February 22, 2011
by Cinda Williams Chima
Han has forsworn life as a gang leader, giving up stealing and hustling for an honest income that won’t bring danger to his mother or sister. Yet earning a living as an honest man seems impossible when everyone believes you are still street lord of one of the most powerful gangs in the city. Not to mention the trouble that he stirs up when he takes an amulet from a young wizard who has threatened to jinx him.
Princess Raisa knows that there is more to live than what she sees within the palace walls. How can she possibly rule when everyone knows more about life beyond the castle than she does? Raisa wants to see the world beyond the Queendom and begins sneaking off to the temple to see what life is like for those less fortunate than herself.
It is at the temple that two worlds collide.
I can’t say much more about the actual plot of this book without revealing far too much.
I have read a number of Chima’s books and this is my favorite thus far although I enjoyed them all. The world she has created is rich and complex. Her characters are complex and wonderfully believable.
One of the things that will be most appealing, and also frustrating, for young readers is that the young characters, including the princess and Han, seem to have so few choices open to them. What should they be? What future should they choose? Han isn’t sure, but it seems that each and every thing he might choose is denied him. Raisa has even fewer choices facing the possibility of an arranged marriage much earlier than she realized was possible.
Fantasy lovers, both boys and girls, will find something to pull them into this richly woven story of destiny, treachery and loyalty. If you haven’t sampled much young fiction yourself, try this story out. You won’t be disappointed.
February 17, 2011
by Brian Lies
Mothdogs, Cricket Jacks and hard playing baseball bats. What could be more fun than an evening at the ball field?
From the arrival of the first fans to the work of the grounds crew, anticipation builds. How will our team do?
“At first, we’re full of reckless joy —
their batters strike out fast.
But when our batters strike out too,
our laughter doesn’t last.”
Brian Lies trademark humor shines through in the illustrations and the text. Adults and young readers alike will relish looking for bat related riffs on baseball from the snacks to the songs that Lies brings to life in the pages of this story.
Because Lies writes rhyming text, this makes for a fun read aloud that the baseball lover in your life is sure to ask for again and again.
If you aren’t reading it aloud, don’t be surprised if you get so caught up in the illustrations that you have to go back and read the book again.
An excellent choice for bat lovers, baseball lovers and readers who simply love to laugh.
by Judith St. George
illustrated by Matt Faulkner
Say Teddy Roosevelt and most people think of a big, imposing man strutting around saying, “Bully!” I’m not saying that’s accurate, but it is what it is — the common image.
St. George immediately sets this image on its ear. The first image is of a sickly, small boy named Teedie who is struggling to breathe. Fortunately, Papa comes to the rescue and paces the floor, cradling the future president.
Teedie continues to struggle with his asthma even when his parents take the family to the country for the summer. Teedie falls head over heals for the outdoors and the many creatures he finds there. He leads his siblings on imaginative adventures.
When they returned to New York City, Teedie started a nature museum in his room. He even managed to collect a live snapping turtle. Soon, the maid refused to enter.
But asthma continued to plague Teedie. When his family journeyed to Europe for a year, he climbed mountains and explored museums — when he was well enough to do so.
An avid reader and student of nature, Teedie quickly developed his mind but his small, thin body lagged behind until his father encouraged him to join a gym — not common practice in those days. His mother accompanied young Teedie who worked hard and eventually grew stronger and more sure of himself.
Fun as he is, Teddy Roosevelt isn’t someone with whom young children readily identify, but Teedie is another story. Small, sick and bullied yet imaginative and passionate about nature, Teedie is someone young readers will feel an affinity for that will help them relate to the man that he eventually became.
February 1, 2011
by Mo Willems
Gerald the Elephant and Piggie are at it again. Gerald is the first one to notice that something is up. In fact, someone . . . or something . . . may be watching them.
Piggie, always the bolder of the two, investigates and discovers the truth — the pair is being watched. But not by a monster. They are being watched by a reader.
The situation is cool enough to overcome Gerald’s reserved nature and soon he is turning flips and plotting with Piggie to play a trick on the reader. What kind of trick? You’ll have to take the chance of being victimized to find out.
Think you can outsmart a cartoon pig and a cartoon elephant? Maybe you can and maybe you can’t but either way you’re sure to have a good laugh.
Although our family still reads at bedtime, we very seldom read aloud anymore, instead each reading our own book. Willems’ book simply cries to be read out loud and soon my son and I were leaning on each other laughing aloud. When we finished, he took the book from me and read it again. You’ll see why when you read it for yourself.
Beginning readers are essential. The deceptively simple texts lure inexperienced readers into turning the pages until the story is done. Very few are so good that you want to read them again and again and share them with a friend. Willems’ book is one of the best.
Be sure to pick up a copy for the young reader in your life who enjoys a good laugh and may need a nudge to gain some confidence in their own reading skills. Willems, Gerald and Piggie deliver.