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I loved this long weekend, finding time to spend Saturday with one of my granddaughters, to plant flowers at last, and to read! I reviewed Views from A Window Seat, Thoughts on Writing and Life by Jeannine Atkins last Friday, and finished The Mark of The Dragonfly today!
The Mark of The Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson
This is a perfect middle grade read. It's set in an imaginary world that appears strangely dystopian, with elements of the middle ages although there are machines. It's different, which leads one to be extremely curious as to how this 'life' works for the people, especially Piper, the main character, who lives in a "scrap" town, where after strange meteor showers, people run to grab what has been left by the shower. They seem to be the leftovers from a long ago earth-intriguing-and perhaps another book will tell that story? Piper is a machinist, able to repair some of the objects found, and also has been left to fend for herself, although she's just 13, because her father has gone to work in a near town factory to help earn a living, and has died from the pollution emanating from those awful factories. But that's just the start of this story that propels the reader very quickly into the action, takes Piper, and later "new" friends into a train adventure that never stops with heart-stopping action, suspense, surprises, and even a little romance. This was recently published, and I imagine some will be talking about it for a while.
Winston & George – written by John Miller and illustrated by Giuliano Cucco
A grand friendship (symbiotic) between a crocodile and a crocodile bird that goes awry when George, the bird, keeps playing tricks on Winston, and other crocs. There’s more than one lesson here to discuss, and the illustrations have a back story too. Long ago, Miller and Cucco were friends, and Cucco created these gorgeous pictures. At that time, it was too expensive to do much color, especially in pictures books (most were not colored or with one or two colors only), but Miller ended up with the work, and found it in his attic, felt it was still a great story, and so it’s now a beautiful picture book. Unfortunately, Cucco died in 2006 and did not see the final results of his work so long ago. His grandchildren, however, will enjoy their grandfather’s lovely talent.
A Boy and A Jaguar – written by Alan Rabinowitz and illustrated by Catia Chien
A young boy named Alan loved to go to the zoo, although it made him sad to see the big cats in cages all alone, especially the jaguar. The story follows Alan’s young life as a stutterer who can speak with the animals, but not in school, with people. He’s placed in special classrooms, but does go on to college, and finds he is most at home in forests or jungles, studying the great animals. There is where his voice speaks, and speaks loud, for animals endangered like the jaguar. It’s an autobiographical story by a man who, the jacket flap says, is “the Indiana Jones of wildlife preservation”. For an inspiring story of a whispered promise to a caged jaguar to the fulfillment of a big dream, read this book. The brilliantly colored illustrations add much to the story.
The Pigeon Needs A Bath – written and illustrated by Mo Willems
Mo Willems helps us have such fun with this latest pigeon book. I read this for the first time with my granddaughter after we bought it on a trip to our favorite local Indie bookstore, and the minute I closed the book, she said ‘read it again.” Poor pigeon even tries to engage the reader to help him ignore the problem of being dirty by talking with the audience. It’s another book by Mo Willems to laugh over with a young child.
Ruby’s Wish – written by Shirin Yim Bridges and illustrated by Sophie Blackall
This came highly recommended by a Goodreads friend, and I managed to get the DVD of Shirin Yim Bridges reading it. It was great to “listen” to this true story about her grandmother, Ruby. Set in 19th Century China, Bridges tells the story of one large family in China where Ruby’s grandfather, the head of the household, brought in a teacher because he had so many grandchildren. There is also a small intro that tells of the many Chinese men who left for the gold rush and never returned, but this man did. He also allowed the girls to come to school, but the expectation was that girls only stayed for a while, and then were married. They did not go for further education. Ruby stayed, and she also did the extra work girls were required to do, like learning to cook, clean and sew. One day, she wrote a poem concerning the unfair ways girls were treated in the household. Grandfather summoned her, and the rest you’ll have to discover. It's a lovely book that will spark great conversations about girls and their rights. The beauty of China is shown in the artful illustrations.
Hidden: A Child’s Story of The Holocaust - by Loïc Dauvillier, Marc Lizano (Illustrations), Greg Salsedo (Ink), Alexis Siegel (Translator)
From France, respected comic creators allow Dounia, a grandmother, to tell her own story to her granddaughter, a tale of long ago when she was hidden in order to survive, while her parents were taken to a camp. She was kept hidden by neighbors who also had to hide, and a kind woman on a farm gave them a home. It’s a graphic novel, brief enough to be a beginning for younger children to learn about the Holocaust. It shows the tension of escape and the sadness of loss as well as the happiness of being reunited. The ending is hopeful as it occurs in the future with a grandmother finally feeling able to tell her story.
The Wild Girl - written and illustrated by Rick Wormell
This is a story for younger readers to ponder. A young girl live alone in some mountains, no one to brush hair, wash face, or tie shoelaces. In fact, she has no shoes. But she is surviving, and soon, she and her dog have their biggest adventure, with a bear! It's a story of survival and courage and compassion. I suspect the book should be read aloud, because there will be lots of questions! The illustrations are gorgeous, showing the girl's life well. If one takes the story literally, I had a few questions, like how does the girl start a fire, and why is she alone? But, if taken as rather a fanciful story, reminding me of other stories that are just that, stories, quite a bit improbable, but "possible", it works beautifully.
Next: Definitely planning to begin The Summer of Letting Go by Gae Polisner. I've put it off for way too long. It's a good choice, because it's nearly summer! And I have more picture books from the public library and my school library! For those of you who are finished with the year, congratulations and have a great beginning to your vacations, and for those of you who are not, enjoy your final weeks of school. They are special days!