Book Review - Hattie Ever After

Author: Kirby Larson
Publisher: Random House (February 12, 2013)
Number of Pages: 240
Format: Hardcover, eBook, Audiobook
Source: Advanced Readers Copy
Audience: Ages 11 and up
Sequel: Hattie Big Sky
Historical Fiction * Early 1900's * Woman Reports

Description from GoodReads:
After leaving Uncle Chester's homestead claim, orphan Hattie Brooks throws a lasso around a new dream, even bigger than the Montana sky. She wants to be a reporter, knowing full well that a few pieces published in the Arlington News will not suffice. Real reporters must go to Grand Places, and do Grand Things, like Hattie's hero Nellie Bly. Another girl might be stymied by this, but Hattie has faced down a hungry wolf and stood up to a mob of angry men. Nothing can squash her desire to write for a big city newspaper. A letter and love token from Uncle Chester's old flame in San Francisco fuels that desire and Hattie jumps at the opportunity to get there by working as a seamstress for a traveling acting troupe. This could be her chance to solve the mystery of her "scoundrel" uncle and, in the process, help her learn more about herself. But Hattie must first tell Charlie that she will not join him in Seattle. Even though her heart approves of Charlie's plan for their marriage, her mind fears that saying yes to him would be saying no to herself. Hattie holds her own in the big city, literally pitching her way to a byline, and a career that could be even bigger than Nellie Bly's. But can making headlines compensate for the pain of betrayal and lost love? Hattie must dig deep to find her own true place in the world. Kirby Larson once again creates a lovingly written novel about the remarkable and resilient young orphan, Hattie Inez Brooks.

My thoughts on this book:
There are a few authors that I simply love as an author and as a person.  Kirby Larson is one of those authors.  She is as wonderful in person as she is as a writer.  Everything I have read from her I loved, and it was an honor to get to meet her in Seattle during ALA's Midwinter this year. 

Now onto my review...I can't believe that I missed the release date on this wonderful book.  Yes, February was a bit of a crazy month, but seriously, how did I miss getting my review out on time?  No more excuses.  Let's start with taking a step back, I have to say that my 11 year old self would have loved, loved, loved Hattie Big Sky. I would have wanted to have known Hattie (though I may not have wanted to live on a homestead in the winter).  By the time I finished reading Hattie Big Sky, I felt like Hattie was one of my best friends. I was so proud of her and all that she attempted and all that she learned. And then she leaves Vida to start a new chapter in her life.   The story was wonderful and I always wondered how Hattie's life turned out.

When I heard that other people were wondering about Hattie and her life after Vida, I felt like I was in good company.  Then Kirby announced that there was going to be a sequel, I was thrilled. A little nervous. What would happen to Hattie now? Would our "friendship" still be there?

Well, I should never have doubted Hattie or author, Kirby Larson. Hattie's voice rang clear and true in this sequel. It felt a bit like connecting up with a dear, dear friend after too much time apart but what is so special is that you immediately pick up where you left off. There is a comfortableness in the relationship. Hattie still has the same spirit of adventure and learning but now in a whole other location and challenge.

The war is over and Hattie has found her way to San Francisco after paying off her debts from Vida.  Readers get to meet Charlie, and still get news from old favorites from Vida.  However, now Hattie is working as a cleaning lady at the San Francisco Chronicle and begins to dream of becoming a reporter.  Overlapping with Hattie's professional goals, she sets upon unraveling more of the mystery behind her Uncle Chester's life.  Even though, Hattie Ever After is only about a year after Hattie Big Sky, Hattie is certainly growing up and there is even a touch of romance in this one.  When I finished up the book, I just hugged it to my chest.  I had come to love Hattie even more than I already did.

Hattie's Fans will love Hattie Ever After and if you haven't read Hattie Big Sky you must so you can fall in love with her too.

For more information about Kirby Larson:  website | blog | twitter | facebook 

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday - A Splash Of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin

Author: Jen Bryant
Illustrator: Melissa Sweet
Publisher: Knopf/Random House (January 8, 2013)
Source: Personal Copy
Read Aloud Level:  2nd to 4th grade
Independent Reading Level: 3rd to 5th grade
Art * Biographical * Nonfiction

Description from GoodReads:
As a child in the late 1800s, Horace Pippin loved to draw: He loved the feel of the charcoal as it slid across the floor. He loved looking at something in the room and making it come alive again in front of him. He drew pictures for his sisters, his classmates, his co-workers. Even during W.W.I, Horace filled his notebooks with drawings from the trenches . . . until he was shot. Upon his return home, Horace couldn't lift his right arm, and couldn't make any art. Slowly, with lots of practice, he regained use of his arm, until once again, he was able to paint--and paint, and paint! Soon, people—including the famous painter N. C. Wyeth—started noticing Horace's art, and before long, his paintings were displayed in galleries and museums across the country.

Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet team up once again to share this inspiring story of a self-taught painter from humble beginnings who despite many obstacles, was ultimately able to do what he loved, and be recognized for who he was: an artist.

My thoughts on the book:
The second picture book biography from the team of Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet looks at the life and art of Horace Pippin.  The book begins with Pippin's birth and childhood in West Chester, Pennsylvania at the end of the 19th century.  From the time he was a child until an injury in World War I, Pippin drew for people.  Often using charcoal and scraps of paper.  It took years for Pippin to regain his ability to draw after his injury.  He developed a new technique to accommodate his injured arm and began to work with paints and other materials. With the support of the painter, N.C. Wyeth, Pippin's work began to be viewed by people in an exhibition.  The world became aware of Pippin as an artist at this point.

Bryant's storytelling is supplemented by quotes from Pippin and those who knew of him and his work.  As I read the words Bryant had written, I sensed her appreciation and admiration for Pippin.  Readers will feel the partnership and the journey undertaken by author and illustrator.  Both Bryant and Sweet confirm this in their endnotes.  Sweet utilizes watercolor, gouache, and collage in her illustrations which bring both depth and texture to each illustration.

The picture above of Pippin drawing as a young child and the one below of the art supplies he won in a contest are two of my favorite pictures in the book. 

The end of the book contains a Historical Note on Horace Pipping, notes from the Author and Illustrator, Quotation Sources, and further Resources.  I am excited to introduce Horace Pippin to students and thankful to be able to do it with this particular book. I look forward to seeing this picture book biography in classrooms and school libraries.  

Look for A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin at a local independent bookstore or community library near you.

Don't forget to link up your nonfiction reviews below:

A Thunderous Whisper Blog Tour - Book Review

Thank you Alethea from Read Now Sleep Later for hosting A Thunderous Whisper Blog Tour.  Blog Tour Main Schedule.

Author:  Christina Diaz Gonzalez
Publisher: Random House (October 9, 2012)
Source: Copy for Review
Audience:  Ages 10 and up
Historical Fiction * Guernica/Spain * Spanish Civil War

Description from GoodReads:
Ani believes she is just an insignificant whisper of a 12-year-old girl in a loud world. This is what her mother tells her anyway. Her father made her feel important, but he's been off fighting in Spain's Civil War, and his voice in her head is fading. Then she meets Mathias. His family has just moved to Guernica and he's as far from a whisper as a 14-year-old boy can be. Ani thinks Mathias is more like lightning. A boy of action. Mathias's father is part of a spy network and soon Ani finds herself helping him deliver messages to other members of the underground. She's actually making a difference in the world.

And then her world explodes. The sleepy little market town of Guernica is destroyed by Nazi bombers. In one afternoon Ani loses her city, her home, her mother. But in helping the other survivors, Ani gains a sense of her own strength. And she and Mathias make plans to fight back in their own unique way.

My thoughts on this book:
In 2010, Christina Diaz Gonzalez released her first novel The Red Umbrella.  I had the chance to interact with her via twitter and facebook prior to the release of her debut novel and then to actually meet her at a couple of author events during the summer of 2010.  Not only did I really love The Red Umbrella and the story and characters that she created, but I found Christina to be a charming and wonderful person.  As a result, I have been eager to read her newest book A Thunderous Whisper which takes place in Guernica during the Spanish Civil War in the mid to late 1930's. 

What I am discovering about Diaz Gonzalez is that like her main character Ani, she is a storyteller.  She is able to find a way to give a voice to the children and families who in the middle of political unrest or war had no voice.  For many of us, we have heard of the stories of Nazi Germany, of the Holocaust, and Concentration Camps.  However, little did I know of the Basque families in Spain who were at the same time fighting their own war to maintain their culture and identity.  In her two characters 12 year old Ani and 14 year old Mathias, she weaves together pieces of both stories.  Ani has grown up in Guernica and Mathias who is half Basque and half German Jew finds himself in Guernica.  In the matter of a few weeks, these two new friends are forced to grow up as they find their way in a rapidly changing world. Through the start of her friendship with Mathias to the devastation that comes at the hands of Nazi bombers, Ani begins to transform from the shy, quiet, invisible girl to one who discovers the role she is to play and the voice she needs to have. 

I loved so many of the characters that Diaz Gonzalez created, and amazed once again, that she is able to create fictional characters that the readers can connect with and befriend.  Her ability to paint a picture of what life was like during this time period and the challenges and struggle moved me emotionally.  Yes, I pulled out tissues at one part.   Diaz Gonzalez is also able to write a story that can appeal to a wide age range.  From fifth grade to middle school to high school to adults, there will be readers who will connect with the themes and messages in A Thunderous Whisper.

If you are looking for historical fiction that is readable, draws you in, and teaches you about things you might not have known about, then you want to pick up a copy of A Thunderous Whisper.  Purchase a copy at your local bookstore or look for it at a local library.  

Christina Diaz Gonzalez is the author of the award-winning and best-selling children’s novel, THE RED UMBRELLA. Ms. Gonzalez’s debut novel (the story of a 14 year old Cuban girl who is sent to the U.S. in 1961 as part of Operation Pedro Pan) showcases the generosity of the American spirit and highlights the pain of losing one’s homeland. Reviewers from publications such as The Washington Post, Publisher’s Weekly and School Library Journal have praised the book as being exceptional, compelling and inspirational. Her second novel, A THUNDEROUS WHISPER, is to be released in Fall 2012.

For more information about Christina Diaz Gonzalez: website | facebook | twitter

Book Review: Boy + Bot

Author: Ame Dyckman
Illustrator:  Dan Yaccarino
Publisher:  Knopf (Released April 10, 2012)
Source: Personal Copy
Audience: Ages 3 to 7
Fiction * Friendship * Imagination

Description from publisher's page:
One day, a boy and a robot meet in the woods. They play. They have fun. But when Bot gets switched off, Boy thinks he's sick. The usual remedies—applesauce, reading a story—don't help, so Boy tucks the sick Bot in, then falls asleep. Bot is worried when he powers on and finds his friend powered off. He takes Boy home with him and tries all his remedies: oil, reading an instruction manual. Nothing revives the malfunctioning Boy! Can the Inventor help fix him? Using the perfect blend of sweetness and humor, this story of an adorable duo will win the hearts of the very youngest readers.

My thoughts on the book:
Thanks to John Schu/Watch.Connect.Read & Colby Sharp/SharpRead for introducing me to Boy + Bot.  What a sweet, wonderful book about friendship and play and understanding one another.  If you haven't seen this book, it is a simple story about the friendship between a young boy and a robot.  Part of the charm in this book is how Dyckman captures perfectly a young child's response to another person's (or in this case a robot) needs.  When a young child sees a friend or an adult sad or hurt, the typical response is to do for them what they would want done for themselves.  This may include bringing over a favorite toy or blanket.  In the case of Boy + Bot, Boy is worried that his new friend may be sick and starts with feeding him applesauce, and reading him a story.  Bot, who is in some ways on the same level as the young boy, returns the favor when expressing his own concerns.  This sharing of concern can spark discussion between children and adults about what kinds of things we can do for friends.  And the end pages, where the Boy + Bot are playing together are some of my favorite images in the book.  

Boy + Bot also has straightforward text.  Though some of the vocabulary may be beyond the typical vocabulary of beginning readers, there are many lines in this story that are not.  The first thing my kinders noticed when I shared this book with them today: "Hey the words start with the same two letters." (referring to the title) Yes, they do.  Parents reading along with their child can encourage their young reader to read what they can.  I would anticipate that children will pick up on the text quickly and begin to *read* this one after a few readings with an adult.

Dan Yaccarino's illustrations are also important to the story.  They are simple and match the text in that manner, but there is more.  The illustrations are bright, colorful and capture the hearts of the readers.  This is certainly one of those times where text melds perfectly with illustrations.
My students' thoughts on the book:
I read this today to a kindergarten class and a first grade class.  Here is what they liked about the book:

I liked it. - Stephanie

My favorite part was when they put the pine cones in the wagon. - Kayla

I liked when the boy finds the robot. - Aidan

I liked when the boy and the robot walk away together at the end. - Destiny

I like when the family is reunited at the end. - Keven

I liked the photobooth pictures. - Jocelyn

I liked when Bot fed the Boy oil. - Ryan

I liked how Bot took care of the Boy his way. - Faith

I would say that Boy + Bot is a success with my students.  Look for this book at your local bookstore or school or public library.

Check out the book trailer for Boy + Bot:

For more information about debut picture book author, Ame Dyckman: Website | Twitter | Facebook

Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday

As part of the Non-Fiction Picture Book Challenge 2012 (Twitter: #nfpb2012), my goal is to read and review as many of the new non-fiction picture books that are released this year.  Wednesdays will be my primary day to post the reviews.

Here are some of the books from this past week:

Mrs. Harkness and the Panda
Author:  Alicia Potter
Illustrator: Melissa Sweet
Publisher: Random House (March 13, 2012)
Audience: Grades 2-5

Ruth Harkness in 1936 did something that most women would not have done. She left her home and went to China to find a baby panda bear. Her husband died during an earlier exploration (due to cancer) and Harkness wanted to finish that search despite being a woman.

Now though we don't advocate going to another country to capture an animal, in 1936 attitudes were different. Harkness's actions provided many people with information about pandas that had not been available before.

I did find it humorous that she took 22 pieces of luggage with her but again due to the times they had to pack everything they would need for a long trip.
Definitely an interesting story which was released just in time for Women's History Month.

Melissa Sweet who created Balloons over Broadway uses similar techinques to create the illustrations for this book.  They are wonderful and I do hope they get some recognition.

Georgia in Hawaii: When Georgia O'Keeffe Painted What She Pleased
Author:  Amy Novesky
Illustrator: Yuyi Morales
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (March 20, 2012, but I have seen it in the wild)
Audience: Grades 2-5

Another book out in time for Women's History Book focuses on the famous female artist Georgia O'Keeffe.  Amy Novesky is paired up with Yuyi Morales covering the illustrations.  Morales brings her considerable skill in painting rich, vibrant pictures that just jump out at you.  The choice to use such vibrant colors paired with creating illustrations based off of O'Keeffe's actual work brings depth to the story.

Novesky's story captures Georgia's trip and experience in Hawaii.  O'Keeffe was determined to explore Hawaii and paint the beautiful scenes which she was witnessing.   This put her in direct conflict with the wishes of the Pineapple Company which just wanted O'Keeffe to paint a pineapple. 

Though the book ends a bit abruptly, I loved many of the illustrations and the sense of who Georgia O'Keeffe was as a woman and painter.

It's that time of the week...add your nonfiction reviews to the Mr. Linky below.