Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Book review - Snazzy Cat Capers

Title: Snazzy Cat Capers
Author: Deanna Kent
Genre: adventure
Similar books: Binky the Space Cat by Ashley Spires
                      Platypus Police Squad by Jarrett Krosoczka
Rating:
delicious fun


 Summary (provided by publisher): Ophelia von Hairball is on a mission to be the world’s most famous cat burglar. In order to win the prestigious Top Burglar Award from the Furry Feline Burglary Institute (FFBI), she must steal the giant Himalayan diamond. But her ne-fur-ious cousin Pierre will stop at nothing to thwart her plans. Determined to get her paws on the prize, Ophelia reluctantly enlists the help of Oscar F. Gold, a goldfish who invents nifty gadgets. Together, they embark on a globe-trotting mission to pull off Ophelia's most daring heist yet!

My opinion: A heist plot isn't the first thing you think of for a young audience. It's also somewhat counter-intuitive to have a career thief as your protagonist in children's fiction. Kent is aware of these potential concerns. Members of the FFBI steal jewels, but only to prove they can do it and then they return the loot to the owners. Their goals are more about being classy and smart than acquiring goods. Really, that's the central message of this book: the difference between doing things the right way, thinking through all the angles, and doing things the easy way. There are, of course, messages about being a team player and fighting fair, as is typical of kid's novels. This volume gives us a solid introduction to a few characters, aspects I'd expect to see built upon in future volumes. The print books is peppered with stylized, appealing illustrations. The audio book has a great sense of timing. It's not so slow as to become boring but not so fast that a young listener will have difficulty following. Eileen Stevens narrates with a variety of voices.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley, Audio provided by Macmillain Audio

Monday, September 17, 2018

When does Arthur show up?

Last week I posted about a plaque I repainted. It turned out okay so I thought I might paint some more and sell them, eventually. 

Eventually came sooner than I expected. As it turns out, my small town had an art show this weekend and I wanted to submit something. I wasn't happy with that river scene so I thought I'd try something new. The sword in the stone has been on my mind lately and seemed like a good subject for a painting. I'm MUCH happier with this one.


Thursday, September 13, 2018

Pick 6: Murder Mysteries

The world of fiction is full of mysteries and when those books are aimed at teens, they take on a decidedly murderous bent. Murder mysteries are full of intrigue and danger, making them rather thrilling to read. Here are six murder mysteries for teens published in the last six months.

6 new murder mysteries :

1. Black Chuck by Regan McDonell

2. White Rabbit by Caleb Roehrig

3. Dead Weight by Terry Blas

4. Spectacle by Megan Rose Gedris

5. Blood Will Out by Jo Treggiani

6. The Ruinous Sweep by Tim Wynne-Jones

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Non fiction book review - Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa by Isabel Sanchez Vegara

Mother Teresa was one of those figures that I never really knew much about. I mean, I knew that she worked with the poor in India, that she lived among them and had close contact with lepers. But that was it. This is a very shallow, simple biography of course, simple explanations and a few logical holes. Sill, I like this use of a real life example to express moral lessons to small children. Generosity and compassion are great concepts to instill in the very young. This series has the potential to provide small children with real, admirable heroes to model themselves after.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Book review - The Benefits of Being an Octopus

Title: The Benefits of Being an Octopus
Author: Ann Braden
Genre: realistic fiction
Similar books: Just Under the Clouds by Melissa Sarno
                      Hold Fast by Blue Balliet
Rating:
important, though imperfect

Summary (provided by publisher): Seventh-grader Zoey has her hands full as she takes care of her much younger siblings after school every day while her mom works her shift at the pizza parlor. Not that her mom seems to appreciate it. At least there's Lenny, her mom's boyfriend—they all get to live in his nice, clean trailer.
At school, Zoey tries to stay under the radar. Her only friend Fuchsia has her own issues, and since they're in an entirely different world than the rich kids, it's best if no one notices them.
Zoey thinks how much easier everything would be if she were an octopus: eight arms to do eight things at once. Incredible camouflage ability and steady, unblinking vision. Powerful protective defenses.
Unfortunately, she's not totally invisible, and one of her teachers forces her to join the debate club. Even though Zoey resists participating, debate ultimately leads her to see things in a new way: her mom’s relationship with Lenny, Fuchsia's situation, and her own place in this town of people who think they're better than her. Can Zoey find the courage to speak up, even if it means risking the most stable home she's ever had?
This moving debut novel explores the cultural divides around class and the gun debate through the eyes of one girl, living on the edges of society, trying to find her way forward.


My Opinion: We need stories of poverty. More importantly, we need to see stories not of sudden poverty, but of long term struggles, of poverty as a general way of life. We need to see it as an ongoing reality rather than a quick loss and desperation to escape. We need to see it in degrees. And that's what Braden gives us here. This is a family that has been functionally homeless, jumping between housing situations. They stay in an emotionally unhealthy place because it is physically stable and finding anything else requires too much financial commitment. Braden explores the demands on caregiving children, the complexities of an abusive home, the gun debate, and, to a small degree, our cultural relationship with foster care. Some of these plot elements didn't entirely land. The opinions in the student gun debate are overly simplified and dismissive. Fuchsia's sub plot, too, is overly simplistic. With it's high concept ideas I would hesitate to spring it on unsuspecting young readers, but in the right environment it could inspire some wonderful and thought-provoking follow-up conversations.
Advanced Reader Copy provided by NetGalley.

Monday, September 10, 2018

In which I channel Bob Ross

I've developed the habit of buying cheap plaques at dollar stores and the like with the purpose of repainting the. I have vague plans to try selling them at my craft fair this year.

This is my first attempt:
before...

...and after
 I may have actually used the term happy little tree while I was painting. It's a bit pedestrian but it gives me hope that future efforts may be more artistic.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Picture books for everyone

The Wild Beast by Eric Walters

Small children enjoy explanatory stories like this one. I clearly remember enjoying How the Camel Got His Hump and The Elephant Child when I was small, and this tale is right in line with those. Even a small child understands that the "just so" of a just so story is not truth but a source of humor. For an older child, this book could be the starting point for any number of lessons in creation stories, conservation, even an art project.

More information: The Wild Beast releases September 25.