Sunday, February 18, 2018

Moo a novel by Sharon Creech

Newbery Medalist Creech touches on themes of loss, friendship, and belonging in this appealing tale of a young girl’s unlikely relationship with Zora, an enormous belted Galloway. Kirkus

Moo - why was I keen to read this book?

  • It is by the wonderful Sharon Creech
  • Sharon Creech once commented on this blog making me love her even more!
  • I adore belted Galloway cows (even though I have never seen one)
  • Moo is a partly written as a verse novel. I so admire writers who use this genre.
  • Ever since I read The Homecoming and Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voigt I have sought out books set in Maine

Driving through city traffic Reena's mum says "let's get out of here".  She means let's leave this hectic city life.  But where will they go. Reena says Maine.

"My parents met in Maine many years ago and when they spoke of Maine their voices had the glint of sea and sky. In the car that day, Maine just popped out of my head. I hadn't expected they would take me seriously. I'm glad I didn't say Siberia."

Friends, family, neighbors, strangers all warn against the perils of Maine - especially the cold. But there are also good things - lobsters, blueberries, coastlines and mountains.  When the family arrive mum and dad send Reena and her brother Luke (a seven-year-old complexity) off for a ride around the town - this is unheard of freedom. 

In the city where we'd lived

there were few safe places
for us to ride - 
few places where we weren't competing
with cars and trucks and buses
and surprise clumps of kids
armed with sticks and stone
or wobbly bearded men spitting

but here in this little town by the sea

there were wide sidewalks
and quiet, curving lanes
spreading like tree limbs
from the trunk of the town centre
and you could ride and ride
the whole day long.

Their mother meets the eccentric Mrs Falala and volunteers Reena and Luke to help with a cow called Zora.  Reena and Luke know nothing about cows. Zora is ornery, moody and stubborn not to mention caked with mud and dust.  Somehow Reena and Luke need to make friends with the strangely abrasive Mrs Falala and with Zora, her cow, and then complete the seemingly impossible task of preparing Zora for the country show. But please don't go thinking this is just a book about kids and a cow - it is so much more. Read this book slowly, then read it again. This is story telling at its best.

Listen to an audio sample here from the first few pages of this book.  I would follow Moo with The girl who Bought Mischief and Fly Away.   Of course you should also pick up Love that Dog and Hate that Cat by Sharon Creech.

A heartfelt tale that will be embraced by Creech’s fans, work well as a classroom read-aloud, and find a spot in book groups. School Library Journal

Many children’s books depict a quest or journey, or a huge event in the main character’s life. With MOO, Creech acknowledges the fact that an unlikely friendship with an elderly woman --- and an ornery cow --- is all the drama a children’s book needs in order to shine. KidsReads

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Hark, it's me, Ruby Lee! by Lisa Shanahan and Binny

By the end of the book, you’ll feel as if Ruby Lee is a real person — that you know her personally. Her hopes, dreams, disappointments and flaws are all exposed, pulling you into the story so you experience the same sadness, joy and pride as Ruby Lee does through the book. Kids Book Review

Children love to take on class 'jobs' such as lunch monitor, line leader or messenger.  Ruby Lee is desperate to be the messenger. She is the best in her class at announcing :

Hark, it's me, Ruby Lee
Fear not I am the bearer of good news

For some reason Mrs Majestic-Jones never seems to pick Ruby Lee. Her friend, with the delightful name George Papadopoulos, tries to help but on Monday Siena is chosen again and Ruby Lee is made litter patrol officer. At least the birds love her because she shares the lunch scraps. On Tuesday Siena is absent. George suggests Ruby Lee try sitting quietly as still as a mouse. It works and she is now the class messenger but her excitement and exuberance means things do not quite go to plan.

This little cautionary tale is a delight to read aloud.  It is filled with delicious invented words like:

Spockled Frocklewockle!

I especially enjoyed the opening sentences :
Ruby Lee loves pockets, peaches, puddles and polka dots.
She loves humming and hopping and handstands at dusk.

It would be fun to read this book with a class at the start of the school year or term when you are deciding on your class roles and responsibilities. Perhaps you could make a chart with the jobs and then add the personal qualities required for each task and compare these with Ruby Lee and her classmates.

I wonder if this book might be short listed for our CBCA awards which will be announced in a few weeks - it certainly deserves to be. You can see some of the illustrations here. You might also take a look at the illustrator web siteLisa Shanahan is the author of one of my favourite read aloud titles Bear and Chook by the sea.

After reading Hark, it's me, Ruby Lee try to find Jennie's hat by Ezra Jack Keats.

Friday, February 9, 2018

My reading pile

Leaving my school library last year I knew I would miss having access to new (and old) books but I seem to have found plenty from other sources and somehow my reading pile is now quite huge.  I will talk about some or all of these over the coming weeks.

The Most important Thing by Avi
From the blurb : Avi introduces seven boys seeking acceptance, guidance, or just someone to look up to. ... Each story shines a different light on the question 'What's the most important thing a father can do for his son?'
Kirkus give this book a star review. I have read the first two stories and I am hooked.
Source - my public library

Prisoner of the Black Hawke - The Mapmaker Chronicles Book Two A.L. Tait
From the blurb : In the second book in this thrilling series, mapmaker Quinn is far from home in an exotic land filled with dangerous creatures and ruthless enemies. When he is betrayed by someone close to him and comes face to face with boodthirsty pirates, he has to decide once and for all who is a friend and who is a foe.
Check out my review of the first book in this series.
Source - a friend

Moo by Sharon Creech
I am a massive fan of everything Sharon Creech has written.  When I saw this on a review site last year I knew I wanted to read it especially since it is partly written as a verse novel.
From the blurb : When twelve year old Reena, her little brother, Luke, and their parents move to Maine, Reena doesn't know what to expect. She's ready for beaches, blueberries, and all the lobster she can idea. Instead her parents 'volunteer' her to work for an eccentric neighbor named Mrs Falala, who one very ornery cow named Zora.
Kirkus give Moo a star review.
Source - Gleebooks

The Gallery by Laura Marx Fitzgerald
I picked this up because the cover looked good and the blur intrigued me.  I know realise it by the author of Under the Egg which I read last year.
From the blurb : Nothing is what it seems and no one is who they say they are. A eccentric recluse. A self-absorbed newspaper tycoon. A shady footman. A mansion with a secret. And one girl who has the moxie to see everything for what it is.
The Kirkus reviewer enjoyed this book.
Source - local bookshop

The house of Months and Years by Emma Trevayne
I picked this up because the cover looked interesting and this is a new book published in 2017.
From the blurb : It was a special house, assembled stone by stone and brick by brick. Twelve rooms, seven fireplaces, a floor for each season. Horatio, the immortal who built  it stood in the sunlight streaming through fifty-two windows and was pleased with himself. A perfect Calendar House, ideal for its purpose.

The Kirkus review says this book is satisfying.
Source - my public library

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown
I have seen this book mentioned several times in book lists and in the School Library Journal review Elizabeth Bird gave it a very positive review.  I do like the art of Peter Brown and we have several of his picture books in our school library including The Curious Garden, Children make terrible pets and My Teacher is a monster.
From the blurb : When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers that she is alone on a remote, wild island. She has no idea how she got there or what her purpose is - but she knows she needs to survive. But as Roz slowly befriends the animals, the island starts to feel like home - until one day, her mysterious past comes back to haunt her.
Kirkus gave The Wild Robot a star review.
Source - Gleebooks

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

A case in any case by Ulf Nilsson illustrated by Gitte Spee

I am just going to talk about this book - number three in the Detective Gordon series - very briefly because you can read how much I enjoyed the first installment.  My main message is go out and grab this book and read it with or to your young child as soon as you can. I guarantee both of you will enjoy every page.

Gordon has taken a holiday (a long holiday) and left Police Chief Buffy in charge of the station. She is missing Gordon. One night she hears some mysterious sounds late in the night right outside her window.  She sees a large shapeless figure disappearing through the garden. When all of this happens again on the second night Buffy decides to head over to Gordon and ask his advice. Gordon is delighted to see her but just as they begin to discuss the case (Gordon knows more than he is letting on) a kindergarten group arrive with their teacher.  Two of the little students are missing. A squirrel named Evert and a young rabbit named Karen. 

It is lucky Gordon and Buffy are working together on the case but while they are piecing together all the clues your young reader will delight in solving this one themselves well before our intrepid heroes.  I suggest you begin this series with book one and continue in reading order.

 Nilsson’s third Detective Gordon mystery is as charming and droll as the first two. Filled with silly and sweet songs, anthropomorphic animals who all get along (except the fox), and a naïve sensibility, it should easily please fans of the first.  Kirkus

 Life lessons are imparted within these pages but with a gentleness and brevity that allow a simple yet engaging plot to move forward. School Library Journal

Brambly Hedge series by Jill Barklem

I was so sad to hear that Jill Barklem, creator of the Brambly Hedge book series died late last year.  I loved having these sweet books in my school library. The idea of living in the hedgerow seems so special especially to a reader from Australia where we have no hedgerows.   Yesterday I visited an excellent Vintage book store and I found two little Brambly Hedge stories - Summer Story and Autumn Story.

In Summer story, after many months of quiet meetings beside the mill stream Miss Poppy Eyebright and Mr Dusty Dogwood "officially announced their engagement."  Everyone is involved in the preparations for the midsummer day event which will take place on the river.  Dusty makes a 'raft' using a flat piece of bark which is tethered with plaited rush and nettle ropes.  In the kitchens cool summer foods are prepared such as cold watercress soup, fresh dandelion salad, syllabubs and meringues with wild strawberries and special wines.  Reading this book to a young child there would be so much to explore and perhaps even cook.

On the day of the wedding everything goes well until the vigorous dancing makes the ropes holding the raft snap.

"The raft floated gently past fields of buttercups and meadowsweet. ... Eventually, the raft was caught in a leafy clump of rushes and forget-me-nots. The ropes were made fast, and the dancing began again."

The mice set off to collect ripe blackberries in Autumn Story.  Young Primrose, daughter of Lord and Lady Woodmouse, becomes lost just as a storm is about to begin. Primrose has become distracted as she collected flowers and she finds herself in the home of two elderly harvest ice. "They sat Primrose down, gave her a slice of cake, and handed her their album of family portraits to look at."  After this delightful visit she continues on her way and spies an interesting hole. Inside is a maze of tunnels and Primrose quickly becomes lost.  Eventually she finds the way back outside but she is so exhausted and the rain is falling so she huddles under the brambles and tries to stay brave "when to her horror she saw five little flickering lights coming through the woods towards her. She could just make out five strange figures behind them. They were shapeless and bulgy, and seemed to have no heads at all."  The five are in fact her family and friends and Primrose is rescued. Her mother takes her home, puts her in a clean nightie  and they share a mug of hot acorn coffee.

You can watch a little of the television series here.  Once you could even buy Brambly Hedge china from Royal Doulton.  You could follow the Brambly Hedge books with a visit to Beatrix Potter and her famous titles and also the Tumtum and Nutmeg books.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

A great big cuddle - Poems for the very young by Michael Rosen illustrated by Chris Riddell

It feels like there’s something for everyone in this collection, but the takeaway is how well it holds together. A treasure in a treasury.

It is also worth noting that without including any verbal instructions, even the dullest of parental readers will catch on pretty early that many of these poems are interactive. 

Delightful to read aloud again and again (a good thing since I’m afraid you will have to, if only to please your rabid pint-sized audience) and lovely to the eye, Rosen and Riddell aim for the earliest of ages and end up creating a contemporary classic in the process.

School Library Journal

Here is an absolutely perfect, must own, must read, must buy poetry book for children aged 2-6. I loved every single poem by the amazing Michael Rosen. The large format and the funny, colourful illustrations Chris Riddell are perfect for each of the 35 poems.  Here is the Kirkus review and one from Kids Book Review.

Here are a few poems I enoyed :

Inside Out

Inside out
Outside in
You can't lose
I can't win

I've got a sausage
You've got a pie
I can't whistle
And I don't know why.

I've got a letter
You've got a phone
You like sandwiches
I like to moan.


Your voice needs to get softer and softer towards the end.

Mrs Hobson-Jobson Says :

Itty-bitty . Bat . Tittle-tattle . Tat
Shilly-shally . Shout . Dilly-Dally . Out
Willy-nilly . Woo . Silly Billy . Boo!
Roly-poly . Rip . Pitter-patter . Pip
Wibble-wobble . Woe . Namby-pamby . No
Hunky-dory. Hop . Topsy-turvey

Meet at the Ark at Eight by Ulrich Hub illustrated by Jorg Muhle

I think I smiled right through this little quirky book but here is a warning some people might find all the questions about the existence and role of God quite confronting and yet I would say the questions are probably the same ones all humans (young and old) have had at some time.

Three penguins are living in the land of ice and snow and snow and ice and ice and snow. A butterfly arrives and the three begin to ponder the existence of God. 

Here is an abridged version of their conversation :

"So who is God?
Oh, God ... that's a difficult question
Well, God is great and very, very powerful. He came with with all sorts of rules and can become quite grumpy if you don't stick to them. Other than that, he's very friendly.
There's just one small disadvantage to God
What's that?
God is invisible.
Well, that's a huge disadvantage ... If you can't see God, you can't be sure whether he really exists."

As this dialogue continues a dove arrives with news of Noah and his ark.  He tells the penguins to meet at the ark at eight.  The problem is God and Noah only want two penguins. The first two decide to take their friend in their suitcase. The are worried about drowning and are in a rush to get over to the ark. (Take a minute to think about this).

Hiding the third penguin on the ship gives rise to a hilarious series of events. Of course the flood eventually subsides after the obligatory 40 days. The three penguins are saved but what about the dove. She kept having a niggling thought that she was missing something :

"I've got it, at last! The whole time, I've had this funny feeling I'd forgotten something!"

Read an interview with the publisher here.  Here is a review by a young reader. Try to find some books by Nicholas Allen if Meet at the Ark at Eight tickles your funny bone.  You could also read Meet at the Ark at Eight to a class familiar with the story of Noah's Ark then you might look for these other odd ball versions too.

I think kids will enjoy this version of Noah’s Ark, if not for the questions it will raise, then  for the humorous story of three best friends trying to help each other through life. KidLit reviews