Sunday, November 5, 2017

Reading Pleasures

              Visit Jen at Teach MentorTexts and Kellee and Ricki at UnleashingReaders to discover books you'll love!  Thanks to Jen, Kellee and Ricki who share so much from their own reading lives and support this meme, too.
         
         This first book is a rather fun serendipity that happened to me this week. In addition to starting the book about darling mice dancers, I was trying to catch mice in my house. While I love the books that are written about tiny mice leading extraordinary "human" lives. my "house mice" simply had a wonderful time eating out of a box of dog bones that I keep for visiting dogs. They are gone, and no more need be written.


       Thanks to Candlewick for the advanced copy of this book, out just a few weeks ago.
        Young Esmeralda mouse, the main character in a new holiday story has quite an adventure while saving a production of The Nutcracker in a marvelous holiday tale from the author of The Gingerbread Pirates and the illustrator of A Series of Unfortunate Events.
         Imagine what mice really think when they learn the story of the new ballet titled The Nutcracker when mice are shown as villains. Hidden in Saint Petersburg’s famed Mariinsky Theater are the world’s tiniest ballet fans: the Mariinsky mice. Esmeralda is one of the troupe, a dancer aspiring to be a star in the Russian Mouse Ballet Company. Through a horrible accident with a trap, the lead has been injured and Esmeralda has just been assigned the lead role of Clara in a ballet debuting at Christmas: The Nutcracker. She knows that the mice of Saint Petersburg won’t support a production of this new ballet with mice as the enemy.
         On the human side of the story, nine-year-old Irina is convinced that the mice she’s seen in the Mariinsky — the mice her father, the custodian, is supposed to exterminate — are not only fans of the ballet, but dancers themselves. No one will believe her, so Irina must help save the mice others want gone . . . and perhaps to help Esmeralda save the future of the mouse company.  It is a tale for anyone who has seen and loved this holiday production. The dance descriptions and the new characters introduced, even rats as friends, created a new world that young readers will love Kristin Kladstrup’s ballet fantasy features artwork by illustrator Brett Helquist, tense drama in the mouse escapades especially, and a good bit of Christmas magic.           

           In a rhyming story, Caroline Starr Rose has written the rip-roaring story of the legendary Bill Cody who rode for the Pony Express in his teens, and it is told that he met a challenge one time out of need. He supposedly rode 21 horses in 21 hours and forty minutes straight. Joe Lillington’s illustrations fill the pages with never-ending energy as young Bill Cody, later known as Buffalo Bill, rode and rode again. The rule was that the riders changed rides at certain stations, but Bill got to the stations this time only to find there was no rider ready, so he changed horses often: “Trade a Morgan for a Pinto,/Bronco for a Thoroughbred./Racing, flying,/ever riding,/hurry, hurry on ahead.” The book will be great for anyone studying western history, Buffalo Bill or other western figures. There’s a great added piece from the author at the end.


           Young boy Isaac doesn’t seem very curious. His parents loved books, often tried to interest him in things, especially out of books, like “look how tall this skyscraper is!” Isaac only replied, “skyscrapers are always tall.” He was alarmingly uncurious. One time on a city trip the family entered an antique store to buy a gift for a family member. The shopkeeper tried to interest Isaac, too, in the tin toys or a steam locomotive. “Nope,” Isaac was not interested until that shopkeeper told him about the legend of The Book of Gold, one special book somewhere that has all the answers for any question ever asked. Supposedly when found, the book would turn to solid gold. Isaac was interested. The rest of this adventure shows Isaac growing up, aging, always searching for that book, but, as you possibly imagine, learning so many things along the way. It’s a wondrous story of what can happen through reading and curiosity. Bob Staake’s illustrations are filled with the small details that make one look and look again, and wonder! The ending is a lovely surprise.

          The storyteller of the regular story holds a conversational battle with Jack in this new tale by Josh Funk. That storyteller wants everything to remain the same, regular, old-fashioned story. Jack, the feisty character we haven’t know much about before except that he’s a sneaky thief, argues back, questions often, and remains the star no matter how the story changes. He really is poor but manages NOT to eat the beans. He isn’t exactly strong, yet somehow manages to climb that vine. And he forgets to be sneaky (cheeky is a better description) and forgets what he should be stealing from the giant. In this same mode, Jack even manages to correct the giant’s poetry rhyming. Remember that “fee fi fo fum?” Jack’s right (or Josh Funk is right), the poem does not have a true rhyme--‘fum’ with ‘man’! Even the end is a conflict, but it all ends happily with cheery faces and delicious food. 
          With Edwardian Taylor’s managing the bubble speeches within the cartoon-like illustrations, this is a delightful romp that expands an old fairy tale. He even manages a reunion of many storybook characters at the end. I laughed at the added parts, like Cindy saying hi and inviting Jack to a ball at the palace as he climbs the beanstalk or the “real” size of those three things Jack was supposed to steal from the giant. They say it’s all in the details, and Josh Funk and Edwardian Taylor added some extraordinary ones to this story.

     This delighted me in a way I’m not sure how to describe. Perhaps it’s the brief story told by Nia, a little girl who got a turtle for a pet, who named it Alfie. She said she was six, so now so was Alfie. There are things about Alfie that we learn, like how still it (he?) stays, and the illustration shows Nia sketching him. She showed Alfie her wiggle dance, wrote songs for him, but mostly he stayed in his shell. But one day, right before Nia’s seventh birthday, Alfie disappeared, and that is the rest of the story. You’ll need to read the book to discover what happens, but as I wrote earlier, it is delightful. I love Thyra Heder’s way with words and the illustrations are gorgeous, often close-up, fun and happy pages of Nia, Alfie, Nia’s family and neighborhood.

          I have memories that make me both happy and sad, and love books that are both celebrations of the past, though sad, and show how people live in spite of hard things. This is the way Bao Phi has told this story of rising very early with his father to go to a pond to catch dinner. One line shows the family’s need, something I’ve never experienced. The boy in the story, Bao’s dad says “Got one.” then a little later, Bao shares, “Dad smiles. . . and he knows we will eat tonight.” In such a few words, the reader knows so much. One comment is made about the teasing for Bao’s father and the way he speaks English. Both parents work and the dad has just taken a second job, so now they must rise even earlier to get to the pond. And once there, eating a breakfast of bologna sandwiches, Bao’s dad tells of another pond long ago in Vietnam, when he and his brother fished. There is a little bit about the war and we know that the brother must have been killed. Mostly dark scenes painted by Thi Bui evoke the quiet night, the early cold, the tiny fire Bao has learned to make. There are other details to look for, to relish, like Bao’s expressions, the moon and trees, Bao and his dad reflected in the pond, and a homeless man on the street as they arrive home in the early dawn. It’s a story to love and to appreciate of someone’s memory both like and unlike ours.
         A bonus can be found at the back with photos and notes from Bao Phi and Thi Bui, plus extra words in an acknowledgment.  
        
             Yoko Ono offers a lovely intro, Jean Jullien brings gorgeous illustrations with black outlining, and then, these beautiful words by John Lennon bring again his wish for peace. A pigeon works hard bringing branches of peace to everyone, gathering with other kinds of birds, who also begin to share the branches. The page that illustrates “You may say I’m a dreamer” showed the pigeon leaning back, “not the only one”. We need these words today! The proceeds to the book, published by Clarion Books, go to Amnesty International.    

Still reading - Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine.

Starting - Forest World by Margarita Engle

   
      I have some more arcs to read, John Greene's new book, Maggie Stiefvater's new book, and on and on. It's a good problem to have, right?

18 comments:

  1. We have been trying to get rid of some mice too! You would think in a house of NINE cats, mice wouldn't be a problem. They do sit sometimes and look in the general area where they can hear the mice. But it never goes farther than that. I was pleased to discover a couple of these books at my library, so I've placed holds. All are new to me! I also have John Green's new novel.... I've been saving it for a reading slump, but I'm actually in a reading slump, so maybe now is the right time!

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    1. That really is funny, Elisabeth, with NINE cats & no help. My daughter kept saying I needed a cat! Guess that doesn't always work. Enjoy the books. I'm really looking forward to "Turtles All The Way Down!"

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  2. Oh dear - I am still getting over the mice in your house thoughts! We had mice when the children were babies and I still haven't recovered. Yuck! Now I know I must get my hands on A Different Pond. Thanks for your detailed reviews.

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    1. Yes, the mice adventure last week was not a favorite thing to do. I imagine you'll love A Different Pond. I loved it!

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  3. Oh, that cover for Alfie is just beautiful! I've heard so many good things about A Different Pond, it sounds like such a moving and meaningful book.

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    1. Both are terrific, Jane. I found Alfie at the library and loved its surprise.

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  4. These look so good. I find Alfie especially intriguing, and I loved A Different Pond. Yoko Ono is really an admirable woman who always puts her money where her mouth is in attempts to make this a better world, like the one John Lennon envisioned in Imagine.

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    1. Alfie, as I wrote, surprised me. I think kids will love it when read aloud. It is presented so well, Alex. Yes, I agree about Yoko Ono. She comes into the public eye to do good!

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  5. Great books this week, Linda! I'm glad to see that you enjoyed Nutcracker Mice. I loved the story, but will be interested seeing how young readers react to it. I'm sorry about the extra mice you had, though!

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    1. Despite my own life connection with the mice, I enjoyed Nutcracker Mice very much, Michele. I'm going to share my copy with Ingrid's class.

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  6. We want to feature Josh Funk's books in a post in December - He has so many great titles.

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    1. That will be a wonderful post and a great idea for teachers, too. His books are wonderfully fun and creative.

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  7. I read The Book of Gold to a group of fourth graders and they really like it a lot. We had a great conversation about how Isaac changed and what he learned about reading.

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    1. I love hearing what happened, Lisa. That is a hard part for me. Except for my granddaughters, I'm not experiencing the books with a group. How wonderful!

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  8. Alfie has been on my radar. Maybe I'll cave and read it this week!

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    1. Hope you like it, Earl, at least share what you think!

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  9. I wish that I could see real mice as cute and cuddly like the mice is picture books! I'll have to look for the Nutcracker Mice!

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    1. In the new E.B. White picture book, it tells how he made a pet of a mouse & carried it around in his pocket! I can't imagine how except patience and treats must have helped. I don't think they're very cute & cuddly, Jana! But, Nutcracker Mice was a fun read!

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Having a conversation is a good thing!