Tuesday, March 13, 2018

LBB Reviews - Sputnik!

Whoa!  That Sputnik guy!  Him, I like.  Sputnik's Guide to Life on Earth by Frank Cotrell Boyce.

So, here's the set up.  Prez is the human kid and he doesn't talk - out loud - because, um, something about his grandfather going somewhere and he's living with people who are not related to him.  Toys are related to everyone so this was hard for me to wrap my stuffing around.  But, let's just say, he's lonely.

So, one night at dinner, the doorbell rings and the family doesn't hear it - just Prez - BECAUSE, get this!  There is no doorbell.   Wha-a-a-T??!!

Prez goes to the door and there's this little "kid" with a backpack and he's wearing a kilt because it's all in Scotland and this little kid answers everything Prez thinks.

I know!  But that is just the beginning!

The family thinks the "kid" is a DOG!  An adorable, irresistible dog!

At this point, I am all "What is going on here????" But, the "kid" is an alien - from another planet. AND his name is Sputnik AND Prez is his "project" which means Sputnik is here to help Prez with his grandfather and loneliness and not talking-ness. 

So a lot happens:
1. a toy light saber gets turned into a REAL light saber.
2.  A tree is destroyed.
3.  A tree is undestroyed.
4.  the remote control goes crazy and changes time and people
5.  robbery with menaces, I think.
6. disappearances.
7. running aways
8. a daring rescue
9.  Some lying
10. the threat of world wide destruction

And lots of other normal kid book stuff.

But that Sputnik guy!  Don't tell him to fix something because he FIXES it all right.  He just goes off and does his ET alien-y thing with all the trimmings. 

He is a person without limits - just like me.

You want to read this book.

Little Blue Bunny, here, signing off.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Shocked! I am SHOCKED!

Just a quick note to let you know that The Battle of the Kids' Books is DONE.  NO MORE!!!

For the past nine years, Bo(K)B has been my go-to guide for books that may have slipped under the radar. The consortium that chose the books always surprised me.  I have been forced to travel far beyond my comfort zone in reading.

So, now I feel a little lost?  A little forlorn?  WHERE DID YOU GO, OH BOOKLOVERS?

No more witty commentary from writer/judges and savvy, sassy Kid Commentators.  No more arguments in the comments. No More Battle of the Kids Books. 

Is that a lone bugle I hear sounding in the distance? 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Let's Not Forget - Zilpha Keatley Snyder

My introduction to Zilpha Keatley Snyder came when I landed at the Parkland Community Library in South Whitehall, PA - 1988.  Her Green Sky books sat on the crowded shelves.   I started with Below the Root and LOVED it.  In 1984, Snyder adapted these books into a video game to allow the story to continue after readers objected to the conclusion to the third book, Until the Celebration.

 I was very much into science fiction and fantasy books.  These three books, about a race of people who lived their whole lives in, below, and on trees delighted me.

Then, I read The Headless Cupid, The Famous Stanley Kidnapping Case, Blair's Nightmare, and  Janey's Private EyesI have wanted another Stanley family book ever since.

Snyder died in 2014.  Her website still displays her last post, written right after the publication of William's Midsummer Night DreamShe wrote 46 books and I read at least 20 of them.  Her books swung from complete fantasy to modern day tales of trial, and sometimes, mystery.  Some of her books had a touch of magic realism.  All the books that I read were page turners.

Two of her Newbery Honor winners, The Egypt Game, and The Headless Cupid were set in modern day, and absolutely radiated suspense.  The Witches of Worm, I hesitate to say, I never read.  What?  A fantasy, the story centers on a kitten that may actually be an evil demon.  Nooooooo!

It's time to revisit this acclaimed and talented writer.   I have about 26 books to catch up on.  Let's not forget Zilpha Keatley Snyder.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

SAOG - Secret Agents of Good

I found a secret message tucked inside the legs of my camel marionette.  It reads, "Love misstion
be kind and frenidly"  and it's signed with a kiss.

Sounds like an order from the Secret Agents of Good.  So here is your LOVE MISSION for the day.

Be kind and friendly.

Over and out!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Let's Not Forget Virginia Hamilton

Do you know a young read who wants to read a scary book, a haunted book, a fascinating book?  Give them Virginia Hamilton's The House of Dies Drear.  I found it un-put-down-able!  I also thought it was incredibly creepy.

That started me on a Virginia Hamilton kick that started with Zeely and ended, for me, with When Birds Could Talk & Bats Could Sing.  Hamilton kept on writing.

Her list of titles include picture books, folktales, fantasies and stories about African American families and young people.  Some stories, like The Planet of Junior Brown (one of my FAVORITES) show young people in incredibly stressed situations.  Some of her books addressed racism straight on.  She also wrote non-fiction, most notably biographies of African Americans such as Paul Robeson and W.E.B. Dubois and collected folktales of slave families, the Caribbean and Africa.

Hamilton died in 2004 but her award winning books continue to captivate, engage and instruct young readers.  Let's never forget Virginia Hamilton.


My grand daughter (D) is obsessed with surprise toys.   It began with the little Princess bags sold at the register in stores like Target. The customer never knew what small figurine was inside the bag when they bought it. D has moved on to collectible dolls all packaged exactly alike so that the child is "surprised" to see which doll her parents bought her. The Princess bags were somewhat affordable, - $3 or $4 a pop. The dolls run closer to $10 a pop. Is this why her parents work so hard?  

I see the appeal.  It's a little like scratch off lottery tickets.  Maybe this time, I'll get that special Dancing Cutie doll.  Maybe this time, I'll win big.  At least, the children still get a toy to keep.

Trading cards had the same allure.  This pack might have the rare picture of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader.  Further back, kids collected in hopes of getting the card for their favorite sports player.  Some cards have risen in value.  Why?  Because some kids never grow up, I think.  They still hope to live, or find value, through their things.

What happens when a child's friends aren't lucky enough to own as many expensive toys?  What happens when a child can't enjoy the fizz of anticipation because her parents work hard but don't make as much money as other parents?  How do we protect little humans from equating owning things to happiness or worth?

Dan, (youngest brother and partner in crime), brainstormed a little bit last week.  His son, J, collects a lot of trading chips of Manga and Anime characters.  That's what is hot in Japan in the elementary school group.  Action figures and their vehicles and gadgets are what young boys collect.  They aren't cheap either.

What if, we asked, we packaged card decks that let kids make their own fun?  Each deck would contain cards with crafts or experiments or games that kids could play, make or do at home.  Each deck would also have a heavier card that could be turned into a character or a toy. A website would give points to each heavy card.  That's as far as we got.   Could the children collect points and win...what?  What?  It seems like a puny offering to counter sparkly dolls in carefully designed and crafted "surprise" packages.  Sigh.

In the meantime, parents work at jobs that they often dislike just so they can afford a "nice" house, a "good" car, and toys that clutter up that nice house and good car.

And other parents have to say "no" to their children because those parents make just enough to pay the rent or buy groceries.

Life isn't fair.   Fun should be free - or affordable.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Going Underground - Clayton Byrd Goes Underground

Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia

Clayton Byrd just lost his grandfather, a blues musician/"magician".  Clayton's Mama, Ms. Byrd, just lost her father, a man who was never around for her.  Grief is a funny thing.  Ms. Byrd wants to clear her home of Cool Papa's influence.  The Blues were never good to her and her mother.  Clayton wants to hold tight to the best friend he ever had.

When Ms. Byrd takes away Clayton's blues harp, he fights back.  He skips school and heads out for the park where his grandfather and his friends played.  On the subway, he meets beatbox street - or it is train? - performers and is bullied into joining them.  Things only go down, down, down from there.

Clay is lucky to have a father (Mr. Miller) who wants, more than anything, to be present for his son.  Throughout the book, Mr. Miller tries to support his family even though Clay's mother wants ultimate control.

Let me tell you, I cringed at Ms. Byrd's attempts to get Clayton to stop falling asleep in school, or playing his harmonica by using punishments.  Any Mom you know ever do that kind of thing?  This one did.  And that control thing?  GUILTY AS CHARGED!!! 

So, though this book is written for kids, maybe it could be handed to control freak Moms on occasion.

Kids won't get that.  They will feel Ms. Byrd's unfairness.  They will understand that Clayton just can't explain what's going on inside him. 

Clay's adventure gone wrong will appeal to young readers, too.  So many of us got to "act out" and "break free" just by reading about others who could.

Here is another book about grieving, loss, and recovery from that pain.  The world is never the same again.  It's also a coming of age-ish story.  Good thing Clay has parents who love him and can change just a little when it's important.