Tuesday, February 26, 2008

11. Hello, Bumblebee Bat

by Darrin Lunde,
illustrated by Patricia J. Wynne

This is a 2008 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award honor book--according to the American Library Association website, “given annually to the author(s) and illustrator(s) of the most distinguished American book for beginning readers published in English in the United States during the preceding year…recognized for their literary and artistic achievements that demonstrate creativity and imagination to engage children in reading.”

Hello, Bumblebee Bat offers nine questions and answers about this inch-long bat’s environment and habits. Lunde’s repetitive question format, starting with the alliterative “bumblebee bat,” is reminiscent of Bill Martin’s Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and is appropriate for early readers. Wynne’s watercolor, ink, and colored pencil illustrations of this pig-nosed endangered Thai bat fill the right side of the double-paged spreads. Sometimes a frightening creature to small children, the bats in these drawings often appear to be smiling. The book’s patterns would make it a great read-aloud for younger children.

10. The Thirteenth Tale

by Diane Setterfield

This is described as a “gothic suspense novel.” I’m not into Gothic fiction like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, so I can’t really comment on that, other than the fitting moodiness of the settings and weather, but The Thirteenth Tale was suspenseful. I was surprised at the denouement; one of the main characters was not who I thought she was; two other characters had a connection I did not suspect. The ending is rather drawn out with the author tying up all the loose ends, but the “thirteenth tale” of the title is rather disappointing.

Margaret Lea is a young biographer who has been hired by the mysterious, famous, but ailing author Vida Winter to write her life story. Being a natural storyteller, Vida narrates most of her tale in her own voice. Margaret does some private investigating to verify some facts, and these parts contribute to the book, but Margaret’s own story is distracting and a bit overblown. The book is set in England, but it’s hard to pinpoint the exact time frame – cars and telephones exist but personal computers apparently do not; Margaret writes all her notes and correspondence by hand.

The audiobook had British actresses Bianca Amato and Jill Tanner voicing Margaret and Vida respectively, and they were excellent. In this case the British accents are appropriate due to the setting, and there were no annoying pronunciations (such as “et” for ate). This was a good book to listen to on a commute; it held my interest despite its length.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

9. Vulture View

by April Pulley Sayre,
illustrated by Steve Jenkins

This is the second book I haven't been able to purchase for my Curriculum Collection but found at my local county library. It's also an award winner, a 2008 Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Book, for beginning readers. The rhyming text of Sayre (who has written a number of natural history books for children), coupled with the distinctive and colorful cut-paper collages by Jenkins (a Caldecott Honor winner in 2004), create a distinctive book on an unusual subject - turkey vultures. A two-page spread at the end of the book gives factual information about these scavenger carrion-eaters, also known as buzzards here in Texas. I believe my son would have enjoyed this book when he was younger, to learn more about these birds he saw on his visits here.

8. Lightship

by Brian Floca

I buy over 500 children's books a year for my library, but it's hard to find time at work to read them. This is one of two I checked out at the local library, because it's been out of stock with our book supplier since it was named a 2008 Robert F. Sibert Informational Honor Book. Author and illustrator Brian Floca uses ink and watercolor illustrations with interesting perspectives (and an ever-present curious cat) to tell us about lightships, essentially floating lighthouses in use in the United States through 1983. My husband, a recreational sailor, loved the cutaway view in the end papers of the Ambrose, Light Ship (or LS) 87, now docked at the South Street Seaport Museum in New York City. Floca provides historical footnotes in his acknowledgments and author's note that will be appreciated by adults and older readers.

7. Inkheart

by Cornelia Funke

I finished this book a week or so ago for an online book club I am trying to participate in. It's taken me a while to post about it because I really didn't like it. I should state up front that I'm not a fantasy fan.

This book was too dark, but the premise about reading characters into and out of books was interesting (although it really did not make sense how a person could be read into a book s/he was not originally a character in).

The book was too long; the story dragged and repeated itself (back and forth to the villain's lair) and was hard to finish. I think it may have suffered from being translated from its original German. The real human characters (those not read out of a book) seemed underdeveloped. Some of the things 12-year-old Meggie had to go through were awful and inappropriate for her age. Mo/Silvertongue was very unsympathetic. I thought Elinor evolved the most, from someone wrapped up in her books to someone who cared more for other people.

I think I would have enjoyed this book more if the characters read out of books had positive adventures instead of trying to kill or otherwise hurt each other. I'm not at all interested in reading any of the sequels, nor in seeing the movie.