Friday, May 31, 2013

tara recommends Sing by Tom Lichtenheld

I love story books that allow you to sing along.  At the top of my list in this category, I would include any Iza Trapani book, Ashley Bryan's All Things Bright and Beautiful, and any book that has a good jumprope rhyme (i.e. Miss Mary Mack by Mary Ann Hoberman).  We even love the less traditional books with song, such as Let's Sing a Lullaby with the Brave Cowboy by Jan Thomas.  Somehow it just seems fail proof to entertain kids with song.  Because of my love of all things musical, I was very excited for Tom Lichtenheld's new book, Sing.

I grew up listening to The Carpenter's version of Sing, then with kids came the Sesame Street version.  I was excited to see what you could do with a song that is sweet and endearing, but doesn't have much of a story.  I was not disappointed.

The soft colors and abundant white space perfectly balance the pictures in this book and showcase the little bird in his effort to find his song.  The bright yellow cover just begs you to pick it up and sing along.  While the first pages of this book are wordless, the expression on the little bird's face are priceless.  His frustration is palpable as he fails to sing a song to match his friends' tune.  Luckily, someone comes along to help him with his problem, and by the end of the book, the three birds are singing in perfect harmony.

This story is short and sweet and a pleasure to read (or sing).  Tom Lichtenheld has drawn another great picture book and I will be plucking it off the shelf often for a little burst of happiness.  The dust jacket is perfectly suited for the book, but you should take it off (briefly) to enjoy the beautifully embossed cover.

As an added bonus, included with the book is a CD with three songs written by Joe Raposo (including Sing), performed by Becca Kauffman with The Midnight Sun Ensemble.

by Tom Lichtenheld
published by Henry Holt and Co.
May 2013

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

diane recommends A Corner of White by Jaclyn Moriarty

Well, it has been a long time since I have posted. With the end of the school year coming, and all the general craziness that comes with it, my life has been too busy to pick up a good book. However, that said, once I started this book, I knew that my projects and tests were going to have to wait.

This book has two plot lines running through it, so, instead of trying to intermingle my summary of the two lives, I will just separate them, but, you should be aware that they are intermingled.

Madeleine Tully is a fourteen year old girl living in England. She, once upon a time, had money, but that time has passed. And, now she finds herself in a new place, which she finds very "grey", and ordinary. One day, she finds a note slipped in a sidewalk crack by a parking meter. It reads, "Help, I am being held against my will." She thinks this is a little strange and starts writing notes back. She is not quite sure what to think when the person who responds claims that he is from a kingdom called Cello. The entire time she is writing notes back and forth with this mysterious person, her mother appears to be getting crazier. She is not quite sure what to do with her now up-side-down life, and has to find ways to cope.

Elliot Baranski is a fifteen year old boy from the kingdom of Cello. He is an everyday adventurous boy who goes out to find his missing dad. In this kingdom, magical things happen all the time. They have all of the fairy tale creatures that you dreamed up as a kid, and more. The kingdom of Cello appears to be in a dome of some sort, keeping it separate from the world. But, on occasion, this dome is known to have cracks in which you can communicate with the world. One day, while cleaning out his father's old workplace, he finds a note in a broken TV. When he reads it, he finds a most confusing note that mentions a girl who is "also being held against her will". He starts to write back to her, and realizes that she is from the world, only she doesn't think that he is telling the truth. She does not seem to not know about the kingdom of Cello, and keeps pretending that he is making up his own little world in his head. With this turn of events, he learns who he is, and who he can really trust.

This book is really voicey. And, it really is a "hoot" to read out loud.
"Writing now from the Emerald Carriage, Ko and I (for it is I, Princess Jupiter, who writes this passage)--are thrown back and forth, our glasses of bubbling teakwater spilling so--ah! there goes a drip smudging the paper!--can you see it?! [Editor's note: For obvious reasons, you cannot.] . . . WHO WILL BE NEXT?! Only one more person to choose! Could it be somebody we are going to meet this very day? . . . Or could it be you, sweet reader?! (Assuming you are young. I suppose older people read this paper too. Yes. They would.)"

With all of the voice, and the mystery of the book, with a few facts mixed in, this book keeps you wary of what might happen next. I especially like how trendy this book is. So, if you were looking for a classic, this is far from one, but, it is a really good book. A lot of people reviewing the book are saying that it is for younger YA, but it is not. I would give it to a 6th grader, and expect them to enjoy it. So, for grade designation, I would put it at 5th-7th grade. Any older than that, and they probably won't appreciate the quirkiness of the book.

I just want to put in a little "hooray!" for the cover. Madeleine looks just like she should look. Her outfit is word for word correct, except the omitted head band, and the age is just a little bit old, but close enough. This is the best cover I have seen all year! But, you shouldn't judge a book by its cover.

A Corner of White
by Jaclyn Moriarty
published by Arthur A. Levine Books
April 2013
Recommended for ages 10-13

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

danyelle recommends If You Want to See a Whale by Julie Fogliano

Have you seen the new book by Julie Fogliano and Erin Stead?  If you want to see a truly beautiful book, you should pick this one up.

As the title suggests, this book offers advice for what to do and what not to do if you want to see a whale.  For instance:

if you want to see a whale
you will need a window
and an ocean
and time for waiting
there’s no time to watch a pelican
who may or may not be smiling

By instructing readers “not to notice” clouds or roses or small things, the narrator is actually opening our eyes to the wonders of watchful waiting as we travel with a boy, a bird, and a dog on a journey that includes a pirate ship, clouds, and “things that are smaller than most small things.”  At the journey’s end, patient waiting “with both eyes open” pays off for readers who have been hoping to see the whale.  (My preschooler was so excited when the whale appeared that she jumped off my lap: "There's the whale! It's the whale!")

Poetic text captures the elegance of nature with pauses and restrained rhythms that never feel forced.  Alliteration and repetition make word combinations like “possible pirates” and “because sleeping eyes can’t watch for whales/and whales won’t wait for watching” a joy to read aloud.  Seriously, read that again out loud.  Doesn't it trip off your tongue in a way that makes you want to repeat it?

Erin Stead’s quiet illustrations in muted colors reinforce the mood of the text.  Uncluttered pictures with ample white space invite readers to stop and look and watch.  The barefoot boy, wearing a folded-newspaper hat, and his animal friends observe nature in artwork that has a timeless quality.

A small, unassuming trim size works perfectly for the story and the imprint of the whale on the book’s front cover is the kind of detail that helps make this book memorable.

If You Want to See a Whale
by Julie Fogliano
illustrated by Erin Stead
published by Roaring Brook Press
May 2013