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Bri Meets Books

Children's and YA literature reviews.

Category Archives: review

Imogene Tripp loves history so much that her first words as a baby were “Four score and seven years ago.” She helps restore the Liddleville Historical Society, but to her disappointment, nobody visits.  Then she learns the Mayor has ordered the building torn down and plans to put a shoelace factory in its place.  Taking to the streets, Imogene launches a one woman campaign, blanketing the town with flyers and crying ala Paul Revere “the bulldozers are coming!” but nobody listens.  “The shoelace factory will put Liddleville on the map,” they say in reply. But Imogene is determined to win the fight – her last stand.

I was utterly charmed by this book.  Candace Fleming’s Imogene is plucky and adorable. Illustrator Nancy Carpenter depicts a girl who runs around town astride a stick horse as she quotes Paul Revere, and in flight goggles when she educates children during show and tell about notable heroines.  Imogene’s habit of quoting great men of history fits perfectly in this story, especially her reference to Martin Luther King’s utterance “We are made by history,” as she cleans the Historical Society.

The book’s ending is a little predictable to adults, but children will likely like it.  Imogene’s Last Stand is a great introduction to history for little ones with a sweet but determined girl.

Title: Imogene’s Last Stand
Author: Candace Fleming (Illus. by Nancy Carpenter)
Date: October 2009
Publisher:  Schwartz and Wade (Random House)
Pages: 40
Format: Hardback

Other Reviews

Muddy Puddle Musings
Not Just for Kids


Note: Very minor spoilers.  A few words. 

Cassie’s heard the story countless times. Her mother, a daughter of the North Wind, who has made a deal with the Polar Bear king, and is now trapped in a castle, east of the sun, west of the moon.  When she was young, Cassie reenacted the events, using pillows as the fortress. 

As she grows older, Cassie realizes it was just a fairy tale, her mother’s gone, and she must grow up if she wants to become an Artic scientist, like her father.  Until one day, when she sees a magnificent polar bear who speaks to her about the truth: her mother’s alive. If she will come with him, and be his pride, her mother can return from the castle to which she’s banished.  Cassie must cross far to the reaches of the Artic, over ice and snow.

Sarah Beth Durst’s Ice is a fairy tale that sparkles as much as its namesake. From page one, where we meet headstrong, brave Cassie, fervently believing with all of her heart that her mother is trapped in a castle, readers will love her.    Durst excels with writing strong female characters, and Cassie is no exception.

With science fiction and fantasy works, there’s an assumed suspicion of belief.  Durst’s writing is so fluid, and some visual, during my reading of Ice, I believed in everything on the page, without question. In this way, readers identify with Cassie, who comes up with scientific reasons to negate all she sees: 

She’d never seen such a beautiful mirage. Spires towered above her. They shimmered in the bending light. At the tips of the spires,  the ice curled into the semblance of banners, frozen midwave. She waited for it to shrink to its normal proportions: an ordinary ridge or an outcrop of ice that had been stretched by a trick of the light.

But it did not shrink or stretch. It shone like a jewel in the sunlight. Cassie felt her gut tighten. It had an iceberg frozen in the pack ice — it was at white as a moonstone, while the sea ice encircling it was a brilliant turquoise – but she had never heard of an iceberg in such old ice, except near Ellesmere, on the opposite side of Canada.  (p.36-37, Ice)

This is Durst’s third fairy tale book (Into the Wild, and its sequel, Out of the Wild being the first and second, respectively) and her prose is sharper than ever.  With this retelling of the Norse tale East of the Sun, West of the Moon, Durst blends Inuit legend, Arctic research, and more. There’s so much infused within Cassie’s world, it just leaves you turning the pages quicker and quicker.   The treatment of nature is so exquisite, from rushing streams to glimmering ice. From the muckiest bog to a mountain’s highest peak, nature lives and breathes on the page.  

Stirring in its beauty, captivating with its romance and action, Ice is a tale that will have you believe in magic and love.  I was swept up as Cassie crossed the ends of the Earth, and so will readers.  

Copy for review provided by the publisher.

Title: Ice
Author: Sarah Beth Durst
Date: October 2009
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books (an imprint of Simon and Schuster)
Pages: 308
Format: Hardback

Come back soon, because I’ll have an interview with author Sarah Beth Durst, and a chance to win your copy of Ice!

I didn’t know what Seneca Falls was until I was in college.  If I had this book when younger, I think I’d have a much better appreciation for women’s rights than the two paragraphs offered it in my sixth grade.
For Nonfiction Monday, I’m reviewing Women’s Right to Vote by Terry Collins, published by Capstone Press.
Moms Inspire Learning hosts Nonfiction Monday this week.
I hesitate to call Women’s Right to Vote a graphic novel, as the events inside are factual. It’s an illustrated history book.
Women’s Right to Vote is divided into chapters,  each a pivotal point in women’s suffrage. “Colonial times”, “the 19th Amendment,” etc.  The first page starts off with the image of the modern teenager, cell-phone in hand, being told “to remember to vote!” It acknowledges that sometimes the decision will be hard, but the choice is the voter’s alone.    I like this, because too often, when younger, I heard that the right to vote was hard fought and was told my voice was important, but nobody clarified exactly why.
The images inside are cartoons depicting various points in history. John Adams working on The Declaration of Independence, and Abigail Adams reminding him to “remember the ladies!”  New Jersey as the one state that allowed women’s rights, after the passing of the Constitution.   Every page has a sidebar of a term such as abolition, suffrage, and others.
As the pages continue, they reflect the changing climates in women’s history.  Sojurner Truth’s “Ain’t It a Woman?” speech is referenced as is a the Declaration of Sentiments.  The opposition of women’s suffrage is also represented, and finally, we end at a look at women in government today, with Geraldine Ferraro, Sarah Palin, Hillary Clinton.
There’s a lot of information packed in this slim volume of women’s history. With eye-catching humorous cartoons and facts presented in a whimsical manner, Women’s Right to Vote offers a nice primer on women’s suffrage.  If a reader wants to learn more, there’s an additional reading list. My only complaint is I felt the additional reading resources could’ve been an entire page, but Capstone Press books are linked to Facthound, their child-safe research database, and that will yield plenty of information.
Copy for review provided by the publisher.
Title: Women’s Right to Vote
Author: Terry Collins (illus. by Brian Bascle)
Date: 2009
Publisher: Capstone Press
Pages: 32
Format: Hardback

It’s Nonfiction Monday! Created by Picture Book of the Day, it’s where book bloggers feature a nonfiction book for kids.

This week’s Nonfiction Monday is hosted by Wendie’s Wanderings

This week’s pick is Sea Soup: Zooplankton by Mary M. Cerullo, featuring photography by Bill Curtsinger.

Sea Soup: Zooplankton introduces readers to the various forms of the organism.  From the moment you open this book, stunning underwater images greet you.  The layout is very attractive, and catches your eye immediately. There’s splashes of color, vibrant photos in bubbles, but it still flows well, so you get all the information at an easy pace.

The opening starts off as if fiction and the letters cascade down the side of the page, a visual representation of a diver’s descent down below:
The moment they dropped into the dark,alien world, the searchers knew they were not alone. – (p.2, Sea Soup: Zooplankton)

The book talks directly to the reader, asking questions, inviting the reader to explore the world of the zooplankton.  On one page, it’s stark white, and in the middle, a bright colorful photo of a a jellyfish and the text, “Who’s who in a zoo plankton zoo?” or “Are there zooplankton you don’t ever want to bump into?”  The corresponding pages then answer the question. This theme continues throughout the book, always engaging the reader into a discussion.

Reference wise, Sea Soup: Zooplankton packs a lot into a thin book.   Sizes, their diets, the life cycles, and the various types of zooplankton are covered. Prior to reading this book, my plankton knowledge involved Spongebob Squarepants, and this book definitely filled in the gaps.     There’s a glossary and even an additional teacher’s guide available from the publisher, for those who want more information.

Copy for review provided by the publisher.

Title: Sea Soup: Zooplankton

Author: Mary Cerullo

Date: 2001
Publisher: Tilbury House

Pages: 40

Format: Hardback

As a child, I was nuts for dolphins.  I originally went to college for a degree in Psychology so I’d be able to become an animal behaviorist, and study dolphins. I even memorized the scientific names of various whales and dolphins.
Today I’ve got a review of a great new children’s nature book about a little dolphin with an incredible spirit, and the generous people who helped her recover from a terrible injury.
From the authors of Owen & Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship,  and Knut: How One Little Polar Bear Captivated the World comes Winter’s Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again.
Winter the bottle-nose dolphin was entangled in a crab trap off the east coast of Florida, and was thankfully rescued by a concerned fisherman.

Her tail had become severely injured by the net, and needed medical attention soon.  Volunteers at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium were able to get the baby dolphin to eat, and gradually she grew healthier, but her tail eventually fell off.
The clever dolphin learned how to swim her tail’s stump by moving her body side-to-side, similar to that of a fish.  The staff at the aquarium was impressed by her ingenuity and determination.  They eventually introduced her to another rescued dolphin.  Soon, Winter began attracting media attention, including The Today Show and local radio programs.  An animal lover, Kevin Carroll, heard about Winter on the radio and wanted to help.  He created prostheses for humans, and thought he might be able to do the same for Winter. He and others developed a special prosthesis for Winter, one that would work in the water, and function like a real tail.   Kevin Caroll’s design and formation of a special gel to ease any of Winter’s discomfort helps others, such as Iraq war veterans who have lost limbs.  Winter’s courage and unwavering spirit helps inspire others who face challenges.
Winter’s Tail is a great story for kids and adults.  It’s an extraordinary tale of survival, and Winter will definitely touch your heart. The story flows well, and the enclosed photographs chronicle Winter’s journey from her discovery to her life today. It’s a really informative title with a lot of information conveyed in a pleasing format,  with such a good amount of text and pictures, the reader is immediately drawn into Winter’s story. I especially enjoyed the pictures of Winter’s birthday party, Winter with her trainers, and the crowds that she draws.
The back pages include information about her new home, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium,  dolphins, how dolphins are “trained,” and Kevin Carroll.
Would you like to get your own copy of Winter’s Tail?  Scholastic has an opportunity for you to win a Winter’s Tail prize pack.
The winner will receive the following: 
* Dolphin Plush
* Dolphin Key Chain
* Winter’s Tail video game for Nintendo DS
* Copy of Winter’s Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again Book 
Retail value: $81.99 

One commenter will win.
Per the sponsor’s rules, The Winter’s Tail contest is open to U.S. addresses only.  International readers may enter, provided they can have a friend in the US receive the package for them.

Sweepstakes begins September 28, 2009 and will run for 3 weeks, closing October 12, 2009 at 12:00 AM (Central).  Winner will be chosen using

Leave your email address in the comments.  Additional entries:

+ 1 for Tweeting  this contest/review (please include your @twitter name)

My thanks to Scholastic and Big Honcho Media for inviting me to participate in this promotion.

There’s a wealth of material on Winter for teachers and parents who’d like to use the book in a curriculum.
View the book trailer:

Additional links:
There will be a live webcast about Winter on October 7, 1:00-1:45 ET at Scholastic
Copy for review provided by the publisher.
Title: Winter’s Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned How to Swim Again
Author: Julianna Hatkoff, Isabella Hatkoff, and Craig Hatkoff
Date: October 1, 2009
Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: 40

Format: Hardback

Might contain slight spoilers!

There’s a lot of love on the blogosphere for this title.  I’m not one for the darker YA, but after reading so much about it, I had to try it.  I borrowed my copy from my friend and co-worker Gina (Thanks so much Gina!). Be sure to read her interview with Hush Hush author Becca Fitzpatrick.
Nora Grey isn’t looking for danger. But then she’s assigned the mysterious Patch as a Biology partner. And that’s where all the trouble starts.  He’s everywhere she goes, and she can feel his presence even when she’s alone. When she finally learns his secrets, she has to decide how much she trusts him, and herself.
I went through a gamut of emotions while reading Hush Hush.  Sometimes I viewed it with mild amusement, such as the scenes in Biology class where the coach/teacher seemed to be straight out of  Mean Girls.  Patch received the bulk of my emotions.  I know some bloggers have christened him the new Edward from the ubiquitous Twilight, but he struck me more as Angel from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The same broody handsome boy, nearly bordering on stalking, but also unlikely savior. He’s a great character, more than a stereotypical “bad boy.”
Hush Hush’s greatest appeal for adult and teen readers alike, is the foreboding style always present in Fitzpatrick’s writing, with hints of the gothic.  I loved her descriptions of architecture, and it seemed that within even the mild scenes, something dark simmered under the surface:

“Rain battered the colorful awnings of the shops along the pier and spilled to the sidewalk below. The antique gas lamps that were staggered down both sides of the street glowed to life. With our umbrellas bumping together, Vee and I hustled down the sidewalk and under the pink-and-white-striped awning of Victoria’s Secret. We shook out our umbrellas in unison and propped them just outside the entrance. A boom of thunder sent us flying through the doors. ”  – Hush Hush (ARC, pg. 133, Becca Fitzpatrick)

Becca’s rich descriptions of  Oregon locales and their inhabitants come alive. Even bag ladies and waitresses act, not react.  Nobody is a mouthpiece of exposition – my number one pet peeve in literature.
The only aspect of Hush Hush I didn’t like was the character Vee. Her actions and demeanor throughout the book annoyed me.  This too is a testament to Becca Fitzpatrick’s writing, if a character inspires any extreme emotion for a reader, this says to me the author has done her job.
The ending in the ARC I read is reportedly different from the hardback October release, but I hope the climax of the action remains the same.  It was gripping, well-paced, and kept me on edge, as did the rest of Hush Hush.
I don’t often comment on covers, but this one is haunting. It grabs your attention, begging to be read, and rightly so.
Hush Hush is the first of a series.  The 2nd is entitled Crescendo.
Title: Hush Hush
Author: Becca Fitzpatrick
Date: October 13, 2009
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Pages: 400
Format: Hardback

The stick has always been more than “just” a stick. It appreciates music, and art, and admires beauty.  It does math equations.  But it lacks the voice to share its love and feelings with the rest of the forest, and therefore they see him as just a stick. Until one day, it figures out it had a way to speak all along.
From author and artist John Lechner comes a charming tale of finding one’s true voice.  I love this book. The illustrations are so soft, dreamy, and calming.  The text on each page is minimal, and draws you in, it’s perfect to be read aloud. The stick transitions from inanimate object to hero by page one and you’ll be rooting for him all the way, especially after he experiences a minor setback.
I wanted to use this in my storytime, but I’ve not had a chance yet. I know the children will love it, as will probably my stepmother’s class.  I can see it being used to begin a creative writing curriculum or even a discussion about self esteem.  Kids could take away the message that everybody, no matter how small, has a voice and it is indelible, no matter who tries to silence it.
Watch the trailer below and visit, to see more of the author’s work, including his other books, Froggy Fable, Sticky Burr, and several charming short films and games. 

Copy for review provided by the publisher.

Title: The Clever Stick

Author: John Lechner
Date: August 2009
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Pages: 40
Format: Hardback