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October 25, 2011 > Footnotes


October Reviews

I am absolutely thrilled to report that the new book of Shel Silverstein poems, Every Thing On It, is fabulous! It is full of funny and sometimes thought provoking poems, as well as quirky illustrations like those in Where the Sidewalk Ends and Light in the Attic. This isn't a re-release of old poems - these are 130 never before released gems, chosen by Mr. Silverstein's family. My favorite, though, is the last, the very poignant "When I Am Gone":

When I am gone what will you do?
Who will write and draw for you?
Someone smarter - someone new?
Someone better - maybe YOU!

We will miss you, Mr. Shel Silverstein. We will miss you tremendously, that's what we'll do! (Harper Collins hardback, $19.99)

For 2nd grade and up:
Ten Rules You Absolutely Must Not Break if You Want to Survive the School Bus by John Grandits and Michael Allen Austin
Kyle is really worried about riding the bus to school - he's never done it before. Fortunately he's got his older brother James, who has ridden the bus for years. James has given Kyle a list of Ten Rules that he MUST NOT BREAK. But poor Kyle breaks the first one almost immediately, and the second rule is beginning to look impossible. How on earth is he going to make it to school, much less make it home, without having his life end in disaster?! Parents, don't worry - Kyle will win the day, but I have to tell you he does it by completely ignoring James' rules. A hint for even more fun: watch the sneaky little squirrel! (Clarion hardback, $16.99)

For 3rd grade and up:
War in Afghanistan and Iraq: the Daily Life of the Men and Women Serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, by Janet and Gerry Souter
Kids often ask questions that are difficult to answer: Why did the war start? What are we doing there? How do the soldiers find bombs? How do they blow up the bombs? What this book does is answer those questions and many, many more, showing candid color pictures of the troops in action (without dead bodies). It can be read either from page one to page 45, or by flipping through and picking out the things that strike your child's interest. What kind of weapons do the soldiers use? What do they do when they're not fighting? How are the soldiers helping? There's a glossary in the back for the more difficult concepts (terrorist, Taliban, sniper), and an index in case you don't find what your child is looking for immediately. If your family has a member serving overseas, or if your child is simply curious about what he or she has heard and seen in the news, this book has the kind of explanations that will make sense. (Carlton Books hardback, $16.95)

For 4th grade and up:
Wonderstruck, by Brian Selznick
In Selznick's award winning book, "Invention of Hugo Cabret", the author and illustrator used his amazing images to enhance and progress the story. In Wonderstruck, he tells two stories side by side. The one in words tells the story of Ben, who is living with his aunt and uncle after the sad death of his mother. He has never known his father, not even the man's name. The house he grew up in is just 83 steps away, and one afternoon he decides to go back there and look at his mother's things left behind.

In the back of a closet he discovers a book he's never seen before, Wonderstruck, and in it is a bookmark from a funny little bookstore in New York City. On the back Ben discovers a message to his mother, with love from a man who left his name, phone number and address. Could this be Ben's father? He grabs the phone to call, and lightning strikes! Ben is struck deaf, but remains determined to make it to New York City and find the man who gave his mother that bookmark.

Within the pictures is the story of Rose, a rebellious girl who also runs away to NYC, 50 years before Ben. They both wind up, through a series of wrong turns, in the American Museum of Natural History. There they each find clues to the whereabouts of their families, and eventually clues to find each other. This is a lovely book, one that both children and adults can enjoy. Go through it once, for Ben and Rose's stories, then go through it again, just to relish the details of the prose and pictures. Mr. Selznick has again provided us with a jewel of a book - enjoy! (Scholastic hardback, $29.99)

6th grade and up:
Dead End in Norvelt, by Jack Gantos
Jack has been looking forward to his summer away from school filled with ball games, hot days and fun stuff every day. Then he makes two errors in judgment: he fires the gun his father brought home from the war (and it was loaded!), and he mows down his mom's cornfield. It wasn't his fault, honest! His dad bought a cheap broken airplane, planning to rebuild it, and told Jack to mow down the corn so that he can have a runway. Now Jack is grounded for the entire summer!

Not only can he not go play baseball, he can't hang out with his buddies, but now his mom has sent Jack to help ole' Miss Volker. She has terrible arthritis, so Jack at first assumes he'll have to open jars, or wash dishes or something. Instead, Miss Volker hands him a pencil and paper, and dictates... an obituary! She writes the obituaries of the older members of the community, the last surviving members of the original founding families of Norvelt. There's only a few of them left.

What starts out as a job that Jack thinks will be boring, turns fascinating, and then a little grim as more and more of the old folks pass away. Jack and Miss Volker begin to get suspicious - but these people are very old. They could be dying of natural causes... maybe. But, maybe not, and if not, who is killing them off? For fans of Richard Peck's "Year Down Yonder" and "A Long Way from Chicago." (FSG hardback, $15.99)

For young adults:
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
Karou has a complicated life. On the one hand she is an art student, studying in Prague. On the other hand, she runs errands for Brimstone, the mysterious man/demon/creature who raised her from childhood (with the help of some very non-human friends). At any moment of the day or night, Karou might be sent through the mystical doorways to all parts of the world, sent to pick up urgent packages of... teeth. Teeth?! They might be animal or human, but Brimstone is always paying traders for teeth. What could he possibly use them for? She has no idea.

One night, after several exhausting trips, Karou refuses to answer the summons. She has school work to finish, and her human friends need her, so she tells the messenger "no." She could not possibly foresee the consequences of her simple choice - all the doorways are shattered, and when she finally finds a way back to Brimstone's sanctuary, everyone who helped to raise her is gone, their home torn apart. Why?

What had Brimstone been involved in that would create such anger? Is her foster family dead? What happened to them? It takes Karou some time, but she begins to piece together the answers; answers that she is not sure she wants to know. This is the first in a series that takes on the war between the forces of light and dark and gives it a fresh new spin. (Little Brown hardback, 18.99)

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