Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Got a lot of reading done!

Cole, Henry. A Nest for Celeste.
Nominated for the Cybils by Dotz Johnson.

Celeste is a mouse living on a plantation near New Orleans where the naturalist John James Audubon is staying in 1821 with his young assistant, Joseph. Aside from her talent at making baskets, Celeste lives a standard mouse life-- being bullied by rats and chased by cats-- until she is rescued by James and becomes his pet. She helps him with his drawings and befriends several other animals during different circumstances. An osprey brings her home after a flood, and she frees him when Audubon captures him to draw, and some small birds also becomes her friends. There is a fair amount of information about Audubon's drawings, and good historical notes at the back.

Strengths: This will win awards all over the place because of the drawings. Rather like Selznick's Hugo Cabret, pictures play a large role in this story, and when Celeste finds a doll house in the attic, they are adorable and reminded me a lot of Kathleen N. Daly's A House for a Mouse. (1990) The story interested me.

Weaknesses: Not a lot happens. Aside from the plethora of pictures, it's got very little appeal for middle school students. Odd historical time.

Ullman, Barb Bentler. Whistle Bright Magic.
Nominated for the Cybils by Sarah Ullman.

After the death of Zelly's grandmother, her mother takes a leave of absence to move to remote Plunkit and take care of the grandmother's bookstore. Zelly meets two of her mother's friends children, Frederick and Lupine, and start to notice that there are strange things going on that only they can see. They soon meet Whistle, on of the Nutfolk, and when the town's nearby woods is threatened, they rely on his help to keep the woods from being ruined by evil developers. Zelly's estranged father moves back to town and is instrumental in this plan.

Strengths: This was more engaging than I thought it would be, and the story stood alone without reading The Fairies of Nutfolk Wood (2006). While the action is gentle, the characters are interesting without being too quirky, the environmental message strong, the fantasy understandable, and the family problems not too overwhelming.

Weaknesses: The story was light on action, and wasn't all that original. I kept humming the song to The Gnome-Mobile as I was reading it.

Horowitz, Anthony. Legends: Battles and Quests.
Nominated for the Cybils by Summer Ogata.

This update of The Kingfisher Book of Myths and Legends includes the stories of Romulus and Remus, the Minotaur and the less well known stories of The Great Bell of Peking, Geriguiaguiatugo, and two others. It's interesting to see how Horowitz's writing has matured over the last 20 years. He says in the preface that he was enticed to republish this because he was promised better pictures and even better glue-- he got gypped on the pictures, which are still not great. Students love mythology and will pick this up, especially since it's done by Horowitz, but it's not anything ground-breaking or fabulous. Beasts and Monsters is being republished as well. I bought both volumes.

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