November 27, 2008
Clan Apis by Jay Hosler
Active Synapse 1999.
First of all, a disclaimer. I am not a fan of graphic novels. Until I read Clan Apis I have never been able to get all the way through one. Somehow, I don’t know why, I simply cannot focus that long on something that combines text and art.
My son, on the other hand, adores the two combined.
Since we are both fact junkies, I decided to give this one a whirl and I’m glad I did. The author is a Ph.D. who studies bees so he knows his stuff. He delivers tons of bee facts — life in the hive, how they defend the hive, bee predators, etc — along with a healthy dose of humor.
This book is recommended for ages 9 – 12. Don’t be tempted to go too young with it simply because it is illustrated. It does discuss bee reproduction — not in graphic detail but it is there. Also, Hosler discusses the life cycle of the hive. The whole life cycle. Hint: Bees do not live a long time eve if they are the main character.
Still, this book pulled us in with its humor. It kept us reading with the story, the facts and the great characters. Pick this up and soon you’ll be all abuzz for amazing bees.
November 22, 2008
What To Do About Alice? by Barbara Kerley, illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham
Scholastic Press, 2008
AR Level 5.2
Think biography is ho hum? Then pop open the covers of a marvelous adventure subtitled How Alice Roosevelt Broke the Rules, Charmed the World, and Drove Her Father Teddy Crazy!
Kerley’s text is a fast-paced galloping tale about Alice who wouldn’t let leg braces, being a girl, or being the President’s daughter slow her down. But seriously, should we really expect anything else from Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter? Come on. We’re talking Teddy Roosevelt! Keeping that in mind, Alice is everything you would expect and more. Learn how she lived her life to the fullest from the time she was a child way up into her eighties although for the full effect you’ll have to read the back matter too.
Book design creates a historic feel with a taller than wide format and illustrations that, though digital, pair with the text to contribute a wealth of historic detail.
And don’t think that this book is just for girls. The humor and sense of adventure as well as Emily Spinach will all appeal to boys as well.
A great choice for kids who love real and true. A great choice for the irrepressable child in us all.
The taller than wide format and Fotheringham’s
November 11, 2008
I recently read that boys like honest books — books about real things and fact. Books that offer the straight scoop. That don’t make excuses or make things nicer than they are. This is one of those books.
Actually, this was a book on tape but as I listened to the author read the story, I realized that I had tried to read it. Why had I failed? Because this kid’s life stinks! Not “I just spilled my $4 cup of coffee” stinks. More like “am I going to have to walk over 20 miles to school today” stinks. Fortunately, books on tape mean I can move around while I listen which is essential for me to make it through a really tough book.
Junior Spirit lives with his family on the Spokane reservation. He has survived surgery for water-on-the-brain. He loves books. And he wants to live. Really and truly live. But the reservation is a place where people drink to mourn someone who died because they drank too much.
Junior leaves the reservation to go to a better high school, but this means going to a white school over 20 miles from home. It means leaving behind his friends. It means heading into a world he doesn’t understand and that doesn’t understand him. Eventually, he finds the education he’s looking for and so much more but he also loses a little something too.
Loss and tragedy are bearable because of Alexie’s off-beat, boy friendly humor.
If you have a reluctant reader ages 14 and up, give him this book. The book on tape gives the reader the opportunity to hear the author, someone who is very like Junior in many ways. The book in print includes simple cartoon drawings that the listener misses. This is a tough book to get into, but one well worth the effort.
November 6, 2008
The Origami Master by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer illustrated by Aki Sogabe
Albert Whiteman and company, 2008
(AR Level 3.6)
At such a hopeful time in our country, I decided to start out with a hopeful book.
Master Shima lives on a peaceful mountain, creating masterpieces out of paper. Then a warbler nests nearby and begins creating even better origami and giving it to Shima. Instead of being thankful, Shima grows jealous and decides that he must learn the bird’s secrets. I’m not going to spoil the ending so you’ll have to read the book for yourself to see just what makes it hopeful.
Lachenmeyer has created a text that is as spare and elegant as masterful origami. Sogabe’s art combines the cut paper and watercolor. The simple lines and strong colors work together to create marvelously detailed illustrations that remind me of the work of Paul Goble.
The publisher lists the book for ages 7 to 9 but younger readers will know the joy of seeing a tiny bird outsmart a powerful adult. Directions for folding an origami bird wrap the book up and invite readers to participate in the story.
All in all, a quiet, powerful book on friendship, giving, and acceptance and a great jumping off point for a discussion of all three.
Bookshelf is a blog on books. Most of them will be books for children but when I come across a fantastic book for adults, I’ll review it as well. If I can talk them into it, I will also post entries by other members of my family because their tastes are different from mine. With so many good books out there, I want to help book lovers find books that will keep them reading late into the night. What this means is that I will not be giving negative reviews on this blog. If I don’t like a book, I simply won’t write about it. A book that doesn’t appeal to me may still be a great book. Just not for me.
Stay tuned — I plan to post my first review this evening.