Sunday, May 24, 2015

Memorial Day 2015

I posted this a few years ago on my other blog, The Children's War, and thought I would repost it here this year.  

This weekend we celebrate Memorial Day.  Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day, because it was a time when people would decorate the graves of those soldiers who has fallen in war to honor and remember them. 

In many of the national cemeteries, they still mark all the graves with a flag for this weekend.  This makes me feel good, since my baby brother is buried in one of those cemeteries. 

I always think of the poem "In Flanders Fields" on Memorial Day because I had to learn it in school and never forgot.  The poem has an interesting history.
In 1915, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrea who a poem called "In Flanders Fields" while presiding over the funeral of a fellow fallen soldier who was killed in the Second Battle of Ypres in Belgium and buried in Flanders Fields, a field were red poppies grew everywhere.  McCrea was not very happy with the poem he wrote and threw it away, but one of his fellow officers saved it.  It was published in Punch on December 8, 1915. 

In What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown? which was broadcast for Memorial Day in 1983, Linus recites "In Flanders Fields" while the Peanuts gang is visiting the cemetery there:

So, if you see a vet selling poppies this weekend, and you decide to buy one, remember that the money goes towards helping needy veterans.  Oh, and by the way, they are made by vet themselves, and although they receive a small amount of money for making poppies, for so many it is their only source of income.

All this being said, have a happy, healthy and safe Memorial Day and have some fun, too.

In Memoriam
FCP 1955-2001

Friday, May 22, 2015

Blog Tour: The Wizard of Oz: The Classic Edition by Frank Baum, illustrated by Charles Santore

I have to make a confession right off the bat: up until now, I had never read The Wizard of Oz.  Sure, I knew the story, all my friends did.  As kids, we watched the Judy Garland movie version of the story, but I was totally turned off by the flying monkeys, so I just never read the book.  Well, thanks to this beautiful new edition, all that's changed.

It's all there in this edition - Dorothy's life is pretty dull and grey living on the farm with Uncle Henry and Aunt Em.  Luckily, she has her little dog Toto to make her laugh.   But when a cyclone sweeps Dorothy and Toto up, setting them down in Oz, suddenly life is no longer dull and grey.  And yet, as colorful as Oz is, Dorothy just wants to go back home and to do that, she must follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City and find the wonderful wizard who can send her back to Kansas.

Along the way, Dorothy and Toto make three friends - a scarecrow who wishes to have brains in his head instead of straw, a rusted Tin Woodsman who would to have a heart and a cowardly lion who just wants some courage.  So, these three new friends go along with Dorothy to find the wizard who, they believe, can give them all just what they want.

Of course, their journey is not without pitfalls, and even when they get to Oz and find the wizard, there are still trials and tasks to fulfill, but that makes for an interesting, exciting story that young readers won't soon forget in this beautifully illustrated, somewhat abridged version of Frank Baum's classic tale about friends and family, courage, intelligence and love, and most importantly, home and what that means.

What sets this book apart from other editions are the incredible painted illustrations of the story, all  reimagined by Charles Santore. In his introduction, Michael Patrick Hearn writes that Santore likes to do "purely narrative illustrations" in children's book.  That way, the story can be read on two levels - pictorially and textually.   When I read that, I first went through the book just paying attention to the illustrations and sure enough, the whole story is contained in the images.  Then, I read the story and compared the text to the illustrations.  It was a wonderfully complimentary marriage of text and image.  I can only magine the conversations this will generate with kids not yet reading, beginning readers and more advanced readers, making this an ideal book for all of them.  How exciting!

I was particularly struck by Santore's use of color.  In the beginning, when Dorothy is still in Kansas, the predominate color is grey, but when the cyclone sets the house down and Dorothy opens the door, the reader can see just is a hint of green and blue.  In fact, Dorothy finds herself in a "a country of marvelous beauty." (pg 20)

As she sets out for Oz along the yellow brick road, the predominant palette color is bright yellow, though in the forest where Dorothy meets the cowardly lion, it changes to dark green.  And once the travelers arrive in Oz, the color is bright green, so bright they have to wear glasses to protect their eyes.  It is clear that Santore gave a lot of thought to how he wanted to illustrate The Wizard of Oz and he has done a really spot on job of it.

I also like his interpretation of Dorothy, making her a younger, more realistic version of Dorothy, so that her innocence and venerability in the face of so much really stand out.

The Wizard of Oz: The Classic Edition is a beautifully rendered book that is sure to quickly become a family favorite.

This book is recommended for readers age 5+
This book was received from the publisher, Applesauce Press

Be sure to check out the other stops on The Wizard of Oz Blog Tour to see what they have to say:

Read, Write, Reflect

Igniting Writing

Watch. Connect. Read.

Curls and a Smile

Read Now, Sleep Later

Monday, May 18, 2015

Joshua and the Lightning Road by Donna Galanti

Twelve year old Joshua Cooper has been living with his grandfather, Bo Chez, ever since he was a baby.  The two have always moved a lot, but now they are once again settled in a new place and Joshua finally has a best friend.

Or he does until one night very stormy night.   While playing a fateful game of Hide and Seek, Joshua sees his best friend grabbed by a hand and suddenly disappear out the attic window in a burst of bright lightning right in front of his eyes.  Then, after Finn disappears, Joshua hears a laugh and is threateningly told he will be next.  But next for what and where's Finn?

Determined to get Finn back from wherever he has been taken, Joshua races downstairs, grabs a flashlight and the round crystal orb and photo of his mother his grandfather keeps in a box.  He may not know what the orb is for, but he feels the needs to take it with him.  Back at the attic, Joshua waits and sure enough, in flashes of lightning, he finds himself grabbed and next thing he knows, he's waking up in a guarded compound right in the midst of a crowd of other boys and girls.

Joshua has ended up in the world of Nostos, a scary place full of the now fallen-from-power descendants of the Greek Olympians, and where children who are kidnapped on earth are taken there to be auctioned off as slaves to whomever needs workers.  Joshua finds himself, along with his new friend Charlie whom he met in the compound, bought by the evil power hungry Hekate to work in the Power Mill.  There, they are expected to run in giant wheels generating power for Nostos.  Quickly assessing that Finn hasn't been taken there, Joshua and Charlie escape to look for him elsewhere.

Their escape begins an adventure of epic proportion for Joshua and Charlie.  And it doesn't take long for Hekate to suspect that the long prophesied Oracle has arrived on Nostos, a prophesy she has good reason to fear - the Oracle could restore full power to the Olympian heirs and, using their powers for good, would end her own evil quest for full power.  Soon, the chase is on, with Joshua and Charlie looking for Finn, now accompanied by Leandro and Sam, who both has personal reasons for wanting to abandon Nostos and go to Earth.  And along the way, Joshua discovers some real surprises about who he is.

Joshua and the Lightning Road is an exciting story with something for everyone.  Galanti has created a world where one wrong step could cause you to simply fall of its edge into nothingness, and where Greek mythology comes to life for the readers in a full on good vs. evil power struggle, where creatures are both magical and scary, and where you have to be very careful about whom to trust,   And the only way to get there or get home to earth is via the Lightning Road and that is no easy task.

Joshua is a great main character.  He is loyal to his friend Finn, to the point of traveling to an unknown place to rescue him and he never wavers or loses sight of his goal.  He is such a determined and stubborn kid who refuses to let obstacles get in his way.  But he also has good instincts and the sense to trust them, especially concerning Sam and Leandro, whose help and familiarity with Nostos and the powers that be come in very handy for finding and rescuing Finn.  

If you like fantasy books about friendship and family, loyalty and courage and especially about the meaning of home, Joshua and the Lightning Tree is the book for you.  And is these things aren't your cup of tea, give a whirl anyway - you may be pleasantly surprised.

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was sent to me by the author, Donna Galanti

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Juna's Jar by Jane Bahk, illustrated by Felicia Hoshino

I will never forget how upset my Kiddo was when her best friend moved away.  Both girls were only 4 and too young to realize what moving away would mean.  Naturally, when it happened and the realization that she would never see Rhyanna again finally hit, it was a pretty hard blow.  In fact, she continued to look for her friend wherever we went for a few weeks.  My Kiddo finally did understand that her friend was not around or coming back, but she's never forgotten those first lonely days.

I was reminded of this time in my Kiddo's life  when I picked up Juna's Jar to read.  Juna and Hector are also best friends and the two of them love to go adventuring in the park, collecting things to put into Juna's big empty kimchi jar - bugs, rocks, anything that catches their fancy.

But one morning, when Juna calls for Hector to come out and go adventuring in the park, his grandmother tells her that Hector and his parents have moved away.  The two friends never got a chance to say good-bye.

Missing her friend, Juna begins to look for him in her dreams.  Each night, the kimchi jar becomes a source of adventure as Juna looks for Hector.  The first night, with the help of a fish her brother Minho buys her, the jar becomes a deep sea adventure, the next night, it's a jungle to explore with the help of a fast growing bean Minho gives her, and finally, a cricket takes Juna on an adventure to Hector's new house so she can see that he is doing well.  Juna is finally able to come to terms with not having Hector to play with anymore and opens herself up to the possibility of finding a new friend.

Juna's Jar is a charmingly told story that deals with the difficulties of losing a best friend  at an age when kids don't fully understand how or why that can happen and of finally coming to terms with never having said good-bye (or closure), making it a book that really fills a need.

Juna, who is Korean and Hector, who is Latino, are both nicely portrayed diverse characters.  I like that though their cultural identities were obvious, they weren't made a major part of the story so that the universal theme of friendship remained the focus.  And, although, a lot of kids may not know that kimchi is a Korean dish made with fermented vegetables, more and more it is becoming a part of the American diet and this may open kids up to trying it.  And young readers may even want a big jar like Juna's to go adventuring with.

I thought Juna's older brother was also a very well done character.  He is a great example of a kind, considerate sibling, trying to help his younger sister deal with her friend moving away.

Juna's nighttime adventures are helped with a little magical realism that may confuse young readers and should definitely generate some conversation about reality and imagination.  Did Juna really go deep sea diving in her jar or did she dream it?  The difference is clear in the wonderful watercolor illustrations by Felicia Hoshino, where reality is clear and nighttime adventures are shouwn to be dreamlike, but that may not register with the youngest readers.

Juna's Jar is a satisfying story about a young girl who just misses her friend and I wish it had been around when my Kiddo was young.

This book is recommended for readers age 3+
This book was provided to me by the publisher, Lee & Low Books

Monday, May 11, 2015

It's Monday! What are you reading? #15

 It's Monday! What are you reading? is the original weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey.  It's Monday! What are you reading? - from Picture Books to YA is a kidlit focused meme just like the original and is hosted weekly by Teach Mentor Texts.  The purpose is the same: to recap what you have read and/or reviewed and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week.

Last week, I read some wonderful  picture books, and one middle grade novel:

By Mouse & Frog
Written and illustrated by Deborah Freedman

Mouse wakes up early one morning because he wants to begin writing a book.  And frog is more than willing to help him out.  The only problem is that they have different ideas about how and what to write.  Can they learn to work together so each is happy?

Deborah Freedman brings us another metafiction story. this time about friendship and compromise.  For readers age 3+

If You Plant a Seed
Written & Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

Young readers see for themselves what happens when you plant a seed, whether it is a tomato seed or a carrot seed or a seed of selfishness or one of kindness, it will grow and grow.

Beautifully illustrated, this expressive book gives a new and relatable take on the old Biblical lesson demonstrating how you reap what you sow.  For readers age 4+

Won Ton and Chopstick, A Cat and Dog Tale Told in Haiku
by Lee Wardlaw, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin

Remember Won Ton, the shelter cat who found a forever home a few years age?  Well, he back, and just as poetic as ever.  Told in a series of 17 syllable haikus, Won Ton suffers some sibling rivalry when a new puppy arrives to disrupt his purrrfect life.  Will cat and dog ever learn to get along and share the affections of their family?

Once again, Wardlaw captures each sometimes rocky, always emotional step towards acceptance in these haiku.  Won Ton and Chopstick is funny, but truthful and a nice read aloud (especially for kids about to become an older sibling).  For readers age 4+

The Imaginary 
Written by A.F. Harrold, illustrated by Emily Gravett

Have you ever wondered what happens to imaginary friends when they aren't being imagined?  This very tongue-in-cheek middle grade novel explores that question.  After Amanda is hit by a car, Rudger, her imaginary friend, needs to find a way to get back to her before he completely Fades and is gone for good.  But, Rudger had started to Fade before the accident, and is also being pursued by the ancient, evil Mr. Bunting who has sold his sold to the devil - for every fading imaginary he consumes, he buys himself more living (?) time.

The story is sufficiently creepy, but not for all kids.  If your young readers liked Doll Bones and Coraline, they will probably enjoy The Imagainary.   The black and white illustrations, some with a splash of color add to the weirdness.
For readers age 8+

This week, I will be reading the following books:

What are you reading this week?

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Hypers! It's Mothers Day!

Wishing everyone a very Happy Mother's Day!

Remembering my mom:

My dad was the one who had the patience to teach me how to read and instilled me with a real love of poetry, but it was my mom who taught me to really love reading.  Being dyslexic, reading was a nightmare and school was the last place I wanted to be.  After my dad taught me to read, my mother introduced me to three series books that she had loved as a girl - The Bobbsey Twins, Anne of Green Gables and Nancy Drew.  And I fell in love…with reading.

As a girl, my mother loved to read, but as the daughter of a minister and one of seven children and with war on the horizon, there wasn't much money to go around and she had to rely heavily on borrowing books from friends or using the library.  Back then, however, the library didn't carry many series books and friends weren't willing to lend their own new Nancy Drews.  Knowing how much her girls wanted to read them, my grandmother somehow managed get her three daughters a few copies of some Nancy Drew books, most likely donated by a kind parishioner.  My mom held on to those books, and they were read by my cousins and my older sister before they made their way to me.  

Three of my mom's 9 original Nancy Drews
My mom and I had a ritual about the three series books I read.  Every Friday night after dinner, we would walk to Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn, where there was a small bookstore right next to the Dutch Reformed Church and I could pick out one book for the week.  If I finished that book, I could get a new one the following Friday.  I started with The Bobbsey Twins, worked my way to Nancy Drew and then Anne of Green Gables.  By the time I finished, I was a pretty good reader and entering 7th grade didn't feel as terrifying as grades 1-6 did.  

I loved our Friday night walks because not only did I get a new book, but I got to spend time alone with my mother.  My sister and brother weren't allowed to tag along.  Those Friday nights are some of my best memories of my mom.

My mother passed away in 1998, but right up until the end, reading was a shared adventure for the two of us and I can't thank her (and my dad) enough for helping me to discover the joy of reading.

My mom's Nancy Drew books are old, the pages are burnt and they are worth anything, but they were certainly well loved by three generations of Baugh girls. including my kiddo .  This year Nancy Drew turned 85 years old and kids are still reading her.  Nancy has changed with the times, but to me she will always be the girl who wore frocks and drove a blue roadster, had two best friends and taught me to be an independent woman.  And I am in pretty good company on that score: my mother, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sandra Day O'Connor, Laura Bush, Hilary Clinton, Oprah Wimfrey, Sara Paretsky and Barbara Streisand, among others.

 Happy Mother's Day, Mom, and Thank You

And here are some interesting articles about Nancy Drew's continuing impact:

Nancy Drew's Granddaughters from the New York Times
Nancy Drew's Father from The New Yorker

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Counting Crows by Kathi Appelt, illustrated by Rob Dunlavey

Just when you think all the books that reinforce kids counting skills have been written in every conceivable way possible, along comes Kathi Appelt and proves you wrong.  Counting Crows does presume that young readers have learned to count at least up to 12 and are ready to have some fun with numbers 1-12.

Here we find twelve crows, all wearing bright red and white striped sweaters and, because there's one fashion rebel in every crowd, one crow accentuates his with a red polka-dot scarf.  The twelve black crows frolic across the pages, playing with each other, hanging from trees, sitting on telephone lines, and looking for something to eat, all of it accompanied by humorous rhyming couplets and quatrains in an ABCB rhyme scheme.

Of course, the crows may be the hunt for a tasty lunch, but they aren't the only ones:

Twelve crows hop,
twelve crows sing,
twelve on a park bench, 
wing by wing.

Twelve chewy chips
twelve slimy snails…
One cat counts
twelve crows' twelve tails!

The brief appearance of a calculating gray kitty wearing a red polka-dot scarf will surely get kids counting crows in the end, but they can also count each thing the crows find to eat, and, as kids will discover, they will eat ANYTHING.  For instance, if you look closely at the image below, you will be able to count nine spicy ants, and nine round crackers.  But be warned, as the numbers go up, it get more and more difficult find their tasty(?) treats.  So the book not only is fun with counting but also helps builds observation skills.  

I loved the illustrations done in marker, pencil and watercolor.  The vivid black crows in bold red sweaters are placed against a bright white background while the other features, like the telephone line, the bench, the edible tidbits are all done with light pencil lines (making them harder to find while seeking and counting them).

This is a fun book that will definitely delight young readers, especially those who are comfortable with their numbers already.

Kids can find some fun Counting Crows activities HERE 

This book is recommended for readers age 3+
This book was purchased for my personal library

This is book 6of my 2015 Nonfiction Picture Book Reading Challenge hosted by Kid Lit Frenzy

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