Friday, November 27, 2009

Funny Business: Conversations with Writers of Comedy edited by Leonard S. Marcus

 funny business This book is a great opportunity to learn more about your favorite writers: Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, Sharon Creech, Daniel Handler…Included along with each interview is a manuscript page with mark-ups, a bibliography of the author’s works, and, of course, pictures.  I found some of the interviews more interesting than others, and they weren’t necessarily the authors I was the most curious about.  I learned some really interesting things, like the fact that Christopher Paul Curtis (The Watsons Go to Birmingham,  Bucking the Sarge) worked on the assembly line at General Motors for 13 years before he ever started writing.  Daniel Handler talked quite a bit about the Holocaust –his father left Germany to avoid the Holocaust, and many other family members didn’t make it out.  A number of the authors had no support or encouragement for their talents growing up, and some others remember an important teacher or other adult during their childhood who nurtured their talent.  One of my favorite stories is from Judy Blume, about how her character Fudge is based on her son Larry. “Fudge is thirty-five now.  Larry is forty-four.  So it’s a long time ago that he was Fudge-like.  But we met a little boy the other evening whose father reads him Fudge every night.  We were at this boy’s grandma’s house having dinner.  His father said to him, ‘Do you know who this is?  This is Judy Blume, who writes the Fudge books.’  The little boy’s mouth just dropped, and then he came over to me and kind of petted my arm.  Then I said, ‘And guess who this is?’ pointing across the table to Larry.  Larry said, ‘I was Fudge.’  The little boy just couldn’t believe it.  He said, ‘Oh!’  and now he calls Larry ‘Fudge.’  Review by Stacy Church

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Unfinished Angel by Sharon Creech

unfinished Do you believe in angels?  With this story you can travel to Switzerland to a remote village nestled high in the Alps, and meet one!  The angel lives in the ancient stone tower of Casa Rosa.  When Zola arrives from America, she is amazed to discover the angel in her new home.  Promptly she asks the angel all kinds of questions, like: Who are you? Are you a boy or a girl angel? Are you all-knowing and powerful?  Zola is not impressed when she hears that the angel has been living in the tower for hundreds of years and likes everything in the village just the way it is.  Zola quickly gets to know the villagers.  Then she surprises a group of orphans hiding in an old barn.  Now Zola is on a mission!  She sets out to help the children, and she pesters the angel to come out of the tower and get involved.  This is a delightful story of a very energetic young girl who has an encounter with an angel.  Review by Trudy Walsh

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Dog Days of Charlotte Hayes by Mariane Kennedy

dog days Charlotte is not a dog person. Dogs drool.  Dogs shed. Dogs have to be fed, watered and walked.  Charlotte knows all about dogs.  Her family owns a Saint Bernard puppy, and nobody seems to pay any attention to him anymore.  He is forever chained in the backyard, and is not allowed in the house, no matter what the weather is.  Then Charlotte’s father decides to sell the dog for $350, and he doesn’t care who gets the dog as long as he gets his money.  All of a sudden, Charlotte realizes that she is worried about what will happen to the big, sad-eyed Saint Bernard puppy.  Charlotte would like the puppy to go to a loving family who will take good care of him.  That’s when she has a brilliant idea: she tells her father that she knows of someone who is willing to pay $400.  The father accepts the offer, but when he finds out it is Charlotte who wants to buy the puppy, he is furious!  She asks for a grace period of three months to raise the money.  This is a wonderful story about the growing relationship between a 12-year-old girl and her gentle giant Saint Bernard puppy.  Review by Trudy Walsh

Extra Credit by Andrew Clements

When Sadeed Bayat is invited to meet his teacher at the house of the extra headmaster of his village in Afghanistan, he is sure it is for a special honor.  He is the best student in his class, and he hopes they will offer him a scholarship to a fine school in Kabul, the capital.  As Sadeed moves closer to the door to hear what his teacher and the councilors are discussing, he looks through a crack in the door and sees his teacher holding up a bright green envelope with stamps of the flag of the US and some pink butterfly stickers on it.  His teacher has picked him to be the pen pal for a girl in America.  The council men are appalled!  It is not right in their culture for a boy to correspond with a girl.  The men finally come to an agreement: Sadeed’s younger sister, Amira, will write to Abby in America, with Sadeed helping her with her English.  Then we meet Abby, an American sixth grader who has been careless with her homework this year.  To keep from having to repeat sixth grade, Abby has agreed to do her homework, pass all of her tests, and do a special project for extra credit.  For the project she has to find a pen pal in a different part of the world, send letters to the pen pal and create a bulletin board about the pen pal’s culture.  Through their correspondence, Abby and Sadeed learn about their different life styles and traditions.  The pen-pal friendship also causes problems for both of them: Abby gets into trouble for displaying the Afghan flag on her bulletin board, and Sadeed is almost killed by a Taliban for carrying a letter with the American flag stamp on it.  This is a fast-paced, often humorous story about two sixth graders living worlds apart.  Review by Trudy Walsh

Wonderland by Tommy Kovac and Sonny Liew

wonderland Ever wonder what happened in Wonderland after Alice left? It was not a peaceful place. Find out why as Mary Ann, the White Rabbit’s housekeeper, continues the tale. She’s a humble servant girl with an obsession for cleanliness –normally sweet-natured, but when the Queen of Hearts accidentally stains Mary Ann’s apron with a tart, she goes a bit insane and whacks the Queen. Then she and the White Rabbit have to run for it. They run into all of the well-known characters: the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, Jabberwock, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and get into trouble with most of them. The artwork in this graphic novel is beautiful and the story is whacky and exciting. Review by Stacy Church