Flashback January 2007

flashback to what I was reading in January 2007. Please note, a lot of picture books!

Crazy Cars for Crazy Kids by Mark David. From my review: “Cars. Crazy cars. Cars that should be made; but never will. . . . These cars are very Caractacus Potts and Rube Goldberg-esque, full of details that are bizarre, impossible, and fun.”

Chickens To The Rescue by John Himmelman. From my review: “Are you too tired to cook dinner? Dog ate your homework? Did the duck take off in your truck? Don’t worry — Chickens to the rescue!!

Emma Volume 1 by Kaoru Mori. From my review: “Set in Victorian England. Emma is a maid; she meets a gentleman, William Jones. As the book copy says, “an upstairs gentleman and a downstairs servant share a secret love.” Ah, romance, as Emma and William exchange glances and William does things like leaves a glove behind to ensure a second meeting.”

Beige by Cecil Castellucci. From my review: “Katy, 15, is a nice, good girl who gets along with her mother; she dresses like a prep and likes boy bands. Mom is headed off to an archaeological dig in Peru for two and a half weeks; Grand-maman is in an old age home; so Katy leaves Montreal for LA to visit her father, the Rat. She hasn’t seen Beau “the Rat” Ratner since she was seven. Needless to say, she isn’t happy about this at all. Picture Rory from the Gilmore Girls shipped off to the Osbournes.”

Cathy’s Book: If Found Call (650) 266-8233 by Sean Stewart and Jordan Weisman. From my review: “Cathy’s Book advertises itself as an “original interactive teen book.” Does it deliver? Absolutely: it’s a believable teenage girl’s diary; it’s a fast paced adventure; and it’s a lot of fun. The packaging (more on that below) easily could have been a gimmick—instead, it works to create a full, realistic story. Hold Cathy’s Book in your hands, and it looks like a sketchbook. Open it up and there is a clear envelope of “proof” on the left-hand side and the sketchbook on the right. Do I read the book, which is full of doodles and sketches? Do I open the envelope and see what’s inside? There are phone numbers and websites—what about those?

Storm Thief by Chris Wooding. From my review: “Rail and Moa live in the city of Orokos; they are the lowest of the low on the social ladder, thieves who live in a ghetto-like section of the city. The privileged and the thief have one thing in common: they live in fear of storms— probability storms. When one strikes, anything can happen. It can be as minor as being right-handed before a storm and left-handed after; and as strange as disappearing from the city and reappearing only in pictures. Rail is well aware of the risks of living in a place where anything can happen. One such probability storm took away his ability to breathe, and now he has a permanent mask and portable machine to force air into his lungs. Orokos urban legend says the cause of the storms is the Storm Thief: “Anything could happen when the Storm Thief was abroad. He was a wicked entity who delighted in mischief, as likely to snatch a person’s purse as he was to shower them with jewels. He might steal a baby’s eyes and replace them with buttons, or turn a house into sugar paper. The tale was old, invented long ago to make sense of the senseless. People used it to explain probability storms to their offspring. But though it was only a legend, they never quite managed to stop believing in it themselves. When they talked of the damage wrecked to their lives in the aftermath of the storm, they still talked of a visit from the Storm Thief.

Penny From Heaven by Jennifer L. Holm. From my review: “Penny is close to both sides of her family; yet those two sides barely speak to each other, divided by the loss of her father. Her mother’s family is solid American, her father’s is Catholic and Italian. Penny From Heaven is more than a summer book or a family love story, because Holm also shows that the 1950s were not a perfect time. One uncle lives in a car. Penny is forbidden to go to the public swimming pool because of the fear of catching polio. The most serious secret is that involving Penny’s father and his death. Penny discovers that during World War II “enemy aliens” had to registered and had their lives seriously restricted, with regulations for curfews, travel, and what they could own. Some were even sent to Internment Camps; and she also learns that those enemy aliens included people who were born in Italy and lived their whole lives in the United States. People like her father.”

Su Dongpo: Chinese Genius by Demi. From my review: “A biography of Su Dongpo (born Su Shi), 1036 to 1101. Had I heard of Su Dongpo before this? Nope. Now I know that he is “the heart and soul of Chinese culture.” A superman, almost; a child prodigy and scholar; a government official who got things done; a man who made enemies, saw reversals of fortune, and learned to appreciate all aspects of life.

Little Butterfly, Volume 1 by Hinako Takanaga. From my review: “It’s about two teenage boys in their last year of high school. Kojima has many friends and everyone likes him. Nakahara is the brooding loner. The only other thing I need to add — it’s yaoi manga. Which means, Kojima and Nakahara get together. This is a romance with two very pretty boys. It’s fairly tame: boy meets boy, boy feels something for the other boy but doesn’t realize what happens, kissing, confusion, anger, reunion, kissing.”

Quiet Hero: The Ira Hayes Story by S.D. Nelson. From my review: “A picture book biography of Ira Hayes, one of the six marines in the famous photograph of the flag raising at Iwo Jima.”

Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Author of Anne of Green Gables by Alexandra Wallner. From my review: “A picture book biography for young readers about L.M. Montgomery, the author of Anne of Green Gables.

Gone Wild: An Endangered Animal Alphabet by David McLimans. From my review: “Alphabet books serve multiple functions. Sometimes, it is the obvious — to teach the alphabet, to teach what words begin with what letters. Pure literacy. Which is cool. But that’s not this book; here, it’s a device used to teach about endangered animals. Each letter illustrates a different animal. Black letters on white pages have been made to resemble parts of animals; sometimes it is easy to tell, sometimes it is more elaborate. You can see some of that on the book cover. It’s inventive, it’s fun, and it’s gorgeous.”

Winter People by Joseph Bruchac. From my review: “It’s 1759; the French and Indian War. A surprise attack on the village of St. Francis; screaming, shouting, chaos. The attackers are ruthless: they kill men, women and children; burn buildings, including the Church; and take women and children captive. Buildings are burnt with people inside; the attackers steal everything from food to the silver in the church. The villagers are warned moments before the attack; not enough time to save everyone, but enough time for some of the people to prepare a defense and others to help lead many of the villagers to safety. Saxso, fourteen, helps lead people to safety. Sasxo’s mother and younger sisters are among those captured. Within days, grim stories are told of the prisoners being killed and eaten. Saxso refuses to believe his family is dead, and sets out after them. Oh by the way — the residents of the village are Abenaki. The attackers are British soldiers, led by Robert Rogers. Historical fiction, yes; but all based on fact.

365 Penguins by Jean-Luc Fromental, illustrated by Joëlle Jolivet. From my review: “A family gets a penguin a day. It starts out silly and just gets stranger and stranger, as they try to deal with their rapidly increasing household. And who is sending all these penguins, anyway? . . . This sums the book up in a nutshell: “Once you’ve reached the point of no return, one penguin more or one penguin less each day doesn’t make much difference anymore.””

Martha Ann’s Quilt For Queen Victoria by Kyra E. Hicks, illustrated by Lee Edward Fodi. From my review: “This is the true story of Martha Ann Erskine Ricks. She was born a slave in 1817; her father, George, was free and saved until he was able to buy his family’s freedom in 1830 — his wife, Grandma, Martha Ann, and Martha Ann’s siblings, Jane, Mary, Wallace, Weir, Hopkins and Sarah. The family then moved to Liberia with the assistance of the American Colonization Society. Once there, Martha Ann is impressed by how the British Navy patrols the coast to stop slave traders from kidnapping people, and decides she wants to thank Queen Victoria in person.”

A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park. From my review: “Imagine being an orphan in a time where family is the most important thing. Imagine living under a bridge, scrounging for food. Imagine having a dream — a dream not of a warm bed or hot food; but a dream to do something. To create. Tree Ear is an orphan in 12th century Korea. When admiring the pottery made by Min, Tree Ear accidentally breaks a piece. To pay off his debt, Tree Ear starts working for Min. Tree Ear hopes to become a potter, like Min; but it seems all Min wants Tree Ear to do is the hard manual labor: chop wood, dig clay. Tree Ear is sent on an important and difficult journey: to bring two sample pots to the royal court, so that Min may achieve his lifelong dream of a royal commission. Right before Tree Ear sets out, Min breaks the news to him that Tree Ear will never be taught how to be a potter. It is a craft handed down from father to son; not taught to orphans. Tree Ear must still deliver the pots; but what happens when he is attacked by robbers, and the pots are shattered? What does Tree Ear owe to Min, and to himself?”

Black? White! Day? Night! A Book of Opposites by Laura Vaccaro Seeger. From my review: “It’s a book of opposites; first black, then white. The twist: die cut pages with flaps. Lift the flap, and what you think is day really is night.”


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