Wednesday, January 31, 2007
A. Carefully avoid the liquid
B. Look up what should be done to remove the risk
C. Caution others of the risk
D. Test it by throwing a lit paper into the pool and see what happens.
Guess what David Eddings did.
Crazy Cars for Crazy Kids by Mark David. Kane/Miller; copy donated by publisher. First published in Australia.
The Plot: Cars. Crazy cars. Cars that should be made; but never will.
The Good: Cheetah comes over and asks, "where is the car book?" and an hour later she's still studying the intricate pictures, each a crazy car in a world of it's own, waiting to be explored and thought about in detail, with many questions.
These cars are very Caractacus Potts and Rube Goldberg-esque, full of details that are bizarre, impossible, and fun.
Cars include the Luxury Resortster, allowing you to have a holiday in your car. Includes white water rafting!
You may be tempted to ignore the text. Don't; the descriptions are delicious and snarky. For example, the King Fisher car changes into a fishing boat and one option is "waterproof joints, paints, and panels." Always nice to see waterproofing only an option with something made to go into the water!
One feature of the Park-O-Matic is the "advanced suspension, [so] you won't feel a bump why you hit the curb, a tank, or a mountain."
Links: Jen Robinson's Book Page review.
About the Blogger: Alessia Cowee. "Totally Random Nonsense and Bits of Brilliance from a Writer's Journey"
About the Blog: A writer's journal that shares different aspects of the craft : writing, getting an agent, doing freelance work.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
About the Blogger: J. Timothy King, and it's all about the story: "be the story is a blog and podcast about stories, for people who love stories, to experience them and to weave them, for readers and writers." Includes TV, movies, and books.
About the Blog: I love how this blog includes TV when it talks about story. Stories are not limited to printed words in a bound book. Tim doesn't post as much as I'd like, but when he does, it's good, like the recent post about Sylvia Plath and how (like me) he liked the movie despite it's flaws.
Monday, January 29, 2007
Chickens To The Rescue by John Himmelman. Library copy. Picture book.
The Plot: Are you too tired to cook dinner? Dog ate your homework? Did the duck take off in your truck? Don't worry -- Chickens to the rescue!!
The Good: This is funny as hell. It makes an awesome read aloud as you chant "chickens to the rescue!" along with all the kids.
The illustrations are hilarious! Because while this works reading to a large group, something is lost if you don't sit down and take your time with the pictures that depict the flurry of chickens as they "rescue" the situation. When the chickens are cooking dinner, they wear aprons. Doing homework? Books are open, papers litter the ground as those industrious chicks do their best.
Links: A Fuse No. 8 Production review.
Planet Esme review.
A Fuse No. 8 Production production.
Kids Lit review.
and for a different type of chicken:
Rotisserie Chickens to the Rescue. For those chickens willing to give their lives so that others may eat.
About the Blogger: Dawn Emerman; graduate of the Master's program at the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College; lifelong reader.
About the Blog: Named for the friend in Judy Blume's Forever, who, in Emerman's words, showed that "young women's sexuality is dangerous and will lead to bad consequences." In other words Sybil had sex, liked it, and ended up pregnant in a "who's the Daddy" situation. Avenging Sybil examines young adult literature and its treatment of female sexuality, especially double standards; with a hope towards seeing books in "which sex is a healthy part of a young woman's life and nobody pays an emotional price. Not just the main characters, but all the characters."
Sunday, January 28, 2007
You scored as President Laura Roslin. You may be ill but you have a job to do. Fate has put you in a powerful position by accident, but it turns out you are damn good at it. You are no warrior, but in the political arena you are without peer.
President Laura Roslin
Capt. Lee Adama (Apollo)
CPO Galen Tyrol
Lt. Kara Thrace (Starbuck)
Col. Saul Tigh
Dr Gaius Baltar
Lt. Sharon Valerii (Boomer)
Commander William Adama
What New Battlestar Galactica character are you?
created with QuizFarm.com
What's scary is how close I was to being Number 6.
Emma Volume 1 by Kaoru Mori. Copy donated by publisher, CMX, in support of Cybils. Cybils long list.
The Plot: Set in Victorian England. Emma is a maid; she meets a gentleman, William Jones. As the book copy says, "an upstairs gentleman and a downstairs servant share a secret love."
The Good: Ah, romance, as Emma and William exchange glances and William does things like leaves a glove behind to ensure a second meeting.
There is a lot of quiet in this book. Emma says little; she is quiet, shy, almost to the point of being a shadow. Because so much is not said, the illustrations become very important; it's how the reader knows what is going on in Emma's head. They are full of details; reading the dialogue and skimming the pictures means you'll miss parts of the story.
Along with the quiet there is a sense of slowness; a leisurely pace, almost, as the characters navigate the structure of their world. William may like Emma, and she him, but there is no rush. There is hesitancy.
What else? There are hints that there is something more going on, with both Emma's own background as well as that of her employer/mentor, Mrs. Stowner; despite Emma's reticence, or perhaps because of it, she has quite the few men falling for her. Yet at all times she is the proper young maid.
The final test for me: do I want to read more? Do I want to learn more about Emma and to find out whether Emma and William get together despite their class and money differences? Yes, yes, yes!
At this wikipedia entry on the series, I found out that not only has the book inspired such things as an Emma cafe, but also that Mori is very sensitive to the question of historical accuracy, to the point of hiring a historical consultant.
Rating: most manga is rated for the entire series; this one is T+, Teen Plus Suggestive Situations. While I didn't see anything really in this one, I'm assuming that the rating is earned in future volumes.
Links: the TangognaT review
The official website
The Comics Journal review
Publisher website (includes interior art)
So that's my pitiful excuse for why I am never as good as say, Kelly at Big A little a when it comes to updating my links and letting people know I updated my links.
How I update: I see who links to me (from statcounter, Google, technorati); I see who leaves comments; I sometimes get an email. If you think I have
deliberately ommitted you, absolutely not. It's just a mistake, and I apologize. I thought I added you and didn't. So, just remind me in the comments (or if you prefer, an email to lizzy.burns @ gmail.com, remove the spaces) if you are a kid lit blogger and are not in my sidebar.
If it looks like a blog hasn't been updated in, say, six months (and I don't know the blogger personally), I will probably remove the link.
OK, that explanation given, what I have decided to do, knowing I will never be Kelly-like in my updating and sharing, is to go thru and highlight a blog a day. (Ha ha ha ha ha .... anyone taking any bets on that? More like a few blogs a week.)
Blog of the Day: Arthur Slade: Writing for Young Adults
About the Blogger: Art Slade is the author of Dust, one of my favorite books, ever. He writes books for kids and teens; and he's a member of the adbooks discussion group.
About the Blog: A combination of posts and podcasts; Slade blogs about his writing and life in general.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Which is why my Best Books 2007 list is going to incorporate any book read in 2007, and I'll start noting the publication date.
As I recounted at Pop a few months ago, and as Sophie adds at Flickr, we have a bit of a Flavor Flav obsession going on.
How bad do we have it? We have our own Flav nicknames: Carlie is Vanilla Latte, I am Smartie, Melissa is Gigglz, and Sophie is BabyMama. (Tho I also think of them as our YALSA Yals nicknames.) For reasons that made sense at the time, in Seattle we got Flav T-shirts made and wore them to the Youth Media Awards.
Over at my LiveJournal syndication, Lara Zeises says "This is the cutest picture. I want a nickname, dangit! :)"
Yes, we are cute. (And, as 7 Impossible Things.... readers know, I am not just cute; I am also a red-headed babe.)
Lara, because you are an awesome writer, we dub thee AustenGrrl after one of our favorite writers ever. (Hm....where is my DVD of
As for others who left comments: Christine, we dub thee Jersey (because you're a Jersey girl)
Kelly, we dub thee Professor (The Pro for short)
Beige by Cecil Castellucci. ARC supplied by publisher, Candlewick. Publication date: June 2007. (Amazon says May).
Notice: Yes, this is a long, long way away. But this book is so fabulous that I must blog about it now. Like many of my fellow bloggers, I'm being a total booktease, in that I'm saying I love it yet not going into any details now, but will do a follow up post once this has been on the shelves six months or so. It's one of my Best Books for 2007.
The Plot: Katy, 15, is a nice, good girl who gets along with her mother; she dresses like a prep and likes boy bands. Mom is headed off to an archaeological dig in Peru for two and a half weeks; Grand-maman is in an old age home; so Katy leaves Montreal for LA to visit her father, the Rat. She hasn't seen Beau "the Rat" Ratner since she was seven. Needless to say, she isn't happy about this at all. Picture Rory from the Gilmore Girls shipped off to the Osbournes.
The Good: I am trying to be very, very good about spoilers.
While at first glance it seems the Rat is called the Rat because Katy hasn't seen him since forever, it's actually his punk name. Y'see, the Rat is the drummer for the "famously unfamous" band, Suck.
This is not one of those books where a girl goes to LA and has a Pretty Woman shopping experience when she meets her rich and famous father. C'mon, Castellucci is better than that (tho if she wrote that type of book it would kick ass because Castellucci is that good of a writer.) Because Suck is "famously unfamous" (i.e., they never made it big) the Rat lives in an apartment and has a day job to pay the bills.
Beige does not use the "famous Daddy" teen formula as an excuse to go shopping or teach us a life lesson about being rich. The Rat is not a musician so that Castellucci can show us the life styles of the rich and famous; the Rat is a musician because it is his life, it is his world view, it is the reason he's alive. For Katy, music is something that plays in the background. She likes boy bands. How do two people, related by blood yet total strangers, create a relationship when they have nothing in common?
What else can I say without significant spoilers? As you know, I am very tough on the absentee Dad becoming devoted Dad for no good reason. Here, the Rat has a great reason for not seeing Katy for all those years: he was a heroin addict. He is now a recovered addict.
What works, again without being spoilerific:
Katy's anger and distrust of her father; Katy's deep attachment to her mother; the mother changing her life from drugged out teenage groupie knocked up by famous drummer to respectable mother earning a PhD. (Imagine Penny Lane from Almost Famous, but in the early 90s punk rock scene; she gets pregnant and leaves the whole rock'n'roll world behind.)
What also works is that Castellucci knows and respects the punk rock scene. Every chapter is headed by a song name and band.* Katy is a fish out of water -- "beige" in this land of people who live for music -- yet Castellucci shows Katy (and the reader) a thing or two or three about punk rock. (And whether it's music or something else, who hasn't felt beige every now and then? You haven't? Just me? Oh.)
Final words: Castellucci at all times respects Katy and respects the Rat. There is no "good" person or "bad" person; no right or wrong way; only finding what is one's own way.
Final, final words: While I cannot give any specific examples without being a spoiler girl (I am such a booktease!), one of the things I love about Castellucci is that she leaves things to the reader to figure out. She doesn't spoonfeed it to you. There are parts here, things about the parents, Katy, the music scene, that I am dying to talk about.
Words after the final, final words: Age: teen. Is it OK for middle school? Depends on your community. C'mon, people it's punk rock! The word f*ck appears (but much less often than Nick and Norah.) Someone gets a boner. And Katy is result of a groupie and musician hook up. The Rat and Katy's mother are now sober, but this book honestly looks at their drug use in the past and the consequences, without being all Afternoon Special about it. I think it would work in a middle school in all but the most conservative towns, but read and judge for yourself.
More words after the final, final words. I know I am old when I'm older than the parents** in the teen books I'm reading. But that aside, while I love Castellucci's YA books, given that she never falls for the "parents are evil" trap and creates well-rounded, very human people, I would be the happiest person in happydonia if she ever wrote a grown up book.
*I'm a librarian. I cannot resist a list. I knew 10 of the 45 song titles.
** Actually, older than the mom but not the dad.
Links: Beige is Punk: Essential Punk Rock songs
The Chasing Ray review
Cecil Castellucci....Between the buns at Bookburger
Win an ARC contest: Deadline February 20, 2007
The Goddess of YA Literature review
Friday, January 26, 2007
Kirby Larson shares the wake-up call and fighting traffic.
Please post in the links any other "I got the phone call" author or illustrator moments from this year's Youth Media Awards winners and honor books.
Edited to add:
Winners Susan Patron and David Wiesner discuss their winning experiences at Publishers Weekly.
Cynthia Lord's story.
Jennifer Holm misses the call (interview at Miss Erin's)
I was over at the Poets.org website looking for inspiration for Poetry Friday and found this essay and round up of poems used in films: Poetry in Movies: A Partial List by Stacy Harwood. I had a lot of fun both remembering movies (oh, yeah) and wondering, hey, I didn't remember that poem!
Edited to add: The round up is over at Chicken Spaghetti, and includes Jane Yolen's contribution.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
Winner: "The Higher Power of Lucky,” written by Susan Patron. I didn't read it; so I have to find it!
“Penny from Heaven,” written by Jennifer L. Holm. I reviewed this for The Edge of the Forest; it's in those archives, and I just republished the post here at Tea Cozy.
“Hattie Big Sky,” by Kirby Larson. I read it, adored it, and the post is sitting in my drafts pile.
“Rules,” by Cynthia Lord. Didn't read it, have to find it.
Note: as I read & review, I will edit this post to add links.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Cohn, Rachel and Levithan, David. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist.*
de la Cruz, Melissa. Blue Bloods. A fun vampire book that is part Gossip Girl, part Buffy.
Giles, Gail. What Happened to Cass McBride.
Marunas, Nathanial and Craddock, Erik. Manga Claus: The Blade of Kringle. A lot of fun, as buff Manga Claus defeats the demon ninja Teddy Bears and saves the North Pole. In my draft pile.
Ruby, Laura. Good Girls. Read it on the plane back from Seattle. Loved it. Can't wait to find ten minutes to blog about it.
Stewart, Sean and Weisman, Jordan and others. Cathy's Book: If Found Call 650-266-8233.*
Stone, Tanya Lee. A Bad Boy Can be Good for a Girl.*
Vaughan, Brian K. and Alphona, Adrian. Runaways: Volume One. A great graphic novels series that answers that timeless question: what if the parents who loved you and took care of you and spoiled you turned out to be evil supervillains, intent on mass murder and world domination?
Werlin, Nancy. The Rules of Survival. Quite simply, one of the scariest mothers ever. Would you be able to follow the rules?
Named one of my Best Books of 2006.
Cathy's Book: If Found Call (650) 266-8233 by Sean Stewart and Jordan Weisman. Copy supplied by Running Press Publishers.
First things first: you may have heard about Cathy's Book pre-publication because of product placement. The makeup that gets mentioned, though, is barely noticeable—other books mention many more brand names than get mentioned here. If I didn't know about the controversy, I wouldn’t have even noticed.
Second things second: Cathy's Book advertises itself as an "original interactive teen book." Does it deliver? Absolutely: it's a believable teenage girl's diary; it's a fast paced adventure; and it's a lot of fun. The packaging (more on that below) easily could have been a gimmick—instead, it works to create a full, realistic story.
Hold Cathy's Book in your hands, and it looks like a sketchbook. Open it up and there is a clear envelope of "proof" on the left-hand side and the sketchbook on the right. Do I read the book, which is full of doodles and sketches? Do I open the envelope and see what's inside? There are phone numbers and websites—what about those?
Let's start with the book. It begins on January 30, and ends February 9th. Victor has broken up with Cathy, and she wants to know why. She's the type of girl who wants an answer, so she goes to Victor's house. And it's not really breaking in if the door is unlocked, right? What she finds leads her to a much bigger mystery than why Victor dumped her. If the book existed just as the book—a smart, funny Veronica Mars/ Buffyesque teenage girl stubbornly solves a mystery—it would be a simple fun read.
But the book doesn't stop with the text. And this ups the enjoyment. Remember that envelope? Remember all those phone numbers and websites? Your pick what to explore first; and just how much, and how deep, you want to go.
The envelope is full of the items Cathy picks up as she investigates first Victor and then a murder: photos, newspaper clippings, a birth certificate, a menu. The book isn't annotated. In no place does it say "stop now and look at the matching item." That's left to the reader. Interactive, remember? The book isn't dictating the story. I felt like Cathy as I poured over the "proof," noting things she didn't.
The phone numbers and websites give more opportunities to become Cathy, and one of the websites, www.doubletalkwireless.com, contains full color copies of everything in the evidence bag, plus other things Cathy has discovered. (So all you librarians who are worried about the items surviving check out, have the website and password* handy; the proof will always exist virtually.)
I've long wondered when authors would take real advantage of the Internet for storytelling. Not just the internet, but modern computers for publishing allow the cool envelope of stuff to be included with the book. There's been more and more use of the Internet recently, with playlists and character blogs. But Cathy's Book takes it to a new level, and I'm a bit annoyed that the whole product placement thing has stopped a conversation on the fascinating way this story is told. The reader becomes part of the story, because of the items and because of the Internet sites and phone numbers. These are not just "extra" items—they give additional information and depth and also allow the reader to discover things Cathy hasn't. At the same time, the story works regardless of how little, or how much, the reader wishes to explore. It's no surprise, then, that one of the authors, Jordan Weisman, is a video game developer. Many modern computer games are not just "games," they also tell stories that must work regardless of the player's choices.
I'm only including the ones I've read or reviewed. Star means it made my Best Books list; ... indicates omissions.
Gravett, Emily. Wolves. Read it at work, loved it; story is great for older kids, wonderful design.
Grey, Mini. The Adventures of the Dish and the Spoon. Another book I read at work & haven't blogged about yet; also good for older kids. Like Wolves, adults will laugh themselves silly. Proof that picture books doesn't mean "little kids."
Hills, Tad. Duck & Goose.
McLimans, David. Gone Wild: An Endangered Animal Alphabet.
Pinkney, Jerry. The Little Red Hen. Read it at work; liked it; but because I read it at work didn't have time to take notes on it to make a post.
Seeger, Laura Vaccaro. Black? White! Day? Night! A Book of Opposites.
Brown, Susan Taylor. Hugging the Rock. *
Demi. Su Dongpo: Chinese Genius.
Holm, Jennifer L. Penny from Heaven. *
Larson, Kirby. Hattie Big Sky. Read it, loved it, made it a best book, need to finish draft.*
Wiesner, David. Flotsam. Read it, enjoyed it especially since the setting is local (Long Beach Island, NJ.) Another read it at work book.
Originally uploaded by sophiebiblio.
Do we look tired? Of course! We got up at the crack of dawn to go to the Youth Media Awards. We didn't even stop for coffee; this is the post-award wrap up session. What do you mean, no King of Attolia? And Hattie Big Sky -- you go, girl! And YAY YAY for American Born Chinese.
The full list is at the ALA site.
Here are the books from the list that I have read and reviewed. It is NOT the full list; for that, you need to go to the above link. If there's an asterisk, it was on my personal Best Book list. ... indicates where I omitted titles.
Almond, David. Clay. *
Anderson, M.T. The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume 1: The Pox Party. *
Cohn, Rachel and Levithan, David. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. *
Cornish, D.M. Monster Blood Tattoo: Foundling. Read it; will be loved by those who like high fantasy. Great alternate world, awesome maps, a glossary, and an interesting plot; but, not reviewed because I thought the main character too young.
Dessen, Sarah. Just Listen.
Gantos, Jack. The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs. *
Giles, Gail. What Happened to Cass McBride?
Green, John. An Abundance of Katherines.
Hartnett, Sonya. Surrender. *
Jansen, Hanna. Over a Thousand Hills I Walk With You. Read it; very powerful; emotionally draining. Rough draft sitting in my to be finalized pile, once I have the nerve.
Larson, Kirby. Hattie Big Sky. * Adored it. Draft review waiting to be finalized.
Lat. Kampung Boy. *
Miller, Kirsten. Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City. *
Murdock, Catherine Gilbert. Dairy Queen. (the paperback has a much better cover.)
Portman, Frank. King Dork. *
Reinhardt, Dana. A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life. *
Stassen, Jean-Philippe. Deogratias, a Tale of Rwanda. * Heartbreaking, almost unbearable. Genius. Sitting in my drafts pile.
Sturtevant, Katherine. A True and Faithful Narrative. Liked the look at the craft, art, and business of writing; liked how the narrator struggled to be true to her self and her times. Didn't review because I felt at times the narrator was too modern; and that it was more about modern times than the time it was set.
Turner, Megan Whalen. The King of Attolia. *
Werlin, Nancy. The Rules of Survival. An honest & straightforward look at the damage done by emotional abuse and a selfish, self-centered, self absorbed mother (who I'm sure was that way as a teen and never grew up.). Review in draft pile. (See, I haven't been exaggerating my backlog!)
Wooding, Chris. Storm Thief.
Yang, Gene Luen. American Born Chinese. No excuses; just part of the backlog. I read it, enjoyed it, believe it's the type of story that could only work as a graphic novel.
Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief.*
Engle, Margarita and Qualls, Sean. The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano.
Jacobson, Sid and Colon, Ernie. The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation. Read it, found it very well done & a great way to present the information. It's in my draft pile.
Questions? Comments? Mistakes? Let me know in the comments!
by Chris Wooding
Reviewed by Liz Burns, A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy
There seems to be an unwritten rule for fantasy: there's no such thing as one book. Pick up a random fantasy title, and it turns out that it's "book one" of a trilogy, a quartet, a series. Chris Wooding is a rarity in that he writes stand alone fiction, such as The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray and Poison. His most recent work, Storm Thief, is another stand-alone addition to YA fantasy. These stand-alone titles are refreshing because sometimes, I just want to read one book and have completion. There are titles I haven't picked up because I don't want to commit to another four-book series that won't be finished for at least six years. I want to get to the end of the book and know that I have read the end of the story.
Wooding's fantasies are always well-thought-out, complete worlds. This makes me admire the lack of sequels even more. Given all the work that has to go into making a complex fantasy world, I think it would be easy to write a second or third book in a setting that is already established. It must be more work to invent, over and over again, something new and different. Yet this is what Wooding does: each new book by Wooding gives us a peek into some different universe.
In The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray, Wooding creates a vaguely Edwardian alternate universe with vampires and ghosts and demons; in Poison, it's a world of fairy tales come true; and in Storm Thief, the created world is a distant future where anything is possible.
Rail and Moa live in the city of Orokos; they are the lowest of the low on the social ladder, thieves who live in a ghetto-like section of the city. The privileged and the thief have one thing in common: they live in fear of storms— probability storms. When one strikes, anything can happen. It can be as minor as being right-handed before a storm and left-handed after; and as strange as disappearing from the city and reappearing only in pictures. Rail is well aware of the risks of living in a place where anything can happen. One such probability storm took away his ability to breathe, and now he has a permanent mask and portable machine to force air into his lungs. Orokos urban legend says the cause of the storms is the Storm Thief:
"Anything could happen when the Storm Thief was abroad. He was a wicked entity who delighted in mischief, as likely to snatch a person's purse as he was to shower them with jewels. He might steal a baby's eyes and replace them with buttons, or turn a house into sugar paper. The tale was old, invented long ago to make sense of the senseless. People used it to explain probability storms to their offspring. But though it was only a legend, they never quite managed to stop believing in it themselves. When they talked of the damage wrecked to their lives in the aftermath of the storm, they still talked of a visit from the Storm Thief."
Rail and Moa steal something they shouldn't, and end up on fleeing across the various segregated sections of the city, entering areas where they don't belong. It's a nightmare version of a road trip; their pursuers include Mozgas, reaver-like monsters, the thief master, Anya-Jacana, the Secret Police, the machine-like man, Vago, and the vampire-like ghosts, the Revenants. Rail and Moa are fleeing death and punishment, but they are also running towards a hope of a better life, of an escape from Orokos and its probability storms.
In The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray, Wooding explored the power of belief; in Poison, the meaning of story. In Storm Thief, Wooding looks at the balance between chaos and order, stagnancy and creativity. Wooding once again creates not just a believable world, but also one with an interesting, complex plot and fully realized characters. It's beautifully written; in the ARC, the note from the editor, David Levithan, is simple: "Chris Wooding is at it again. His imagination never ceases to amaze me. Read on."
Read on and be amazed at how Wooding has once again created a unique fantasy.
by Jennifer L. Holm
Reviewed by Liz Burns, A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy
Originally published at The Edge of the Forest, Vol 1, Issue 6, August 2006
Penny From Heaven appears, at first, to simply be an old-fashioned book. The cover reflects the 1950s setting, with Penny (almost 12) and her cousin Frankie leaning against a car, Penny daydreaming, while Frankie has a baseball and mitt. We're about to be transported to the past. (And isn't the past always a better time?) Penny and her widowed mother live with Penny's maternal grandparents. Penny's father's family lives close by, and she is also close to them.
On the surface, this is a book that is both an ode to old-fashioned summers and a love letter to Holm's grandmother. Frankie and Penny explore their neighborhood with a great deal of freedom, and have summer days during which they can do whatever they want to do: no camp, no lessons, no structure. Penny From Heaven is based on the childhood stories of Holm's grandmother, and Holm has taken that and made it into fiction, into story, with endnotes and photos explaining the "real" story.
Penny From Heaven is warm, funny, and real. Most of the book is about the summer, as Penny and Frankie make their own fun, whether it's hanging out with her father's relatives, listening to her favorite baseball team (the Brooklyn Dodgers), searching for lost treasure or trying to sneak into the forbidden public pool.
Penny is close to both sides of her family; yet those two sides barely speak to each other, divided by the loss of her father. Her mother's family is solid American, her father's is Catholic and Italian. Penny From Heaven is more than a summer book or a family love story, because Holm also shows that the 1950s were not a perfect time. One uncle lives in a car. Penny is forbidden to go to the public swimming pool because of the fear of catching polio. The most serious secret is that involving Penny's father and his death. Penny discovers that during World War II "enemy aliens" had to registered and had their lives seriously restricted, with regulations for curfews, travel, and what they could own. Some were even sent to Internment Camps; and she also learns that those enemy aliens included people who were born in Italy and lived their whole lives in the United States. People like her father.
Towards the end of the book, Penny From Heaven shifts from a story of long summer days to one of Penny finding courage and strength. There is an accident—one that threatens to further divide Penny's family. Instead, Penny discovers her own strength and the power of love and forgiveness. Holm has managed to take her own personal family history and make it universal—to take a time in the past, and make it accessible. She honors the past without glorifying it
Interview # 1 is with -- drumroll, please -- me! (or is it I?) And please note that according to Seven Impossible... I am a red-headed babe.
Those of you finding your way here from the Interview, welcome!
Cross posted at Pop Goes the Library.
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. I have my review of this sitting in my drafts file.
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation; v. 1: The Pox Party by M. T. Anderson
An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
Surrender by Sonya Hartnett
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
I'll edit this to add the link to my review of ABC once it's posted.
I'm counting and tallying.
Number of posts about:
1 Terrorism and sex
5 Just plain fun
1 Writing & depression
1 2006 recap
6 About authors
4 "Best" lists
So go over to the Carnival and read up!
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is a no-go, because the mother and daughter want to avoid books "about girls having sex and other more adult topics."
Full request is at Pop, along with Sophie's initial responses. My "off the top of my head" responses are in the comments (and I apologize now for typos etc., it's the posting while packing ohmygoodness I forget my makeup madness.)
I know the readers and lurkers here will have tons of suggestions; please post suggestions over at Pop.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
-Buffy, Ep: Helpless
Monday, January 15, 2007
The Plot: A biography of Su Dongpo (born Su Shi), 1036 to 1101. Had I heard of Su Dongpo before this? Nope. Now I know that he is "the heart and soul of Chinese culture." A superman, almost; a child prodigy and scholar; a government official who got things done; a man who made enemies, saw reversals of fortune, and learned to appreciate all aspects of life.
The Good: Beautiful illustrations. You can take a peek at the book, at the publisher Lee and Low's site. To use my niece Cheetah as the test case, as soon as she saw it she wanted to look at it and read it. The illustrations are breathtaking; rich gold borders, brilliant blues, deep reds. I especially liked the two page spread that showed Su Dongpo and his father and brother traveling on the Yangtze River.
The illustrations also help show the world that Su Dongpo lived in; for example, the scene of the candidates taking exams, each in his own cubicle, as palace guards look on.
Sometimes Su Dongpo was on the top of the world; other times, in exile. In exile, he learned that "he could find beauty anywhere." He lost the taste for fame, but when a new Emperor called him to service, he went. He observes that:
happiness and sadness
are moments that pass like a shadow,
a sound, a breeze and a dream --
Both are earthly illusions
How can one find happiness
Countering one illusion with another?
Another good thing: a map. I like to see where things are, to get the sense of how far a person travels, what is really meant by exile.
Notes: at the beginning of the book there is a notation about books looked at, and notes on transliterations of certain words and names.
Links: Big A little a review.
Paper Tigers review.
Edited to add the Boston Globe review.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
The election opens March 15 and closes April 24.
Go over to the YALSA blog to see the full slate of candidates for different positions.
Please note the candidates for the 2009 Michael L. Printz Award Committee:
Elizabeth Burns (yes, this is me!)
J. Marin Younker
Eight candidates are running for four positions. The full policies and procedures for the Printz are here.
Cross posted at Pop Goes the Library.
Friday, January 12, 2007
by by Ron Kavana and Pogues member Terry Woods
and sung by the Pogues
A curse upon you Oliver Cromwell
You who raped our motherland
I hope you're rotting down in Hell
For the horrors that you sent
To our misfortunate forefathers
Whom you robbed of their birthright
"To hell or Connaught" may you burn in hell tonight
For the rest of the song, go here.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Little Butterfly, Volume 1 by Hinako Takanaga. Digital Manga, Inc. Copy donated by publisher; Cybils nominee.
The Plot: It's about two teenage boys in their last year of high school. Kojima has many friends and everyone likes him. Nakahara is the brooding loner. The only other thing I need to add -- it's yaoi manga. Which means, Kojima and Nakahara get together.
The Good: This is a romance with two very pretty boys. It's fairly tame: boy meets boy, boy feels something for the other boy but doesn't realize what happens, kissing, confusion, anger, reunion, kissing. I've been told that later volumes are more explicit, which is probably why the publisher has put this on the cover: "Yaoi Manga. Parental Advisory. Explicit Content. M for Mature Audiences. 18 +" I'd follow the publisher on this one, and if buying it for a library shelve it in the adult collection.
For those of you new to manga: from what I've seen in the library, it's the norm for manga publishers to include some type of age advisory. In my opinion, this volume doesn't warrant such an explicit label; but, if this advisory is being done for the entire series, I appreciate that the publishers are up front about that and view the story as a whole.
Another explanation for those new to manga: Yaoi is like slash fanfiction; it's about boys with boys. And like slash, it's read mainly by girls and women. As a matter of fact, the flap of the book has a link to a website, yaoi-manga.com, with the tagline "the girls only sanctuary".
While I'm aware of yaoi, this is the first yaoi one that I've read. What struck me is that it was a very non-seduction seduction. Kojima likes Nakahara and wants to be his friend, but is oblivious that Nakahara loves Kojima. Nakahara kisses Kojima and oh, the angst! Add to it that it has the whole good boy/ bad boy thing going on, and OF COURSE, the bad boy has a wounded inner child that only the good boy knows about . . .
It's a sweet romance, very emotional about who likes who as Kojima tries to figure out what he is feeling and what he wants. The pretty boys (and these are two very pretty boys) end up together (hello, no spoiler there! I TOLD you it was a romance, and everyone knows that romances have happy endings!); but since this is first in a series, there is more angst and drama to come. I'm interested in reading the rest of the series, to see what happens to these two.
Note to those who know more about me: If I've totally messed up a definition or such, please let me know in the comments, just be kind!
Links: Mitali's Fire Escape asks about Yaoi
Yet Another Comics Blog: Asks for Yaoi Recommendations
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Quiet Hero: The Ira Hayes Story by S.D. Nelson. Copy provided by Lee & Low. Picture Book.
The Plot: A picture book biography of Ira Hayes, one of the six marines in the famous photograph of the flag raising at Iwo Jima.
The Good: Quiet Hero is about a quiet man, Ira Hayes. Nelson relates how Hayes was always a loner, and how the Marines gave him a sense of belonging. "The men in Ira's battalion became best buddies and Ira finally felt as if he belonged. He was no longer lonely. This was the happiest time of his life."
Six of the three men in the famous photograph died during the battle. Because the photo became famous so quickly, the three survivors were sent back to the US for publicity purposes and to celebrate them as heroes.
The author explains how this photo wasn't just well known because of the battle and the war; it wasn't just sensationalism; the photo touched people. "They were awestruck. Tears came to the eyes of many. Americans everywhere were filled with gratitude at the sight of these brave young men raising their country's flag in the middle of a terrible battle." The illustrations by Nelson of the battle scenes are terrific; they are infused with red, red for the battle and the heat, the dead and the dying.
Hayes was uncomfortable being called a hero; uncomfortable being in the limelight; and lonely once again, now that he was away from the Marines. Isolated and without his support system, he began to drink. There weren't many resources available then for alcoholics, and Hayes died in 1955. He was buried in Arlington.
A fabulous author's note is included, with photos, that expands on some of the issues touched on in the text of the book: the Indian boarding schools, discrimination, alcoholism. Parents, teachers and librarians can share this book with children, a book that truthfully and honestly honors someone who would have been a lot happier left alone, and decide how much more of this difficult story to share.
A story of a hero dying young is a difficult one; and some people may wonder, why tell it? And why tell it to children? Hayes's alcoholism and death do not take away from his life and his achievements. Whether or not he was comfortable being a hero; he was one. Not just for the photo; the photo is just what happened to highlight this one individuals life. And that life included being proud of being a Pima Indian and volunteering to serve his country, despite discrimination and economic hardships. Those are things to celebrate.
The recent movie, Flags of our Fathers, is about the photograph, with Adam Beach as Ira Hayes.
Links: The Circle (News and Art from a Native American Perspective) review.
Book Moot reviews the John Wayne film made about the photograph; Ira Hayes appeared in it.
Book Moot review.
A Chicken Spaghetti Favorite for 2006.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Semicolon and Chicken Spaghetti have gathered them all together for us.
Semicolon rounds up Bloggers Reading Lists of 2006
Chicken Spaghetti has the Best of 2006 recap (published reviews)
Wheaton is recapping Star Trek: The Next Generation over at TV Squad. If you've ever watched ST:TNG, this is must read material.
So far one of my favorite lines is: "Q is really like a stupid Internet Troll; he makes some stupid accusation against Picard, Picard refutes his argument with logic and reason, and Q just changes the terms of the argument, all the while enjoying the attention he's getting."
And the behind the scenes comments! Oh, pure geek joy.
Books Reviewed (link to my review, if I've reviewed it):
Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr
Good Girls by Laura Ruby
Angel's Choice by Lauren Bogsted
Pop by Aury Wallington
Meanwhile, over at Eclectica there is All Hail Those Delightful Quirky Families
Books Reviewed (link to my review, if I've reviewed it):
The Gods in Winter by Patricia Miles
Caddy Ever After by Hilary McKay
Truth and Salsa by Linda Lowery
The Five Lost Aunts of Harriet Bean by Alexander McCall Smith
Travels with my Family by Marie Louise Gay
When I Was Young Neruda Called Me Policarpo by Poli Delano
Isabella's Above-Ground Pool by Alice Mead
The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin
And again at Eclectica, The Delight of Stories From Yesteryear
A Drowned Maiden's Tale by Laura Amy Schlitz (I have heard such good things about this but haven't been able to get a copy)
The Shadows of Ghadames by Joelle Stolz, translated by Catherine Temerson
Paradise by Joan Elizabeth Goodman ( read this a while back, it is fabulous)
Snowfall by K.M. Peyton
The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages
Monday, January 08, 2007
Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Author of Anne of Green Gables by Alexandra Wallner. Library copy. Picture Book.
The Plot: A picture book biography for young readers about L.M. Montgomery, the author of Anne of Green Gables.
The Good: I enjoyed this book, but then, I am a fan of Anne. And the audience for this book? Fans of L.M. Montgomery, her Anne books and Emily books and other works.
I think I was in fifth grade when I read the first Anne book; and while I read the second and third shortly after, my interest died down. It wasn't until I was older, in high school, that I went back, reread the whole series, and loved it. Because, and here is a part some people tend to forget -- the Anne books aren't for young kids. Yes, Orphan Anne will enchant younger readers; but Teacher Anne? College Anne? Young Mother Anne? Speaking personally, at eleven it was YYYYYAAAAWWWWNNNN. Add a few years, and I was all over them.
Which brings me to my only real question for this book: audience. After reading the Anne books in high school, and believing the myth that the Anne books were about LMM's life, I went on to read LMM's journals. What an eye opener; an education about the realities of turn of the century life, as opposed to romanticized myth; lessons in how "real life" are turned into "art," ending for me the myth that Anne = Lucy Maud; and a heartbreaking look at a life.
This beautiful picture book, with illustrations that evoke a historical feel with their folk art appearance, does a great job of setting forth her life, the writing of Anne, and addresses some of the complexities of LMM's life (her father, her stepmother, relationship with her grandparents, publisher issues) while omitting some of the darkness (the reasons for her marriage, the loss of a child, problems with her adult sons.) I am adding it to my "wish list" of books about LMM that I want to own.
Here's my question: audience. Don't get me wrong: great, great book. But why would someone young enough to read this picture book be interested in LMM? Aren't the readers of LMM old enough to want something more?
I'd love input from you all in the comments!
Links: The Lucy Maud Montgomery Society of Ontario
Picturing a Life: Online Presentation of LMM's Scrapbook and Book Covers
Road to Avonlea (TV series) Official Link
Virtual Green Gables Tour (from the official Prince Edward Island site)
I've read one of these; Kiki Strike; it's on my Best Books list.
Drowned Maiden's Hair, A by Laura Amy Schlitz, Candlewick
Framed by Frank Cottrell Boyce, Harper Collins
Heat by Mike Lupica, Philomel
Kiki Strike by Kirsten Miller, Bloomsbury
Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata, Atheneum
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Gone Wild: An Endangered Animal Alphabet by David McLimans. Library copy. Picture Book.
The Plot: An ABC book featuring endangered animals.
The Good: Alphabet books serve multiple functions. Sometimes, it is the obvious -- to teach the alphabet, to teach what words begin with what letters. Pure literacy. Which is cool.
But that's not this book; here, it's a device used to teach about endangered animals. Each letter illustrates a different animal. Black letters on white pages have been made to resemble parts of animals; sometimes it is easy to tell, sometimes it is more elaborate. You can see some of that on the book cover. It's inventive, it's fun, and it's gorgeous.
As McLimans says in the introduction, "In a way, this alphabet is a return to picture writing. The challenge for me in creating these images was finding endangered animals whose shape and form fit naturally together with the letters that begin their names."
Each page contains the name of the animal, including the Latin name, a full drawing of the animal (in red), and information such as class, habitat, range, threats, and status. A sample using the letter G is found at McLimans' website.
At the end of the book there is additional information on each animal.
Links: New York Times Best Illustrated Books 2006. (slide show)
Saturday, January 06, 2007
Winter People by Joseph Bruchac. Audiobook. Library copy.
The Plot: It's 1759; the French and Indian War. A surprise attack on the village of St. Francis; screaming, shouting, chaos. The attackers are ruthless: they kill men, women and children; burn buildings, including the Church; and take women and children captive. Buildings are burnt with people inside; the attackers steal everything from food to the silver in the church.
The villagers are warned moments before the attack; not enough time to save everyone, but enough time for some of the people to prepare a defense and others to help lead many of the villagers to safety. Saxso, fourteen, helps lead people to safety.
Sasxo's mother and younger sisters are among those captured. Within days, grim stories are told of the prisoners being killed and eaten . Saxso refuses to believe his family is dead, and sets out after them.
Oh by the way -- the residents of the village are Abenaki. The attackers are British soldiers, led by Robert Rogers. Historical fiction, yes; but all based on fact.
The Good: Edge of the seat excitement, from the first page. Saxso and his friends and relatives are attending a dance when they are warned about the impending attack; not enough time to save everyone, but enough time to put together some defense and to save many.
Saxso relates the attack; the burning, the screaming, the efforts to save as many of the women and children as possible. This then turns into a chase story; tho Saxso has been injured, he resolves to go after his family. "The Worrier" helps him, but warns him against killing anyone. One teenage boy -- how can he find them? And once he finds them, what can he do?
Along the way, the reader learns a lot about the Abenaki in the 18th century and the village of St. Francis; myths and legends; the diversity of the Abenaki. Joseph Louis Gill, the Chief of St. Francis (also known as Odanak) was biologically white.
Because I listened to this on audiobook, I missed out on the author's note. Thank goodness for Amazon, which allowed me to read it. Before I read it on Amazon, I began researching on my own, so discovered even without the note that all of the people mentioned by name in the story are true, except for Saxso, his family, and "the Worrier;" and the facts of the raid, and it's aftermath are also all true (except of the specifics of Saxso's own story.)
This works in multiple ways. It's solid action adventure; it's historical fiction that does not invent history; and it also tells a different side of the stories usually told. If you're interested in reading books about the Americas in the 18th century, this is a must read.
While I would urge including this book in any study of the French and Indian War, I especially urge its inclusion in any teaching unit that includes materials on people captured by Indians, such as Calico Captive. The "Mrs. Johnson" who teaches Saxso English is the same woman who wrote the memoir A narrative of the captivity of Mrs. Johnson : containing an account of her sufferings, during four years, with the Indians and French. (By the way, that link is to a full text version of her narrative). And it's that memoir that is the basis for Calico Captive.
Links: Robert Rogers. Note that this Wikipedia entry contains his version of the attack.
Don't believe the allegations of cannibalism? Check out these notes on the raid.
Picture Book Malian's Song, Malian and her song appear in Winter People. Take a look at the whole site, because it goes into great detail about oral tradition and how it matches other records and evidence, and great links.
Rogers Raid: unlike the above Wikipedia entry, this includes the French and Abenaki records.
365 Penguins by Jean-Luc Fromental, illustrated by Joëlle Jolivet. Library copy. Picture Book.
The Plot: A family gets a penguin a day. It starts out silly and just gets stranger and stranger, as they try to deal with their rapidly increasing household. And who is sending all these penguins, anyway?
The Good: Like other titles illustrated by Jolivet, this is an oversized book. The Good: I personally love it, and know kids also like the almost too big size. It also makes it great to use for read alouds. The Bad: librarians weep as they try to figure out where to shelve it.
This is a strange book -- the concept being that as the penguins keep coming and coming, the family keeps the penguins, constantly adjusting to the new arrivals. Yet at the same time there is a realistic approach, as the family tries to figure out where to keep them and how to feed them. As the numbers grow, the fun of the pictures increase. One of my favorites is two penguins shown as bookends. What is also fun is to count the penguins; and every time I counted, the number of penguins was exactly right. Along with that is some math goodness. For example, as the family discusses the many penguins it's explained that they now have "four times fifteen" penguins.
This sums the book up in a nutshell: "Once you've reached the point of no return, one penguin more or one penguin less each day doesn't make much difference anymore."
Links: Pixie Stix Kids Pix review.
Library Goddesses Picture Books review.
A Year of Reading review.
Young Adult (& Kid's) Books Central Blog review.
Planet Esme review.
Remember me bragging about all of the YA short list titles I read?
Well, back to reality and to me saying... I've read none of these.
Escape! by Sid Fleischman, Greenwillow
Freedom Walkers by Russell Freedman, Holiday House
Immersed in Verse by Alan Wolf, Lark Books
Isaac Newton by Kathleen Krull; illustrated by Boris Kulikov, Viking Juvenile
Team Moon by Catherine Thimmesh, Houghton Mifflin
It can be great fun chatting about a book, with the discussion taking place informally over different blogs and posts and comments. The main drawback is when there is an awesome discussion going on and you haven't read the book yet!
Michele at Scholar's Blog solves the problem: let's have a book discussion group!
The first book will be King of Shadows by Susan Cooper; more info on that at Scholar's Blog.
The discussion itself will start February 6 at Scholar's Blog Spoiler Zone.
What do you have to do? Head over to Scholar's Blog and in the comments let Michele know that you'll be participating. Read the book and join in the discussion!
I haven't read King of Shadows yet; but I do own it and this is just the motivation I need to dust it off.
What is an online carnival?
It's a round up of blog posts on one topic; sometimes, as with this, the bloghost changes.
What it means to you: look over your posts for December and January, pick a favorite, and submit it. Hey, you're now part of the carnival!
Then, when the Carnival is posted, and you read it, you are reminded of some great posts you read and you discover new blogs. Plus, if you submitted a post, you also get some new readers.
In a way, Poetry Friday Round Up is a mini weekly Carnival of Poetry Friday.
What do you do?
Either go the blog carnival site to submit your post, or email Big A little a. More details and a round up of past carnivals is at Big A little a. Due date: January 15th! The Carnival itself will be posted January 20th.
Friday, January 05, 2007
By Beatrice Schenk de Regniers
Keep a poem in your pocket
And a picture in your head
And you'll never feel lonely
At night when you're in bed.
The little poem will sing to you
The little picture bring to you
A dozen dreams to dance to you
At night when you're in bed.
Keep a picture in your pocket
And a poem in your head
And you'll never feel lonely
At night when you're in bed.
Source & Link: Poem In Your Pocket Day.
Round Up at the Blue Rose Girls.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
Turns out I have already read 4 of the 5; and I'm halfway thru the fifth.
Before you all start searching past reviews, let me say this -- and this is all I'll say -- each and every one of these titles is on my Best Books of 2006 list. I've only posted reviews of three of the titles; and I'm not sure if I'll post reviews of the other 2 until after the final Cybils decision.
Book Thief, The written by Markus Zusak, Knopf Books for Young Readers
Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life, A written by Dana Reinhardt, Wendy Lamb Books
Hattie Big Sky written by Kirby Larson, Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist written by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, Knopf Books for Young Readers
Rules of Survival, The written by Nancy Werlin, Dial
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
1. My paternal grandfather, Robert E. Burns, wrote the nonfiction book I Am A Fugitive From A Georgia Chain Gang which was turned into a movie, I Am A Fugitive From A Chain Gang. (Title change because Georgia was a bit pissed; name change of main character and other parts because at the time of the book and movie, he was still a fugitive.)
2. I am allergic to something but I have no idea what it is. Seriously, I've had an allergic reaction a few times in the last year after eating a meal, and I cannot figure out what I ate that's triggering it.
3. I don't like doctors. So when you all comment about seeing a doctor, well, that's why I haven't gone to one yet to figure out what it is.
4. If I won enough to never work again, after taking time to travel I'd go back to school just for the fun it.
5. "Cleaning my desk" is a never ending task. I think gremlins live in my house and deliberately pile up the books, the mail, the notes to myself.
My turn to tag: Mitali Perkins; Jen Robinson's Book Page; MotherReader; and Journey Woman.
If you're interested in getting together for dinner, let me know. Either drop a line in the comments of email me at lizzy.burns at gmail.com so we can coordinate what night works best. I think Saturday is the only night that wouldn't be good for me.
Also, I have never been to Seattle and know nothing; if you are going and have a restaurant suggestion, please share! Close to the Convention Center probably makes the most sense.
And if you are not going but have a recommendation for those of us who will be there, please share!
When I posted about this back in September I got a few "yeses" but didn't do a good job with following up then. Deadline is coming so I'm finally getting my act together!
Emily’s Balloon by Komako Sakai, Chronicle Books
Learning to Fly by Sebastian Meschenmoser, Kane/Miller. My review. Plus, it's on my Best Books of 2006 list (sidebar).
Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt, Kids Can Press
Waiting for Gregory by Kimberly Willis Holt; illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska, Henry Holt and Co.
Wolves by Emily Gravett, Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing. I have a draft review of this, so will be posting it within the week, and it's also on my Best Book of 2006 list (sidebar).
So I read 2 out of 5, and both made my Best Books list! It looks like I'll enjoy reading the other three.
Go on over and leave your opinion; Mitali mentions mostly YALSA books; those of you who are involved with ALSC, do you think that those awards cover the 10 to 14 group? Or are the 10 to 14 year old readers and books in a "monkey in the middle" situation, too old for the J section and not old enough for most of the YA books out there?
Martha Ann's Quilt For Queen Victoria by Kyra E. Hicks, illustrated by Lee Edward Fodi. Copy donated by author.
The Plot: This is the true story of Martha Ann Erskine Ricks. She was born a slave in 1817; her father, George, was free and saved until he was able to buy his family's freedom in 1830 -- his wife, Grandma, Martha Ann, and Martha Ann's siblings, Jane, Mary, Wallace, Weir, Hopkins and Sarah.
The family then moved to Liberia with the assistance of the American Colonization Society. Once there, Martha Ann is impressed by how the British Navy patrols the coast to stop slave traders from kidnapping people, and decides she wants to thank Queen Victoria in person.
The Good: This non fiction picture book about Martha Ann is chock full of the real life details that make history interesting and bring it to life. For example, it cost Martha Ann's father $2,400 to buy his family. (According to the Measuring Worth site, this would be at least $52,000 today.)
Martha Ann's life was not easy; once in Liberia, illness killed her entire family except for Martha Ann, Wallace, and Hopkins. Martha and her first husband survived attacks on the mission where they lived.
But, Martha Ann had a dream: Meet the Queen. She also decided that she could not meet the Queen empty handed, so she designed and made a quilt for the Queen. Does Martha's dream come true? Of course.
I liked the multiple layers in the book. It includes a unique history that is not often taught, about pre Civil War life for African Americans in the United States; purchasing freedom; and then what happened after freedom was bought. Here, the family moved to Africa and while there were benefits -- freedom, education for the children -- the fear of slavery remained (which was why the ships patrolled the coast), as well as dangers from disease and conflicts within Liberia. It's a fascinating look at life in 19th century Africa.
But this is also about dreams: Martha had a dream that many knew about; Hicks includes a child's jump rope song: "Auntie Martha gonna see the Queen, stitching a quilt of coffee beans, how many stitches will it take? Two-four-six-eight!" Martha makes her quilt, saves her money; but also is introduced to the wife of the first president of Liberia. Martha's dream comes true.
And this is also about family and tradition. Hicks has Martha saving her money in the same red tin box that the family uses when saving money to buy their freedom; Martha's quilting skills are learned from her mother.
The illustrations: the endpapers reflect the design of the Coffee Tree quilt that Martha designed for Queen Victoria. Sample pages are at the illustrator's website.
Included in the links below are links to photos of the real Martha Erskine Ricks; as well as photos of what may be the quilt Martha made. The author's website includes information about Martha Ann Ricks, and also information on African American quilting, fabrics and old quilt patterns.
Links: a photo of Martha Ricks, at the time she met with Queen Victoria.
October 2002 article from the Presbyterian Voice about Martha Ricks' visit to the Queen.
More information on Martha Ricks, including a photo of the quilt.
Detailed essay on Martha Ricks by Kyra Hicks.
The Edge of the Forest Review. (also at Book Buds.)
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
3-D ABC: A Sculptural Alphabet by Bob Raczka, Milbrook Press
Aliens Are Coming!: The True Account Of The 1938 War Of The Worlds Radio Broadcast by Meghan McCarthy,Knopf
An Egg Is Quiet by Dianna Aston; illustrated by Sylvia Long, Chronicle Books
An Island Grows by Lola M. Schaefer; illustrated by Cathie Felstead, Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins
Little Lost Bat by Sandra Markle; illustrated by Alan Marks, Charlesbridge
I have read NONE of these. I have a whole lot of reading to catch up on!!
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