Monday, August 30, 2010

More Life-Size Zoo by Teruyuki Komiya

More Life-Size Zoo: An All-New Actual-Size Animal EncyclopediaMore Life-Size Zoo: An All-New Actual-Size Animal Encyclopedia by Teruyuki Komiya

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I found out about this book from one of the journals the library subscribes to. I interlibrary loaned it because the library doesn't own it, and I discovered that I'd really like to add this to the collection!

It is a book of photos of animals one might see at the zoo, which is always cute, but what makes this book special is that all of the pictures are the actual size of the animals! Noteworthy photos include the polar bear and the lion...but my personal favorite is the lion cub and the baby gibbon. (I was kind of grossed out by the hippo and the bison).

Kids will love this book! It's taller than most books, so it'll be a pain to shelve...but hopefully it'll be checked out more than not.

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Gideon the Cutpurse by Linda Buckley-Archer

Gideon the Cutpurse: Being the First Part of the Gideon Trilogy (Gideon)Gideon the Cutpurse: Being the First Part of the Gideon Trilogy by Linda Buckley-Archer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

_Gideon the Cutpurse_ is the first book in this trilogy. I had wanted to read this story for a while, and I’m glad I finally got around to it! I enjoyed it and am looking forward to reading (or listening to) the second one.

The story begins normal enough—in present-day England—with a young teen named Peter. His parents are very focused on working, so his birthday gets pushed to the side. He ends up having to spend the day with his nanny (?) and accompanies her to her friend’s farm. There, he meets the Dyer family and gets to see the special area where Mr Dyer works on science experiments. During a tour, the family dog gets spooked so Peter and Kate (the oldest daughter and Peter’s age) chase it and suddenly find themselves in a totally different place.

After a while, Peter and Kate learn that they are no longer in the 21st Century; rather, it is 1763! They are at a total loss as to what to do until a kind man named Gideon helps them find “proper” clothing, somewhere to stay, and plan how to locate the man who took the machine they appeared in 1763 with before he sells it.

This is story has likable characters and is told at a good pace. It ends on a cliffhanger, and I’m very interested to see what will happen next! Suggest the Ulysses Moore series to those who enjoyed this.

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Boy Who Drew Cats [adpated] by Arthur A Levine

The Boy Who Drew Cats: A Japanese FolktaleThe Boy Who Drew Cats: A Japanese Folktale by Arthur A. Levine

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well, I have to say that I didn't enjoy this version of _The Boy Who Drew Cats_ as much as the first one I read by Margaret Hodges.

Because this is an old, old folktale, writers who retell this tale can add as much or as little as s/he likes, I suppose. Having read the Hodges version first, this version by Levine feels bogged down with extra details that the reader doesn't necessarily need. Also, the pictures in the Hodges version are much neater!

All in all, the reader gets the idea of the original folktale in each version; I happen to prefer the Hodges version instead.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Other Half of My Heart by Sundee Tucker Frazier

The Other Half of My HeartThe Other Half of My Heart by Sundee T. Frazier

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

11-year old Minni and Keira are twins…but not only are they not identical, Minni is white (she has light skin and red hair) and Keira is black (she has dark skin and dark hair). This difference was able to occur because their mother is black and their father is white. The girls never really gave it that much thought, but Minni begins to notice how some strangers treat Keira differently from her (in school, in stores, etc.), and Minni suspects that it’s because of the color of Keira’s skin.

The girls feel this difference even more when they visit their grandmother and enter a beauty pageant for black girls; the other girls competing tell Minni that she’s not really black because of the color of her skin. On the surface of it all, Minni knows that’s not true, but deep down she becomes confused and wonders if she is white, or black, or…maybe, a mixture of both?

This is a great story about how a girl tries to find herself as she enters adolescence, which is made all the more difficult because her sister’s skin doesn’t match her own. For more books about sisters that readers might also enjoy, try The Sisters Club series (MacDonald).

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Boy Who Drew Cats adapted by Margaret Hodges

The Boy Who Drew CatsThe Boy Who Drew Cats by Margaret Hodges

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I learned about this Japanese folktale from the book Wild Things by Clay Carmichael. This is a story about a Japanese boy who is the youngest boy in his large family. Because he isn’t physically built for farm work like the rest of his family, his parents decide to have him apprentice to the town’s priest so that he might become a priest one day.

However, the boy has an odd desire to draw cats all of the time. When he’s at the temple, he draws cats everywhere—enough to make the priest tell him that he would be better off as an artist—so he gets sent away. Before the boy leaves, the priest tells him to remember to not sleep in big spaces—to only sleep in small spaces. The boy doesn’t understand, but doesn’t ask the priest to clarify.

Rather than go home and shame his family, the boy decides to go to the temple in the next town. When he arrives, it appears as though no one is there. While waiting for someone to arrive so that he could ask to be apprenticed to one of them, he finds some ink and draws cats all over. When it gets late and the boy grows tired, he remembers the priest’s words and decides to sleep in a small cabinet.

During the night, the boy wakes to the awful sounds of screaming and fighting. Terrified, he stays still in his cabinet and doesn’t even peek through the crack until daytime. When finally does, he sees the dead and mutilated body of some sort of huge goblin. The boy wonders who could have killed this evil being until he looks around and sees that all of the mouths of the cats he had drawn are red with blood.

He then understood the priest’s advice…and was able to grow up to be a famous artist!

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Wild Things by Clay Carmichael

Wild ThingsWild Things by Clay Carmichael

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

After her mother commits suicide, Zoe’s life completely changes—surprisingly, for the better. She goes to live with her Uncle Henry, a doctor-turned-artist, in his big house in a small town. With Uncle Henry, Zoe doesn’t have to take care of anyone except herself, unlike when she had to live with her mother and her male “friends.”

When not in school, Zoe spends her time trying to earn the trust of a stray cat she names Mr. C-mere, writing in her journal, and cleaning up an abandoned cabin she finds in the woods at the edge of Uncle Henry’s property. She is happy with her life with Uncle Henry and with the friendly adults she meets through him.

This is a good story about a young girl who is definitely a survivor. Some of the story is questionable (like how did she learn to read on her own, or how is she so ‘okay’ with her mother taking her own life?) but the good parts definitely outweigh the questionable parts. Another nice aspect of this story is how Carmichael incorporated the Japanese folktale The Boy Who Drew Cats. This prompted me to want to learn more about that folktale, so I read a version adapted by Margaret Hodges (and put another version on hold at the library). My next review will be about the Hodges version.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Red Blazer Girls: the Ring of Rocamadour by Michael D. Beil

The Red Blazer Girls: The Ring of RocamadourThe Red Blazer Girls: The Ring of Rocamadour by Michael D. Beil

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a sweet story that I enjoyed--and I normally can't stand mysteries. It was well-written with very likable characters.

Sophie is a seventh-grader who is close friends with Margaret and Rebecca; they all attend St. Veronica's, a private school in New York City. While sitting in class one day, Sophie thinks she sees a figure in one of the windows of the church across the way in a place she thought was unused. She and her friends check it out and end up meeting a kind, if not odd, old lady who asks them to do her a favor.

The favor involves figuring out the series of clues that the old woman's father left for her daughter nearly 20 years earlier for her birthday, but were never solved. The girls accept the challenge and begin working together to solve each of the clues, which begin with a note and end with a ring!

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How to Clean a Hippopotamus: a Look at Unusual Animal Partnerships by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page

How to Clean a Hippopotamus: A Look at Unusual Animal PartnershipsHow to Clean a Hippopotamus: A Look at Unusual Animal Partnerships by Steve Jenkins

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a cute book! Not only are the pictures adorable, but the information provided is interesting.

The information is presented in an almost comic book format, which is different for a nonfiction book. We learn about animal symbiosis--how certain wild animals/insects/fish/etc. work together to eat, get clean, hunt, and more.

Only 32 pages, it is a quick read!

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Friday, August 6, 2010

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

The Strange Case of Origami YodaThe Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book is fine, it's just not really what I'd normally read--considering that I've only seen parts of the movie Star Wars 1 (or is it 3 now?). Since little boys these days love Star Wars and the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, this book covers both subjects and is sure to be a hit!

The story is about a boy named Tommy who collects his fellow students' experiences while interacting with the weird boy in class's origami puppet of Yoda. Because of this, each chapter is written by a different student--with comments and drawings added by Tommy and his friends.

One would think that Origami Yoda would be something stupid created by the weird kid Dwight, but Origami Yoda isn't at all like Dwight; rather, he seems to be wise and full of good advice! So if Dwight was actually putting words into Origami Yoda's "mouth", wouldn't everything it said be stupid and weird? This is the dilemma the kids in Tommy's class face.

Recommend this to any reader who likes the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series OR Star Wars movies.

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The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

The Mysterious Benedict SocietyThe Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a good book! I liked the four characters very much. We first meet Reynie at the orphanage where he's lived ever since his parents passed away when he was a baby. Having only one (sort of) friend--who's actually his tutor--he feels quite alone. Everything changes the day he sees an ad in the paper asking for gifted children to come take a test to see if they would qualify for a special 'opportunity.' Having nothing to lose, Reynie decides to take the test.

Reynie and 3 other children (Sticky, Kate, and Caroline) qualify for the special opportunity, which requires them to infiltrate, more or less, a special school to see what the headmaster is up to. If any of this group, self-named The Mysterious Benedict Society, wants to quit at any time, s/he is welcome. No one quits, so they head off to the school to see what they can find out.

This is an entertaining story that will keep the reader on the edge of his/her seat at certain points. This book is the first in the series, followed by The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, then The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma.

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Monday, August 2, 2010

Eva by Peter Dickinson

EvaEva by Peter Dickinson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This futuristic story is about an adolescent girl whose brain is put into a chimp's body in order to save her life after an accident destroys her own. This happens because her father works for a company that studies chimps, so she becomes part of the company's research.

I would have thought Eva would be more angry about having to live as a chimp for the rest of her life, but she seems to take it well--I think this is because she had spent a lot of time with her father and the chimps he studied. In fact, she knew the chimp whose body she now inhabits. She is able to communicate orally using a specialized keyboard that gives a voice to her words.

It was interesting to witness the changes that Eva goes through as her mind comes to terms with having lived as a human for over a decade, but then having to live as a chimp. At first Eva spends more time in the human world--she lives at home with her parents and she even attends school. But, as time passes, it appears as though she feels more of a connection with the chimps being studied.

I liked this book; I listened to the audio version of it, and I have to admit that it was entertaining listening to the reader make chimp grunting noises.

I'd recommend this book to readers who enjoy futuristic stories, human/animal relations stories, or simply like stories about the strange and bizzare.

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