Good Books and the Random Movie

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30 April 2008

Talking to Dragons (Enchanted Forest #4)

Talking to Dragons is the final book in Patricia C. Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles.

Daystar, Cimorene's son, is sent into the Enchanted Forest with his father's sword to free the King (his father) from entrapment in the castle. Daystar doesn't know any of this. All he knows is that after a wizard came to his and his mother's house, Daystar is sent into the forest with a magical sword.

Along the way to find the Kazul, the King of Dragons, Daystar meets a fire-witch, a young dragon, a witch, a few wizards, and more. Some want to help and others want to steal the sword for its power.

Will Daystar be able to free his father from the castle? Will Cimorene be able to return to the castle as its Queen? In this exciting and quirky conclusion to the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Wrede continues her twist on fairy tales. This is a great series for anyone who likes fantasy, dragons, or princesses.

Wrede, Patricia C. (1993). Talking to Dragons. New York: Magic Carpet Books.

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29 April 2008

Al Capone Does My Shirts

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko is a Newberry Honor book.

Moose Flanagan and his family have just moved to Alcatraz island. The year is 1935 and his father has taken a job as guard and electrician at the prison. The move was to be close to a school in San Fransisco that Moose's parents want his sister Natalie to attend. Natalie has Down's Syndrome. The usually treatment was to lock up Down's kids. The Flanagans refuse to do that.

Although Moose is the younger brother, his role is of an older brother. He goes from a boy who only cares about baseball, to his sister's best friend. He watches her after school each day while his mother goes into SF to teach piano lessons.

The setting of this novel adds to the flavor of the children in the story. The warden's daughter is obsessed with meeting Al Capone. None of the other inmates are nearly as exciting. Of course, none of the families of the guards get to meet inmates. The closest they get is having their clothes washed in the prison laundry or eating a dinner prepared by inmates.

Choldenko, Gennifer. (2004). Al Capone Does My Shirts. New York: Puffin.

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Calling on Dragons (Enchanted Forest #3)

Calling on Dragons is the third book in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede.

Princess Cimorene is now a Queen. When the Enchanted Forest is put in danger by those pesky wizards, she calls on all of her friends from the previous books, and some new ones, to save the forest.

Morwen, Kazul and a flying donkey team up with Cimoreme to find the stolen sword of the King of the Enchanted Forest. If they do not find it soon, the wizards will have access to all of the magic in the forest.

Wrede, Patricia C. (1993). Calling on Dragons. New York: Magic Carpet Books.

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27 April 2008

Searching for Dragons (Enchanted Forest #2)

Searching for Dragons is the second book in Patricia Wrede's Enchanted Forest Chronicles.

Cimorene is still living with the dragon Kazul. She has almost gotten the treasures in order in her new role as Dragon's Librarian. But then Kazul disappears.

The king of the Enchanted Forest, Mendanbar, noticing a barren patch of the forest with dragon scales in it, travels to Kazul's cave to see what may have happened. When arriving there he is talked into helping Cimorene find Kazul. Together the travel in and out of the Enchanted Forest and the Mountains of Morning to find Kazul and save her from the wizards.

Wrede, Patricia C. (1991). Searching for Dragons. New York: Magic Carpet Books.

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25 April 2008

Dealing with Dragons (Enchanted Forest #1)

Dealing with Dragons is the first book in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede.

Princess Cimorene is the youngest daughter of the King of Linderwall, but she doesn't like being a princess. She is not allowed to learn anything interesting - it is not done. Princess learn to look good and be boring. It is not the life for Cimorene.

After her father stops her fencing, cooking, magic, etc... lessons - each time he finds she is learning something that is not proper for a princess - she is engaged to a handsome prince. He is as boring as the other princesses.

To escape, Cimorene volunteers to be a Dragon's Princess - usually a captured princess who cleans and cooks for a dragon until she is rescued by a handsome prince. Cimorene's new life suits her fine. She has found a very nice dragon - Kazul - and other than the annoying princes who keep trying to rescue her, her life is her own making.

But wizards, friends to no one but other wizards, have plans that might interfere with Cimorene and Kazul's life. Wizards are power-hungry, unscrupulous humans who must be stopped before they can gain access to the caves of Fire and Night.

Wrede, Patricia C. (1990). Dealing with Dragons. New York: Magic Carpet Books.

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22 April 2008

Ruby Holler

Ruby Holler, by Sharon Creech, is the story of twins - Dallas and Florida.

Dallas and Florida grew up in the Boxton Creek Home. They were left on the doorstep in a box when they were babies. Over the years, they went to a few foster homes, but none that worked out - mostly because the people who fostered them were rotten.

Now Sairy and Tiller have taken the twins to Ruby Holler. The idea is that for the summer, Dallas and Florida will go with Sairy and Tiller on an adventure. Sairy wants to fly to a tropical island for birdwatching and Tiller wants to canoe down the river.

Dallas and Florida are wary. Why are the old people being so nice? It is as if there are no rules in the holler - not like at the home. After not being yelled at for a few days, Dallas asks if there are any rules. Tiller thinks for a minute and says that there is one: donkeys are not allowed on the roof of the cabin.

Will the twins have to go back to the home at the end of the summer - after finding the first nice adults they have met?

Sharon Creech has written a book about trust, family, and knowing what you want. This is a beautiful story. It won the Carnegie Award in the UK for Best Children's Literature 2002.

Creech, Sharon. (2002). Ruby Holler. New York: HarperCollins.

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19 April 2008

TV: Battlestar Galactica

This is an awesome show! Nothing like the original series, Battlestar Galactica is about the evolution of humanity and technology.

Earth is a legend, the thirteenth colony of Kobol. The other twelve colonies (planets) contain all known humans. Years ago, humans created an artificially intelligent robot, the Cylon. The Cylon evolved and no longer wanted to be slaves to humans.

There was a war. Then for forty years, the humans had no word of the Cylon. The hope was that they had moved on to their own worlds. But, no. They are about to come back in force. They have evolved more - now there are models who look human along with the shiny metallic versions.

After a nuclear attack on all 12 planets of Kobol, the remaining humans are in a fleet of assorted ships - guarded by only one Battlestar. Galactica. Can they find enough resources and avoid the Cylon long enough to find the mythical planet of Earth? Does Earth really exist?

With excellent casting, acting, action, special effects, and plot - this is my new all time favorite! The series is 4 season long, plus one movie, Razor.

Starring: Edward James Olmos, Mary McDonnell, Katee Sackhoff, James Callis, Jamie Bamber, Grace Park, Tricia Helfer, ...

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17 April 2008

Number the Stars

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry is a fiction account of the brave people of Denmark during WWII. Due to a warning from one German official (G.F. Duckwitz) the Danes were able to save almost all of the 7000 Jews in Denmark from the Nazis.

Annemarie Johansen and her family take in her best friend and neighbor, Ellen Rosen, while her parents escape to the country. The Johansens lie and tell the Nazi soldiers Ellen is their daughter Lise. They even produce a baby picture of a dark haired little girl. It is enough evidence to make the soldiers go away.

The next day Mrs. Johansen takes her two daughters and Ellen to her brother's farm on the coast. From there the fishermen and the resistance have set up a way to ferry the Jews to freedom in Sweden.

Annemarie grows into a mature young woman who saves her friend Ellen and her family when she must get a package to her uncle's boat before the German soldiers find them. Pointing out the parallels between her own story and Little Red Riding Hood, Annemarie disregards her fears in order to save her best friend.

Number the Stars should be read by all children (and adults) along with The Diary of Anne Frank - to illustrate the brave and selfless people to fought to save the Jews during WWII.

Lowry, Lois. (1989). Number the Stars. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

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Piratica II: Return to Parot Island

Piratica II, obviously the second book in the Piratica series by Tanith Lee, has Art and crew back at sea.

Captain Art Piratica and crew have been living in Free England since the end of the first book. All but Felix is anxious to get back to sea. As England is about to go to war with France over France's oppressive monarchy, all pirates and sailors are needed to help the war effort. Art and crew, back on the Unwelcome Stranger are at sea with a mission to harass the French navy whenever possible.

Of course, the real goal is to get back to the island where they found the treasure maps. But there is danger at sea - not only from Goldie Girl - but from Mary Hell, the captain of a black ship that catches pirates in its web-like nets and sends them to the bottom of the ocean.

Will Captain Piractica and crew be safe from Mary Hell because they attack to steal but not to harm?

Lee, Tanith. (2006). Piratica II. New York: Dutton Children's Books.

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12 April 2008

Hard Love

Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger, Printz Honor Book, is about how John comes to terms with his life, falls in love and figures out who he is.

John decides to write a zine. (For you uncool people - a zine is a homemade magazine). He loves to write and admires some of the other zine writers. He meets Marisol when he waits for her to drop off her latest edition at a Tower Records.

Marisol writes "Escape Velocity." She is a lesbian Puerto Rican Cuban Yankee who lives in Cambridge. John thinks she is the coolest person ever, and knowing she is a lesbian, falls in love with her anyway.

Through a rough friendship, John learns a lot about himself and begins to let himself feel emotions again - something he has no allowed since his parents divorce six years earlier.

Wittlinger's title is from the song Hard Love by folk singer Bob Franke.

Wittlinger, Ellen. (1999). Hard Love. New York: Aladdin.

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My Friend Rabbit

My Friend Rabbit by Eric Rohmann, a Caldecott Medal winner (American Library Associations' illustrators award), is adorable.

Rabbit means well but always gets into trouble. When he gets Mouse's new airplane caught in a tree, he comes up with an idea to get it down.

Somehow he find an elephant, a rhinoceros, a hippopotamus, a bear, a moose, an alligator, four ducks, a goose and a squire to help him.

After this plan leave a pile of angry, bruised animals, Mouse rescues Rabbit with his now free plane. Rabbit is so happy to have such a good friend that he hugs Mouse, who then cannot see where he is flying, and the plane gets caught in a tree...

The illustrations in this picture book are beautiful!

Rohman, Eric. (2002). My Friend Rabbit. Brookfield, CT: Roaring Brook Press.

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The Rabbits

The Rabbits by John Marsden and Shaun Tan, the winner of the 1999 Australian Picture Book of the Year, is the story of colonization.

With powerful and scary pictures, this is the tale of conquest, industrialization, and ecological destruction told from the natives' point of view. This is an allegory of the story of Australia. The British are the rabbits, Aborigines are kangaroos.

This book will scare adults! Children may miss some of the messages hidden in the pictures, and the concepts that are too grand for their level of world knowledge.

Amazing book!

Marsden, Johna & Shaun Tan. (2003). The Rabbits. Simply Read Books.

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09 April 2008

Island of the Blue Dolphins

In Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O'Dell, Karana lives with her family and tribe on the Island of Blue Dolphins, part of the Channel Islands off of California. Blue Dolphin is a small island – about 3 miles by 6 miles, shaped vaguely like a dolphin.

One year a ship of Russians and Aleut come to hunt otters. At the end of the summer, instead of paying the islander their share of the hunt, the Russian captain tries to leave. There is a battle and most of the men of the tribe are killed. The next year, the new chief decides to find the country east of the island and then come back for the others.

After some time a ship does come for the rest of the tribe, but Karana’s brother Ramo is left behind. Before she can think about it, Karana is in the water swimming back toward the island. The siblings are convinced the ship will come back for them later. In the mean time, Ramo and Karana will make the most of their skills and live on the island. But before too long, Ramo is killed and Karana is alone – the only human left on the island with wild dogs, foxes and the sea elephants, otters, and dolphins who live along the coast.

Karana must learn to do all things for herself. She must go against tribal custom and make weapons to hunt and defend herself from the wild dogs – a taboo that has never been broken. She must build new shelter, find food and water, and wait for the ship to return. Will the ship return? Or will she live alone on the island for the rest of her life?

This 1961 Newberry Medal winning book, is a beautifully told story of courage and doing what must be done regardless of the obstacles.

O'Dell, Scott. (1960). Island of the Blue Dolphins. New York: Random House.

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A Pickpocket's Tale

A Pickpocket's Tale by Karen Schwabach is the story of Molly Simon.

Molly, born in London, is a pickpocket. She has been since her mother died. She is good at what she does and never gets caught. But when a fellow thief turns her in for a reward, she is sentenced to be sold as an indentured servant in the American colonies.

Luckily for Molly, she is Jewish. The Jewish communities of London and New York have been watching who is shipped to the colonies. They make sure Jews are bought by Jewish families, giving the criminals a chance to reform and learn more about Judaism. Besides, it is a mitzvah to give them a second chance.

Although Molly is bought by a caring family, her only thought is to get back to London. As she grows throughout the book, she denies that she is changing until one selfless act makes her realize that she is where she belongs.

Schwabach has captured the 1730s in this novel, written partly in the slang of London, Flash-cant. Her description are so detailed you can taste the smelly air of New York.

Schwabach, Karen. (2006). A Pickpocket's Tale. New York: Random House.

*Can you imagine that there was ever a time when NYC had a population of only 8,000?!? I think that many people ride the train with me every morning!

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07 April 2008

The Trickster and the Troll

The Trickster and the Troll by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve is a folk tale from two cultures. Written to reflect the stories of her children's cultures - Lakota and Norwegian - it is the story of what happens to when people stop believing in the stories of their heritage.

Troll moved from Norway with his human family. He went because the mother asked him to watch her sons as they moved to a new land. Troll always do what mother ask of them.

But along the way Troll gets lost. When wondering on the plains looking for his family he stumbles across Iktomi - the Lakota Trickster. Where as Trolls may be mischievous or wicked and are usually gentle and helpful, Iktomi is truly a trickster. He lies and cheats to better lesser beings, including humans. He never does what he can make someone else do for him. And he never learns from his mistakes. Although his other side is Ksa, wisdom, in this story only Iktomi is present.

Iktomi agrees to help Troll find his humans. Once they are found, Iktomi goes to find the Lakota. But he cannot. They are no longer within the ancient grounds. They have been moved to a reservation.

Both Troll and Iktomi find that their people no longer believe in them. What will the tricksters do when they have no humans? How will they survive? And will they be around when later generations hear of their stories or will they be only a memory?

Sneve, Virginia Driving Hawk. (1997). The Tirckster and the Troll. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

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05 April 2008


Piratica: Being a Daring Tale of a Singular Girl's Adventure Upon the High Sea by Tanith Lee.

Artemesia has spent the last six years at the Angels Academy for Young Maidens. She does not remember anything of her life before coming to the school. Then, after a bump on the head, she remembers her previous life...

Her mother, Piratica, was a pirate. She was feared in the seven seas, but she never killed the people on the ships she captured. She was an ethical pirate! Art was with her mother and the crew until a canon exploded, she lost her memory, and her father sent her to boarding school.

As soon as Art gets her memory back, she discards her dresses for boy's clothes and escapes the school. Her goal is to find her mother's crew and join them.

This novel could be the typical girl pirate story if not for one twist. Art's memories may not be as accurate as she thinks. Was her mother really a famous pirate? Or is her memory playing tricks on her?

Lee, Tanith. (2003). Piratica. New York: Dutton Children's Books.

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