Wednesday, November 25, 2009
So I was part of the judging panel that awarded Rapunzel's Revenge the Cybils Award. Imagine my pleasure when Calamity Jack showed up on my doorstep months ago. Imagine my excitement at reading it. Imagine my dismay at realizing the pub date of 01/10! But now, I feel like we're close enough to said date to blog it, so yay!
Jack has always been somewhat of a trickster, though often to unfortunate ends. He considers himself a criminal mastermind with a bit of bad luck. He is a born scammer, and he remembers all of his schemes fondly enough to have named them! "The Sugarbowl Gambit", "The Great Sandwich Caper", "The Grocery Job", "The Purloined Pig", "The Cane Mutiny", "The Ice Cream Con"...and the list goes on. Picking the right target and having the right partner are key elements of pulling off a scheme. Jack soon fancies himself a Robin Hood of sorts, when he sees his jobs as righting wrongs and helping less fortunate folks. But Jack doesn't always get away with it, and his mother is beside herself. Jack promises himself he won't make his mother cry again. It's time to go straight. After one last caper...
Jack is taking on the big boss Blunderboar this time. Jack should have known better, but his luck truly takes a turn for the worse and he soon high tails it out of town where he meets Rapunzel. They have their adventures and Jack decides it's safe to head home, and he takes Rapunzel along with him.
Of course the trip home is anything but dull and the wanted posters featuring Jack's mug complicate matters even more.
Chock filled with action, beasties, and steam punk sensibility Calamity Jack takes readers to a far flung world where fairy tales do come true in unexpected ways. Perfectly paced, fans of the first book will happily devour this installment, and first time readers will no doubt go back and read about Rapunzel after they finish Jack's story. The only time that Rapunzel's Revenge is in our library is for somebody to check it in so that a friend can check it out, and I am sure that Calamity Jack is in for the same fate. Appealing across genders and ages, this is no doubt a graphic novel series that will stand the test of time.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Sunday, November 08, 2009
I have been reading many, many picture books lately. Both for review and for a presentation that I am giving later this week. As a result, I have been thinking about picture books and tweens. There are many picture books that are perfectly suited for tweens...especially those with out of the ordinary non-fiction themes. Cromwell Dixon's Sky-Cycle is just one of those books.
Cromwell Dixon was a kid who loved to invent things. From a rowboat with extra oars, to a mechanical fish made out of clocks, Cromwell's imagination ran wild. He read all that he could about the inventions of the day, but he was especially captivated with the flying machines. Cromwell had been up in a hot air balloon in 1904 and by 1907, fourteen year old Cromwell decided that he wanted to be an aeronaut and began to build his own flying machine.
Now, many inventors have parents who do not support their passion, but Cromwell was very lucky. His mother supported him 100%. His design was based around his bicycle. He rebuilt it so that pedaling meant that propellers would turn and turning the handlebars would make the rudder in the back go left or right. Cromwell's mother sewed up a grand silk balloon that would support the bicycle and its rider!
A tragic set back would probably have made many teens give up, but Cromwell and his mother started sewing again, and he was convinced that his new design would be even better than the last.
Tweens will be captivated with this story about the original "balloon boy". Cromwell is an example of resilience embodied and his stick with it attitude is inspiring to us all. John Abbott Nez's illustrations perfectly set the tone of the time, and readers will pour over the details of the air ships and the blueprints. At the end, there is a mini-biography titled, "This is a True Story" that gives readers a bit more detail.
Why not consider some picture books for the tweens in your life?
Sunday, November 01, 2009
New kids are used to hearing stories about the places they move into from the local kids. Almost immediately upon driving up to their place, Logan meets the kid next door, Arthur. It doesn’t take long for Arthur to tell Logan that he was surprised anyone bought the place, considering what happened there. It’s not called the murder house for nothing.
Logan cannot believe that his mom and dad bought their new house knowing that someone was killed there. Logan’s folks think that Arthur is exaggerating, and while they agree that Mrs. Donaldson did die in the house, they doubt she was murdered.
Ever helpful Arthur takes Logan to the local library to check out the old newspapers from the time of Mrs. Donaldson’s death. Turns out that there is a lot more to the situation with Logan’s house than he even heard about from Arthur. There is missing money from Mrs. Donaldson’s job at a now abandoned theme park, and tremendous amounts of family drama, including the fact that Mrs. Donaldson’s son-in-law might have somehow been involved in this whole situation.
Now Arthur is the kind of kid who marches to his own drummer, and really doesn’t care what other kids think. Logan is fine with that although he is a little worried about what might happen once school starts. But they do have a long summer ahead of them, with unscripted days. Arthur is soon leading the charge for him and Logan to solve this old mystery. Logan’s a bit unsure about the whole thing, since it includes lots of bike riding up many hills and skulking around a creepy abandoned theme park.
Mary Downing Hahn has written an atmospheric and just creepy enough story. Don’t be fooled, there are issues of spousal abuse that make this a read for the older tween, but all of the details are appropriate to the story. Arthur, while unlikable, is believable and his story gives insight into the way that many children live. It’s a powerful thing to see a character shunned from his own mother, to the other kids at school, just keep moving on and be strong enough to believe in himself. The juxtaposition of Arthur and Logan’s families will definitely give readers something to think about.