Posts from the ‘book review’ Category

BOOK REVIEW: WATER IS WATER

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WATER IS WATER
By Miranda Paul
Illustrated by Jason Chin
Published by Roaring Brook Press
(A Division of MacMillan Publishing)
ISBN 978-1-59643-984-9

Science and easy vocabulary are hard to work together. WATER IS WATER by Miranda Paul achieves that partnership on each of the thirty pages in this book. The reader will learn of water and its many forms and uses, each page using no more than a handful of one-syllable words and a few others to dress up the story. After the final page and those few words, the reader has learned a great deal about the world of water in a delightful way that will stay with the reader for a long time. Some of the concepts of water forms can be quite complex, but Ms. Paul, with the use of her words, has brought it into easy grasp for the reader.

The words, in fact, are also part of a song performed by Emily Arrow, available on YOUTUBE at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzJwNGo-7HY.

The illustrations by Jason Chin are a wonderful match for the words. Clearly, he devised a landscape to tell the story, plotting out a two-dimensional map for his own reference and then creating a three-dimensional illustration for each page for the reader to see, using different views of his “Water World” to follow along with Ms. Paul’s text. Color shines off every page as each scene unfolds with children bouncing through each step of the story – children in rain, in snow, in the mud, watching clouds – all delightful illustrations detailed right down to the pattern on a kite or another child holding a lizard as he comes off the bus.

After the final page of text, the book also includes a short glossary of terms and some interesting facts, as well as some further readings that may interest others.

Kids under the age of ten would probably enjoy this book the most, with its sparse words and eyefuls of illustrations. It is still enjoyable for others as well.

The hardcover version is listed at $18.99. I gladly review this book through the help of Becky Flansburg and the Multicultural Children’s Book Day organization.

#readyourworld

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Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/17) is in its fourth year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.
Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day holiday, the MCBD Team is on a mission to change all of that.
Current Sponsors: MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include Scholastic, Barefoot Books and Broccoli. Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. Roman, Audrey Press, Candlewick Press, Fathers Incorporated, KidLitTV, Capstone Young Readers, ChildsPlayUsa, Author Gayle Swift, Wisdom Tales Press, Lee& Low Books, The Pack-n-Go Girls, Live Oak Media, Author Charlotte Riggle, Chronicle Books and Pomelo Books

Author Sponsor include: Karen Leggett Abouraya, Veronica Appleton, Susan Bernardo, Kathleen Burkinshaw, Delores Connors, Maria Dismondy, D.G. Driver, Geoff Griffin, Savannah Hendricks, Stephen Hodges, Carmen Bernier-Grand,Vahid Imani, Gwen Jackson, Hena, Kahn, David Kelly, Mariana Llanos, Natasha Moulton-Levy, Teddy O’Malley, Stacy McAnulty, Cerece Murphy, Miranda Paul, Annette Pimentel, Greg Ransom, Sandra Richards, Elsa Takaoka, Graciela Tiscareño-Sato, Sarah Stevenson, Monica Mathis-Stowe SmartChoiceNation, Andrea Y. Wang

BOOK REVIEW: SHELTERBELTS by Candace Simar

book-coverSHELTERBELTS
By Candace Simar
267 pages
Published by North Star Press

My taste in reading favors people; real people. I’m not much for murder mysteries or romances. Give me ordinary folks who live ordinary lives but yet have their own stories to tell.

You can’t get much more ordinary than a community of farmers in a nondescript Minnesota township. Yet, that’s what Candace Simar gives us in this novel. Her ordinary people become folks we all know from our own lives; the blabbermouth gossip lady, the simple village idiot, the old maid to be, the mothers and fathers who have hopes for their kids, the kids who might dash those hopes . . . and let us not forget the community built around the businesses in those townships, from the farm supply dealers, across the street to the merchants, and down the road to the ramshackle Lutheran church which serves as the social and spiritual center for the people in this book.

Candace Simar’s writing style is warm and neighborly. Taking from her pool of wonderful words, she gives us descriptions that finds us saying to ourselves, “Hey, I know someone just like that!” There’s Tia the spinster to be, who could just as well be your own cousin Barbie. There’s Harvey, the struggling farmer who never gives up, even though his son Eddie is a simpleton – just like the guy down the road from your house. You’ve all met someone like Tillie – she’s the one who knows everything about everyone in the town and for sure will you can bet she will tell you everything about everyone in the town, often in one breath.

Your mind sees and feels each character – their clothing, their posture, their ethics . . . and you have felt their emotional disappointments, their victories, their hopes and dreams. You know what it’s like to not be properly dressed for certain social occasions. You know what it’s like to observe an awkward moment at a public gathering – or even have been the center of one of those awkward moments. All of this is here, made clear by the hand of Candace Simar in SHELTERBELTS.

The novel takes place at the very end of World War II. The boys that have left the farms to serve Uncle Sam haven’t quite returned yet; well okay, one does. Those in the township go through their lives, doing mundane chores, observing the weather and all conditions that concern farming, planning on money coming in from crops and egg sales. The radio is a big source of news. A few farms have been innovative enough to allow their houses to be wired for electricity, who some find uppity, while others become jealous.

But at the top of it all, the theme of community commands the reader’s attention. The mechanics of the social interplay become a stage of action for Simar’s writing – and she generates hearfelt actions out of that mechanical world. Through her characters, she reminds us that the community is out there, so full of support and hurt, all at the same time . . . and not letting us forget that our own community, flawed as it may be, is still so very near and dear to us.

There is a list of emotions that appear here – elation, disappointment, jealousy, spiritual glory, the joys of simple life – Simar paints all of them with a clarity and realism that draws deeply upon our own wells of emotion.

I just wish the book didn’t end so quickly – I wanted to know more about the characters and where they were headed. I wanted to read more about the improvement in their lives as the effects of World War II faded. Perhaps there will be a SHELTERBELTS II.

There are several books about community that I read over and over again, year after year – Steinbeck’s EAST OF EDEN, Lee’s TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD and Hassler’s GRAND OPENING, come to mind. I’m adding Simar’s SHELTERBELTS to that list.

*I have had the pleasure of meeting Candace Simar, a writer living in central Minnesota. Other books she has written include ABERCROMBIE TRAIL, BLOOMING PRAIRIE and FARM GIRLS. I must also add that she is a fine SCRABBLE player, having bested me more often than not in the online version of that game of words.

Book Review: The Cello Suites

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Book Review:
The Cello Suites
By Eric Siblin
Published by Grove Press
270 pages

Bach and his music. Boring? Pablo Casals, that old Spanish cello player. Boring? Combine the two in one book? Boring squared? Not at all. This fine study it totally interesting and innovative in many ways.

Eric Siblin has penned a truly interesting and well researched book about these two musical men and their connection through a set of six pieces written for the cello. Siblin, who has made a name for himself by reviewing rock music, suddenly found himself wrapped in the classical music world of Bach and Casals as he learns of the story of the search for the original copy of the six cello suites by Bach, and how Pablo Casals single handedly brings these pieces to the world.

The structure of the book is unique; there are 36 chapters in the book, one named for each movement of the six suites, including preludes, allemandes, courants, gigues, sarabandes and gavottes. Each chapter centers on biographical work on Bach or Casals, or on the families of either man, or on the nature of the music, or on Siblin’s own reflections as he experiences these pieces, or on music history.

One would think that such material would be dry and thunderously dull. Think otherwise, reader. Siblin uses his writing to present a book that offers a conversational tone about his subjects, allowing the reader to settle into his chair and enjoy the lives of these men, and of these works of music. The language, though scholarly, is not highbrow. This is not for musical snobs only; it reads well for all.

We meet Bach and his family. We read of his moves from German town to town as he builds a career that he hopes will increase his stature with each city. We meet the princes and lords of the German city –states as they parry over his skills, and as he performs for and against other musicians. We meet his kids, his wives, especially Anna Magdalena, and how many of them build their own musical careers.

We meet Pablo Casals as a child in the Catalonian part of Spain, and how he develops his love for the cello. We meet his mother, his family, and ultimately his wife – when they marry, he is 80, she is 21. We watch Casals tour with his cello. We see his directorial work as he creates his own musical group. We learn of Casals and his political influences in Europe, starting in the 1920s, then on into the Spanish revolution in the 1930s, on into World War II and even into the halls of the United Nations, and then into Puerto Rico, where he concludes his time on earth, having been a consummately admired musician.

The suites themselves become characters in a way as Siblin describes the personality of each of the suites. Once intended as mere practice pieces, because of Casals’ recording of them in the 1920s, they became true virtuoso pieces for all cellists. Siblin also delves into the unknown of the pieces. He wonders who the suites were intended for. He asks if they were indeed meant for the cello or for a unique five-stringed instrument of his own devising.

THE CELLO SUITES is interesting, informative, and a good read. Congratulations, Mr. Siblin, on your fine job.

Book Review: A Notion of Pelicans

Book Review: A NOTION OF PELICANS
By Donna Salli
Published by North Star Press
173 Pages

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I have met ladies who are like the women who populate the world of Donna Salli’s book. I would bet that when you wade into A NOTION OF PELICANS, you will find women you know, too.

There’s the church basement lady who is firm in her ways and solid in her faith. There’s the uppity college professor who makes sure you know her opinions. There’s the lady thespian who is proud of her artificial world on the stage but not so sure of her real world. There’s the pastor’s wife, who recognizes her place in the community but still has her desires. And of course, it all comes from the pioneering spirit of the lady who founds a church based on a heavenly sign in the form of circling pelicans above the hills along the shores of a beautiful lake. Interspersed among the story of each ladies are short vignettes of a night in the town where the church and the ladies reside. And yes, the lore that began with those pelicans so many years ago presents itself, sometimes unnoticed, sometimes obvious.

Each woman is featured in a chapter all their own. Ms. Salli more than tells us about each lady – she shows us the life and emotions of each lady. By the time we read of each woman, we know what she looks like, what her habits are, her preferences in culture and men.

Just like the women who have so many aspects, the setting of the story offers so many moods. The small town of the Pelican church is located on the shores of the Great Lakes, which can be clear and sunny, or stormy and dark, and every mode in between. Is it a cool night? Rainy? Sunny? What season is it? The descriptions in the book fill us in well with every breath of wind and movement of the lake.

Salli’s writing style presents humor and pathos as we meet each woman – her writing skills are many, and very precise, so that all the words are used in a crisp, clear manner. Each chapter moves right along with its purpose. Ms. Salli’s training as a writer began with poetry, so we see her preference of economical use of words, and of choosing the right word in every sentence.

I am fortunate to count Donna Salli as among my writer friends. I have been allowed in on some of the decisions that led to this book. In so many ways, I see Donna’s world, and I also saw some new matters that let me know Donna even better as a writer and as a person.

When you buy your copy of A NOTION OF PELICANS, buy two. I can guarantee you have a friend who will like this book as well as you will.

 

BOOK REVIEW: THE MAGIC STRINGS OF FRANKIE PRESTO

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By Mitch Albom
Published by Harper Collins
497 pages

This is a novel for anyone who has ever listened to a musical performance that made your jaw drop, the hair on the back of your neck stand up, and your breath removed by its sheer beauty and power. This is a novel, too, for those musicians who have had that moment when you have been part of a musical performance that has left you feeling nothing but connected with the higher power of music. In other words, this is a book for all, because we’ve all had that kind of connection with music, one way or another.

Mitch Albom’s character, Frankie Presto, is followed from birth to death, tracing his life as a guitarist of phenomenal talent and skill. We see Frankie from his first days on earth in the mid-1930s, where his mother sacrifices more than anyone can be expected to . . . where a dog and a bachelor have their lives changed by the child . . . a teacher who grasps on to the young Frankie to teach the important lesson that music is more than the notes (quote from the book: a teacher’s shadow can hover for life) . . . to how the love of Frankie’s life comes and goes . . . to his connections with many musicians over his lifetime . . . to the success of his daughter as a benefactor of Frankie’s music . . . and so much more, but I had best stop there to not give away too much.

The author Albom has crafted a surprising way to tell the story. The narrator of the story is music itself. Music explains how talent is given to all in varying portions, of how all the musical styles out there are relevant, and then uses all this narrative to tell us Frankie’s story. And it is not exactly an omnipotent view, either. Music itself almost becomes a character of the story as well as the narrator. This is one of the marvels of Mitch Albom’s writing style.

The story of Frankie Presto is that of a career musician. He learns his music, he shares it, first in small places, and then through his travels, manages to climb to the heights of music popularity as a young rock and roll star, and then falls into anonymity as time passes. Frankie can sing and play the guitar as if he has been infused with music. In his adventures from Spain and many places around the earth, Frankie meets so many other musicians – the list is long, passing through time, from Big Band names like Duke Ellington to hard rock musician Paul Stanley and modern day jazz man Wynton Marsalis. Interspersed within the narrative of the Frankie Presto story line, the author has cleverly included separate chapters written in the voice of actual real-life musicians, as if they knew and worked with Frankie. Again, like the voice of music as narrator, this is another clever and effective mechanism used by the author to bring the story to life, to make it as real as possible.

At the core of the story is the theme of music as a power. Music, as the reader meets it as the narrator, explains the effect music can have on the performer and the listener. Music, as the motivator that give Frankie his ups and downs in life, gives us a taste of the reality of the difficulty of learning to play music, of the deep satisfaction of a performance well done – and ultimately, how music is more than the notes on the page.

We are all part of a band at least once in our life, insists the author … and some of us are part of many bands. How many bands he’s been in is Frankie Presto’s story. Though Frankie is a fictional character, there is a great deal of truth and relevance of music in our actual every-day life.

BOOK REVIEW; BIRMINGHAM 1963

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Book Review
BIRMINGHAM 1963
How a Photograph Rallied Civil Rights Support
By Shelley Tougas
Published by Compass Point Book
ISBN 978-0-7565-4398-3 (library binding)
ISBN 978-0-7565-4446-1 (paperback)
64 Pages Age level: middle school and up

The idea of telling the story behind famous photos is a great idea. We get that here very well from author Shelley Tougas as she gives the background of the racial unrest of the 1960s.

The story is first centers on Carolyn Maull, a student at an elementary school in Birmingham, Alabama as she happens to be present at one of the demonstrations in that city in 1963. She becomes a part of the crowd, and then is photographed by Charles Moore when she and two other students are sprayed by hoses directed and operated by members of the fire department of the city. This photo became famous upon its depiction of the use of force against children in the civil rights demonstrations of those days.

The photo appeared in LIFE magazine, bringing the concept of children viewed as participants, victims and pawns in that whole racial upheaval. Mr. Moore’s other photography was there, but this one particular photo certainly brought a good deal notoriety to the nation.

The book does a good job of describing the events directly leading up to the day when Carolyn was sprayed, as well as events following. We meet the leaders of the civil rights movement, including the advocates such as Martin Luther King, JR and Ralph Abernathy. We meet those who wished to stop such movements, particularly Bull Connor; he being the one who decided to use fire hoses as crowd control tools. However, older background information would be good to know; we are only told in passing about Jim Crow laws. A few examples of these types of laws would be helpful for the reader to understand even better where this all started.

The book makes a good point out of the use of force; author Tougas also informs the reader about a demonstration in Georgia where the local authorities chose to peacefully monitor the demonstrations, which led to little public awareness. Without conflict or drama, says the author, there’s no newsworthy story to report. The use of children is addressed widely and fairly by the author – pointing out that both sides of the conflict struggled with using children one way or another – or using them at all. Presenting such an ethical dilemma is interesting for the reader to consider.

The book contains four ‘sidebar’ stories, highlighting different forces in the cause: Bull Connor, the Civil Rights Leaders, Mahatma Gandhi, and the KKK. It is here that the reader will learn specifics about these people and the effects they had upon the Civil Rights movement.

The book reads like a middle school textbook. There is little by way of character, but there is plenty of information to consider. The vocabulary might be a bit challenging at times, as is some of the more violent subject matter.

All photography is black and white, which serves to give a feeling for that era. The main photo appears on the cover of the book and in a few other places throughout, so the reader is aware of that photo in many cases as the story unfolds.

A useful timeline and a glossary are offered in the back of the book, along with an index.

As part of the Multicultural Children’s Book Day, the following is required to be part of this blog:

multicultural Children’s Book Day

Mission: Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Mia and Valarie are on a mission to change all of that. Their mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these types of books into classrooms and libraries. Another goal of this exciting event is create a compilation of books and favorite reads that will provide not only a new reading list for the winter, but also a way to expose brilliant books to families, teachers, and libraries.

The co-creators of this unique event are Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press.

Our CoHosts: We have NINE amazing Co-Hosts.
Africa to America
All Done Monkey
The Educators’ Spin on It
Growing Book by Book
InCultural Parent
Kid World Citizen
Mama Smiles
Multicultural Kid Blogs
Sprout’s Bookshelf

MCCBD’s 2015 Sponsors include Platinum Sponsors: Wisdom Tales Press, Daybreak Press Global Bookshop, Gold Sponsors: Satya House, MulticulturalKids.com, Author Stephen Hodges and the Magic Poof, Silver Sponsors: Junior Library Guild, Capstone Publishing, Lee and Low Books, The Omnibus Publishing. Bronze Sponsors:Double Dutch Dolls, Bliss Group Books, Snuggle with Picture Books Publishing, Rainbow Books, Author FeliciaCapers, Chronicle Books Muslim Writers Publishing ,East West Discovery Press.

• A Special Thank You to the Children’s Book Council for their contribution and support.
We’re also partnering with First Book to offer a Virtual Book Drive that will help donate multicultural children’s books through their channels during the week of the event. We want to help get diversity books into the hands of kids who most need it and now we have a way to do it! The Virtual Book Drive is LIVE and can be found HERE.

Book Review: JUNETEENTH FOR MAZIE

 

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Review

JUNETEENTH FOR MAZIE

By Floyd Cooper

Published by Capstone Young Readers

ISBN 978-1-62370-170-3 (hardcover)

ISBN 978-1-4795-5819-3 (library binding)

36 pages

Age level: 8 years old and up

 

In a very nicely illustrated book, we learn how young Mazie realizes that freedom is something to celebrate – especially after having been told ‘no’ so many times.

 

In the first pages of the book, we meet Mazie as she whines about how she can’t to what she wants all the time.  Her father explains that many years ago, freedom wasn’t something that was very common among those who came before her.

 

He tells the story of Mazie’s great-great-great-grandfather’s experience as a slave in the 1800s, many years ago.  That experience came to an end with the announcement of the end of the war that ended slavery.  The day of that announcement has come to be known as Juneteenth.

 

The detailed illustrations are effective.  Many faces are seen that reveal a range of emotions.

 

The text covers modern-day Mazie, then jumps back to her forefathers of 150 years ago, bringing the reader back to the present as each page passes.   Only one page of the book deals with the days of slavery – the horrid conditions of that life are missing from the page, so the reader won’t necessarily understand the importance of the end of slavery at the announcement of the end of the war.  It would have benefitted the reader to include some of that here – perhaps employing less pages about the celebration of Juneteenth itself and including a page or two more about those conditions.

 

There are several pages that cover the rise out of slavery – and here we certainly see the outcome of the end of slavery and how that result is so very worth celebrating.   The announcement itself of the end of the war is not very clear in the book itself, so I would like to make a suggestion:  read the last page of the book first.  It is here that the origin of JUNETEENTH is explained.  Reading it first will bring better understanding as the story unfolds in the book itself.

 

 

As part of the Multicultural Children’s Book Day, the following is required to be part of this blog:

 

multicultural Children’s Book Day

 

Mission: Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day, Mia and Valarie are on a mission to change all of that. Their mission is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these types of books into classrooms and libraries. Another goal of this exciting event is create a compilation of books and favorite reads that will provide not only a new reading list for the winter, but also a way to expose brilliant books to families, teachers, and libraries.

 

The co-creators of this unique event are Mia Wenjen from Pragmatic Mom and Valarie Budayr from Jump Into a Book/Audrey Press.

 

 

Our CoHosts: We have NINE amazing Co-Hosts.

Africa to America

All Done Monkey

The Educators’ Spin on It

Growing Book by Book

InCultural Parent

Kid World Citizen

Mama Smiles

Multicultural Kid Blogs

Sprout’s Bookshelf

 

 

MCCBD’s  2015 Sponsors include Platinum Sponsors: Wisdom Tales Press, Daybreak Press Global Bookshop, Gold SponsorsSatya House,  MulticulturalKids.com,   Author Stephen Hodges and the Magic Poof, Silver Sponsors: Junior Library GuildCapstone Publishing, Lee and Low Books,  The Omnibus Publishing. Bronze Sponsors:Double Dutch Dolls, Bliss Group Books, Snuggle with Picture Books Publishing,  Rainbow Books,   Author FeliciaCapers,   Chronicle Books   Muslim Writers Publishing ,East West Discovery Press.

 

We’re also partnering with First Book to offer a Virtual Book Drive that will help donate multicultural children’s books through their channels during the week of the event. We want to help get diversity books into the hands of kids who most need it and now we have a way to do it! The Virtual Book Drive is LIVE and can be found HERE.