Monday, October 16, 2017

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Werewolves are so not my thing. I am boring, prosaic. I like real people and realistic fiction. I was almost an entire decade behind on the Harry Potter bandwagon. I never felt the need to squeal over Twilight. Dystopian novels are not my gig. I read mid-century girl lit for fluffy, thoughtless reading. (Betty Cavanna-Anne Emery-Janet Lambert devotees unite!)

I know! I. Am. Boring. The thing is, I had a depression/anxiety problem when I was a teen. (I still have it to some extent if I don't exercise/sleep/eat right. In other words, after each and every of my four pregnancies. Postpartum OCD. I didn't know it was a thing, I thought I was just bizarre. But it is legit and turned my world upside down each time.) Reading about uncertainty and never before conceived of things to worry about was not my idea of a good time. I wanted realistic things with problems that could be solved in a mostly happy way. I didn't want sugar sweet, I just wanted some sweetness somewhere. I wanted hope. 

So the depths of dystopian and fantasy themes in today's YA genre were left unplumbed by me. Until I had to take a Young Adult Literature class last spring. I didn't have high hopes, but I figured I could slog through the book list. 

As it turns out, I may not be keen on fantasy, but I do make exception for masterfully executed fantasy. JK Rowling is a genius. I adored the Harry Potter books. But the fact that everyone said Rowling was incredible made me even more convinced that I wouldn't enjoy lesser authors attempts. 

Enter Maggie Stiefvater. 

I am not sure I would go so far as to say she is on the same level as Rowling. But I loved this book. 

There was a bit of angst. There were mystical happenings. There are inter-species longings that were a little weird. 

But they all combine in a marvelous way. Things make sense. Inter-species longings are justified. The entire werewolf thing is believable. (If werewolves living in a brick house in a Minnesota suburb is believable.)

And there is romance. Love that transcends all the weirdness. And best of all, there is hope. 

Sam is a werewolf who is more human than wolf. Grace is a 17 year old human who is really drawn to the wolves in the Minnesota woods behind her home. One wolf in particular stands out--the one with yellow colored eyes. 

As the town demands the death of all the wolves for the suspected attack of a high school student, Sam suddenly finds himself wounded on Grace's back door step in human form. Fortunately, Grace's parents are completely non-involved. She can invite him in and care for him without worrying about her parents finding a teenage boy hanging around in her room. (Despite the werewolf thingy, this was one of the most unbelievable parts.) Of course, they fall in love. There is a connection between them. But why? 

Time is limited. The cold makes Sam turn into a wolf again. And it is October in Minnesota. How long will they have together before he turns? And will he ever turn human again or is this brief time their only shot at happiness? 

Angst. Love. Werewolves. Hope. 

They are all there in glorious technicolor. 

(Of course, there are additional books in the series, if you get hooked.) 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Storm Bringer by Jan Yolen & Illus by Ted Lewin

Storm Bringer 

  It was a dry fall          
 and the corn stalks     
                    thrust through the crumpled earth
  like posts                    
  in a deserted palisade,
        The farmland felt beseiged
  And the kildeer came, 
by ones, by twos.      
                   They settled down in the furrows
  and walked the rows, 
  brown heads nodding
   over their striped bibs
  like satisfied farmers
  counting the harvest.
After they left,        
it rained.                 

                                                                          --From Birdwatch

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

All Ears, All Eyes

This is a rather gorgeously fall-ish book! 

With rich and vibrant colors, it goes through all the things you might hear or see in the woods. 

And then I got distracted by my owls in a pile of flowers from yesterday's pictures. 

Raccoon at sundown, romping
Another, her brother, he's chomping.

It has a simplistic rhyme structure that is just right for the 2-5 year old range.

I looove this picture. So much color and imagery...

I am pretty partial to anything that focuses on walks in the woods. 

These pictures....

...are glorious! 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Locomotive by Brian Floca

This book is INCREDIBLE. Just don't try reading it to anyone under 10. Because... they will be impatient with it. 

There is so much in this book. The pictures are glorious (that IS a Caldecott Medal on the front, 2014) and the detail packed into this book is incredible. This is a like a historical textbook in picture book form. If you are interested in America in the 1860's when railroads were spreading like wildfire, and railroads in general, you need this book. 

Floca doesn't even waste the endpapers. So. Much. Information. 

Have I mentioned how much I love the pictures? 

All the different people that helped to build the railway. 

Once the railway is complete, linking the east coast to the west, we see a family setting out to meet their father in California. We follow their journey on this brand new marvel. Across the country in less than a week...! Unheard of!

I love the illustrated fonts. And the antlers on the front of the engine.

The people who make the train work.


These illustrations...!

Heading across the prairies

What travel was like. I thoroughly enjoy the "convenience" details. The kids have been listening to Ramona the Pest lately--where she asks her kindergarten teacher how Mike Mulligan went to the bathroom that long busy day he was digging. These are important (and interesting) things to know, but are so rarely mentioned. 

Turntable, switching out the engine.

Heading through the night.

The wealthy traveler's beds vs. the poorer travelers.

Rickety trestles crossing gorges. 

Things that could happen to trains if they aren't expertly handled. But fortunately, the engineer on our train is brilliant, so we don't need to worry about these events. 


Floca is really good at getting so many different perspectives.

Truckee, CA. The air is cooler again

Finally, finally they get where they need to be. 

Endpapers being put to good use again. 

This is an awesome book!

In the Heart by Ann Turner & Illus by Salley Mavor

It seems a bit... pointless to be writing blog posts about children's books when there is so much turmoil and upheaval. (Las Vegas and Puerto Rico break my heart!) But there is a measure of comfort in the simplistic view of the world held in children's books--a reminder of a time when all the havoc of grown ups was something for them to deal with while I just got on being a kid. 

Sometime in the past few decades, the grown up has turned into me. And all the havoc of the world seems somehow my responsibility--something I should be doing something about. Yet, there is so very, very little we can do. 

So I continue to write blog posts about kids books. I rhapsodize about coziness, beautiful illustrations, lovely words, and tiny books. 

It may be like an ostrich, but we all have to make the world bearable for ourselves and those around us. So I continue to take pictures of books and talk about how delightful they are. Because that is what makes me happy. And if you are here, reading this post, kids books must make you happy in some shape or form. I like to think this is my way of making the world more beautiful. But whether it is or not, I do know that writing about kids books makes life more bearable for me. 

And now, back to this lovely fall book--

This book is so cozy! I mean it features felt characters after all... 

Isn't this tiny woolen world charming? I love how textural felt is as a medium! 

Salley Mavor is an incredible woolen artist. I sometimes think crafted and then photographed illustrations are hokey, but these illustrations are marvelous!

The heart of the day is the sun:
a warm blanket on my eyes and nose and feet,
a gold hat for my head.

This book explores all the different "hearts" there are in this child's world. 

The heart of the house is my kitchen:
orange cat by my seat, 
a muffin warms my hand, 
talk like clouds of steam. 

I want to be in that kitchen right now. Do you see the woolen plates?! Must. Have. 

The heart of the yard.

The heart of the town is my school. 

The heart of bedtime is my story:
your knees my chair,
your words in my hair,
pictures for dreams. 

Oh the security and warmth of these words and this scene! 

The pictures themselves are worth staring at for hours, but the words are so lovely and warm that they work together seamlessly to make this a treasure of a book! 

Friday, September 29, 2017

Fall of the Year by Margaret Wise Brown and Illustrated by Leo Espinosa

Fall of the Year

The world's on fire in the cold clear air
The world shouts Autumn everywhere
All the little animals began to grow more fur
All the summer birds began to fly away,
The little grey kitten came out of the wind to purr
And the leaves blew away. All in one day. 

Darkness came before the night
The air grew cold enough to bite
Chrysanthemums were shaggy yellow
The leaves turned red
The leaves turned brown
The tumbled all over the frosty ground
The worlds on fire in the cold clear air
The world shouts AUTUMN everywhere. 

                                                                      --Margaret Wise Brown
                                                                                             From A Celebration of the Seasons

Isn't she adorably pleased about the fall? I love this picture! 

A Celebration of the Seasons is a collection of Margaret Wise Brown's poems found in a trunk in a barn after she died. 12 artists collaborated on an illustration for each poem and then musicians composed tunes to go with the poems. My kids love it!