Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Graven Images Continued.........

I found two other covers that I wanted to add to my review....take a look!

Graven Images by Paul Fleischman

Not only was I intrigued by the three stories in this book, but I was also bewildered by the illustrations of Andrew Glass created.
Paul Fleischman created a combination of supernatural “things”….a wooden statue, a weather vane, and a sculpture…and eerie stories unfold.
The Binnacle Boy, the books first story, reminded me of an Alford Hitchcock movie. A boat, the Orion, drifted ashore the coast of Maine and the entire crew was dead! The only way to find out what may have occurred is to find out what a wooden statue witnessed. The wooden statue is that of The Binnacle Boy.
The second story, Saint Crispin’s Follower, a comedy oriented them, revolves around an odd phenomenon. A weather vane points in a different direction of the wind. How is this possible?
And the third story, The Man of Influence, tells the story of a sculptor named Zorelli. He is commissioned by a ghost-like figure to mold a statue his likeliness.
These stories were for the advanced readers. Suspenseful and thought provoking, but a bit advanced.
I was especially interested in the multiple book covers that are available. I think I found at least four. I’m still wondering why this was done and how many are actually out there?

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

How did so many different characters get wrapped up in one book? The Tale of Despereaux is a tale about love (how a mouse loves a princess), a wish (the wish of a young girl brought up in despair), and a desire (of a rat that wishes to be in the light).
The story begins when a mouse is born. His mother and father see him as a mistake to have lived. All of his brothers and sisters from the “liter” had died, and the only mouse to live was named Despereaux. Despereaux was tiny. His little eyes bulged open from the start. His family thought that he wouldn’t live long because of his tininess. “Mon Dieu,” his mother would repeat over and over in disappointment for the loss of her babies and the anticipated loss of her tiny Despereaux. But this didn’t occur. Despereaux lived.
As Despereaux grew older he found out that he could read (unlike his older brothers and sisters and mother and father). In fact, Despereaux had a gentle personality filled with thoughtfulness and adventure.
One day he met lovely princesses. The princess was listening to her father play music and she noticed Despereaux. Despereaux was captivated by the lovely princess and instantly fell in love. It was all of his reading that he believed that she was his true love and that he would honor the princess no matter what….”I honor you!” he would repeat.
Unfortunately, Desperaux had siblings that thought he was nuts. “Cripes,” his brother, Furlough would say as he looked at his longer brother Despereaux in disbelief each time he spoke of love and desire. In fact, it was Furlough who ended up taking Despereaux to the Mouse Council. Despereaux was sentenced to the dungeon due to his “odd” behavior of loving the princess, reading, and not nibbling on the normal everyday string and paper that mice tend to eat.
Meanwhile, a young (slow witted) girl named Maggery Sow was introduced in the story. Her father was in the same dungeon that Despereaux was sentenced to go to. He was a prisoner because he was caught stealing. Years before he sold his daughter, Maggery Sow, to an ogre of a man who forced Maggery to call him her “Uncle.” This man treated Maggery like a slave. He would hit her in her ears as a punishment. He did this cruelly for many years until the young girl could not hear well. One day, when Maggery was very young, she saw the Princess Pea and her family in their royal carriage. Maggery was dumbfounded by the beauty of this family. She wanted to be a princess, too. Fortunately, after many years of torture, a soldier came to her door. The soldier removed soup spoons, kettles, and bowls from the houses (early in the story the kings wife died when a rat fell into her bowl of soup). He also removed Maggery, and she was taken to the kingdom. Maggery was older now and could work for the royal family.
The rat, mentioned above, was named Chiaroscuro. Chiaroscuro wanted to be filled with light. One day he climbed up out of the dungeon into the quarters where the royal family was dining. Chiaroscuro climbed high up onto a chandelier. During dinner, as the family enjoyed their favorite meal, soup, Chiaroscuro fell right into the queen’s bowl. She was so shocked that she fell out and died. The King declared that no one would enjoy soup ever again.
These characters were pulled together in this fascinating tale. A great plot, great characters, and a nice ending made this book enjoyable from start to finish. Each character found happiness. Chiaroscuro was given permission to use the upstairs of the castle so he could be in the light when he wanted, Maggery and her father were reunited and he treated her like the princess she desired to be, and although Despereaux didn’t get to marry the “love” of his life (because a mouse cannot marry a princess) they were the best of friends.
I’m looking forward to reading more of the author Kate DiCamillo. Her light hearted story along with the funny antidotes that the characters possess was addicting.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Lois Lowry’s The Giver is one of the most thought provoking children’s literature book I’ve ever read.
Jonas, a Twelve (twelve year old boy), was smart and inquisitive. He lived in a community with his younger sister, Lily, and his mother and father. This community was like non other. Years before, people of this community decided that they would prefer to live without having to feel pain and loss. They decided that they wanted to establish committee’s to determine what each individual would do and act like during certain periods of their lives. Committee’s determined such things like:
• Who you married
• Who your children would be (and how many you were given)
• What your children’s names would be
• What you do for a living when you reached the age of Twelve
- Job Assignments were given (by the Chief Elder) at a Ceremony for all the children who were born in one year and were turning Twelve. Pilots, engineers, laborers, recreation director, and childcare providers were all types of job titles given to the “Twelves” in order to begin their training. But their were also jobs titled Nurturer, Birthmother, Fish Hatchery Attendant, or the Receiver of Memory (one of the most prestigious assignments given).
• How you would act in each year before you turned Twelve (i.e. at nine years old children get a bicycle and girls don’t have to wear hair ribbons any longer, at seven years old children begin wearing their jackets with the button in the front, children who are age 4, 5, and 6 “all wore jackets that fastened down the back so that they would have to help each other dress and would learn interdependence.” (p. 40)
• How you responded to certain situations, the words you used, and the words you didn’t use.
• Punishments people received for not following established rules
• Which babies were strong enough to live and which ones were “Released”
• Where adults of a certain age went to retire and eventually be “Released”
• No more colors
• No more seasons
• No more birds flying overhead
This community existed to remove all anguish and bad memories. One person was determined to be the holder of all memories good and evil including historical events. This selected individual was called the Receiver of Memory and was used for giving advice to the Committee of Elders when situations arose that they could not decide what to do when the situation arose. This one person, the Receiver of Memory, had the burden of everyone else’s happy and sad moments and feelings.

The Receiver of Memory was getting old and a new one needed to be trained so that he/she could begin taking on the position. Jonas was given this assignment at the Ceremony of Twelves. He began training immediately. The current Receiver of Memory was now called “The Giver” as he began giving his memories over to Jonas. The Giver would put his hands on Jonas’ back and beautiful memories of snow, and sledding were transferred to Jonas. But as the training continued over the months Jonas had to receive memories of death, dieing, and pain. Jonas was determined to do his job and help take these memories away from The Giver (because The Giver was so weighted down by so much anguish and sorrow). Until one day Jonas found out what really happened to babies that didn’t measure up to the community’s standards.

Now that Jonas had feelings (that were transferred to him by The Giver) he became distraught to find out that the word “Released” meant death. He, in turn, discovered that his father (who was a Nurturer – cared for babies before they were given to families) did the “Releasing” himself. Jonas watched on a screen how his father took a needle full of some sort of deathly medicine and stuck it in the babies head because the baby was a twin but was the one that weighed the least amount. This baby was considered to be the inadequate of the twins and must be “Released.” The father’s expressions, his words, and his lack of feelings were now evident to Jonas and Jonas decided that this community was one that he no longer wanted to be apart of.

The ending was suspenseful, but confusing. Jonas escaped with a little baby named Gabriel. Jonas found out that it was just determined that Gabriel (who was living in his home for a short while in an effort to help his chances of not be released) was going to be “Released.” The journey was hard and Jonas memories helped them through hard nights of cold and hunger.

This book was absolutely fascinating! I’ve read other books by Lois Lowry like Number the Stars. Another fantastic book! I’ve been trying to find out how the author came up with this idea other than she wanted to write about a place of utopia (and if there really one that exists).

Monday, March 21, 2011

Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman

Seedfolks = Kim, Ana, Wendell, Gonzalo, Leona, Sam, Virgil, Sae Young, Curtis, Nora, Maricela, Amir, Florence……
It’s amazing how one young girl, Kim, from a simple school idea (planting seeds in a cup), brought together so many people in a vacant, dirty, rundown, lot and turned it into a flourishing means of food and an unidentified acceptance of respect.
Through this young girl’s determination to grow a plant, “I vowed that these plants will thrive!” someone else’s determination grew, as well.
- “I laid those beans right back in the ground, as gently as sleeping babies.” – Ana
- “Can’t change myself into a millionaire. But a patch of ground in this trashy lot, I can change that. Can change it big! That little grammar-school girl showed me that.” – Wendell
- “Whole city shuts down but the garden keeps growing and growing.” - Leona

But, as time reeled by, the story of growing a small crop turned into growing a new community…

- “Back then I didn’t know it was you. “ said of Amir. This was said by an Italian lady in the garden. She apologized over and over for thinking Amir cheated her with change at a store.

Common interests were discovered and the once very distant people (from different cultures and different backgrounds and different ideals about life) bonded together.

- “We waved and waved to each other.” – Florence

This story was so unlike any other story I’ve read. I thought it to be clever, and well-thought out, and well-researched (so that the description of the different families was realistic).

Paul Fleischman came up with the idea to write this book as he was sitting down eating and needed to read something to keep him busy…..he found a pre-owned copy of the San Francisco Chronicle talking about an article about a local psychotherapist who used gardening to help his clients. This article coupled with his own mother’s passion for gardening brought together his thoughts for Seedfolks.

“Seedfolks” is an old term for ancestors.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Missing May by Cynthia Rylant

Why do we feel that kids are so resilient and that change is so much easier for them because they know so little about life? Cynthia Rylant’s, Missing May, truly opens the reader’s mind to the ever changing and difficult life that a young child experiences.
Six year old, Summer, was an orphan. She was passed from one relative to the next until her Aunt May and Uncle Ob receive her. Summer, who is now twelve years old, has found unconditional love with her aunt and uncle but this happiness soon turns to grief when her Aunt May dies. Not only does Summer have to deal with her own feelings, but this loss deeply affects her Uncle Ob and Summer is left to help him through this terrible loss. “And I think Ob’s going to die, truly die, if I can’t figure a way to mend his sorry broken heart.”
When the thought of possibly connecting with Aunt May spirit enters Uncle Ob’s mind, Summer is willing to make whatever effort possible to help her uncle have peace. With the help of Summer’s school friend, Cletus (who suffered a near-death experience – and Ob thinks he may be able to help him communicate with his wife), they take a journey to West Virginia to find the spiritualism that will bring Summer and Ob closer to May. Although this journey doesn’t bring help them to their intended “goal,” it did provide them with a lifetime of fulfilling lessons. Summer becomes proud of her state after seeing the gold-domed capitol, Charleston. She learns more about herself, and Ob finds himself thinking about those around him that are alive and who need him. The three return home.
Because Summer never had a chance to fully grieve for the loss of her much loved aunt, something inside of her is triggered when she sees and owl flying above her. Summer remembers her aunt and breaks down and cries for the first time.
Summer’s thoughts and feelings throughout this book left me, the reader, feeling helpless. I wanted to help. This was a clever book that kept you reflecting on information that was provided to the reader early on (flashback).
I also enjoyed reading more about Appalachia and the significance to Cynthia Rylant’s upbringing and her childhood experiences that played a major role in her writings.