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.