May 27, 2011
Tiger Rose has a good home with kids who love her and a dog who tolerates her. But Tiger Rose is no longer a young cat. She has aches and pains and no longer loves the chase.
One spring day, when everyone has gone to the places that they need to go, she strolls through the farm and says goodbye to the dog, to the chipmunk, to the snake and to the starlings.
Then she takes one more giant leap.
Now, I’m going to make a confession. I despise picture books where the pet dies. When I pick up a picture book about a pet, I flip to the library catalog information. I read the summary. I scan the topics for “death” or “dying.” Let’s just say that I’ve read one to many maudlin tear-jerkers where the pet dies in the end.
But this is Jane Yolen! Certainly Jane wouldn’t do that to me. And she didn’t. This is an amazingly gentle story about a much loved animal who has lived a full life and eases out of it at peace with her decision.
This book is an excellent choice for any child who has lost an elderly family pet. Or an adult who has lost a much-loved four-legged or feathered friend.
Jim LaMarche’s illustrations compliment the gentle beauty of this story, from the cat’s pleasant expression to the dreamy quality of the colors.
Thank you to Yolen and LaMarche for a book that will ease the heartache and bring a quiet smile.
May 16, 2011
Princess Raini may be heir to the throne but that doesn’t mean she has much power. To avoid an arranged marriage, arranged but illegal, she flees the country, hiding by enrolling as a students a military academy. She finds life as a common student more challenging in many ways than life at court.
Just to make things even more complicated, she runs into Han Alister, her former captor. He only knows her as Rebecca, the servant girl he kidnapped to allow him to escape those who were hunting him. He is now attending school across the river from the military academy. All along he had a wizard’s power but never knew it until the bracelets that kept this power in check were removed. He has fled to the wizards school to learn to harness his power and protect himself and his best friend from the wizards who would do them harm.
I can’t tell you much more specific about the book without giving away major elements of the plot — which I simply refuse to do.
This book is an excellent choice for fantasy lovers looking for a challenging read. With at least least two plot lines (one for Han and one for Raina) there is something to draw in both male and female readers.
While there are references to sex, it is also made clear that sex taken lightly leads to very serious consequences including children and the responsibilities that come with them.
Expect mystery and intrigue as the characters try to figure out who to trust, who various characters really are and how to harness their own abilities to stay alive.
An excellent fantasy adventure.
May 13, 2011
The world of our feathered friends comes alive in this poetry collection by the mother and son team of Jane Yolen and Jason Stemple. Yolen’s poetry introduces young readers to a variety of birds ranging from the regal bald eagle to the diminutive chickadee and from the solitary Great Horned Owl to the group loving Oystercatcher.
Each two page spread is dedicated to an individual bird. Yolen’s poem is complimented by a sidebar of additional information on the bird. But pulling it all together are Stemple’s stand out photos.
As much as I adore Yolen’s poems, I have to admit that I order each book the pair does for the photos. Even the everyday chickadee is a masterpiece when it is brought into focus by Stemple’s lens.
Pick up a copy of this book to share with the poetry lovers and the nature lovers in your life. Younger readers can focus on the poems and return later to learn a bit more from the sidebars.
A must for anyone who loves nature photography or our feathered friends.
Pretty Princess Pig has a big day ahead. Today is her big tea party. A tea party calls for a party dress, a clean house, a spiffed up dining room, a carefully set table, flowers and cakes.
Unfortunately, the only step Pretty Princess Pig completes without making a huge mess is putting on her party dress – Step 1. As you might expect, by the time the guests arrive, things are pulled together but also a huge mess. Still, no one says a word as they graciously accept her hospitality.
Williams illustrations are incredibly expressive. You can easily see Pretty Princess Pig’s eagerness to make things perfect for her guests as well as their dismay at the disarray that greets them.
I’m not a princess fan but I had great sympathy for Pretty Princess Pig. I’m still the one who constantly has something smeared across her clothes, a lock of hair in her face and either pet hair or my own hair dangling about.
I’ve seen this book called a “board book.” Don’t order it expecting heavy cardboard pages. That said the construction is sturdier than your standard picture book with a padded cover and heavy high gloss pages.
Pick up a copy to share with mess-maker in your life who is both girly and chaos on the hoof. Together you can share this story that is gently sweet and funny all at the same time. I’m just waiting for a certain someone’s birthday to pass a copy on.
May 5, 2011
When I saw the write up of Cloud Tea Monkeys, I was immediately pulled in by the cover. The steam curling into magical monkeys.
Fortunately, I found the story just as captivating.
Tashi and her mother live in the Himalayas. Her mother makes a living picking tea. Each morning Tashi and her mother and the other women, carrying large tea baskets, make their way to the far off tea plantation. There, every day, the Overseer tells the women how to do their jobs — jobs they understand completely. When the monkeys swarm down the mountain, Tashi stops working. She makes her way to a jumble of rocks shaded by a tree where she shares her meager lunch with the baby monkeys.
One day, Tashi’s mother is sick and must stay home. Without her income, they can’t pay for the doctor. Without the doctor, she will not get well and return to work.
Tashi drags the basket to the plantation where she tries to take her mother’s place. The Overseer kicks over her basket and leaves the girl in tears. Fortunately, someone else, someone much more sympathetic is watching and the tea filling Tashi’s basket is the marvelous, magical Cloud Tea.
Fine details and deep colors combine to create illustrations that are just as rich and magnificent as the story itself. Wijngaard has also done a marvelous job capturing a wide variety of facial expressions, especially those of the Royal Tea Taster who may first seem imposing but is a deep and nuanced character.
An excellent gift for tea lovers, animal lovers or simply someone who likes a tale with a touch of magic and mystery.
May 4, 2011
by Jill Rubalcaba
This book offers nonfiction lovers a close look at four of the most important “early man” finds — Turkana Boy, Lapedo Child, Kennewick Man, and the Iceman. Each find is detailed (both in terms of what was going on when the person died and how the discovery of the remains was made) and then the findings and controversy surrounding each is discussed. I really enjoyed reading what scientists learned about each person’s life by examining the skeletons — a nick or a bump can reveal quite a bit to someone who understands what they are looking at.
Part mystery and part anthropology, this book is a must for anyone interested in archaeology. But don’t turn the pages expecting a dry text book. Rubalcaba finds the humor involved in the various debates ranging from how flowers might have been introduced into a grave (by accident or did Neanderthal have religion?) to bumbling about trying to decide if a find is a missing hiker (dressed in extinct furs) or an early man.
And don’t be surprised if it sounds a bit like a CSI investigation. Forensic scientists built their specialties upon the foundations of archaeology. Each group studies the remains and surrounding items for clues. In one case, the remains may be only hours old. In the other, thousands of years.
This is definitely the book to whet the appetite of a future archaeologist.