October 30, 2010

Silent Music by James Rumford

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:55 am by suebe2

Silent Music:  A Story of Baghdad

written and illustrated by James Rumford

AR 3.8

Even during troubled times, life in Baghdad is more than bombs and war.  For Ali, there is also soccer, his family, music, and his artistic passion —  calligraphy.

The curving flow of letters and words across the page is, to Ali, like the graceful motions of a great soccer player.  He practices on the margins of every piece of paper he can and also in the steam on the bathroom mirror.  Even as the bombs fall, Ali can turn to calligraphy to fill his mind with peace.  Still, Ali practices, mastering the easy words and the hard words just as everyone struggles toward the difficult to find salam, peace.

Young Iraqi’s will find much to be proud of in this story drawn from the culture just as other young readers will learn that there is so much more to that part of the world than we hear about on the news.  An excellent choice for young readers who also love art and who have a curiosity about lands that are far away but still, in many ways, so much like home.

Full of families and children struggling to grow and to learn.




October 29, 2010

Crossing Bok Chitto by Tim Tingle

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 11:34 pm by suebe2

Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship and Freedom

by Tim Tingle

illustrated by Jeanne Rorex Bridges

AR 4.4

When Martha Tom’s mother sends her off to find blackberries to have at the wedding feast later that day, the Choctaw girl looks and looks but can’t find a single berry.  So she decides to do the forbidden.  She crosses the Bok Chitto River to the side where the big plantations lay, worked by slaves.

Martha Tom finds a wealth of berries and she picks and picks.  But when she tries to return home she looses her way and wanders farther from the river.  She accidentally spies on the forbidden Slave Church where she is caught by a kindly man who sends his son, Little Mo, to guide her home.

Martha Tom repays his kindness by showing him the way across the river.  Before long, friendship develops between the two children with Martha Tom visiting the plantation side of the river every Sunday to attend the slave church.

Then one day Little Mo’s mother is sold.  As the tearful adults say their goodbyes, Little Mo reveals to his parents that there is a secret way to cross the river, if he can find it on his own.  But Little Mo needn’t have worried.  As soon as Mrs. Tom learns of his families danger, she rounds up the Choctaw women, led by Martha Tom and all come to their rescue.

As I’ve summarized it, this story sounds strictly historical but there is a deep spiritual element with the women posing as angels and the slaves passing almost invisible in front of armed men with dogs.  Tingle first heard the story as part of a wedding song and adapted it into the form of this moving multicultural picture book.

This is a great book for sharing and discussion.  The women don’t rescue the family with muscle or guns.  They don’t skulk about.  They dress in their finest and parade forward out of the fog.

This is an extremely moving story about friendship and family, love and trust and the power of belief.  It also tells about the help given to many runaway slaves by Native people’s of the South.

Pick up this story for every quiet girl who needs to believe in her own strength.


October 20, 2010

Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 7:26 pm by suebe2

Flipped ( AR 4.8 )

by Wendelin Van Draanen

They may be only 7 when they meet, but Julianna flips over Bryce Losky.  Excited to have another kid her own age in the neighborhood, she can’t believe her good fortune that he has such gorgeous blue eyes. She welcomes Bryce and his family to the neighborhood the only way she knows how — whole-heartedly.

Bryce, for his part, finds Julianna to be a bit too much.  Too loud.  Too forward.  Too intense.  What kind of nut raises chickens in the suburbs and sits in a tree for fun?  Bryce spends his time fending off Julianna’s attention.

Just when Bryce realizes how interesting Julianna is, she overhears something that he says about her and begins to realize that his blue eyes may mask a much less attractive personality.  Can he win her back or has he missed his chance?

It isn’t an easy task  — to tell a story through the perspective of two different characters.  But the author pulls it off and then some.  You often hear about the same events from both Julianna and Bryce but their personalities and view points are so well developed that it  never feels redundant.

And, with a male narrator as well as an equally strong female narrator, this book will appeal to both boys and girls.  Let it open the door to some great discussions to as the book touches on how we change as we mature, pre-judging others and family responsibility.

And Julianna’s twin brothers?  They reminded me of the twins in Harry Potter.  No magic, but no less fun.


How to Trap a Zombie . . . by A.R. Rotruck

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 2:13 am by suebe2

How to Trap a Zombie, Track a Vampire, and Other Hands-on Activities for Monster Hunters

by A.R. Rotruck

I wanted to review this book for Halloween — because it is such fun and there aren’t enough fun Halloween-y books for older readers.  But this review grew into something more.  This review is a bit different from the others and will consist of three parts.

I.  My son’s review of the book.

II. My review of the book.

III.  The story behind my review — the saga of finding the book.  Again.

Let’s begin.

I.  My son’s review of the book.

I think How to Trap a Zombie, Track a Vampire, and Other Hands-on Activities for Monster Hunters was an excellent book.  I think it is good for kids 6 – 14 (boys and girls) because it has a lot of different games and crafts.  My favorite craft was the wand.  It tells you what you can put on your wand and how this will make your wand more magical.  My favorite part, besides the crafts, was where it tells you how to assemble a monster hunting party.  The book’s crafts mainly circle around the theme of monster hunting.  It was a really good book!

–Guest review by son of SueBE (age 11)

II. My review of the book.

This is a tongue-in-cheek how-to about monster hunting.  It tells the would-be hunter how to make the various things they need to take with them as well as various games that confound specific monsters or train the hunter for the hunt itself.  Part craft book, part fantasy, it is a must have for any young fantasy fan who dreams of saving the world, or at least the neighborhood.  Not that saving the world isn’t important, but there is a good bit of humor as well.

Once your young monster hunter gets their hands on this book, be prepared.  You will find dining room chairs lying on their sides, masquerading as looms, sun tea brewing in jars on the front porch and sticks decorated with feathers, stones and flowers hidden throughout the house.  After all, a good monster hunter is always prepared.  “Never use a net,” the book advises, “unless you are prepared to deal with what you catch in it.”

You should be prepared for your young fantasy fan (ages 9 – 12) to spend some serious time acting out their imagination.  This book is seriously fun.

III.  The story behind my review — the saga of finding the book.  Again.

I remembered getting this book in a whole box of books.  But when I was pulling books off my shelf, preparing for my next round of reviews, it wasn’t there.  I checked my desk.  I checked beneath my desk.  I remembered seeing it in the box.  I remembered seeing my son looking in the box . . .

Me:  “Did you take a book about monster hunting?”

Him:  “What book?”

Me:  “One of my review copies.  Really cool illustrations.  Something about hunting monsters, maybe zombies.  Catching monsters.”

Him:  “Maybe.  Why?”

Me:  “I need to read it so I can review it?”

Him:  “You aren’t going to give it away?  The publisher doesn’t want it back?  Like a recall?”

Me:  “Where’s my book?”

Him:  “I’ll be back in a minute . . .  with my book.”

Good as his word, he came back upstairs in a few minutes with the book.  Flipping through it I recognized the pack he wanted to make from his father’s jeans, the wand behind the crystal bowl on my mahogany buffet, the sun tea and more.  This book had already seen some serious use.  Then I flipped to the front and spotted a chart, “This Book is the Property of . . .”  The publisher designed the book with one line left open and the rest filled in with the names of fictitious monster hunters.  At the bottom of the list, on the previously blank line, was a name I knew very well.  Apparently, this is not my book, but his.

I am the mother of a monster hunter.  Now I’d better get this book back to him before he nets me or snares me or comes up with his own way of getting it back.


October 1, 2010

The Dark Divine by Bree Dispaine

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 9:50 pm by suebe2

The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

(AR 4 .5 )

Grace Divine seems to have it made.  She’s a talented artist and a pretty good student and her older brother, Jude, is the darling of the upper class — good looking and generous.

But then a boy with dark shaggy hair shows up in art class.  He’s  eerily talented and something about him sets her on edge.  Then Grace realizes that it is Daniel Kalbi.  He’d lived in their home and had been Jude’s best friend, but then something happened.  Something bad.  Daniel disappeared, Jude came home covered in his own blood and his parents forbade any mention of Daniel and refused to tell Grace what had happened.  Still, he had been one of her best friends too and Grace desperately wants to know what happened even if it was years ago.

Still something bad is loose.  An elderly woman is found dead.  Pets go missing and then a teen age girl disappears.

Could Daniel be involved?  Or is he really there to help?

Then Grace’s baby brother disappears and Daniel takes off to find him.  He seems to pull scent from the air and makes a leaping catch that isn’t humanly possible.

Don’t consider this a Twilight remake although with the supernatural element comparisons are natural.  This book is strongly rooted in Faith — Grace’s Faith in God, her Faith in her father, her brother and Daniel and even her Faith in her herself.

While the book got off to a fairly slow start, when it grabs you, it simply does not let go.

This is definitely a girl’s book with the romantic subplot and the swooning over various well-muscled specimen.  But there is also a great deal of physical action and adventure.  Younger readers will be hooked by the adventure aspect and while there is some violence,  the vast majority takes place “off screen.”  There is also a thwarted date rape.  Still, the way it is handled, not low key but with very few details, the book is still suitable to younger readers.

This book would also be a good platform for discussing forgiveness, good vs evil and truth.

A sequel is coming in December and I, for one, am looking forward to revisiting these characters.


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