January 30, 2012

What to Expect When You’re Expecting Larvae by Bridget Heos

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 2:02 am by suebe2

What to Expect When You’re Expecting Larvae
by Bridget Heos
AR 3.9

I have to admit, I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked this one up.  I’d heard great things about the book from the agent who sold it — she simply couldn’t quit gushing about the fantastic humor.

A humorous nonfiction book about insects?  Could someone really pull that off?  The answer is “yes” if that someone is Bridget Heos.

Heos could have written a ho hum factual account of where insects of various kinds lay there eggs, how quickly the larvae grow, what types of insects pass through a larval stage, etc.  But that wouldn’t be this book.

Instead, she wrote a humorous question and answer.  The questions themselves are pretty straightforward:

  • “What will my babies look like?  Will they resemble their mother or father?”
  • “I fly.  My wingless larvae can’t come with me.  What will they do all day?”
  • “How will I keep my larvae safe?”

The humor comes in with the responses and the illustrations.  Readers will laugh about larvae that look like bird poop, those that make bird’s vomit, and why book worms have had to find different digs. It is truly hard to do the humor in this book justice without simply quoting vast portions of it.

If you have a preschool insect lover, this book is probably too sophisticated.  They may get some of the humor (there are dung beetles, after all) but a lot of it will fly on by.  That said, if your child gets sarcasm, come this way.  You and your little book worm have found a new book to munch.


January 23, 2012

The Gollywhopper Games by Jody Feldman

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:44 am by suebe2

The Gollywhopper Games
by Jody Feldman

First of all, a disclosure.  No, the book wasn’t a gift.  I checked it out from the library.  Why?  Because Jody is one of the writers that I know and run into.  That’s why I picked the book up, but it isn’t why I loved it.

Gil Goodson is a fantastic underdog.  He’s smart and a good athlete.  He’s kind and conscientious.  Why then is he an underdog?  Because his father was accused of embezzling money from his employer, Golly Toy and Game Company.  Accused, not convicted.  A jury of his peers found him  innocent.

But what about Gil’s peers?  They aren’t as certain and the outspoken ones have made his life really difficult.  Because of their harassment, he’s quit playing sports.  He doesn’t hang out with the other kids any more.  He pretty much just goes to school, mows lawns and goes home.

What a life.


Gil just wishes that they could afford to move closer to his aunt.  Then he could start over, with new kids who hadn’t seen the story on television.  He wouldn’t constantly be reminded of that whole horrible time.

And Gil has the chance to win the money.  All he has to do is win the GollyWhopper Games a series of challenges that include both logic puzzles but also physical feats.

In the end, Gil is a real winner, but not because he wins the Games.  But because he learns to recognize who his friends are and what makes someone a good person.

The whole time I was reading this, I kept thinking back to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Don’t bother.  The sense of fun is there but Gil is so much cooler than Charlie. Where Charlie wins by not being the worst kid there, Gil has to do so much more including being a true leader and using both athletic ability and his smarts.  Readers will also enjoy getting to solve the puzzles right along with Gil — something they didn’t get to do in Dahl’s book.

An excellent middle grade read that would be suitable for grade schoolers as well.  The book is high energy and clever and sure to win a place in classrooms and school libraries.  Use it to launch a section on puzzle solving, team building or ethics.


January 16, 2012

Metal Man by Aaron Reynolds

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 2:02 am by suebe2

Metal Man
by Aaron Reynolds
AR 2.6

Whenever he gets the chance, Devon heads over to watch the Metal Man work.  His sister won’t go with him.  She’s scared of the noise.  Mama doesn’t even like what the Metal Man does.  According to her, it isn’t art, but junk.

But Devon sees something more.  He sees the work that goes into it and the heart.  Still, sometimes he isn’t sure what he’s supposed to see in the sculptures.     But this isn’t school and eventually Devon learns that with art there is no one right answer.

One day, he asks if he can try something.   The Metal Man won’t let Devon handle the dangerous torch but he follows Devon’s directions and before the day is out, Devon is holding the star-house that he designed.

Paul Hoppe’s mixed media illustrations are a perfect compliment for this story.  Bold black lines compliment Devon’s brass even as they also depict his complex emotions and the pure strength of the Metal Man’s craft.

But this isn’t a bold story.  The power is subtle.  Nothing is said about Devon’s father; all we know is that he isn’t in the book.  Is the Metal Man Devon’s mentor?  A Big Brother?  Again, nothing is said.  All we see is first his tolerance of the boy but also the care he takes when Devon wants to create something of his very own.

It takes nerve on Devon’s part to bring his creation home.  What is Mama going to think?  He views on the Metal Man’s work are outspoken and clear.  But Mama doesn’t have all the answers although she’s willing to see the art in what her son has created.

This book will definitely give you something to consider for quite some time.  Even after a week, I know that I’m still process it.



January 10, 2012

The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , at 1:44 am by suebe2

The Girl of Fire and Thorns

by Rae Carson

Elisa hasn’t done anything impressive in her sixteen years.  Sure, she’s a princess but her sister is amazing.  She knows all about the workings of their father’s kingdom, rides horseback and can hold her own in any situation.

Elisa?  She eats.

In fact, that’s what she’s dreaming of doing as she’s fitted into her wedding gown.  She’s nervous about meeting the groom, Alejandro,  King of a neighboring land.  Elisa also wonders why it is so important that she marry right now.  What good could she be in helping the king of a threatened land?

Maybe it has something to do with her Godstone.  The Godstone, lodged in her navel, marks her as chosen by God.  It appeared on her wedding day and it tells one and all that she has been chosen for a great task.

Elisa only hopes that she’ll be up for it.  But until that destiny finds her she takes solace much as she always has — in her books and food.  Before she can make a position for herself in this new court, she is kidnapped and makes a long trek across the desert.  In a small village, she finds a group of desperate people who are sure that this bearer of the Godstone can save them from the war that has already taken so many lives, a war that her husband the kind doesn’t know is already being fought.

This is definitely a girls book, in spite of the battle scenes and fighting.  There is simply too much time spent on emotion and introspection to fully engage most boy readers.

Too bad for them.

Because this was a book I couldn’t put down.  In spite of all of her waffling about, Elisa is a character who pulls on your sympathy.  She takes solace in food.  She’s amazingly insecure.  She knows that most every woman is prettier than she is and that her brains aren’t going to score points for her with people who value pretty over smart.  She knows that life holds great things for her, if only she can figure out what they are.

Sound like anyone you know?  Me too.

If you’ve got a tween or teen who loves fantasy, sword and sorcery or adventure, this book is a must read.  If you love any of these things, take the time to read it yourself.  It is chock full of romance, intrigue and lessons on faith, faith in God and faith in yourself.

Take the time to read it during a few of this winter’s cold, dark nights.


January 5, 2012

2011 in review

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:16 am by suebe2

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,500 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

January 3, 2012

Coral Reefs by Jason Chin

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 2:02 am by suebe2

Coral Reefs 
by Jason Chin
Roaring  Brook Press
AR 6.4

In my opinion, one of the best picture book nonfiction authors around is Jason Chin.  Jason combines easy to understand descriptions of various ecosystems with amazingly detailed water color paintings to produce his books.  My favorite so far is Coral Reefs.

Our narrator pulls a book on coral reefs off the library shelf.  As she wonders through the library and reads, coral crops up first on table tops and book cases but soon it is creeping up the walls.  Before long, the water has gushed in and filled the library and the young reader is now swimming amid the animals that populate the reef.

It sounds fanastical, and the frame for Chin’s story is in that it isn’t strictly nonfiction.  But his painting are so realistic that I am confident that if I can’t tell a grouper from a grunt that the fault is my own.

Chin discusses both predators and prey so the book is realistic but it isn’t so intense that it would frighten most young readers.

The perfect book for an introduction to marine ecosystems or to share with the fish loving young reader in your own life.  Don’t be surprised if you find yourself gazing at the paintings and forgetting to read the text.

It happens, after all, to the best of us.

Just pick up this book and enjoy!


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