcracker is Marie's gift, and she falls in love with him immediately.

It's a beautiful and treasured story. But it's the pictures that really make this book come alive.

This large-size book is full of beautiful and detailed illustrations by Roberto Innocenti. Most of them contain Marie, mice and the Nutcracker, as she dreams fabulous adventures throughout that Christmas Eve night. Read this classic story and enjoy staring the pictures, even if it is the wrong month!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Trixie Belden: The Secret of the Mansion

I read a few Trixie Belden books by Julie Campbell when I was a pre-teen, hundreds of years ago. So when I happened to see a few books in that old series on the shelves in our library, I decided to reread one of them and see what I think of it now.
Trixie is a 13-year-old tomboy who wants a horse more than anything. Her mother gives her chores to do so she can earn some money. But Trixie is distracted, and with good reason. A new family has moved into her neighborhood – a rich family with children and horses!
She quickly makes friends with the family’s daughter, a girl named Honey (remember, this book was written back in the 1940s). She and Honey decide to explore another neighborhood mansion, an old one that looks haunted and which is owned by an old man, Mr. Frayne, who’s on the verge of death in the hospital. To add to the mansion’s mystique, Honey thinks she saw a face at a window in that house when she rode by it on her house.
The girls decide to go check out the old mansion and see if perhaps a tramp has taken up residence there. Yes, this was an extremely foolish thing to do, and eventually the police point that out to the girls. But not before they have some fascinating adventures and make the acquaintance of a very interesting boy.
I liked it! There were no dragons or wizards, but this is a story that’s realistic enough to actually have happened. Trixie and Honey seem like real people, and I found myself sympathizing with them and caring about them, and even worrying about them when they did stupid things.
I recommend this book, and others in the series. They’re old, but good.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Toy Dance Party

What do toys do when their owners grow up?

Toy Dance Party, Being the Further Adventures of a Bossyboots StingRay, a Courageous Buffalo, & a Hopeful Round Someone Called Plastic, is a fanciful answer to this question.

It's a collection of six stories about Lumphy, a stuffed buffalo, StingRay, a stuffed stingray and Plastic, a ball. They're dealing with increasing abandonment by the Girl who owns them. She has graduated to Barbie dolls and her toddler toys feel it keenly that she no longer loves them. This might sound depressing, but it's not. This book is funny!

In the first story, these neurotic toys decide that the Girl may still love them but has gotten lost. So Lumphy appoints himself to go outside and look for her, even though it's winter and he could get wet. He ends up getting stuck in the snow. StingRay refuses to go dig him out with a spatula because she's dry-clean only. That leaves Plastic to do the job. After all, it won't hurt her to get wet. But Plastic has the perfect excuse: "I can't hold the spatula."

This book is about an inch thick, but it's really fast and fun to read. It's by Emily Jenkins with plenty of pictures by Paul O. Zelinsky.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Dodsworth in Paris

In the mood for a quick trip to France? Tim Egan’s new chapter book, Dodsworth in Paris, could make you feel like you’ve been there.
Dodsworth is an animal of some type, perhaps a mole. His best friend is a nameless duck. The two go around visiting various places, and somehow the duck manages to have the best adventures.
On arrival in Paris, Dodsworth makes the duck promise not to cause any trouble. But it isn’t long before the duck manages to bumble his way into several mishaps. He’s a lucky duck, though, and somehow even his worst mistakes always turn out well.Egan’s humor is dry and understated, and his artwork is lovely. This is a great book for early readers.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

How to Get Rich in the California Gold Rush

Want to have fun and learn something at the same time? I highly recommend the following book, whose title is so long it deserves its own paragraph.

How to Get Rich in the California Gold Rush: An Adventurer’s Guide to the Fabulous Riches Discovered in 1848 was written by Tod Olson and illustrated by Scott Allred, with an afterword by Marc Aronson.

This book is hilarious! And it’s presented in a scrapbook style that never bores or bogs you down. You just switch your attention, limited as it may be, to whatever grabs it on a given page.

The tale is supposedly based on a manuscript written by one Thomas Hartley, who leaves New England and goes California’s gold fields to make his fortune. In Chapter 2, Home Sweet Home, Hartley offers comments, opposed and in favor of his plan, by friends and family members. And he observes, under the title, “O’ New England,” that “It is widely agreed in these parts that farming is an honorable pursuit, for it requires long hours of backbreaking labor with little chance that wealth or comfort will ever corrupt one’s soul.”

In future chapters he offers various bits of essential advice, such as a list of what to bring along, and the cost, how to get there, warnings (“Do not be shocked to see crates of food and other supplies rotting at the docks. The city lacks storage.”), a list of supplies for gold prospectors, directions on mining for gold, and a lot more.
If you read this book, you’ll learn just as much as you would in reading a ordinary nonfiction book about the California gold rush, and you’ll enjoy it a lot more!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Kid Music

Most parents find it easy to entertain children in the car or at home if they have music. The Children's Department has a large and varied collection of CDs for young children, shelved on Aisle 6, next to the children's books on CD.
There are CDs of the music from Disney movies, like Lilo & Stitch or Finding Nemo. There are songs to dance to, go to sleep to, or learn to.
A few examples:
World Playground takes children on a musical trip around the world. Beethoven's Wig Sing Along Symphonies sets silly lyrics to some of the greatest hits of classical music. The Real Mother Goose features classic nursery rhymes set to music. Sing Me to Sleep, Daddy is a collection of original ballads and lullabies that share God's love with children.
The Mozart Effect and Smart Music: Classical Music for Babies help develop the mind, memory and creativity of youngsters. Other CDs are designed to teach basic learning skills like counting and the alphabet.
Parents with young children will find the children's CD collection an invaluable resource for both learning and entertainment.

Pippo the Fool by Tracey E. Fern

This is a delightful picture book that educates as well as entertains. It is the story of Filippo Brunelleschi, a 15th century architect and inventor in Florence, Italy.
Like many brilliant people, Brunelleschi didn’t get much respect in his earlier years. His inventions were considered silly, giving him the nickname of Pippo the Fool.
Fern describes a little man who’s grouchy and prickly, but also determined to make a name for himself and gain the respect he knows he deserves. Other people may not respect Pippo’s mind, but he knows his own worth. And he’s willing to work hard.
When the city fathers hold a contest to design a dome to complete the city’s new cathedral, Santa Maria del Fiore, Pippo recognizes his chance – and his challenge.
Nobody has ever built such a large dome. Nobody even knows for sure that it can be done. Surely the weight of the building materials would cause it to collapse!
A number of master builders, including Pippo’s arch-rival Lorenzo Ghiberti, enter the contest. The judges are unimpressed with most of the designs, including Pippo’s, which lacks any visible supports. They throw him out, and continue to mull over the various submissions.
But Pippo doesn’t give up easily. He goes home and starts collecting the materials to make a model of his dome. He completes the model and shows it to the judges. Two years after the contest began, the judges make their decision.
So who won the contest? Did Pippo ever earn the respect he craved? You can find out by reading this book!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking

I read the “Pippi Longstocking” books by Astrid Lindgren when I was a child, about 45 years ago. I loved them! So when the library got a brand-new copy of “The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking,” which includes three of the books, I decided to re-read it and see if it was as great as I remembered.
In all honesty, it was. This book is hilarious! It was so interesting that I didn’t want to put it down!
Pippi Longstocking is a 9-year-old girl who lives by herself in an old, tumble-down house. Her father, a sea captain, has been lost at sea and is presumed to have died, though Pippi is certain that he is now the king of a cannibal island. Before his final, perhaps fatal voyage, he bought the house and parked Pippi there, along with the treasures she’d amassed during her years of travel with him, and a suitcase full of gold coins.
Not every nine year old would be able to survive on her own, even with all that money. But Pippi is unique. She’s resourceful, generous, uniquely intelligent, enormously strong, and possessed of a bizarre sense of humor. Along with her next-door neighbors, Tommy and Annika, she has the most entertaining adventures imaginable.
For example, when Tommy and Annika have to go to school, Pippi decides to join them. It’s not because she has any burning desire to learn – no, it’s because she figures out that she won’t get any Christmas vacation unless she goes to school.
School becomes a huge challenge for her, though, as is apparent from the moment the teacher asks her what seven and five are. Pippi’s response: “Well, if you don’t know that yourself, you needn’t think I’m going to tell you.”
It goes from bad to worse, and finally Pippi and the teacher part ways, having decided that school and Pippi are not right for each other.I highly recommend this book for kids of all ages.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Sandman

Not many children these days have ever heard of the sandman. But there was a time, a couple generations ago, when everybody knew about him. They even wrote songs about him.
The Sandman by Ralph Fletcher is a fun, fanciful story about how the sandman got started doing what he does. He’s a tiny man named Tor, and he rides around in a chariot drawn by a mouse. And he has a problem: He can’t sleep!
But Tor finds a solution, and it has to do with a dragon, a grinding stone, and magical sand.
To find out how Tor finally got to sleep, and how he continues to help a whole lot of kids with the same problem, you can read this book!Or you can ask your grandparents.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

I’m reading The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, and so far it’s one of the best books I’ve read all year. It’s actually fun to read! And it’s not boring. It reminds me of Matilda and some of the other books by Roald Dahl. And maybe a little bit of Harry Potter.
The story begins with an unusual ad in the newspaper, an ad directed at children. It reads, “Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?”
Reynie Muldoon definitely is. With the help of his teacher, he responds to the ad. Soon he finds himself taking a series of unique tests that are designed to separate the most intelligent, resourceful and gifted children from those who are only moderately so. Reynie makes it through the tests, and so do three other children.
Sticky Washington is so called because his mind retains everything he every reads. Kate Wetherall can come up with a solution to almost everything, using the tools in her bucket. And Constance Contraire is, well, contrary. But creatively so.
These four form the Mysterious Benedict Society, under the direction of the mysterious Mr. Benedict, who gives them a dangerous and extremely important mission.
Interested? Check out The Mysterious Benedict Society and read it! Then write here about what you think of it!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Emmy and the Home for Troubled Girls

Imagine a world in which rats talk to people, and the people understand. Imagine a villainess so wicked that she takes young girls, shrinks them down to 4 inches high, and keeps them in a doll house called the Home for Troubled Girls.
Emmy knows all about the rats, because she’s been bitten by one, twice. The first bite allows you to understand rat language; the second is the shrinker. Emmy has been there, and she knows the danger associated with Miss Barmy, her former governess who now exists as a rat.
Somebody needs to rescue the girls from the Home for Troubled Girls, where they are treated like dolls and slaves. The police are on the trail, but how could they ever come up with the truth when it’s so bizarre?This book is creepy, scary, and also pretty funny at times. It’s by Lynne Jonell, who also wrote Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat. Give it a try, and write back to tell us what you think!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye

Princesses are supposed to be charming and lovely, spectacularly so, in fairy tales at least. But the Princess Amethyst Alexandra Augusta Araminta Adelaide Aurelia Anne, the seventh of seven princesses, was luckier than most.
Remember “The Sleeping Beauty”? She was cursed by a wicked fairy that when she turned 16, she would prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die.
The Princess Amethyst, etc., has a similar experience at her christening party. All the fairies in the kingdom show up and pronounce upon her the expected gifts of wit, charm, courage, health, wisdom and grace. But then comes the fairy Crustacea, old, crabby and semi-deaf. “Good gracious, poor child!” she says. “Well, thank goodness my magic is stronger than anyone else’s! I am going to give you something that will probably bring you more happiness than all these fal-lals and fripperies put together. You shall be Ordinary!”
The king and queen are devastated. But there’s nothing to be done. Within a few years, despite all their efforts to counteract the old fairy’s gift, it’s apparent that the youngest princess is indeed ordinary. Her name gets shortened to Amy, but most people just call her the Ordinary Princess. Her lovely golden curls turn straight and dishwater blonde. Her nose turns up and gets freckles. (She does get to keep the charm, wit, health, courage, wisdom and grace.)
But there are compensations to being ordinary, and the Ordinary Princess manages to discover them in short order. While her six beautiful sisters are busy parading around and looking gorgeous, getting married, etc., the Ordinary Princess gets to have fun and make friends! This is a delightful, beautifully written story. If you like fairy tales, you’ll love The Ordinary Princess.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Sienna the Saturday Fairy

The audience is bored. Then the clothes come up missing. How are Rachel and Kirsty supposed to do a fashion show with that kind of trouble?

The answer is, magic! If they could only find the Saturday Fun Flag, everything would be perfect. But how to find it when a goblin is thwarting their every attempt to put things right?

Then it's Sienna to the rescue! The Saturday Fairy flutters out of of a glove, gets the Saturday Fun Flag back, and saves the show from ignominious disaster.

If you like fairies, and you're in grades 2 to 6, the Rainbow Magic series by Daisy Meadows may be one you'd enjoy reading. There are seven books, one for each day of the week, and each features a different Fun Day fairy.

You can find the books in the juvenile fiction section of the library, under Meadows. Some of them are in the New Books section at the entrance to the Children's Department.

If you read one or more of these modern fairy tales, write on our blog and tell what you thought of it!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Castle Corona by Sharon Creech

A significant object has been lost in the kingdom ruled by the royal family in the Castle Corona. A pair of peasants, Pia and her brother Enzio have found it, and they don’t know what to do with it. They are aware that the authorities are searching for the object, which is a leather pouch emblazoned with the king’s seal. But something holds them back, keeps them from immediately returning it. Perhaps they are afraid of being accused of stealing it. Or perhaps they are simply fascinated by the pouch and its contents, which include couple pieces of red coral, a lock of black hair tied with a purple ribbon, and a small piece of parchment on which are written undecipherable words.
Meanwhile, the king, the queen and their spoiled children, Prince Gianni, Prince Vito and Princess Fabrizia, ponder the problem of how to find the thief who has stolen the pouch. “A thief wants what he does not have,” a hermit tells the king.
Pia and Enzio have been told by the King’s Men that if they find any significant object, they are to take it to an old woman, Signora Ferrelli. But before they take the pouch, they decide to check the old woman . They visit her, and she gives them a present: a small packet that they might need.
Then more and more objects go missing in the kingdom. This gentle, mysterious and sometimes amusing story is largely about life and the search for meaning. People who live in castles don’t have the happy, perfect lives that we might imagine. And peasants aren’t always what they seem, either.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Butter Man

I like stories that teach. The Butter Man, by Elizabeth Alalou and Ali Alalou, is a story like that. It’s a simple tale, not particularly exciting. But through it I learned what life was like a few years ago for the Berbers in Morocco. I also learned some Moroccan words.
At the start, the story is told by Nora, whose father Ali is a native of Morocco. She watches her baba (father) cook a pot of couscous, including meat and vegetables. She’s very hungry, but when she tells him, “I’m starving,” instead of a snack, she gets a story.
The story of The Butter Man.
It’s a story of a time when because of a lengthy drought, there were no crops. Gradually, the amount of bread Ali’s mother gives him to eat gets smaller and drier. And very quickly the butter jar grows empty.
“Ma,” he asks her, “Don’t you have just a little bit of butter for me?”
His wise mother tells him to go outside and wait for the butter man. “If he passes,” she says, “ask for a little bit of butter to go with your bread.”
He goes outside to wait and watch, but the butter man doesn’t come. Still, he manages to eat his small piece of bread without it.
The same scene is repeated day after day: While his daily allotment of bread gets tinier, Ali’s stomach continues to growl, and the butter man doesn’t come.
But someone else eventually comes!
To find out who, you’ll have to read the book. When you do, please write a comment and tell what you learned from this story.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Sisters 8: Annie's Adventures

When I saw the title, The Sisters 8, I knew I had to read this book. I am also one of eight sisters! However, unlike the sisters in this book by Lauren Baratz-Logsted, we were all born on separate days and years. I am 17 years older than my youngest sister.But the Sisters 8 are octuplets!Not only that, but each is an inch taller than the next sister in order of birth. (Yes, that means the last one out is pretty darn tiny.)The last name of the sisters is Huit, which means eight in French, so apparently the circumstances of their birth were a foregone conclusion. But now their parents are gone, “disappeared, presumed dead, actually dead,” whatever that means. So the Sisters 8, who are seven years old, have a double challenge: surviving in their huge, castle-like house, and keeping their state of solitude a secret from the adult authorities.If that’s not enough to get you to want to read this book, consider this: In addition to eight sisters, there are eight cats in this book!And one more thing: a mysterious note has been found behind a loose stone in the wall. The note informs Annie, Durinda, Georgia, Jackie, Marcia, Petal, Rebecca and Zinnia that each of them possesses a power and a gift, which they must discover in order to find out what really happened to their missing parents.
Wow! That’s a great beginning for a book. Read it! I am.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

That Book Woman

It takes only about 5 minutes to read this book by Heather Henson, but in only two pages, I was crying. Yeah, I'm an emotional idiot -- but there's something about this book that touches me deeply. Probably because I'm a part-time librarian and I love books.
That Book Woman is told by a rebellious young man, Cal, who initially has no interest in reading, even though his younger sister, Lark, loves to read. Still, when the Book Woman comes calling every two weeks, on her horse loaded with a bag of books that she lends for free, Cal gradually has a change of heart.
The story is based on a real historical happening. The Pack Horse Librarians, mostly women, were hired by the government during the Great Depression to bring literacy and books to the isolated people of Appalachia.
Learning to read opens new worlds now, as in the past. Spend a few minutes with That Book Woman, and you'll gain a deeper appreciation for reading, for books, and even for librarians.