Book Review: Pig and Pug by Laura Marchesani

Book Review: Pig and Pug by Laura Marchesani

Pig and PugPig and Pug by Laura Marchesani

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Publisher: Penguin Young Readers
2015

A lonely pig wants a friend. One day a new animal comes to the farm that isn’t a cow, a chicken, a sheep, or a pig. It does all the things a pig does but it is NOT a big. So they can’t be friends. Or can they?

Sweet little story that is repetitive without being boring! I love finding a good easy reader! Little ones just learning to read will enjoy this one!

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Texas Girls Collaborative Project

Texas Girls Collaborative Project

I am so excited to be able to say that I am one of the newest members of the Leadership Team of the Texas Girls Collaborative Project, the local arm of the National Girls Collaborative Project. Both organizations are committed to working with nonprofits, schools, companies, and other organizations (libraries!!) to motivate girls to pursue STEM careers.

To be clear, the Leadership Team is a volunteer, advisory board position. I will continue my work with Connecting Texas Libraries Statewide as their Youth Services Specialist. While TxGCP also has a board, from what I can tell so far the Leadership Team acts more like a “sounding board” guiding the organization with input from a wide variety of advocates. I hope to provide a unique voice as there are no other librarians on their team.

I am a huge advocate for libraries to be utilized as informal learning spaces for all children, no matter what subject or gender. But as a woman with a daughter, I am particularly interested in making sure that young girls are given opportunities to pursue whatever career their heart desires and are given exposure to and encouragement in those areas where women are underrepresented.

I certainly don’t feel worthy to be sitting on a team with such amazing women and men. But I hope that I can provide a unique perspective and encourage STEM advocates to look to libraries as ideal spaces for reaching underprivileged, underrepresented children. I cannot wait to get started with them.

 

#PictureBook Review: Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry

#PictureBook Review: Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry

Stick and StoneStick and Stone by Beth Ferry

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
2015

picture book

Stick. Stone. Start out apart and alone. Stick sticks up for Stone when Pinecone won’t leave him alone. A friendship has grown. But Stick gets windblown. Stone again is alone. Stone rescues Stick. Together again… to the end.

I LOVE THIS BOOK! So simple. So relatable for little ones. Being shy. Hurt feelings. Friendship… and the hurt that can sometimes come along with it. I particularly loved that Stick and Stone even patched things up with Pinecone on the final page who apologizes for “needling” Stone too much. 😀

This would make a great storytime book as there are lots of opportunities to use an expressive voice to add to the story.

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#PictureBook Review: Not Norman by Kelly Bennett

#PictureBook Review: Not Norman by Kelly Bennett

Not Norman: A Goldfish StoryNot Norman: A Goldfish Story by Kelly Bennett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Publisher: Candlewick

picture book

For his 8th birthday, a little boy gets a goldfish named Norman as a pet. Unfortunately, he wanted a more exciting pet. One who could play catch and curl up on his bed at night. Not Norman.

When the little boy decides to trade Norman in for a good pet, he cleans up Norman’s bowl and takes him to school for show-and-tell. If he talks him up, maybe one of his classmates will want him! Before the little boy gets around to taking Norman back to the pet store, he comes to appreciate Norman who listens to his stories and sings along at his music lesson. On Saturday, he finally makes it to the pet store and looks at all of the cats, dogs, snakes, and birds. They all look like good pets, but they are not Norman.

This is a great little story about learning to appreciate what we have been given. I particularly love Bennett’s word play on the phrase “not Norman”, though I am first to admit that I feel she did it one too many times. Personally, I could have done without the final page of the book. That said, it has a great message!

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#PictureBook Review: One Busy Day by Lola Schaefer

#PictureBook Review: One Busy Day by Lola Schaefer

One Busy Day: A Story for Big Brothers and SistersOne Busy Day: A Story for Big Brothers and Sisters by Lola M. Schaefer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Publisher: Disney Hyperion

picture book

Little sister Mia will do anything to play with her big brother Spencer… but he is always too busy. We see her go about her day painting, dancing, exploring, and baking. With each new activity she does, big brother seems to be getting more and more interested. He goes from watching from the sidelines to actively playing a part in her grand adventures. For the rest of the day they are busy together fighting off a fire-breathing dragon and sailing away in a pirate ship. The last page shows them curled up togther in a chair fast asleep after their very, very busy day.

The text, illustrations, and design do a marvelous job together in this sweet picture book. When listing the activities Mia does to fill her brotherless time, each sentence is broken up by a page turn. Schaefer’s text, “She explored…” is accompanied by Meserve’s illustration of Mia under a blanket draped over some chairs so it looks like a fort. After a page turn, Schaefer writes, “a deep, dark cave.” To accompany, Meserve has given us a glimpse into Mia’s beautiful imagination and transported us from the blanket fort into a deep, dark cave where she is wearing a helmet with a light shining on some cave drawings.

Here is an example:

2015-12-13 20.33.10

2015-12-13 20.33.23

In the same style of Antoinette Portis’ Not A Box, One Busy Day reminds us that every day items can be so much more to little imaginations, that little siblings can provide big adventures, and that no one is ever too big to join in.

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Book Review: What This Story Needs Is a Pig In a Wig by Emma J. Virjan

Book Review: What This Story Needs Is a Pig In a Wig by Emma J. Virjan

What This Story Needs Is a Pig in a WigWhat This Story Needs Is a Pig in a Wig by Emma J. Virjan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Publisher: Harper Collins

A pig in a wig in a boat on a moat attracts many other animals and things… until our pig decides that it is too crowded and she would prefer to be in her boat all alone. But after sending everyone away, she realizes that she made a mistake. Instead, they just need a bigger boat!

This is a sweet story about friendship told in easy-to-read rhyme. Many children will be able to relate to the issue of being overwhelmed by a crowd, too, which I really appreciate.

Interesting that my library shelved this as a picture book instead of an easy reader. I am very curious as to what went into that decision as I feel it has all of the aspects of an easy reader. Either way, this would make a great transition books for those just beginning to read.

I thought this was a very delightful read with simple, bright illustrations! Can’t wait to see more of Virjan’s work.

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Book Review: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Book Review: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Between the World and MeBetween the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

nonfiction

Between the World and Me is written as a letter to Coates’ son Samori, a teen at the time of publication. A heartbreaking revelation of the hardships his son will face for merely being black in America, Coates draws from history and tells of his own experiences growing up in Baltimore to tell how the American dream is built upon the bodily harm of black people.

There is no light at the end of the tunnel. There is not much hope conveyed… there isn’t much nod to progress made which has been criticism I have seen. However, written as imparting wisdom to your child, he would be blamed for whitewashing an evil reality.

With the barrage of stories of young black men being targeted and killed by the police, of being so disproportionately represented in prison, it is my hope that taking home the 2015 National Book Award will get Between the World And Me a wide audience. I listened to Coates himself read the audiobook and can highly recommend it.

I really don’t know what more to say about this title. For me, this book made me realize that though I try to empathize with everyone around me, there is simply no way that I will ever fully understand what it is to be black in America. But by reading this and other works that reveal how the sausage has been made in this country, I hope that I can become better at spotting the ingrained racial disparities that surround us every day.

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Book Review: The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

Book Review: The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

The Game of Love and DeathThe Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books

ya, fantasy, magical realism

Henry and Flora. Chosen at birth to be players in an ill-fated game by Love and Death. Worlds apart in Depression-era Seattle, Flora is an African American jazz singer and pilot. Orphaned as a young girl, she yearns to be among the clouds but is tethered to earth by the need to care for her grandmother. Henry is also an orphan but in a much more stable situation as a white boy with a wealthy adopted family, a job, and a college scholarship. As characters, Love and Death tug on strings to find out who will win the game? With our players live and have love or lose and both perish?

I read this as part of a YA for Adults bookclub at my local library, though that category is questionable. I wonder if this might actually be more appropriate as “New Adult”, a genre that I haven’t gotten into yet.

I thought the writing was beautiful most of the time, but I slogged through this. A lot of that probably has to do with the fact that December is such a busy time I didn’t have any good pockets of time for reading a lot. I kept coming back to it, but it was slow going. Everyone in our book club reported the same thing, too.

I had a hard time caring about Love and Death. If I am going to be reading about star-crossed lovers, just let me read about star-crossed lovers. I don’t need some meaningless “game” and puppet-masters. And yet, Love and Death are actually who this book is about, right? Flora and Henry remain fairly static as far as characters go… and we know star-crossed bit is familiar. Death certainly gets the most movement as a character.

All that said, young readers will get a lot out of this book. There is much to chew on between the racial, class, social justice, and historical aspects. And it certainly is a new take on the star-crossed lover tale. I would have loved this book as a tween after getting my fill on the film Romeo + Juliet.

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An American Refrain

An American Refrain

Libba Bray

Like many people, I’ve been grappling with making sense of our current political landscape. What to say about the hate speech being spewed by the leading GOP candidate, the anti-immigrant/anti-refugee/anti-Muslim fervor he seems intent on whipping into an ugly frenzy—and the lack of strong rebuke from his fellow candidates? What to say about candidates for the office of President seriously entertaining the idea of barring people from entering our country because of their religion? Of turning their backs on refugees—many of them children—fleeing persecution?

It is deeply troubling that this is where we are. But it is also, sadly, where we have been so often. This is an old American refrain.

For the past several years, I’ve been deep in the research for the DIVINERS series. Often, I talk about the parallels between America of the 1920s and America today, things I have uncovered while digging into our past. Here’s…

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Book Review: Pilgrim Stories by Margaret Pumphrey

Book Review: Pilgrim Stories by Margaret Pumphrey

Pilgrim StoriesPilgrim Stories by Margaret Pumphrey

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Publisher: Scholastic

middle grade, Thanksgiving

This title takes readers from the religious oppression the Separatists faced in England under King James to Holland to that incredibly difficult first winter in Plymoth to the treaty reached with Massasoit to the three-day long feast after the Pilgrims’ first harvest, the event that is often referred to as the “first Thanksgiving”.

As a parent, I struggle with how to talk to my children about those beginning days of our country’s history. So often we “whitewash” these stories for children leaving false ideas about the roles the English played. I really appreciate Howard Zinn’s People’s History to give a more balanced view of our country’s history. The pilgrim story is one of our less horrific moments as both people’s desperately needed to find a friend in each other for their own survival. Perhaps that is why we focus on this story over others.

Pumphrey’s Pilgrim Stories does a good job of giving an accessible overview of the Pilgrim story from oppression, their dark hardships and fight for survival, and the support they received from the Native Americans of the region. Unfortunately, readers are not given any insight into the point of view of the native population. We do get that the Pilgrims had heard stories of the Indians being savage (without any information as to why they would need to fight against an invasion of their land) and cruel, but that they are surprised to find that they can work with them. At times the narrative complained too much about “having too many Indian mouths to feed” and could have spent more time on the fact that they would have all died if they had not been taught how to farm, fish, and hunt by the Wampanoag.

This seemed a decent and accessible historical retelling of how this group of pilgrims came to America, learned how to live in a new world, and how their coming changed the land and people already living here. It can certainly be a jumping off point for discussion on the disease Europeans brought with them which killed the Patuxet and how the “friendly” relationship between the pilgrim and native people’s was not typical of the time.

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