Friday, July 27, 2012

Rip Tide by Kat Falls

Here is the sequels to one of my starred books, Dark Life. It follows the story of our hero, Ty, and his girl of choice, Gemma as they try to survive in the chaotic world of undersea settlements in a post apocalyptic earth.  In this story Ty's parents are kidnapped as they try to sell food to "surfs." Ty is determined to find his parents and follows their trail through a path of corruption, greed and violence.  While on the trail, Ty discovers a plot that is taking the lives of hundreds of less fortunate sea dwellers.  This story is a bit darker than Dark Life.  Falls explores how society can exploit the less fortunate while government looks the other way. It was a good story, and as in the first book, the depiction of human adaptation to undersea life was very creative and interesting.  I liked it but it doesn't quite make it on my starred book list. (304 p)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Paul Klee by Mike Venezia and Paul Klee by Jill Laidlaw

Last week I reviewed a book about Paul Klee for SLJ. As part of my preparation for writing that review, I read two other children's biographies about Klee.  The Venezia one is part of a series of biographies of world artists called "Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists."  They are targeted at early grade children with large font and only a few sentences per page.  They are illustrated with color reproductions of famous artwork surrounded by cartoons.  The people in the cartoons make, often humorous, comments about the artwork.  It is a great series for introducing 2nd or 3rd graders to artists.  (32 p)

The other biography is targeted at a slightly older age group.  It is from a series called "Artists and Their Time" and it gives more historical background than the Venezia.  It was obviously created with report writers in mind and has a glossary, time lines, and lots of extra information boxes on every page.(46 p)

There is a lot of abstract art that I really like and Klee was a pretty typical Abstract artist. In my opinion, an abstract artist has to prove they have the skill and talent to do realistic art before he/she breaks away to do the abstract stuff. Klee was doing good realistic sketches while he was still in high school.  He broke away from that fairly early, and got involved with avant guarde groups from Germany and Russia.  One thing I respect about Klee is that not all his work looks the same.  You see something form Jackson Polluck or Georgia O'Keefe and you know instantly who the artist was.  Klee was always trying something new. I don't like everything he did, but some of it connects with me.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Mee-An and the Magic Serpent by Baba Wague Diakite

This is a charming folktale written by a native of Mali. A beautiful young girl is looking for a perfect man to marry.  She has plenty of suitors, but always finds a flaw.  Finally a serpent magically disguises himself as a perfect man and marries Mee-An.  Luckly, Mee-An's sister knows magic, and she discovers the serpent's plan to fatten up and eat his wife.  The two girls are able to escape on the back of a giant black heron.  The illustrations are also done by Diakite and give an interesting view of the people, animals and landscape of Mali.  I think that picture books can be a wonderful way to teach children about other cultures.  If I were still doing daycare, I would read the book to the children, and then we would look up Mali on the map.  If I wanted to expand the activity, we could look up a native African recipe or food to eat for lunch, and then try to draw a picture in the same style as the ones in the book. (picture book)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Messenger by Lois Lowry

This is the third book in the series that began with The Giver.  In this book the little boy from the second book, Matty, has grown up and is now a teen living with Kira's father in The Village.   The Village used to be  a place of refuge for outcasts from other communities, but things have begun to change.  Some of the residents have become more materialistic and selfish, and threaten to close the boarders.  The forest reflects the changes in the community, and has become more menacing and dangerous. Kira's father, The Seer, asks Matty to travel back to his old home and bring his daughter, Kira back to him.  They both understand that it might be the last chance for them to be reunited.

I really liked The Giver, and I liked Gathering Blue, but this book just doesn't hang together well.  There are things that happen that are not really explained and I finished the book feeling rather unsatisfied.  I have heard that Ms Lowry is coming out with another in the series this fall, even though this book came out clear back in 2004.  I hope it will tie up and explain some of the loose ends. (169 p.)

A Pocket Full of Rye by Agatha Christie

I usually read children's books because I am a children's librarian, plus I really do like children's literature.  Every once in a while I get a Christie craving, and indulge in a Miss Marple Mystery.  In this one a wealthy man drops down dead at his office in London.  Then a few days later his wife, and then his servant die as well.  Each of the victims have peculiar evidence on them when they are found.  The man has rye in his pocket and the maid has a clothes pin on her nose.  It takes a shrewd old lady to make the connection with the well known nursery rhyme and figure out who would perpetrate such an unusual set of murders.

I have been trying to figure out what makes the Agatha Christie mysteries so fun to read.  First of all,  all of the victims and suspects are not particularly likable.  As a reader you are not emotionally attached to any of them, so you can view the murder with a disinterested curiosity. The most likable characters, namely Miss Marple and whomever she is working with to solve the crime, (this time an inspector) are the ones that the reader cares about, and since you know that it is a certain kind of mystery, you know they will figure it all out in the end.  Of course, Christie is a master if giving the reader just enough clues and false clues to make the puzzle interesting and challenging. Still, I have found that, more times than not, if I choose the least likely suspect at the beginning, I am usually right at the end.  Anyway, it was a fun and fast read. (185p.)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

You have to love Rick Riordan.  I have said it before, I think he is the best fantasy action writer out there for kids right now.  This latest in his Heroes of Olympus series is very much like his other Percy Jackson books.  Demi-gods are thrown together.  There is a quest during which they bond and learn more about their powers.  In the end they are victorious.  Even though these are starting to get formulaic they are still loads of fun.  It is especially fun for me, a Humanities major with an emphasis in Latin, to see how Riordan has portrayed the Roman demi-god camp.  I think he was right on the dot in the way he portrayed how they used the senate, and the importance of politics in Roman society. Of course, Riordan did a big set up for the final book in the series, and I am totally eager to read it. (521 p.)