Friday, March 30, 2012

The Girl Who Owned a City by O.T. Nelson

The original The Girl Who Owned a City was written in 1975. This year it has been adapted into graphic novel form. This is an amazing and powerful story of survival.
Lisa and her brother Todd live in a suburb of Chicago. All the adults have died due to a bizarre virus. Children are now forced to fend for themselves. They are weak and hungry. Lisa is different. She spends her time coming up with plans to find food and supplies. It doesn’t take long before the rest of the children start to notice.
There are gangs in her area and one robs her brother when Lisa is out scavenging. She decides it’s time to bring together her neighbors so they can protect each other. Eventually, the group moves to the high school and together they build a “city”. This is Lisa’s city and she has to defend it. Things get bad and she has to step up as the leader she was meant to be.
O.T. Nelson’s story is a testament to the power children can have. It’s a tale of survival against the most awful odds. I recommend this for children of any age (except those who are sensitive to blood and violence). The violence is minimal but one character does get shot.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Big Birthday by Kate Hosford

Annabelle wants her birthday on the moon. However, she soon discovers that big birthdays come with big challenges.
This is a ridiculously fun book to read. The pictures only add to the fun – they are bright and inviting. I had a blast reading this book. I could not believe she actually got her birthday party on the moon when the book started. It’s fun and delightful.
A great book to get kids talking about planning ahead when they ask for something like a party on the moon. What are the challenges? What are the perks?
I can’t wait to share this book with my birthday boy (he’s just turned 15).

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Hunter/Farmer Diet Solution by Mark Liponis

Mark Liponis works as a doctor at the Canyon Ranch (an upscale diet center). Over the years, he believes he has found the secret to weight loss and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. I can’t say I agree or disagree but I enjoyed his book. His theory is based on a sort of common sense.
The idea is that anthropologically speaking we have evolved to need a particular diet. In Mark Liponis’ book, he identifies two types of diets – The Hunter and The Farmer. Placement in one diet or the other is based on medical information – mainly insulin and cholesterol. The Hunter is insulin resistant and often suffers from high blood pressure and cholesterol while The Farmer is insulin sensitive and often suffers from hypoglycemia.
The Hunter diet is a low sugar, low processed carbohydrate diet that focuses on healthy proteins and vegetables. His theory is that Hunters are addicted to sugar. I do like that he encourages doctor support and says that a Hunter has found the correct diet when their blood glucose is under 100 and triglycerides are under 150. Basically this is a low glycemic diet designed for those with diabetes or susceptible to diabetes. The idea is that a Hunter eats a diet similar to what a hunter/gatherer would eat.
The Farmer diet is a low fat, high fiber, high grain diet that focuses on maintaining a steady glucose level throughout the day. He claims that Farmers are distracted by eating and often eat more than they need because their body is attempting to prevent drops in glucose levels. With this diet, one eats what they would grow so there’s a higher amount of grains, vegetables and fruit with less focus on meats.
All in all, there’s great information in this book. I liked that it’s not a fad diet. There’s no calorie counting but suggestions on eating better with the focus on losing weight. It may or may not work for everyone but the information is still good.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Secret Keeps by Marsha Wilson Chall

A boy visits his grandparent’s farm. There is a secret waiting for him to discover it.
This was a cute story about a boy’s visit to a farm. The pictures were soft watercolors that only added to the charm and mystery of the boy’s search for the secret that was worth keeping. For those who might be a little worried – the secret that is worth keeping is a small play on words.
It’s a sweet story and one I could see being loved by boys and girls. This is a perfect shared reader for preschool aged children that will continue to delight well into grade school.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Star Trek Volume 1 by Mike Johnson

It’s nice to see comics coming back into fashion. There are so many new titles this year and Star Trek is one that promises to keep on coming. (Okay the titles may not be exactly new since so many of the lines seem to be based on popular shows/movies/games but you know what I mean.)
Based on the latest Star Trek movie, Mike Johnson continues the story with the characters as we know them from JJ Abrams imagining of the popular series.
I have to say that I’m not sure I like James T Kirk in this one. There’s nothing wrong with him except that he’s an arrogant idiot who really needs to pay more attention but then again he may have always been that way.
Any reader is going to guess what is going to happen when the Enterprise comes across a distress beacon out in space. The reports on the beacon claim there’s something out there and what does Kirk do but ask the crew to pick up the beacon and move forward at full speed. (You know right now what’s going to happen, don’t you?) I hate stupid people.
Aside from that, this is a good start to a new series. Not sure I’ll be in a hurry to pick up the next one but I did enjoy it and will most likely enjoy future issues.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Ghostbusters Volume 1 by Tristan Jones

I love the Ghostbusters. I grew up with them and I’m even excited for a third movie that may or may not come out. I can’t help it – I love the movies so much that when the opportunity came to preview the first issue of the comic book I was so there.
I really hate issues over novels because I never get enough of the story. I really dislike that when it comes to graphic novels as well – I want more time with the characters. This was no exception. The story is so good and the characters are just as I remember them (and then they just go away).
I cannot wait for more. I’ll be on the lookout for future issues.
The illustrations are more cartoony for the first part (the part with the Ghostbusters). The second part which is the government reinstating Walter is more realistic and so creepy in result. So far, I haven’t seen anything that would make this unsuitable for children but you never know so proceed with caution.
I can’t really share plot because there’s so little of it but I promise that it’s fun and full of surprises. Now I’m off to watch the movie – need more Ghostbusters!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Izzy the Whiz and Passover McClean by Yael Mermelstein

What a fun Passover book! For those familiar with the Jewish holiday, this is a delightful fun book about a boy who is cleaning up hametz (forbidden foods for Passover) in time for Seder. For those not familiar, this is a chance to learn a little about life in a Jewish household. It’s an introduction with a little information so it’s not a book that will explain Passover but it will peak curiosity.
Izzy is the family inventor and he promises his mom he will have everything clean before she gets up from her nap. The story is sweet and the tad of suspense leaves the reader feeling as if they have been privileged to see the McClean in action without feeling tense.
The story is written in rhyme. It does stall a bit here and there but the majority is smooth. The illustrations are bright and engaging. For the most part, I would see this story engaging all ages but more so for the young grade school reader. There is some words that would be tough for the youngest reader but with help they could easily read the book.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Avalon Chronicles Volume 1: Once in a Blue Moon by Nunzio DeFilippis

Wow – this story just sucked me in and left me wanting. I can’t stand having to wait for the next installment. The worst part is that I am posting this review just as the book is hitting shelves but I read it back in December. It’s going to be a long wait for Volume 2.
Aeslin heard the stories of Avalon as a child. She loved the fantasy until one day her father dies. Fantasy and Avalon are over for her. Years later, she buys a sequal to the book to find it’s a portal between her world and Avalon. Aeslin has a great destiny ahead of her as the Dragon Knight.
There are some twists and turns in this story – some I was expecting, some I was not. I just wish there was more to each novel. Because I have an ARC – I can’t be certain what the book will look like. At the moment it’s a well drawn black and white but I get the impression it will be printed in full color. The drawings are clean so color will only add to the detail. If it stays black and white – it’s still a well put together graphic novel. There are a few characters I had problems determining but part of that has to do with the volume of characters introduced. This is going to be a really fun ride and I can’t wait.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Cradle Me by Debby Slier

A sweet board book featuring babies in cradle boards. This is a neat peek into a Native American tradition. Each baby displays an emotion which is labeled at the bottom of each page with one word. Under each word is a line for the parent (or other adult presenting the book to the baby) to write the word in their own language.
I think this was an amazing book even though it’s only 7 pages long. Not only do you get the joy of darling babies but the cradle boards are so beautiful. It’s a glimpse into a culture for anyone who is interested. For those who speak a Native language (or any other than English) it’s a chance to preserve some of those words.
I’m thinking this might be a book worth giving to my niece who turns 1 this summer. Her mom is from Brazil so she could write the words in Portuguese for them to share the book.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Michael Recycle and the Tree Top Cops by Alexandra Colombo

What a cute book. Michael Recycle is a green superhero and he needs a vacation. He decides to visit the redwood forest only to find it’s being cut down to make fashion magazines.
The book is reminiscent of Dr. Suess. There’s rhyming and teaching. This is the newest of the series but I’m not familiar with it at all. Which is sad because this was a great book.
The illustrations are bright and inviting in a cartoony way. I loved the expressions of the “villians” when they discovered Michael’s plan to stop them. The Tree Top Cops looked like a lot of fun and there are days I wish I could (literally) crawl into a picture book. I think this would be right on the top of my list for book vacations.
I love the message in this book and look forward to future reads. It’s a fun read for adults and children, though geared towards children.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Up Cat by Hazel Hutchins

A companion board book to Up Dog, this book explores more ways we use the word up. The cat in this book is less mischievous that the dog (or maybe it’s just better at not getting in trouble). The book is still a delight to read. I really like Hazel Hutchins’ board books and look forward to seeing more.
I highly recommend these books, they are a delight and a joy to read.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Latin Americans Thought of It by Eva Salinas

I found the title of this book a little misleading. I expected a book about things that we use now that originally came from Latin America. There is some of that but the book is about the author’s exploration of the various cultures of Latin America.
The book is a juvenile non-fiction so the segments are short and simple. The information was interesting. Some of the elements are steeped in a long history and some were imported from other countries. I was fascinated by their agricultural and architectural achievements. I just couldn’t believe some of the things an ancient society was able to create.
On a side note – I just am stunned by the pyramids. They are not the same as the ones in Egypt but you cannot tell me that they don’t share a common ancestor somewhere.
I do recommend this book. It’s a great addition to a library from homeschooling or for classroom. The title comes from a series and I look forward to tracking down more from that series especially since they have a Native American issue.
The pictures in the book are amazing. They are beautiful and captivate a culture in a way that every reader will be engaged.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Fleas, Flies and Friars by Nicolas Orme

This is a collection of works from the middle ages. Nicolas Orme created a book that offers a peek into the lives of children during this time. Poems, rhymes, and verses by children, for children or about children.
It’s not what I expected. While Nicolas Orme’s goal was to make these works accessible to the common reader as opposed to a scholar, I had thought I was picking up a book for children. The book is not for young children. Some of the language is rough and there’s a good deal of explanation about the works.
That’s not to say that this wasn’t an interesting read. I enjoyed it quite well. It’s an interesting glimpse into the past. I enjoyed the history and the language of this book.
I found it interesting to discover that papermaking began during this time period and that school books were often written in verse to make memorizing easier. The class would have limited books so the children would have to memorize parts of the books so they could be passed around. Two thoughts come to mind – 1. We think we have limited text books. and 2. Why don’t they do that now, imagine how much more the kids would remember.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Birthday Suit by Olive Senior

Johnny likes running around in his birthday suit. Johnny reminds me of another little boy who refused to stay clothed (I can’t mention names but he’s turning 15 this month).
I can’t say this is the best children’s book ever written. The language bogs down here and there. In some cases, it just doesn’t flow right but that did not prevent me from enjoying little Johnny one hundred percent.
Olive Senior grew up in Jamaica which is apparent in her book. The story could be told from anywhere but the tropical flavors of the Caribbean imbue this book.
The illustrations are delightful and colorful. I enjoyed how the artist used the environment to protect Johnny’s modesty.
I do recommend this book. Mothers of nudist little boys will get an absolute kick out the story.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Meltdown! By Fred Bortz

Meltdown! is the story of the nuclear meltdown in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami in June 2011. The subject matter begins with the earthquake and tsunami, including the Japanese warning systems. It then moves on to explain the history and science behind nuclear reactions before returning to what caused the reactors to meltdown. Fred Bortz includes what happened at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.
While the subject matter is quite interesting, Fred Bortz’s book is not the most captivating. There is a lot of information, some that seems to be more advanced than the target age group. The excessive information coupled with the word count – it’s a lot of words in a very short book – left me less excited than I started.
The information is good information but I can’t imagine a child sitting through a reading of the book. Breaking it up and reading a chapter at a time would be best (if using this book for lessons).
I did find Fred Bortz’s language to be a little odd. Some of the wording comes across strangely. To explain is difficult but I got the impression that he was “dumbing” down the language which caused it to seem less than target age appropriate.
I did like the subject matter, I’m not sure I liked the delivery of the material. This is a great indepth look into nuclear energy and what happened in Japan last summer. I do believe the book was written a little too early since there is still information coming. Towards the end of the book there were a number of places where Fred Bortz said that we still don’t know what the end result are. While that makes the book current now, it will become dated as new information comes out.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Chicken, Pig, Cow’s First Fight by Ruth Ohi

A cute story that completely caught me off guard. To start with, the characters are toys not barnyard animals. They were far too cute, I just wanted to pinch some little plastic cheeks (they look like fisher price toys).
Girl has made a city out of blocks. Chicken, Pig, and Cow want to play. Chicken builds a statue out of leaves but Pig wants to zip and zoom. Can you guess what happens?
Sadly, Pig made a mess and left his friends to clean it up. It’s a rather sweet tale and one that would make a lovely addition to any young reader’s library.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Police Forensics by Adam Sutherland

From the beginning, I knew this was a great book. Written for younger readers, Adam Sutherland starts the book off with a glossary and definitions of some of the more advanced terms. I think more science books should start off that way instead of leaving the definitions to the end of the book. The reader starts the material with a clearer understanding.
Anyone with a fascination with forensics will enjoy this book. I found facts that I hadn’t known. The book is easy to follow and doesn’t bog down with too many details which makes it perfect for the younger reader or reluctant reader. This is not a research paper sort of book but an introduction to the many facets of forensics.
The book ends with resources and websites. I love the discovery investigation site – it might become my new playground with its blogs and games.
This is a great addition to any library. It offers ideas for science lessons – I found myself examining my own fingerprints through that chapter, image what I could have done if I had some paper and ink. I have not seen a situation where a child was not engaged in a fingerprint lesson (and what a nice addition to the emergency file).

Monday, March 5, 2012

Slither Slide, What’s Outside? by Nora Hilb and Simon and Sheryl Shapiro

Just the other day a friend of mine said that according to an article she read publishers of children’s books are publishing less and less nature books because children are no longer connected to nature. It’s a sad thought. Enter Slither Slide, What’s Outside? and I find that perhaps that’s not true.
Slither Slide, What’s Outside? is a fun tale of nature that shares some of the things you might find throughout the year. The book is illustrated with beautiful photographs and fun pictures of children playing. I was stunned by the beauty of this book.
The language is simple and fun. The second page of the story has the children wiggling on the ground like worms. To me, that encourages active play along with a great story. I loved that each “verse” ended with a brightly colored word to punctuate that part of the story. “Slink”, “Glow”, “Splash” are all words I could imagine a child yelling out as the story is being told.
This may not be a perfect bedtime story but then again the pictures invite a reader in to experience them. I can see this as a wonderful story-time book in a young classroom setting or at the library. I would encourage people to purchase this book to show publishers that our children still like to experience nature.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Up Dog by Hazel Hutchins

This is a darling book. A sweet story about a puppy who gets into a little mischief. The story is told in the various ways we use the word “Up”.
The illustrations are simple, colorful and just a delight to look at. The words are simple enough to be an introduction to reading. I can easily see this book becoming a favorite of any young child.
I, almost, wish I could just have the illustrations to hang on my wall because the puppy is so cute. (Almost due to the lack of a small child in the house, I would have nowhere to hang the pictures that would not offend my teenager.)
This board book would make a great addition to any infant/toddler library. I can see it being a wonderful baby gift.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Ms. Annie #2 Rooftop Cat by Frank Le Gall

Ms. Annie is back for more kitten mischief.
I think I like this one better than the first, however, I feel it's not written for as young of an audience. Children will still love this book but sensitive children might find it difficult (there's a cat death and some cat fights).
Overall, I loved the story. Ms. Annie is still growing as a cat and her curiousity has gotten her into a little trouble.
I find this is not a good manual for how to raise cats though - the master is terrible. He's a good guy but doesn't really think his plans through. I can see that happening in my house too with my husband and our cat.
It's short, sweet and thoroughly enjoyable. The pictures are still inviting and the expressions of the cats will capture your heart.
(there's a sweet story about Ms. Annie's friend the mouse that will delight everyone)