So, I may have cheated in the O’Dell Challenge by reading Bo at Ballard Creek before the other 8 books ahead of it on the list. I’ll save my real review for the right time, but for now I’ll tackle the persistent comparisons between Bo and the Little House books.
It doesn’t seem like a fair contest. After all, Bo has 2 adventurous fathers, eccentric neighbors, NatGeo magazines, lots of friends, and the excitement of a mining camp. Laura Ingalls has preachy parents, a goody-two-shoes sister and really boring Sundays. Still, both books contain episodic stories about a year in the life of a little girl growing up on the frontier. And the pictures offer plenty of parallels. Perhaps illustrator LeUyen Pham had Little House on her mind. Some of them even look like an homage to Garth Williams’ drawings:
Little House in the Big Woods
Little House at Ballard Creek: colder and wilder than the toughest Wisconsin winter.
Laura and Mary with their dolls.
Bo and Grafton with their bears–gifts from the “good-time girls.”
Laura at a dance: finally, a chance to see people outside her immediate family.
Ballard Creek dance: Fourth of July with the neighbors.
Posted in MG books (ages 8-12) | Tagged fun, O'Dell challenge | 1 Comment »
The Black Stallion, in GO pieces.
After kicking off the New Year with an evening of 五子棋 (5 in a Row) and 年糕 (sticky rice cakes–Lisa’s family recipe!), we bring you this list of horse books so you can celebrate the Year of the Horse all year long!
Brush of the Gods by Lenore Look–Not strictly about a horse, the great Tang Dynasty painter Wu Daozai does paint one in Meilo So’s gorgeous illustrations.
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater–Every November, riders on vicious flesh-eating water horses sweep through Puck Connolly’s little town in the event known as the Scorpio Races. This year, to save her family, Puck enters the competition.
War Horse by Michael Morpurgo–Set against the backdrop of the horrors of WWI, War Horse tells the remarkable story about the bond between a boy and his horse.
The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis–A Horse and his Boy meet a Horse and her Girl, who happen to be much better riders, and together they make their escape north towards freedom.
Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry–The classic horse book for generations, Henry has the market cornered when it comes to horses.
And of course, no New Years book list is complete without a Grace Lin book! Happy Reading!
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Hello! So, Newbery reactions!
It was a good year for squirrels
Jen: and a good year for Floras!
yes. I haven’t read Flora and the Flamingo
but I could see Ulysses’ Flora attempting to dance with a flamingo
Jen: really? I think she’d be too cynical
Lisa: well, if her mother stuffed her into a tutu…
and there was a pink bird nearby…
Posted in Awards, Kids books-general, MG books (ages 8-12), Picture books, YA books | Tagged fun, inklings, joint post | Leave a Comment »
The announcement of the newest Scott O’Dell Award winner, Bo at Ballard Creek, was another reminder that I should really pick up the pace. I’ve read six O’Dell winners this year, and at this rate it’ll take me more than three years to finish the remaining 21 books.
So my goal this year is to read the next 10 books (I suppose this counts as my new year’s resolution?). That will take me past Bo and Chickadee (last year’s winner), and old favorites like Sarah, Plain and Tall and Out of the Dust.
To help push me along, maybe Jen could pledge to read 10 Newbery Challenge books too?
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Trust me when I say, don’t read Kathi Appelt’s latest book, The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp. Books like hers deserve to be heard. So do whatever it takes to optimize your experience. Find an elementary school teacher or librarian who does story-time, coerce your parents/child/sibling/spouse/kindly neighbor into reading to you, or listen to the audio recording. But don’t just read it–unless you’re reading it aloud.
True Blue Scouts flows as languidly as a long summer’s day on the porch with a glass of cool lemonade and a chatty relative. Equally whimsical but less melancholy or heart-wrenching than the The Underneath or Keeper, it’s adorably simple, silly, and sweet.
The tale opens with scouts Bingo and J’miah, who monitor Sugar Man Swamp–home of the elusive ivory-billed woodpecker (IBWP), incomparable local canebrake sugar, mouthwatering fried sugar pies, and legendary Sugar Man–from the headquarters of a vintage 1949 DeSoto. When Bingo and J’maih, who are racoons by the way, notice an ominous rumble-rumble-rumble-rumble headed in their direction, they have no choice but to rouse the Sugar Man to protect the swamp. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to them, humans Mr. Sonny Boy Beaucoup and Ms. Jaegar Stitch are scheming to evict twelve-year-old Chap and his mom from their house-cum-cafe (home of the world’s best sugar pies) so they can build an alligator wrestling arena and theme park over the swamp. The only things stopping Sonny–a boatload of cash or proof of the Sugar Man’s existence. And the only thing that will wake the Sugar Man from his slumber? A snip-snap-zip-zap from Gertrude, his serpentine companion, or the aroma of fresh canebrake sugar. Continue Reading »
Posted in MG books (ages 8-12) | Tagged doodles, reviews | Leave a Comment »
Bull Run, by Paul Fleischman, has an ingenious setup: each chapter is a monologue told from the point of view of a different character, 16 in total. There are soldiers and doctors, artists and mothers, children, slaves, Union and Confederate generals. It reminds me of Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!, only more depressing, because with every chapter you know you’re getting closer to the actual battle itself.
It’s amazing how quickly Fleischman manages to convey what’s going on. Each chapter is just two pages long, yet somehow we get a sense of the character’s identity, conflicts, motivations, and the political situation around them. Some of the portraits are archetypes–like the woman who sees multiple family members off to war, or the boy who dreams of glory in battle and manages to tag along as part of the band. But the best characters are full of surprises: the photographer who exploits the soldiers’ fear of death to turn a profit, a black man who “passes” as white so he can join the Union troops, and the newspaper sketch artist who selectively draws certain scenes to maintain morale. My favorite, by far, is the cab driver who had to shuttle D.C. socialites to a grassy area overlooking the battle–because they wanted to eat a fancy picnic while ogling the action through binoculars. Yes, this kind of thing really happened. Bull Run was the first major battle of the war, and civilians on both sides were so sure of an easy victory that they treated it like a sporting match.
Fleischman goes out of his way to include details like that–odd and subtle facts that get left out of the sweeping Civil War narrative I remember learning in school. I had no idea that lots of soldiers tried to desert when their contracts expired, or that thousands died of disease in the camps before the battles began. The novel sometimes felt like great nonfiction in the style of Bomb–teaching history without feeling didactic. I suppose my biggest complaint is that even though each character was unique, 16 is just too many. I would’ve preferred 12 or 14 to cut down on the confusion, especially when some characters get more chapters than others and when their plotlines start to intersect. So, even though the book is quite good on its own, it would be even better to find some friends and stage it as a play.
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Five Ways to celebrate Kate DiCamillo’s appointment as the new National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature:
1. Drink soup when she’s inaugurated on Jan 10th.
2. Vacuum up an errant squirrel and enjoy some holy unanticipated occurrences!
3. Throw a party with egg-salad sandwiches, Dump Punch, pickles, dog pictures, Littmus Lozenges, paper bag lanterns, and crepe paper in the trees.
4. Visit a carnival with your best friend, and don’t skip the fortune teller!
5. Go to the toy store and give an old china rabbit a new life.
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