Monthly Archives: October 2012

13 Artists Children Should Know

by Angela Wenzel
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Category: Non-fiction – Art

Personal Evaluation: I was struck by how many of the artists were modern, and how I had never heard of a couple of them. In general I liked the layout; the one downside was that some of the artists took up more than a two-page spread and yet sometimes the identifying information for the next artist was on the right-hand page, making the boundaries between artists kind of confusing. Also there was no conclusion which made the ending pretty abrupt.

What might interest children: The layout is very attractive and visually stimulating (but not too much). It’s easy to compare and contrast artists’ quick facts and timelines to put them into context, and then read more in-depth about them.

Once a Wolf: How Wildlife Biologists Fought to Bring Back the Gray Wolf

by Stephen R. Swinburne
Overall: 3 out of 5 stars

Category: Nonfiction – Animals

Personal Evaluation: I remember learning about the Gray Wolf in school and this would have been a great book to read. It covers the challenges facing the wolves and their adaptation and includes the ecological perspective.

What might interest children: The layout, while with a lot of text and clearly aimed toward middle schoolers, is inviting and easy to read. It’s not flashy, but has lots of information – good for general learning about the wolves or a school project.

Giant Panda

by Malcolm Penny
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Category: Nonfiction – Animals

Personal Evaluation: I thought this book did a great job of covering all aspects of panda life. I was left wondering whether there were more than two kinds of pandas (giant and red, which are not actually closely related). There was a page of “Further Information” as well as a glossary and index, and the author is a zoologist and writer of nonfiction books for kids and adults.

What might interest children: Lots of pictures and good organization make this book easy to follow and visually interesting.

The Secret World of Walter Anderson

by Hester Bass
Overall: 3 out of 5 stars

Category: Orbis Pictus

Personal Evaluation: It was a great story, but I was a little confused when I got to the 7-page Author’s Note that had probably more text and much moreĀ detail than the story did. I can see why the author kept the story to a minimum, but not sure why she then included all the detail in the author’s note – almost enough for a second, more in-depth book for older kids.

What might interest children: The story and pictures are simple and beautiful and tell a lovely, calming story. It reminded me in ways of Time of Wonder, so kids who liked that book might like this one. It struck me as being more for younger kids – good maybe for a classroom readaloud for 1st or 2nd graders – than for 4th-8th graders.

Son

by Lois Lowry
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

In the interest of full disclosure, I will mention up front that I am a huge Lois Lowry fan, and The Giver is in my Top 3 All-Time Favorite Books. So she had me from page 1. I eagerly awaited Son’s completion, publication, and arrival into my hands. I even restrained myself from overriding a fellow patron’s hold and was rewarded when the next copy was for me. Joy!

I inhaled it. I think I had the book for three days and spent every spare second reading, staying up late the last night to finish it, though I tried so very hard to pace myself and read every word. As Lowry mentions in her recent On Point interview with Tom Ashbrook, she had a lot of ground to cover – 14 years – so this book has a lot more action than, say, The Giver. There was one night of reading where the suspense got me so riled up, I had trouble falling asleep.

This is a solid conclusion to the previous three books. We first return to the world of The Giver, and then this new main character goes her own way and meets up with all the other main characters later. Spoiler alert: Evil (having taken human-esque form) is vanquished. After reading Lowry’s blog for many years and going through her partner Martin’s death almost with her, I was touched to see that not only was the book dedicated to him, but there was a character called Martyn. I wouldn’t be surprised if it helped her feel like he was with her while she wrote it.

One part that really stood out to me was a character who hinted so subtly at having been sexually abused as a child. I have no idea how aware Lois Lowry is of this allusion, if it was on purpose or not, but I wonder if there will be any attention paid to it. In my opinion, kids who are reading it and are not aware of such evils will not register it; kids who do know will hopefully be able to identify with this character and see that he was willing and able to love and be loved in spite of it.

I also thought the writing was solid, classic Lois Lowry, very much in tune with the other three books. Son did not blow me away the way The Giver did (maybe because I’m no longer a naive pre-teen?), but it was well-written, suspenseful, and comforting. I am now re-readingĀ The Giver (for the umpteenth time) and STILL seeing new things in it, no doubt enhanced by the parallel story told in Son, and I’m looking forward to hearing Lowry speak in a couple of weeks at one of my favorite local bookstores.

Balloons Over Broadway

by Melissa Sweet
Overall: 3 out of 5 stars

Category: Orbis Pictus

Personal Evaluation: I actually thought the wacky font was distracting and I missed parts of the text because it did not stand out enough for me. I thought the drawings were great, though, and the topic was one of interest to many people but something that they probably rarely thought about: how the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade came to be. It seemed like Sweet did a lot of research and has a personal interest in this topic, which came through.

What might interest children: Who doesn’t love balloons?! It’s a simple story but well-told and illustrated.

Cinderella Ate My Daughter

by Peggy Orenstein
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

But first, an anecdote: I mentioned the title to a friend and she asked what it was about. I said it was non-fiction and she looked startled. I hastened to add that it didn’t really happen… that Cinderella didn’t actually eat the author’s daughter… and we had a good laugh.

I had high hopes for this book. What I liked about it was that Orenstein’s struggles and questions were so real. She was trying so hard to figure out what the right thing was and do it, but it’s not easy. She waffles a lot and the book is incredibly inconclusive, down to the symbolism and meaning of the Disney Princesses (are they positive role models or not? I’m still unsure). Overall, though, she raises a lot of good questions and actually not answering them seems to prove her point about just how confusing it all is. Worth a read, in any case.