Monday, May 31, 2010

HOT Topic: How Does a Volcano Become An Island? by Linda Tagliaferro

The world's largest island that is almost entirely made up of active (still capable of erupting) volcanoes is Iceland, a country in the north Atlantic Ocean. Iceland formed millions of years ago from underwater eruptions.

With Iceland's notorious Eyjafjallajokul still spewing a plume of ash all over western Europe, volcanoes are a real, um, hot topic just now. Linda Tagliaferro's newest, How Does A Volcano Become An Island? (Perspectives) (Raintree, 2010), offers an timely, absorbing, and informative look at the role of volcanic activity in the creation of Earth's landforms.

Tagliaferro opens with "What's Inside Earth?" a chapter which covers the basics of geology, including the planet's inner and outer core of molten iron, the mantle, and the crust, of which only a small part constitutes the solid portion of our world. From this basis the author moves to a discussion of the movement of tectonic plates, the consequent earthquakes they may cause, and the rise of earthquakes at certain weak spots in the crust, with special attention to the Ring of Fire, noted dormant and currently active volcanoes, and the development and study of underwater volcanoes by the submersible ROVs, (Remotely Operated Vehicles). The textbook types, shield volcanoes, cinder cone volcanoes, and composite cone volcanoes, are described and their role in constructing islands such as Iceland, Sicily, and the Hawaiian chain are introduced, amplified by full-color photographs on each page.

The author then turns her attention to the development of plant and animal life on volcanic islands over time, as birds drop seeds, coconuts float up on cinder cone beaches, and stowaway plants and animals ride flotsam on ocean currnts until they fortuitously wash up onshore. The Galapagos Islands and their exotic lifeforms, such as the marine iguana, giant tortoises, up to six feet in length and living 100 years or more, lava gulls and waved albatrosses, are given special coverage. Iceland, with its newest volcanic islet, Surtsey, dating back only to 1963, is discussed, with photos of its new inhabitants--seagulls, grasses, and, yes, dandelions. Historic eruptions, such as that of Earth's most memorable modern island volcano, Krakatoa, are also described.

The final chapter, "How Else Do Islands Form?" briefly covers islands produced by the flooding of lowlands, coral atolls, and offshore barrier islands. Appendices include a glossary of the terms introduced in boldface in the text, a bibliography ("Find Out More"), books and a trio of "hot" websites for further research, and a complete index.

With a crisp and highly readable and informative text, plenty of diagrams and color photos which illustrate information as it is presented, and useful backmatter, this latest title in Raintree's wide-ranging Perspectives science series is particularly useful for curriculum support, research, and browsing by students intrigued with the volcano currently in the news.

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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Outgoing: How the Nobble Was Finally Found by C. K. Williams

Once upon a time there was something, a creature or an animal or a person or, anyway, a something named a NOBBLE, who--even though he'd lived about four thousand three hundred ad twenty-three years and fourteen days--had never been discovered, or bumped into, or met, or found by anybody, anybody at all.

He lived all alone.

The NOBBLE plays in the place between Wednesday and Thursday, and he sleeps on the bottom rung of the number eight, but he has never had anyone to say "Hello," or "Come in!" to, and so he also has no one he could say "Goodbye" to. It is such a solitary way of being that the Nobble begins to wonder who he is-- or even if he is.

Sometimes the NOBBLE would think that not only was he dreaming that he was crying in his sleep, but maybe he was a dream himself; maybe he was just himself having a dream about himself.

He didn't want to be alone anymore, so he set off to try to find some place he hadn't been yet, or maybe see something there he hadn't seen yet...or SOMETHING.

It's a strange world in that place where he's never been, but then he meets an unlikely matchmaker, a somebody called a girl, who seems to know exactly what the NOBBLE needs. When he can't bring himself to come close enough to talk, she shouts to him "Pick up the phone!" And when he finally understands how to open the phone booth and put the strange black thing to his ear, she tells him exactly where to go, and when he gets to that place she explains how to open the door for the something that is knocking, the somebody that is also looking for a something like him. It is another NOBBLE, one who has been just as lonely as he.

And they laughed and zoomed off, both of them, up through the space of the highest note in your favorite song. . . and crossed the space between Wednesday and Thursday and then the little girl couldn't see them anymore; all she could hear was their laughing.

Putting together Pulitzer Prize-winning poet C. K. Williams and Caldecott medalist Stephen Gammell guarantees a fantasy of friendship found, one that indeed lives in the space behind the ampersand and between the quiver-quavers of a violin's vibrato. Their How the Nobble Was Finally Found (Houghton Miffln/Harcourt, 2009) features Gammell's unique and fanciful hand-lettering and unmistakable illustrations and Williams' way-out language that will take young readers to a place they've never been but, with a friend on the other side, a place they will instantly recognize.

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Do It with Daddy! Let's Have a Daddy Day by Karen Kingsbury


Karen Kingsbury's Let's Have a Daddy Day (ZonderKidz, 2010) riffs on the format of the folk lullaby, "Hush Little Baby," in which the singer invents the IF-THEN loop, coming up with an escalating series of possible alternative gifts, as in "If that mockingbird won't sing/Papa's gonna buy you a diamond ring." Here the papa in question comes up with wonderful activities for a "Daddy Day," beginning with building a fort in their tree, but just in case, he's also got a Plan B.



But what if those tadpoles have already turned into frogs? Well, there's always the lake, a perfect place to play Army rangers. And if it's too hot to chase each other around down by the water, there's always the vacant lot for an pick-up game of baseball in which everyone gets to star. Of course, that vacant lot could now be the site of a new building, in which case.... well, you get the picture.

This daddy is a fount of ideas for what to do on Daddy Day, and in case ALL of those scenarios turn out to be a no go, Dad and the two kids can always get down on the floor for a bit of wrestling or playing horsey on Dad's strong back.



Around Fathers Day it's always good to be reminded that those "Daddy Days" don't last forever. So for fathers looking for a way to observe their day, Karen Kingsbury's motto is carpe diem. Whatever else the kids have in store for you, seize the day and play with the kids for a while. They'll love it, no matter what, as long as you're in the game with them.

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Martha's Got Game! Play Ball (Martha Speaks) by Susan Meddaugh

We have a softball game tomorrow," says Truman.

"The coach says I have to play.

But I can't catch the ball!"

"Barking bloopers!" says Martha. I'll give you catching lessons.

Trust me--I'm an expert."

After all, Martha and her sidekick Skits are great catchers--balls, Frisbees, whatever! Martha takes her friend to the park where Helen's friend Alice is making some practice throws to Skits. Skits demonstrates his faultless technique, and Alice agrees to pitch a few to Truman. But Truman is afraid of the ball and hides his eyes. "Try to keep your eyes on the ball," Martha says, but even when he gets his glove on the ball, it bounces right out again. "Squeeze the glove," Martha suggests.

Finally their coaching pays off, and Truman begins to hang onto the ball most of the time. And when Coach puts him into the field the next day, Truman gets right under a pop fly and pulls it in like a pro.

There's only one problem. Truman doesn't know how to throw the ball to pick off the runner trying to make second base. OOOOPS!

"Martha? Can you teach me to throw the ball?" he pleads.

"Sorry," Martha says. "Dogs can't throw.


Even a talking dog like Martha can only do so much, but Martha can always be counted on to pitch in and do what she can. Susan Meddaugh, creator of the Martha picture books series, and her collaborators Marcy Sacks and Susan Kim from the PBS TV series "Martha Speaks" pitch in to create another in her Green Light Level 2 series, Martha Speaks: Play Ball! (Reader) (Martha Speaks Readers) Houghton Mifflin, 2010) for beginning readers. Appended are some activities to reinforce vocabulary introduced in the text, and for more reading fun with Martha the Talking Dog, visit her online at PBSKids here.

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Shadowstrike! Fire Will Fall by Carol Plum-Ucci

...I threw myself onto my bed but couldn't bang all the bad words out of my head even when covering it with four bed pillows. VaporStrike, house fire, tularemia, funeral, hackers, terrorists, nosebleed, bleed out, Omar... Shutting the light out only made the images grow stronger...Bloody tissues, morphine drips, hypodermic needles... Peace, embedded in that dream of a condo down in the marshes of Trinity was all I'd ever wanted.

It is May of 2002. Memories of September 11, 2001, followed by the unsolved anthrax attacks, still haunt the nation, and for the Trinity Four, the four survivors of a bioterrorist attack on quiet Trinity Falls, New Jersey, the horror is still with them every moment. Kept alive by a drug regimen concocted by scientists around the world, their hope of ever having a normal life is dashed by recurring "headaches from Hell," pain and fatigue, and debilitating fevers which come and go. After two months of hospital care, the four are moved to a safe house near the Jersey Shore under constant medical care and surveillance by the agents of USIC charged with their protection.

Each of the four reacts to their forced confinement in his or her own way. Scott, at 19, is the most worldly of the four, accustomed to having and doing what he wants when he wants it. Rain, longing for anormal family life with kids and a minivan, cries continually and talks uncontrollably when she's not weeping. Cora simply craves a quiet, obscure life in Trinity Falls, but is haunted, waking and sleeping, by the ghost of the drugged-out mother she still hates and fears, dead in the initial poisoned water attack on the town. Owen, Scott's younger brother, is the sickest of the group and openly despairs of this world, longing for a Biblical end in an Apocalypse which will bring in a new world order in which he hopes to find a better life.

All friends in what they now see as their former normal lives, the Four are involved in complex and tense interactions with each other. Two couples are half in love, but with no certain future and no way to relate to each other physically, relationships are difficult.

But unknown to the Four, the terrorists of ShadowStrike are not finished with them, testing a new and virulent version of tularemia which they hope to unleash in a blaze of notoriety by infecting the Trinity Four with their new plague. Although the secret agents of USIC doubt the terrorists are a danger to the Four, two undercover operatives, teen super-hackers Tyler Ping and "The Kid" are working below the radar with USIC to track the bioterrorists' leaders VaporStrike and Omar. The danger level goes to red when the they pick up cryptic emails which convince them that Shadowstrike is positioning themselves to infect the Four with a designer iteration of tularemia which kills and destroys the corpse down to the skeleton within a few hours of infection.

Then events occur which force the Trinity Four into a new crisis. Walking with Owen, Rain comes upon the strange skeletal remains of a goat missing only since morning, and when she touches the goat's belled collar she receives a sudden burning sensation which Scott diagnoses and immediately treats as a snakebite. Meanwhile, Tyler and The Kid realize that their IP address has been made by the terrorists and escape from them only by faking their own deaths in a catastrophic fire which destroys all evidence where they had been working. Fleeing with a few printouts of emails spelling out the plan for bioterrorist attacks in which Rain's infection is only the first step, the two make for the safe house in hopes of saving the Four before it is too late.

In her sequel to Streams of Babel, Carol Plum-Ucci's just-published Fire Will Fall (Houghton Mifflin/Harcourt, 2010) has constructed both an insightful story of young people trying to work their way into mature relationships and a page-turning thriller which puts these characters into the crucible of a world-wide terrorist attack. Knowledge of the characters established in her first book is not required, but is an advantage in reading this book: the opening exposition is divided into separate first-person narratives from each of the Four, and because each sees their past and present situation differently, the opening chapters require some careful reading to bring the characters, their conflicts and connections, into clear focus. However, with the introduction of the additional distinct narratives of Tyler and The Kid, the pace of the novel builds to a riveting climax in the final showdown with their mutual enemy.

The author's conclusion leaves some critical strands of the plot unresolved: Rain is pregnant and hopeful that she will be able bring Owen's child to term, and Cora realizes that she loves Scott but needs time to make her peace with her unresolved relationship with her dead but inescapable mother's presence. A sequel is definitely a possibility here.

The reviewer for Kirkus gives this one a wholehearted thumbs up: "This sequel to the outstanding Streams of Babel (2008) more than lives up to its predecessor's standard. A taut read, it's hard to put down, with characters readers will care about and plenty of momentum. Humor is deftly woven into both character development and dialogue, lightening the mood at just the right spots. A must-read, all-too-contemporary page-turner."

Carol Plum-Ucci has been both an Edgar Allan Poe Award finalist and a Printz Honor Award winner for her first novel, The Body of Christopher Creed, a sequel for which, Just Another Taste of Steepleton, is forthcoming in the spring of 2011.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Coming Attractions! Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary

The re-introduction of another generation to Beverly Cleary's beloved characters Beezus and Ramona Quimby is the occasion for some celebration. Since the publication of the last book in the series, Ramona's World (Ramona Series) in 2001, all the titles in her classic series have remained popular, but the July 23 debut of this first feature-length film offers a wonderful opportunity to introduce a whole new group of young readers to the wonderful Quimbys, (first introduced in the 1950s with Beezus and Ramona), and their friends Henry Huggins, Howie Kemp, and even Aunt Bea and Howie's Uncle Hobart, whose romance brings the story to a memorable conclusion.

The film, as would be expected, features a rather prettified Quimby family, with celebrity singer Selena Gomez as Beezus, Joey King as Ramona, and even the popular Sandra Oh, from ABC's "Grey's Anatomy," as Ramona's teacher Mrs. Meacham. As the movie's trailer here shows, the film goes for broad slapstick and easy laughs, far less nuanced than the deft touches of humor which enliven Cleary's subtle but realistic writing.

Still, Walden Films has a decent track record in catching the mood and hitting the essential elements in the notable children's novels which they have made into film in the past, and in the runup to those hot summer days when any funny, G-rated film is going to look like a godsend for youngsters at loose ends, it's a good time to help those same kids delve into the wonders that are the work of Beverly Cleary. Boxed sets abound in the paperback market, making it easy and inexpensive to catch up a third generation of readers on the remarkable funny, warm and poignant portraits of family life in the books about her inimitable Henry Huggins and the quintessential big and little sister, Beezus and Ramona Quimby and their neighborhood.

Make 'em an offer they can't refuse. Read the books--and then we'll see the movie!

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Fame Game: The Daughters by Joanna Philbin

Welcome to today's guest blogger, Julia Teal, well qualified by her love of reading, literary ability, and especially by the fact that she is a bona fide teen-ager, who will from time to time be reviewing new young adult books here.

Riding high on the wave of popular teen books set in New York's Upper East Side, Joanna Philbin’s The Daughters (Poppy, 2010) focuses on the lives of Lizzie Summers, Carina Jurgensen, and Hudson Jones, all of whom have high-profile celebrities for parents. Lizzie, the main protagonist, seems to have it the worst, though, with red hair “the texture of a Brillo pad” and a long crooked nose which force her to be forever in supermodel mother Katia’s shadow.

But when being the daughter of a “walking proof of God” becomes too much and the tape of her mouthing off gets leaked onto YouTube, Lizzie’s life spins even farther out of her control. Paparazzi begin harassing her on the street, publicist Natasha won’t leave her alone, and worst of all, she’s broken Rule #6 of being a daughter:

Never talk to the press about your parents. Especially when they’re hanging out in front of your house and yelling at you to say stuff.

Well, Rule #6 is deep-sixed now, but in the midst of all this drama, Lizzie manages to get “discovered” by photographer Andrea Sullivan, and is reunited with former best friend Todd Piedmont, whom she just might be crushing on. Readers watch with bated breath as Lizzie struggles to manage her new public persona as a model and still keep her private life intact--a life which includes failed English projects, forged signatures, and walking out of a major photo shoot with fashion mogul Martin Melroy.

Written along the lines of other series such as Cecily von Ziegesar’s best-selling Gossip Girl and Jen Calonita’s Secrets of My Hollywood Life, The Daughters also has the unique perspective of being written by Joanna Philbin, who did her background research growing up as the daughter of high-profile talk-show host Regis Philbin. Her real-time experience with the subject shows through, and in addition to the characters’ realistic goals and down-to-earth personalities, keeps the over-glamorized setting of the Manhattan elite fresh and believable.

Check in for Philbin's next book featuring Lizzie’s mountain-climbing, soccer-loving fellow-celeb daughter Carina Jurgensen and her struggles with her mega-star father in The Daughters Break the Rules, forthcoming in November of this year.

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Monday, May 24, 2010

Ham Heroes: Pigs to the Rescue by John Himmelman

On Monday, the tractor broke down. Farmer Greenstalk couldn't plow the field.


"Um, thank you. I think," said Farmer Greenstalk.

In the sequel to his hilarious Chickens to the Rescue (Henry Holt, 2006), John Himmelman returns to Greenstalk Acres for a bit of swine slapstick, Pigs to the Rescue (Henry Holt, 2010).

Not to outdone by a flock of paltry poultry, the porkers decide that when the Greenstalks need help, it's time for the ham-hocked heroes to take charge. John Deere broke down? A pig brigade, with shovels and spades dig cornrows so deep only their snouts are above ground. Leak in the missus' garden hose? Hogs hurry in to douse her flower bed with a whole plastic wading pool full of the wet stuff. Little Jeffrey's kite stuck in a tree? A pyramid of porkers pile up to pull it down, shredding the kite in the process. Caleb the Rooster too hoarse to cock-a-doodle-doo in the A.M.? The Greenstalks are treated to a chorus of "GRUNT!" SQUEAL!" "OINK! OINK!" at sunup. All week it's pigs to the rescue, and the folks on the farm come to cringe when any problem arises for fear of a sudden onslaught of swine salvation.

And then on Sunday, Lulu the Cat spills her bowl of milk all over the kitchen floor.

"Shhhhhh!" the Greenstalks said. "Don't let the pigs know." Everyone froze and listened.

"That was close!" said Mrs. Greenstalk. "Thank goodness the pigs didn't find out about this one!"

But John Himmelman gets the last laugh on the Greenstalks. Unnoticed in the corner of the kitchen window, just visible, is the muzzle of a nosy cow. And on the next double-page spread we see a bevy of benefactor bovines, udders swinging as they hustle to the house, hauling milk in a huge washtub, a bowl, a jug, and even a baby bottle.


John Himmelman specializes in farmyard humor, and his latest Greenstalk Acres saga is sure to delight young fans of countrified comedy. The text is simple, but the double-page spreads of plump pigs as a devoted emergency rescue squad will keep kids cackling right through the clever surprise ending.

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

One Down, One to Go: Back to Bed, Ed! by Sebastien Braun



When the toddler's bedroom door becomes a revolving door, life is tough for parents.

Little Ed's Mom and Dad definitely give the snoozetime ritual their personal best. Dad flies Ed, clad in a red superhero cape, through the air toward the bathroom for tooth brushing and his nightly bubble bath. Mom goes all out for the bedtime story, and both parents tuck Ed in with the kiss, kiss, night night, sleep tight ritual. The night light is on, his lovey bunny is waiting on his pillow, and at last the light clicks off.
Tip toe. Tip toe.


And when morning comes all too soon for the weary parents, Ed is snoozing fine, with his head on Mom's pillow and his feet in Dad's face, but Mom and Dad drag through the next day on too little sleep. Dad issues an ultimatum, pointing out that big brother Ed is a big mouse now who can STAY in his own bed. But then...
Tip toe tip toe.


By now Mom and Dad are desperate enough to fasten their door and hang a CLOSED sign on their knob. Even their baby, heretofore sleeping through the midnight rambles in her crib at the foot of their bed, is beginning to wake up for the nightly negotiation session.

But then... maturity suddenly sinks in. Perhaps Ed begins to believe that he is a big mouse now. At any rate, he comes up with his own plan for combating bedtime loneliness. Gathering all his stuffed animals together in his bed, he promises them that they needn't worry because they have a big mouse to keep them from being scared.

Have Mom and Dad won the battle of bedtime at last?

Well, yes and no. Ed sleeps solo through the night, but the baby...? Now that's another story--Bedtime Battle, The Sequel.

Noted artist Sebastien Braun offers simple but telling text and lets his sweet and expressive India ink and marker illustrations tell a sleepytime saga which is sure to get a chuckle out of both youngsters and parents in his latest, Back to Bed, Ed (Peachtree, 2010).

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Butt of the Joke: Chicken Butt! by Erica Perl

"You know what?



"You know why?"



"You know how?



Yeah, yeah, yeah! It's the silliest, the stupidest, the downright BOTTOM for schoolboy schoolyard jokes, all dressed up with those irresistibly goofy, googly-eyed chickens that illustrator Henry Cole conjures up, and it's just plain fun for the reader, slapstick verbal humor which will knock kids back on their keisters abounds in such lines as

"You know where?"

"Where?" (from the disgusted but still determinedly patient dad)


Erica Perl's Chicken Butt! (Abrams, 2009) even gives the youthful jokester the last line, the sorta surprising switch to "MONKEY BUTT!" in her salute to wordplay (or we might say fowl play,) one of what was a humongous harvest of heiny humor in 2009. Along with Black's cheery Chicken Cheeks (see my earlier review here) and Halliday's happyfest, Always Lots of Heinies at the Zoo (reviewed here), 2009 was a banner year for bottoms, so we might as well let Erica Perl's latest have its, um, seat at this table. As one reviewer says, "Warning: Kids will want to read this one over and over and over again! An unhinged piece of slap-happy rhyming…rocket-propelled artwork… the romp is a powerful piece of cacophony, more frenetic by the moment."

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Friday, May 21, 2010

You Never Know...: The Adventures of Benny by Steve Shreve

Benny woke up early one morning. He packed a baloney sandwich, a fresh pair of underpants and clean socks--because you never know when a pair of clean socks or underwear might come in handy.

He headed through the woods to the old fishin' hole.

And sure enough, extra undies are just what he needs. Following huge footprints through the trees, Benny comes across Bigfoot, yelling in pain from a wood splinter in his caboose, which Benny, who seems to know his Aesop, gently removes, earning the creature's gratitude. Benny even offers his skivvies and socks to Bigfoot to prevent further splinter incursions and offers to share his sandwich.

They found a couple of logs (without splinters) and sat down to eat.

Benny looked over at Bigfoot.

"You don't have a nose," said Benny. "How do you smell?"

"Terrible," replied Bigfoot.

"I see," said Benny. "Well, that's a relief. I thought the baloney sandwich had gone bad."

On his way again, Benny is soon snatched by a wolf who plans to stew him up for dinner. Bigfoot happens by, and in proper Aesop fashion, rescues Benny, who loses his fishing gear in the process, but that is by no means the end of Benny's adventures.

A trip to Egypt with his archaeologist Uncle Howard brings an encounter with the somewhat unraveling mummy of King Butthankhamon, who resists a trip back to the museum. Luckily, Benny has brought along a extra roll of toilet paper against unforeseen expediences this time, and King Butt agrees to cooperate in exchange for a re-wrapping.

Then it's on to a tussle with the pirate Long John Underwear and a scary tangle with a giant squid before Benny in relief returns to the safety of his own bed. Unfortunately, underneath is the Booger Man, and when he finally gives that guy the shake, he finds himself contending with a troop of monkeys and a ghost for a buried treasure. Benny prevails at last, with just enough of the treasure trove to afford a new fishin' pole, which brings the tale around full circle to the old fishin' hole.

Somewhere between a beginning chapter book, picture book, and graphic novel, Steve Shreve's Adventures of Benny (Marshall Cavendish, 2009) is a genuinely funny quick read for reluctant readers, cleverly illustrated with blackline drawings by the author.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Move Over, Marley: Marley and the Kittens by John Grogan

"You're in time out, mister!" Mommy ordered.

"What did I do this time?" Marley wondered.

He just wanted to be loved like the kittens, but the more he tried, the more he messed up.

"STUPID CATS! They're so perfect! PURRRRR-FECT!"

"Sometimes I wish I'd never found those kittens!"

A quiet picnic with Mommy, Daddy, Cassie, and Baby Louie suddenly becomes exciting when Marley finds two tiny kittens huddling in the tall grass by the roadside. Of course, the kids are delighted. Cassie christens hers Lucky, while Baby Louie calls the other Yow-Yow. Naturally, Mom and Dad can't leave the furry felines homeless, and Marley suddenly finds his only pet status a thing of the past!

But playing with the kittens looks like so much fun, and as usual Marley jumps right in with all four paws and tail wagging wildly, only to discover that a puppy just doesn't have the native talents that kittens have. Kittens can walk on shelves and counters and never disturb a thing. Kittens can play with the cords on the blinds and make Mommy coo with delight. Kittens can nibble their kibble neatly, and wash their faces and paws nicely. Kittens can explore a new litter box daintily and not spill a granule on the floor. But Marley?--not so much!

After Marley leaps on the counter, sending the coffee canister and cookie jar crashing, slops cat chow wildly as he gobbles down the new treat, and jumps into the kitten-sized litter pan--with predictable results, things begin to get grim at the Grogan house. And when Daddy installs a cat-sized pet door so that the kittens can visit their litter in the garage without Marley's participating in the process, he is delighted with the new door and barges right through, taking the cat entry and part of the basement door with him. Now it's time out for Marley in the corner of the cellar, wishing he'd never seen those too, too purrr-fect kittens.

But the kittens miss Marley and decide to join him in detention, and, of course, with the sight of the three penitents curled up together, a kitten under each of Marley's ears, all is forgiven by the long-suffering Grogan family.

"WADDY! YOU ROCK!: screeches Baby Louie.

Fans of that rascally retriever Marley will be delighted by John Grogan's brand-new picture-book adventure, illustrated by Richard Crowley, Marley and the Kittens (Harper, 2010). Along with his January offering, Marley: Marley Steals the Show (Harper, 2010), it's a double-dog Marleyfest for all lovers of everyone's favorite pesky pet.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Mom! I'm Hungry!: Bee-Bim Bop by Linda Sue Park

Almost time for supper. Rush to the store!

Mom buys the groceries--"More, Mom, more!"

"Hurry, Mom, hurry! Gotta hop, hop, hop!"

It's late afternoon and at least one little tummy is grumbling. But Mom has a favorite stand-by she knows is quick and satisfying--bee-bim bop, which means "rice and everything stirred together."

Back at home mother and daughter set to work like a well-oiled wok. The little girl measures out a pot of water for the rice and beats the eggs bubbly and fluffy for the egg pancakes, and then tosses her mom just the right cooking tool:

"Mom, catch the spatula! Flip the eggs high!"

"Hungry, hungry, hungry!"

Rice simmers and Mama chop, chop, chops, and into the stir-fry go green onions, spinach, carrots, chicken, and sprouts to sizzle up together while the daughter sets the table with spoons, chopsticks, and her favorite plates and bowls striped in blue. Mama takes up the dinner, arranging the thinly sliced egg strips, the stir-fried meat and veggies, and the rice artfully in their own serving bowls.
"Hurry, family, hurry! Dinner's on the table.

Rice goes in the middle.

Egg goes on top.

Mix it. Mix, mix, mix!

It's bee-bim bop!"

Is everybody hungry now? Who could resist Mama's best quick supper, and Linda Sue Park's delicious Bee-Bim Bop! (Clarion) certainly sets the table with a place for all of us. With warm and appealing illustrations by HuBaek Lee, Newbery-winning author Linda Sue Park takes us into a comfy Korean-American kitchen for a cooking lesson that will have almost everyone crying "Bee-Bim Bop!" too! A full recipe is appended in case readers want to try out this homey specialty themselves. Break out the chopsticks and chow down!

Linda Sue Park is the versatile author of noted historical fiction works, including A Single Shard, and The Kite Fighters, set in medieval Korea, When My Name Was Keoko, her novel of Japanese-occupied Korea, Keeping Score, a story of the post-war Brooklyn Dodgers, and her recent installment in the popular adventure series, The 39 Clues, Book 9: Storm Warning.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Stop the World! Finally by Wendy Mass

1. Get a cellphone.
2. Stay home alone.
3. Get a screen name so I can IM.
4. Shave my legs.
5. Go to the mall with Annabelle and no parents.
6. Wear makeup.
7. Get a pet.
8. Babysit.
9. Get my ears pierced.
10. Get contact lenses.
11. Go to boy-girl birthday parties.
12. Go to bed at 9:30.
13. Drink coffee.
14. Meet Jake Harrison.

Rory Swenson feels that her overprotective parents' limits have made her an oddity among her friends. Everyone else is wearing lip gloss, shaving their legs, and texting like crazy. But her parents promise that when she's twelve she will be allowed to do everything on her When-I'm Twelve list and more--things like having her own house key, buying her own clothes, doing homework without supervision, and riding in the front seat.

When the great day comes Rory plunges joyfully into her new-found privileges. Never mind that her parents give her a choice of only three stodgy cellphones and then make her pay for the insurance; at last she can be in the IM inner circle at school. It's just a minor bump in the road when she loses her new phone before she gets out of the mall and then drops the replacement in the toilet. Rory gets the pet of her dreams, a rabbit named Kyle R., at the pet shop and, and looking forward to daily snuggles in her room, agrees to pay for his supplies, only to discover that he insists on nearly smothering her nightly by sleeping on her face.

Undeterred, Rory resolutely continues to work through her list. Things have got to go better, she hopes, because Jake Harrison, the 14-year-old celebrity actor is actually filming a movie at her actual school, and Rory and Annabelle are chosen to be extras. Rory hurries back to the mall for makeup and ear piercing to make herself look good in hopes of catching the gorgeous Jake's eye.

But, as the old saying goes, "when you get what you want, you don't want it." Rory soon learns that she's allergic to "all-natural" makeup and gold earrings, and finds herself having to go to school with her face swollen like a balloon and one ear the size of an baby elephant's. Trying to remove her new contacts leaves her with a scratched cornea, and just as her face and ear are returning to normal, she has to show up in class wearing an eye patch, subjecting herself to endless and annoying "Avasts!" and "Yarrrs!" In the final affront to her person, shaving and waxing her legs leaves her bleeding, blistered, and patchy with bandaids.

She's a sight for sore eyes, all right, but the sore eyes are her own. Her repeated disfigurements do attract Jake Harrison's attention, but only because he's totally cracked up at her seemingly endless series of daily disasters.

But Rory Swenson has her own maturity, a kind of empathy which helps her really see into other's feelings, and a good head on her shoulders. Her quiet thoughtfulness stands her in good stead through her many mishaps, and things begin to go her way. A creative film director works her bleeding shins and red, bleary eye into the movie's script so that Rory finally gets her chance to meet Jake Harrison. And when her heart tells her she's just not ready for kissing games at Natalie's birthday party, she realizes that for her growing up doesn't have to happen at once.

Without taking her eyes off the road, Mom whispers, almost to herself, "There is more to life than increasing its speed."

Even though I'm pretty sure I heard her, I ask, "What did you say?"

"I didn't say anything. Gandhi did."

"Gandhi? The guy from India? First, Dad quotes the Bible, and now you're quoting Gandhi."

She shrugs and grins. "We're branching out."

I settle back in my seat, feeling like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I don't plan to wish for anything for a while. I don't plan to chart out the future, at least not right away. Things are pretty good right now, right where I am.

Returning to the comfortable setting of Willow Falls, the scene of her 11 Birthdays, Wendy Mass spins another humorous and satisfying story of Rory Swenson in her latest middle school saga, Finally. (Scholastic, 2010). This one is a solid entry for middle readers making that bumpy passage from childhood into what lies beyond, and Rory Swenson is a good friend to make along the way.

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