March 30, 2010

Books for baseball season

We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball
written & illustrated by Kadir Nelson

An outstanding book about the heroes of Negro League Baseball, written in the voice of an everyman player. The reader becomes a witness to the beginnings of the Negro League until its decline with the integration of baseball in 1947. It is a story of determination, racial segregation, poor conditions, low pay, independence, and the love of the game. The players' strength, dignity, pain, and athleticism are expertly captured in Kadir Nelson's magnificent paintings. A must-read for all baseball fans.

by Sally Cook & James Charlton
illustrated by Ross MacDonald

A humorous look at American baseball history, covering topics such as the evolution of baseball uniforms, the naming of teams and players (i.e. nicknames), and the many ways of cheating to win games. Sprinkled throughout are definitions of unusual baseball terms like cranks (baseball fans), frozen ropes (hard-hit line drives), and Annie Oakleys (walks). Ross MacDonald's old-time illustrations perfectly complement the enthusiasm of the text.

by Crystal Hubbard
illustrated by Randy DuBurke

Marcenia dreams of becoming a professional baseball player, even though her parents are not supportive. When Gabby Street, former manager of the St. Louis Cardinals, comes to her school to recruit children for his baseball camp, Marcenia is eager to impress him with her skills. But Mr. Street didn't want girls in his camp. So one day, Marcenia decided to take a big risk - steal home!

This is the true story of Marcenia Toni Stone Lyle Alberga, the first woman to play for an all-male professional baseball team.

by Barbara Gregorich

An informative, yet unemotional, look at the history of women in baseball. Most chapters are biographies of notable players such as pitchers Maud Nelson and Jackie Mitchell, base-stealer Sophie Kurys, catcher Lois Younger, and umpire Pam Postema. The book is more suitable for avid rather than casual baseball fans.

March 25, 2010

Authors at 13

13: Thirteen Stories That Capture the Agony and Ecstasy of Being Thirteen

Thirteen is an in-between age: no longer a child, but not yet an adult. It's a time of sudden changes, like bodies, moods, and friendships. The twelve stories and one poem, by diverse authors such as Bruce Colville, Ellen Wittlinger, Meg Cabot, Alex Sanchez, and Lori Aurelia Williams, may not reflect every thirteen-year-old's life, but it does capture their feelings with humour and sensitivity.

Book for boys (and their dads)


Jon Scieszka's memoir about growing up with five brothers. Their many adventures, including crossing swords, exploding models, and launching ghost riders, help to explain Scieszka's wacky sense of humour. The book may also interest girls who have always wondered why boys are so weird.

March 23, 2010

Understanding Dreams

For anyone who's ever puzzled over a weird dream, here are a couple of books that may help. The Jewish Dream Book treats the subject more seriously than the light-hearted Young Person's Guide.

The Dream Book: A Young Person's Guide to Understanding Dreams
by Patricia Garfield
The author describes common dreams, such as falling, flying, or being chased, and shows how they are influenced by events in the dreamer's waking life. She explains how to control a nightmare and how to better remember your dreams.

The Jewish Dream Book: The Key to Opening the Inner Meaning of Your Dreams
by Vanessa Lochs
For teens who are interested in spirituality, this book will guide them in aspects of Jewish dream rituals and interpretations according to the Talmud and the Torah. Other chapters describe how dreams can be used to answer questions and to receive healing.

March 18, 2010

Multicultural fairy tales

White Flower: A Maya Princess
by Victor Montejo

A poor prince goes to work for Witz Ak'al, Lord of the Mountains and Valleys. The tasks he is given are impossible to accomplish, but he receives help from Princess White Flower, who has magical powers of her own. The story is a Mayan version of Snow White, though considerably different from the usual. It's refreshing to encounter a princess who is intelligent and assertive.

written & illustrated by Jerry Pinkney

The familiar tale takes place in winter, with an African-American Riding Hood. A nice change by an award-winning artist.

by Fiona French

An art-deco influenced Snow White. The magic mirror is a newspaper (The New York Mirror), the dwarves are a seven-member jazz band, the prince is a reporter, and the poisoned apple is a cherry in a cocktail. The plot is thin, but the pictures will appeal to kids interested in fashion.  

by Robert D. San Souci
illustrated by Brian Pinkney

This version reflects West Indian culture and costume, told from the Godmother's point-of-view. A glossary of French Creole words and phrases is included.

March 16, 2010

Fun with math

Anno's Magic Seeds

A gift from a wizard makes Jack's fortune grow by ones and twos, then threes and fours, challenging the reader to keep track of his riches.
A clever math book for kids who enjoy brain teasers.

An introduction to factorials, which help to express very large numbers.
Inside the amazing multiplying jar, numbers grow rapidly, as demonstrated by Anno's detailed illustrations.

March 11, 2010

Favourite male characters

J.Lo. No, not the singer/actress. The Boov.  He can fix anything around the house, even a floating car. A good alien to have around.

Daft Wullie. Actually, I like all of the Wee Free Men, but this name always makes me smile.

Calvin and Hobbes. It's impossible not to like the mischievous Calvin, especially when he's got his evil grin. And who can resist Hobbes, the adorable stuffed tiger?

Bartimaeus. Strictly speaking, djinnis are spirits and don't usually take human form. They can assume any shape, and are not limited by gender. The incorrigible Bartimaeus has been a gargoyle, a minotaur, and a lion. When assuming human guise, he usually becomes an Egyptian boy named Ptolemy.

Lee Scoresby. An aeronaut and one of the many men who accompanied Lyra on her otherworldly adventure. His heroic death in The Subtle Knife is sure to bring tears.
Iorek Byrnison. A formidable armored bear and friend to Lee Scoresby.

Gandalf. Because a wizard is always a handy person to have around.

March 9, 2010

Teens and identity

by Ellen Wittlinger
Parrotfish begins on the day Angela Katz-McNair changes her name to Grady and starts living life as a boy. It isn't easy. His mother is uncomfortable, his father in denial, and his sister mortified. Worst of all, he's lost his best friend. Only Grady's classmate, Sebastian, is excited, exclaiming "You're just like the stoplight parrotfish!" Parrotfish change gender when they need to, depending on fluctuations in their population density. 
Grady faces a lot of confusion and hostility, but he is not without support. Along with Sebastian and a sympathetic teacher, Grady finds friends in Russ and Kita, to whom he becomes attracted. Throughout, he is always himself, and eventually others begin to understand his choices. The hysterical holiday celebration that closes the novel demonstrates how truly normal Grady's family actually is. A terrific book. 

by Mayra Lazara Dole
When Laura's mother finds out that she's a lesbian, she kicks her out of the house. After that dramatic beginning, the story gets slightly dull. Laura spends most of her time denying her sexuality and pretending to love a boy in order to reunite with her family. Meanwhile, her best friend Soli and others introduce her to the lively gay community. 
The narrative then gets overlong, with descriptions of parties, dancing, food, and clothing. It's also overly concerned with who is attracted to whom, which gets a little confusing since all the characters sound the same. Overall, it's a superficial soap opera with a predictable ending.

by Alex Sanchez
Three teens - Jason (in denial), Kyle (closeted), Nelson (openly gay) - try to navigate the high school minefield with the added trauma of homophobia. The plot is overly concerned with the characters' vacillating attraction towards each other, but their emotions and situations ring true.

by Michael Harmon
Ben Campbell has been angry ever since his father came out, his mother left, and his parents got divorced. Now he's stuck in Montana with his father and his father's boyfriend Edward.
Ben is not a likeable character. He spends too much time making sarcastic remarks about everything and everyone, especially the tough-talking Miss Mae (Edward's mother), the easy-going sheriff, the homophobic preacher next door, and the wholesome girlfriend; all small-town stereotypes. Ben often acts impulsively and thoughtlessly, leading to angry confrontations with his father. Throughout, I kept wondering why Ben, if he hated his father so much, didn't go to live with his mother and why Edward would want to return to a town that had ostracized him.
After some melodramatic developments, including a run-in with the town psychopath, Ben evolves from lazy rebel to hard-working cowboy. An epilogue wraps things up a little too neatly in this less-than-satisfying novel.

March 4, 2010

Artists and their work

Four Pictures by Emily Carr
by Nicolas Debon

The pivotal moments of Emily Carr's life, depicted in comic book format. Each moment uses Carr's paintings as reference points. The final chapter, Beloved of the Sky, is a wonderful double-page spread that captures Carr's embrace of spirituality in both her painting and her life.

A biography of the famed artist as scientist. Leonardo was interested in everything: anatomy, birds, flight, optics, hydraulics, physics, and astronomy. A man ahead of his time, he was devoted to scientific methods of observation and experimentation, all meticulously recorded in his notebooks. He even conducted secret autopsies to create three-dimensional drawings of organs, muscles, and bones. 

An excellent book that clearly reveals Leonardo's place in both ancient and modern history.