Saturday, October 26, 2013

An Adventuresome Duo

Since I loved Divergent this summer I decided I would do well to branch out and read more books in genres that I do not naturally gravitate toward.  Hence adventure books!  I am not an adventurous person- adventure makes me nervous. But here are two good adventure books that I thought went well together.  Both are, well adventurous, both are about teenage boys making tough decisions and trying to navigate right and wrong when most of the adults in their lives aren't doing such a good job in that area.  Both could be called political thrillers.

First up is First Boy by Gary D. Schmidt.  One of my favorite books of all time is Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy. A book of historical fiction which garnered Mr. Schmidt the Newbery Honor in 2005.  

Strange things are happening in the rather ordinary life of 14 year old Cooper Jewett.  Black sedans are showing up in the sleepy New Hampshire town where Cooper lives on his grandfather's farm.  It feels like he is being watched.  Despite this feeling Cooper goes on with his chores on the farm, he goes to school, he runs cross country, he watches after his grandfather, as they are both still reeling from the recenty death of Ida Jewett, Cooper's grandmother.   

Unexpectedly, Cooper's grandfather passes away and now Cooper is alone. No parents, no grandparents, not even a dog.  Cooper does have 64 cows that need milking and cleaning up after and Cooper is a tough kid, but can he really run a dairy farm by himself?  Cooper is determined to keep the farm going, keep up with his school work and show his neighbors and the social services that he can take care of things.  

Senator Wickham who is currently challenging the sitting President in a primary shows up at Cooper's school and offers him the opportunity to join the campaign.  Cooper is suspisious or the Senator's motives and feels too much loyalty to the cows and his grandparents legacy and bravely declines this offer.  Now very mysterious things are happening around the farm, broken fences and fires, break ins and black sedans showing up to watch him. Is Senator Wickham behind all this? What does he really want with Cooper?  

While this storyline was a bit odd, the well drawn characters and the suspensful pacing of the mystery made it a good, quick read and a great one to reccomend to those who like Alex Rider or the Gordon Corman books.  

If Cooper Jewett ever got to NY, I am certain that he and Zach Harriman would be fast friends.  

Zach is the main character in Mike Lupica's Hero.  Mr. Lupica is know for his sports novels, Heat is a favorite of mine.   

14 year old Zach seems to have a pretty great life in NY.  He lives with his parents, housekeeper and her daughter who is also Zach's best friend. They live in a brownstone on swanky Fifth Avenue, right near Central Park. Zach's mom spends a lot of time working at her family's charitable foundation and Zach's dad, works for the President, as in of the United States. Zach's dad is a hero, a confidante of the President who is called in to rescue hostages in foriegn lands or capture terrorists.  Everything is great until on the way back from a mission, the plane crashes and Zach's dad dies.  

Life without his dad is incredibly difficult for Zach.  His mom seems to be coping by throwing herself into her friend's campaign for President.  But something doesn't feel right to Zach, he starts to investigate his dad's death, believing his dad wouldn't never let his plane go down.  

Zach feels something in himself changing and its not just his grief.  He is suddenly strong, suddenly bold and feels the need to patrol Central Park at night to protect good people and fight the bad.  What does it mean to be a hero?  And what's with the old man who keeps following him? 

Does Zach suddenly possess super powers?  How does this all connect to his fathers death and what does it all mean to the campaign for the presidency?  

Cooper and Zach's lives go from ordinary to incredibly exciting. They go on adventures that border on the extreme and the strange.  They outwit law enforcement and government agencies.  And the both grow and learn to trust themselves, figure out which adults to trust,  and what it means to be trustworthy.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Tales

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Tales is the newest book by Kate DiCamillo, an author I admire and respect and who previous works (Tale of Desperaux, Because of Winn Dixie etc.) I have devoured whole in a single setting. I have been waiting for a new book from this author for a long time.   

Flora, a witty, quirky girl is obsessed by comics like, Terrible Things Can Happen To You.  Flora lives alone with her mom who smokes, writes romance novels and transfers all her love and affection on to a lamp shaped like a shepherdess named Marianne.  

The action begins when Flora's neighbor Mrs. Twickham receives the gift of a vacuum cleaner, specifically, a Ulysses 2000, The machine has so much power Mrs. Twickham loses control and accidentally vacuums up a squirrel.  Flora swings into action, reviving the poor guy and a beautiful, sweet friendship is born.  

Ulysses comes away from his near death experience with some super human or super squirrel powers that enable him to type and create some beautiful poetry that expresses his gratitude to Flora for saving him and make up some of the books more tender moments.  

Calamity ensues when Flora's mother plots to kill poor Ulysses; Mrs. Twickham's super annoying and temporarily blind nephew comes to visit; Flora's dad shows up for his regularly scheduled custodial visit and chaos breaks out at the local doughnut shop when Ulysses is discovered in a box at their table, and he's very hungry!

The humor of the story is greatly enhanced by the comic or graphic novel style sequences illustrated by K. G. Campbell.  

I loved the relationship between Flora and her squirrel, it evokes the feelings of love, friendship, loss, and belonging that are usually themes in DiCamillo's work. These are two wonderful characters who in my opinion were shortchanged in the plot department. I kept waiting for something more significant to happen to them.  I wanted to know more about Flora's dad who seemed like a decent guy and I wanted Flora's mother to redeem herself.  

 So while I liked Flora and Ulysses, I  am sorry to say I didn't love it.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


Baby Time! 

So I began today with a joyful and crowded baby time!  Super fun with 36 babies, moms and dads.  We read I like It When by Mary Murphy, one of my all time favorite books for this age group.  

After Baby Time, I subbed for another librarian in Toddler Time.  Not quite as crowded, but some super enthusiastic little ones.  We read:  

What Shall We Do With the Boo-Hoo Baby? by Cressida Cowell

Mama Cat has Three Kittens by Denise Fleming

Clip Clop by Nicola Smee

I was also able to debut my homemade Alphabet Train flannel board pieces! 


Super fun and easy to make.  I think I will be making many more flannel board pieces! 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

No Frills Field Trip

I am fortunate to live so close to New York City and to be able to take advantage of all of the conferences, workshops, lectures and events for and about children's literature.  

A few weeks ago I visited New York Public Library to see the Leonard Marcus curated exhibit the ABC of it: Why Children's Books MatterMr. Marcus is a children's literature historian. He has written some wonderful books including the definitive biography of Margaret Wise Brown, Awakened By the Moon and the great NYC walking tour guide of children's lit, Storied City.  Needless to say, I am a big fan.  He is also one of the best speakers I was ever able to get to visit my library. 

The exhibit is beautiful and inspiring for teachers, librarians, children and those that are kids at heart!  I heartily recommend it to everyone.  Luckily the exhibit is at the library until March 2014.  I hope I get to go again before its gone.  

There are so many wonderful components it's hard to choose only one, but for me the best part may be Milo's little car!  


Pile of Picture Books

I love when new boxes of books arrive fresh from Barnes and Noble, Amazon or Baker and Taylor.  Here a few new books I discovered this week that are soon to be program favorites. 

Lion vs. Rabbit by Alex Lattimer is laugh out loud funny.  The animals of the jungle are sick and tired of Lion and his bullying ways, but who can stop him?  Rabbit answers their advertisement for a troubleshooter but can little rabbit outsmart a ferocious lion?  Hmmm. 

Bear's Song by Benjamin Chaud is sweet and soothing like honey.  A small bear goes out into the night in search of a snack.  Can Papa Bear find him and safely bring him back to the den?  

Pig on a Hill by John Kelly  Pig enjoys his solitary life on the hill and is more than a little put out when duck moves in and turns Pig's quiet life upside down.  

Three great new picture books for your library collection and to enhance any preschool storytime.  Enjoy!