Thursday, November 3, 2011

Book-a-Day: Fall Break

We planned a relaxing vacation for fall break (no sightseeing!) so I set a goal to read a book each day.  Here's the round-up! Since there are several titles, I'll keep it brief.

Chapter Book
The Georges and the Jewels, by Jane Smiley

Young Abby lives on a horse farm, so riding horses every day is no big deal. But one horse, one of the "Georges" (geldings) proves to be a major challenge. She's scared to ride him and her fear becomes emblematic of some of the personal hurdles she's facing: her relationships with her friends and with her father are at a critical point. She needs to stand up to them and voice her feelings, but it will take a kind of courage she doesn't yet have.

This will be most appreciated by tweens who love horses; those who don't may find the level of detail around this topic overwhelming. I loved it!  (Illustrations of various equipment for horses. Recommended for grade 5+)

Chapter Book
Every Soul a Star, by Wendy Mass

The stars align to bring together four preteens for the event of a solar eclipse. Each is at a turning-point in his or her life, and each comes to the event with that baggage. Through preparations for the momentous occasion, they come together, recognizing strengths they hadn't seen in each other before (and in themselves as well).

Each chapter is narrated by one of the characters, giving the novel a unique mix of voices and sense of drama. We come to admire each character and we miss them when the story is over. (Recommended for grade 5+)

Chapter Book
Eleven, by Lauren Myracle

The concept of this novel is fun: each chapter is a month in an eleven year-old's life, from her birthday through the year. We get a real sense of the ups and downs of being a tween through this structure. Friendship woes, boy/girl tension, parent problems - it's all here but with an upbeat, hopeful tone. We start off with a birthday party gone awry when Minnie's planned activities get hijacked by a popular girl's decision to play on the house's electric staircase chair instead. 

Minnie is charming and very much a regular girl dealing with common tween issues. A fun and affirming read for girls of this age. (Recommended for grades 4+)

Chapter Book
Eggs Over Evie, by Alison Jackson 

Evie's dealing with her parents' divorce (and her father's impending twins with his new wife). Part of what keeps her going as she navigates the change in her relationship with her parents is cooking. She and her father share of a love of good food, and she enjoys experimenting in the kitchen. Recipes tied to the plot are interspersed throughout the story.

In addition to her life as a budding chef, she has friendships and a crush on a boy in her cooking class to figure out. Will she be able to mix up a way to keep all of the ingredients in her life coexisting happily?  (Illustrated. Recommended for grades 5+) 

Chapter Book
Over My Dead Body (43 Cemetery Road), by Kate Klise

This is the second book about three unlikely housemates: Seymour, the abandoned boy-genius; Ignatius, the curmudgeon-y writer; and Olive, the 125 year-old ghost. The problem this time: will the three be able to stay together? An anonymous letter threatens to ruin everything they've created: their family and their series of books about ghosts. Seymour is taken away to live in a foster home until his (evil) parents return, and Ignatius ends up in jail for trying to keep him at 43 Cemetery Road. Will Olive be able to find a way to restore their happy home?

(Illustrated. Recommended for grades 3+)

Chapter Book
The Fairy-Tale Detectives, by Michael Buckley

Orphaned sisters are taken to live with their previously-thought-dead grandmother, and oldest girl is highly skeptical about who "grandma" really is. But when the grandmother's house gets mysteriously crushed, the sisters quickly become embroiled in a mystery. Grandma Grimm reveals that they are related to the Brothers Grimm, who wrote the true (not fairy-tale) stories of evil and wicked characters and monsters who lived long ago. These creatures are out to kill the last remaining Grimms. Will the Sisters Grimm be able escape from them and keep their family lineage going? 

(Illustrated. Recommended for grades 4+)

Picture Book
Let the Whole Earth Sing Praise, by Tomie dePaola

In his signature folksy style, dePaola illustrates a poem he wrote which is inspired by scripture from the Old Testament. The theme: Everything in our universe praises God through its beauty. For example, "...Showers and Frost and Ice and Snow. Bless God..."

He leads us in from space to atmosphere, to landforms, to living creatures, to ourselves - and accompanies each layer with artwork of stunning simplicity.

A gorgeous book, small in size, wonderful for lap reading, especially in homes where religious thinking is welcomed. (Recommended for all ages)

Book of Poems
A Dazzling Display of Dogs, by Betsy Franco (Illustrated by Michael Wertz)

This is such a cool poetry book! The writer has created concrete poems (the words of the poem form shapes) all about dogs. The poems range from funny to sweet and each perfectly captures the essence of "dogness." 

Happily, the illustrations are a perfect fit. They have a retro feel, a bright graphic vibe that treats the letters as part of the visual appeal. 

This one takes some time to read and pore over since there's so much to see. A total winner. (Recommended for grades 2+)

Picture Book
Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave, by Laban Carrick Hill (Illustrated by Bryan Collier)

This story in poem tells about the life of a American slave potter, an artist unknown in his time. A sense of halting English mirrors the real poems he sometimes left on the pots he threw. But the imagery, the richness of language is here too: a lump of clay begins to take the shape of a jar, "its walls rise up like a robin's puffed breast..." and it becomes almost mythical in its greatness - so large it could hold him in an embrace.

This Caldecott Honor's illustrations are earthy and warm, a mix of watercolor and collage, that keep Dave solidly real and show his world in all its grittiness.

(Recommended for grades 2+)

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