Sunday, March 6, 2011

Good books, February 2011

The Adventures of Sir Lancelot the Great by Gerald Morris, ill. Aaron Renier, 2008, 92 pages (age 8 and up, or younger as a read-aloud).
The Adventures of Sir Givret the Short by Gerald Morris, ill. Aaron Renier, 2008, 101 pages (age 8 and up, or younger as a read-aloud).

These are very funny, easy-to-read books. The author has written another series for upper elementary readers (starting with The Squire's Tale) involving the King Arthur stories and characters, but these books are shorter and stand on their own. I will never be able to hear the phrase "thirst for revenge" without laughing now.

Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children About Their Art, ed. Eric Carle, 2007, 112 pages (all ages).

I love this amazing book! Children's illustrators were each asked to write a letter directly to children who are interested in becoming artists. Fold-out pages give examples of each illustrator's art, as well as photos of them as children. There is even a pop-up art piece by Robert Sabuda. Other illustrators include Mitsumasa Anno, Tomie dePaola, Maurice Sendak, Chris Van Allsburg, and Rosemary Wells.

How to Get Rich on a Texas Cattle Drive by Tod Olson, ill. Scott Allred and Gregory Proch, 2010, 47 pages (age 8 and up).

The story of a 16-year-old cowhand in 1877, headed to Dodge City, Kansas. Lots of photos, maps, ledgers, drawings, with interesting text.

The Riddle of the Gnome by P. W. Catanese, 2007, 250 pages (age 12 and up).

This is part of the author's "Further Tales" series, where he takes fairy tales and writes a story that might happen years afterward. This one is the afterward-story of Rumpelstiltskin and a boy who brings bad luck to anyone he goes near. It's an interesting premise and an entertaining story.

The Time Pirate by Ted Bell, 2010, 454 pages (age 12 and up).

I enjoyed the first book in the series, Nick of Time, although it started a little slowly. This book is the same way. But stick with it through the beginning part, and it becomes a great time travel adventure. To save Britain during World War II, Nick must travel to America during the time of George Washington and Lafayette and help the American Revolution to succeed.

Under the Green Hill by Laura L. Sullivan, 2010, 320 pages (age 12 and up).

This is a well-written fantasy book involving American children going to England to escape an outbreak of illness. While staying with relatives there, they are drawn into the affairs of the faeries and danger ensues. I liked the strong girl who is the main character. There are some scary moments of real peril, but also some good messages.

Princess of Glass by Jessica Day George, 2010, 266 pages (age 12 and up).

Imagine if Cinderella were a mopey, ungrateful girl and her godmother were a sinister, malicious being with her own motives for catching a prince. This is an interesting twist on the old Cinderella story. It's pretty intense in places and too scary for younger children, but it was fun to read.

Starclimber by Kenneth Oppel, 2009, 390 pages (age 14 and up).

The first two books in this series, Airborn and Skybreaker, were very good. This may be even better. The premise - reaching space by means of a cable anchored between earth and an orbiting satellite - is fascinating. The author's excellent writing keeps the story tense and thrilling, all the way from Matt's initial training as an astronaut to the discoveries and disasters that happen when they reach orbit.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink, 2009, 242 pages (age 14 and up).

Interesting book showing that traditional thought about rewards and punishments actually leads to less motivation. Most of the applications are put in a business context, but there are also insights here that would apply to personal habits and goals.

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