Monday, October 29, 2012

Ready for Pumpkins review

Ready for Pumpkins

Hercules, a classroom guinea pig, has a revelation when he watches the first graders grow plants from seeds. He wants to grow things, too! And during summer vacation (spent with the teacher's dad), he gets his chance. With the help of a friendly rabbit, Herky prepares the soil, carefully plants pumpkin seeds, and waits. And waits, and waits. One of the most important things he learns about gardening is patience. It's very hard to go back to school when fall comes--especially because his pumpkins aren't quite ready yet. (goodreads summary)

Hercules has a good life living with Miss MacGuffey's first grade class! One day, he notices the children are growing plants and Hercules decides he wants his own garden too. When he goes home for summer vacation, he puts his growing plan into action. With some pumpkin seeds and help of a new friend, Hercules learns just how tricky growing a garden can be. As told from Hercules' perspective, this cute and charming story is a wonderful tale not only about the planting process but also learning to have patience as well. With the wisdom and guidance from his new friend Daisy, he finds it takes awhile for good things to grow and learns ways to pass the time. The watercolor illustrations are gentle and eye pleasing. There is so much to see on each page as Hercules' seed grows into something special for the new school year. I hope there will be many more witty stories about Hercules in the future.  I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3-7.~

Title: Ready for Pumpkins
Author: Kate Duke
Genre: picture book
Pub. Date: August 2012, Knopf Books
Hardcover, 40 pgs.


Room on the Broom review

Room on the Broom
The witch and her cat are happily flying through the sky on a broomstick when the wind picks up and blows away the witch's hat, then her bow, and then her wand! Luckily, three helpful animals find the missing items, and all they want in return is a ride on the broom. But is there room on the broom for so many friends? And when disaster strikes, will they be able to save the witch from a hungry dragon?(goodreads summary)

Halloween is right around the corner and this amusing story caught my eye the other day. A friendly witch rides her broomstick cheerfully around the forest with her cat. Along the way, she looses several items and one-by-one are found and returned by several new animal friends. Each one asks if they can have a ride on her broom. Their adventure takes a turn as the broomstick snaps and the witch is confronted by a hungry dragon after tumbling to the ground. The rhyming text flows nicely making for an easy read-aloud.  The illustrations are colorful and with so many characters, each one could be read in different voices adding to the entertaining storyline.  It also depicts kindness and friendship with friends helping other friends in need. I think this is a "just right book" for ages 3 - 7.~

Title: Room on the Broom
Author: Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler
Genre: picture book
Pub. Date: 2001, Puffin Books
Hardcover, 32 pgs.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Brides of Rollrock Island review

The Brides of Rollrock Island

On remote Rollrock Island, men go to sea to make their livings—and to catch their wives. The witch Misskaella knows the way of drawing a girl from the heart of a seal, of luring the beauty out of the beast. And for a price a man may buy himself a lovely sea-wife. He may have and hold and keep her. And he will tell himself that he is her master. But from his first look into those wide, questioning, liquid eyes, he will be just as transformed as she. He will be equally ensnared. And the witch will have her true payment. (goodreads summary)

Misskaella, the sea-witch was not a beauty herself.  But she did have the power to bring beauty in the form of a sea-wife summoned from the seals of the ocean and beaches for the men of Rollrock Island.  They knew of her magic and for a price could have the most beautiful woman for their own.  The men rolled up the seal skins that were shed and stored them in a locked closet preventing the women from ever going back to their original form and returning to the sea.  As the temptation grew stronger from man-to-man, to be with these perfectly beautiful and obedient beings, the women of the island slowly left for the mainlands. Marriages were broken apart, families separated and women were rejected as outcasts as the sea-wives were brought one-by-one by Misskaella's magic. As generations passed, the only ones inhabiting the island were men, sea-wives and their sons.  Did this bring them the happiness they imagined it would?  Little do they know that Misskaella will profit in more ways than one as she stands by watching her revenge unfold so easily.

I wasn't sure how I felt after I read this story... The writing evoked so many feelings and emotions that it took a while for me to realize that "yes",  I think I did like it after all.  Based around Selkie folklore, it definitely was not a light hearted story and actually had me feeling gloomy and sad throughout.  It was almost like being on a small island that rains constantly for days and days, waiting for the sun to peek out any moment now. The setting and time were not clear but I was able to come up with my own image through good character description, descriptions of life on the island and vocabulary like "lad" and "mam" for mom. The story unfolds with Misskaella's childhood. She knew that she was different and that difference lead her to become the magical sea-witch. Each chapter is then based on a specific individuals point-of-view and how their story circles around Misskaella's magic and the consequences of choices. The sea-wives were truly unhappy and always felt the longing of the sea although they stayed committed to their new life. What I took away most from the story were questions like: what was true happiness, how far will one go for happiness and most of all what things would we do for love? One son in particular who has a strong bond for his sea-mam shows great courage to do the unthinkable that changes many lives on the island. There were several pages in the chapters that I found myself reading over again to try and connect with the story and understand it. The story and writing style is unique but once I finally got to the main climax, it captured my attention to get to the end of the book quicker.  This book is a dark, folklore tragedy and will not be for every reader.  Sometimes you walk away with uncertain feelings that will stay with you for a few days. This book will do that to its' reader. I felt haunted and not sure I will be able look at a seal without being reminded of this book. But then again, good writing is suppose to stick with its' reader and will give me something to talk about over coffee.   I think this is a "just right book" for a mature reader over 16 as it does have some sensuality.~

Title: The Brides of Rollrock Island
Author: Margo Lanagan
Pub. Date: September 2012, Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: fantasy, young adult
Hardcover, 305 pgs.
Originally published as Sea Hearts