Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Penderwicks

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette
by Jeanne Birdsall
Knopf, May 10th, 2011

In 2005 the Penderwicks appeared in many lives, the four Penderwick sisters, Rosalind, Skye, Jane, and Batty, becoming close friends to many readers. In the third installment of Jeanne Birdsall’s beloved series, The Penderwicks at Point Mouette, Skye, Jane, and Batty are off to Maine for a summer vacation with their aunt. This means Skye is the OAP (or oldest available Penderwick) a role of terrifying responsibility. Luckily, her good friend Jeffery is around to help her. Jane thinks she's in love with a skateboarding boy, Batty insists she's musical, and her aunt has sprained her ankle- Skye has her hands full. But with the temptation of a piano next-door (not to mention a musician to teach him) will Jeffery be enough help? And why does the neighbor look so familiar? Through all this, Skye must try and remember the most important direction from Rosalind: Don't let Batty explode.

This rollicking adventure will delight readers. From a hint of romance, to soccer, writing, campfire rituals, music, and long-lost relations, The Penderwicks holds something for everyone. It's a delightful summer book for intrepid summer travelers, budding writers, or covert late-night reading with a flashlight.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Au Revoir, Crazy European Chick

by Joe Schreiber
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, October 24th, 2011

In the midst of piles of school work, having forgotten my lunchtime reading at home, I decided I needed a fast-paced book that promised humor. Schreiber's novel just happened to arrive, as if some sneaking spy knew I was a prime target for the book.

I was immediately intrigued by the admissions essay prompts at the beginning of each chapter. Soon, I began trying to connect them to each chapter, wondering what an admissions representative might find in this first-person narrative- it's easy to see how being shot, being witness to murder, and learning your family's darkest secrets (all in one night) might lend themselves to an enticing (if barely believable) college essay. But I'm getting ahead of myself here.

Perry Stormaire had not intended to go to prom, being more concerned with his first NYC band gig and getting off of Columbia's wait-list. But when Gobi- the Lithuanian foreign exchange student- asks him to escort her to prom, his parent's don't give him a choice. He soon finds himself in a rented tux escorting the ugliest girl to prom in his dad's jaguar car. But two hours into the evening Perry is in the middle of NYC witnessing murders and accompanied by the most gorgeous foreign assassin he could have dreamed of. This fast-paced adventure was impossible to put down. Perry is a believable, multi-dimensional character, not unrealistically heroic in terrifying situations yet able to issue constant demands for the safety of his family and knowledge of what the hell is going on. While I'm glad this isn't the first in the series, and therefore can't say "I can't wait for the next one," I'd still like a hint of what Joe Schreiber will write next.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Zita the Spacegirl

Zita the Spacegirl
by Ben Hatke
First Second

One day while Zita and her friend Joseph are walking, they come across a small crater.
Inside is a strange device, and Zita, being an adventurous button-pusher, hits it. A vortex opens and something reaches out to grab Joseph. Luckily, Zita is a good friend, so she hits the button again and disappears into the vortex after Joseph, only to land in an alien world. What follows are the adventures of Zita as she tries to find Joseph and return to Earth- before an asteroid destroys the planet she’s on, that is.

Though characterization can sometimes suffer in plot-driven graphic novels, Ben Hatke has managed to create a number of multi-faceted, dimensional characters.
The Piper, who initially helps Zita, is not good or bad, rather self-protecting. Zita, too, isn’t without her flaws. Though she is brave, she is also stubborn and impulsive, yet stilling caring enough to draw helpful misfits to her.

We find a resolution at the end, but I can’t help but wish the next installment of Zita’s fabulous adventures were waiting on a shelf for me today. Middle grade readers, especially those who love Bone will fall in love with Zita the Spacegirl. Me? I'm happy to see a strong young female on character join the graphic novel shelf.

Check out the first few pages.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Huxley & Backall

The Crows of Pearblossom written by Aldous Huxley, illustrated by Sophie Blackall

This is the only children’s story ever written by Huxley (author of Brave New World). The story is one of two crows, who live in a tree at Pearblossom. Below them, in a hole at the bottom of the tree, lives a Rattlesnake. Every morning Mrs. Crow lays an egg and goes grocery shopping and every day, when she returns, her egg is gone. That is, until one day when Mrs. Crow returns and finds the rattlesnake eating her egg! Something simply must be done, and so Mr. Crow seeks Old Man Owl’s advice, and together they hatch a plan. I adore Sophia Blackall’s illustrations. Her hints of red, green , and aqua bring vibrancy to the browns and grays of nature.

An intriguing illustrated book for children and adults.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Book with a Hole

The Book with a Hole By Herve Tullet

As the title suggests, this book does in fact have a hole.
When you open the book, there’s a nice circle right in the middle of the page, perfect for sticking your head in or your arm through. The book is printed in black and white and instructions on each page en
courage the reader to act with the image. One page, in which the hole is someone’s open mouth, tells you to try to make teeth with your fingers. Another, in which the hole is the opening of a magician’s hat, asks “What will you make appear or disappear?”

This interactive book is wonderful for kids who can't stand to sit still quietly and need constant attention to stay engaged. Also a great diversion on long trips.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

In an old house in Paris, covered with vines....

Madeline at the White House by John Bemelmans Marciano, Penguin

In an old house in Paris that was covered with vines, lived twelve little girls in two straight lines. So begins Ludwig Bemelman’s famous stories. But now, these twelve little girls in two straight lines have headed to the White house to have a good time. Bemelman’s grandson, John Bemelmans Marciano has taken up the ink brush and rhyme to continue the beloved Madeline adventures his grandfather began. This new Madeline adventure is based on correspondence Marciano’s grandfather shared with Jacqueline Kennedy.

The adventure begins with the President’s daughter, Candle, named for one wild curl that sticks up like a flame. Poor little Candle is sad and lonely. With the arrival of Madeline and the other girls, everyone has a grand time at the annual White House Easter Celebration. But yellow-haired Candle is still sad because she’s never seen any of Washington’s amazing sights. Madeline has a few tricks in her suitcase, and she and Candle are soon whisked off on a magical tour of Washington’s sights, illustrated in a stunning sequence of full-color illustrations. Marciano has created a wonderful new adventure stylistically identical to the classic Madeline books.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Like Ivy & Bean and Clementine?

Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie

by Julie Sternberg illustrated by Matthew Cordell
Amulet (Abrams)

It's the summer before third grade when Elinor receives terrible news, news worse than pickle juice on cookies. Bibi, the best babysitter in the world is moving away. Elinor doesn't want to do anything fun without Bibi, because fun things remind her of Bibi. But soon her parents have found a new sitter, Natalie. And while Natalie is not Bibi, maybe that will be okay. This sweet book is shorter than it seems and Cordell's fun illustrations bring whimsy and life to the page. Great for lovers of Ivy and Bean and Clementine. Hopefully, we'll see a whole Elinor series in the future...

Friday, April 8, 2011

Anya's Ghost

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

First Second, June 6th, 2011

Anya's Ghost is a wonderful coming of age graphic novel. The twists and the turns of the story pulled me in for a one-sitting read. Anya's experiences of frustration, both because of her immigrant background and the usual difficulties of not fitting in at school, are accessible to all YA readers- for who hasn't felt alienated at one point or another? However, the layer of Anya's familial background adds depth to the story. Each twist and turn of the story is adeptly foreshadowed, creating a richly spooky story that will have readers frantically turning pages (unless, like me, you have to stop and remark about how beautifully composed certain panels are).

Fox & Hen Together, an after-they-fall-in-love story

Fox & Hen Together by Beatrice Rodriguez

This wordless picturebook continues the story Rodriguez began in The Chicken Thief. Hen cradles her egg in the first illustration, while fox remarks on the empty refrigerator. Hen entrusts her egg to Fox and goes out fishing for some food. But she gets more than she bargained for when an enormous bird catches the fish she’s just caught- pulling Hen away on a dangerous adventure. The colors of each illustration set an immediate mood for the scene while the simple ink lines composing Rodriguez’s characters are capable of wondrous expressions.

This is a rip-roaring adventure- though you’ll have to do all the roaring yourself- with a fun little twist of an ending. Who knew a hen-fox baby would look so cute?
Children will oooh and ahh over Hen’s adventures while adults will find themselves transfixed as well. As the story ends
with a birth, it would also make a quirky baby shower gift for new parents.