Tag Archives: library

Board Book of the Week: Red Truck by Kersten Hamilton

Books can be hard to talk about. And children’s books — especially ones with less than 20 pages — can be particularly tough, at least for me, so far. But I think I found a way to make this work.

I finally started taking A to the library. And when you go once, there’s a pretty strong pull to go back — the books have to be returned at some point, and the drive through drop box seems almost cruel when there’s so much fun to be had inside (there’s some seriously great play areas set up, let alone all the books).

I brought home a stack of books this week, as you do. Seven books last time, nine this time. Most I considered quickly but somewhat carefully, and a few I added to the pile after A pulled them off the shelves.

Some books I like, but he either doesn’t get or doesn’t have the patience for, or something. And others he insistently brings me over and over, but they make me want to gouge my eyes out. You know how it is.

This post highlights A’s hand’s down favorite, which is one I really appreciate, too. (Which is not to say *I’m* saying “again, again,” once he tires of it, but still.)

red truck

Red Truck by Kersten Hamilton, illustrated by Valeria Petrone (2008, Viking Penguin, board book) is a delightful book.

A likes:
• Pointing at all the trucks and making truck sounds.
• Also the “Vrooom,” “Sploosh,” and “Zoom” exclamations usually elicit big smiles.

Mama likes:
• The writing is clear and engaging, the perfect balance of fun and educational, no wording is awkward or annoying. There are rhymes, but it’s not over the top. There are just the right amount of words, too. I never have to read/recite at break-neck speeds to get all the words in before he turns the page.
• The illustrations are whimsical and clear, cheerful. The background recedes and yet remains fun. The colors are bright and mostly primary without being overtly so. The tow truck driver looks enough like a cross between Mario and Luigi to make me smile but still unique enough to be his own character.
• I like the text treatment, too. Colors and sizes vary some, but it’s still completely legible. And it’s not all caps. Also, there aren’t exclamation points on every. single. page. (Ahem.)

Maybe it’s just the perfect timing in terms of his attention span and vehicle fascination, but this book certainly hits the spot. I’ve enjoyed Hamilton’s YA books in the past (Tyger Tyger (my review) and In the Forests of the Night — ooh, looks like book 3 of that Goblin Wars series is out this week: When the Stars Threw Down Their Spears) and I’ll definitely be looking for more of her children’s books now too.

For more on children’s books this week, check out Booking Mama’s Kid Konnection.

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The Dragon’s Tooth by ND Wilson

Word Lily review

The Dragon’s Tooth by N.D. Wilson, Ashtown Burials book 1 (Random House Children’s Books, 2011), 496 pages

DragonsTooth

Summary
Cyrus and his sister, Antigone, live at an old, rundown roadside motel with their college-aged brother. They have since their dad died and something happened to their mom (leaving her institutionalized). They practically live on waffles. And then an old man comes and insists on renting the specific room that is now Cyrus’s. When he shows up, things get interesting, to say the least.

Thoughts
I had heard good things about N.D. Wilson’s books from various trusted sources, but mostly I’d only picked up vague shadows. Most of what I’d heard, though, was about 100 Cupboards or at least that series. I am so very glad I read this one, though.

Wilson’s writing is superb. The prose thrilled me. Here’s the first two paragraphs:

“North of Mexico, south of Canada, and not too far west of the freshwater sea called Lake Michigan, in a place where cows polka-dot hills and men are serious about cheese, there is a lady on a pole.

“The Lady is an archer, pale and posing twenty feet in the air above a potholed parking lot. Her frozen bow is drawn with an arrow ready to fly, and her long, muscular legs glint in the late-afternoon sun. Behind her, dark clouds jostle on the horizon, and she quivers slightly in the warm breeze ahead of the coming storm. She has been hanging in the air with her bow drawn since the summer of 1962, when the parking lot was black and fresh, and the Archer Motel had guests. In those days, the Lady hadn’t been pale; she had been golden. And every night as the sun had set, her limbs had flickered and crackled with neon, and hundreds of slow cars and sputtering trucks had traveled her narrow road, passing beneath her glow. When young, she had aimed over the road, over the trees, toward Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. Now, thanks to the nuzzling of a forgotten eighteen-wheeler, her glow has gone and she leans back, patiently cocking her arrow toward the sky, waiting to ambush the clouds.”

Isn’t that excellent? And the story’s pretty great, too. I don’t want to give spoilers, but aspects of this book reminded me of Diagon Alley — how right under the noses of the oblivious, magical things live and transpire. Not that this is any kind of a rip-off. The Dragon’s Tooth struck me as a wholly original story. Not that I’m well-versed enough in the genre to know such a thing. (Sheesh. Maybe it’s time for me to wrap this up and go do something else.)

Cyrus is a really great character in the ways that matter most. Intriguing, relatable, flawed. Actually, all the characters are pretty well drawn. Even the villains are nuanced and maybe even likable.

Isn’t it always thrilling to “discover” an author with a backlist? I’m excited to read the next one in this series, The Drowned Vault, and the third one (Empire of Bones) comes out this fall. (Besides reading his older books.)

… And I also feel the need, more strongly than ever now, to read Diana Wynne Jones. In fact, maybe I need to go on a long middle grade and YA fantasy reading tear?

Rating: 4.75 stars

Other reviews
Charlotte’s Library
Pages Unbound
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A Wedding Quilt for Ella by Jerry S. Eicher

Word Lily review

A Wedding Quilt for Ella by Jerry S. Eicher, book 1 in the Little Valley series (Harvest House, February 1, 2011), 288 pages

Summary
It’s mere months until Ella Yoder’s wedding to the man of her dreams, and from her perspective, nothing can go wrong. But then it does. Aden’s appendix bursts, and he dies. How will Ella deal with her grief and move on?

Thoughts
This was, I think, the second Amish book I’ve read since the category exploded. I may have read some before that, but it was a really long time ago, if I did. If you like Amish books, this is probably one you’d enjoy.

I myself was straining against the strictures and confines — real or imagined (and it wasn’t entirely clear on that point) — of the community, nearly all the way through. Specifically, these: only certain life/career paths are acceptable, particularly for women; art and beauty have no value except possibly a negative one; and it’s not acceptable to question God, to even wonder why things happen a certain way.

None of these are exactly surprising in an Amish book, I suppose; perhaps this is why I’ve not read more of them.

For what it is (and what I expected), it’s not bad. It’s just not what I love.

Book 2 in the Little Valley series, Ella’s Wish, was released in May. Book 3, Ella Finds Love Again, is due out September 1. [Aside: I’m cringing about that last title, because it feels like a huge spoiler for me.]

Rating: 2.5 stars

About the author
Jerry S. Eicher taught for two terms in parochial Amish and Mennonite schools in Ohio and Illinois. He is involved in church renewal, preaching and conducting weekend meetings of in-depth Bible teaching. As a boy, he spent eight years in Honduras, where his grandfather helped found an Amish community outreach. He and his family live in Virginia.

Other reviews
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I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom

The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom, a Mobile Library Mystery (book 1) (Harper, 2005), 352 pages

Summary
Israel Armstrong, of North London, has just arrived in the rural Northern Ireland community of Tumdrum to be the new librarian. Except the library has been closed, according to a notice on the door.

Thoughts
Mostly, I found this book to be a pretty OK comedy of errors. If you can think of a setback, a problem, a mishap, a roadblock, it quite possibly happens in this book. So very pathetic. And yet it’s funny. Sometimes when, at the beginning, everything that happens is bad, it makes a story irredeemable for me, but that wasn’t the case here.

As a mystery, it wasn’t all that great. Armstrong is bumbling. All the other characters basically don’t care about the outcome. And the ending felt anti-climactic to me, on several levels.

Still, it kept me laughing pretty much throughout, and it was a nice, light respite, which is why I picked it up. Plus: It’s about books, and several of the characters really care about books and reading. But somehow this wasn’t the draw for me it usually is.

I’ve read a couple places that the series improves as it goes along, so I might continue with this series.

About the author
Ian Sansom is from Essex; he’s written several books, including subsequent books in this Mobile Library Mysteries series.

Other reviews
My Cozy Book Nook
We Be Reading
Jules’ Book Reviews

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I did not receive this book from the publisher. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafón (1993; translated by Lucia Graves; Little, Brown; May 4, 2010), 224 pages

Summary
Max’s family leaves the city for the quieter, safer life of a small coastal town in 1943. But Max notices strange things about the town, and the Carvers’ new house, right off.

Thoughts
I’m so glad to see more of Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s work being translated into English! After loving The Shadow of the Wind and even not loving The Angel’s Game I’ve been longing for more from this author to read.

I would classify The Prince of Mist as more horror than the others I’ve read by him. Still, it felt more like I was reading a book that was scary than that I was being scared by the book. Does that make sense? I’m guessing it’s because it’s a YA title.

The writing in this book doesn’t seem as vibrant to me as in the other two books I’ve read of his. I’m not sure if that’s because this was his first book, or if, perhaps, it’s because it’s for a younger audience.

I thought the way the author gets the adults out of the way for most of the action was great. The main characters are able to have a well-adjusted family but the danger-fraught story line isn’t hindered by their presence.

As much as I was happy to read this book, it’s not my favorite from him; that position is still firmly held by The Shadow of the Wind. That’s due in part to the story (this one isn’t book-centric, and it’s also a bit on the scary side for my taste, which is funny to say because it really feels like a YA book in this respect) and in part to the writing (which wasn’t bad in this case, but really shines in the other titles of his I’ve read). I’ll still jump at the next Ruiz Zafón book I can get in English, though.

The book’s trailer:
[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2dX56mc8Rg]

About the author
Carlos Ruiz Zafón doesn’t write fast enough for my taste; he’s the author of 6 books.

Other reviews
Alison’s Book Marks
The Introverted Reader
Fantasy Book Critic
A Dribble of Ink

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I received this book from the publisher.

Still Life by Louise Penny

Still Life: A Mystery by Louise Penny (St. Martin’s, 2005), 320 pages

Summary
In the quiet burg of Three Pines, vandalism is pretty much as exciting as it gets. Selections have also been made for the next juried art show, but that’s about it. And then an old lady is found dead.

Thoughts
Still Life is the first book in a series; the sixth, Bury Your Dead, is due out in September 2010.

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is pretty much the quintessential detective. I love how he teaches and trains, empowers. I adore his relationship with his wife (he tells her everything). I also love that he listens and observes, and how Penny portrays that. And I love that he’s flawed — he makes mistakes.

Other than practically falling in love with Gamache, I also love the other people we meet in this book, in particular the population of Three Pines (Clara and Peter, to mention two). I didn’t feel nearly as connected with Gamache’s staff — his trainee Agent Yvette Nichol in particular was annoying, but then, I think she was to the characters, too.

I also loved the place of prominence given to the visual arts. And I enjoyed getting a glimpse into small-town Quebec.

I look forward to reading the rest of this series! I was glad for the excuse to begin a series I’d been wanting to read for quite some time.

About the author
Louise Penny lives outside a small village south of Montreal, quite close to the American border with her husband, Michael. Prior to becoming a novelist, she worked as a journalist and radio host with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, specializing in hard news and current affairs. Her blog is http://louisepenny.blogspot.com.

Other reviews
Devourer of Books
Page 247
Geranium Cat’s Bookshelf
Jen’s Book Thoughts
My Random Acts of Reading

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I checked this book out from my local library.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Help by Kathryn Stockett (Amy Einhorn Books, a Putnam imprint, 2009), 464 pages

Summary
Through the alternating viewpoints of Skeeter, a recent college graduate who’s back at home and struggling to find her place; Aibileen, who works as house help for Skeeter’s friend Elizabeth; and Aibileen’s sass-mouthed friend Minny (also a maid), we get a picture of Jackson, Mississippi, 1962-1964. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights movement as it’s taught in schools — Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, sit-ins at the Woolworth’s lunch counter — The Help paints the situation from a different perspective.

Thoughts
Like The Book Thief, this is one I’ve known I wanted to read for ages. I’ve heard amazing things about it, but unfortunately it took me awhile to get my hands on it and read it. Once again, I wasn’t disappointed by the hype.

I love this book. This isn’t really surprising to me, since it has so many elements that I frequently love in a book. Certainly, some very tough situations are presented to the reader. I love this book enough that I’m having trouble putting my praise into words. I have no complaints. An awesome book.

Filled with triumphs and moments of deep sadness, The Help is ultimately a hope-filled story.

If you haven’t read The Help yet, why not? If you have read it, how do you feel about it now, a little more removed from it?

About the author
The Help is Stockett’s debut novel. Kathryn Stockett grew up in Jackson, Mississippi and received a degree in English and creative writing from the University of Alabama. She lives in Atlanta.

Other reviews (more raves!)
The Book Lady’s Blog
At Home with Books
S. Krishna’s Books
Maw Books
One Person’s Journey through a World of Books

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I checked this book out from the library. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

The Book ThiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak (Alfred A. Knopf, 2006), 576 pages

Summary
The Book Thief is narrated by Death. It’s set in Germany, opening in 1939. Yes, that’s World War II. Liesel Meminger, at age 9, is taken (by her mother) to live in Molching, Germany, with a foster family. On the journey, she steals her first book, even though she can’t yet read. She’s haunted by nightmares of her younger brother’s death.

Among other awards, The Book Thief was a Printz Honor Book in 2007.

Thoughts
I knew I was missing out by having not yet read this book. I started reading it in 2008, but it was during the read-a-thon, in the middle of the night, and I just wasn’t capable of reading a book narrated by Death in the middle of the night and still appreciating it. Alas, it’s taken me nearly two years to get back to it, but at least I finally have.

I found the voice of this book to be wholly unique. While most of the material wasn’t new to me (although a bit of the perspective I hadn’t read before), this was *not* just another Holocaust book. The writing is superb, achingly beautiful. (I feel like I use that phrase way too much …) I also found it quite interesting how most things are fully disclosed before they actually happen — the narrator “spoils” himself.

The characters, the bookish elements, the writing — all excellent. A gorgeous book with a heinous setting. I say setting because war is not really what the book is about. It’s a backdrop, sure, and hardly a page goes by without mention of it, but the book is about Liesel, about words.

My only complaint (and it’s a small one): The prologue doesn’t really fit the book. After I’d read the prologue, I was sort of dreading this book. But once I got past that, the story sucked me in and the pages flew by.

Although this book was first published in just 2006, I’d call it a classic. This is a book that will endure. If you haven’t read it yet, why not? Sure, it’s not exactly short, but it’s also a young adult book, so the pages fly by (well, the fact that it’s a great story helps that, too). You have no excuse. Read it.

I definitely want to read more of Zusak’s work — I’m particularly intrigued by his I Am the Messenger.

About the author
Markus Zusak lives in Sydney, Australia. Read an interview with Zusak at the Random House website.

Other reviews
Filling My Patch of Sky
Maw Books
So Many Books
At Home with Books
In the Shadow of Mt. TBR
Musings of a Bookish Kitty
A Chair, a Fireplace & and Tea Cozy
My Two Blessings
The Book Lady’s Blog
CaribousMom
Bibliofreakblog

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I checked this book out from the library. I am an Amazon Associate and receive a small commission on sales through my affiliate links.


My impetus for finally picking this book up was the Social Justice Challenge; the January theme has been religious freedom. It’s certainly not a stretch to see how this book fits that theme.