What a great book! The story is about a young Taiwanese-American girl named Pacy who visits Taiwan with her family. Newbery Honor-winning author Grace Lin draws on her own family trips to perfectly capture what it feels like to be caught between worlds as a child, the fears, the joys, the laughter. It reminded me so much of visiting India as a kid, meeting relatives I saw only rarely and feeling self-conscious and inadequate due my inability to speak my mother-tongue. Grace Lin’s writing and illustrations are childlike, yet elegant in their simplicity. I couldn’t stop smiling as I read this book and even laughed out loud in parts (the garbage truck scene is hysterical). Fair warning though if you love dumplings as much as I do, you will wish this book came with a list of suggested restaurants. I really really need to try soup dumplings! (Cue stomach grumbles)
Sometimes when I’m at the library picking up one of my ILL requests, I stop by the kid’s section to look at picture books. During this particular visit, I’d picked up some Caldecott Honors and some other new picture books, but out of my 5 picks, this one was the one that really stood out to my 4 y.o..
I had them all out on her bed as a “surprise” for when she got home from school, and after rummaging through them in her room by herself, she came out and announced, “Poof! is the one I like!” (Proud Mommy moment since I hadn’t read any of the titles to her.)
The story is simple and fun, basically about two wizard parents who argue about whose turn it is to “change” the baby. Silliness ensues as they change the baby into various creatures and end up as a family of wizard ducks. Ha!
Cyborg Cinderella. What’s not to love? It takes two of my favorite genres, fairy tale retellings and sci fi, and mashes them together. Wish I hadn’t taken so long to get around to reading it!
I loved the world building (just enough detail, but not too much), loved her multicultural(?) characters (particularly the robot friend!), loved how she incorporated the cinderella story. I am in awe of how much she accomplished in only 87,000 words (according to AR Book finder).
There was one niggling plot issue I had trouble believing, but I know why she did it and wouldn’t really know how to fix it. Didn’t detract from the book though.
What a gorgeous book! I spotted this on someone’s website (unfortunately I lost the link), and just had to request it from the library. The story compares a rainy day from the viewpoint of a grumpy old man and a hoppy young boy. Preschooler Monkey says, “I like this book because there was a grumpy man who became happy at the end!” But also says, “I thought this would be a girl, but it was a boy instead.” Oh well. The illustrations are so joyful that they leap off the page, and the spare text is perfectly done. Ribbit! (Note: All puns are absolutely intended.)
In honor of Multicultural Children’s Book Day, I thought I’d share some multicultural picture books that I’ve enjoyed with my children. One could argue that not all of these are multicultural, but they are all great books featuring people of color.
This book is absolutely hysterical. It is about the dangers of yawning (i.e. that your parents might think you are tired and put you to bed). It is full of fun noises to read and hilarious pictures. I am physically unable to keep myself from yawning when reading this book (multiple times)–and the bonus of course is that so is my preschooler. A perfect wind-down bedtime book.
As I’ve mentioned previously, my preschooler is seriously into princesses. This book is a funny take on the fairy tale the princess and the pea, where a little girl named Lily-Rose May discovers that the reason she hates peas is that she’s really a princess! Very cute. I love the end of the book where it turns out she doesn’t actually want to be a princess and that maybe she should just eat the darn peas. (The three-year-old actually LOVES peas and so do I. Guess I’m not a princess. Phew! That would be awful!)
The Escape by Kathryn Lasky is an action-packed adventure story set in Mexico in the 1500s inspired by the fascinating history of the wild mustangs of the North American west. The whole idea behind the novel really captured my imagination. The Escape will definitely appeal to fans of Lasky’s other animal adventure series (like the aforementioned Guardians), though probably not fans of more sweet, easy-going horse novels (this perhaps might be a better choice) due to the historically accurate violence that occurs throughout the novel. Think mean animal handlers, terrible sharks, and gruesome battle scenes, rather than child-animal friendship, pretty flowing manes, and horse grooming scenes and you won’t be disappointed! This novel has definite kid appeal (boys as well as girls) with its high-action mixed with animal humor.
Enter below to win starting tonight at midnight EST.
General Giveaway Rules: No Purchase Necessary. This giveaway is only open to residents of the United States who are 18 years of age or older. Giveaway opens on January 14, 2014, at 12:00 AM EST and ends on January 20, 2014, at 12:00 AM EST. I will only use the email addresses collected for the giveaway for the purpose of contacting the winner. I will not give out, exchange, or sell this information. The winner will be randomly chosen using Rafflecopter and contacted via email for their mailing address (so I can send you your book!). The winner will have 72 hours to respond. Please make sure you check your junk mail folder.
It’s a brand new year and we have a brand new book from the bestselling and award-winning author, Kathryn Lasky.
Horses of the Dawn: The Escape by Kathryn Lasky
Here’s the synopsis from publisher:
The horses are in danger. They were rounded up by the two-legs and forced onto a boat to cross the wide ocean. The journey went badly and the boat was deemed too heavy, so the two-legs forced the horses into the sea and sailed away, leaving the herd to die in the deep.
By a miracle, the horses survived and made it to land. All but one — the ghost horse, the leader of the pack. Now it’s up to her daughter, only a filly, to take charge of the terrified herd. Stranded in a new land, surrounded by two-legs, will the horses find a way to live safe and free?
I had the opportunity to ask Kathryn some questions about her brand new book. (Questions are in bold, responses are below.)
Q#1: (The obvious question :) ) Why horses? Were you into horses and horse books growing up?
Kathryn Lasky: Actually I was not into horses as much as one might think. I did like horse books a lot. But the impetus for writing this book came out of something other than just being a horse lover. It came out of my passion for history. I think going back to my earliest recollections of elementary school I can recall the social studies curriculum that taught us about the Spanish Conquistadors and their early explorations of the New World. We were taught of course that the Spanish brought the ‘first’ horses to the New World. Hernando Cortes is credited with bringing these horses to the continent in 1519.
We all know so much about the Spaniards—Cortes, De Soto, Ponce De Leon. I think one of the first real tests I ever had to take, say in the second or third grade was matching the explorer with the territory he explored. We were supposed to draw a line between the explorer and that territory—like Ponce De Leon to Florida, De Soto to the Mississippi River and Louisiana.
Over the years it seemed to me that the stories of these explorers and their lust for gold had become almost threadbare , or worn out from being told so many times in history books, in curriculums and in novels. What new could one say? And then I discovered this little tidbit that I had never heard about which was that there had been horses in the New World but they had disappeared millions of years before the Spaniards had arrived. So that when that first horse of Cortes set a hoof down on the soil of the mainland it was for that horse a return of sorts. For it was on the continent of the New World that the first horse Eohippus equus, known as the Dawn Horse, had evolved. Of course the Dawn Horse did not look much like the modern horses we know today. It was tiny, no more than ten to twenty inches in height. Over the vastness of time that tiny creature changed and became the progenitor of three other species of horses much closer to what we now consider a modern horse. But those horses then vanished perhaps two million years before the arrival of Cortes.
This was all incredibly intriguing to me. So I thought why not tell the story of the Spanish coming to the New World from the horses’ point of view. Winston Churchill once said that history is written by the victors. THE ESCAPE is in one sense a novel of alternate history in that it is not being told from the perspective of the victors or the vanquished, but of the horses. I think of it as an equine retelling of the coming of horses to the New World which for them was ultimately a homecoming after millions upon millions of years.
Q #2: Some of your reviews have mentioned violence against animals in your plotline. How do you know when violence is right for a story? Did you have any qualms about including these scenes?
KL: Violence is unfortunately part of history. It is the blood thread that is shuttled through the warp and the weft of history. There is violence against people as well as animals. I think violence is only abused in literature when it is put in arbitrarily or gratuitously. All the instances in my book are documented. For example Bernal Diaz de Castillo’s traveled with Cortes to the New World and in his definitive history of the Spanish Conquest he reports a battle in which the Indians (of what is now Mexico) cut off the head of a horse and sent it around to villages to prove that horses were not Gods, but mortal. This was quite key to the subsequent events for until that moment the Indians of the Yucatan peninsula believed that the Spaniards as well as these immense animals on which they rode were immortal. So to answer your question you know it is right when it is a part of the story that supports a deeper comprehension of the period and the characters in that story.
Q #3: You were recently on my blog for your YA novel The Extra — how do you juggle writing such different types of books?
KL: It is wonderful. To me these two books on one level are not that different. The Extra is an historical novel just as The Escape is. In The Extra set in Nazi German I chose, as I did with The Escape, to tell it from a more uncommon perspective—that of a Roma (Gypsy) girl and not that of a Jewish person as a victim of the Nazis. So again I have taken a slightly offbeat angle to explore a very well known time period. And with both books I get to do what I love most—dig into history (I love research), figure out a new take on old events, find some unique situation that possibly got overlooked in other accounts—be they novels or nonfiction—then try and run with it.
Thank you, Kathryn, for being on the blog!
Stay tuned, because next week I’ll host a giveaway of the ARC (Advance Review Copy) that Kathryn Lasky mailed me (you have my permission to be jealous). I’m halfway through the book now, and I can tell you it’s definitely exciting! I think fans of the Guardians of Ga’Hoole series will love this one too.
But if you just can’t wait to see if you’ll win the giveaway, the book launches today, so go ahead and order your copy from Amazon or from your local indie bookstore!
Can you believe it’s December already? I can’t. It took me a while to get over my denial and actually sit down to write this blog post. Here were my favorite books for kids and teens this year (not necessarily books that came out this year, just ones that I read this year).
While I read other great MG books this year, this one just blew the rest out of the water for me. I didn’t blog about it, but OMG I LOVED THIS BOOK!!!
Favorite Graphic Novel(s)
Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang (Actually a 2 book set, and yes, you need both.)
Favorite Picture Book
While I reviewed a bunch of awesome picture books, I really can’t just pick one. Ack! That would be like picking which one of my children I loved the best! (And anyway, why would you want to read just one picture book? Seriously.)
Unless otherwise stated in the post, all books that I review are either checked out from the library, borrowed from friends, or purchased by me (or for me as gifts from family). If I do accept an ARC (advance review copy) I will mention it in the post, and I will not write a flattering review if I do not think the work merits it.
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