Thursday, September 30, 2010

Picture Book Thursday: How to Raise a Dinosaur by Natasha Wing

I was so excited about this picture book when I opened its envelope! Doesn't the cover just make you want to look inside? My 8-month old will love this as he gets bigger.

Natasha Wing seems to be most known for her "The Night Before" series of books: The Night Before Kindergarten, The Night Before Halloween, The Night Before Valentine's Day, etc. How to Raise a Dinosaur is a very different book from these! And a fabulous entry to her lists of books!

In the beginning, a young boy asks if you're thinking about getting a pet. Then he proceeds to "sell" you on a dinosaur complete with instructions in care, housing, and commands you should teach your dinosaur. On the last page of the book, he even suggests that you "Above all, give your dinosaur lots of love...or it will eat you!" :-)

This is absolutely adorable! And if I saw this laying on a bookstore table, I would snap it up immediately. Even more interesting than the text, the illustrations by Pablo Bernasconi make this fabulous. They are so rich in color and texture, they are sure to keep your child interested as each page is turned. The book also contains various flaps for further entertainment value.

This book is very HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!!

About the Author:
Natasha Wing has been writing children's stories since 1992 with her first publication, Hippity Hop, Frog on Top. She has also been published in children's magazines such as Highlights, Babybug, and Ladybug. After the first publication of The Night Before Easter in 1999, Wing was asked to make The Night Before into a series. Since then, the series has sold more than one million copies. As a girl, Natasha visited the Peabody Museum of Natural History and was fascinated by the dinosaur exhibits. She doesn't have a dinosaur for a pet, but does have a calico cat, Jemima, who shares a home with Natasha and her husband Dan.

About the Illustrator: Pablo Bernasconi has been published in many newspapers and magazines like the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Rolling Stone and Time. He has published seven children's books that he authored and illustrated, which have been translated into eight different languages.

Source Disclosure: This book was sent to me unsolicited by the publisher Running Press Kids.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Arctic Chill by Arnaldur Indridason

Arctic Chill is the fifth in Indridason's Reykjavik Thriller series, but it is the first I've read. Before I had even finished reading this book, I had placed an order for the first four. This novel has much to offer the mystery aficionado: a well-crafted police procedural, an unflinching indictment of modern culture, and a glimpse into Iceland's racial tensions and changing demographics. Erlendur and his two detectives, Elinborg and Sigurdur Oli, investigate when a young Thai boy, Elias, is found stabbed to death, his blood freezing his body to the ground outside his apartment complex. Elias's mother, Sunee, had been brought to Iceland as a bride in a marriage that ended in divorce, partly because of Sunee's insistence on bringing her older son to Iceland as well. Niran's difficulties in adapting to Icelandic culture provide the backdrop for a fascinating discussion on assimilation versus preserving one's own culture. Was this crime racially motivated? There is an abundance of liberal Icelanders whose hackles have been raised by the influx of immigrants who don't learn Icelandic and whose children scoff at learning Icelandic history in school. One of Elias's teachers is full of hateful rhetoric about "those people." Hints of a possible pedophile in the area, tensions between Icelandic and immigrant children at Elias's school, the disappearance of Niran, and whispers of a boyfriend for Sunee complicate the investigation.

Iceland itself is almost its own character in this novel. This is not a culture with which I was terribly familiar, and the insight was fascinating. In Iceland, disappearances are accepted as part of life in a country with an astronomical suicide rate. The Icelanders are welcoming of immigrants, but fear losing their dwindling culture. The climate is forbiddingly harsh, and it makes me wonder what keeps people there.

Subplots supplemented the central murder investigation. A second mystery, the disappearance of a woman, slips into the storyline as Erlendur receives strange phone calls. Erlendur broods on the disappearance of his brother decades before while awkwardly dealing with his son and daughter turning up, and his mentor is on his deathbed. The plots altogether added up to one of the bleaker mysteries I've read, but even a clunky translation can't diminish its compelling appeal.

Source disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Picador through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer Program.

Banned Books Week--Article

Lauren Myracle had a really good article posted on Shelf Awareness this morning. She discussed the issues behind two of her books and why they receive flack from people who want them censored. But the greater part of her article was very self-reflecting in how she is against censorship, but knows that she censors herself. And how she needs to work on that. Good stuff! You should read it!

And just as an added plug, here's a link to my review of Luv Ya Bunches from last year. I really enjoyed her book and thought it was very reflective of today's society.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Picture Book Thursday: Back to School!

Unfortunately, this feature is becoming more of a monthly item. But I'm hoping as the school year gets underway that I have a bit more time and can post more often. I have three books today that could fall into the "Back to School" category.

This School Year Will Be the Best! by Kay Winters is a fun little book perfect for the start of school! This one might be especially good for early grade teachers to read for story time. The children in one classroom each tell what they hope for the school year. Some are realistic things like getting a good report card, kicking the soccer ball into the right goal, or winning the science fair. And others are a little more far-fetched: hoping there is a chocolate water fountain or having a skateboard day. At the end, the teacher's hope is that she gets to know each one of the students. A great book for discussing YOUR child's hopes for the upcoming school year. And very fitting, my homework assignment this week for my first grader is to write down what our hopes and dreams are for her for first grade. :-)

David Milgrin's How You Got So Smart starts with a baby learning about everything by observing his/her world, then exploring it and tasting it bit by bit. Then, moves on to children making friends, asking questions, expressing themselves, and being confident in who they are. This book might actually be more appropriate as an end of year book. It could even be a graduation present a la Dr. Suess' Oh, The Places You Will Go. However, I'll feature it here because I think kids need to be reminded at the start of the year about everything they have learned and done so they can continue to be confident. Each year brings new challenges and if they are reminded of all the past challenges they've conquered, then maybe facing the new ones won't seem so hard.

Dewey: There's a Cat in the Library! by Vicki Myron and Bret Witter isn't really related to back to school, but it's about books and therefore, relates to school for me. Okay, that was a stretch but go with it! ;-) This is a cute picture book showing how Dewey tries to help people because he's a Library Cat. He helps shelve the books, helps read stories to the children and helps a sad little girl smile again. If your child is a big fan of cats/kittens this is a perfect book for them with highly realistic illustrations by Steve James.

Have you read any great books for back to school with your children? I'd love to hear what you've been reading! Happy New School Year!

Source Disclosure: This School Year Will Be the Best and How You Got So Smart both came to me from the Penguin Group. Dewey arrived via Little, Brown and Company.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Mystery Monday - Donna Andrews

Stork Raving Mad is the twelfth mystery in Donna Andrews's Meg Langslow series. Meg is eight months pregnant...with twins. But her home is in more chaos than just the usual visiting family members; Caerphilly College's heating plant has failed, and she's offered up her large house as a barracks for the displaced students. When her husband asks if she minds another houseguest, Meg assumes she won't notice one more. But Senor Mendoza, an elderly Spanish playwright, has come to visit Caerphilly because one of Michael's drama students is writing his dissertation on and staging a performance of one of Mendoza's bawdy plays. A pair from the college's administration turns up, accusing the student, Ramon, of having failed to complete the requisite paperwork for his dissertation topic. The more unpleasant of the two turns up dead. If all this sounds convoluted...well, it is. The premise isn't the best in the series, and the resolution of the mystery is a bit tedious. But after twelve books, Ms. Andrews is entitled to a weaker entry, and there is still plenty for fans of Meg and the Langslow clan to enjoy. The pregnant Meg on her constant search for a snack or a place to rest, is constantly sidelined by having to investigate. Rose Noire is taking her role as caregiver extremely seriously. I enjoyed her presence in this entry, including a key plot point. While Rob was absent, some of his employees were on hand, using Meg's basement as a place to test their new software. The students added an interesting dynamic as well. In all, a fun entry in one of my favorite series. Start with the first, Murder With Peacocks.

Source disclosure: I purchased this book.