Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ms. Annie #1 Freedom by Frank Le Gall

This graphic novel was written for a young audience but is entertaining enough for any age. Miss Annie is a darling kitten of four months and this issue is a day in her life. She is finally old enough to go outside but she finds that outside isn’t necessarily as free as she thinks.
This book was delightful. Miss Annie is so cute and you can’t help but fall in love with her. She is na├»ve which offers a lot of charm, especially when she befriends the new mouse that has moved in. This is a must have for cat lovers of all ages.
The drawings are light and colorful. Miss Annie is drawn as a sweet black and white kitten. I rather liked the more realistic drawings here, though they maintain their cartoon image. All in all, this is a great graphic novel.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Nighttime Cabin Thief by Lynda Beauregard

I was able to get a copy of the second book of the Summer Camp Science Mysteries just before printing. A total of four books should be out this coming month for readers and classrooms to enjoy.
The second book was just as good as the first. This time the lesson is on light. The experiments include making a periscope out of mirrors and milk cartons.
The plot was enjoyable – shiny objects are missing from the cabins, one boy is singled out by the other students. It’s got more lessons than just light, this would be a good book to look at jumping to conclusions and accusing without evidence.
I really hope classrooms all over the place are picking up this series and I still hold to my opinion that it would make a good PBS series.

Monday, February 27, 2012

In Search of the Fog Zombie by Lynda Beauregard

In Search of the Fog Zombie is the first book in the Science Camp Mysteries from Graphic Universe. The topic covered in this issue is matter.
The book starts with a brief definition of what is matter then jumps in with the Rayez siblings heading to camp. The story does get stilted now and again with a bubble of information but makes the book a wonderful teaching tool.
The Rayez siblings meet up with other children at the camp and soon they are on a scavenger hunt, following clues to uncover exactly what makes the sounds at night. Rumor around the camp is that a fog zombie wanders the grounds looking for stray campers.
The story is not frightening but will appeal to the darker side of story interests. This is a great way to introduce science topics to grade school aged children. The story was entertaining. The graphics drawn in a very cartoon style with rich colors. The story is a little science heavy but interesting. There are a few lessons in the story line but two additional experiments are included at the end.
This book reminds me of a PBS show which is not a bad thing. I liked the characters and the story. I can’t wait to try some of the experiments with my son. I hope I get the opportunity to read more of the series.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Archie’s Americana Volume 3

Darn it, I got a short sample again. I do prefer full graphic novels to samples but in this case it didn’t ruin my enjoyment of the book.
Archie is one of those comics that has delighted readers, young and old, for decades. This particular volume is from the 1960’s. I think some of the jokes are lost but not enough that you don’t find them funny.
For me, it was an interesting peek into a time when my parents were young. I could picture them the age of the Archie gang and going through similar trials.
I think this is a great series to read for all kids. The humor is clean but there’s an understanding of what it means to be a teenager and growing up. The parents don’t understand. The kids make mistakes. They are all trying to find their place in this world. That’s the magic of Archie.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Seeing Red by Tanya Lloyd Kyi

I really enjoyed this book. As nonfiction juvenile literature goes, this has got to be in my top ten. Seeing Red is an explanation of blood. Not the typical scientific approach but a cultural one. Dotted with a graphic novel type story, Seeing Red explains how blood has shaped various cultures and continues to presently.
The book is written for a juvenile audience but the information is entertaining for all ages. There are five main topics pertaining to blood – blood rituals, rites of passage, blood in food, blood and genetics, and blood forensics.
The topics touch on cultural beliefs all around the world as well as historically. Tanya Lloyd Kyi even delves into the religious aspects of blood. All in all, the book was fascinating.
I will caution those who are devout Christians. There may be parts in the book that can be perceived as offensive. I appreciated the author’s anthropological approach to all the religions and cultures but I do know that some people will find it cold. I liked it because it opened up the topic and kept all religions and cultures on an equal level.
I would recommend this for any juvenile library and could even see this as a favorite at home.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The World in Your Lunch Box by Claire Eamer

The first thing I noticed with this book is the illustrations. They remind me of Roald Dahl books. The illustrators are different but the feeling of childish glee was the same.
The next thing I noticed was the subject (okay maybe it was the other way around but who knows). How could I resist a book about food? Food is great but learning about food is even better. This book comes across as a school assignment. The unidentified main character has to catalog everything that is eaten for lunch and research some of the ingredients.
The research covers science and history. The facts are amusing and interesting. I couldn’t put the book down. The illustrations were funny and so full of character that I often forgot that I was reading a non-fiction book.
This one makes me want to pull out the Roald Dahl cookbooks and have a go at some fun foods. It, also, makes me want to investigate my own lunches. Who wouldn’t want tortillas with peanut butter and bananas – I think I’m now hungry.
This is a great addition to any library from a homeschool to grade school. I’m thinking it might be a fun one for my freshman boy who loves cooking as much as his mama.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Daniel X Alien Hunter by James Patterson

I’ve been wanting to read the Daniel X books for some time now but haven’t been able to fit the novels into my current reading schedule. Enter Daniel X the graphic novel and it’s perfect. I get to sample the books in a quick way to determine if I really want to read them.
Sadly, the answer is yes, I really want to read them. Daniel X was fast paced and so full of those various parts that makes a story great. Now I need to find time for the novels.
Daniel is a young man on his own. His parents died when he was young, leaving him to learn and follow his destiny alone. Well, sort of alone. Daniel can create things from his imagination – that’s because Daniel is the son of a legendary Alien Hunter sent to Earth to capture alien fugitives. Daniel has recreated his family and given himself friends but they are only around for periods of time.
The story weaves current day with Daniel’s past but still manages to leave just enough questions to make the reader want more. This is a sad tale and a hopeful one. Daniel is after Number 7 but he lacks information about that particular alien except that he likes to import other weaker aliens to Earth so that they can be hunted. Number 7’s only weakness comes in the form of his teenage son, Kildare.
Kildare and Daniel become friends. The story shifts from the hunt to learning independence. Kildare and Daniel have so much in common. Number 7 has no love for his son but that won’t save any of them when the battle lines are drawn.
Pick this one up. I love James Patterson to begin with. Daniel X promises to remain a great tale.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pinocchio Vampire Slayer and the Great Puppet Theater by Dusty Higgins and Van Jensen

These are great books. As graphic novels often are, they are far too short but I still love them. There’s a ton of action and the length is quite nice. They are a little violent but it’s quick and hidden in the black and white frames.
I love the creative allowance the authors have taken. The concept of Pinocchio as a vampire slayer is perfect, his growing nose makes for a ready stake. However, things change when Pinocchio is made into a real boy. Now he’s having to learn how to fight all over again and can’t rely on having his nose at the ready. This, also, opens up the opportunity for romance.
Teens and adults will love this retelling of the fairy tale. I understand that vampire slaying tales are popping up all over the place as well as re-imagined tales that bring so many more stories into the horror genre. I think this is the best I have read. I would love to see these as movies but they’d have to be done as cartoons which would alter the feeling.
Oh well, guess I will have to settle for waiting for book number three.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Dresden Files Fool Moon Volume One by Jim Butcher

If you followed any of the Dresden Files formats from the books to the tv show, then the graphic novels are a perfect addition. I love these books. The only complaint I have is they are not long enough. This particular volume is equal to four issues.
Fool Moon starts with a series of deaths that occur during the full moon. Dresden suspects a werewolf but he doesn’t know that much about them. The killer might be a werewolf but Dresden’s going to discover that there are many types and he has no idea how many are in Chicago.
I love the humor and the realism Jim Butcher tosses into his fantasy/mystery stories. I so wish the tv show had lasted because I just love the character. Time to dig into more of the books but do I really have time for another series.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Many Adventures of Pengey Penguin by John Burns

I really wanted to love this book. How could you not want to love a book about a little penguin on an adventure to find his missing parents? There were so many issues with this book that it detracted from the story.
The book started very realistic. Pengey the Penguin is born under his father’s care. His mother never returns from her trek to the sea. Unable to care for Pengey and himself, his father leaves to find food. It’s sad and made me think of March of the Penguins. A somewhat realistic story would have worked or should have.
It wasn’t long before Pengey is in contact with humans. Suddenly, he’s communicating with them and eventually talking. I just couldn’t make the shift with the story.
The biggest problem with this book is the language. I really dislike juvenile fiction that cannot pick an age group. You have to write for your audience. The language in this book is simple about 80% of the time and then come these off the wall descriptions and language that is no longer simple.
The writing is not good and that makes me rather sad. I know that someone poured their heart out into this story and apparently it’s well loved. However, the author makes every writing no-no in this book. “He banged his head very badly…” “His last thoughts as he fell asleep were that humans were pretty cool…”
The last thing that annoyed me was some of the details. How does the penguin know what time it was? How did he know the name of the sea? He hadn’t been with his father for very long, how did he know so much information. There were moments I was sure Pengey must be psychic because the information was far too exact for what he should have known.
I love children’s books but there’s more to a book than a great story. Wonderful, lyrical words make up the stories we remember. A child might enjoy this story but it won’t become the one they quote.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Bart Simpson’s Guide to Life by Matt Groening

I have such fond memories of the Simpson’s, especially Bart. There’s something entertaining in his absolute determination to be anti-everything. He’s rude, disobedient, obnoxious and yet we love him.
I can’t really describe this book. It’s a conglomeration of Bart’s wisdom from sex to religion to cheating in school. Some of the information is based in fact but I wouldn’t use it for a report. Despite it feeling childish, this book is not for children. The language is a little rough and there are some ideas your children just don’t need to have come from someone else (let alone think of on their own).
I thoroughly enjoyed this trip down memory lane. I felt like I was back in high school pouring over Life is Hell in the back of class with my friends. This is one you could probably read over and over because there are so many little parts to each page. I’m glad I picked this up. I needed a little sunshine to carry me on to spring.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Sidewalk Canvas by Julie Kirk

Sidewalk art began in 16th century Italy. Artists at that time used the surface to illustrate religious icons and expressions. Over time the artists became known as Madonnari after their images of Christ and the Madonna. These themes have remained though the artists have changed. Today street painting is often filled with copies of Renaissance art. This particular art is more about the creation of the piece than the piece its self. The masterpieces are not meant to remain. Street painting or sidewalk art is becoming a growing phenomenon. Julie Kirk invites the reader into this transient world and has captured some amazing images while instructing the reader on how to create their own.
I can’t help but think of my own experiences with sidewalk art. The first image that popped into my mind was from Mary Poppins. The street art was magical but untouchable for me. I got to experience sidewalk chalk and dream about those artists who make art. I never thought that I could be such an artist. However, Julie Kirk just might convince me.
The book walks through all the information needed to create sidewalk art including a recipe to make your own pastels. It’s quite informative and doesn’t lose the reader like some art books can.
Even if you are not interested in creating sidewalk art, the pictures provided are worth your time to read this book.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Mystery at Blackbeard’s Cove by Audrey Penn

As juvenile fiction goes, this book would be on the top of my list for recommendations. It’s a great story that would entertain boys, girls, young and old. The tale centers around four children – Stephanie, Mark, Daniel, and Billy. They are not exactly the best of friends, more like family. Their favorite pastime is visiting with Mrs. McNemmish. Theodora McNemmish is descended from Blackbeard the pirate and loves to fill her visits with stories of plunder and treasure. Theodora is quite elderly and, one day, asks the children to bury her at sea and in return she will give them treasure.
When Mrs. McNemmish does pass away, the children set out to fulfill their promise. Theodora is buried at sea so she might join Blackbeard on his ghost ship. However, finding the treasure was harder than it looked. Not only did they have to search but against a cunning, evil man who wants the treasure for himself. Theodora hasn’t left the children without help. She and Blackbeard assist from the beyond. The result is a thrilling humorous tale.
Audrey Penn has written a fun story steeped in history. Readers won’t feel lectured, nor do the lessons interfere with the tale. I do think there were bits of the story that dragged on slightly and places where the information given was far too much but that had less to do with the history and more to do with trying to tie up too many loose ends. I did enjoy this story and I will warn for juvenile – it’s 350 plus pages.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Tumbleweed DIY Book of Backyard Sheds and Tiny Houses by Jay Shafer

This book is really a 140+ advertisement for Tumbleweed Houses but what a great book it is. Jay Shafer began a movement to create and have people live in little houses. His designs are stylish and cute, like a kitten. He breaks down his own plans so that the reader can build one for themselves but still encourages them to look into his website.
I’m not sure what I would do. He sells kits to make the houses and yet I like the challenge of designing my own. I am in love with these houses. They feel like grown-up playhouses.
True to his word, in part 4 Jay offers instructions on building your own tiny house. He starts with prepping the land and foundation. With a small house, you have more variety for foundations.
Jay, then, moves onto a variety of structures you can put on that foundation from gazebos to houses. The detail he has put into this book amazes me. It really is a book for building your own home and outbuildings. I dream of the time when I can lay down some roots on land that I own. Jay will be the first person I call (okay – not really but I will be using his book and perhaps a kit or two).
*Note – those who purchase the book can download a free plan for his Zinn house.