September 29, 2009

Spanish Nursery Rhymes

Pío Peep!: Traditional Spanish Nursery Rhymes
selected by Alma Flor Ada & F. Isabel Campoy
adapted into English by Alice Schertle
illustrated by Viví Escrivá

A bilingual collection of traditional rhymes that celebrate Spanish and Latin American heritage. The introduction explains that the English versions are poetic recreations rather than straight translations, but it does not detract from the spirit of each rhyme. Accompanied by cheerful, full-colour illustrations. An excerpt follows.

Cinco pollitos
Cinco pollitos
tiene mi tía:
Uno le canta,
otro le pía
y tres le tocan la chirimía.

Five little chicks
Rum-a-tum-tum, whistles and sticks,
my auntie makes music with five little chicks:
One is a singer,
another can hum,
three play the melody, run-a-tum-tum.

September 23, 2009


by Kevin Crossley-Holland

Six mysterious, haunting, and sorrowful stories about children and people who are isolated from their communities. Notes at the end of the book explain the tales' origins.

  • Sea-Woman: a girl listens to her mother's history via a shell
  • The Green Children: two children enter a differently-coloured world
  • The Wildman: a man who lives in the sea is caught in a net
  • Fine Field of Flax: a teen is shunned when she bears an illegitimate child
  • Three Blows: a young man falls in love with a sea-woman
  • Sea Tongue: a village is swallowed by the sea

September 21, 2009

Tales from Outer Suburbia

Tales from Outer Suburbia

It is difficult to describe what Tales from Outer Suburbia is all about. The tales consist of random thoughts, strange journeys, and unusual countries. They are weird and slightly sinister, much like dreams that continue to haunt us many days later. All of these tales beg to be read more than once. I particularly liked The Water Buffalo, No Other Country, Eric, Distant Rain, Stick Figures, Make Your Own Pet and Alert, but not Alarmed.

September 17, 2009

The Phantom Tollbooth

The Phantom Tollbooth
by Norton Juster

Milo is a boy who takes no interest in anything and thinks that life is a bore. When a tollbooth mysteriously appears in his room, he drives through only because he's got nothing better to do. But on the other side, things are different.

Milo passes through the Land of Expectations, gets trapped in the Doldrums, visits Dictionopolis (a city of words), drives through the Forest of Sight - where he learns about different points of view (and colours the world) - brings sound to the Silent Valley, jumps to the Island of Conclusions, discovers infinity in Digitopolis (a city of numbers), and embarks on a quest to rescue Rhyme and Reason. Along the way, Milo discovers that life is far from dull.

Full of verbal wordplay and wit, while highlighting the demons of society such as compromise, hindsight, exaggeration and threadbare excuses, The Phantom Tollbooth is a fabulous fantasy that reaffirms the importance of inquisitiveness, creativity, and optimism. First published in 1961, it can be read again and again.

September 14, 2009

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose

Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose: The Story of a Painting
by Hugh Brewster
paintings by John Singer Sargent

Narrated by Kate Millet, the original model for the portrait, this is a fictionalized account of the creation of John Singer Sargent's well-known painting. Reproductions of Sargent's paintings and sketches, as well as family photographs, result in a very interesting story.

No One Saw

No One Saw: Ordinary Things Through the Eyes of an Artist
by Bob Raczka

In rhyming text and reproduced paintings, No One Saw quietly emphasizes the message that no two people see the world in exactly the same way. Artists featured include Georgia O'Keefe, Paul Klee, and Andy Warhol.

September 2, 2009

The Braid - a novel in verse form

The Braid
by Helen Frost

Two Scottish sisters, Sarah and Jeannie, tell their stories in alternating narrative poems. Each sister - Jeannie, who accompanies their parents and younger siblings to Cape Breton and Sarah, who stays behind with her grandmother - carries a length of the other's hair braided with her own. The braid binds them together and reminds them of who they used to be.

Praise poems, alternating with the narrative poems, help to illuminate the novel's themes. In a note at the end, Helen Frost explains how the poems are braided together, often with the last line of one poem becoming the first line of the next, as in the following excerpt:

Holding an almost weightless warmth / (or chill) letters pass from one hand / to another, shifting borders / between the unknown and the known. / Such minute detail: a cricket / chirping by the dam at midnight; / a cracked blue plate. Someone sitting / at a table writing, absorbed in thought.

A table absorbs written thoughts / (slight indentations in its wood), / and holds within its sturdiness / echoes of the conversations / that go on around it: laughter, / mealtime chatter, words of comfort. / It's part of all the stories, like / the constant kettle on the stove.