Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Kites and Kangaroos

Since Monday was both Chinese New Year and Australia Day, here is a survey of children’s books about kites (a Chinese invention) and kangaroos…

Asian Kites by Wayne Hosking
An informative introduction covers everything from materials (Mulberry paper and #10 crochet thread are musts) to wind scale (light air or fresh wind). The subsequent chapters illustrate how to make kites from China, Malaysia, Thailand, Korea, and Japan. Each project details recommended ages, what you’ll need, and what to do to make the kite. Most are for ages 9-12 and a few are for 7-12 (so much for our preschooler’s January craft project). I’ll file this one away for a future family project.

Riley Flies a Kite by Susan Blackaby and illustrated by Matthew Skeens
Riley’s red and yellow kite becomes a focal point for each page saturated in colorful graphics. The storyline about where he will fly his kite is suspenseful enough for a beginning reader but grinds to a disappointing halt.

Bear and Kite by Cliff Wright
A board book of opposites – loose/tight, play/fight – demonstrated by black and white bears. My favorite picture depicts the bears running with the kite, sheer delight on their faces.

Mother May I? by Grace Maccarone and illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Joey has a new question for every page. Cute text but the illustrations have a “rough draft” quality that’s distracting.

I Love It When You Smile by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Charles Fuge
Trying to make her son smile, a kangaroo pulls all sorts of tricks out of her pouch. Done with realistic paintings, this is a fun story to read out loud to your grumpy Little Roo.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Everyone Can Be Great

Through collage and watercolor illustrations by Bryan Collier, Martin’s Big Words tells the story of Martin Luther King, Jr. Stained glass windows, church steeples, and the American flag illustrate Martin’s message that “everyone can be great.” We read of bus boycotts, marches, bomb threats, accolades, and finally the assassination. A concise history of the great man’s life and work that will have you flipping back through the pages even after your listener has drifted off to sleep.

Martin’s Big Words Words by Doreen Rappaport and Pictures by Bryan Collier

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Voting Ends January 20

Click here to vote for the best book you read last year.

Are you an addict?

Have you ever decided to stop, but only lasted a couple of days?
After Confessions of a Shopaholic, I swore that would be the last one. But then my sister had the one where she ties the knot. Then I realized I skipped the one where she takes Manhattan. After that, I found out she had a sister, so I had to read just one more.

Has your reading caused trouble at home?
One afternoon I was reading and eating chocolate chips with my baby sleeping next to me. Two chapters of The Undomestic Goddess later, I looked down and saw a pool of dark matter oozing out of E’s neck. My husband (a doctor) thought his intestine had ruptured. Upon closer inspection, we realized he had a pulse and a melted chocolate chip on him.

Have you had to start reading upon awakening during the past year?
Does 3:30 a.m. count?

Do you tell yourself you can stop any time you want to?
I told myself that after every chapter of Can You Keep a Secret? and found myself reading the last page at 3:45 a.m. (see above).

Do you have "blackouts"?
I can’t really recall Remember me?.

Have you ever felt that your life would be better if you did not read?
I could do without the headaches and fatigue after a 5 hour binge, the anxiety caused by the character’s mounting debt, and the paranoia that my colleagues will find out.

Hi, my name is Morningstar and I’m a Kinsellaholic.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

I See You Everywhere by Julia Glass

Kiwi sorbet. Fox hunting. Open-heart surgery on a bear. Only Julia Glass is skillful enough to blend these disparate elements into the same novel.

As in Three Junes and The Whole World Over, Glass relies on strong characters and the passage of time to propel the plot forward. In I See You Everywhere, Glass alternates the narrative voice between sisters Clem and Louisa. We are given updates on their careers (in science and art), lovers (fishermen and stuntmen), and health (wilderness injuries and cancer) over lapses of three years at first and then of three months as the novel comes to a close.

Despite the soap operatic elements of plot – amnesia from a yachting accident, unwanted pregnancies – the emotional elements remain believable. Parental grief is fueled by rage. Marital dissatisfaction is born from indifference. Sisterly love is expressed in inappropriate stabs at humor.

Sure Louisa may make kiwi sorbet, but she also eats brownies not quite done in the middle. The bear may end up on the operating table, but you’ll keep reading to ensure Clem doesn’t sleep with the surgeon.