Saturday, March 19, 2011
Friday, March 18, 2011
"A Portrait of Missouri, 1935-1943: Photographs from the Farm Security Administration" edited by Paul E. Parker
Seeing photographs always makes things come alive for me. This collection from the Farm Security Administration does a great job of capturing different aspects of the Great Depression in Missouri. There is plenty of text in each section to explain what is in the photographs and why it matters, but the corresponding images make the people and places seem real. Real struggle, frustration, fear, and ultimately hope show through the photos. There are shots from several different photographers and each has his or her own unique style, resulting in an interesting, diverse book.On the downside, some individual photographers took photos of many similar things, which made certain sections seem redundant. Overall, though, I enjoyed this book and I recommend it for anyone who wants to learn a little more about this time period but gets bored reading a lot about it.
Lucy and her friends are all in the fourth grade together. A female author comes to visit their class room to talk about writing. She gets the class all excited about writing and at the end of the school year they get to share their words with their friends and family.
I enjoy how this author, Ms. Mirabel, explains how we all have words in us no matter real or unreal; truth or lies. We can all turn nonfiction into fiction anytime we set our hearts out to do. Also poetry is expressed in this little book for the kids in the story to try and find themselves and/or put into words how they feel.
There are a few of sad stories among these kids, but there is one little guy who just knows how to make all the others smile through their sad life - turn a sad into a funny. These fourth graders really like this author and can figure out how they too can be authors.
Word After Word After Word is an awesome read for those with writer's block......
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Chickens like feed, geese like corn and horses like hay - and Farmer's cow LOVES cookies. Now just how does a cow get cookies?
With rhythmic patterns and rhyming words, this was a fun read. This book talks about what farm animals generally eat with a whimsical twist at the end. Accompanied by beautiful illustrations, this will definitely be going on my bookshelf soon!
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
(1998 | 675 p)
Otherland, a massive virtual reality network, is composed of an unknown number of worlds. It's funded by a mysterious group of the wealthy and powerful who call themselves Grail Brotherhood; and, though nothing is clear, the primary purpose of the Brotherhood seems to be the maintenance of their own long lives... even at the expense of countless other. Across the globe children are going into medically inexplicable comas, including Renie Sulaweyo's little brother Stephen. Renie suspects that Stephen's strange illness is somehow connected to Otherland. Renie and her friend, a South African bushman named !Xabbu, sneak into the Otherland network in hopes of saving Stephen. Once in they find they are not alone in their search, nor is the Otherland network all that it appears to be.
Tad Williams has created an elaborate virtual reality landscape in this, his second installment of the Otherland series. I'm enjoying these stories as a delightful mix of fantasy and science fiction, two of my favorite genres. Most of the story occurs on a virtual reality network, yet each of the "worlds" (or VR servers) are as whimsical and imaginative as any fantasy novel.
Warning: This book is not for the easily distracted. At one point I counted as many as nine (yes, NINE) separate storylines. I enjoy an overly complex plot as much as the next sci-fi/fantasy nerd, but even I found myself unsettled by all the jumping around.
Still, with that caveat, I'm really looking forward to book three.
DeShawn is a 12 year old African-American male growing up in the Frederick Douglass project of New York City. Everywhere he is surrounded by gunshots, gangs, drugs and violence. Death is an accepted part of daily life in this neighborhood. DeShawn is smart enough to know that staying in school and avoiding gang life is a righteous path - but when his family is starving while his gang-member peers have money for fancy shoes and electronics, will DeShawn's sense of right and wrong prevail or will he fall victim to the standard practices of life in the projects?
This story first appealed to me because it is told from DeShawn's point of view and is about growing up in an environment that is completely foreign to me. However, what immediately stuck out to me was the glaring linguistic differences between DeShawn's internal and external dialogues. This left me feeling off-kilter throughout the entire book.
I might have have been a bit more absorbed into the story if the internal dialogue was consistent and authentic to someone of DeShawn's admitted socioeconomic level. However, it is possible that the discrepancy was intentional - that it intended to show that DeShawn was smarter than the lifestyle he was destined to succumb to. Somehow the whole thing still fell short for me and felt unbalanced.
I wouldn't call the book "preachy" but I do feel that Strasser's message of racial inequity is a bit overbearing and misguided for a YA audience. If he took out all the space he spends with DeShawn spouting facts and statistics that in reality DeShawn would have little awareness of, then Strasser might have had a little more space for a story with a deeper plot line that doesn't rely so heavily on ghetto stereotypes. Granted, stereotypes are always based somewhere in reality, but this isn't a reality that is remotely close to Strasser's and it shows.
All that being said, I do think that this title could be an incredibly useful tool for fueling discussion within a young audience that simply isn't aware that this culture exists. I just felt the facts and statistics should have been saved for the epilogue.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Every day, rain or shine, Banjo Cannon has a sausage for dinner. But one day, the sausage decides he doesn't want to be eaten - so off he goes, over the edge of the table, taking the rest of dinner with him. As Banjo follows his dinner across the town, they all end up in a variety of wacky situations.
Some younger children might find the idea of food growing legs, having names and being eaten a very disturbing cycle but for most the whole ridiculous storyline is a lot of fun. Although for me it was almost too bizarre at times.
This book's strongest trait is it's whimsical illustrations. They are what pulls the story along. Although I can't imagine reading this book more than a few times. Definitely not a classic in my collection.
Classic Transformers Volume 6
by Simon Thurman, Bob Budiansky, and Ralph Macchio
This is a collection of three stories. In the first story, Unicron is about to destroy Cybertron and the Autobots and Decepticons work together to defeat him. But their victory comes at a price, as Optimus Prime dies and the Decepticons leave the Autobots stranded on a dying Cybertron. Yet Grimlock, the new Autobot leader, was ready for this and helps the Autobots escape. Also, an Autobot called "the Last Autobot" appears and turns the tide in the Autobot/Decepticon war.
The second story is about the origin of the Headmaster and Targetmaster Transformers. The third story is an adaptation of the Transformers movie that came out in 1986.
Monday, March 14, 2011
As World War I begins, all the greatest European powers start to divide. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their clanker machines and the British have their Darwinist, fabricated beasties. Prince Aleksanders parents have been murdered by the Germans and now he must flee his home with Count Volger and his master of mechaniks teacher or risk being killed himself. Shortly after arriving at their hideout in the mountains of Switzerland they are joined by a badly wounded Darwinist air ship, the Leviathan. Alek goes against Count Volgers advice and tries to help the ship, but they soon find out that he is Austro-Hungarian. To save Alek they make a deal with the Leviathan, they will replace the ships engines with their clanker engines as well as help run them if they ship will fly them to safety. While on the ship they must keep their true identities a secret, but Alek's new friend Dylan Sharp discovers their secret. Their Secret is safe with Mr. Sharp, who has a very big secret of his own. Will their secrets be discovered? Will the Leviathan captains keep their word and fly them to safety?
The Tyrones are a family ravaged by addiction. The family is filled with denial, alienation, recriminations, and an odd camaraderie that comes from being bound by blood. This play recounts a day that is both typical and remarkable in the course of their lives. "Long Day's Journey into Night" won the Pulitzer Prize in 1957.
I was warned before reading this (as I was with another of O'Neill's plays, "Moon for the Misbegotten") that I would probably be depressed by it. Maybe I just need to be contrary, but I didn't have that reaction at all. Yes, the characters are dark and haunted, and there's no happy ending, but I thought this was a brilliant portrayal of the cycle of addiction in families. The Tyrones carefully balance the line between love and hate in their family dynamics, never quite falling over the edge despite all provocation. Each character is a picture of wasted potential and thwarted dreams, but they still spark with intelligence and poetry despite their lowered circumstances. This is beautifully written and remains relevant in today's society.
Mia is a 17 year old talented cellist with the prospect of Julliard in her future. The biggest choice facing her is whether to move to New York City to pursue the career of her dreams or stay in Oregon and follow her boyfriend Adam as he pursues his. Then in an instant, everything changes. In a coma after a horrific car crash kills her entire family, Mia is left with the only choice that really matters - stay and live her life with grief or join her family in death?
This novel packs quite a punch into it's 197 pages. It chronicles Mia's out-of-body experience as she relives the people and experiences that brought her to this point in her life. The characters are well-written and even though the book is ultimately about death, they breathe plenty of life into the pages. The narrative is funny and heartwarming and leaves the reader feeling just as confused as Mia about the decision she has to make.
This book is powerful, life-affirming type of material written in a very graceful, flowing way. It tackles some sophisticated issues that probably aren't on the immediate minds of most young adults. However, I think after having read this book, many young adults might shed their cloak of invincibility. Impermanence is a hard life lesson to learn but this novel helps ease the realization.
Thank you to the ladies who have previously recommended this book. It was hilarious. The title about says it all: women wear some bizarre and unsightly things, and Clinton is here to save us from ourselves. Almost every page had a laugh. I couldn't keep it all in, so I ended up reading parts of this book out loud to my husband, mom, and several co-workers while on my break. The pictures are a riot, too. If you need some light, fun (and surprisingly helpful) fashion advice, this is the book for you.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
(1956 | 224 p)
Eleanora Fagan was born April 7, 1915. Her mother was only 13 and her father was pretty much absent. Eleanora was raised by family while her mother worked; her childhood was painful and short. At 13 Eleanora was working as a prostitute, by 14 she was singing her unique style of jazz as Billie Holiday in Brooklyn clubs. Racism and drug addiction dogged her for most of her career but her unyielding spirit could never by broken.
In "Lady Sings the Blues" Billie Holiday tells us her story in her own, bold words. There were parts of her story that made me cringe, others that left me behind. The stories are not necessarily shared chronologically and words aren't wasted on clarifications. Either you know who and what Ms. Holiday is talking about or you don't. If you don't you'll have to go elsewhere for explanations. Her autobiography is not what I'd call well crafted, but it is still well told. Through the rough edges of her prose Ms. Holiday reveals more of herself than would be found in any professionally written biography.
I'd recommend this book to anyone, but it would be particularly well received by those interested in Women's history or African American history. It's also a must read for fans of jazz.
Still more drama, revelations, and plots and counter plots. Sacrifices and interventions abound as Fai recalls and faces his past and attempts to ensure the future of others by risking his own. Being true friends, of course, they'll have none of that.
Ack! I want to know what happens next. I'm not entirely clear on all the details of what just transpired or why, but I imagine the next installment will at least give me hints. This one relies a bit much on flashbacks (some of which we've seen a few times already from multiple perspectives) that sometimes awkwardly interrupt the present action, but if it clarifies the current goings on, then so be it. CLAMP sure do like to put their characters through the wringer. But maybe that's why their bonds are all so tight and I get so attached to them.
RASL is an art thief. Only he doesn't go about stealing paintings in the normal fashion. He travels to parallel universes and snatches theirs. The physically taxing drift technology he uses to do this, he also stole. But then he helped to create it, back when he was still known as Robert and still trusted his friend and fellow electromagnetism scientist Miles to do the right thing and cancel the St. George Array program when Robert discovered Tesla's secret journals fearing its dangers. But that's all in the past. Now somebody in a suit has killed RASL's hooker girlfriend in his own world, followed him through the drift and across parallel universes, and threatened to kill off everyone he knows in every universe if he doesn't hand over the journals soon. But if RASL gives them what they want, they'll misuse the knowledge and everyone will suffer.
Quantum physics and gritty modern noir come together in this graphic novel series from the creator of BONE. It isn't pretty, but it has my attention. And, hey, bonus history lesson on the war between Tesla and Edison!
The Princess and Miss Kanoe, seers for the opposing forces (the Seven Seals and the Seven Harbingers) in the battle to come, both have dire visions of the future in which the fate of the world hinges not on Kamui choosing between two paths, but on two Kamuis battling it out for good or for ill. The Princess hopes the right Kamui will win. Miss Kanoe intends to make sure there's only one left before it even gets to that. Will her lies influence those closest to Kamui?
Ooh, I don't like it when baddies trick goodies into doing bad things they believe to be good! It always ends with everybody miserable. Don't listen to the evil lady, Fuma! And who are some of these other characters bumping into each other on Tokyo's darkened streets? Friends? Foes? Knowing the wily ways of CLAMP, the distinction may not be that easy.
With current events what they are, the seers' future visions of a leveled Tokyo make for some sobering reading. If only the news were just fiction, too....
Kai Eto, a rookie investigator for the Greater Kanto Narcotics Control Division, is normally a sweet kid, but when situations go south, he slips into a darker part of his personality that springs from his shadowy, unpleasant past. With his cool-tempered, serious partner Hal Kurabayashi, Kai tracks down and takes down those who would make a profit off of society's addictions.
In this volume, a snitch turns out to be playing the system in order to help out a new drug ring by conveniently squealing on the competition. There are also some flashback stories involving a few of the other investigators from when they, too, were rookies.
Please ignore the gosh awful cover art on this volume. Gah! I swear it doesn't look like that on the inside. That said, however, I must admit that while I keep reading this series because I generally like the stories, my eyes and brain go a bit fuzzy by the time I get to the end of one because it's nearly impossible to keep the many, too-similar, too-inconsistently depicted characters straight. Even the flashbacks are not clearly marked as such, so it takes a few pages to figure out a.) who the people are and b.) that it's old news to them. There's not enough variation in the thickness of the line work and there's too much black overall, making everything really high-contrast and stark, which limits helpful details and makes my eyes tired. The creators also don't give any kind of help with names and roles to put with faces at the beginning of volumes or storylines (although they do toss in an occasional label box in the flash backs). When you have months in between books, you might need a refresher now and then! Despite my whinging, the plots are interesting and the characters' back stories are relevant to the present goings-on in appropriately sinister ways, so I'm sure I'll still pick up the next one and see if Kai and Hal and the gang get any closer to the true source of their biggest problems.
Akira is a very quiet, well-behaved, thoughtful young man with an unrequited crush on his loud, rule-breaking, selfish classmate Momoi, but neither of them has much luck in love, since everyone just ignores unmanly Akira and runs away from unladylike Momoi. Until, that is, Momoi's irresponsible inventor grandfather "accidentally" causes them to switch bodies. Suddenly, "Momoi" is a perfect lady and "Akira" is a man's man! Momoi, ecstatic at no longer having her brash behavior censured, breaks her grandfather's machine and pretty much takes over Akira's life. When she starts dating her own best friend Shiina, Akira turns to his best friend Senbongi for help and confesses the embarrassing truth to him. But with "Momoi" no longer the unapproachable hellion, Senbongi's not exactly adverse to the new status quo, either. What's a confused boy trapped in a girl's body to do?
This is one of those series where I didn't quite realize what I'd gotten myself into until I was too sucked into Akira's plight and the edgy slapstick to turn back. At first, I was all "put them back! let them be themselves!" but now I'm not so sure. I just want everyone to be happy! Mean Momoi's putting someone else's feelings before her own for the first time in her life and both she and Akira are finally finding acceptance for being themselves (only not). It's sad that the only way that can happen is for them to physically cave to gender stereotypes, so I'm conflicted. But the story's not over yet and who knows what will happen next. Besides, this is a bawdy comedy and probably isn't meant to be critiqued too deeply. Hmmmm.... Might be a good fit for older teens and others who like to laugh while pushing boundaries.
I started reading this book because my 12 year old is reading it for school but I quickly fell under its spell. Jenna wakes from a coma and doesn't remember anything about her accident, her parents, or anything else. As time passes she begins to remember but there are big gaps and some really strange stuff. The mystery of Jenna's life unfolds in this fast-paced, interesting, sad and strange story with a slight hint of science fiction. I highly recommend it. It's a Truman Award Nominee for 2010-2011.
Risa Koizumi and Atsushi Ôtani are an odd couple--she's the tallest girl in class, he's the shortest guy, and just seeing them standing next to one another sends their otherwise-encouraging classmates into fits of laughter--but they've long since come to terms with their many contrasts and instead focus on enjoying what remains of their high school life while looking toward the future. This usually entails a lot of giggling.
In this volume, the kids travel to a tropical island for their outgoing teacher Mighty's wedding, but--as seems to happen every time Koizumi and Ôtani go on a trip together--plans do not go off without a hitch. Add to that their friend Seiko-chan's identity crisis, Ôtani's former basketball team's dire straits, and their graduation committee responsibilities, and the duo's going to have one very busy final year.
Love*Com (short for Lovely Complex) is a great romantic comedy. Koizumi and Ôtani pick on each other constantly, but without hurtfulness and with an understanding that they're far more alike than they are different, though it takes them a while to figure that out. Watching them get past that seven-inch hurdle over the course of the series has been much fun and I will be sad when it's over. The art is as much a plus as the characters and story. Nakahara does wonders with expressing her characters' wide range of emotions, whether subtle or exaggerated, and gives them individual wardrobes and hairstyles that change from day to day (and occasionally resurface, just like your own closet's contents) rather than the more usual and easier tack of keeping them in school uniforms and the same dos all the time.
For fun, snickers, sweetness, and some more snickers, you really can't go wrong with this one. :)
About the Book: Jake is a young penguin who keeps hearing noises in his room. He's convinced there's a ghost hiding in there and he calls to Dad to come save the day.
Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: I liked the story in this book but overall it just was sort of an OK read. I did enjoy the illustrations. In addition to Jake, there are various stuffed animals that react to the noises, so it's fun to watch them change with each page. But the text of the book fell a bit flat for me and made it just OK.
About the Book: A little girl begs her mother for a pet, but all her mother says is"we'll see." So she uses her imagination to come up with the best pet ever.
Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: I remember as a young child taking my invisible dog for a walk or pretending my stuffed animals were real pets. I'm sure this book will resonate with any child who has longed for a pet, but been told "no" or "we'll see" (which in my house still meant no!)
The little girl has a great imagination and comes up with ways to play with her creative new pets. This book could be a great opening for creative play with young kids.
About the Book: Chick has read The Adventures of Wonder Pug 127 times. So chick sets off to find himself adventure with his own wonder pug. But when finds a pug, there's no adventure or excitement.
Sarah Teenlibrarian Says: This is a cute book, but I wasn't all that impressed with it. Chick wants Pug to be like his hero, but Pug turns out to be lazy and boring. But Chick motivates him and becomes his sidekick. There's some humor and the illustrations are great, but it didn't really stand out to me at all.