Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lulu and the Brontosaurus

If I were seven, which I'm not, but if I were, Lulu and the Brontosaurus would be my favorite new book. Even though I'm rather more than seven, Lulu still made my day. The book is extra long (5" x 9") with a large font size that's easy to read. The text is by Judith Viorst, author of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, with pictures by Caldecott Honor-winning Lane Smith (of Stinky Cheese Man fame). This pairing is certainly silly and absolutely enjoyable.

Lulu is a nasty sort of child who throws tantrums when she doesn't get exactly what she wants- and her parents always give in. But when Lulu demands a Brontosaurus for her birthday, her parents will not say yes. Determined to get a Brontosaurus, Lulu packs a suitcase and sets off to find one and make it her new pet. But Lulu and the Brontosaurus have something in common: they're both looking for a pet. When the Brontosaurus decides that Lulu would be the perfect pet, all the screaming in the world won't help her. So she'll have to try something new.

The author's occasional asides on how this story is not about real brontosaurus may cause some readers to do a little research on their favorite dinosaurs while Lulu's songs will have everyone in the house singing about wanting a Brontosaurus for a pet. With humorous prose and an illustration every one to two pages, Lulu will become a favorite of many. Perfect to use as a long picture book for patient children (perhaps over multiple nights) or for anyone ready to make the transition from young reader to middle grade.

Published by Simon & Schuster September 14, 2010.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Super-Sidekick Sheep

You've probably heard of supermen, superwomen, supergirls and superboys, but how about supersheep? Maud is a supersheep and official sidekick of superhero Ernie Eggers. She has her own pink cape, crime-preventing rounds in Baxter, serious super skills, and two sisters.

Maud is a middle sheep. Her older sister is super smart and her younger sister super cute, so sometimes Maud just feels left out. However, she feels that being a super sidekick has made her feel more important and included, and Maud wants other middle animals to feel that way, too. But when Maud focuses on finding her own sidekick, will she lose the friendship of her partner Ernie?

The Middle Sheep is the second of the Ernie and Maud Adventures, written by Frances Watts and illustrated by Judy Watson. It's a delightful adventure with just the right mix of superhero adventures and important life lessons.

Published by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers in August 2010.

There aren't any foxes on Fox Street

I was recently handed a copy of Tricia Springstuff's What Happened on Fox Street, which was summed up as "the blue-collar Penderwicks." This is certainly the quickest way of describing Springstuff's book, but I don't think it will take long to become known by it's own name; What Happened on Fox Street is going to go places. At least, copies of this book are going to fly from person to person.

Mo and her younger sister live on Fox Street with their dad. Mo defines her life by Fox Street, she knows the neighbors, the rythms of the neighborhood, and the memories people have of her mother. Each summer her best friend Mercedes visits her grandmother, Da, on Fox Street. But this summer, things are changing. Da is getting old and can't care for herself, Mercedes has brand new clothes and a new stepfather, and a developer is trying to by up all the houses on the street. It's a turbulent summer for Mo, full of adventures, new experiences, and change. Through the good, the bad and the downright difficult, one thing sustains Mo- the possibility of someday seeing a real fox on Fox Street.

This is a wonderful middle grade novel. Though firmly planted in the realm of realistic fiction, Mo experiences moments of real-life wonder and awe that feel truly magical. Yes, Mo faces difficult situations, such as moving, taking care of her younger sister, and trying to be a good friend, but she emerges with bits of wisdom and a changed view of the world. Mo's realizations will make you cry or look at the world through new eyes. All in all, you will be changed for the better by What Happened on Fox Street.

Published by HarperCollins, to be released August 24, 2010

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Clementine, Friend of the Week

Clementine, Friend of the Week (Clementine,  #4)

Clementine, Friend of the Week, written by Sara Pennypacker with illustrations by Marla Frazee, is a wonderful addition to a delightful series. Clementine herself is just the sort of girl you'd want to hangout with; she's silly, caring, and imaginative with a bit of accidental mischief up her sleeve.

It's Clementine's turn to be friend of the week, a week in which she gets to collect the milk money, tell her life-story, and learn what her classmates appreciate about her. Clementine tries extra-hard to be nice to her classmates this week but when her best friend stops talking to her and her cat Moisturizer disappears, she begins to doubt if she can be a good friend.

Book number five explores the importance of friends and family, as well as what it feels like to lose a beloved pet (and member of the family). Readers will empathize with Clementine, her first-person narrative allowing them to see her as their own special friend.

Age 7-9 published by Hyperion and to be released July 27th

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Cinderella Story

There have been many retellings of Cinderella, from Gail Carson Levine's Ella Enchanted to Margaret Peterson Haddix's Just Ella. Malinda Lo's Ash is an entirely new take on Perrault's tale. Lo's bisexual twist makes this already wonderful teen novel into something no library should be without.

Ash grows grows up reading fairy tales, which her father says are just stories. When her father dies and her stepmother sets her to work, Ash dreams of escaping into the land of faerie, a place she knows is real. When Ash meets the faerie Sidhean, she learns that her wish may finally be granted. Meanwhile, Ash's walks in the woods bring her to forge a friendship with the King's Huntress. As their friendship grows, Ash comes to the realization that perhaps love can exist in the human realm. But Ash has already promised Sidhean that she will return to faerie, and she must choose between the possibility of love and the ethereal perfection of faerie.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


I think you have to be a certain type of person to read books about the visual as so much depends upon the the imagination of the reader. Mike Wilkes' Mirrorscape requires of those readers.

Melkin Womper, a boy from a small town, is scooped up by Ambrosius Blenk, the greatest painter of the day, and given an apprenticeship. But things are not as rosy as they seem. Color, music, delicious food, anything which might be considered a luxury is extremely expensive and controlled by the Mysteries, and the Mysteries hold many secrets and much corruption. Mel and his friends Wren and Ludo find themselves in the thick of Mystery secrets in an adventure that will bring them into the Mirrorscape- the world within paintings.

Wilkes' book is heavy with description, detailing paintings, drawings, and bestiary illustrations. For readers unfamiliar with art, the book may be confusing, and I suggest looking at examples of medieval bestiary reproductions, Bosch paintings, and an Escher or two before delving into the book. Some of the creatures and environments within the Mirrorscape are confusing, as they are only elucidated with words. Seeing artworks beforehand may spark the reader's mind as s/he imagines Mel's world.

Mirrorscape is the first in a series that promises to mix magic with the visual arts. But it's not the fast-paced plot many readers are used to. Yes, the plot is thick with devilry, but simple resolutions are a long time coming. In places, vital descriptions trip up the adventure like disproportionate figures in a beautifully realized setting. Though the book is suggested for those twelve and up, and the character of Mel is about this age, the density of description recommend it for an older audience or a particularly patient reader.

After reading Mirrorscape, I got to thinking about stories that are intrinsically visual. I read A.S. Byatt's The Children's Book while independently studying art in Europe. I became lost in Byatt's descriptions of art and the creative process, and began trying to describe my creative process. Byatt captured something in her descriptions of the power and energy an artist thrusts into his/her work, something I don't realize until I've stopped working and view the unfamiliar work in front of me through the haze of hunger and watering eyes. The only other story that came to mind is the Chinese myth of the magic paintbrush, though I think Patricia McKillip may have an embroidery-based fairy tale. It's certainly a topic I'd like to look into further.