April 28, 2011

Le Petomane: one in the habit of farting

by Kathleen Krull and Paul Brewster
illustrated by Boris Kulikov

The explosive story of Joseph Pujol, who discovered an innate ability to control his sphincter. He became a big hit at the Moulin Rouge in Paris, where he entertained the crowd with sounds from his derrière.

Krull's verses don't always work, but the hilarious illustrations are a delight. For fans of bodily humour and Walter the Farting Dog. Unlike Walter, however, Pujol's talent was definitely not stinky!

April 27, 2011

Gardening books for spring

April 26, 2011

Pablo Neruda

The Dreamer
by Pam Muñoz Ryan & Peter Sís

Neftalí  Reyes is a daydreamer. Words and nature call to him and his imagination soars. Even though he is often teased and belittled by other children or his harsh father, he doesn't change who he is. He uses his words to express love and to right injustice. But the fear remains. So he changes his name to Pablo Neruda, and sends his poems around the world.

In her fictional biography, Pam Muñoz Ryan uses poems, thoughtprovoking questions, and emotional prose to create a moving story of self-discovery, while Peter Sís's delicate, mesmerizing drawings take readers through the rainforest, the sea, and Neftalí's fanciful imagination.

An author's note provides more insights into the real Neruda, as do some of his poems.  

Here's an excerpt:

                                I scarcely knew, by myself, that I existed,
                                that I'd be able to be, and go on being.
                                I was afraid of that, of life itself.
                                I didn't want to be seen,
                                I didn't want my existence to be known.
                                Walking, I pressed myself against the wall
                                like a shadow slipping away. . . .

April 21, 2011

A different kind of romance

What I like about Meg Rosoff's books is that she isn't afraid to let her characters make their own decisions. Whether the results of those decisions are good or bad, she remains impartial, letting her readers come to their own conclusions. In  The Bride's Farewell,Pell Ridley flees from an upcoming marriage and a life of hard work. Bean, her silent brother, goes with her. Good with horses, Pell looks for work, losing Bean along the way. Then she meets a hunter.

To say more would give too much away, but Pell's decision has far-reaching consequences that affect not only herself, but the family she leaves behind and the people that she meets. An intriguing, emotional book.

Other books by Meg Rosoff:

April 19, 2011

Victorian soap opera

by Jane Eaglund

An ominous beginning has Louisa Cosgrove being dropped off at an asylum instead of with family aquaintances as she was led to believe. The doctors tell her that she's ill, and call her by the wrong name - Lucy Childs. Bewildered and frightened, Louisa tries to discover who has done this to her.

Through flashbacks, we learn more about Lou - she's an anomaly. Curious, intelligent, and rebellious, she dreams of being a medical doctor, a shocking idea in Victorian society, especially for a young, single woman. Lou also has another dangerous secret - she's in love with her cousin Grace.

Trapped in nightmarish surroundings, Lou tries to escape. She is aided by a sympathetic attendant, Eliza, to whom she becomes attracted. Filled with danger, anxiety, and romance, this gripping novel will have readers on the edge of their seats. When Lou discovers the length of her family's betrayal, it is absolutely appalling. An epilogue reveals Louisa embarked on a new course in life - medical school - with Eliza by her side.

April 14, 2011

Mary Kingsley, woman explorer

Uncommon Traveler: Mary Kingsley in Africa
by Don Brown

In 1893, Mary Kingsley, a self-educated British woman, travelled to Africa by herself. At that time, single female explorers were virtually unheard of. That she even thought of such a journey was remarkable considering her isolated childhood. Between the ages of eight and thirty, she never left her house! With an often absent father and an invalid mother, she spent her time cleaning, nursing, and performing household repairs. No one knows how she learned to read, but reading was her favourite activity. After her parent's deaths, she was free to do whatever she liked, and she chose to go to Africa. Africa, she would later say, was her real home.

Don Brown's luminous, dreamy watercolours depict Kingsley's adventures with gentleness and humor. Kingsley herself is as fearless as Madeline.

An enlightening story.

April 13, 2011

Be an architect!

If you've ever been fascinated by buildings, here are some books about architecture. 

How to be a pop-up artist!

For anyone fascinated by paper sculptures, here are some books that will help you get started.

April 12, 2011

Help teens achieve their goals

Reaching Your Goals
by Robin L. Silverman

This is a very useful and helpful advice book for kids and teens, especially for those who may be procrastinators or tend to get discouraged. It is filled with easy, doable exercises that provide positivity and confidence.

The first three chapters gets teens started right away by 1. using the power of imagination to set specific, achievable goals, 2. turning negative thoughts into positive ones, and 3. making use of their best qualities while developing new ones. This is followed by a chapter called Transform Your Problems, which says that knowing what you don't want can help you focus on what you do want. In other words, if a problem occurs, don't agonize over it, but think about what to do to prevent it from happening again. Other chapters show kids how to use positive visualization, how to juggle goal-setting with other responsibilities, and how to stay focussed. Words from actual teens provide lots of encouragement.

A list of further resources is included at the end of the book.  
Reaching Your Goals would make a good graduation gift.

April 7, 2011

Family and home

Making Room
by Joanne Taylor
illustrated by Peter Rankin

The story of John William Smith who built himself a house where he could watch the sun set. This is all I need, he thought. But then he got lonely, so he married Annie McFarlane. As the years passed and at Annie's request, he built additions onto the house - a pantry, a kitchen, and extra bedrooms for their growing family.

It's a very nice, heart-warming story about families and togetherness. Unfortunately, it's marred by a poor final sentence, which is a bit too long. Just one more sentence would have been perfect - this is all we need.

April 5, 2011

Tales with a twist

Twelve Impossible Things Before Breakfast
by Jane Yolen

This is an interesting collection of stories from the incomparable Jane Yolen. She has a knack for turning something ordinary into something magical. The twelve tales in this collection are mysterious, scary, funny, sad, and heroic. In other words, there's something for everyone.

Here's a brief summary:

  1. Tough Alice: Alice fights the Jabberwock in Wonderland
  2. Mama Gone: a girl's love for her mother (a vampire story)
  3. Harlyn's Fairy: Harlyn saves a fairy's baby 
  4. Phoenix Farm: a girl finds a phoenix egg 
  5. Sea Dragon of Fife: Robert sets out to avenge his brothers' deaths
  6. Wilding: futuristic story about Zena, who turns into an animal for a night of adventure. Attacked in the park, she's saved by a max, who controls the Wild Things (yes, it's an homage to Sendak)
  7. The Baby-Sitter: classic horror story with a twist
  8. Bolundeers: a family is threatened by monsters
  9. The Bridge's Complaint: a bridge wants a troll to protect it from goats
  10. Brandon and the Aliens: siblings fight aliens
  11. Winter's King: a boy who loves the cold searches for his kin
  12. Lost Girls: In Neverland, Peter has enslaved the Wendys. But when Darla arrives, she gets them to go on strike.