Book Buzz

Our Book Buzz Blog features the latest picks for kids selected by library staff and volunteers.
11/04/2010 - 9:23am

Cloud Tea Monkeys by Mal Peet and Elsbeth Graham is based on a centuries-old legend about tea-picking monkeys.  As the story begins, the reader meets Tashi, a young girl who lives alone with her mother, a tea picker, in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains.   Each day Tashi accompanies her mother and aunts who travel to the rolling tea plantations to pick tea. While the adults work in the fields, Tashi plays and shares her lunch with a troupe of monkeys under the shade of an ancient tree.  

Tashi’s life is disrupted when her mother falls ill and is unable to pick the tea that not only provides for their day-to-day needs, but also would pay for a doctor to heal her mother.  Tashi sees this as a problem that goes “around and around, like a snake with its tail in its mouth.” Tashi decides to try and take her mother's place and pick the tea herself. How will a young girl fill a basket full of tea when the basket is taller than she is?

10/28/2010 - 3:31am

I just read One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia. I really, really enjoyed this book. I love historical fiction and am usually attracted to any new historical fiction title that comes through our Children’s area. I’m just sort of magnetically attracted to these books. But with this one, my radar was ringing in my head and alarms were going off… Check me out… Check me out! The book cover is beautifully illustrated and so attractive! It would catch any reader’s eye, even those reluctant to read “History” books. 

The setting is back in the late 1960’s, Oakland, California, during the beginning of the “Black Panther” movement. It was a time of civil distress and upheaval across the country and within the Black community. It was the time of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. and the clash of their two philosophies.
 
Three young sisters are sent to spend the summer with their mother who they have not seen since the youngest sister was born seven years ago. Big Ma, their grandmother, doesn’t want them to go and warns Pa what a bad idea this is. But, Pa says, ”It’s time. They need to know Cecile.”   
10/21/2010 - 3:31am

A young girl and her cat enter a dark, old, ramshackle house. Ghosts are waiting for her there. As she opens the door they all fly out. This is where the fun begins in Kazuno Kohara’s Ghosts in the House!

The book dodges a potentially frightening situation by having the little girl don a witch hat and immediately contain the ghosts. She washes them out and uses them as helpful household items like tablecloths and curtains. Our main character is not only brave, but friendly too, and the ghosts enjoy assisting her throughout her daily tasks.
 
The charm of the book comes from the simple text combined with bold illustrations. The limited use of color (orange, black, and white) allows the pictures to jump off the page and create a powerful Halloween world for you to enter. White ghosts have a texture and dimension as if someone had stamped them onto the pages with a wood block. All of these stylistic choices make the book feel like a hidden gem from the 1950’s, when really it was only published a couple of years ago. Kohara followed her debut picture book with one that may be worth checking out in a couple of months, the equally delightful Here Comes Jack Frost.
 
Looking for a children’s book that will evoke the spooky fun of Halloween without scaring the younger ones? Kazuno Kohara’s Ghosts in the House! has it all.
10/14/2010 - 8:09am

A pair of particularly nasty twin witches are bad news for the neighborhood in Lisa Desimini’s Trick-or-Treat, Smell My Feet! They chase kids with fire-powered umbrellas, steal their neighbors’ socks, and fool with everyone’s electricity on stormy nights.

This Halloween, the witches have hatched a particularly evil plan to foil the children’s Halloween fun. Brewing a foul concoction made of smelly socks, the greenish smoke rolling out of the chimney spreads across town and affects a key change in the typical Halloween procedure. Instead of saying, “Trick or Treat!” kids have no choice but to say “Smell my feet!” when going door to door. Worse still, instead of candy, the kids get a slammed door in their faces.
 
Luckily, a pair of sweet, pink socks accidentally falls into the witches’ brew, and their plan backfires in a funny way. Halloween is saved for the neighborhood kids, and the twin witches are even given another chance to be a little nicer, although who knows if they will take it. Given their love of black, their mean disposition, and pinched, green faces, I wouldn’t bet on it.
 
Lisa Desimini’s book is great fun to read with preschoolers and early elementary students. The witches are just scary enough, and the cut-paper illustrations are perfect. This story is a great addition to your Halloween read-aloud tradition!
 
11/11/2010 - 11:30am

Oliver Nocturne, hero of Kevin Emerson's The Vampire's Photograph, is your typical 13-year-old vampire. At least that’s what he always thought. He’s the youngest in his family, which consists of a businessman father, a sophisticated mother, and a bossy older brother.

Early one evening, while having trouble sleeping; Oliver hears a sound upstairs. Sneaking out of his coffin because his parents and brother are still asleep, he creeps upstairs into the decrepit human house that serves as a decoy above his families vampire crypt. There he encounters Emalie, a human girl around his age. She is snooping around the house and taking photographs. Oliver knows he should turn her in, but he's too enthralled by her presence to do more than watch her. When a careless misstep alerts Emalie to Oliver’s presence, she snaps a picture of him and runs off.

09/30/2010 - 7:54am

In Peter McCarty's Henry in Love, magic can be found in the simplest pleasures of an ordinary school day. The main character gets ready for school and decides that this is the day that he is going to talk to the loveliest girl in the class. Perfect cartwheels, games of tag, and the sharing of afternoon snacks follow. 

The look of McCarty's characters is quite special. The illustrations are reminiscent of two children's classics. Henry and his classmates, all animals, recall the characters from Rosemary Wells' Max and Ruby books, but with smaller eyes and a less cartoony demeanor. They look sweet without treading into cutesy territory. The wide margins and very selective use of color reminds one of Ian Falconer's Olivia books.