Friday, December 19, 2008

Book Blitz, Part Deux

Get your last-minute book reviews at The Kiddosphere.

The Sub (The Not-So-Random Shelf: Easy Chapter Book)

Days are always topsy-turvy when an unexpected substitute teacher walks into the classroom. Two students decide to take advantage of the substitute, but the situation quickly snowballs against their advantage. This easy chapter book is a fun school story book that carries its message across without browbeating the reader.

Peppe the Lamplighter (The Not-So-Random Shelf: Picture Book)

Peppe the Lamplighter is a moving portrayal of an immigrant family living in turn of the century Little Italy (New York). Peppe is eager to help support his sisters and ill father. When he takes a job as lamplighter, his sisters are proud, but his father is furious, for he wants a better life for his son. Reluctantly, Papa’s continued disapproval discourages Peppe, and one night, he doesn’t light the lights. When Peppe’s sister refuses to come home after work due to her fear of the dark streets, Papa and Peppe realize the importance of his job. This is a gorgeous and sophisticated picture book for elementary children and picture book lovers.

When Sophie Gets Angry--Really, Really, Angry (The Not-So-Random Shelf: Picture Book)

When Sophie Gets Angry is a realistic and humorous look at tantrums. Sophie doesn’t want to share her stuffed gorilla with her sister. When their mother insists that they take turns with the toy and Sophie trips over a toy truck, Sophie bursts like a volcano (you must see the illustrations). As anyone who has spent time with very young children, tantrums can be quite impressive, and Sophie's is no exception. This is a great read aloud, whether or not you have a Sophie in your family (don't we all, at some point in time?).

As the Waltz Was Ending (The Not-So-Random Shelf: Biography)

As the Waltz Was Ending is an intriguing biography focused on a teenage girl’s experience during World War II Vienna. The author became a ballet student with the Vienna State Opera House when she was eight years old. The world of pre-World War II Vienna is described in exquisite detail; a world that sharply ended when the Nazis occupied Vienna. Opera performances continued, as they were deemed vital to Viennese culture. As the war shows no signs of ending, opera performances and the ballet school eventually become a thing of the past. E.M. Butterworth recreates the harsh and demanding life of a ballet student unforgettably (the pointe shoes scene will curl your toes!), as she does the fearful and desperate times during World War II. We also read about her brief involvement with the Hitler Youth, and her mother’s opposition to the group. Ballet fans will find this book a terrific read, as well as those interested in World War II, but readers should know that the author is a survivor of the violence inflicted upon many Austrian and German girls and women immediately after the war. This is briefly described and not dwelled upon, but it is undoubtedly a very sad and disturbing issue. As the Waltz Was Ending is a unique look at Austrian life under the occupation.

Scrambled Eggs at Midnight (The Not-So-Random Shelf: Young Adult Fiction)

If you’re looking for a light YA romance to read, you can’t go wrong with Scrambled Eggs at Midnight. Calliope and her mother traipse from Renaissance Faire to Renaissance Faire, selling her mother’s jewelry. Calliope is so over their nomadic granola lifestyle and is eager to settle in one place. Eliot, on the other hand, leads a life that’s completely opposite of Calliope; his parents run a Christian weight loss camp for teens. Despite their differences, they quickly fall in love. When Calliope’s mother is ready to move on (yet again), they are faced with permanent separation.

Blurbs on the back of books occasionally drive me nuts. One such blurb on the back cover of Scrambled Eggs at Midnight compared the book to Romeo and Juliet, but with a happy ending. That’s stretching it a little bit (it’s not nearly as dramatic or romantic as Romeo and Juliet; I understand that the reviewer wasn't comparing the writing of the two, but the sentiment. It's still a stretch.). There are some funny jabs at Renaissance Faire folks and merchandising of Christian products, which manage to be funny without being cruel. This a light and enjoyable young adult read.

I'll throw more reviews at you tomorrow.

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