Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Book of Everything by Guus Kuijer

This is a very strange and disturbing book. I liked it, but I can't really say I enjoyed reading it. It is set in the Netherlands in 1951, when the country is trying to recover from the Nazi occupation during World War II. Thomas lives in a household that is dominated by his father's physical abuse of his mother and bullying of Thomas and his sister. Thomas records his thoughts in "The Book of Everything." During his father's tirades, Thomas recites to himself the bad things he wishes would happen to his father as punishment. There is magic in the book, and only Thomas can see it. He is befriended by a neighbor who is thought to be a witch by the neighborhood children, and she tells Thomas that it's true. She certainly works magic with Thomas, introducing him to the uplifting power of music and books, and helping him to stop being afraid. I have to also mention that Thomas sees Jesus and speaks with him, holding very strange conversations. Religion plays a large part in the book, as it is the reason Thomas's father gives for beating his wife and children. The plagues of Egypt occur but only Thomas can see them. The book has a happy ending (to an extent), although Thomas's father isn't able to change. Review by Stacy Church

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

It's Hot and Cold in Miami by Nicole Rubel

This is the first novel by Nicole Rubel, who, in addition to writing picture books, illustrated the Rotten Ralph books. The main character Rachel is the less appealing of a set of twins growing up in Florida in 1964, and while some of the stories are amusing, I found the book to be kind of unsettling. Rachel's twin sister Rebecca and their parents seem to blame Rachel for everything that goes wrong (and plenty of things do!). Throughout the book you get the feeling that Rachel will redeem herself and everyone will see how great she is, but that doesn't ever really happen. There are some funny stories about their wacky relatives, but mostly there are a lot of stories of Rachel being treated badly. At the end, she has developed her artistic talents and gets some recognition for them, but the pat ending doesn't really ring true. If you're looking for a light read and your expectations are not too high, this book is an ok choice. Review by Stacy Church

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Puns, Allusions, and Other Word Secrets by Jennifer Fandel

This book is part of a great new series called Understanding Poetry, and it's the best book I've seen for older kids about poetic devices. The poems that are used as examples are by some of my favorite poets: Pablo Neruda, e. e. cummings, Dylan Thomas, and William Carlos Williams, to name a few. Each book in the series tackles a different set of devices, and with the wonderful examples given it's really easy to see what they're all about. We've ordered the other books in the series and should have them available soon! Review by Stacy Church

Gossamer by Lois Lowry

In Gossamer, three different planes of reality intersect and affect each other. We meet Littlest One, who is growing up in a nighttime world of beings where she takes her task as a "bestower of dreams" very seriously. We observe an older woman going about her daily life with her dog on a remote farm. Then we meet a very angry, troubled eight-year-old boy, who is invited to spend the summer at the farm. Sometimes, we are on the outside, looking down on the lives of three very different characters. Other times, we sink right into the beings and feel their hope, their pain, their frustration, and their growing. Lois Lowry's beautifully chosen words paint a luminous landscape of outer and inner worlds for us. Review by Trudy Walsh

Moccasin Thunder: American Indian Stories for Today, edited by Lori Marie Carlson

Where are the American Indians now? How do they live? We all have seen pictures of Indian chiefs in full regalia with feathered headdresses. We may even have been to local powwows and watched some ceremonial dances. But, what do we know about the modern lives of the American Indians of so many different and diverse tribes? In Moccasin Thunder, through a collection of short stories we are introduced to some modern American Indians who are struggling with their identity and are trying to find their way in our multicultural society. Review by Trudy Walsh.