Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Basilisk's Lair by R. L. LaFevers

The Basilisk's Lair (Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist, Book 2)Book two in the Nathaniel Fludd Beastologist series reminds me of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.  Sort of.  At least the parts about the basilisk and in the Chamber with the basilisk.  This could however be a draw for young readers.  Nate and Aunt Phil need to capture and return an escaped basilisk to it's lair or if need be kill it.  As a student of beastology Nate is along for the ride and observation but his knowledge and bravery helps their mission succeed.  Nate is an intelligent boy who uses his resources wisely.  The book is exciting and full of adventure in foreign countries.  Book three is set up in the ending to two.  There is a very helpful glossary in the back of the book.  Recommended for fans of fantasy and adventure in grades for grades 3-5.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Words in the Dust by Trent Reedy

Words In The Dust Words in the Dust takes place in a small village in Afghanistan and shows us the day to day life through the eyes of a young girl named Zulaikha.  Zulaikha was born with a cleft lip and hides behind her shawl.  She shares the household chores with her older sister Zeynab and her father's second wife and helps to care for her younger brothers while her older brother works with their father.  At the baazar she meets an old woman who knew her late mother and the woman teaches her to read and write in secret.  American soldiers help Zulaikha have surgery to fix her face soon after her sister is married off to a much older man.

So much of Afghani life is described in this book.  We learn about the call to prayer at dawn, bargaining at the bazaar, wedding rituals, daily chores and family dynamics.  The writing is beautiful and I could barely put the book down. It is hard for most Americans to imagine girls not being allowed to go to school, not meeting their new spouse until the wedding and women being treated as subserviant to men. As Zulaikha's tells her story we can see she is a strong, brave and loving girl who's one wish in life is to be normal.  As I read this book I anticipated something awful  happening to her as visions of The Kite Runner floated in my head.  I breathed a sigh of relief with the success of her surgery and then cried as Zeynab's story unfolded the way it did. 

The author, Trent Reedy spent time in the army on a peacekeeping mission and his repect and admiration of the people of Afghanistan shines through.  His "author's note" helped me understand how he came to write this story and to portray the characters as well as he did.  The glossary was very helpful and I used it often.  This is a fascinating piece of fiction and I recommend it highly to fourth graders and up and to those who enjoyed  A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park and/or Shooting Kabul by N.H. Senzai.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Moon Over Manifest by Claire Vanderpool

Moon Over Manifest The 2011 Newbery Medal winner is Moon Over Manifest which tells the story of Abilene and the townspeople of Manifest, Kansas.  Abilene and her dad Gideon have ridden the rails her whole life.  When she turns 12, Gideon buys her a real ticket and sends her to Manifest to live with Shady who Gideon had lived with for a while as a youngster.  Abilene spends time with Miss Sadie, a diviner and through her, old newpaper clippings and a box of letters and trinkets she found in her room Abilene learns about the people and the town during the years of 1917-1918.  Abilene is searching for information about her dad as a boy and Miss Sadie is sharing what has been lying on her heart for years. 

The book reminds me of Jelicoe Road by Melina Marchetta, a YA book.  Puzzle pieces and clues are being delved out whether you are aware of them or not.  The narrative flips back and forth between the two time frames and is occassionaly confusing.  Chapter headings and the dates on the letters and newspaper clippings helps to keep things straight.  The 1936 history describe dust and dryness and the Great Depression.  The 1917-1918 part deals with bootlegging, conmen, immigrants and World World One.  

If you enjoy historical fiction and want to read about America in 1936 and 1917-1918 and enjoy a long, leisurely paced book, this one is for you.  Moon Over Manifest is not an easy read but as Miss Sadie tells her story and history unwinds and Abilene pieces the puzzle together you will be glad you stuck with it until the end.

Monday, January 10, 2011

2011 Newbery and Caldecott Medal winners announced

Moon Over Manifest

Congratulations to Clare Vanderpool for winning the 2011 Newbery Medal for Moon Over Manifest.
I have ordered the book and will write a blurb as soon as I read it.  The honors went to the following books: DARK EMPEROR, HEART OF A SAMURAI, ONE CRAZY SUMMER AND TURTLE IN

The Caldecott Medal was awarded to Erin Stead illustrator of A Sick Day for Amos McGee.   A Sick Day for Amos McGee

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Ballet for Martha : Making Appalachian Spring by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan

Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian SpringBrian Floca has illustrated this book about the collaboration between Martha Graham, choreographer/dancer, Aaron Copland, composer and Isamu Noguchi, artist.  Together they created the ballet Appalachian Spring which debuted in 1944.

As I read this book and neared the end I could have sworn I heard music in my head. When I finished all was quiet. There is so much information, so much beauty, so much dance, so much story. The illustrations are gorgeous and I feel like I have learned about American music, ballet and art, Graham, Copland and  Noguchi while thoroughly enjoying this book. The story and illustrations flowed smoothly and as the music in my head slowly faded I was happy there was a "curtain call" and to continue reading. Highly recommended for fans of dance, music, art and Americana