Tuesday, August 06, 2013

July Reads (And Early August)

I was in Italy for the early part of July, so most of my reading was done on my iPad because I was not keen on bringing library books overseas (thanks to our very awesome Zinio, I was able to download FREE MAGAZINES for my trip! How cool is that?!). I've been playing catch up since I've returned, and have found some pretty good titles:

Bramble and Maggie: Give and Take

Jessie Haas is my go-to author for horse fanatics; I'm doubly pleased that her Bramble and Maggie series is perfect for readers new to chapter books.  This is a very simple chapter book about a young girl and her horse learning the importance of compromise.  This has more illustrations than your average easy chapter book, so ideal for those reluctant to make the jump into chapters.

Do You Know Which Ones Will Grow? 

This is a 2011 picture book, and I have no idea how I missed it!  It's a creative and interactive look at things that grow--and don't grow!  It's a sturdy lift-the-flap book that invites discussion between the reader and the listener.

Fandango Stew

I got such a big kick out of Fandango Stew, also a 2011 title that slipped past me when we first received it.  Slim and grandson Luis have found themselves in Skinflint, a quite unfriendly town.  The sheriff is not keen on letting them stay, but relents when they agree to share their Fandango stew.  Of course, the availability of other ingredients in other towns made the stew so much better, but obviously, these ingredients are not available in Skinflint--or are they?  This is a Wild West retelling of Stone Soup, and a fabulous read aloud for elementary school students, who might be coaxed into chanting, "Chili's good, so is barbecue, but nothing's finer than Fandango stew!"

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas

Although Jane Goodall's life story and work has been told through several children's books (by herself and other authors), the work of Dian Fossey and Birute Galdikas has not, so I was most intrigued to see how Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks depicted these fascinating and complex women through a graphic novel format. The struggles faced by each women and their remarkable contributions to the study of primates is admirably depicted.  Given that Dian Fossey was a very controversial figure, I was eager to discover how the author and artist would convey her difficult personality, rash actions, and her (unsolved) murder. Ottaviani and Wicks touch on her unyielding attitude to poachers and her more shocking statements most effectively; her death is handled very gently (there's absolutely no mention or depiction of the gruesome crime). Although this is more suitable for pleasure reading than informational reading, Primates is a fine introduction to these intriguing women.

I also made some inroads into the Newbery Medal/Honor books! Woo hooo!

The Door in the Wall (1950 Newbery Medal)

The Door in the Wall is a very elegantly written story about a young disabled boy who finds that he can help aid his King and country in battle, even though he cannot physically fight.  It's a relatively short novel (only 120 pages), but the writing is quite sophisticated.

The Bears on Hemlock Mountain  (1953 Newbery Honor)

Other than the odd picture book and easy reader that have won, The Bears on Hemlock Mountain must be one of the shortest books in the Newbery collection.  A young boy discovers once and for all if bears actually exist on Hemlock Mountain when he is sent on an errand.  It's a nice read, but not much happens, honestly.

Red Sails to Capri 

I was excited to read Red Sails to Capri because it takes place in Italy, and the main character is named Michele, which is the name of my brother-in-law! Unfortunately, I didn't totally love it. (sad trumpet)  There's nothing wrong with the book--the fact that there were no unfortunate stereotypes made me greatly relieved--it's just that there's really no sense, other than a few details, that this takes place in Capri.  It could have been set on any island.

Rufus M (1944 Newbery Honor)

Oh, wow. Rufus M.  Now, before I start on Rufus M., please note that Ginger Pye, which also features the Moffat family, is one of my favorite Newbery reads.  Ginger Pye, save for a few details, is quite timeless and accessible to modern day readers. Rufus M. may not be as accessible. The opening chapter with the rigid librarian  who calls all the girls "Susie," regardless of their names (and who has an obsessive attitude about clean hands)  and the casual mention of cigarettes, along with the fact that the principal has been known to "strap" misbehaving children are definitely relics of their time.  The vast freedom of the Moffat children to explore and go on adventures is standard throughout the Moffat books, but I must say that the scene in which Mrs. Moffat informs her children's teachers that she's off to New York for the day and the children will be all alone (and the teachers are basically, "Whatever") under the care of the oldest girl takes the cake (the Moffats live in Connecticut). Cool beans, Mrs. Moffat.

Tommysaurus Rex

Doug TenNapel (love the upper case N) is one of the most creative graphic novelists I've read.  His latest, Tommysaurus Rex, is both endearing and outrageous.  Ely is devastated after his beloved dog is killed in a car accident; his parents hope that living and working on his grandfather's farm will provide some distraction and relief.  A bully soon ruins the vacation, but his friendship with the T-Rex he discovered helps him recover from his dog's death.  As you can guess, a friendship with a T-Rex probably won't end well, and it doesn't.  This has quite a bit of crude potty humor, but TenNapel's storytelling skills and bold illustrations will entice reluctant readers.

Treasure on Superstition Mountain

Having read and enjoyed Missing on Superstition Mountain, I was interested to follow Jack, Henry, Simon, and Delilah on their quest to discover the mysteries lurking around Superstition Mountain.  Although reading the first title is necessary, it's easy to jump back into the story even if it's been some time since you've read Missing on Superstition Mountain.  Although I found the man-crazed aunt a bit silly, Treasure on Superstition Mountain contains just as much adventure and good humor as its predecessor.  A third title is in the works.

And finally, an adult read:

Blood and Beauty

Blood and Beauty is an expansive and compelling tale  of the Borgia family, primarily that of Rodrigo Borgia and two of his children, Lucretia and Cesare.  Rodrigo Borgia is better known as Pope Alexander III, who used the papacy to further his family's ambitions.  This is a great read for historical fiction fans looking for an epic read, but keep in mind that the more salacious rumors of the Borgia family are touched upon.  Dunant is working on a sequel (good thing, because it ends rather abruptly!)

It's our last week in our summer reading program!  Check out our remaining programs here.  The last day to update reading logs is this Saturday, August 10.

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