Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Move over Moose, Lizzie's got something to say

Chasing Secrets by Gennifer Choldenko. Penguin/Random House. 2015. Recommended for ages 8-12.

Lizzie Kennedy,13, lives in a house on her aunt and uncle’s fashionable Nob Hill estate with her widowed father and her brother, Billy, 16, once her best friend, but now surly and secretive. Their beloved servants, Jing and Maggy, also reside with them.

A brief prologue gives the readers some insight into Lizzie’s world at the dawn of the 20th century and the ominous developments to come:

“In the Palace Hotel, electric lights blaze as ladies in shimmering gowns and gentlemen in black waistcoats waltz in a ballroom gilded with gold.

In the bay, a steamer from Honolulu is fumigated, scrubbed, and smoked … and given entry to the port of San Francisco.

At the dock … rats slip off the ship. They scurry onto the wharf and climb the sewers to Chinatown …”

Thanks to her aunt and uncle’s wealth, Lizzie is able to live a fairly privileged life. However, her strict and proper Aunt Hortense insists that she attend finishing school. Lizzie is not interested in becoming a society lady. She’d prefers science to etiquette, and, much to Aunt Hortense’s chagrin, enjoys assisting her doctor father with his house calls

Stories begin to surface about the large numbers of dead rats found in Chinatown, and soon that community is quarantined. Despite her father’s and her uncle’s insistence that there is no plague and the quarantine is unjustified, Lizzie has her doubts. One day she discovers that Jing has smuggled his son Noah out of Chinatown and has secretly hidden him in the servants quarters. However Jing is now missing. Did he get caught up in the quarantine … or something worse? Stunned by the discovery that Jing has a secret life, she promises the frightened boy that she’ll help keep his secret and try to find out what has happened to his father.

As dead rats and plague rumors mount, Lizzie boldly attempts to determine the veracity of the plague rumors and secretly undertakes some dangerous trips to Chinatown to find Jing.  Her friendship with Noah and her trips to Chinatown, help her realize the gender, racial, and class inequalities which exist in her society.  When Lizzie realizes she can’t find Jing on her own and illness strikes close to home, help comes from some surprising quarters ...

Please read my full review at Good Reads with Ronna. Thanks To Ronna Mandel for allowing me to review the book and keep the copy for my library.

Why We Love Hedwig and Pigwidgeon

Owls; our most charming bird. Written and illustrated by Matt Sewell. Ten Speed Press/Penguin Random House. Release date: September 22, 2015.
British author, street artist and "birder," Matt Sewell shares his love and passion for owls by presenting brief narratives of fifty owls from all over the world. In a forward to the book, Martin Noble notes the world's fascination with these creature spans history and cultures.
However, this is less a field guide or informational book but rather this artist's celebration of one of his favorite birds. Short entries on each owl discuss folklore, cultural beliefs, or symbolism attributed by humans to this owl. The Woodland Barnyard owl is associated with misfortune. Conversely, the Little Owl is associated with Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, and symbolizes wisdom and good fortune. The book is organized by habitat (Woodland, Tropical, Wilderness, etc.). Each narrative includes the owl's scientific name, a short description focusing on a prominent feature or features of that owl (the huge and distinctive eyebrows of the Crested owl) and approximate size and general location. Most of the entries are accompanied by Sewell's distinctive, stylized watercolors,  familiar to readers of his earlier books and to those who have seen his graphic designs on products and large street muralsThe author's charming and quirky characterizations of each owl will certainly delight readers of all ages: he humorously comments on and depicts the scruffy appearance of the Tawny owl and the scowling face of a Long eared owl. 
Sewell concludes the book with a note on "Spotting and Jotting" (how to look for and keep track of owls) and a lovely thumbnail watercolor of each of the owls in the book. 
Sewell's love for and fascination with birds comes through on each page and his humorous observations and delightful watercolors make this a charming gift for birders of all ages. Also highly recommended for libraries with visual art collections and where interest in birding is high. 
Visit  Sewell's website to see more of his work. Check out a few videos on YouTube: the book trailer for Our Garden Birds (Ebury Press) and a 2014 interview. Be sure to visit Ten Speed Press (Penguin Random House) to learn more about this book and other titles published by this press.

Thanks to NetGalley and Ten Speed Press for giving me access to the e-galley.

Monday, August 24, 2015

A Block(buster) of a Book

DINOBLOCK by Christopher Franceschelli with artwork by Peskimo. Abrams Appleseed, 2015. $16.95.

If you have a budding young paleontologist (and even even if you don't),  this book's inventive and colorful graphic design will delight and engage both children and adults. 

Two children  stop by the museum to "meet the dinosaurs" as the banner outside proclaims. Wait .... don't be quick to turn the page: the first two pages fold out to form a four-page spread of the diorama-style exhibit. 

But the children want to know:




And the dinosaurs, peeking out from the jungle brush, call out:


Pairs of two-page spreads combine to create clues and answers, comparing the characteristics of contemporary objects with dinosaur features. The design of the "clue" spread interacts with the "answer" spread and links the present to past. 

A tall building is compared to the Sauroposeidon, a dinosaur which reached heights of 18 meters (almost 60 feet).   


The straight-edged tab on the shared page of the clue and the answer emphasizes both the building's height and the long neck of the Sauroposeidon and gives children a peek into the prehistoric environment ...

Visit  Good Reads with Ronna to see the full review and find links to resources about the author and the illustrators.