22 December 2008

Christmas in Blighty

As I celebrate Christmas in England with my husband's family, I'll be on a proper hiatus from the blog (as opposed to one imposed by a lack of time!) Have a merry Christmas, and I will be back in the new year!

09 December 2008

Easy Reader Review: Journey of a Pioneer by Patricia J. Murphy

As the only Cybil nominated title in the Easy Reader category that could be classified as non-fiction, Journey of a Pioneer tells the story of Olivia Clark, a young girl living in Elk Grove, Missouri in 1845. The story is told in diary format. On March 23, Olivia learns that she and her parents are going to head out west to the Oregon Territory where land is plentiful. From April 10 to September 28, Olivia keeps a record of the family's journey. Her entries provide a look at life on the trail and are the means through which author Patricia J Murphy inserts historical facts and anecdotes. Little details like Olivia's amazement at her father's tears when they leave Missouri, or watching her mother have to abandon her stove and trunk so that the wagon can ascend a steep hill, help to make the narrative more personal to the reader. Published by Dorling Kindersley, the book maintains many of the hallmarks of its popular Eyewitness series, combining colorful illustrations, photographs, and fact boxes. There is plenty of white space and a fluid layout so that readers are not overwhelmed by the amount of text, which is considerable for a level 2 book. A page of Pioneer Facts, which a grown-up would have to read, and an index are included at the end. All in all, this is a serviceable introduction to both historical fiction and readable non-fiction.

06 December 2008

Librarian Lays Down the Law

Well, it made me smile!

The Narnia Code--is this really necessary?!

Talk about taking all the fun out of a series: the Guardian reports about an upcoming BBC documentary about the third layer of hidden meanings within the Chronicles of Narnia. Evidently, each of the books can be linked to a planet in our solar system. To quote the article:

"There are three layers of meaning - it's like three-dimensional chess. Instead of wishy-washy fairy tales, in fact this proves they are quite the opposite - he was writing happily on three levels," said Stone, who has interviewed academics and friends of Lewis for the documentary.

So, not happy with just two levels--the "wishy-washy fairy tale" level and the Christian allegory level--evidently Clever Clogs Lewis was slipping in Medieval Cosmology as well.


I have cherished memories of reading these books as a child. At the time I was more than happy with the wishy-washy fairy tales. As I got older and was able to recognize the Christian allegory, well that was okay too. And kind of cool, because I felt learned for connecting the dots. But this third level is a conspiracy theory too far! It seems as if the Narnia books have been fiddled with quite a bit in recent years; first there was the reordering of the books by publishers so that they could be read chronologically. Now this. Narnia, we hardly knew you.

04 December 2008

Great Galleys--Picture Books you won't want to miss--You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?!

Baseball season is still months away (71 days till pitchers and catchers, but who's counting?) And before it returns, look out for this gorgeous picture book biography of the enigmatic lefty Sandy Koufax. Now, you can't tell from the image here, but the front cover is one of those animated pictures that, when you move it about, looks like it's live action. Anyone opening the book is going to get a Koufax fast ball up-close. Not quite chin music, but a cool effect to start the reading experience.

I've read this galley a number of times now, and I still can't decide what I like best, the old-timer tone of the narrator (an unamed veteran teammate of Koufax's) or the caricature style of the illustrations (think Al Hirschfeld.) When the narrator talks about the scouts sniffing around the promising young pitcher, the flow of the lines makes them look like they actually are sniffing. Fabulous! There's so much style to this book, despite the muted pallet (greys, golds, and Dodger Blue) and often unreadable expression of the hero. Of course, Koufax himself was unreadable, both as a man and as a pitcher. Although the title suggests incredulity that anyone might not know who Sandy Koufx is, he was such an intense and brief flash of brilliance, he's almost easy to miss, if one did not live during his time of dominance. I actually thought he was dead, but was put right by a brief author's note at the start of the book (and I call myself a baseball fan!) This should find a large audience, with fans of the game, non-fiction readers, and anyone drawn to the eye-catching cover. Look for it in February.

01 December 2008

NYT notable Children's Books of 2008

The New York Times has listed it's notable children's books of 2008. Yet again, I must protest that of the 8 books listed, five of them are really YA titles. There are no books for early readers, (Elephant and Piggie are more then adequate,) middle readers (hello, Mercy Watson) or anything for the formidable 8-12 tween demographic. It's either picture books or 12 and up. What a swiz! And again, why do they limit the list to 8? I realize that illustrated picture books get their own list, but even that only brings the total of notable children's books to 24. Adult books get a list of 100! No balance whatsoever.

However, one comment I can make in favor of this list is that it includes Wabi Sabi. And readers of this blog heard it here first, back in June, that this was a special book.

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