Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Miss Alison's latest book reviews

As featured in the April edition of School Library Journal, here are our Children's Librarian's newest reviews of children's books. If you would like to read any of these titles, we are happy to order them for you. Give us a call on (618) 344 1112.

Nana Takes the Reins! By Kathleen Lane with Cabell Harris. illus. by Sarah Horne.
Grades 2-4
In this fast-paced sequel to Nana Cracks the Case! (Chronicle, 2009), the unlikeliest grandmother around hears that the rodeo is coming to town. Elated, she gets into her 1948 Dusty Drifter and rides off into the sunset–until she wrecks her car. At Al’s Brake Shop, the woman comes face-to-face with Tuff, not only the meanest guy in Lettuceberg, but also a man who is rumored to eat pets. Nana, having already applied for jobs such as circus performer and deep sea fisherman in the previous book, now applies for the vacant mechanic position at Al’s, and many twists and turns ensue. The humor in this book is utterly over-the-top, in a way that will appeal to children. Will Nana and her grandchildren Eufala and Bog make it to the rodeo? The story is all about the journey, not the destination. Comical black-and-white illustrations, some full page, are exaggerated and witty and will help ensure that readers keep turning the pages. Nineteen short chapters and the hilarity of the plot make this worth considering, although the wordiness may prove a challenge for kids who are reading below grade level. Buy for fans of the previous book, and where kids can’t get enough of silly, antic-driven stories.

Passing the Music Down. By Sarah Sullivan, illus. by Barry Root.
Kindergarten-Grade 3
In this gentle look at American folk-music traditions, children are introduced to a family who travels from Indiana to a Tennessee festival to hear an elderly fiddler play. The boy of the family is enthused by the music, and he in turn plays for the fiddler. The musician encourages the family to visit him and offers to play with the child. Root’s sweet illustrations in watercolor and gouache show the man and boy in an almost grandfather-grandson setting, making pancakes, hunting ginseng, and picking beans, and at the end of their hard day’s work, they make music together. Through the passing of time, readers travel with the duo from town to town as they play at different gatherings. As the boy is becoming a young man, the old fiddler is dying, and the book concludes with a poignant message that music creates a shared history in each of us that means that “there’s a part of you that will always be around.” Told in free verse, this picture book would be a good accompaniment to music-appreciation lessons focused on American roots music. It concludes with an extensive resources list and the story of noted fiddlers Melvin Wine and Jake Krack, who played together despite a 75-year age difference, and who inspired this book.

Just Being Audrey. By Margaret Cardillo, illus. by Julia Denos
Kindergarten-Grade 3
In this delightful introduction to Audrey Hepburn, readers learn that as a child, she was gangly and imaginative, in a world of her own. When she announced that she wanted to be the prima ballerina of all of Europe, her mother told her that the world was bigger than she was, and to always be kind, a tenet that seems to have stuck with her for life. She was born into a family of some privilege (her mother was a baroness), but their small wealth was no match for the advancing Nazi troops in World War II. Along with her family and 40 others, she hid in a country house with no heat and little to eat. Through the ordeal, she kept dancing and taught the other children. As the war in Europe ended, a UN volunteer gave her a chocolate bar, an act of kindness that seemed to inspire her. After the young woman realized that she would be more suited to acting, her Cinderella career took her from London to Broadway to Hollywood, but the power in this book lies beyond her fame in the spotlight. Her generous humanitarian spirit is seen through her actions and deeds as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF as she used her celebrity as a vehicle to assist others. With a light, sweet narrative style, readers can almost picture Hepburn dancing as they turn the pages. Evocative of the period, Denos’s almost impressionistic pen-and-ink and watercolor artwork is lively and colorful. This picture-book biography is a great addition to any collection.