Adriana Puckett

08/05/2010 - 7:40am

It's almost impossible to find a CD that all the kids in our family car - ages 11, 9, 6, and 4 - will listen to. I know, however, that the kids will always be entranced by one of They Might Be Giants' (TMBG) kids CDs.  TMBG provides a great alternative for kids who are searching for something to listen to besides Radio Disney, Kidz Bop, and Hannah Montanna. Their album "Here Come the ABCs" may sound like it's only geared toward the pre-school set, but the songs are lyrically sophisticated and really catchy.

One of our favorite songs, "E Eats Everything" is a hilarious trip through the alphabet via letters with various food issues. "A" hardly has an appetite, "D" is disinterested in anything you've got, "F" is far too fussy and only eats with fancy wine, and H burns his food horribly. The song goes through the alphabet until we get to the letter z, where there's a big surprise. A song like this works on so many different levels - the older kids appreciate the humor of poor "I" always doomed to inhale H's smoke, while the younger ones are thrilled to repeat the refrain "E eats Everything." Other favorite songs are "Alphabet of Nations," "Clap Your Hands," and "Flying V." Check it out today!

11/15/2011 - 1:15pm

Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver opens during one particularly brutal winter, when the wolves in Mercy Falls, Minnesota are starving. Desperate to eat, they pull an eleven-year-old girl off of her tire swing in her back yard. As they begin to pull at her clothes, she catches the beautiful, golden eyes of one of the wolves and they both connect in an inexplicable way. The golden-eyed wolf saves her life, defending her from the pack.

Fast forward to the present, and that same girl, Grace Brisbane, is now in high school. She has a few good friends at school and a pair of scatterbrained, distracted parents. What particularly grounds her is watching “her wolf” who lives in the forest behind her house. What Grace doesn’t know is that the wolf is named Sam, and he turns human in the warm weather and stays a wolf during the cold.  Sam and Grace’s worlds collide when a local boy is believed to have been killed by the wolves, and the town launches into a full-scale wolf-hunt. The tension is heightened by the fact that each time Sam changes into a wolf it becomes less likely that he will change back into a human. He has to struggle after each change to throw off the wildness, the dreams of howling and blood on his lips.
 
07/29/2010 - 9:07am

Arthur Penhaligon, star of Garth Nix's Mister Monday, thinks he's a normal 7th grader who has enough problems to deal with, like starting a brand new school and controlling his asthma. After the first day of school, though, his life gets a lot weirder. During a serious asthma attack, while he's gasping for breath on the ground, he sees a strange man in a wheelchair appear in blinding light with an attendant. He thrusts a "blade" into Arthur's hands and mutters some strange things about a Will, the Key, and suitable Heir. Although it makes no sense to him at the time, Arthur has just been given an instrument of power called the Key and named the Heir to the Will by Mister Monday. Arthur's life will never be the same.

07/26/2010 - 9:25am

Awwoooooooo! Can you hear the howling? The night is dark, but there's enough of a moon to see the outline of shaggy beasts on the hillside. Would you want to be outside, alone, with a pack of wolves drawing near? My guess is no. So do the next best thing, and pick up one of the books on our new book list, Howling Good Reads. There are wolves of all types here - noble and courageous; fierce and adventurous; cunning and wily. Meet wolf pups abandoned by their packs and humans adopted by other packs. There are even wolves who live in the walls of an old house. Browse Howling Good Reads today.

08/16/2010 - 4:16pm

I don't care if you are a kid, teen or adult - it feels great to be able to do some impressive tricks for your family and friends at the next backyard barbecue, like blowing a bubble within a bubble or slicing an unpeeled banana. If you want to move beyond mere parlor tricks, you can learn how to identify clouds, ride a boogie board or fold fortune cookies thanks to the super-easy directions in Show Off: How to Do Absolutely Everything One Step at a Time by Sarah Hines Stephens and Bethany Mann.

What makes "Show Off" a fantastic book are the step-by-step picture directions. Since I am a graphic learner, this makes it so much easier for me than trying to decipher a page of text describing how to fold a ninja star. The ingredient lists tend to be very slight, which is a bonus for parents. If you want to learn more about an activity, several of them have longer descriptions in the back under "tell me more." The 224 activities are grouped under the categories of "amaze," "investigate," "create," "explore," "cook," and "move." Most of these are easy to do by yourself if you're at least 10 years old, while others will require adult help.

08/16/2010 - 4:17pm

This is Week 7 of a 12-Week series of blog posts reviewing new young adult books. Check back each Monday for a new review.

Fever Crumb, heroine of Philip Reeve’s Fever Crumb, is a 14 year-old girl with an unusual appearance. First of all, she’s bald. Second, she has two differently-colored eyes – one blue, the other brown. And third, she’s absolutely beautiful. But she doesn’t know that. She has been raised by Dr. Crumb and the Order of Engineers since she was a baby, and they’re not in the habit of telling her that she’s beautiful. Her upbringing has been rather dry and very self-composed, with both emotion and beauty being looked down upon.

Fever lives in London, but it’s not like any London that we know of. London is recovering from being occupied by “the Scriven,” a different species with speckled skin and long lives. The Scriven were overthrowed by the Skinners, and the New Council now rules the land. No one is as hated in London as the Scriven are, for being different and for being harsh rulers.
 
Fever is called out on her first official Engineer assignment, to assist archeologist Kit Solvent on a dig. While traveling to her job, Fever’s eyes attract some unwanted attention, and she is quickly branded “a Patchskin” or Scriven. A renowned Patchskin hunter follows her, determined to find out if she is human or Scriven.  Events occur that lead to rioting in London, even while barbarians are approaching the city to conquer it.
08/16/2010 - 4:20pm

First Light by Rebecca Stead is a compelling story told by two different narrators. First there is Peter, the only child of two talented scientist parents. His father, a glaciologist, receives a grant to travel to Greenland and study global warming. He takes along Peter and Peter's mother, a molecular biologist, who is writing a book about mitochondrial DNA. Peter, like any normal 7th grader, is excited to leave behind New York City for 6 weeks, but he's worried about his increasingly frequent headaches. Is he going to end up like his mother, whose headaches cause her to simply "check out" for days at a time?

Second, there is Thea, a 14 year-old girl who lives in Gracehope, a community entirely hidden under Greenland's ice. Thea's ancestors fled here a long time ago to escape persecution. Thea has never seen the sun. Her people's population has expanded to the point where resources must be severely rationed and births are limited. Thea feels that her people were meant to return to the surface, but her grandmother, who leads Gracehope, is set against expansion.

Peter and Thea's tales alternate as the plot's tension increases, and they eventually come together in this exciting story that mixes adventure with science and fantasy. Both characters are strong and independent thinkers, trying to make the best decisions with their limited knowledge. The adults in this novel seem strangely paralyzed by the past in many respects, unlike Peter and Thea, who are constantly looking forward to and advocating for the future.

You can read an excerpt from the book here and explore the world of First Light in its own Web site. A similar read is The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau. The library owns both the book and audiobook, which our family enjoyed listening to. Recommended for ages 10-14.

07/20/2010 - 11:24am

 by Jacob Puckett, an 11 year-old guest reviewer

 
"Deep within me, words pile up in huge drifts. Mountains of phrases and sentences and connected ideas. Clever expressions. Jokes. Love songs....
 
...But only in my head.

I have never spoken one single word. I am almost eleven years old." (Excerpt from Chapter 1)
 
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper is a striking book about a girl named Melody Brooks who has cerebral palsy, a disease that disables you so you can’t walk, can’t control your body movements, and, most frustrating to Melody, can’t talk. Every "normal" kid at school thinks that all the "special" kids are either dumb as dirt, crazy, or both! But most kids don’t know that just because you can’t speak or walk doesn’t mean that you’re not smart.
 
Melody is a genius, but nobody suspects it, except Ms. V, Melody’s sitter. Melody can see and smell different styles of music. For example, classical music appears bright blue and smells like fresh paint to her. Jazz is brown and tan and smells like "fresh dirt." Her favorite music, country, appears yellow and smells like sweet lemons. She also has a photographic memory and can outsmart her doctor, especially since he's not that smart.
 
Melody communicates through word cards, but she wants a more sophisticated way so she can be better understood. Eventually, she is given a special computer that lets her communicate with her thumbs. For me, this is the happiest part of the book.
 
This was not a book that I would have picked up off the shelf to read, but after we read it orally in class, all 26 of us loved it. We were begging our teacher to read more every day. I’ll say that there are some sad parts at the end, so more sensitive readers may want to be ready for some surprises!
 
08/16/2010 - 4:23pm

This is Week 5 of a 12-Week series of blog posts reviewing new young adult books. Check back each Monday for a new review.

Finnikin of the Rock, by Melina Marchetta, is a book for readers who don’t mind losing themselves. The land of Skuldenore is not always a pleasant place to be lost – in fact, it is often heartbreakingly dark. But I didn’t mind being lost within it, as long as I was with Finnikin.

Skuldenore is comprised of several countries, such as Osteria, Charyn, and Yutlind. Each country has its own interesting characterization, and there is much that goes into the world-building in this book, which makes it so successful. The country we care most about is Lumatere, Finnikin’s homeland.

Ten years ago, a power-greedy cousin infiltrated Lumatere’s royal castle, slaughtering the king, queen, and princesses. This violence set off another chain of violent events, which ended with the entire country being cursed and sealed off from the rest of the world. Those events are called “the five days of the unspeakable.” The people who escaped during that time roam the other countries, exiled, ignored, and mostly despised. They die from fever, starvation, and at the hands of other countries’ kings. It is not a good time to be Lumateren.

07/20/2010 - 3:08pm

 

Celeste, the star of “A Nest for Celeste” by Henry Cole, is a sweet and gentle mouse. She enjoys making beautiful baskets in the safety of her comfy mousehole, which is located within Oakley Plantation in Louisiana. She is occasionally bullied by two nasty, lazy rats, who force her to retrieve food for them from the dining room. The cat is a constant danger in her life, and during one of her food expeditions Celeste is chased away from the safety of her home and must seek refuge in another bedroom.
 
It turns out that this room is occupied by Joseph Mason, a young apprentice to the great wildlife artist John James Audubon (1785–1851). Mason and Celeste form a tender friendship, and Celeste loves riding in Mason’s pocket around the house and watching him paint.

 

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