Friday, July 31, 2009

Book 5 of the Summer Reading Book Challenge

Book 5: Dying to Meet You by Kate Klise (Series: 43 Old Cemetery Road, Bk 1)

Ignatius B. Grumply is a washed-up children's book author desperate for another best seller. He is determined to write #13 in his Ghost Tamer series and nothing, not even a terrible case of writer's block will stop him!

In order to get away from it all and get his head in the writing game, Ignatius decides to leave his home in Chicago and rent the 32 1/2 room victorian mansion and 43 Old Cemetery Road in Ghastly, Illinois. What he doesn't expect is to be sharing the house with an eleven-year old boy named Seymour Hope, his cat, Shadow, and a ghost! At first, Ignatius refuses to believe that the ghost of Olive C. Spence is haunting his rental home and thinks that Seymour is behind all of the spooky happenings. But over the course of the summer he not only comes to believe in Olive but welcomes her help co-writing his book!

I've enjoyed the Klise sister's (Kate is the writer, M. Sarah is the illustrator) work for a long time beginning with their hilarious Regarding the Fountain. Their newest book is just as much fun (and the beginning of another series!) I love the different methods they use to tell a story - in this one it's letters, newspaper articles and illustrations. It's a totally different way of reading and highly enjoyable! As with their other books, all of the character's names in Dying to Meet You are puns and plays-on-words: Anita Sale, E. Gadds, Paige Turner, Frank N. Beans, Olive C. Spence, M. Balm, Seymour Hope, Kay Daver and Fay Tality just to name a few.

I especially liked how Ignatius grew as a person over the course of the story. In the beginning he was miserable, grumpy and not pleasant to be around. By the end he had changed, realizing that it wasn't other people who made him so grumpy and caused his writer's block - he brought it on himself. In one poignant discussion, Olive helps open Ignatius' eyes to this fact:

"All I'm saying is that your life is a story, and that you are the main character of that story. Is your story a comedy or a tragedy? Is it dull? Or is it a compelling, spine-tingling drama? My point, Iggy, is simply that each of us is the author of his or her own life. So if you're telling me that you've changed, I'm pleased at your authorship."

A wonderful read with fun, engaging characters. I'll definitely be on the lookout for the next installment of 43 Old Cemetery Road: Over My Dead Body (coming in October 2009).

Monday, July 27, 2009

Summer Reading Week 5: Performing Arts

This week is all about performing arts which includes things like dance, music, theater, puppetry, magic, storytelling and circus arts. To see a performer up close, come see storyteller Carolyn Martino on Wednesday, July 29th at 10:30am!

Break a Leg!: The Kids' Book of Acting and Stagecraft by Lise Friedman (j792.028 Fri)

An instructional guide to acting and stagecraft with chapters on theater games and improvisation, character building (motivation, fake tears), speaking up (voice warmups, accents), getting physical (clowning, stunts, fainting), going backstage (set designs, props, lighting, costumes), reading between the lines (memorizing lines, casting, direction) and making a living (agents, auditioning, voice-overs). A fun and informative book!

The Most Excellent Book of How to Be a Magician by Peter Eldin (j793.8 Eld)
Have you ever wanted perform amazing tricks that dazzle the eye? Then you'll want to read up on how to be a magician. With lots of details on how to look the part and how to put an act together as well as step-by-step instructions for specific magic tricks including the "String and Straw" (where a string appears to be cut in two but stays intact) and "X-ray Magic" (making predictions from a deck of cards).

Funny Business: Clowning Around, Practical Jokes, Cool Comedy, Cartooning, and More... by Helaine Becker (j791.3 Bec)
A great book about laughter, jokes, stand-up comedy and how to be a real clown! Also includes a section on comic strips and cartooning. I especially liked the "Fabulously Funny Facts" on page 10. Some facts of note: "Homo sapiens (that's us!) is the only species with a true laugh" and "On average, kids laugh about 400 times a day. Grownups laugh only 15 times a day." Hhmmm, something to think about...

Babymouse. 10, The Musical by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm (Graphic J Holm)

As tryouts for the school musical begin, Babymouse takes the starring role in several imaginary Broadway productions, which also feature her debonair new classmate, Henry the hedgehog.

The Talented Clementine by Sara Pennypacker (j Pennypacker)

Eight-year-old Clementine, convinced that she has no talents, tries to find a way to avoid participating in the class talent show.

A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban (j Urban)

Ten-year-old Zoe Elias, who longs to play the piano but must resign herself to learning the organ, instead, finds that her musicianship has a positive impact on her workaholic mother, her jittery father, and her school social life.

And have a look at some performing arts websites!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Book 4 of the Summer Reading Book Challenge

Book 4: Top of the Order by John Coy

"Jackson's parents are divorced and his mother has started dating. Gig's dad is in the National Guard and has been called up to serve in the Middle East. Isaac's dad wants him to go to a different middle school than all his friends. Diego is the new kid in school, a power-hitter who works with his family on the weekends and can't make every team practice. These four friends lead different lives, but on the baseball field, they're a strong team, the top of the order. In this crucial last year of elementary school, they're faced with preparing for middle school and dealing with a new member of their team - a girl!"

I enjoyed Top of the Order. There are lots of descriptions of baseball practices and games so if you like to read about that, you will definitely appreciate this book. I think boys especially will like these four friends and their passion for baseball. The boys are individuals and have their differences but they are alike in a lot of ways too and I think many elementary age boys will find their problems very relatable, especially their anxiety about heading to middle school. I also liked the inclusion of a girl on the baseball team and how that added to the dynamic of the team.

Overall, this is a great 3rd or 4th grade book for baseball fans. It reminded me in some ways of another baseball book (and former Book Buddies book) that I love: The Aurora County All-Stars by Deborah Wiles. So come in and pick up Top of the Order and enjoy reading about one of summer's greatest traditions: baseball!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Summer Reading Week 4: Dance

It's hard to believe we are into our fourth week of summer reading...time really flies by! This week it's all about Dance! Do you like to dance? Much like the other arts, there's a lot to cover with dance so this post will only be a sampling of some of the great dance books the library has for kids. If you don't see what you're looking for in this post, come in to the library and browse our dance collection, primarily located in j792.8.

Also, don't forget to sign up for Kids Dance Dance Revolution happening on Saturday, August 1st!

A Dictionary of Dance by Liz Murphy (j792.8 Mur)

"Dance is not just an art, it's a whole different language! In A Dictionary of Dance, readers will learn about arabesques, break dancing, choreographers, and the zones of the body, everything that comes together to make a dance, whether it's ballet or the polka."

Footwork: The Story of Fred and Adele Astaire by Roxanne Orgill (j792.802 Org)

The behind the scenes story of famous dancer Fred Astaire, his older sister Adele and their rise to fame on Broadway.

To Dance: A Ballerina's Graphic Novel by Siena Cherson Siegel (j741.509 Sie)

"The author describes how she first decided she wanted to be a ballerina at the age of six, and how that dream carried her from her home in Puerto Rico to dance class in Boston to performing with the New York City Ballet." A fascinating memoir in graphic novel format.

Savion!: My Life in Tap by Savion Glover (j920 Glover)

An autobiography of tap dancing legend Savion Glover who choreographed the Tony Award-winning Broadway show "Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Funk."

Street Jazz: and Modern Dance by Rita Storey (j792.8 Sto)

From the Get Dancing series, Street Jazz contains information on Breakdancing, Hip-Hop dancing and Tap dancing, just to name a few.

Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfield (j Streatfield)

"The story of three British orphans, Pauline, Petrova, and Posie start life off as carefree children, but when their adopted Great Uncle Max (a.k.a. Gum) disappears on a fossil hunting expedition, the young girls find themselves becoming the breadwinners of the family. As stage performers they are able to give back to the only family they have ever known, and have their own adventures while they're at it." (SLJ review) A classic from 1965 that's well worth reading.

For a few dance websites, check out our summer reading webpages!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Book 3 of the Summer Reading Book Challenge

Book 3: Gilda Joyce: The Ghost Sonata by Jennifer Allison

Gilda Joyce is an aspiring novelist and psychic investigator. In her third adventure following 2005's Gilda Joyce, Psychic Investigator and 2006's Gilda Joyce: The Ladies of the Lake, Gilda accompanies her best friend Wendy Choy to the Young International Virtuosos Piano Competition in Oxford, England. Gilda goes as Wendy's official page-turner but she's mostly excited about having the chance to visit England, a hot spot for paranormal activity.

Once in England, it's not long before Gilda and Wendy are in the middle of a real psychic mystery. Someone is sending disturbing Tarot cards to the competitors to try and shake their confidence and Wendy is haunted by a disturbing melody that she can't get out of her head. Is a ghost is trying to communicate with her? Is Wendy in danger? Can Gilda figure out who is trying to sabotage the competition?

Gilda is a fun and quirky girl protagonist. One of the things I love best about her is that she has big dreams and isn't ashamed of them. She has no doubt that she will achieve everything she sets her mind to. She's also confident enough to be an individual - she's different and not embarrassed by it. I think this is best exemplified by her fabulous traveling wardrobe of unusual outfits for any occasion: "Tainted Royalty", "London Mod" and "Mysterious Traveler." Wendy is a great foil for Gilda - where Gilda gets easily carried away, Wendy is firmly planted in reality and has a hard time believing in things she cannot see. I thought that Wendy's personal journey was particularly interesting - throughout the story she grows and changes from the dutiful daughter to her own person, capable of making her own choices.

The mystery at the heart of The Ghost Sonata was a good one with lots of clues and creepiness to keep the reader on the edge of their seat and Oxford, England was the perfect backdrop for a haunting. I love a good mystery and I can't wait to get to Gilda's next adventure: Gilda Joyce: The Dead Drop!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Summer Reading Week 3: Music

This week I thought we'd take a look at some great music books and websites. We have many books on all the different kinds of music in the library so you definitely want to come by and have a look. Most are in our non-fiction collection in the j780s. Ask a librarian if you need help finding what you are looking for!

Here are just a few music book you might enjoy...

The Composer is Dead by Lemony Snicket (jE Snicket + CD)

The composer is who killed him? Was it the stringed instruments? Was it the flutes? Or could it have been the conductor? Join the Inspector as he interrogates every member of the orchestra to find out whodunnit! Includes a CD with music and a narration by Lemony Snicket.

Nifty Thrifty Music Crafts by Felicia Lowenstein Niven (j745.5 Nil)

Instructions for creating 10 different musical instruments including finger cymbals, maracas and rhythm blocks!

The Long Gone Lonesome History of Country Music by Bret Bertholf (j781.64 Ber)

A journey through the history of country music. Includes instructions on how to yodel(!), proper country attire, pets you might want to own if you're a country music fan, different country dances and an explanation of some cool country words like "crick" and "hanker." Also includes "The Big List of Country Nicknames" and a Who's Who in country music. So come on y'all and check this one out!

Those Amazing Musical Instruments!: Your Guide to the Orchestra Through Sounds and Stories by Genevieve Helsby (j784.19 Hel + CD-Rom)

"From the cello to the clarinet to the trumpet to the drums, Those Amazing Musical Instruments! takes readers on a musical tour, with notes on the history, construction and sounds of the instruments from each of the major instrument 'families.' They can see the parts of the violin working together, read about the flute in Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro," or hear the different sounds of the tuba on the included CD-ROM. This interactive CD-ROM includes individual musical samples giving readers an audible taste of each instrument, as well as full orchestra pieces showing how they play together."

Sing My Song: A Kid's Guide to Songwriting by Steve Seskin (j782.421 Ses)

With examples and step-by-step instructions, kids can learn how to put together a song. Includes an explanation of musical terms, information on how to write a song and a CD of samples.

Musical websites:

Creating Music - " is a children's online creative music environment for children of all ages. It's a place for kids to compose music, play with musical performance, music games and music puzzles. Come discover fun and easy ways to make music!"

New York Philharmonic Kids Zone - Includes an instrument lab, musician's lounge and game room!

Radio - Ever wondered how a radio works? Or who invented it? Check out this site for the complete history of the radio.

And here are a few more music links from our Summer Reading Website!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Book 2 of the Summer Reading Book Challenge

Book 2: Slob by Ellen Potter

There's no doubt that I am a HUGE fan of Ellen Potter's work. I absolutely adore her novel Pish Posh and I love her Olivia Kidney series - in fact the first Olivia Kidney book was our very first book club book and also our first author interview! Giving credit where credit is due, it is because of Ellen Potter that the book club has done so many author interviews. I was asbolutely flabbergasted when she called me at the library and offered to talk with the club. She planted the seed that it might be possible to do author interviews if I just *ask*. What a novel idea... :-)

So naturally, I was overjoyed when I found out a few months ago that she had a new novel coming out, one that features a boy main character. And let me just say that she did not let me down!

Here's a brief summary of the book:
"Twelve-year-old Owen Birnbaum is the fattest kid in school. But he's also a genius who invents cool contraptions - like a TV that can show the past. There is something that happened two years ago that he needs to see if he ever hopes to unravel a dreadful mystery.

But genius or not, there is much Own can't outthink. Like how his oreos keep disappearing from his lunch. Or why his sister suddenly wants to be called by a boy's name. Or why a diabolical, scar-faced thug at school seems to be on a mission to destroy him. He's sure that if he can only get the TV to work, things will start to make sense. But it will take a revelation, not a cool contraption, for Owen to see that the answer's not in the past, but the present. That no matter how large he is on the outside, he doesn't have to feel small on the inside."

I loved Slob. Owen is a fantastic main character who refuses to be defined by his weight and is determined to unravel the mysteries of the past. I loved his relationships - with his mom, Zelda, his sister, Jeremy and his Indian neighbor, Nima (maker of the famous momos - where can I get some?) All of the characters felt authentic. In another author's hands, a character like the evil gym teacher, Mr. Wooly, might have come across as cliched, but not in Ellen Potter's hands. And most of all I loved that no one was who they first appeared to be on the surface, especially Mason Ragg. Everyone had their own deeper layers created by their own unique experiences. Which reminds us not to judge people (or books for that matter) by their covers since you never know what surprises lie just beneath the surface.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Summer Reading Week 2: Visual Arts

It's week 2 of summer reading...I hope you all had a safe and happy fourth of July. I made it down to the fireworks display here in Newport, did you have a chance to go? I thought they did a great job and it was lots of fun, if a little bit cold (Sadly, I did not dress properly...)

I thought this week we'd take a brief look at visual arts. This is a super broad category and includes things like painting, drawing, sculpture and photography just to name a few. It's almost impossible for me to cover everything here, especially when I usually recommend 3 - 5 books in these posts. So I've decided to include a couple of non-fiction titles and a few art mysteries I'm sure you'll enjoy. Remember though, we have many, many arts-related books on display and on our shelves in the library, so come on by for a more comprehensive look at the visual arts!

Painting by Donna McQueen (j751.4 McQ)

Part of the Arts & Crafts skills series, Painting includes tips on getting started, supplies you'll need and how to mix colors, as well as instructions for different kinds of painting: drop, splatter, dry painting, painting on fabric and much more!

Cool Rubber Stamp Art by Pam Price (j761 Pri)

Stamps are a lot of fun and they make great art! This book will show you basic techniques as well as creative techniques and gives you interesting ideas for some fun projects including a cool canvas beach bag.

Masterpiece by Elise Broach (j Broach)

After Marvin, a beetle, makes a miniature drawing as an eleventh birthday gift for James, a human with whom he shares a house, the two new friends work together to help recover a Durer drawing stolen from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Sammy Keyes and the Art of Deception by Wendelin Van Draanan (j Van Draanan)

Seventh-grade sleuth Sammy Keyes investigates mysterious happenings at a local art gallery.

Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett (j Balliett)

When strange and seemingly unrelated events start to happen and a precious Vermeer painting disappears, eleven-year-olds Petra and Calder combine their talents to solve an international art scandal.

And now some art-y websites:

ArtEdventures from Sanford: A Lifetime of Color Activities - games that explore art concepts and history.

The Artist's Toolkit - watch an animated demonstration & learn about visual elements like line, color and shape.

Global Children's Art Gallery - view kids artwork from around the world!

Inside Art: An Art History Game - Tour art history and get sucked into famous paintings. Good luck finding your way out!

And check out these Visual Arts links on our Summer Reading Website.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Book 1 of the Summer Reading Book Challenge

As I mentioned in a previous post, I've created a little book challenge for myself this summer. I am planning to read a book a week during the Summer Reading Program and I will write a review of the book here on the blog. I'll be reading a variety of books, new and old, that might be good choices for our Book Buddies Book Club. You can look for my reviews each week on Fridays.

Book 1: Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love by Lauren Tarshis

Emma-Jean Lazarus, the quirky girl protagonist we first met in 2007's Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree, is back and experiencing rather alarming symptoms of Spring Fever. Yes, Emma-Jean has developed a crush - her first - on none other than Will Keeler, one of the most popular boys in her seventh grade class at William Gladstone Middle School. The Spring-Fling dance is fast approaching and this time the girls have to ask the boys. Emma-Jean isn't sure if she should ask Will since they seem so unsuitable for each other.

To make matters more complicated, Emma-Jean's friend Colleen, has received an anonymous love letter in her locker and begs Emma-Jean to find out who wrote it. Will Emma-Jean be able to solve the mystery and find Colleen's boy in time for the dance? And will she resolve her feelings for Will and survive her first crush?

I really enjoyed Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love. All of my favorite characters from the first book are back: Ms. Wright, Vikram, Mr. Johannsen and all of Emma-Jean's friends: Colleen, Kaitlin, Michele and Valerie. Even the mean Laura Gilroy is back but this time Colleen finds the confidence to stand up to her, which was thrilling to read. Emma-Jean is as quirky and logical as ever, using her keen observation skills to find Colleen's anonymous letter-writer. She also takes a second-stab at match-making for Ms. Wright and intercedes on Vikram's behalf when she fears his love for her mother has clouded his decision-making ability.

I would highly recommend this book to fans of the first one as well as those who like confident girl characters who don't mind standing out from the crowd. My one reservation is that I'm not sure most middle-grade girls will find Emma-Jean relatable - but does that matter? It's nice to find characters you can relate to but it can also be very inspiring to read about those who are different from you, too.