Monday, February 28, 2011

Non-Fiction Monday: Watch me Grow!

It's almost time for planting season and though a lot of books focus on gardening for kids, few use their pages to talk about urban gardening. Be sure to add this one to your collection! 

Using lots of bright photographs, this one divides the concept of urban gardening into 4 easy-to-understand sections: growing, sharing, eating, and caring. We learn about all the different parts of a city that we can create gardens in, how we can raise chickens, and even run bee hives in small spaces. If my husband wasn't terrified of bees I would totally have a hive in our backyard. Love me some honey!

The photographs are fantastic for showcasing what the text is conveying and kids can just flip through the book as an introduction to local and city farming. This would be a fantastic teacher resource, as would the companion book Up We Grow, a look into local farming, which I reviewed a few months ago. 

Be sure to check this out if you're planning on planting a garden with your kids or just to expand their thoughts on how food is grown. 

Watch Me Grow! A Down-to-Earth Look at Growing Food in the City
Deborah Hodge
32 pages
Kids Can Press
February 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Picture Book Saturday

I have three great books for you all this week. Enjoy!

Noodle and Lou by Liz Garton Scanlon and illustrator Arthur Howard

A worm and a bird are best friends...who would have thought? This is an adorable read aloud that has fantastic pictures, a great flow, and a really cute story. The whole package! 

Noodle gets down on himself for not being as cool as Lou's other friends. Lou is there by his side to cheer him up and remind Noodle of all the great qualities he does have. A great friendship story combined with the message of being yourself. 

Great for a read aloud!

Noodle and Lou
Liz Garton Scanlon
32 pages
Picture Book
Beach Lane Books
March 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Jam and Honey by Melita Morales and illustrator Laura J. Bryant

The cover of this one is what initially pulled me (look at that hair...and that adorable nose!!), but the story is just so sweet, I had to share. 

Lots of young children (and adults) are afraid of bees, but in this story, you get both sides of the picture. A little girl on her way to collect berries to make jam, finds herself confronting a bee. Later on, we see things from the bee's side, allowing for the reader to see that bees don't actually want to hurt us. They're just doing a job too!

The text flows very nicely, in almost a sing-songy manner and the illustrations are beautiful. A great story to accompany teaching kids about bee fears or just as a sweet family read. 

Jam and Honey
Melita Morales
32 pages
Picture Book
Tricycle Press
January 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Raj the Bookstore Tiger by Kathleen T. Pelley and illustrator Paige Keiser

Kids seem to love books about books as much as us adults do! Libraries and bookstores are big setting hits and add a cat in the mix and it's a pretty definite crowd pleaser.

This is another friendship story, as Raj has to make nice with a new feline addition to his bookstore. At first, the new cat scares Raj and convinces him that he's not actually a tiger, but just a plain old kitty. As the pair slowly warm up to each other though, they realize that spending their days together snuggling kids during storytime, warming themselves in the window, and reading books is much better than doing those things alone.

I did think the book was a little long. A bit wordy. However, the concept is cute and the illustrations are fun. I think kids will enjoy it!

Raj the Bookstore Tiger
Kathleen T. Pelley
32 pages
Picture Book
February 2011
Review copy provided by publisher

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Sweetness of Salt review

Julia and her sister Sophie have never been close. Being born ten years apart is one thing, but the way Sophie has always treated Julia and her parents is definitely the main factor in their estrangement.
When she graduates from high school, valedictorian and with plans to study law, Julia definitely doesn't expect Sophie to show up for the ceremony, bearing keys to a new car and a request for Julia to come visit her in Vermont. And she really doesn't expect to take her sister up on the offers. 

Traveling to Vermont, against her parents wishes, results in Julia questioning the mindset she's had her entire life, including her reasons for choosing law school, her opinions on why Julia was always so mean and distant, and her "relationship" with the boy next door. Some serious sister-time and self-reflection takes front focus on this novel and in the best way possible.

Galante has written a story about a relationship between two sisters, but with so much more on the side. The writing is beautiful and from the beginning you'll be drawn into the emotion of this family and their powerful secrets and the pain that comes out because of those secrets. It's moving and ultimately heartwarming. 

Another hit out of the park for Cecelia Galante!

The Sweetness of Salt
Cecelia Galante
320 pages
Young Adult
November 2010
Review copy

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Deadly review

Prudence, an intelligent girl interested in the sciences, is stuck in a school for girls with the primary focus of finding the proper husband. Living with her mother, a hardworking midwife, Prudence knows she can do more in her life, but is afraid to pursue an actual career, not wanting to disappoint her mother. 

When a job offer comes along to assist an epidemiologist with the Department of Health and Sanitation, particularly studying the spread of typhoid, Prudence knows she wants the position. And after much convincing, her mother allows her to leave school and take the job. Writing in her diary each day, the reader is along for the ride as Prudence not only begins to learn the ins and outs of being a scientist, but also as she navigates a man's world, and follows the now-famous Typhoid Mary. 

I was totally intrigued by the idea of this novel and was definitely not disappointed. I had no idea of all the details of the Typhoid Mary case and learned a whole lot from the book, even with it being fiction. Learning about Mary Mallon and the manner in which she was treated while scientists tried to determine how she was carrying the germs was truly fascinating and horrifying at the same time. That poor woman must have been terrified!

I loved seeing such a strong girl in a historical novel being portrayed in such a realistic way. The setting was described perfectly, allowing me to visualize where Prudence was coming from, both literally and figuratively and her emotions were beautifully written through the journal entries,  right down to the details of being Jewish in that time period. The religious aspect wasn't front and center, but a great detail. 

I'm a huge fan of historical fiction and this was a fantastic book!

Julie Chibbaro
304 pages
Young Adult 
February 2011
Review copy

Sunday, February 20, 2011

IMM Week 29

Holy picture books! Last week I didn't get anything in my mailbox, but this week was the influx of the picture books for review. Only one middle grade novel broke up the pattern!

All titles link to Goodreads.

True (...Sort Of) by Katherine Hannigan

Really looking forward to this one, as I loved Hannigan's Ida B. from a few years back.

The Loud Book by Deborah Underwood
The Secret Box by Barbara Lehman
Follow Me by Tricia Tusa
Ten Moonstruck Piglets by Lindsay Lee Johnson
Chicks Run Wild by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen
No Sleep for the Sheep! by Karen Beaumont
These Hands by Margaret H. Mason

I know a lot of people are looking forward to The Quiet Book and I love Tricia Tusa, so I can't wait to look at Follow Me.

I did buy one book as well:

Fire by Kristin Cashore.

I read the ARC way back when it came out, but gave it away to another blogger. I want to reread it (and have it sit all pretty on the shelf next to Graceling), so I bought it.

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Oracle of Stamboul review

Eleonora Cohen is a incredibly bright and imaginative girl living in Constanta in 1877. She is raised by her father, a salesman in the rug trade, and her stepmother, a firm and less-than-loving woman, leaving Eleonora comfortable in her life, but not quite happy.

When her father her father dies unexpectedly while the pair are visiting Stamboul, Eleonora ends up in the care of  her father's business partner, a kind man, who allows Eleonora to grieve, mute, as long as she needs to. The girls spends her time reading books, and eventually, being tutored by a man that wishes to use her intelligence for his own purposes.

I've read several reviews that described this book as having such potential, yet lacking that something special to truly push it into the edge of awesome. And I totally agree. I loved Eleonora as a children in adult fiction always suck me in...yet her story was a little bland. 

The descriptions of the different settings and the small element of the fantastical were beautifully done and again, Eleonora was enchanting. She pulled me in and kept me reading. I enjoyed the book and would definitely recommend it for something a bit different and a for the small, intriguing details. I do agree with other reviewers that something was missing to make the book spectacular. 

The Oracle of Stamboul
Michael David Lucas
304 pages
Adult Fiction
February 2011
Review copy

Monday, February 14, 2011

Non-Fiction Monday: Animal Colors

It's been a really long time since I've gushed over a non-fiction book, but you're getting gushing today! Animal Colors is such a visually interesting book, from cover to cover, that librarians aren't going to be able to keep it on their shelves. 

Great for homeschooling families or even just for kids to browse themselves, this one has it all. Each page spread focuses on a distinct color or color combination, featuring animals/insects that are that color, with facts about the animals in the sidebar. 

The brilliant red page features a lobster, a turkey, and a red panda, while the bright yellow page shows us facts about the yellow tree frog, the tang fish, and an eyelash viper. My favorite page was the black and white animals with the zebra, a dog, a panda, and a snowy owl, among others. 

The book is so visually beautiful and factually interesting that it will please kids from toddler through middle school. Your younger kids can learn their colors while looking at all sorts of cool animals and insects and your older kids can start learning animal trivia. I loved this one!

Animal Colors: A Rainbow of Colors from Animals Around the World
Beth Fielding
32 pages
Earlylight Books
August 2010
Review copy

Sunday, February 13, 2011

IMM Week 28 and a reminder

I didn't get anything in my mailbox this week. Well, nothing of note. However, I did still want to post this weekend, in support of Kristi, the host of In My Mailbox over at The Story Siren. Apparently she's been getting some grief over "exploiting" and "bragging" about what bloggers receive free from publishers and those of us that participate in her weekly feature are standing up for her (and ourselves). 

Yes, a lot of book bloggers receive free books in the mail. They aren't exactly "free" though, as we're expected to read them and then chat them up via our blogs/Twitter/Facebook/etc. If we enjoy the book, we're helping to market it and get more copies sold. I love to be a part of a book making the NYT bestseller list and even if it doesn't get that far, just get a debut novel that shines into the hands of people that may never have heard of it before. 

What Kristi does and what I do is not bragging, it's sharing in an experience. Seeing each other's IMM posts helps to remind us what's coming out soon or what we should keep our eyes out for. It's not posted to be mean or snotty. And if you're one of those that IS offended by those posts, you certainly don't have to read them!

The next part of this post is to remind you of one of my favorite times of year, happening tomorrow! Not Valentine's Day, but Cybils Day! The Cybil winners are being posted tomorrow and having spent months on the Round 1 YA panel, I'm super excited to see which they chose as the winner. Head over to the Cybils blog for all the info tomorrow morning! 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Picture Book Saturday

It's Saturday! I'm probably going to slow these posts to every other Saturday or even just focus on one book a week in the upcoming weeks. Life has gotten really busy over the last few months and my job has me focusing more on YA/Middle grade reading than picture books. I'll still be showcasing good ones, just not always on a weekly basis.

Except If by Jim Averbeck

Every parent needs a fun book on their shelves that encourages imagination and Jim Averbeck's latest could definitely be that book. Taking a simple egg and helping us to imagine all kinds of different possibilities that could come from that egg is a simple concept, but one that really works in this book.

It's a quick read, great for reading aloud to the 3-6 set, with simple, yet bold and effective illustrations. You could get really silly with it (always fun) and use it to bridge into a craft about "what's in the egg."

Except If
Jim Averbeck
40 pages
Picture Books
January 2011
Review copy

Hide and Squeak by Heather Vogel Frederick and illustrator C.F. Payne

A father mouse and his little mouse play a silly game of hide and "squeak" before the little one must go to bed. The father plays along as his son mischievously leads him through a maze of hiding places, trying to draw out bedtime as long as possible! I'm sure your kids can relate to that :)

The rhyming text flows nicely and lends a sweetness to the soft illustrations. An adorable story, perfect for reading aloud before bedtime!

Hide and Squeak
Heather Vogel Frederick
32 pages
Picture Book
Simon and Schuster
February 2011
Review copy

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Delirium review

Lena has grown up in her safe society, believing that nothing is wrong with the manner in which the government runs things. It's all she knows. In Lena's world, at age 18, everyone is given an antidote to love or"deliria" as it's referred to. Love is seen as a disease to which nothing but trouble can come of and being cured of this disease is something each teen looks forward to until the day they are injected. Lena can't wait until her 18th birthday so she can not only be cured, but also find out what career she'll be assigned to and who she'll marry.
95 days prior to her birthday, Lena meets Alex, a mysterious guy that she begins to fall in love with, no matter how much she wants to do anything but. She begins to question the reasoning and intentions of her government to cure people of love, finally beginning to understand the feeling that her resulted in her mother killing herself years ago. Lena is no longer confident in her beliefs and is slowly drawn into Alex's world of freedom as her time to be cured draws closer.
Even at almost 450 pages, the pacing of Delirium was excellent. I liked the slow buildup and the fast moving ending. I enjoyed Lena's character and the storyline and though it wasn't entirely original, I found myself racing through the book. Apparently this is book one of a planned trilogy (exciting!) and I'll definitely want to be reading those others.
As a lover of dystopian, I liked that this one was a bit quieter. It wasn't all action and violence and thrill rides, it was more thoughtful and rich, with lots of details and descriptions. This government felt a bit more believeable than others and though the idea of love being a literal disease needing a cure is a bit ridiculous, Oliver makes you believe it. Sometimes the quiet ones pack a punch!

Lauren Oliver
448 pages
Young Adult
February 2011
Review copy

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Running Dream review

Imagine running is your life. You live to run at track meets and are great at it. And then running is taken away and you aren't quite sure who you are anymore. This is exactly what happens to 16-year-old Jessica after a tragic accident results in the amputation of one of her legs.

Though she's told over and over again about the great technology of prosthetics, Jessica isn't at all comforted knowing she'll be able to walk again, when all she really wants to do is be able to run again. Depressed and hurting, as she works to get used to her new prosthesis, she feels incredibly vulnerable and weak. She doesn't know who she is anymore, but it's certainly not the strong, fun girl she was before the accident.

As we read of Jessica's journey, we go up and down the emotional rollercoaster with her, from sadness and mourning, to hope and determination. Van Draanen does an excellent job channeling how a person in this situation might react and feel, pouring the emotions out onto the page and allowing her reader to truly experience them as they're happening. I was really impressed with the amount of inspiration one could get out of Jessica's story and how much like a memoir it read.

Even with the almost predictable inclusion of another teen with a disability that inspires Jessica to push to run again, I really enjoyed the writing and the flow of the book. The manner in which she works through her mental and physical challenges is realistic and inspiring.

The Running Dream
Wendelin Van Draanen
352 pages
Young Adult
January 2011
Library copy

Sunday, February 6, 2011

IMM Week 28

Almost forgot to post this week! Lots of great books, including a few I'm really looking forward to talking about in the coming weeks.

Cookies, Cookies, and More Cookies by Lilach German
Smoothies, Smoothies, and More Smoothies by Leah Shomron and Hani Borovsky

I've wanted to start reviewing cookbooks for quite awhile, since I cook so often using them, and these will be nice to start with!

Raj, the Bookstore Tiger by Kathleen Pelley
Animal Eyes by Beth Fielding
While You Are Sleeping by Durga Bernhard
Animal Colors by Beth Fielding

Animal Colors is SO pretty. That one I'll definitely be reviewing in the next week or so.

Camo Girl by Kekla Magoon
Deadly by Julie Chibbaro
Beyonders by Brandon Mull
Angel in My Pocket by Ilene Cooper

I loved Magoon's The Rock and the River, so I really want to pick up Camo Girl ASAP.

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi of The Story Siren

Saturday, February 5, 2011

I love these books!

No Picture Book Saturday today. I'm thinking about going bi-weekly with that feature, only because my time for reading new picture books has taken a hit and I like to spend a good amount of time choosing the books I feature. More on that next week.

For this week, I just wanted to remind everyone that the latest Elephant & Piggie book by Mo Willems has graced the shelves of bookstores and libraries. It's been out for awhile, but I keep forgetting to mention it. You NEED to get this one! I think it's my favorite out of all of titles, probably because it features books!

Basically, Elephant and Piggie discover they're in a book and freak out about it. Simple idea maybe, but hysterical and adorable. Kids love these books, parents love these books, and even those of us without children at home love them!

We Are In a Book is bound to please. Give your child the part of Piggie and have the parent take Gerald (Elephant) and read it together!

We Are in a Book
Mo Willems
64 pages
Easy Reader
September 2010
Review copy

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Trapped review

I know a lot of you are stuck under blankets of snow and ice, dreaming of warm beaches and hot summer days! If you are one of those unlucky people, skip this book until the snow has melted or you may end up a bit paranoid. Being snowed in tends to do that to a person.

In Trapped we meet seven kids, all waiting at their high school to be picked up before a big blizzard hits their area. Unfortunately, before their rides show up, the weather turns and they're snowed in at the school, unable to leave and with no signs of the snow stopping. At first, seeing the situation as an adventure, the kids are excited to explore and hang out, but as the weather continues to get worse, things inside get pretty tense. When the power and heat go out, the group knows they're in trouble and start to seek out a way to leave, leading to a pretty big, life or death decision.

You will totally feel the tension ooze out of the pages of this one, as these carefree kids are faced with a definite high pressure situation. I could really see something like this happening, especially where I went to high school in Upstate NY, where the high school was situated on a rural road in the country, at the top of a big hill. If something like this happened there, no one was getting up or down those hills! Scary thought. I know what I would have done books in the library. Duh!

I liked Scotty. He read as a fairly typical teen boy (though take that with a grain of salt...I'm a girl) and the rest of the cast fit the mold of high school clique members. I definitely can see the comparions some other reviewers are making to The Breakfast Club, with a little added danger. A page turner for sure, though I was a bit disappointed with the super-abrupt ending. Enjoyable though!

Michael Northrup
240 pages
Young Adult
Scholastic Press
February 2011
Review copy