Wednesday, January 26, 2011

New books: The magic world of dreams

Dreams are a place where many things can happen to us, and where reality can seem an upside-down world. Here are books about the world of dreams, some silly and some serious, but all exciting. Look for copies using the Amazon and WorldCatalog search boxes here on BookBag, and be ready for a nighttime of adventure!

The Dream Stealer, by Sid Fleischman; illustrated by Peter Sís (Greenwillow Books) Fantasy. Zumpango is a Dream Stealer. It's his job to capture children's nightmares, but he's sick of dealing with scary monsters and has begun to steal happy dreams instead. One night, however, Zumpango steals an especially good dream from a brave and clever young girl named Susana --and Susana decides to get her dream back. This whimsically illustrated story is a little bit funny, a little bit scary, and a whole lot of fun to read.

The Glitch in Sleep, by John Hulme and Michael Wexler; illustrated by Gideon Kendall (Bloomsbury Children's Books) Fantasy. Months after he filled out a very unusual job application on a whim, nine-year-old Becker Drane was taken to The Seems, the secret place where everything about the world as we know it (including Nature, Weather, Time, and Sleep) is manufactured. Now Becker is 12 and has become a full-fledged Fixer, and he's got a whopper of a problem for his first assignment: a glitch in Sleep has created an insomnia epidemic that, left unchecked, could mean the end of reality altogether. If you enjoy fast-paced, suspenseful fantasies with great world-building and plenty of puns, give this first volume in the Seems series a try.

Philippa Fisher and the Dream-Maker's Daughter, by Liz Kessler; illustrated by Katie May (Candlewick Press) Fantasy. In this follow-up to Philippa Fisher's Fairy Godsister, nearly-12-year-old Philippa has won a vacation for herself and her parents to the destination of their choice. But they can't decide where to go ... until a butterfly lands on their spread-out map at the spot marked Ravenleigh Woods. As it turns out, the butterfly is Philippa's fairy godsister in disguise, and this time around, she's got a job for Philippa to do. Weaving plenty of magic into its story, as well as a serious look at the importance of dreams, this friendship tale is a compelling, ultimately upbeat read.

Gossamer, by Lois Lowry (Houghton Mifflin) Fantasy. Littlest One ("Littlest" for short) is a dream-giver in training. At night, she practices the art of gathering memories and impressions and blending them into dreams, which she and other dream-givers bestow on humans with a touch. When the old woman to whom Littlest has been assigned takes in a deeply unhappy foster son, Littlest must learn how to fight the evil Sinisteeds who cause the boy's horrible nightmares. Gossamer is a hopeful story of healing and magic that tackles a serious issue in a sensitive, poetic way.

The Song of the Whales, by Uri Orlev; translated by Hillel Halkin (Houghton Mifflin)
Fiction. Nine-year-old Michael doesn't have any friends his own age. He prefers the company of adults -- which is fortunate, since he and his parents are moving from New York to Israel to be closer to Michael's ailing grandfather. Michael bonds almost instantly with his Grandpa and later learns that Grandpa has an amazing gift: the ability to share his dreams with others. Beautiful writing, lavishly imagined dream-time adventures, and a quietly moving story make The Song of the Whales a good bet for fans of Kathi Appelt's similarly magical-yet-realistic The Underneath.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Florida Everglades: reading that's wet and wild

Florida's Everglades National Park, described as "a vast wetland wilderness unlike any other in the world" on the National Park Service website, was dedicated and opened on December 6, 1947. Find these books on the BookBag search boxes, and take your own trip to the Everglades!

Scat, by Carl Hiaasen (Alfred A. Knopf) Eco-Thriller. Nick Waters and his friend Marta are terrified of their biology teacher, Mrs. Starch, the most demanding and feared teacher at the Truman School. The only kid who doesn't seem to be scared of her is underachieving pyromaniac Duane Scrod, Jr., a.k.a. "Smoke." But after a class field trip to the Everglades gets cut short by a freak wildfire, Mrs. Starch goes missing! Nick and Marta don't buy the official "family emergency" explanation and decide to investigate on their own. This exciting and funny story features a big cast of quirky characters, an endangered swamp and an endangered species, mystery, peril, heroics, and possibly the worst substitute teacher ever.

The Talking Earth, by Jean Craighead George (Harper & Row) Fiction. Seminole teenager Billie Wind doesn't believe that her people's legends--about talking animals and a "great serpent" who lives in the Everglades--are true. As punishment for being a doubter, Billie undertakes a solo journey into the Everglades, where she must stay until she hears the voices of the land and animals for herself...which she never expects to happen. Part survival adventure and part coming-of-age story, The Talking Earth vividly describes both the Everglades and Billie's emotional journey.

Science Warriors: The Battle Against Invasive Species, by Sneed B. Collard (Houghton Mifflin) Nonfiction. Scientists estimate that there are 7,000 invasive species -- plants and animals that are not native to an area and harm its ecosystems--in the United States. This book profiles scientists who are battling fire ants in the southern states, Melaleuca trees in the Everglades, brown tree snakes in Guam, and zebra mussels in Minnesota, showing them at work in the lab and in the field. Large, clear photos show what happens when these destructive flora and fauna invade (we'll warn you, it isn't pretty), and lucid text explains efforts to combat their spread--including what you can do.

Everglades Forever: Restoring America's Great Wetland, by Trish Marx; photographs by Cindy Karp (Lee & Low Books) Nonfiction. The story and pictures in this book follow a fifth-grade class from Homestead, Florida as they explore and study Everglades National Park. Home to a unique ecosystem, the Everglades have been endangered by pollution and development, and Ms. Stone's fifth-graders (and readers!) also learn about ongoing efforts to restore and protect the fragile wetlands. With lots of great photos of and information about the wildlife and waterways of the Everglades, this book will fascinate and educate environmentally- minded kids and teens.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King Day: books for young readers

Today is the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. Americans celebrate this day not just as a holiday, but as a day of service to think about ways in which we can all make this country better. Here are books for parents to share with young readers who want to learn more about Dr. King, including two books by his sister Christine King Farris. Locate copies using the Amazon and World Catalog search boxes here on BookBag.

Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King Jr., by Jean Marzollo; illustrated by J. Pinkney (Scholastic). An eloquent and powerful introduction to the life and death of Martin Luther King, Jr. This simplified summation leaves out most of the details, while bringing the essence of his life and work to young readers. A foreword offers options for softening the facts surrounding his murder for preschoolers. Pinkney's scratchboard and oil pastel illustrations convey both the strength and gentleness of King's character. Both text and art carry his central message of peace and brotherhood among all people. This is a good choice for reading aloud. Adler'sPicture Book of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Holiday, 1989) covers the same material with more detail. --Eunice Weech, Amazon

My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up With the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by Christine King Farris; illustrated by Chris Soentpiet (Aladdin). Farris recalls the birth of her two younger brothers and relates anecdotes that demonstrate both the mischievous exploits of the siblings and the love and understanding that permeated the close-knit multigenerational family in which they grew up. Using plain language, she describes conditions in the South during her childhood that separated blacks and whites- "Because they just don't understand that everyone is the same, but someday, it will be better." From their father's church sermons and his actions when confronting the hatred and bigotry, the children learned the importance of standing up for justice and equality. The warmth of the text is exquisitely echoed in Soentpiet's realistic, light-filled watercolor portraits set in the King home, in their Atlanta neighborhood, and at Ebenezer Baptist Church. The simple directness of this short biography will help young children understand the concept of segregation and the importance of Dr. King's message -- Susan Schleps, Amazon

March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World, by Christine King Farris; illustrated by London Ladd (Scholastic). Although he is depicted as older and more serious than the mischievous little boy portrayed in My Brother Martin, Farris's unique perspective on her subject continues to be compelling. She concentrates on the march and the effects of the speech. Some phrases in the text are printed in a larger font and in color, emphasizing important aspects and establishing an appealing rhythm for reading aloud. Ladd's acrylic paintings are an excellent accompaniment to the text. His use of color and varying perspectives creates a great deal of visual energy, extending the excitement of the event. An informative addition.—Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, Amazon

A Picture Book of Martin Luther King Jr., by David A. Adler; illustrated by Robert Casilla (Holiday House). Adler examines King's family background, leadership of the Montgomery bus boycott, and the 1963 march on Washington, D.C. By focusing primarily on these events, Adler provides young readers with enough basic information to form a well-rounded picture of King and his ideals. However, the outstanding feature of this book is the vivid watercolor illustrations, which are sure to capture readers' attention. Casilla dramatically reveals the mood and feelings of the era. A fine introduction to King and the freedom movement, and one that would be equally useful for storyhour and discussion groups. --Jeanette Lambert, Amazon

The Story of Martin Luther King Jr., by Johnny Ray Moore; illustrated by Amy Wummer (Ideals Publishing) Parents quite often want to begin to teach their children about important aspects of history and culture even at the earliest of ages. This book is the perfect avenue through which parents can begin teaching their children about Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement. Moore has done a superb job in writing a biography that is short, concise and easy to understand. Even children with the shortest of attention spans can enjoy and understand this book. Friendly illustrations will make this book even more pleasurable for children. The boardbook format of this book makes it easy for children to handle the book and even turn the pages without parents having to worry about the book being damaged.--Stacey Seay, Amazon

Friday, January 14, 2011

The "Tim and Sally" series: books to share throughout the year

The beginning of a new year is a wonderful time to discover books for young readers ages 4-8 that are beautiful to look at as well as being fun to read. With the colder winter weather settling in it's great to have a series of books for youngsters and parents to share -- with stories and lessons that can be read and enjoyed time and again throughout the year.

The Tim and Sally series published by Miglior Press is a large-format series of picture books all written by Grady Thrasher and illustrated by Elaine Hearn Rabon. There are three hardback readers in the Miglior series, as well as a fourth, paperback coloring book published by Miglior's Jonquil Books. Each of the readers is written in easy and clever rhyme that children and their parents will enjoy reading together.

All the books in the series can be purchased using the Amazon search box here on BookBag, or by clicking on the individual links below. More information about the author, the illustrator, and the books themselves can be found at the Tim and Sally website:

Tim and Sally's Year in Poems is a good starting place for young readers. It's a jaunty and colorful trip through the seasons and their celebrations, from the sighting of springtime robins to building winter's snowman. The joys of holidays from Independence Day to Halloween, and Easter to Christmas, are captured in original poems and illustrations. There's even a bit of pause for grown-ups in the onward rush of the year: "I meant to drive to work today" celebrates simply sitting on the porch and watching the passing parade of nature, even as the hours meant for work tick away. And children get their own summer daydreaming hour, too, with its important lesson of enjoying the seasons just for themselves.

Spring is a time for planting gardens, and kids will enjoy learning about seeds and sprouts, sowing and watering in Tim and Sally's Vegetable Garden. After a long winter it's time to get started growing again! The book is filled with rhyming details kids need to know about all aspects of gardening, from preparation to planting to harvest:
"For awhile we'll care for each growing sprout,
But in a few days we must thin them out,
So their roots will have room to spread all about
And gather water and minerals from the soil below
To provide each plant with what's needed to grow."
The book offers young readers valuable lessons in cooperation and working together -- not just to put food on the table for everyone to enjoy, but in building lasting family relationships through shared work and experiences.

Tim and Sally's Beach Adventure is pure vacation fun, a trip to a warm ocean beach while there's still snow at home in the mountains. Tim and Sally build a sand castle and run in the waves, enjoying the sunshine and wonderful seafood meals that the ocean provides. The family's dog Flip becomes an unexpected hero when Tim demonstrates his bravery in the surf and discovers the ocean waves have their secret tides. Eventually the family heads back home, and though they are sad to leave they know they'll be back. The book's sun-filled illustrations glow on each page, and kids will enjoy reading Tim and Sally's Beach Adventure in the car as they head to their own special vacation spot with mom and dad.

The coloring book Color the Year With Tim and Sally gives young readers the chance to be artists on their own, with illustrations based on the three Tim and Sally adventure books. Elaine Hearn Rabon's seasonal art is filled with strong lines and friendly scenes, and offers familiar pictures for those readers who know the other books in the series. It makes a good activity book companion, which is a consideration for parents whose youngsters ages 4-8 may just be learning about coloring and would enjoy having familiar subjects.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Books to help you beat the winter blues and blahs

Snow and ice. And then more snow. And then more ice. And ... then more snow. If you're feeling trapped because of the bad winter weather that's kept you inside for days, here are some books that may help you beat the blahs! Look for them using BookBag's search boxes for Amazon and World Catalog for library copies. And phone ahead -- you want to make sure your library is open when you get there!

Papertoy Monsters: Make Your Very Own Amazing Papertoys!
by Brian Castleforte (Workman) Ages 9-12. Paper airplanes meet Origami meets Pokemon. Created and curated by Brian Castleforte, a graphic designer and papertoy pioneer who rounded up 25 of the hottest papertoy designers from around the world (Indonesia, Japan, Australia, Italy, Croatia, Chile, even Jackson, Tennessee), Papertoy Monsters offers 50 fiendishly original die-cut designs that are ready to pop out, fold, and glue. The book interleaves card stock with paper stock for a unique craft package; the graphics are colorful and hip, combining the edginess of anime with the goofy fun of Uglydolls and other collectibles. Meet Pharaoh Thoth Amon, who once ruled Egypt but is now a mummy who practices darkmagic in his sarcophagus. Or Zumbie the Zombie, who loves nothing more than a nice plate of brains and yams. NotSoScary, a little monster so useless at frightening people that he has to wear a scary mask. Yucky Chuck, the lunchbox creature born in the deepest depths of your school bag. Plus Zeke, the monster under your bed, Nom Nom, eater of cities, and Grumpy Gramps, the hairy grandpa monster with his very own moustache collection.

Up and Down, by Oliver Jeffers (Philomel) Ages 4-8 Once upon a time, in a book called Lost and Found, a penguin appeared at a small boy's doorstep. Since that adventure, in which the two traveled to the South Pole in a rowboat, the boy has crash-landed his plane on the moon and rocketed into space to catch a star. In this installment, the fearless, practical, and sympathetic child–drawn as a circle (head), square (striped shirt), and two lines (legs)–is back with his penguin friend. A chance sighting of a circus help-wanted poster takes the penguin off on his own and both friends must follow exciting, suspenseful, and wistful paths back to one another. Jeffers has an endearing, deceptively simple style that will warm the hearts of children and adults. An expert draughtsman and a gifted colorist, he creates artwork that is as masterful as it is eccentric. (Devoted readers will be delighted to find pictorial references to his earlier books.) His peculiar plots combine with a saccharine-free sensitivity to the nuances of friendship, making this book just plain special. (Susan Weitz, Amazon)

DC Super Heroes: The Ultimate Pop-Up Book (Little, Brown) Ages 4-8. Reinhart incorporates images created by a number of DC artists into a set of spectacular 3-D portraits – both the sort that leap up in massively muscled splendor from the center of each spread and smaller but no less eye-popping figures tucked into folding booklets in the corners. Superman leads off, of course, a solar-powered “living symbol of truth, justice, and the American way” towering over a view of his spacecraft while escaping an exploding Krypton on one side, and, on the other, cameos by a trio of sidekicks. Plus Lois Lane, Lex Luthor, and (temporary) nemesis Doomsday. The Man of Steel is followed by Batman (with battery-powered Bat-Signal), “Warrior Goddess” Wonder Woman, the squad of intergalactic Green Lanterns, Lord Darkseid (in a spread devoted to the Bad Guys), and, finally, a 45-character composite of the Justice League of America and its prominent adversaries complete with a numbered legend. Other heroes and villains from Captain Marvel, Teen Titans, and even the Justice Society of America to the Joker and Anti-Monitor take bows in the side galleries.

Scribbles: A Really Giant Coloring Book, Taro Gomi (Chronicle Books) Ages 4-8. Scribbles is full of many zany ideas to get kids' imaginations flying. Gomi's simple artistic style is appealing to kids and adults alike. Pages have simple instructions that will guide kids without them feeling hemmed in. Gomi often has several pages in a row with the same simple illustrations but with different leaders: a quaint town drawn at the bottom of several pages has the headings: "Its a beautiful day today: draw a bright sunny sky," "Today it is not so nice: Draw a dark cloudy sky," and "Today there's a thunderstorm: draw lighting and rain." Or a simple stick drawn on several pages and children being asked to draw a dragonfly sitting on one, a sparrow on another, a crocodile balancing on another and finally an elephant! Kids will love the crazy ideas. There are also masks, mazes, time-telling exercises etc. The sheer abundance of ideas makes up for the few that fall short of perfect.

Fortune Cookies,
by Albert Bitterman & Chris Raschka (Beach Lane) Ages 4-8 An intense meditation on the ups and downs of life? Or, a super adorable kids book, complete with kitties? We'll let you decide which. A box arrives for Fortune from her Uncle Albert with seven fortune cookies. How wonderful ... a cookie and a fortune for each day of the week! Best of all, each fortune comes true, but not in ways that Fortune expects. A. Bitterman is the pen name of Pete Cowdin, owner of the beloved independent children's bookstore Reading Reptile. This is his first book. Chris Raschka is the illustrator of The Hello, Goodbye Window, which was awarded the Caldecott Medal. He is also the illustrator of the childrens' books Yo! Yes?; Charlie Parker Played Be Bop; Mysterious Thelonious; John Coltrane's Giant Steps; and Can't Sleep.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tween fantasy and adventure for a new year

If winter's got you down, if the holidays seemed so last year, it may be time for stories set in other times and places. Here are some new titles that will take readers away with fantasy and adventure, available here at BookBag using the Amazon and World Catalog search boxes.

Moon Over Manifest, by Clare Vanderpool (Delacorte Press) Historical Fiction. Feisty 12-year-old Abilene Tucker isn't too keen on spending the summer away from her daddy, but since she can't accompany him on his new railroad job, she'll be staying with a family friend in Manifest, Kansas, where her dad once lived. Abilene is disappointed in Manifest when she first gets off the train--it looks like any other ratty, worn-out old town in the throes of the Depression--but she soon uncovers all kinds of mysteries to investigate. Spies, outlaws, secrets, and even murder are woven into this complex, multilayered story that's sure to please fans of memorable characters and richly detailed settings.

The Clockwork Three, by Matthew J. Kirby (Scholastic Press) Fantasy. Giuseppe is an orphan who plays the violin on street corners for spare change, most of which goes to his cruel master, Stephano. Hannah works as a hotel maid, trying to earn the money for an operation that her father desperately needs. Frederick, apprenticed to a clockmaker, is building an automaton in secret. In this adventure that melds magic, action, myth, and mystery, the three characters' separate paths converge...and none of their lives will ever be the same. If you liked the historical setting and suspense of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, be sure to give The Clockwork Three a look.

Blue Fire, by Janice Hardy (Balzer + Bray) Fantasy. Like other Takers, 15-year-old Nya can physically remove a person's pain, but her ability to transfer pain from one person to another is extremely rare. In this thrilling sequel to The Shifter, Nya must use her healing powers as a weapon in order to rescue her sister and a small band of Takers from the sadistic ruler who has invaded their homeland. Fans of action-packed fantasies with girl heroes (such as Tamora Pierce's Beka Cooper books) will finish Blue Fire breathless for the next volume in The Healing Wars series.

A Long Walk to Water: A Novel, by Linda Sue Park (Clarion Books) Fiction. When rebel soldiers attack his Sudanese village in 1985, 11-year-old Salva runs away. Separated from his family in the chaos, he walks--sometimes with other refugees, sometimes alone--all through southern Sudan, Ethiopia, and Kenya in search of a safe haven. Many years later, a young Sudanese girl also spends most of her time walking, but her trek is the same every day: it takes her eight hours to reach the place where she fetches water for her family. Both of these spare, harrowing stories are based on real-life events, and readers are sure to be surprised and uplifted when they learn what connects them.

Virals, by Kathy Reichs (Razorbill) SF/Thriller. While exploring an abandoned laboratory near their secluded South Carolina home, science geek Tory Brennan and her friends rescue a quarantined dog...and, soon after, they all develop much keener senses and quicker reflexes. It's a bizarre situation that the friends--now more of a "pack" than ever--use to their advantage when an unsolved murder case from years ago suddenly becomes news again. Fans of the TV show Bones (Tory is Temperance Brennan's niece) will love the forensic science details in Virals, and anyone who enjoys fast-paced, action-packed fare will be eager for the next volume in this new series.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Books for young artists

It's a new year, and maybe one of your new year's resolutions is to paint. Whether you're a beginner or need help learning more about the different techniques of painting, here are a group of helpful books with lots of great ideas. Look for them using the Amazon search box, or locate a copy at your local library using the World Catalog search engine here on BookBag. And have a colorful New Year!

A Book about Color, by Mark Gonyea (Henry Holt) Nonfiction. Doctors have to learn how human bodies work; lawyers have to learn how the law works (and how to win arguments about it); artists have to learn how color works. And believe it or not, the rules of using color can get pretty complicated! This book, however, explains art terms such as "primary," "secondary," and "analogous" in simple words and demonstrates them in pictures. It also shows how different colors can feel different--cheerful, dangerous, calm, or fun. Budding artists who like this book might also want to check out the author's books about design.

Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children about Their Art, from the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art (Philomel Books) Nonfiction. Do you ever think about the artists who illustrated your favorite picture books? If you're curious about how people become professional artists and illustrators, how they think about their artwork, what inspires them, or where they work, you'll love this book. It presents letters from 23 famous artists (from Maurice Sendak and Quentin Blake to Ashley Bryan, Jane Dyer, Eric Carle, and many more) written to kids who like to paint or draw, along with samples of the artists' work, a self-portrait of each artist, and photos of the artists in their studios.

Here's Looking at Me: How Artists See Themselves,
by Bob Raczka (Millbrook Press) Nonfiction. While it's quite slim, this book introduces a whole world of intriguing things to ponder about the many styles, techniques, and meanings of art. To prove the point that there's no right or wrong way to create a picture of yourself, Here's Looking at Me presents the unique self-portraits of 14 renowned artists, both historic (as far back as the 1400s!) and modern-day. Author Bob Raczka points out interesting details in the portraits that you probably wouldn't notice otherwise--such as the tiny candles on the brim of Spanish painter Francisco de Goya's hat--and explains why the artist included them. Fans of this book will also want to check out Raczka's art books No One S
aw and More Than Meets the Eye.

Drawing: The Only Drawing Book You'll Ever Need to Be the Artist You've Always Wanted to Be, by Kathryn Temple (Lark Books) Nonfiction. This book's subtitle really means business! With lots of encouragement, visual examples, and step-by-step illustrations, Drawing shows how to master the basics of line drawing, light and shadow, proportion and scale, and perspective. It also includes chapters on "opening your artist's eyes"--yep, they're different from ordinary eyes--and on using the basics you learn to draw faces, bodies, and more. Anyone who wants to create realistic drawings (whether 10 years old or 100) will find fun and practical guidance here.