Archive for the ‘Children’s Book Reviews’ Category

Princess Academy By Shannon Hale

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PRINCESS ACADEMY

By

SHANNON HALE

Age 12+

Tags: Princess, Coming Of Age

Additional reads: Palace Of Stone(Princess Academy#2)

Born on a Mount Eskel, in a family of miners, Miri is named after the Miri stone her family has quarried for generations. Small for her age, ordered by her father not to step in to the quarry, Miri feels hardly anything like the stone she is named after. Everything changes when the royal priest announces that the future bride of the prince will have to be from the forgotten highlands of Mount Eskel. Miri, along with other young girls of Eskel, is forced to leave their families to train to become a future princess.

Things go bad for Miri from day one as she challenges tutor Olana’s rules inadvertently. On a particularly bad day Olana locks Miri in a dark closet without food, Miri discovers that she can communicate to the other girls through the Miri stone. At first Miri is puzzled, but later she figures out that the stone has been an integral part of the highlanders for generations and the stone now flows through their veins, thus making it possible for Miri to initiate communication.

One particularly early and harsh winter storm, the girls get snowed in and are attacked by thugs looking for a royal ransom in exchange for the future princess. How Miri leads her friends to escape from the bandits is the rest of the story.

It’s a typical Chak De India story with a nice twist at the end that smoothly sets the scene for a sequel. There are lots of small details that are worth a mention. Like how one of the girls has a limp arm, she is never ridiculed by the tutor, her friends or the royal seamstresses preparing the girls for the ball. Also how the girls are not treated as delicate darlings, but are expected to split wood, do hard chores, learn to curtsey as well as the basics of politics. The story flows well, but for the initial few pages where Hale tries explaining Miri’s her special powers.

As I read the book, I made notes on the section where the girls put to use the basics of diplomacy they are taught. I was clearing some stuff and the notes actually prompted me to write this post. Yes, I make notes like a maniac on everything I read, we all have our peculiarities don’t we?!

-Clearly state the problem.

-Admit your own error.

-State the error of the other party.

-Propose a specific compromise.

-Invite mutual acceptance.

-Illustrate negative outcome of refusal and positive effects of acceptance.

-Assert a deadline for acceptance.

 

Nice-no?!

All in all a sensitive and a sensible story

 

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Blood Secret By Kathryn Lasky

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9780060000660-l

BLOOD SECRET

By

KATHRYN LASKY

Age 12+

Tags: Spanish Inquisition, Persecution of Jews.

Additional reads: Horses of the Dawn By Kathryn Lasky , Isabel: Jewel of Castilla, Spain 1466 (The Royal Diaries)

8 year old Jerry is abandoned by her mother at a campground and the trauma mutes Jerry. No amount of prompting or probing can make her talk. It is not like Jerry has lost her words, she can think of appropriate responses, but words refuse to come out of her mouth. Pronounced as a ‘selective mute’ Jerry stays in multiple Catholic Charities, but after 6 years the Catholic Charities decide that Jerry’s mother is dead and sends Jerry to live with her great-grandaunt Costanza in New Mexico. In Costanza’s basement, Jerry discovers a chest that contains the family’s bloody secret. A chest that helps Jerry overcome her selective mutism.

Jerry finds a mish-mash of objects in the trunk and for some reason when Jerry picks up an object, the history of the object and the life of its owner plays out in front of Jerry’s eyes. Thus, we, as readers, learn about the turbulent times and the tragedy Miriam(Seville, Spain, 1391), Beatriz(Toledo, Spain, 1449),
Luis(Seville, Spain, 1480), Esther(Granada, Spain, 1492), Zayana(Yucatan Penunsula, New Spain, 1540), Zayana(New Mexico, 1590), Jeraldine(New Mexico, 1912) go through during the times of Spanish Inquisition.

As the book ends, Jerry has over come her selective mutism, but we still do not have answers to what happened to Jerry’s mother and why the chest talks only to Jerry. But the purpose of Jerry is probably to show us, the readers, glimpses of the atrocities of the inquisition. Jerry is just a medium to tell us the story that spans 500 years and her story is not central in the bigger scheme of things.

Any good book leaves the reader with a lot of questions, so does Blood Secret.

It is puzzling why Jews are always a persecuted sect all over the world. Spanning over 2500 years, more than 10 million Jews have been killed. If you are anguished about the madness that killed 6 million Jews during Holocaust, you will be shattered to read how methodically the madness had been propagated over centuries and across continents during the times of inquisition!

What is it about religion? I fail to understand both sides, one side that is forces their faith over the rest of the world and would kill for it and the other side that would value their faith over their lives. Zayana the Aztec was a character that I identified with. When forced to baptize her daughter in order to be allowed to continue her baking business, she comes up with the most practical of solutions,

“And I believe in doing business, bread business, and if they want to call God Jesus Christ and I want to call him Quetzecoatl, well, that’s another kind of business altogether – private business.”

Needless to say she is strong and is  survivor. She manages to outlive her daughter and grand daughter.

To me, my faith is something I grew up with. Its part of my memory and the reason I find comfort in it is because I am familiar with my faith. But having been converted for 5 generations and having lost their religious practices, what motivates people like Estrella and Carlos to risk everything, most importantly their children and practice the lost religion of their ancestors?

It is sad that faith, something that is supposed to give humanity hope to live, strength to carry on, can be so lethal.

 

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Book Review: The Princess School Series

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Beauty Is a Beast by Jane B. Mason

-Author: Jane B.Mason and Sarah Hines Stephens

-Scholastic

-Ages 9 – 12.

-Self readers.

-128 pages.

-Light read. Can potentially finish in three hours or less, if you haven’t fallen asleep.

-Modern day interpretation of folk and fairy tale.

-Series of books based on princesses, Briar Rose, Rapunzel, Ella, Snow White, who are classmates in The Princess School and the challenges they face.

- I read book 4 of 7, ‘Beauty is a beast’.

- The story is how Briar Rose rebels and finally comes to peace with who she really is. In the process she also realizes that even if you are gifted, you still need to work hard to excel.

- I rate the book 2/5.

- The language was simple, at a 8 year old level, while the concept was more tween. Since it was neither here nor there, the book fell flat to me.

- To be fair, I was expecting Princess Academy…. or Ella Enchanted. This was neither.

- Princess with a contemporary twist has lots of potential to play with, but the authors have chosen to play safe.

-If you are looking for a strong charismatic princess as a role model for your daughter, this is NOT it.

- Though the message is good, the way it is delivered defeats the purpose. For example, Briar Rose a.k.a Beauty is thoroughly disgusted by her nickname Beauty. She rebels, dresses up like a beast to finally figure out that she likes looking beautiful.

- The princesses attend courses that are cliched finishing school like.

- Will not read/recommend the rest in the series.

 

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Math In Literature

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My second post for CROCUS 2012, Math In Literature, a resource guide for kindergarten – 1 grade teachers is up on Saffron Tree.

“Math and Literature, by my favorite author Marylin Burns has 22 ideas on how to extend books appropriate for kindergarten and grade 1, to inculcate mathematical thinking…more.

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The Librarian Who Measured The Earth

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My first post for CROCUS 2012 @ Saffron Tree.

The Librarian Who Measured The Earth is the picture biography of Eratosthenes, a scholar who lived in 3rd century BC. He was a mathematician, geographer, music theorist ….more.

 

 

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HAVE YOU SEEN THIS? Book By Arthi Anand.

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Audience of Hyd:

Have you read and enjoyed Tuesday by David Wiesner? The Red Book By Barbara Lehman? Zoom by Istvan Banyai?

If so, you will love Arthi Anand‘s book HAVE YOU SEEN THIS? Come see the things you can see only through your imagination!! EVENT CHARGE: Rs.100/child.More details in poster.

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-Author: Anita Nair

-Illustrator: Sujasha Dasgupta

-Silver Press

-Ages 10+.

-Self readers.

-Myths/Folklore/Legends.

-Collection from through out the world.

- 31 stories. Each story not more than two pages long.

- True to the original. No sugar coating.

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I had a pile of books sitting at my bedside table. Waiting to be reviewed and gathering dust. Having two library memberships and working in a library added books to the pile and took away more of my time. So trying out these short reviews. See how it goes. The ones that I want to ooh and aaah, will go on SaffronTree.

A WALK BY THE SEASHORE

-Author: Caroline Arnold

-Illustrator: Freya Tanz

-Silver Press

-Ages 6 – 9.

-Self readers and read aloud.

-Non fiction.

-Science.

-Simple language. Good starter book for ocean/sea and the ecosystem around it.

-Text flows nicely, connecting the different elements well.

-Other FIRST FACT BOOKS are WALK IN THE DESERT, A WALK UP THE MOUNTAIN, A WALK IN THE WOODS.

 

 

 

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The View From Saturday By E.L.Konigsburg

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This post is dedicated to G and V, who lent me this wonderful book for me to read. When I asked these children about the books they like, they showered me with book choices that were well outside the fantasy<->adventure loop. To diversely well read children and their parents……

Title: The View From Saturday

Author: E.L.Konigsburg

Publisher:Aladdin Paperbacks

Honors: Newbery Medal 1997

Age: 12+

 

There are books that are written to be read. There are books that you read and want to write about them.

Immediately.

Not because you would forget the book, the details and the characters. But because you want to savor the book for a little longer.

The View From Saturday clearly belongs to the second category.

The story line loosely follows Slum Dog Millionaire. Narrated by four sixth grade children are participating in the state level championship for the Academic Bowls and Mrs.Oliski, their teacher and coach. Every time there is a question, there is a flashback associated with the question, a slice of his/her life neatly laid out either by a child or Mrs.Olinsky. As you read the drama unfold, you get drawn in to the story.

Though the focal point of the story is the Academic Bowl finals, the story is much beyond the competition itself. The children are endearing, wise beyond their age without being precocious. As you read the book, you feel a certain something that you cannot name lift off from your shoulders. (That is Konigsburg talk for you and you would understand it when you read the book!)

At 160 pages, mellow language and appropriate content, the book is suitable for a 8 year old avid reader. But I would recommend it a good fit for a 12+ year old because the content and message is pithy. Like one of the characters in the book, Bella the calligraphy artist says, Konigsburg’s motto seems to be ‘LESS IS MORE’. So a 12+ year old will have the experience to appreciate the book better than a 8 year old and mind you this is a book that demands to be appreciated!

Happy reading peeps.

Cross posted at SaffronTree.

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Hot Off The Press From Tara

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Title: Excuses, Excuses!
Author: Anushka Ravishankar
Illustration: Gabrielle Manglou
Age: 4 – 6

Have you ever been in a predicament where you ask your child to get ready for school, 15 minutes have gone by and you find that she is still in her jammies watching water fall from the faucet, testing gravity? In more than one instance, I bet!

Every time there is a reason why the job is not done and the way the reason is explained and how the child jumps from one point to another, suddenly remembering something that happened many weeks back……. all this is humorous when it is not your child and you are not the parent in the hot seat. That is why it is so interesting to “Meet Neel, who has the most noble intentions, all of which have a funny habit of going wrong”.

Neel starts the week with a plan. Monday through Sunday he has jobs for every day. He is willing to take up more responsibilities, but is horrified that he has run out of days! As he goes through each day, Neel comes up with excuses why the job is not done. There is an elephant with spanking white socks stuffed in its ear, a very (Alice in) wonderland kind of clock, hypnotizing dogs and many more in the mix.

If you think my narration makes Neel’s story interesting, you must read how Anushka Ravishankar has presented it in verse. Funny and a true account from a child’s POV!

Gabrielle Manglou’s collage style of illustrations complements Neel’s whacky stories well. The illustrations will appeal to children because of its openness.

 

 

Title: The Great Race
Author: Nathan Kumar Scott
Illustration: Jagdish Chitara
Age: 4 – 6

This book the third of Nathan Kumar Scott’s Kanchil stories. In this story Kanchil loses a running race to Plean. Pelan the snail, of all animals! Pelan definitely had a plan up his sleeve when he openly challenges Kanchil. You have to read and find out how this Indonesian trickster tale unfolds.

Jagdish Chaitara’s folk paintings are vibrant and enticed me. Take a peek behind the scenes to get an idea of what goes on while illustrations get picked for a book.

I can imagine myself framing this piece or working with children on similar lines.

Disclaimer: PDFs of the books were emailed to me as complimentary review copies. The review represents my true opinion and is not influenced by the ‘complementary’ factor. As an avid reader and a passionate book lover, I feel that every book I recommend needs to be of certain quality and I genuinely feel that the books reviewed above are a good read.

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