Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Reader's Bill of Rights

The Reader's Bill of rights
1. The right not to read.
2. The right to skip pages.
3. The right to not finish.
4. The right to reread.
5. The right to read anything.
6. The right to mistake a book for real life.
7. The right to read anywhere.
8. The right to dip in.
9. The right to read out loud.
10. The right to be quiet
Daniel Pennac - The Reader's Rights

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Neil Armstrong Is My Uncle & Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me

Booklist starred (April 15, 2009 (Vol. 105, No. 16))
Grades 3-6. It is rare to have a story told with sympathy from the viewpoint of a bully. This debut novel, set in upstate New York in the summer of 1969, does just that with wit and a light touch that never denies the story’s sorrows. Tammy, 10, is stuck at home with her cold parents while her brother is away in Vietnam. In her first-person narrative, she reveals the hurt and loneliness that fuel her anger as she targets the new, skinny kid, Douglas, who has moved into a foster home on the block. She mocks him for telling wild lies: he is training for the Olympics; his uncle is Neil Armstrong, about to walk on the moon; and more. The other kids, including the snotty girls from the loving family next door, let him be. Why is Tammy so furious? Gradually the reader sees that she blames Douglas for the disappearance of her beloved only friend, a foster kid who moved away without telling Tammy why and where she was going. Douglas is a bit too nice, but he messes up when he tries to help Tammy, and many readers will recognize the muddled and caring gestures among friends and enemies.

Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-You Notes

Horn Book (September/October, 2008)
Moxy Maxwell's mother warns her that unless she finishes writing all twelve of her Christmas thank-you notes before traveling to Los Angeles to visit her big-shot Hollywood mover-and-shaker father, there will be "consequences." Moxy, a cross between Walter Mitty and Lucy Ricardo for the beginning-chapter-book set, pursues her typical rounds of procrastination, daydreaming, and scheming, assisted by her entourage: her five-year-old sister, Pansy, and her Moxy-worshiping neighbor, Sam. Mayhem eventually ensues, some of which results in an out-of-control photocopier, a broken La-Z-Boy chair, and accidental living room vandalism with forbidden gold spray paint. As with the first book in the series, Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little (rev. 9/07), amusing photographs (taken in the story by Moxy's twin brother Mark) accompany the writing and enhance many of the funniest moments, and playful chapter titles foreshadow upcoming mini-disasters. There are a few developments: stepfather Ajax, who was more of a background presence in the original, is given a more prominent role, and the plot touches upon such noncomedic subjects as absentee parents and blended families. In the end, while not fully reformed, Moxy gives an indication that she is making some progress, although not too much: readers can expect to delight in her future grandiose schemes and reveries.

Booklist (May 15, 2009 (Vol. 105, No. 18))
Grades 2-4. Lasky’s biographical picture book imagines a day in the latter years of Georgia O’Keeffe’s life on Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico. Waking before sunrise, the aging artist dresses and heads to the desert to paint in the lavender light of the approaching dawn. As the day passes, Georgia continues to find artistic inspiration in her surroundings, from the changing color of the sky to a piece of bleached-white bone. Filled with vivid sensory detail, Lasky’s poetic text conveys, through the everyday moments of Georgia’s solitary life in the southwestern desert, the painter’s unfailing desire to express the beauty of the natural world as she saw it. Eitan’s accompanying paintings are composed of flat swatches of rich, opaque color, and the sophisticated economy of detail is particularly appealing when evoking the stark beauty of the arid landscape. Concluding pages present a brief history of O’Keeffe’s life, an author’s note, and a selected bibliography. A fresh complement to the superb picture-book biographies My Name Is Georgia, by Jeanette Winter (1998) and Through Georgia’s Eyes, by Rachel Rodriguez (2006).

Booklist starred (May 1, 2009 (Vol. 105, No. 17))
Grades 4-7. Growing up with six brothers in rural Texas in 1899, 12-year-old Callie realizes that her aversion to needlework and cooking disappoints her mother. Still, she prefers to spend her time exploring the river, observing animals, and keeping notes on what she sees. Callie’s growing interest in nature creates a bond with her previously distant grandfather, an amateur naturalist of some distinction. After they discover an unknown species of vetch, he attempts to have it officially recognized. This process creates a dramatic focus for the novel, though really the main story here is Callie’s gradual self-discovery as revealed in her vivid first-person narrative. By the end, she is equally aware of her growing desire to become a scientist and of societal expectations that make her dream seem nearly impossible. Interwoven with the scientific theme are threads of daily life in a large family—the bonds with siblings, the conversations overheard, the unspoken understandings and misunderstandings—all told with wry humor and a sharp eye for details that bring the characters and the setting to life. The eye-catching jacket art, which silhouettes Callie and images from nature against a yellow background, is true to the period and the story. Many readers will hope for a sequel to this engaging, satisfying first novel.

The Curse of the Ancient Mask: and Other Case Files

Booklist (May 1, 2009 (Vol. 105, No. 17))
Grades 3-5. Saxby Doyle Christie Chandler Ellin Allan Smart, whose father loves crime novels, has cut his literary teeth on great detective stories and developed a schoolyard reputation as a sleuth. In the first case related here, a classmate arrives at the door of Saxby’s Crime Headquarters (backyard shed) and announces that her father is cursed by an ancient mask, accused of industrial espionage, and faced with losing his job. In the second, three students find their homework assignments sabotaged. In the third and final case, a girl is accused of stealing jewelry. Confident, though occasionally baffled, the young detective organizes the evidence methodically and, in each case, solves the mystery. Even better, careful readers can do the same. Expressive ink drawings help bring the occasionally quirky characters to life. After reading this well-paced and sometimes funny first-person narrative, young mystery fans will be looking for the second volume in the Saxby Smart Private Detective series.

Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem

Kirkus Review starred (May 1, 2009)
Readers know what kind of place they are in when the endpapers include ads for giant-squid repellent and shrimp-of-the-month club and the author and illustrator snark at each other in the dedication. Billy Twitters's room looks much as one might expect: unmade bed, piles of dirty and clean clothes, video games, books, backpack and stuffed toys everywhere. Billy's mom tells him plainly that he's to clean up his room and finish his dinner or "we're buying you a blue whale." He doesn't, and they do. While Rex never reveals the faces of the adults, he does provide nicely detailed diagrams of the size and habits of the blue whale (from FedUp, "Delivering Punishment Worldwide"). Billy has to take his whale everywhere, even though the whale kind of wrecks the classroom and moves Alexis to un-invite Billy and the whale to her pool party. However, the prospect of feeding his whale inspires Billy to a damp and fishy but very boylike solution to the problem of both room-cleaning and whale-sitting. Definitely funny and slyly subversive. (Picture book. 5-8)

Itty Bitty by Cece Bell

Booklist starred (July 2009 (Vol. 105, No. 21))
Preschool-Grade 1. A tiny dog named Itty Bitty finds an enormous bone and, after chewing door and window holes in it, hollows it out to make a house. The empty bone doesn’t feel quite homelike, though, so Itty Bitty drives into the city to visit a department store. Beyond the gigantic chairs and rugs, he finds the TEENY-WEENY Department, where he chooses “an itty-bitty table and an itty-bitty rug . . . / an itty-bitty sofa and an itty-bitty lamp.” There’s even an itty-bitty book. He carts his purchases away and turns his empty bone into a cozy home. In the colorful ink-and-acrylic illustrations, Bell uses line, color, texture, and white space extremely effectively to create this diminutive character and his world. Itty Bitty, drawn with a highly simplified body and stick legs, is dwarfed by the daisies and grass surrounding his home and sometimes appears quite vulnerable (and who wouldn’t be, driving a three-wheeled, walnut-shell vehicle among full-size cars?). But more often, this small, stalwart character looks as capable and confident as every young child would like to feel. With its irresistible repetitions of “itty-bitty” and occasional comments in speech-balloons, the simple text reads aloud well. Unpretentious, endearing, and enormously satisfying, this little book is one that children will ask for again and again.