Flashback May 2010

And now, let’s flashback to what I was reviewing in May 2010!

Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be by Daniel Loxton. Kids Can Press. 2010. Middle grade nonfiction. My review: “Evolution, a tricky scientific concept, is described and explained in a way that is both easy to follow yet also captures the complexity of the topic. Colorful illustrations support the text; one of my favorite sequences illustrates how whales evolved from land animals.”

The Summer of Moonlight Secrets by Danette Haworth. Walker Books for Young Readers, Bloomsbury. 2010. Middle Grade. My review: “The Meriwether is an old resort, a bit run down perhaps (some of the top floors are not just unused, windows are missing and rooms unusable), but still popular and still serves its Famous Blueberry Pancakes. Since Allie Jo lives at the hotel, it’s her personal playground. While guest rooms and kitchens are off limits, she can eat as many Famous Blueberry Pancakes as she wants and take the secret hidden staircase up to the abandoned fifth floor. Haworth weaves interesting historical tidbits into her description of The Meriwether, such as secret staircases for nannys and porters and fainting couches. Allie Jo’s best friend is away for the summer. Soon she and Chase, as well as Sophie, twelve, another summer guest at the hotel, are friends. I love the easy friendship these three fall into. Chase and Sophie fall for each other, and there is a cute kiss and holding hands. What is great? Is that Allie Jo doesn’t care. There is never a hint of jealousy on Allie Jo’s part, and Chase and Sophie don’t do anything to seriously exclude Allie Jo. . . . Haworth does a terrific job of balancing Allie Jo’s independence and autonomy with caring parents, including how that family relationship impacts Allie Jo’s friendship with Tara. The Summer of Moonlight Secrets is about finding friends, becoming confident in yourself as a person, and figuring out the right thing to do.”

Noodle Pie by Ruth Starke. Kane Miller. 2010. Middle school. My review: “It takes the book for Andy to realize and come to terms with the good fortune his immediate family has had, by being able to live and work in Australia. To truly understand the different standard of living, expectations, and challenges for those who remained in Vietnam. Some of that understanding comes from his father, explaining that the reason he was able to emigrate to Australia was that those relatives made tremendous sacrifices to come up with the money to pay for his passage and fare. Andy, in turn, learns that his father has misled his Vietnamese family to think he is richer and more successful than he really is. Noodle Pie is, among other things, the eroding of an us/them, good/bad, familiar/strange mentality. Noodle Pie provides a fascinating look at emigration, at the role of the emigrant in the lives of those who were left behind and those who are part of their new lives. It is set in Vietnam, with tons of details about Vietnam, its history, its culture, woven naturally into the story. But, it could be true of any emigrant, any country, any time.”

Daydreams of a Solitary Hamster by Astrid Desbordes. Illustrated by Pauline Martin. Enchanted Lion Books. 2010. Picture Book. My review: “Hamster is wonderfully, blissfully, egocentric. When he looks at the stars, he doesn’t stop with thinking they are beautiful and mysterious; no, the stars must, in turn, look at him and think not just that Hamster is beautiful and mysterious but that “seen from space, a hamster must be a magnificent sight.” Hamster not only sleeps outside so that the stars will be happy as they contemplate him; he spells out his name, Hamster, in rocks, so they know who he is from a distance. And it’s philosophical! Here is Hamster mulling his favorite food: “I love waffles so much! The fear of running out of them haunts me. This love will stay with me forever and ever. That’s just the way it is.” Who hasn’t thought that about love?”

Animal Crackers Fly the Coop by Kevin O’Malley. Walker Books for Young Readers, Bloomsbury. 2010. Picture book. My review: “Hen just wants to open a comedy club and be a comedi-hen. Because she’s concentrating on humor rather than laying eggs, the farmer warns of “Fry-day.” Hen runs away, and encounters three other animals, Dog, Cat, and Cow, who ignore their expected jobs and instead tell jokes, riddles, and sing funny songs.”

George vs. George: The American Revolution As Seen from Both Sides by Rosalyn Schanzer. National Geographic Children’s Books. 2004 and George Washington, Spymaster: How the Americans Outspied the British and Won the Revolutionary War by Thomas B. Allen. National Geographic Children’s Books. 2004. Nonfiction. My joint review: “The American Revolution is brought to life in two books that use a similar device. On the surface, both George v. George and George Washington, Spymaster are about George Washington; but both are about more than the man. George v. George compares the two most visible people on each side of the war, both named George: the American George Washington and the English King George III. Schanzer initially focuses on these two individuals, but then expands to compare the American and British views on everything from politics to methods of war. The approach results in a balanced view of the American Revolution, explaining such things as the structure of Colonial government and taxation. Particularly impressive to this American is how Schanzer conveys how the British viewed the American guerrilla warfare as dishonorable. . . .  As the title indicates, George Washington, Spymaster, uses George Washington to highlight the value of information in war. This isn’t a book about the life of George Washington; and it’s not a book about the politics and battles of the American Revolution. The focus is what each side needed to know (and didn’t want the other side to know) before the battles to try to ensure victory. How many soldiers are in the camp? Are they well fed? Where are they going, and when? What are the battle plans? Who is the commander?”


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