Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Girl Who Drank the Moon

The Girl Who Drank the Moon

Written and illustrated by Kelly Barnhill

Algonquin Young Readers, 2016

This fantasy fiction is about a little girl who was sacrificed as a baby to the evil witch in the swamp so that those in the Protectorate could be spared the wrath of this legendary witch. She ends up being raised by a benevolent threesome including a swamp monster, a witch and a tiny dragon. This little girl is adored and nurtured as she grows into her own magic which will eventually help lift an evil spell cast over her village. 

Each chapter is told from the perspective of a rich tapestry of characters in this book. Winner of the 2016 Newberry Medal, this story is captivating and beautifully written with suspense and good humor along the way.

There is a little something in this book for all readers of any age from magic and sorcery to intrigue and creativity. 

Reviewed by Colleen Boff

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White

Some Writer! The Story of E.B. White

Written and Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2016), Ages 8-12

This is a biography about E.B. White, author of Charlotte's Web, Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan. We learn how his travels and life long love of the Maine woods shaped his literary career from being a regular contributor to The New Yorker to becoming an accidental author of some of the most beloved books for young readers.

Caldecott honor winner, Melissa Sweet weaves together a magical book full of White's original typewritten manuscripts with penned edits along with photos and her own illustrations depicting the author's work and life.

Sweet's original illustrations in this book are perfect. A combination of her drawings and watercolors compliment the text and the primary source material she carefully selects to make readers want to take their time with this book.

This book made me want to dig deeper into the life and writings of E.B. White. I especially want to read some of his earlier pieces in The New Yorker. The care that Sweet took with the illustrations in this book makes me want to have a copy of my own on my bookshelf at home. 

Reviewed by Colleen Boff

Monday, May 22, 2017

Con Academy

Con Academy

Written by: Joe Schrieber

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company (2015), Ages 10-16

At the heart of this story is an intricate web of one con act after another. But there are greater issues of morals and values at play here. Will Shea is the main character and the primary con man who scammed his way into an elite prep school only to run into quite a few other clever con artists along the way. This story has it all--intrigue, cleverness, a tad bit of romance.

Character development is a particular strength of this author. Some characters are likeable whiles others are definitely not! Because Schrieber develops his characters so well, it is easy to begin thinking of which actors might play these different characters if this story were made into a movie.

This was quick read and a real page turner. It reminded me of Ocean's Eleven of Catch Me if You Can.

Reviewed by Colleen Boff

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War

Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War

Written by Steve Sheinkin 

Roaring Book Press (2015), Ages 10-14 

This is the story of Daniel Ellsberg, a government analyst and Washington insider during the Johnson and Nixon administrations who some would claim was a traitor of the United States and others would say was the American people’s most important watch dog of democracy. His claim to fame is that he leaked decades of government secrets, known as the Pentagon Papers, to the Press which ultimately led to the end of Nixon’s presidency and the conclusion of the United States involvement in Vietnam. 

Sheinkin knits together the key details of this complex time in American history in a way that makes this book a page turner. Photographs from the press interspersed throughout personalize Ellsberg and important government figures of the time. 

Complete with many references, this book will inspire more in depth research into primary sources such as an exploration of the articles that hit the headlines of major newspapers around the country once Ellsberg leaked the contents of the Pentagon Papers. Recipient of the Excellence in Young Adult Nonfiction by YALSA-ALA for this book, Sheinkin does a masterful job of telling this complex story in such a way that would appeal to even the most reluctant non-fiction reader. 

Review by Colleen Boff

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Beatrix Potter and Her Paint Box

Beatrix Potter and Her Paint Box 

Written by David McPhail 

Henry Holt and Company, LLC (2015), Ages 3-10

This story is a semi-biographical story about the author and illustrator, Beatrix Potter. As a young girl she was given her mother's paint box. She instantly fell in love with creating and painted small pictures where ever she went. As she grew older, she continued to paint and one day she heard of a friend's son who had fallen ill. In order to cheer him up, she wrote him a story in a letter and after much convincing from her friend, she eventually made it into a book. "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" quickly became a best seller and Beatrix went on to write several other beautifully illustrated children's books. 

The author's style is very simplistic. There is no more than five sentences per page and each sentence is written using very basic language. The chronological order of events flows seamlessly from page to page and there are no major jumps or missing pieces in the story. The constant theme of painting or the paint box on each page gives the writing style a very cohesive flow throughout the story. 

The illustrations are beautiful watercolor-like paintings. The light washes of color are very similar to Beatrix Potter's painting style. They are simplistic scenes depicting the action being described in the text on the opposite page. The sketchy lines and light washes of color gives the illustrations a light, nostalgic, whimsical feel. 

I loved this book! I thought it was adorable and would be a fantastic way to introduce the idea of an author/illustrator or biography to students. Being an art teacher, I would use this book at an elementary level to introduce a new lesson. I would collaborate with the classroom teacher in having the students learn about authors/illustrators and specifically Beatrix Potter and "The Tales of Peter Rabbit". I think that it would be a great connection between art and English but could be used at a general classroom level as well. I would highly recommend this book to any one trying to introduce the ideas of biographies or Beatrix Potter to younger children. 

 Review by Sara Andrews