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Friday, March 28, 2014


I have been waiting months to see Maps by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski! It was worth the wait! This oversize volume (10.5" x 14.5") feels sturdy and enchanting in my hands. The cover sticker boasts "Travel the globe without leaving your living room"! Though I have been traveling from my kitchen, I have seen Chomolungma (or Mount Everest) in Nepal, been on safari in Tanzania, viewed prehistoric drawings in Toquepala Caves in Peru, and so many more incredible things.

Organized by continent, the book contains 51 maps. Each continent map lists the number of countries (or states or provinces) and the continent's population and capitals. Each country map tells the country's language and area, as well as incredibly detailed drawings of the animals, people, plants, geologic features, and people they make the place unique. The only disappointing thing was that nothing noteworthy was drawn on my Minnesota. 

Readers will adore this book. I am certain the things I found intriguing would be equally interesting to others. It will also prompt an interest in map-making! I even want to make my own map.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Half a Chance

One of the first grown-up gifts I requested as a child was a camera. My grandma and parents helped fund a Minolta 110 camera, and I used it all through high school, secretly wishing to use the Nikon my father owned that required far more knowledge and planning for an actual photograph. Now, I have two cameras I love (in addition to Camera+ on the iPad), and I feel somewhat at a loss when my camera is at home and I am out walking and observe something that I so want to capture.

So, I could relate immediately to Lucy, the daughter of a photographer in Cynthia Lord's latest novel Half a Chance. With her mom and dad and dog (appropriately named Ansel), she is settling in to a lakeside home in New Hampshire. When her father leaves for a photography assignment in Arizona, he asks Lucy to watch out for portfolios that will be mailed to him for judging. She scans the paper which describes the contest and is both astounded and hurt that he did not tell her. Photography is their shared passion! 

As Lucy seeks creative opportunities to satisfy each word or phrase on the contest list, she gets acquainted with her new neighbors, the Bailey family. Though they are summer residents, they know the lake well and invite her to assist them in Loon Patrol, a task she relishes. She so appreciates the friendship of Nate, a boy her age, but it is his grandmother, Grandma Lilah, who especially captures Lucy's attention. 

Like Lucy, I want to fulfill the requirements on the list, just for my own pleasure. I look forward to someday fostering the opportunity for students to read the book and take the photos over the summer!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Cat Books #2

When our boys were young, a relative gave them rabbit baskets she created from needlepoint canvas. These ended up on our piano during the weeks prior to Easter, and somehow, the Easter Bunny got the idea of putting a few treats in them for the boys to discover in the morning. This started a week or so before Easter and ended when they found the larger baskets the Easter Bunny had hidden for them. Now 21, 20, and 17, these same boys/young men still put those baskets on the piano and find treats the EB still stashes there prior to Easter. If they knew the small baskets were filled by the Easter Cat instead, I wonder if they would care.

In Deborah Underwood's latest book, Here Comes the Easter Cat, a grumpy cat desires to assume the Easter Bunny's role. A clever narrator speaks to the cat, interpreting the cat's body language and reading the pictorial signs the cat displays. Responding to the cat's sign of five hearts, the narrator says, "Well, of COURSE everyone loves the Easter Bunny." The narrator assures the cat that it would be acceptable for him/her to deliver something nice to children...but not the hairballs suggested by the cat's sign. Even the narrator's revelation that the Easter Bunny does not get a single nap (compared to the seven naps taken by the cat that day) does not deter the determined cat. Suffice it to say the cat finds a creative way to deliver treats and include the Easter Bunny, only to express interest in another delivery job at the end. 

Readers will surely appreciate the voices in this picture book and the dependence on the artwork (by Claudia Rueda) to tell the story.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Cat Books #1

While pursuing the shelves in search of Inga Moore's The House in the Woods, I discovered her book Six-Dinner Sid, published back in 1991 in th U.S. Sid is a sleek, black cat with a bit more cunning than the average cat. Sid's antics and Moore's timing make this an excellent book to read aloud.

Sid lived on Aristotle Street, at Number One Aristotle Street, to be exact. But..."He also lived at number two, number three, number four, number give, and number six." At each house Sid enjoyed a different dinner each evening. One night, his six dinners included chicken, fish, lamb, liver, more fish, beef and kidney stew (groans from the elementary audience at the mention of eating kidney, of course).

In those six residences, Sid had six names and personalities to accompany them: Scaramouche, Bob, Mischief, Sally, Sooty, Schwartz. He had six places he loved to be scratched and six different beds. Only when he comes down with a cough does the living situation become problematic. Six visits to the vet = six spoonfuls of medicine (more groans from the audience). Though the vet figures out what Sid has been doing, smart Sid moved to Pythagoras Place, where he lived at number one, number two, number three, number four, number five, and number six. Those neighbors understood the situation. "And, because everyone knew, nobody minded."

Sunday, March 2, 2014

how to

The caption for this photo would read "how to make the best tea" and would need an explanation of each item. The heating pot prepares the water for the tea from Ostfriesland (where my German sister lives), and the Bredemeijer teapot just arrived yesterday from Germany!

In a recent letter, a well-read friend recommended Julie Morstad's book how to. It arrived at the library for me this week, and I have been reading it aloud to all the adults I love. Like me, they sigh when they see the "how to go slow" page, chuckle at the "how to be a mermaid" page, make sounds like ahhhh on the "how to have a good sleep" page, giggle at the "how to make a sandwich" page, and turn their heads at the "how to watch where you're going" page. And then they, like me, want to go back at read it again, pausing to enjoy favorite pages.

It is a quiet book, a book that begs to be shared with young readers, a book that will foster contemplation and generate other "how to" statements and drawings. The simple statements are filled with thought and possibility, and the artwork is simple yet careful. Take time to read this book - and then share it with friends.