16 Jun 2013 3 Comments
05 Jun 2013 1 Comment
I’m back! Or, more precisely, Book and a Garden is back. After the unfortunate loss of my original site, along with dozens of reviews, I am up and running again. The new location will feature many titles from the former site, plus newly-penned reviews. The timing is perfect: with the approach of summer vacation, there will be more time to share marvelous books for young (and young-at-heart) readers. And it’s the perfect season to catch up on our reading.
So, without further ado, here is where you can enter the new Garden:
“A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.”–Chinese proverb
22 May 2013 4 Comments
in Books, children's books, Reading Tags: Books, children's books, family, friendship, humorous books, Janet Tashjian, learning disabilities, Reading, reluctant reader, school stories, summer, vocabulary words
12-year-old Derek Fallon, like many kids, can’t wait for summer vacation. However, there is one wrinkle: he has to read three books before school begins again. Even though Derek is labelled a reluctant reader, that’s not really true. He enjoys reading, as long as the material is along the lines of Calvin & Hobbes. And there are other more important things to do: like hanging out with his best friend, Matt, and cooking up schemes that his parents do not exactly appreciate. So, Derek is devastated when his mother determines that her son would benefit from attending Learning Camp.
But Derek’s focus changes when he discovers a ten-year-old newspaper clipping in the attic. The article describes the death of a babysitter who, while saving her two-year-old charge, was caught in a riptide on a beach on Martha’s Vineyard. When he asks about the story, Derek learns that he was the little boy. With mixed feelings, he does some research, and hatches a plan to convince his parents to take a vacation there. When the family arrives on the island, they are surprised to learn the truth of what happened that fateful day–relieving not only Derek but his parents from the guilt that has been part of their lives.
Told with a perfect combination of humor and sensitivity, Derek’s story is complemented by his amusing drawings (penned by the author’s teenage son, Jake Tashjian) illustrating the meanings of vocabulary words.
Janet Tashjian’s gem is sure to be a favorite with kids, especially if, like the hero of the story, reading isn’t their thing. Derek is likable, smart, and creative. A word of caution: even if a kid isn’t a reader, he or she might become one after reading Derek’s tale. (Great news: his adventures continue in My Life as a Stuntboy and My Life as a Cartoonist!)
12 May 2013 2 Comments
This afternoon, I finished reading a novel that completely wowed me. The book’s author has a way of doing that to her readers, so I was not surprised at this one’s effect. The title of this masterpiece is A Mango-Shaped Space, written by the phenomenal Wendy Mass.
Mia is thirteen years old. However, she is not like other kids. In fact, Mia is not like anyone she knows. For the eighth-grader perceives the world differently than most people. Letters, numbers, names, sounds, and even living things have their own colors. Since third grade, when nobody took her seriously, Mia has kept this a secret–from her parents, her siblings, and even her best friend, Jenna.
Until now. Never a good student when it came to math, Mia finds the colors she sees when looking at numbers and letters in equations too distracting–and describes her condition to her incredulous parents. A trip to a pediatrician and a counselor finally lead the confused girl and her parents to Dr. Jerry Weiss, a neurologist who gives Mia’s “disorder” a name: synesthesia. With a tremendous sense of relief, Mia learns that the visual and auditory centers in her brain are linked, resulting in a mixing of sensory experiences–and that there are others out there like her.
As Mia’s world opens up with this revelation (she’s not crazy or afflicted with a disease), other challenges arise. Jenna is hurt that her best friend did not confide in her. Mia’s mother wonders if there isn’t a quick fix to her daughter’s sensory differences. The thirteen-year-old wonders about a 9th-grade boy she “meets” through a synesthesia web site. And Mia’s beloved cat, Mango (named for the color she associates with her pet), has a worrisome health condition. Any one of them could wreak havoc on her life, but, all together, they cause Mia to wonder if things will ever be “normal.”
Wendy Mass’ marvelous novel is one of many blockbusters that have emerged from her magic pen, among them Every Soul a Star and The Candymakers. Mia is a strong, likable, believable heroine who will strike a chord with readers. She is a young lady they won’t soon forget.
05 May 2013 2 Comments
I finished reading a book that blew me away. (Readers of this blog know that happens to me from time to time.) It started me thinking about an earlier post on the same topic as this one. If I were on the committee of any award given to high-quality children’s and young adult literature, there are a few that would get my vote. So, without further ado, here are the winners of the Bookloving Grandma Award for Excellence in Literature for Young People.
The title of this masterpiece describes it better than I ever could. This book (the one I referred to at the beginning of this post) tells the story of Auggie (short for August) Pullman. The ten-year-old has been homeschooled until now for good reason: he was born with a rare genetic disorder that caused his face to be severely malformed and a host of other health issues, necessitating twenty-seven surgeries. However, his parents believe the time has come for Auggie to attend school. So, despite strong misgivings, the fifth-grader enters Beecher Prep, a private school with a beyond-understanding middle school director. However, Auggie discovers that his fears are not baseless. Other students’ reactions to his appearance range from disgust to teasing to a game called The Plague (resulting in many avoiding touching him). With only a couple of kids willing to even have anything to do with him, how will Auggie make it through a whole school year? His story is full of everything that makes a novel great. It is truly a wonder.
At the beginning of this marvelous picture book, Ella introduces herself and informs the reader that this is her book. It has all the things she believes a good story should include: pretty things like princesses, funny things, exciting things, and scary things. One thing a book does not need is BEARS. That’s why, Ella tell us, there are none in her book. However, as the little girl begins her story, a bear wearing a flowered dress makes an appearance. Not only that, but as the young storyteller tells the tale, the bruin becomes the behind-the-scenes heroine. Readers and listeners will relish pointing out the bear’s presence, and giggle with delight at Ella’s obliviousness to what is really happening in “her” story. The piece de resistance? The bear’s recounting the tale to a group of well-known fairy-tale characters.
02 May 2013 2 Comments
If it’s May, it can mean only one thing: Get Caught Reading Month! (Actually, every month should fit this description.) In years past, I’ve lurked the hallways with camera in hand, catching students (and a teacher or two) in the act. Even though my work situation has changed, readers should be on the alert: the Booktographer is coming! (Another reason to be on the lookout? It’s National Photograph Month.)
People are catching me reading a plethora of awesome books. Among them are:
Mostly Monty: First Grader by Johanna Hurwitz
Monty is a kid who is like any other, with a few differences. Two notable ones: he doesn’t have a pet because he does have asthma. However, this does not stop the new first grader from making the most of the good things he has. The first in a marvelous beginning-chapter-book series by a veteran author.
Robbie Forester and the Outlaws of Sherwood Street by Peter Abrahams
When a homeless woman drops a bracelet as she is being loaded into an ambulance after collapsing on the street, seventh-grader Robbie picks it up. However, the doors close before she can return it, so the seventh-grader slips the bracelet on her wrist. This casual act sets in motion a chain of events that defy explanation, and changes the lives of Robbie and those around her.
Back to the books…
26 Apr 2013 5 Comments
“…In the end, the reader should be left both completely satisfied and wanting more.”—Publishers Weekly
I love this quote. It says it all. And it’s especially fitting for a novel I finished reading last night: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. I’m not the only one who was blown away by this masterpiece. It is, after all, this year’s winner of the Newbery Medal for the best children’s book of the year, and the recipient of a long list of other awards and commendations. Born out of the author’s interest in a story about a gorilla who lived in isolation as a featured attraction in a shopping mall, Ivan’s tale will make you want to cry, then smile, then cry again–for joy. But don’t take my word for it–read this unforgettable story for yourself. Then share it with a child.
If anyone was wondering about my absence from the blogging scene, I’ve been enjoying my new grandson. As his mommy had a caesarian section, and a bit of a complication, the new family has been staying with us. So I’ve been wearing another hat this past month: proud grandma. Even though he’s not our first grandbaby, the little fella is definitely a delight. If anyone wants to know what a miracle is, take a look at a newborn baby (who, twelve weeks after conception, already has the ability to suck his/her thumb and sleep and wake!).
My apologies to anyone who has tried to open my web site: http://www.bookandagarden.com. Through some problems from the administrator’s end (which I’m not savvy enough to completely fathom), the site is no longer accessible. Hopefully, I will again be reviewing literary treasures old and new from another location. While I am unhappy about the loss of so many reviews, it is the opportunity for a new beginning. In the meantime, I’ll be sharing wonderful books on this blog. Stay tuned!
13 Mar 2013 2 Comments
I began looking through a box of newly-arrived books, and grabbed a few to take home and read. One of them, the first in a series, is a must-read for any kid who loves fantasies heavily spiced with humor. I haven’t even finished it yet, but it’s too good to postpone sharing until I turn the last page.
Sarah Mlynowski’s rib-tickler joins the ranks of fractured fairy tales by Cornelia Funke, Eva Ibbotson, and other masters of the genre. Check out the review on http://bookandagarden.com/book-reviews/whatever-after-fairest-of-all-by-sarah-mlynowski/ and enjoy!
My favorite quote of the day: “Babies are born with the instinct to speak, the way spiders are born with the instinct to spin webs. You don’t need to train babies to speak; they just do. But reading is different.”— Steven Pinker
10 Mar 2013 3 Comments
in animal books, birds, Books, butterflies, children's books, friendship, interactive books, math books, picture books, Reading, seasons, summer Tags: animals, Books, butterflies, caterpillars, children's books, fairy tales, friendship, geese, humorous books, manners, math, picture books, Reading, seasons, series, summer
One rainy day, a young caterpillar named Farfallina meets Marcel, a gosling. The two youngsters become fast, inseparable friends. As spring turns into summer, Farfallina and Marcel play games (each careful not to engage in activity too difficult for the other) and enjoy their time together. However, one day, the caterpillar does not feel right, and goes up into a tree to rest. Marcel, devoted friend that he is, waits and waits for her return. When Farfallina does not reappear, the young goose sadly wonders if he will ever see his beloved companion again. The marvelous conclusion to this heartwarming tale puts Holly Keller’s timeless treasure alongside the greatest friendship stories of all time.
In a kingdom far, far away, live three little dragons. The realm is also home to the Good Knight, who keeps faithful watch from his tower. One night, the Good Knight hears a loud roar. When he dutifully goes to investigate, who does he find but a pajama-clad young dragon who wants a drink of water before bed. Being a Good Knight, the dedicated guardian complies–then returns to his tower. He is on watch for only a short time when another loud roar sounds through the night. When the Good Knight arrives at the cave, another little dragon is waiting for him. After tending to her needs, he makes his way home, only to be summoned again, and a fourth time. The Good Knight’s introduction to the three little dragons is the beginning of something wonderful in the world of children’s literature. Little people (and their parents) will smile at the familiarity of the bedtime scene. And everyone will be delighted by the further adventures of the Good Knight and his new friends.
A mother bird watches with excitement as her eggs hatch. When all seven youngsters have emerged from their shells, they immediately begin a chorus of “Feed us! Feed us!” The new mother immediately responds, flying off to find food for her brood. As each baby is fed, he falls asleep–but the remaining hatchlings take up the chant. Naturally, the increasingly exhausted mama bird rushes to fulfill their needs, until every tiny bird is satisfied. This treasure begs to be read aloud, and listeners will have a marvelous time shouting out the refrain. (And mommies will love the spot-on ending!)
Ella knows what a story needs to be perfect. It should have words like “Once upon a time.” And, of course, a princess, fairies, and funny and exciting parts are important. But there is one thing a story doesn’t need: bears. Once having made her preferences known, Ella begins her tale. However, unknown to the storyteller, a bear not only makes an appearance, but is an important part of the story. Hilarious.
Ant is thrilled: the king has invited her to a dinner party. She is careful to arrive on time, and uses her best table manners. However, the same cannot be said for the king’s other guests. As they grab food and otherwise act horribly, the royal host says nothing. Things reach a crescendo when a cake is passed around the table. The elephant takes half, and each succeeding guest takes half of what is left. By the time the cake reaches poor Ant, the piece is too small to divide, and crumbles under the knife (leaving nothing for the king). Embarrassed, she offers to bake a special cake for her host. Another participant promises two cakes, another four, and so on. This rib-tickling story will have kids laughing so hard, they may not realize they are learning several math concepts (and a lesson in proper behavior, as well).
07 Mar 2013 4 Comments
in animal books, biographies, Books, children's books, Jewish books, Jewish holidays, picture books Tags: animals, biographies, Books, children's books, family, friendship, humorous books, Jewish bboks, Jewish holidays, picture books, Purim, Reading, school stories, science books
When I decided to write about my favorites, I thought about sharing the best (in my humble opinion) ten picture books of all time. However, after a moment’s reflection, it occurred to me that narrowing my choices to such a small number would be next to impossible. There are simply too many unforgettable treasures out there. Even choosing the most-liked picture books published since 2000 is a daunting task. Yet, there are some that definitely stand out. They may not have won an award, but I believe they are destined to (or should) become classics. You, my readers, might not agree with me, and that’s fine. I would like to hear about some of your favorites, as well.
One note: this list is not in order of preference.
So, without further ado…
Aside from being an enjoyable story, this is an unforgettable and poignant tale. When Ruben Plotnick, the zany kid everybody likes, wants to come over to do homework, David is apprehensive. What will Ruben think of his grandmother, who suddenly begins talking to her husband (who passed away years before) and acting strangely? Will he make fun of her at school the next day? What really unfolds is what makes this story memorable. There is so much food for thought and discussion here beyond the obvious theme of dementia and its effects of family members. Friendship, popularity, not judging by appearances or first impressions, and the many facets that make up a human being are all topics that can be explored.
We know many things about our 16th President. Yet, there is one aspect about Abraham Lincoln that is less well known: he was a book lover from the time he could write the alphabet (if not before). In charming free verse, Kay Winters tells the story of how books were young Abe’s companions, provided comfort in a time of loss, and helped shape the incredible man he became. This warm story is sure to be popular with young people who love a good tale about a real person–and might create a few new book lovers. It’s too good to be shared only around President’s Day.
Miss Brooks is the librarian we all aspire to be. Her affinity for books knows no bounds; neither does her enthusiasm for sharing stories with her students. Even Missy, a first grader who detests books and much as Miss Brooks adores them, does not put a damper on her exuberance. This delightful story is well matched by Michael Emberley’s priceless illustrations. Even real-life Missies might find themselves turned onto this wonderful thing called reading by the time they’ve finished Barbara Bottner’s masterpiece. Kids and adults will laugh all the way to the library.
Yes, it was originally published in 1993, but I’m including this book for two reasons. Firstly, it was republished in 2010 with new illustrations. Secondly, Babara Goldin’s timeless tale merits inclusion on anyone’s list of favorites. As the story opens, young Hershel, the only blind boy in his European village, enjoys spending time at the riverbank, creating structures out of mud–and catching a frog whenever he can. Typical of boys everywhere, he is not above creating interesting “diversions” in class when he is bored. Yet he also feels concern for the difficulties he causes his widowed mother when he comes home with mud-caked clothing or she must appease his teacher after Hershel’s latest escapade. He longs to be a help to her, not only by performing mundane chores, but in a real way. Hershel discovers his chance when he is visited in a dream by an angel, who encourages him to make what he sees. Inspired, the boy locates the dough his mother warned him not to touch–with results that change not only people’s perceptions, but his future as well.
Mary Batten takes science books to a whole new level. Two pajama-clad girls learn about the sleep habits of a number of different creatures, and we join them in their journey of discovery. In simple prose, the author provides basic information, which is expanded upon on each page. Combined with illustrator Higgin Bond’s detailed art work, this wonderful book is more than just another animal book. It’s a treasure.
Stay tuned for Part Two!