25 July 2009

Jim Rice gets ready for the Hall--Gold Dust by Chris Lynch

In anticipation of Jim Rice's induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame tomorrow (that's me and him on the right, circa 2004!) I've pulled Gold Dust, by Chris Lynch, out of my "to read" pile. The term 'Gold Dust' is a reference to Jim Rice and Fred Lynn, who were called up as rookies to the Red Sox in 1975 and were referred to as the "Gold Dust Twins" due to their remarkable, untouchable talent. I'm about half-way through, and so far Fred Lynn features much more, because Richard, the protagonist, aspires to be Fred Lynn. But my man Jim has received plenty of due deference, including this passage:

"It was true that Jim Rice had an ungodly beautiful stroke. It was as if he didn't even use his arms--great big arms, I might add--but just flicked his wrists. And still, his ball went a mile."

Since the book takes place during 1975, there is a fair amount of Boston history included in the story, most particularly the busing of children across the city in an attempt to desegregate the schools. Beside providing authentic local details, Lynch has also written with a real love for the craft of baseball, and fans of the game will find much to appreciate and enjoy. But history and baseball aside, at the center of the story is the budding friendship between Richard Riley Moncreif, a native of Boston, and Napoleon Charlie Ellis, fresh from Domencia with his father, who has accepted a teaching position at Northeasthern University. They are both strong willed boys, and at the half-way point I cannot predict which direction the story will ultimately take. However, I am guessing that this will be a story that benefits from having Boston as its backdrop (and not just because I am a biased Bostonian!) The history of race and the Boston Red Sox, for instance is well-documented for its early failings, as is the Boston busing controversy. Although cultural differences play a role in the story--Napoleon, for instance, is not prepared to chuck aside cricket for baseball, despite Richard's insistence of baseball's superiority--race is still the bubbling concern just beneath the surface. But most importantly, for a story that feature's a boy's desire to be the absolute best hitter ever, there is no better place for him to be in 1975 than Boston. I think it can be fairly said that never has there been, in the history of baseball, a pair of rookies on a single team who electrified a single season as Rice and Lynn did. With the passing of time is has been debated that career decision's on Lynn's part hampered his progress and ultimately kept him from fulfilling his potential. But Rice, who spent the entirety of his career in Boston, who was such a feared hitter that opposing managers were willing to walk him in a bases loaded situation rather than let him hit, who will have his number 14 retired at Fenway on Tuesday night--Jim Rice will be tracking that gold dust into Cooperstown tomorrow.

23 July 2009

You Read to Me, I'll Read to You

The original meme at Well-Read Child seems to have ceased, but this is still such a good exercise that I'll continue anyway. This is actually two weeks worth of picture book reading, and I did all of it--NMD was simply a contented listener.
  • Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon
  • Dog Biscuit by Helen Cooper
  • Dolphins on the Sand by Jim Arnosky
  • Enemy by David Cali, illus. by Serge Bloch
  • Flapstick by Jon Agee
  • My Sister Alicia May by Nancy Tupper Ling, illus. by Shennen Bersani
  • Night of the Gargoyles by Eve Bunting, illus. by David Wiesner
  • Otto Grows Down by Michael Sussman, illus. by Scott Magoon
  • Pete's a Pizza by William Steig
  • Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant, illus. by Stephen Gammell
  • Smart Feller, Fart Smeller by Jon Agee
  • Tacky Goes to Camp by Helen Lester; illus. by Lynn Munsinger
  • Tadpole Rex by Kurt Cyrus
  • That Pesky Rat by Lauren Child
This fortnight's highlights:
Jon Agee's book of playful spoonerisms was not just a good teaching moment ("What's a spoonerism?") but a good opportunity for a lot of laughing. After a brief definition not just of spoonerisms but of their unintentional creator, the tongue twisted Oxford don William Spooner, Agee gets down to what he does best--writing and illustrating intelligent, humorous books. I'm so grateful that he takes the time from writing picture books to play with language as he does.

Night of the Gargoyles is a favorite that we were revisiting. It's a window into the night time world of mischievous gargoyles, released from their silent sentinel duty. Illustrator David Wiesner really lets his imagination free as he creates the scenarios and games for the gargoyles. Mysterious and edgy without being scary.

We are continuing our love affair with Jim Arnosky with this story based on an actual event. Why dolphins beach themselves is a natural mystery for which there never seems to be a reasonable answer. In this story a town pulls together to keep the beached dolphins hydrated and comfortable until they can be returned to the water. Uplifting and satisfying.

I had originally intended to use A Bad Case of Stripes for a storycraft program at work, but when I decided that it wasn't suited, I brought it home to read to NMD. That was a good decision! While the words and images themselves combine to humorous effect, the book tells a serious story about a girl who is so concerned about what other people think of her that her real self becomes suppressed and she can do no more than reflect what others say about her. The scene where she stands in her classroom, helplessly changing patterns according to what her taunting classmates call out to her is particularly painful to read. A good introduction to discussions about self-esteem and being true to one's self, which, sadly, is something that has already come up in these early tween years.

21 July 2009

Revsiting a Classic: The Realtives Came by Cynthia Rylant

We've just had an extended family visit, which has put me in mind of this jaunty and joyful collaboration between Cynthia Rylant and Stephen Gammell. Combining oft-repeated text, numerous references to food, and energetic colored pencil illustrations, The Relatives Came perfectly expresses the loving claustrophobia of a family visit, and then the bittersweet stillness when they are gone. The cover sets the tone, with a multicolored, jam-packed vehicle literally bouncing off the road with the eagerness of its occupants to reach their destination. The ensuing hugging and merriment makes for a cheery reading experience. The book, published in 1985 won a well-deserved Caldecott Honor Award. And although it chronicles a summer visit, I often use it for Thanksgiving storytimes, because of its loving, family-oriented theme. A winner at any time of the year.

19 July 2009

Coming Soon: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

I'll call this a "review", but since I am loathe to give away too many spoilers, this post can more accurately be described as me, adding my voice to the growing group of reviewers and bloggers who have already read this, in saying that it is absolutely brilliant. It's no hyperbole to say that Catching Fire is the most eagerly anticipated new YA novel of the year. I was a reluctant reader of The Hunger Games, the first book in the trilogy, because the premise scared me away; I don't like reality television, and I don't like characters thrown into hopelessly dire predicaments. However, after The Hunger Games won the School Library Journal Battle of the Books, I could put it off no longer. It was, hands down, the most compelling novel I had read in a long time, where concern for the characters' well being literally left me breathless.

And now, for the unbelievably best news--Catching Fire is just as good! The action picks up about nine months after the end of the first book; Katniss and Peeta have returned to District 12. They live in the Victor's Village with Haymitch and are awaiting their Victory Tour around Penam. The tour serves as the ceremonial build-up to the next reaping. As with the Hunger Games themselves, the Capital finds the tour to be grand spectacle, while for the subjugated districts the tour is further reminder of their suffering. To add to the garish spectacle, the families of the fallen tributes have to meet and applaud Katniss and Peeta, who by surviving are responsible for the deaths of their children. The whole event is distasteful to say the least, particularly for Katniss who has been threatened by President Snow; her act of self-preservation at the end of the games has become a symbol of resistance, and he has told her in no uncertain terms that any fanning of the revolutionary flames will lead to much heartache for her loved ones.

To summarize any more would give away too much. But I can say that Collins maintains the same level of intensity as she did in the first book, and her capacity to shock and catch her reader with completely unseen plot twists remains. Penam is a fully realised world--one which we (fortunately!) don't recognize but certainly believe exists. Collins has shown herself to be a master of plotting, with not a single throw-away detail in the book; every word counts. This is a stunning, thought-provoking series. Get on your library's waiting list for this book NOW! And if you have not already read The Hunger Games, this is the time to do it, because with a September 1 release date for Catching Fire, you won't have too long of a lag between the two books. Where as I, on the other hand, have an extra long wait until I find out how this whole saga comes to an end.

08 July 2009

You Read to Me, I'll Read to You Meme week 6

I Read to NMD:
Egg Drop by Mini Grey
Stay Away From Rat Boy! by Laurie Lears, illus. by Red Hansen
Trudy by Henry Cole

NMD Read to Me:
People Magazine: Special Selena Gomez & Demi Lovato Collector's Issue

We Read Together:
Grandfather Buffalo by Jim Arnosky

Hmmm....what to make of this week's selection. A mixed bag, to say the least. I had such high hopes for Egg Drop--Traction Man is a favorite here. But upon reading this story about an impatient egg who tries to fly....well, NMD and I were both left scratching our heads. We have reasonably "quirky" senses of humor--witness the success of Dust Bunnies with NMD--but neither of us thought this one was either funny or a worth successor of Mini Grey's fantastic picture books.

Book of the week was definitely Grandfather Buffalo. You always know what you are going to get with any Jim Arnosky picture book: a fine, straightforward story with lovely nature illustrations, usually in a slightly over sized format (great for sharing!) Grandfather Buffalo is, as his name implies, an elderly buffalo, and he sometimes has trouble keeping up with the herd. But he is still a steady presence with much to teach the calves. What is particularly nice about this book is how Arnosky conveys a human, generational tale without anthropomorphizing the buffalo. It's an older book, so might require a trip to the library to locate, but worth the effort.

As for NMD's selection.......hello tween years!

Don't forget to visit The Well Read Child, sponsor of the Meme, to see what other bloggers and their children are reading.

01 July 2009

You Read to Me, I'll Read to You Meme week5

What I Read to NMD:
  • The Fortune Tellers by Lloyd Alexander, illus. by Trina Schart Hyman
  • Little Red Bird by Nick Bruel
  • One Giant Leap by Robert Burleigh; paintings by Mike Wimmer
  • Pegasus as told by Marianna Mayer, illus. by K.Y. Craft
It's a rather short list this week, and all my own reading; NMD was too busy with her private reading to contribute much to bedtime sharing. Still, it was a chance to revisit some classics as well as discover some newer titles. My thoughts on One Giant Leap have already been posted on this blog. And I mentioned The Fortune Tellers in Week 2, in comparison to Doctor All-Knowing. Having revisited the older title, I still see a similarity between the two stories, although it is not as pronounced as it was in my memory.

In terms of revisiting classics, I thought it was time to share some mythology with NMD, since she has not gravitated towards it herself. I went through a distinct mythology stage as a young reader, which I eventually read my way through until 1) there were no new myths to read and 2) the gods and goddesses were too annoying to reread. I thought the story of Pegasus was a good place to start, since NMD is as fond of horses as the next eight year old girl. With illustrations done in a pre-Raphaelite style, this is an attractive if unembellished version of the original myth. She liked it well enough.

Now Nick Bruel happens to be a favorite in our house, and I had high expectations for Little Red Bird. The rhyming text is easy to read, particularly as there is the repeated refrain of "What would YOU do" which the reader can toss out to great effect. And I liked how the story of a bird who must decide whether to return to the comforts of his cage or enjoy the uncertainty of freedom is left open ended--left blatantly in the hands of the reader, in fact. But it lacked the spark of Bad Kitty and the meta-fiction fun of Who is Melvin Bubble. Like its winged protagonist, this book isn't quite settled.

See what other bloggers are reading at the Well-Read Child, which is hosting the meme.

Add This


Blog Widget by LinkWithin