rhcrayon: The Blog!
Jan. 16th, 2009
Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan (Newbery Medal winner)
rating: 5 of 5 stars
Good grief. Everyone has read and loved Sarah, Plain and Tall, so I thought I had read and loved it, too. Trouble was, I couldn’t remember a thing about it, which, well, troubled me over the years.
Turns out, I’ve never read Sarah, Plain and Tall. Ever.
Took about half an hour, and I teared up every other chapter—plus the last. That’s five chapters out of nine.
Good grief. I love Sarah, Plain and Tall!!
View all my reviews.
Nov. 14th, 2008
I just found this delightful nonfiction picture book that reads like fiction (which is what I need):
Bat Loves the Night by Nicola Davies. Illustrated by Sarah Fox-Davies.
rating: 5 of 5 stars
The words are evocative, gentle, swooping, imaginative. The illustrations add the same tender touch, informative and finely detailed, without ever overwhelming. We feel like we go on this journey. And there's wonderful extra information on bats in smaller lettering on some of the pages.
View all my reviews.
Feb. 22nd, 2008
Remember how in my last reading recommendations post, I goofily transitioned from talking about Grace Lin's The Year of the Rat to Robert C. O'Brien's Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH?
Well, that book segues into my next reading recommendation just perfect: Nim's Island!!
Nim's Island, by Wendy Orr. Illustrated by Kerry Millard. (Originally published in Australia in 1999; first American edition 2001.)
Oh, what a find!!—is what I want to say, but apparently the book has been found. It's being made into a movie for later this year. (In fact, I learned about this book through Tony W's blog post on movies to watch out for.) Starring Jodie Foster as (I can only assume) Alex Rover!
Perfect casting!! I'm excited. Aren't you?
The best thing about this book is how the story feels imagined by a nine year old—with much of reality going cheerfully out the window, such as when the book states on page six that "Marine iguanas don't eat coconut, but no one had ever told Fred"—and how Nim feels like a true nine year old, too, with her marine iguana and sea lion friends, and her going around the island wielding a machete. The coincidences in the story strike just the right tone of wonder, and in the meantime, you feel like you are living there with her. Lovely!
One thing saddens me. I wanted to buy the copy of this book with the same cover art that my library copy had (the first version shown in this post)—but it seems a bit harder to get now that new covers tie in to the movie. I will have to search!
Linda Sue Park has said in her blog that one of the highest recommendations you can give a book is to say you read it all in one sitting. I read this book twice. When I got to the end, I flipped right back to the start. (And the reread was totally rewarding!)
I'm crazy about this book,
Check out excerpts from the book's opening pages here! I could just start reading again.
I love how Nim has email and a cell phone, but has never spoken to another human friend.
Feb. 7th, 2008
Just in time for Chinese New Year comes The Year of the Rat, by Grace Lin. My nine-year-old cousin should have received her copy by now!
Happy Chinese New Year! Of all the books I want to review, I have the perfect one to start!
Grace Lin's The Year of the Rat is the sequel to her debut middle grade novel, The Year of the Dog (which I was completely gaga about). Once again Pacy's modern-day, American, grade school experiences, triumphs, and discoveries are peppered throughout with little stories and anecdotes told by her family: of their childhoods back in Taiwan, of their earlier years in the U.S., and of a lot of Chinese fables familiar to my heart. Plus there are these delightful line drawings. The emotional stakes are raised this time when Pacy's best friend Melody moves away to California. Pacy's cultural self-awareness evolves, too, ever so gently and truthfully, when a new Chinese family (from China) moves into Melody's very home, with a boy Pacy's age whose grade-school experiences in the U.S. seem not so rosy as her own.
I also related to Pacy's growing concern over her family's attitude toward her ambitions an an artist. Her triumphs with the class poster. Her crush. Her experience of a Taiwanese American wedding. Her return to her pre-Melody friends. Her decision with Melody to share their beloved book collection by actually mailing their books to and from California every month. All the words I've seen other reviewers use for these books--"gentle," "engaging," "lively," "magical,"--I heartily echo, and I love the simple language, too. I can't wait to hear what my little cousin has to say.
I sent my little cousin The Year of the Dog last fall, by the way, and this was her review (via e-mail):
Thanks for the book The Year of the Dog. I finished it in the first two nights. It was a great book except for one editing mistake.
What! Luckily, I saw my cousin a couple weeks later and got to find out exactly what she was talking about. First she said, "Oh, it was more just like a typo." Then she explained that a certain Chinese fable mentioned in it had been titled one way, when really it was another.
I've heard that story told a few different ways, so this wasn't a "mistake" in my book. But I was glad to see her treating the content with such authority. (She's this genius whose reading/writing progress knocks me out every next time I see her. I've no doubt her next review will be several pages long.)
The Year of the Rat has gotten me thinking this is going to be an excellent year for making Changes. Just as I was pondering the possibilities, my husband said, “Let’s resolve to make one piece of art each, this year, and put it up."
Cool! I'm up for anything!
Just one piece of art? That’s such a small goal. (An excellent, doable, lovely goal.) Maybe I’ll make five. But maybe I’ll start with just one (and maybe four more will follow).
I was going to end this book review here, but Year of the Rat actually gives me an unintentional transition to the next book on my list:
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, by Robert C. O'Brien. Winner of the 1972 Newbery Medal.
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH!! I recently revisited this classic when Sara reminded me of its awesomeness.
Read this, read this, you must re-read this!
Oh, those poor rats of NIMH. Oh, oh. They never even said what NIMH stood for. You have to make it up [edit: or figure it out for yourself]. And that is just one tiny example of the genius at work here, because even though these pages are jam-packed with informative, evocative, smartly written details (on locations! Action!! Story! Backstories! The goals of the rats of NIMH!), everywhere you look, there is room for your imagination to fill in more. What Jonathan Frisby saw in Mrs. Frisby (she was clearly a remarkable mouse). The hints at Justin’s future. The fact you don’t know . . . so many things you want to know. What you think you know. What you hope you know. You’re left wanting to go there, to find out the rest for yourself.
Oh, oh, oh.
I was aware as I was reading that some of my intense bond with these rats (and mice!!) was underscored by association with my equally intense love for Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes--a book I pushed on my brother when he was in 7th grade (and I was in 10th) that he read all in one night. (I'm actually reading The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt, right now, and there are rats in that book, too. Goodness!)
I have a lot more books to review, but I like this beginning to the Year of the Rat. We now return to our regular posting schedule of (maybe) once a week.
With love for books!
I urge you to read these books.
It is my hope, once you’ve read these books, that we can talk about them in-depth. Preferably in person!
Jan. 7th, 2008
I spent fifteen minutes today learning the end dance moves to High School Musical. I've got the gist now. I'll probably try it again tonight. big cheesy grin Who's in for a pyramid dance formation? (Irvin? Karen?! I need backup!)
This movie is kinda terrible; but also kinda wonderful. We just watched it two nights ago. (We saw High School Musical 2 a few months ago—at Calvin's place, haha.) The song "Stick With the Status Quo" is by far the best thing in this one—in terms of melody, lyrics, message, choreography; everything. Oh, man, it's so good! I get giddy. I've watched this track seven times already. I think I have to buy this movie, just so I can watch this track always.
This song takes the tired old premise I usually hate—about high school cliques being so rigid and everyone being so locked into their roles—and translates it into mass hysteria, with one guy's mini-rebellion creating a huge ripple effect of mini-rebellions in every circle. Anarchy; I love it! It makes me buy into this world, just so I can have the fun of seeing its rules get broken.
(Also: that turn of everyone wanting to hear your secret but then turning on you the second they do; I love that, too!)
I have to say that while 2's story was weaker (and the dialogue was horrible), the song-and-dance numbers in that sequel were fairly consistent*—with just the one travesty. ;) Whereas, in the first one, there's really only two shining song-and-dance numbers—"Stick With the Status Quo" and Ryan and Sharpay's callback number, which cracks me up. The others . . . have their moments.
But the end group sing [oh, that makes three; I can't count] is made for kids to want to dance along. It begs you to stand up and learn the moves, and they're really sellin' it in that beaming Disney way that calls to my inner upstanding youth. I could feel the urge—and the embarrassment—of wanting to get up and sing. I'm not one to let embarrassment get me down.
"We're all/ in this/ to-gether! Dah dah dat! Dah dah dat! Dah dah dat! Dah dah da-ahhh!"
The best character in this series is Zeke by far, the jock who confesses he loves to bake. Oh, man. And my second favorite is Ryan (who grew up to look the way Macaulay Culkin should have). I'm not a fan of the main guy, but those two?? *love*
Why don't they use Zeke more? Even his singing (if that is his singing) is better than all the others'. And that's sayin' somethin! He doesn't deliver a bad line or facial expression ever, in the few bits they give him. He rocks!!
And that is my rave about High School Musical.
I told you I don't let embarrassment get me down. :D
Sharpay is a lot better and more fun in this storyline, too. Hilarious, actually. You know what? They made her and her brother too powerful at the Country Club, in High School Musical 2. In the high school setting, you feel for them. (You know? Their world was perfect before these people came along.)
Plus, being that little bit younger makes their ridiculousness that much cuter. :)
Oh! Look what I can do! I can post a YouTube link to the big group sing I'm talking about!
Quality isn't great, but you get the idea. The first time they do the chorus routine is one minute in, and the best is two minutes in, when they show the whole sequence clearly. (Damon's been egging me on, by the way. He's home sick with a fever, but is also full of advice about which foot to turn on. Contrary to what you'd think, embarrassing stuff is actually easier when someone's watching.)
("We're All In This Together")
And here, for good measure, is Ryan and Sharpay's callback audition:
"Bop to the Top"(They're the brother-sister act that rules the school's drama scene—until the new girl and this jock mess up their perfect world.)
Oh, and you need this link, too:
"Stick to the Status Quo!!"The setup for this is that the whole school has just found out the school's star basketball player has landed a callback audition for the musical; which means he auditioned in secret. Haha. The first guy to sing here is my favorite, Zeke!
Pictures in this post were lifted off the Web. I don't remember the sites, but they're the same promo pictures circulating everywhere. I wish I could find one of Zeke!
Calvin, I know you're secretly practicing.
Emmie, you better be watching!!
* I really don't remember how good the numbers in High School Musical 2 were. I guess we'll be renting that next!
Dec. 4th, 2007
If you roll over these images, you should see the snowflakes' titles and artists' names pop up (though I've noticed this feature doesn't work in Firefox).
Once again, just "a few" of my favorites:
Bid bid bid bid bid bid bid.
I lifted these images (fronts and backs) off the Auction 3 page of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute/Robert's Snow Web site. Too many wonderful snowflakes to post here! Go to Auction 3 and get tempted by them all!
Nov. 28th, 2007
Auction 2 of Robert's Snow is going on right now.
I could not possibly show you all the awesome snowflakes I want that are part of this round. You have to check them out yourself.
Here are just a few . . .
Imagine how beautiful your tree will look decorated in one, two, three, or half a dozen of these! Imagine a child looking at your tree (or window, or holiday vacuum cleaner) and dreaming of the stories implied.
I lifted these images (fronts and backs) off the Auction 2 page of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute/Robert's Snow Web site.
Nov. 23rd, 2007
01:56 am - Robert's Snow: Auction 1!
Here is the most important thing I've needed to tell you:
The Bidding For Auction 1 of Robert's Snow is going on right now, and it ends today.
Bid now! Bid today! Bid before 5 PM (Eastern Standard Time)!!!
(Click this link and go!!)
Remember, this is the awesome opportunity I told you about a little while back—to own your very own original piece of artwork by a children's book artist of astounding renown and fight cancer at the same time? Where all these incredible children's book illustrators and authors have come together to contribute unique snowflake holiday ornaments, and the art pieces are available online, right now??
Robert's Snow happens in three rounds of online bidding, with a different third of the snowflakes being auctioned off each week. Next week is Auction 2. The week after is Auction 3.
The first third of the snowflakes is going fast, right now!!
Click here to go to Auction 1!!
Click here to go to Auction 2!!
Click here to go to Auction 3!!
(Actually, here is one master link that will take you to all three auctions! They happen Nov. 19–23, Nov. 26–30, and Dec. 3–7, respectively. Check out all the snowflakes! It's incredible!!)
Equally incredible is that each of these artists—and the snowflake each has contributed—has been further individually profiled by dedicated bloggers. So here is a list of all the relevant links where you can read up even more on the snowflakes you love and want!!
Amazing collectibles. Stunning gifts. The joy of owning/giving/bidding on these will warm your hearts for always.
Let it snow, let it snow,
now go, let's go!!
P.S. A few sample Auction 1 snowflakes:
I lifted these few images (fronts and backs) off the Auction 1 page of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute/Robert's Snow Web site. The Robert's Snow poster above I lifted from 7-Imp, the good people who have done an incredible job of organizing Blogging For A Cure. Ooh, you want to bid!
Nov. 1st, 2007
I have a million and one blog posts coming up. In the meantime, here's something that's been on my mind the past couple days:
What would you say is the most beloved and well-known picture book of all time?
Which one is your favorite, but also, which one do you think is the favorite of the masses, not just of children's book people? If we had to crown just one, based on pure popularity and mass recognition (and maybe sales), what do you think is in everyone's hearts?
I ask because a friend asked me about a certain book, and I tried to make this claim about it. Now I wonder how outrageous that statement was.
Sep. 19th, 2007
Here are the books I've loved lately, that have graduated from my To-Read list to my To-Buy (or Just-Bought!) list.
First, the Middle Grades and YAs:
Getting Near To Baby, by Audrey Couloumbis (MG). 2000 Newberry Honor Book. In addition to drawing me into a cast of characters, every one of whom I rooted for, each chapter's end gave me that fine feeling of having read a poetic short story.
The Year of the Dog, by Grace Lin (MG). Absolutely charming and magical, in the tradition of those Carolyn Haywood books we all loved growing up (the Betsy and Eddie books!), but starring Chinese Americans! Got one in paperback for my little cousin, one in hardback for me.
Ironside, by Holly Black (YA fantasy). Awesome. I heard Holly Black speak recently at San Diego Comic Con in a panel on YA villains, and she talked about her interest in creating cultures clearly alien to our own. Everyone who'd read any of her three modern faerie tales bobbed their heads enthusiastically to hear her say it.
The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, by Barry Lyga (YA). Deftly handled, with all the subtle (yet extreme) tensions and characters clearly delineated. And funny(!), though I feel odd saying so. Recommended in particular for Calvin, because the voice reminded me of his.
(I also got the two books mentioned in my last book roundup: and . And for the record, I loved , but we can never talk about it [online].)
I should probably mention that, while my apartment is always overflowing with library books, I only bring up books here I've loved enough to put down funds and buy. That requires extreme love. (It also means there are lags between book posts, as I can't buy the books I love all that fast.)
Regarding picture books, I try (sadly, unsuccessfully) to limit the number in my personal collection. But I'm always excited to buy them for friends. It's one of the key reasons I get excited when friends have babies! ;D (Sounds like a Discovery Channel show: When Friends Have Babies.)
And on that note, here are the latest picture books to have stolen my heart:
Not a Box, by Antoinette Portis. Um. Everyone needs this book. This is a picture book in its purest, most joyful form. Kids will relate and want this again and again. (I've already "handsold" a couple in bookstores to friends, haha.) "It's not a box!"
Bee-bim Bop!, by Linda Sue Park, illustrated by Ho Baek Lee. Genius! (again!) The fun of the words, the fun of the dish, the worlds of the grocery store and kitchen prep and dinner table evoked by the illustrations. See that cover? This book speaks to you and will make you bop.
The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats. 1963 Caldecott Medal winner. Everyone also needs this book. A classic for every good reason. I don't know how I could have not known about it sooner. Utterly engaging and engrossing to the senses.
I'd Really Like To Eat A Child, by Sylviane Donnio, illustrated by Dorothee De Monfried. Translated from the French original, Je mangerais bien un enfant.
Actually, I'm not sure everyone needs this book. I need this book—for the sheer audacity of the premise and the fun way the cocky main character is drawn, which paid off every time I read this. My current strategy is to show this off to everyone in person and see whether they need their own, too. J'adore. (Je l'adore?? Vicki! Lynn! Help!)
And now, Robert's Snow:
In (partial) reference to my last post, it turns out there is something a blogger can do—in a bloggerly fashion—to express sympathy and show support to a blogging friend. At least, there is in the case of Grace Lin, whose husband Robert Mercer passed away on August 27.
Robert's Snow is the amazing fundraiser the couple created in 2004, which to date has raised over $200,000 for cancer research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. So, first of all, you can buy the original Robert's Snow picture book; you can buy Robert's Snowflakes, the book which commemorates pieces from the first Robert's Snow snowflake auction in 2004; you can give money in the name of "Robert's Snow"; or you can bid in this year's Robert's Snow snowflake auction to get your own unique piece of artwork—a wooden ornament decorated by a children's book artist—all for this tremendous cause. Over 200 incredible children's book authors and illustrators are contributing snowflakes this year. (You can view the 2005 snowflakes here and 2004 snowflakes here. They are stunning. There are even sculptures!)
Have your favorite author/illustrators created snowflakes? I bet they have. Look them up! You can sort the 2004 and 2005 contributors alphabetically!
EDIT to the original post: You can now go here to view the 2007 snowflakes, as well as years' past! Go, go, go!
It is amazing. You want a snowflake.
Second, if you've got a blog, you can promote Robert's Snow and the snowflake auction. In fact, thanks to the good people at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, bloggers can now sign up to feature from one to five of this year's Robert's Snowflakes artists, on their blogs. 7-Imp is organizing the list, and it'll be a cross-posting extravaganza, with everyone clicking to learn more about artists and snowflakes, and all traffic driven to the auction itself. Click here to read more and sign up!
I first heard about this on Jo Whittemore's blog, followed immediately by the next several blogs I read. Spread the word, everyone!
I know several people whose lives have been touched by cancer recently, quite profoundly. I am often at a loss about what I can do. Well, here is one thing.