It’s Halloween night and Danny and Wendell – and the skeptical, scientific minded Christiana Vanderpool – have just encountered something far more dangerous than any monster: Big Eddy the bully. When Big Eddy dares Danny to go inside a house that everyone says is haunted, Danny isn’t worried about being seen as a coward, but he figures the house can’t possibly be any worse than having to deal with Big Eddy, no matter how scary it looks. But is Christiana right? Are there really no such things as ghosts? Or is there really something not quite living lurking inside?
The comfort of series is that we know what we are getting. Which can sound boring and immature, but often that depends on the reader and author. When you are 8 and still learning to read, familiarity is actually a useful trait to find in a book. And there’s nothing boring about knowing that what you are going to get is an excellent story. For even five books in, Vernon’s Dragonbreath series is still brilliant and funny and clever and fresh.
There’s lots to adore about this series, as I’ve talked about before, but what struck me most while reading this installment is how well-rounded the female characters are. Quite often books that feature boys and/or are meant “for boys” (by people who divide books up in that sort of way) have female characters that are caricatures, but not so here. Dragonbreath may focus on boy characters, but the girls and women (or, rather, female lizards and such) all have personality and opinions. And even when their opinions are incorrect (according to the boys, or the narrative) they are never framed as unreasonable or silly or lesser. They remind me a bit of Sayer’s books in that sense, despite the obvious other differences.
When Lulu, her parents, and her cousin, Mellie, spend a week in a cottage by the sea they discover an unexpected guest – the kind that walks on four legs.
A cute story that is designed to appeal to the large number of newer readers that love animals. Each of the characters has personality, and while the plot may be unlikely, the day to day discoveries and frustrations and interactions ring true.
It’s not the most spectacular writing, but it’s far from stilted, which is all too common in when books for this age group.
A biography of Sally Ride, written at about third grade level.
Unfortunately, this particular easy reader does all kinds of things that are common to easy readers that I hate, especially nonfiction easy readers.
The first is that it’s just not very well done. The sentences make sense, but they aren’t memorable either. The illustrations lack elegance and just don’t flow. Worse, the practice of using photographs, and then drawing images of Sally Ride into them rather undermines the idea that this is a real person. It’s also written in the first person, as if Ride herself was talking to us, despite the fact that Sally Ride was a real person who died recently and wrote words of her own that could be quoted.
It’s not so awful that I wouldn’t buy it for the library, especially considering the topic, but it’s the kind of book that makes me wish we had higher standards for beginning readers.
When Shi-shi-etko and her younger brother, Shin-chi, are sent to a residential school, they have to leave not only their parents behind, but also the names their parents gave them as well. The siblings are sent to separate dormitories and not allowed to speak to each other, or in their native language. But before they are forced to part, Shi-Shi-etko gives Shin-chi a small toy canoe, to remind him of the family who loves him, and that one day will all be together again.
This is not a happy book, but it is a beautiful book. A lovely, sad story about colonialization and destruction, and strength and importance of family. All told with gorgeous text and illustrations.
Stanley the Hamster spends a busy day on his farm. With help from friends, he manages to get everything done.
(ok, for the record, unbound galleys of picture books are weird. now, moving on…)
A simple, cute story, that condenses the time needed to grow and harvest, but has bright pictures and the right amount of detail for small children.
Blue on blue.
White on white.
A peaceful, sunny day is interrupted by rain and thunder and lightning, but before the day is done, the sun comes back to say goodbye and goodnight.
It’s a very nice book, and decent enough poem, and I love Krommes’ style (with the exception of some of the peoples’ facial expressions).
“Mommy! Mommy! Where is my mommy?” a little bunny cries, as they ask all the animals they encounter if they are their mother.
SQUEE! A new Joyce Wan book!
No, this is not a new premise, but Wan’s take on it is excellent and fresh and adorable, as always. Wan turns the common trope into a guessing game, as each adult animal responds to the bunny by saying “No, I am a [chicken/pig/horse] and my baby is a…” with the answer on the next page, giving little ones a chance to guess and show off. Each answer is also revealed with the use of a clever cut out, creating visual and tactile interest. Plus, for such a small, short book, it does a wonderful job of introducing vocabulary – many board books use words like “chicken” but fewer use “foal.”
I’ve reviewed another in this series and everything I said about In My Forest is true of this book as well. The sense of place is not quite as well defined here, but that’s only because this book focuses more on sustenance (clover, strawberries, and cool water) than on surroundings. And since that’s a decision that makes sense for a series of board books, and creates a richer experience over the course of the series, I can’t fault it or the creators for doing so.
Yes, I know that your library probably has more books about colors than you know what to do with, but you’ll want to make room for this one, I promise. Zuckerman’s brilliant, bright, and detailed photographs really make this book stand out, even if it does sometimes feel like half the animals are birds of one type or another.
She Commands Me and I Obey by Ann Leckie
It’s a testament to the complexities of the characters and cultures and worlds that Leckie creates that I’ve been sitting here for several minutes trying to figure out how to explain this short story. (Without giving away the plot, of course.)
It’s a story about intrigue and politics. About athletes and warriors and courage. And it’s a story about choices and morality and ethics.
Like all good political intrigues, there’s several mysteries here as well.
It’s also the story of a young boy, named Her-Breath-Contains-The-Universe, a novice in the Blue Lily Monastery, and why he’s drawn to the only unnamed statue in a stadium of hundreds of statues of deified ballplayers.
Like the other works of Leckie’s that I’ve read (and loved) it’s also a story about change and sacrifice, and how change is always both gradual and sudden at the same time.
It’s truly excellent, and I know I’m not the only one that nominated it for a Hugo.
When lightning strikes and irrevocably damages the cathedral in a medieval French town, the church and citizens embark on the century long project of building a new, modern, gothic cathedral.
David Macauley’s classic has been updated with more accurate information and new color sketches. I have to admit that I miss the black and white illustrations, but it’s also true that that’s mostly nostalgia talking. Macauley’s art is as detailed and absorbing as ever, and together with the story he weaves, the pages bring to life a people and time long past.