Hi, I'm Mrs. F-B!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

More possible Caldecotts???

More books this wek with Caldecott hype behind them.   First up was Chloe by Peter McCarty - This is a very cute book with simple drawings and a sweet story of family togetherness and the fun you can have when everyone plays together.  My favorite illustration is a circle of all the kids with Chloe in the middle (Chloe has ten older siblings and ten younger.  Chloe is in the middle.).  My other favorite is the page where, "...everyone came to the table for  peas, carrots, lettuce, broccoli, asparagus, noodles, and sweet potatoes, all their favorite foods."  For some reason I just loved the inclusion of asparagus and noodles.  The other thing I really love about this book is that the kids do not love TV.  They'd prefer to play in the box the TV came in. I wish more people recognized this!

Next I read A Home for Bird by Philip C. Stead - Vernon the Toad finds a bird - it's clear from the drawing it's not real, but that's not clear to Vernon.  Vernon takes the bird everywhere, but the bird never talks.  Vernon is worried.  He wants to find a home for bird so he's happy.  He tries al kinds of different places and finally floats away with bird in a "hot air balloon" (see book cover). There, miraculously, he finds a perfect home for bird. I liked this book, its cute and funny, and I know kids will enjoy it, but again, it's not beating my other choices for the Caldecott.

The third book in this grouping was Jazz Age Josephine, story Jonah Winter, Marjorie Priceman, illustrator. This picture book is a biography of Josephine Baker.  I'ts a bit of a melancholy story, really, of an African American singer and dancer who wasn't happy with the work she could find in the US, in part because she was forced to do blackface. African Americans definitely did not enjoy equal opportunities at that time. Josephine finally gave up and fled to Paris where she was an instant success during the height of the Jazz age.  Still, she longed for home, but she never moved back I did love the illustrations in this book and how color, and lack of, convey the mood beautifully.  My favorite pages are a bright two-page spread of the Eiffel Tower when she arrives in Paris that require reader to turn the book. The book ends with an author's note with more historical info about Josephine that I found helpful because I wanted more information.  I'm not convinced the text in this book is "distinguished" enough for the book to win the Caldecott medal, however, but I do think it will win something.  Caldecott Honor maybe?  Or surely a Coretta Scott King medal of some sort.  Your thoughts?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Caldecott winners??

Recently I read three more books that have some Caldecott buzz around them.  Honestly, as I've said before, I just really don't get the Caldecott. Or any of the awards, honestly.  What ARE they looking for?  Who knows.  All I know is what I like.  Of these three, I liked Step Gently Out the best because it was kind of different, which most likely means it won't win anything at all.  I liked Extra Yarn next which some people say won't win because the girl holds her knitting needles wrong.  But as a beginning knitter, can I just say, people, cut her some slack.  She's a magic knitter - there oughta be some options.  And I liked and then it's spring (no capitals on the book cover, so no capitals here) fine, but it didn't wow me, so it will probably win the whole darn thing.

Step Gently Out is a poem by Helen Frost accompanied by photographs by Rick Leider.  Two things I love, and two things not often put together, and so, from what I can tell, two things that will sink it's ship.  Or, maybe, two things that will give it the leg up to win. The photos are all macros (close-up) of things you find outdoors - ants, bees, caterpillars, grasshoppers crawling on sticks, grass, flowers, etc.  The photos are vivid and tack sharp but soft at the same time.  Just perfection.  I wonder how many shots the photographer had to take to get these.  As a photographer I especially appreciate how challenging this must have been with teeny, tiny moving animals.  And the accompanying text is also so lovely.  If our kids aren't getting enough time outdoors, at least they can explore through this beautiful book.  I hope it gets something.  There should be a photography book award for kidlit.

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen (I Want my Hat Back)is about Annabelle and her box of magic yarn of every color.  Or is it the box that's magic?  Hmmm.  Point to ponder.  In any case, the yarn never runs out, and Annabelle knits sweaters for everyone (and everything - even pickup trucks!)  She won't give up her yarn even for the million dollars offered to her by the greedy archduke!  The yarn is very important because it brings color to everyone's life in an otherwise very black (soot) and white (snow) existence.  The storyline is simple and sweet, focused on kindness and giving. The illustrations are soft and gentle and I enjoyed them very much, but they didn't WOW me like the illustrations in Green or the photos in Step Gently Out.  Also, for some reason, I didn't love the pattern in the sweaters which is nitpicky and stupid, but also true (for me).  One thing I know kids will love about the illustrations is this book if they're fans of Jon Klassen is that there are some cameos in this book from his other works. That's pretty cool.

and then it's spring was written by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Erin Stead who won the Caldecott medal in 2011 for A Sick Day for Amos McGee. since she's already won a Caldecott, I feel a little less bad about saying I don't think this one will win.  It's not that it's not good or that I don't like it, either.  It's just that I don't think it's as good as some of the others.  We've already established, however, that I know nothing about this whole process, so maybe it's better than all of the others.  Much of this book is illustrated in brown because it begins in winter when a boy and his dog decide they've had enough of winter and it's time to get on with the growing of things.  To that end, they plant some grass seeds and wait for them to grow.  And wait. and wait, and wait.    I'm not the most patient person, so I could relate to their frustration with the waiting.  I wonder if it even affected my reading...In any case, on the waiting pages there's just a splash of color - a raincoat, an umbrella, a little red house. Of course spring does come, and with it more brightness, color, and the joy of watching the earth come to life.  Like I said, I don't think it's going to win a medal.  But if it does, I won't be disappointed because this is a good book, a good story, and it has lovely illustrations.

Grown-up books

Recently I've read a few grown up books.  One was for pure fun, one was for book club, and one was, well, not for fun exactly because it sounds weird to read a book about murder for fun, doesn't it?  same with recreation or relaxation...so, well, I read it because I like to be a little bit scared when I read sometimes and I like a good mystery.

Size 12 and Ready to Rock, Meg Cabot  This is the Heather Wells mystery I read just for the fun of it.  this is the most recent in the Heather Wells series and it's just a light, fun mystery/romance series by the ever delightful Meg Cabot.  I've read al the other books in this series and I really enjoy them.  Wherever Heather Wells goes, it seems murder follows - usually onto the college campus where she works.  If I were the higher ups, I think I'd be considering firing her, but what would be the fun in that?
Recommended for fans of Janet Evanovich.

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan was my book club book last month.  Loved and hated this one.  The story was fascinating, but everyone in our group was so frustrated with the choices that the main character made. And I think we were even more frustrated than we might have been if it was pure fiction because we knew it was based on a true story and that the main character, Mamah  Borthwick Cheney,  left her husband and her children for another man, Frank Lloyd Wright.  It's hard to know how much of this story was actually what happened because it is historical fiction, though. As I said, though, the story was fascinating.  If you like historical fiction, I'd highly recommend this one.

The Ice Princess, Camilla Läckberg is for people who like to be scared, although it's not nearly as scary as, say, a Chelsea Cain book.  Good mystery with plenty of red herrings that you're pretty sure are red herrings but then again, maybe they're not. I was surprised by the ending, but not especially sure that this direction was the best choice the author could have made.  It was interesting.  If you like mysteries, this is a good one.  I want to read some more of hers and compare them. I listened to this on audio.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor

I waited forever to read this book - not sure why - but I'm actually really glad I did because the sequel jut came out, and I'd have been dying if I had to wait around for a year or more for it after reading this one.  Holy camoly was this story good.

It was a little weird, too, I'll say that for it. It's a fantasy, after all.  And I think that's maybe why I shied away a bit.  I'm not a big fantasy fan, as you know, so some of the language and the strange names were hard for me to adjust to.  Honestly, for the first few chapters I as feeling a little lost and I didn't love it.  I liked it, but I wasn't 100% in.  But once I got used to the language, I really, really liked it.  110% in by the end!

I love the way Laini Taylor wove and layered so many levels of the plot together.  It was fascinating to try and figure out how A was related to B was related to C and so on.  And it was VERY complicated.  I'm amazed someone could sit down and come up with all this.  I have no idea how she did it.  I love how the title fits with the story.  I love her word choice.  I love her strong female protagonist.  I love her descriptions.  Did she get to go to Morocco to research this?  I wanna know.

So lucky for me that the next book in the series is out now.  It's called Days of Blood and Starlight, and I am so looking forward to it, although I am worried about Karou and what she'll find!  Here's the cover -  just as gorgeous as the first one was. It was #4 on the New York Times bestseller list last week.  Hurrah for Oregon authors!

Elizabeth Rusch titles - Will It Blow, The Planet Hunter, A Day with No Crayons, Girls' Tennis, For the Love of Music, The Mighty Mars Rover

Author Elizabeth Rusch is an Oregonian who has a writing resume that is quite varied!  She's written book and magazine articles.  She writes fiction and nonfiction.  She writes about sports and art and music and science.  It's pretty amazing that she does all these things and does them all well!

Recently I met her at a conference and before the conference I read nearly all her children's books.  I loved exploring the world of Mozart and music in the book she wrote about Mozart's sister, actually, called For the Love of Music.  I loved exploring Mars in her book The Mighty Mars Rover, especially since that book came out right around the time we were landing Curiosity on Mars, and I really enjoyed learning about why poor Pluto got demoted from being a planet in The Planet Hunter.  Her fiction book A Day with No Crayons was super fun, and the volcano books were also quite interesting.  But the book I loved the most was Girls' Tennis.   I started playing tennis this last year, and I really am having fun with it (well, less fun in the rain...), so it was cool to read about these really rock star women of tennis.

Elizabeth said that when she was young she had all kinds of ideas about what he wanted to be when he grew up, and that choosing this career path has allowed her to sort of be all those things, if just for a little while, as she researches and writes.  That's a pretty cool thing.  So if you're not sure what you want to be when you grow up, keep this profession in mind!

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Green, Laura Vaccaro Seeger - will it win the Caldecott?

This book has had some hype surrounding it as to whether it might win the Caldecott this year.  To be honest, I've NEVER really figured out the method to the Caldecott committee's madness when it comes to choosing a winner, but I do know what I like, and I like this book.  So do a lot of other people.  But it's what people in the know,  apparently, call a"concept" book.  Basically, it explores a concept (the color green in this case) instead of telling a story, and I guess those kinds of books don't really win.  But then there's always an exception and a new committee, and they could just do anything, so who knows.

Actually, I have to admit, when I first read this book, I was kind of surprised there was so much hype about it. I mean, it's a cool book and all, but it's just green.  Except it's totally not JUST green. You see, this book has little cutouts on every page, and the cutouts match perfectly with the picture on the  previous or following page to fill in the space with precisely the right color. for example, there's a page with some limes on it, and one of them is missing a segment, but then the color in that space on the next page perfectly fills in the lime, AND it's a perfect part of the picture on the next page which is totally nothing to do with the lime.  On another page it's a pea; on another, some tiny, nearly iridescent moths; on another, delicate yellow daisies.  She even has a few pages where tiny brushstrokes on the previous page spell out words that go with the next pages.  It's amazing.  There has also been some criticism of the lightning bugs page which some people think will take the book right out of the running because they don't match perfectly.  Everyone's a critic, hey? Yeesh!  Whether it wins or not, I still think it's fantabulous.

You can read more about the controversy on the super smart Betsy Bird's blog here and she has a link there to yet another blogger's thoughts over at Calling Caldecott.  Pick up the book and let me know what you think!