"review" · chapter/series · Children's · comics/graphic novels · concenter · juvenile lit · recommend · sci-fi/fantasy · short story

{comic} BFFs

little robot cover

Little Robot by Ben Hatke

First Second, 2015.

Advanced Reader Copy (thank you First Second/Net Galley) in exchange for a fair review.

When a little girl finds an adorable robot in the woods, she presses a button and accidentally activates him for the first time. Now, she finally has a friend. But the big, bad robots are coming to collect the little guy for nefarious purposes, and it’s all up to a five-year-old armed only with a wrench and a fierce loyalty to her mechanical friend to save the day!–Publisher’s comments

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As observed of his Zita Spacegirl series “Hatke does really good robots—seriously, spaceships, gear, and really great robots.”* So when I heard First Second was publishing his Little Robot, I was super geeked.

little robot 43

Little Robot is deceptively simple in presentation. Unlined panels, a lot of white space, silence for pages, uncluttered or uncomplicated compositions. The first text is “tap,” a sound effect on page 25. The first spoken text is on 27. The story is quiet yet brimming with expression. The reader is like the cat licking the robot, there is an initial zing, as well as a residual. We cannot remain unaffected.

little robot 45

Like other Hatke heroines we’ve met, this little girl is beautifully determined and resourceful. She is alone and capable, lonely and courageous, and likes it that way. What is awesome about the story: its point is not whether the little girl will prove acceptable or not when human children arrive at the end of the book. When the human children do arrive, she runs off with her already true friend, the little robot she fought so hard to befriend/rescue. True, she needed a friend–and she’d found one.

Little Robot is very much a story of daring, of tenacity, of not letting a monster robot get in the way of a friendship you’ve invested in, one you’ve been waiting for.

The subject of life and death is hardly subtle, and in that way, it is accessible. The Little Robot is as animated and unnamed as the Little Human protagonist. They also seem to be subject to a greater machine at work, one that leaves her to her own devices, sneaking into the yards of others’ to play—an older white male watching her from the window. What is equally left unsaid is whether the man is malevolent. “ROM!” takes on a different affect at the end of the story after the mechanism is re-adjusted, can we infer the same of its human counterpart (if said man is, in fact, its counterpart?); Industry is.

I love the juxtaposition of Machine and Nature. I love the delightful experiences of those a forming friendship. I love that the last image brings to mind Castle in the Sky (Miyazaki, 1986)… Hatke is artful in his use of of panel, in the reaches across. He is judicious in breaking the reverie of the image with text. He’s playful. And he writes the best female characters and their adventures in such a way that it makes it difficult to understand just how rare their portrayals and their settings actually are.

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Ben Hatke’s work is worth the anticipation it builds, not just the robots, but the girls, their adventures, their courage, their heart. I can’t wait to meet his next adventure, but in the meantime, I’ll indulge a few re-reads.

——-

recommendations: emerging readers through grade-school, and adults. STEM kids, and artists. Those needing greater diversity in their library/repertoire. lovers of robot art.

*Legends of Zita Spacegirl review. Here is one for Zita Spacegirl.

{images belong to Ben Hatke}

"review" · chapter/series · Children's · concenter · juvenile lit · recommend

{book} mirrors

Zetta Elliott offered a free copy of her book to interested reviewers. Please do not believe that I proceeded to read and review The Magic Mirror with bias. If you’ve spent any real length of time here on ‘omphaloskepsis’, you know I’m a fair and balanced reviewer, but I felt it should be clarified nonetheless.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000419_00052]The Magic Mirror

By Zetta Elliott, Illustrated by Paul Melecky

Rosetta Press, 2014.

“When a boy at school hurts Kamara’s feelings, she goes home and asks her grandmother if the mean words are really true. Gramma tells Kamara to go upstairs and clean the old mirror in the guest room. But when Kamara starts to rub the glass, she discovers that the mirror is magical! Kamara sees brave women from the past who faced many challenges yet never gave up hope. When the historical journey ends in the twenty-first century, the mirror once again shows Kamara her own reflection. She sheds her self-doubt and instead draws strength from the courage of the women she met in the magic mirror.” publisher’s copy.

It would be tempting to only promote The Magic Mirror as a more-than-suitable accompaniment to a grade-schooler’s studies of African American History.* Elliott captures a great deal in those shifting portraits through time. I can already imagine children choosing a portrait to expound on for the class, or as a personal project to learn more about a time witnessed.

However, more should be said about its personal impact. Elliott lays the groundwork in the opening pages, the timelessness of a soul. Despite the difficulties of aging, “grandma hasn’t changed inside” (2). She has a vitality and Kamara describes her as a safe place. What Kamara comes to see in the mirror is her legacy. She sees in the mirror courageous women exemplifying perseverance, hope and determination.

Not all of the historical reflections are easy to confront. Elliott buoys the text by anchoring the scenes upon the women she wants Kamara (and the reader) to see and know. They lend their courage to face, endure and overcome to Kamara (and reader). After one sequence, Kamara recognizes that “though they are trying to humiliate her, they have not touched her soul” (24). More, Elliott wants Kamara (and the reader) to know that these women live on. Kamara takes strength in what she’s learned in the magic mirror; which for the reader is the book.** “I stare at my reflection and see traces of the brave and beautiful women from my past. I know their pride, courage, and determination are still alive in me” (30).

Elliott’s story escapes the sentimental in its declarative voice. Hers is an extremely powerful use of the first person narrative, “I stare,” “see,” and “I know.” Kamara has heard some “hard words” from a boy at school, but what she’s seen and knows to be true is there to sustain her; like the relationships where her grandma and mother provide safe, empowering, loving homes from which to become.

The Magic Mirror is the first person narrative of Kamara’s struggle, journey and discovery, but I get the feeling hers is one that can be shared. The Magic Mirror, like the most precious of books, can be a safe, empowering, loving home to inspire one to become hopeful and courageous–to know they are beautiful.

I’ve a fond wish for readers to find less academic reasons for The Magic Mirror.* I imagine children (and adults) looking in mirrors and seeking out the stories that make them proud and that speak of a timeless beauty born of courage, hope, and determination—stories not unlike The Magic Mirror.

——————–

A word on the illustrations by Paul Melecky: I feel sure I would have called the scenes captured in the mirror as “portraits,” but the illustrations are framed stills, color shaped by loose lines that grant the images movement (and thus life); too, are those facial expressions. The illustrations hold the story and historical moment as complexly as Elliott describes them, creating a wonderful partnership between author and illustration.

All of the illustrations are of the mirror. It’s of interest that the story begins with an illustration of Kamara looking in the mirror, but does not close with another one her as her legacy dawns on her. Instead we are left with the last image of a young woman in graduation robes embraced by family. “One day I will go to college, too” (30), Kamara knows, confident in the pathway since created for her. What is left for Kamara and the reader to imagine is: what scene will be played out for future generations looking in that magic mirror. It isn’t a question of what legacy she will leave, but what moment in her life might exemplify that which still lives in her.

——————–

*this is not to say I wouldn’t love public, school, and classroom libraries to stock copies of this one–I just want to avoid the party line that this is one that will educate; which it will, but it is also quite moving.

**Rudine Sims Bishop’s essay “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors” came to mind as I read The Magic Mirror, “Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation.”

recommendations: obviously this is a powerful book for girls, but I wouldn’t restrict this to gender lines, nor racial either. Both the writing and book length are excellent for younger readers up through the grade school years. It would be cool to have print-outs of the mirror to encourage writing/illustrating our own legacies of courage, or imagine a present/future scene wherein the reader can describe themselves.

 

"review" · chapter/series · Children's · concenter · fiction · recommend

{book} ruby’s magic madness

ruby lu brave and true coverRuby Lu, Brave and True by Lenore Look

illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf

Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2004.

Hardcover, 105 pages incl. “Ruby’s Fantastic Glossary and Pronunciation Guide”

Library borrow. Ages 6-10.

Most days the best thing about being Ruby is everything. Like when she’s the star of her own backyard magic show [“Ruby’s Magic Madness”]. Or when she gives a talk at the school safety assembly on the benefits of reflective tape. Or when she rides the No. 3 bus all the way to Chinatown to visit GungGung and PohPoh.
And then there are the days when it’s very hard to be Ruby. Like when her mom suggests Chinese school on Saturdays. Or when her little brother, Oscar, spills all of Ruby’s best magician secrets. Or when her parents don’t think she’s old enough to drive!
Come along with Ruby Lu in her chapter-book debut — which even includes a flip book of a magic trick — and share the good and the not-so-good days with an (almost) eight-year-old Asian-American kid.—Publisher’s Comments

When Natalya was in grade-school, the most popular chapter book choices for reading aloud to each other were those with a high whimsy, strangeness, or humor factor. Had I known Lenore Look existed then, her books would have been bought and shelved next to Junie B. and Dragon Slayer Academy. The Alvin Ho books (my first intro to Look) are awesomely funny, but Ruby Lu, she has an absolute charm all her own.

Anne Wilsdorf illustrative contribution reflects the spunky, live-wire world of Ruby Lu. They have a comic-realist balancing act that fits the character and her stories. They provide visual breaks in the text and clarify the events/antics of the story in a pleasing way. Wilsdorf and Look entertain.

There is a straightforward style in the telling of the story that suits Ruby Lu very well. There are little neighborhood stories that characterize and are characterized by Ruby Lu. Certain interests and attributes thread the small chapter book together. Look begins with the things Ruby likes and then dislikes and as the story progresses Ruby’s relationships with many of these things vacillate based on circumstance. Her baby brother is a great example of this…so is Chinese school. Her “likes” rely on what suits her, and when—sound familiar?

But Ruby is true, true to self and whilst learning is undeniably Ruby Lu—actually, I wonder now if most of the learning is on the part of the reader. Ruby’s bravery is a bit foolhardy at times—there is a marvelous mouth-covering sequence suspending the reader between horror and humor. But her bravery allows her to endure the uncertainty of whether she can learn what she needs at school, whether the bully can be revisited, or whether her emigrating cousin Flying Duck will an embarrassment or a familiar.

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Ruby Lu has her charming little quirks that celebrate individuality and, well, childhood; and she isn’t the only one. Ruby’s family is sweet, very present and parental—including the grand-parental. I adore her family and her little Seattle neighborhood.

With concerns over her Asian-cultural education and Ruby’s concerns of integrating her emigrating relative, Ruby Lu has the double-pleasure of telling a story specific to the Asian-American protagonist and providing a glimpse for those with different childhood experiences. Look thoughtfully includes a “Glossary and Pronunciation Guide,” but if there are any worries that Look’s chapter book reads “educational,” relax. Learning about Ruby Lu and life on 20th Avenue South is as effortless as Look makes her storytelling ability appear—which is incredibly fluid and compelling. Look draws such a delightfully funny and fierce heroine, you are guaranteed to enjoy having this one read-aloud to you.

—————————-

{image belongs to Anne Wilsdorf}

other books in the Ruby Lu series: Ruby Lu, Empress of Everything (2006) and Ruby Lu, Star of the Show (2011).

———————author——-

lenore lookLenore Look is the award-winning author of numerous children’s books including the popular Alvin Ho series. other books: Love as Strong as Ginger (1999); Henry’s First Moon Birthday (2001); Uncle Peter’s Amazing Chinese Wedding (2006); Polka Dot Penguin Pottery (2011); Brush of the Gods (2013)

Learn more about Lenore Look on her site; there is a nifty “q&a” page open for questions wherein I learned much, but here is a few things: She started writing when she was 6 and published her first book 31 years later (‘kento’) ; Look is “from Seattle, WA. [Her] parents, grandparents and great-grandparents all emigrated to the U.S. from China’s Guangdong province. [… ] My parents speak only Chinese to one another and to their children, so Toisanese, which is the country-cousin version of Cantonese, was my first language. I also understand Cantonese, which is more widely used, so I use it in my books (‘tanja’); & in answer to ‘aiden’: “I have two favorite books that I love equally and re-read nearly every year. CHARLOTTE’S WEB by E.B. White, and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee.”

"review" · chapter/series · Children's · juvenile lit · recommend · series · Tales

{book} taking the case

Ivy_and_Bean_Take_the_Case_FC_HiResIvy + Bean: Take the Case (Book 10)

by Annie Barrows + Sophie Blackall (illus)

Chronicle Books, 2013. Hardcover, 126 pages.

Modeling herself after a classic film noir detective from her mother’s favorite film, Private Investigator Bean “laughs at danger! […] And she and her assistant, Ivy, are ready, willing, and able to solve any mystery you can throw at them.” If there were any mysteries deemed mysterious enough in Pancake Court, that is…

Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall deliver yet another delightfully creative and intelligent Ivy + Bean adventure. I was surprised to find, however, that plenty of the usual fans on goodreads did not care for this 10th installment. Most of the explanations focused on their “boredom during the first portion of the book” and its “untidy ending.” And I can see that, especially if one misses what is going on in the story.

A mystery was a question you couldn’t find the answer to. In Al Seven’s world, the mysteries were things like Who took Hester’s jewels? or Where was Sammy La Barba on the night of May twelfth? Bean didn’t have any jewels and she sure as heck didn’t know anyone named Sammy La Barba, but there were plenty of questions that she didn’t have answers to. […] What’s inside the cement thing in the front yard? What’s behind the Tengs’ fence and why do they lock it up? and What’s the matter with the mailman? when she asked these questions, her parents usually said something like It’s none of your business. That meant that there was an answer, but they didn’t want her to know it. (13-4)

Investigator Bean and her assistant Ivy are having problems solving mysteries that are impressive enough to satisfy the crowd (e.g. the other kids of Pancake Court), and apparently the reader (e.g. goodreads reviews). Or, rather, it is the answers that their investigations reveal that lack audience interest, because Ivy and Bean are not the only one’s who’ve always wondered about the cement thing, Teng’s backyard or the mailman. When they solve the mystery, the answer turns out to be a lackluster one. The girls are increasingly mocked and the pressure intensifies to find a mystery “strange” enough to satisfy their difficult crowd (which, granted, includes themselves).

Suddenly a rope appears and know one knows who hung it from Dino’s chimney. Every night knots add length as it begins to wind about Pancake Court. This is where the “big mystery” kicks in–but obviously not the story. In Film Noir, this is where the story would start, too. But this is Pancake Court and Bean is not a hardened, tormented detective. And this is Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall breaking from the formulaic. In many ways, their willingness to dare something unexpected and different reclaims the word and idea of mystery; and in doing so, they do what they do exceptionally well: argue on the side of creativity and its prerequisite imagination and different points-of-view.

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Some mysteries are going to remain mysteries, like the one presented in the first chapter: Why would a mother who restricts Bean’s screen-watching-time to ten movies with a strict personal-parental rating allow her daughter to watch a film that breaks all but one of those rules? Barrows could have launched Bean’s new obsession from another source (as many other picture and early chapter books have done).

Clues to who-dunnit appear throughout the early mysteries before we’ve arrived to the Big Case. There is a lot to suggest the who and why by the time the crowd is threatening a revolt. Did the investigative reader consider all the angles? In Mysteries, does the reader really leave it up to the Investigator to do all the work?

<<spoilers alert!!! spoilers!!!!>>

Noting his presence/timing in text/illustration: Jake the Teenager. Why? to help a nutty neighbor out, or to amuse himself, or both? But why leave “The Mystery of the Yellow Rope” unsolved? because the magic of having a mystery is really what Ivy and Bean have discovered to be the most enticing part of a mystery. Think about how quickly the attitude shifted when questions were answered. Boring ol’Pancake Court became even more so.

“Al Seven is always wanting to solve mysteries,” Bean said. “That’s what I don’t get about him,” said Ivy. “Why does he always want to solve them? You solve problems, but a mystery isn’t a problem, so why does it have to be solved?” “Sometimes it’s a problem,” said Bean. “This one isn’t. Nobody’s getting hurt or anything. It’s a nice mystery.” [Ivy said.] (105-6)

Yet again they “solve” the mystery and it isn’t satisfying; the answer’s lack of logic doesn’t help. I am fascinated by the inclusion of the children’s impulse to inform their parents of the rope and inquire of the answer of them. It couples well with this (oft frustrated) need for immediacy and for any work they put in to be rewarded in a way that feels rewarding. The neighborhood kids aren’t getting the “niceness” of the Yellow Rope Mystery, nor are some of its readers, apparently; which is okay. I just find it a smart, creative shift of perspective.

<<spoilers!!!! over……>>

ivy and bean illu-IB_WalkAwayNot all mysteries can be solved, some you do not want to solve, and many have really lackluster answers. That the audience longs for creativity, not only in the mystery but its answers is a central conflict that Take the Case handles beautifully, because it remains a mystery as to why the demand for creativity often ends up in a loathing of the creative revelation or response; or is it? Is this all too much for a grade school chapter book? Hardly…which is why I really love knowing Ivy+Bean exists. In Literature, we expect the form to contribute to the coherence of the work. You needn’t a degree to discover it; if it does, I suppose it fails. I do not believe Take the Case fails. I am continually impressed with how thoughtful the crafting of this series has proven itself to be while yet possessing utter charm and entertainment.

For all the talk of mysteries, Barrows/Blackall keep the friendship center stage as the two explore a childhood and all its strange mysteries together. Like the mutually supportive fictional duo, Blackall’s illustrations are without fail a flawless partner in the rendering of personality the text would infuse into the characters and story. There is no second-guessing or mystery as to whether these to two will stick together come what may.

recommendations…girl or boy, gradeschool, who like humor, contemporary fiction, and friendship stories. A series for those who desire to nurture their young (or to-be) creative writer and reader of Literature. Not for readers who expect (and desire) a transparent tale and its simplistic ribbon-tied ending for their young reader.

{images belong to Sophie Blackall}

"review" · chapter/series · Children's · fiction · Picture book · recommend

{book} bff

b 15799182Bink & Gollie: Best Friends Forever

by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee

Illust. by Tony Fucile

Candlewick Press, 2013.

I wrote this about the first book Bink & Gollie on Goodreads in 2010: “great words, fantastic illustrations, and a sweet friendship. and the daughter absolutely loved it (even at age 10).” The series is proving consistent, though I haven’t asked N what she’s thought of them of late. Best Friends Forever is the third collection of stories.

In “Empire of Enchantment,” the prospect of being royal goes to Gollie’s head and threatens the sort of give & take she and Bink have established. Gollie also finds being royal pretty lonely. The reader gets to see her also looking a bit ridiculous. Gollie is best when she is just being an ordinary extraordinary Gollie.

0763634972.int.1A spunky Bink struggles with who she is in “Why Should You Be Shorter Than Your Friends?” She has come to rely on Gollie being able to reach things, but it is an advertisement in the paper that really makes her question the “inequality” in their relationship. Really, Gollie doesn’t mind helping her friend, and she likes Bink the way she is—which includes some zany behavior. Bink works herself into a bind, and when the contraption explodes, it turns into a lovely piece of art.

In “Kudos, Bink and Gollie,” Gollie is perusing the first edition of Flickr’s Arcana, a collection of photographs boasting of people’s record-making collections. The two decide they’d like to appear in a future edition and figure out what they want to collect. Unfortunately, someone else has collected more and shows it off in a creative way that lands them in the book. They are disappointed, but are nevertheless gracious about it: Gollie says kudos to them, and Bink learns that kudos means congratulations. They are disappointed but find a solution that satisfies them both.

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The clean and energetic illustrations primarily in black and white with the kind of splash of color Bink and Gollie bring to the page. They’ve fun details, but there isn’t the sort of density for long text—and there isn’t a lot of text. Much of even what I describe of the stories is from strong inference. Children needn’t have these episodes spelled out for them and the experienced storytelling team knows this.

Bink & Gollie are a perfect series for young readers in early grade school. They deal in friendship issues, and each brief episode is genuinely entertaining. They also employee good vocabulary and in Bink & Gollie: Two for One dabble in mathematics. So you get the nutritious with a good dose of healthy sugars.

———-

of note: Bink & Gollie sorta look like the pair who wrote them in to existence: Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee respectively. I’m not going to make any more suppositions beyond this as to whether each echoes their characteristics as well.

Bink & Gollie website. which is a fun place to visit w/ your young readers.

{images are Tony Fucile’s and Candlewick’s, thank you.}

"review" · chapter/series · Children's · fiction · juvenile lit · recommend · series

{book} ivy+bean make the rules

make the rules coverIvy + Bean Make the Rules (bk 9)

written by Annie Barrows

 illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Chronicle Books, 2012.

Hardcover, 127 pages.

Ivy + Bean is a series for young grade-schoolers that I just cannot resist following, even now that Natalya has “outgrown” them. And yet, who was that blue-haired young lady giggling from behind a book and coming up to me to set it down with a satisfied sigh? “Oh, mom, the zombie-part was awesome. And the Komodo-catcher…; and the…” I love Ivy + Bean.*

Bean’s older sister, Nancy, is going to Girl Power 4-Ever Camp, where she will do Crafts and Music and First Aid and other secret things that Bean will never know about because girls have to be eleven to go to Girl Power 4-Ever Camp. Bean doesn’t care. She doesn’t want to go to camp. She wouldn’t go even if they begged her. So ha. So ha ha. So — wait a second! Bean and Ivy can make their own camp, their own better camp. Welcome to Camp Flaming Arrow, where counselors Ivy and Bean will give a whole new meaning to Crafts, Music, First Aid, and hands-on learning!—jacket copy

Feeling a bit sorry for the younger daughter who WILL NOT go to Puppet Fun! the only camp for her age-group, Bean’s mom thinks Bean is finally old enough—if accompanied by Ivy—to go to Monkey Park without supervision. This means Bean is not constrained to Pancake Court or stuck figuring out how to build a tree house in the front yard with only one board. Using a flier from Nancy’s camp as a guide, Ivy and Bean decide to host their own camp, slinging old curtains over a low hanging branch in Monkey Park to make a tent. It doesn’t hurt that they can compare notes with Girl Power 4-Ever (a day camp) who is using Monkey Park, too–as are several other summer day camps actually.

make the rules p36-37

It isn’t long before Ivy and Bean find themselves with two campers who are visiting a relative who is not all that interested in keeping them entertained. This makes “Crafts” even more interesting where making friendship bracelets (like Girl Power 4-Ever) quickly morphs into Houdini cuffs from which Ivy shows them how to escape.

Ivy and Bean looked at each other with shining eyes. This was going to be good. No one ever let them make the rules.

“Rule number one!” said Bean. “You can only have as much fun as you are willing to get hurt!”

“What?” said Franny.

“Rule two!” said Ivy. “Live and learn!” Her mom said that a lot.

“Rule three!” yelled Bean. “The counselor is always right!”

Ivy began to giggle. “Rule four! If you want to make an omelet, you’re going to have to break some eggs!”

“If you can’t beat’em, join’em!” bellowed Bean.

“Don’t get mad, get even!” yelled Ivy.

“I don’t think this is a real camp,” said Franny.

“Time for crafts!” shouted Bean. (58-9).

As they work their way down the list of activities throughout the week, Camp Flaming Arrow expands in number under Ivy and Bean’s on-the-fly interpretations of what each activity on the flier might involve: “Nature Study, Mind/Body Strength Training, Drama, First Aid, Dance, Social Skills, Plus! Our Role Models: great Women of History.” Drama and First Aid were artfully combined in a chapter titled “Zombie Problem in Monkey Park.” Yeah, how did we ever manage First Aid without face paint and bandages? Ivy and Bean (and cohorts) are at their bold and creative best in Make the Rules.

The hilarious and disruptive escapades are enough of a reason to read Make the Rules, but the comparison to Camp Flaming Arrow to others that promise “Hands-On Learning in a Safe and Supportive Atmosphere” (Girl Power 4-Ever flier, p 13) is amusing—and poignant when, for instance, you compare Bean’s sense of “girl power” to Nancy’s on page 100 (parentheticals mine): “I can’t get up and dance with a wart,” wailed Nancy. “Everyone will think I’m gross!” She ran out of the kitchen. She was crying. (the wart is on her knuckle.) Bean’s mother sighed. She looked over at Bean (who had missed her earlier cue to not “see” the wart), and then she followed Nancy. Bean watched her go, frowning. What was that all about?” Another instance? Ivy shared about and then led an army as Briton Queen Boudicca (also known as Boadicea) for their “Great Woman of History,” Nancy mentions they had a slide show.

“Long live the queen!” yelled Franny.

“Yah! Yah!” squalled the tiny kids.

Their squalling made all their moms look up, and once those moms looked up, they started losing their minds. Something about sticks poking eyes. In no time at all, Boudicca’s warriors were kicked out of the fountain.

“I guess we’d better quit,” said Bean, squeezing out her shirt.

Ivy nodded, dumping the last of the Romans into the garbage can.

“This was the best day yet,” said Leo. (114)

a quick bit about the illustrations. long-time readers will remember that I adore Sophie Blackall’s work. Blackall and Barrows make for a great team, so highly expressive in text and image, the illustrations keeping good balance/timing with the text. Blackall adds fun detail to the creation of all the personalities we encounter in the stories, not just Ivy + Bean who are awesomely rendered. I’m sure I go on and on in my reviews of Books 7 & 8 (linked below).

———–

recommendations: boys or girls, early readers 5-8 are the targeted age. for the fun, free-spirited sort kid who likes to laugh (so any child). a good gift for the child of your helicopter parent friend, and/or any child who can appreciate the factoid we find on page 94-5, “[Komodo dragons] don’t poop!”. This is a phenomenal series about friendship, childhood, and creative thinking.

—————–

check out the Ivy+Bean site via Chronicle Books; they have activities for kids and teachers, much more organized and directed than the muses themselves, of course. Be sure to click on the author and illustrator links at the first, as well.

my reviews of: Ivy + Bean: Book 7: What’s the Big Idea? and Ivy + Bean: Book 8 : No News is Good News

* and bless a Powell’s staffer for loving it, too, because it is, as of this date, on-sale. 30% off (follow book title link).

{all images belong to Sophie Blackall}

book list · chapter/series · guestblogger · N · recommend

{book list} n’s summer reading recs (pt1)

I’ve a guest-blogger today. Natalya (aka the daughter) promised me some posts and a couple weeks in, she hammers out one with 2-parts! Come back tomorrow for numbers 11-20 of her summer reading book recommendations. ~L

_________________________________________

Yes! Your favorite contributor on the blog is back! (And will hopefully keep updating and more lists and reviews.) This time around I have created a list of some of the best reads for summertime. They are listed from first to twentieth using the criteria of how light (cheerful) or humorous, how thick, how easy to read, and how enjoyable the book is overall. All the books are fantastic, even the last one is great, so you just read them all, or pick the ones that seem to appeal to you. Enjoy and continue to have a wonderful summer!

1. The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place by E.L. Konigsburg (Aladdin 2004)

This is a quirky, fantastic book, featuring Margaret Rose and her uncles and her uncles’ towers. This book is about the realistic fact that all good things must come to an end and how, while her uncles are giving into it, Margaret is refusing to let go of the tower, no matter what. This story gives you the contented feeling that there is nothing that determination and creativity can’t conquer.

2. Letters from Campby Kate Klise (HarperTrophy 1999).

One thing I admire of this series of different books is that it never has pure narrative. Never. It consists of letters, menus, schedules, pictures, and more, but carries the plot better than some books with the traditional narrative. This book shows how evil summer camps may be and the bravery and resourcefulness of children. The clashing of characters and brothers and sisters is hilarious as they communicate by letters and eventually work together to fight the horrible camp counselors and owners. A fairly quick, but captivating read.

3. Savvyby Ingrid Law (Dial 2000).

What power would you inherit on your 13thbirthday? This is a book of magic, but in a practical, down-home sense. Our character is so well-created, you feel who she is, why she would do something. This is an awe-inspiring journey of a girl trying to go and save her daddy, with a–I promise–happy ending.

[omphaloskepsis review]

4. Chompby Carl Hiaason (Random House 2012).

Another glorious book from Carl Hiaasen! This book talks of endangered animals and blends a world of humorous circumstances and hilariously written characters as a popular wildlife TV show and animal trainers have to sort their differences and work together to find TV star Derek Badger while protecting a young girl from her abusive father who is hunting for her. You will be racing through it, praising Carl Hiaasen once more!

5. Because of Winn-Dixieby Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick Press 2000).

This popular summer classic runs a beautiful chill up my spine, at the beauty, and the characters; especially at the bittersweet ending. If you haven’t read it, ask yourself, “What am I doing? How in the world have I not read this book?” and start reading. If you have read it, read it again and maybe again. The friendship between the two characters and the more friendships that come from it will warm your heart more than imaginable.

6. Un Lun Dunby China Mieville (DelRey 2007).

This book is the thing that fantasy-lovers will drool over! The oddness of everything shows China Mieville’s creativity, while the comparisons with London (which will leave you laughing hours later) show his wit. He leads you in, making you believe this is a normal fantasy, using the usual characters, the usual plot, and suddenly turns everything around; leading you into the fantastic realm he has created. The rapturing story will suck you into it, only to reluctantly spit you back out when you finish the story!

[omphaloskepsis review]

7. The Westing Gameby Ellen Raskin (Puffin 1978)

This mystery has become a favorite of mine. It is a mystery not only to read, but for you to solve! (I’m still waiting for the board game though.) The characters Raskin creates and the ways each come about are surprisingly unique and clever and the resolution is fitting, perfect even, although it certainly won’t cross your mind immediately, if at all. Sit back and relax with this clever, cleverly written mystery.

8. My Name is Minaby David Almond (Hodder Children’s Books 2010).

This book is a companion to Skellig, but has its own story and is perfect just by itself. Mina, a free-spirited young girl, is fighting her way into the mix of what is normal, and what her own feelings are. Not only is it an enjoyable read, with a character you come to love, there are activities for you to do, perfect for filling your summer with!

[omphaloskepsis review]

9. Utterly Me, Clarice Beanby Lauren Child (Candlewick 2002).

This book is a favorite in the household, and beginning to a hilarious series. This story is about a young girl and looks like it is written by one, with the unique changing and positioning of the writing. Clarice Bean is a creative, outgoing, young girl, determined to be a detective, just like the main character of her favorite series. This book, while aimed towards the younger audiences, is perfect for both young and old.

10. Alvin Ho: Allergic to Camping, Hiking, and Other Natural Disastersby Lenore Look, LeUyen Pham (illustrator) (Random House 2009).

I have to admit, this is a little kid’s book. Yes, it is. But you can’t be too old for a good book, can you? This little boy, Alvin, is scared of everything. Yes, this is a book in a series. The whole family is fairly quirky. His father curses in Shakespearean, his brother too. Even though this book is short, and might not be an award-winner; it is short and sweet, making you laugh your socks off. Trust me, children and young adult books can be the best type.

[omphaloskepsis review]

~Natalya

———–comeback tomorrow for 11-20 on the list of summer recommendations.