Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Search For WondLa

The Search For WondLa is a combination of fantasy and science fiction. This book is huge -- over 450 pages -- so it might seem inappropriate for middle grade kids. However many of the pages are illustrations by the author and, like the Harry Potter books, it carries the readers into a fantastic world they won't want to leave. The characters and situations are extremely creative and different from the standard sci-fi or fantasy ones.

The story is about a girl, Eva Nine, who has grown up under the care of a robot and has never seen another living being. (It's interesting that her name is similar to the first woman in the Bible.) She's flung into an exciting adventure in a world filled with fantastic creatures, both good and evil. More than anything she wants to know where she came from and to meet other human beings - assuming she can survive long enough to do that. I cared about Eva and was eager to find out what happened to her.

Many series books leave the reader hanging at the end and they must read the next book, and the next, etc. to find out what happens. Personally, I consider that dishonest and never read a second book by an author who writes like that. However Diterlizzi is honest. The plot of this book is resolved in a satisfactory way, but the reader is left wanting to know more. I can't wait to read the next book in this series.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Myth-Busting Columbus

Thanksgiving is over and Christmas and Hanukkah aren't here yet, though we're already being bombarded with ads to buy gifts. Columbus Day was almost a month ago and I wish I'd read this book soon enough to recommend it for that holiday. However it's a good one for any time of the year.

Everyone in America has heard of Christopher Columbus discovering the New World and many people, even adults, believe he was a hero but there's lots of information in this book that brings his heroism into question. I've seen most of it before, but never combined into a book for kids.

Myth-Busting Christopher Columbus by Kelly Bakshi not only tells all about Columbus, it does so in a friendly style that will engage kids with questions. The illustrations are all photos, some of historical paintings, maps, and documents, and colorful ones of places and items mentioned in the book.

In my opinion every elementary school in America should have at least one copy of this book and it should be used in all classrooms that teach about Columbus Day. Homeschooling parents would find it helpful, too. And lots of kids will enjoy reading it themselves.

Some of them would like to get it as a present for the upcoming holiday.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Who Do You Thank?

Okay, you've probably read dozens of things this week about being thankful for your blessings, etc. and that's important. But some thanking is ordinary and should be done all year long, and not just during the holidays.

Sometimes even those who seem to be a nuisance deserve our thanks. If people get pulled over for speeding and get tickets they won't feel grateful, but the police officers are saving lives by doing that job. The building inspector who requires someone's time to check things may be preventing a fire or keeping people from being cheated by lazy contractors.

Every time I must wait while traffic coming the other direction passes a construction zone I try to thank the person who required me to stop. Just imagine what would happen if if nobody did that job.
Several years ago I blogged about that and you can read the post here:

And then there are the people who are doing things we do like. It's nice to thank a teacher, doctor, or other professional who is doing a good job, but contacting one of those people from your past and expressing gratitude means even more. And authors love to hear from readers that something they wrote made a difference. Even the checker or bagger at a grocery store would love to hear that someone appreciates the job they do.

Those are only a few examples. I'm sure you can think of many more people who deserve thanks, not only at Thanksgiving time, but all year long.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Childhood Pets

I've always loved animals. In fact when I was a kid my mother  used to call me "the little mother of all the world."

But she wasn't an animal lover, so at first the only pets I was allowed to have were fish and they weren't very snuggly or easy to train. My grandfather, who lived with us, had a Siamese Fighting Fish he trained to jump up out of the water and knock food from his fingers when he tapped on the side of the tank, but that wasn't as good as having a dog that could come, sit, etc. on command. And I couldn't pet or hug my fish even though I loved them.

Finally my mother allowed me to have a pet hamster. I named it Hamstead and, even though he never learned to do tricks, he was very snuggly.

A few years after that some neighbors who spent the summer in the cabin next to the one where we lived took in a stray cat. When it was time for them to return home, they convinced my mother to let me keep it as long as it didn't ever spend the night inside our house. It was a tomcat and I would have preferred a female that might have kittens, so I named him Susie. He was loving, cuddly, came when called, and even learned to stay away from the hamster cage. I was very happy to have him.

What kind of pets did you have when you were a kid?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Fun Book

I recently had the pleasure of reading a book that was published way back in 2001 and enjoyed it so much I can't resist sharing about it. The title was MAXimum Boy starring in The Hijacking of Manhattan and the author is Dan Greenburg.

This is a short book intended for younger readers but it's so much fun older kids will enjoy it, too. It's an exciting adventure  and could be interpreted as a parody of many other books about heroes with amazing powers, but it's not at all sarcastic.

The hero, Max, got supernatural powers from contact with radioactive material and uses it to fight evil powers for the good of everyone. Sound familiar? But Max is just a kid, his family and school principal know his secret identity and they stay involved in the story. His mother even made his superhero costume and does his laundry.

Boys, especially, will enjoy this action-packed book but it's a fun read for anyone.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Chances Are

Okay, I can't resist books for kids, so here's another book review.

Chances Are by Susan Bangert-Wood is an alphabet picture book, but different from the usual kind because each letter tells of an animal doing crazy things they could never do in real life. Little kids who hear this book read to them and see the illustrations by Jack Foster will laugh out loud. Even toddlers will want to hear it over and over again.

When the kids are a little older they can learn the alphabet letters for each creature.

Bigger kids will enjoy the pages of activities in the back of the book,  which are suitable for kids in elementary school.  It bothered me a bit that some of the pages have slightly different meter, but that may be deliberate since one activity is counting the number of syllables.

Because of the variety of age groups who can benefit from Chances Are, chances are children who get this book when they're little will continue to enjoy it for years.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Magical Matthew

Penelope Anne Cole has written a book based on a creative concept. Magical Matthew is about a boy who has a magic power, but it's unlike any magical power I've ever heard of before. He can fix broken things by simply wishing them whole.

One thing Matthew can't fix is his friend, Lily, who uses a wheelchair because she can't walk. But that doesn't keep them from being friends, and Lily eventually learns about Matthew's secret power.

Unfortunately something happens to destroy Matthew's magic. His friendship with Lily lasts and he realizes he may be able to fix things without using magic, but that's not the happy ending of the book. I don't want to spoil it, so you'll have to read the book to find out what that is.

The colorful illustrations by Kevin Collier capture the cheerful mood of the story perfectly and lots of kids will enjoy reading Magical Matthew or having it read to them. Maybe some of them will even be inspired to find ways to help others.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Daylight Saving?

It seems strange to me that our governments command everyone to get up an hour earlier or stay in bed an hour longer, but that's what happens in most, but not all, of the United States. In the Spring we are required to set our clocks an hour later (Spring ahead) and in the Fall we must set them an hour earlier (Fall back.)

Daylight Saving Time was put into effect during World War I and World War II and didn't exist in between those wars, but was continued after the second one.  And back then it probably helped save energy.

But does it really do that today?

Back in the first half of the twentieth century most electricity was used for lighting. By the late 1940s most people had some appliances like vacuum cleaners, radios, toasters and electric mixers in their homes, but even televisions weren't available yet. In some rural areas people still used ice boxes instead of refrigerators.

I wonder if today we actually use a lot less energy during daylight hours. Now millions of people depend on computers or power tools to do their jobs, big box stores and other buildings are lit all day, many homes have whole-house air conditioning and heating systems, people use cell phones instead of land-lines, read on electronic devices and use other things that need charging.

People recovering from Sandy who have been without electric power for days realize how much we have come to depend on it for things we use all day, not just after dark.