Apr 30, 2013

The Eternity Cure

The Eternity Cure (CAN, JP, US, INT)

Written by: Julie Kagawa

Published by: Harlequin Teen

Published on: April 30, 2013

Age: Young Adult

Provided by the publisher for review through NetGalley

My favourite YA book of last year was the first book in the Blood of Eden series, The Immortal Rules. I have been waiting for a year for this second book in the series to come out and I wasn't disappointed in the slightest.

We are back in the same world, where the Red Lung disease has ravaged the human population and this means that vampire cities and rabid-infested wastelands abound. It's a harsh world, but our intrepid heroine, Alison Sekemoto, is back and just as engaging as before.

Kagawa has a fantastic habit of publishing short stories as teasers between books. Although this book is written so even a newbie to the Blood of Eden world could fall right into the book and not be lost, it is so much more satisfying to read the first book and the short story, Dawn of Eden, included in the 'Til the World Ends book. The back story of Red Lung and Allie's vampire sire's role in the creation of this world is not just fascinating but integral to the story in The Eternity Cure.

Allie teams up with her nemesis and blood brother Jackal and her human crush Zeke to find her sire and battle the insane Sarren who threatens the existence of the world. They make it back to her hometown of New Covington but can you ever really go home again? Her world looks mightily different after a new type of Red Lung hits the city and they battle mole men and her human companions are gone or changed.

The first book felt like a normal dystopian road trip, but this one has a western feel to it, complete with a showdown in a bar. It's packed with action scenes and emotion as rivals do battle and rely on the hospitality of various vampire city kings and their strict social code. It's a thrilling ride.

But it's the ending that makes it. The third book is set up perfectly but it will be a hard wait over the next year. I hope Kagawa blesses us again with a short story to tease us.

Apr 24, 2013

"Waiting on" Wednesday: Gadget Girl

 "Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Gadget Girl
By: Suzanne Kamata
To Be Released: May 17, 2013

From Amazon:
Aiko Cassidy is fifteen and lives with her sculptor mother in a small Midwestern town. For most of her young life, Aiko, who has cerebral palsy, has been her mother's muse. But now, she no longer wants to pose for the figures that have made her mother famous. Aiko works hard on her own dream, becoming a sought-after manga artist with a secret identity. When Aiko's mother invites her to Paris for a major exhibition of her work, Aiko resists. She'd much rather go to Japan, Manga Capital of the World, where she might be able to finally meet her father, the indigo farmer. When she gets to France, however, a hot waiter with a passion for manga and an interest in Aiko makes her wonder if being invisible is such a great thing after all.

Suzanne Kamata is the author of Losing Kei, which is the book that made me weep the most out of any book I have ever read. Her characters are ever so real and her plots are gripping. I can't wait for her newest book.

Apr 22, 2013

Dolphin Baby!

Dolphin Baby! (CAN, JP, US, INT)

Written by: Nicola Davies

Illustrated by: Brita Granström

Published by: Candlewick Press

Published on: 

Ages:  3+

Provided by the publisher for the 2012 Cybils Nonfiction Picture Book Award jury panel. All opinions are my own.


Happy Earth Day!

On Sunday we took a ferry across the bay to our friendly neighbourhood volcano. On the way back we saw a dolphin frolicking near the port. This was my daughter's first experience seeing dolphins in the wild and she was enthralled! They are such amazing animals.

Thanks to Nicola Davies and Brita Granström we have even more information about these brilliant creatures and their first year. We see a dolphin from birth through nursing and his first catch of fish and beyond. The skinship is absolutely adorable.

My son's favourite fact is that the dolphin's forehead is called a melon - and he loved the picture of hammerhead sharks. My daughter was shocked that dolphin mommies don't share their catch with anyone, not even their babies! I however totally understand that, nothing like having to share my last Coffee Crisp.

Thinking about dolphins in our sea and how close they are to humans is a real wake-up call for my kids in regards to a number of Earth Day issues. Not only did they see dolphins, they also saw garbage on floating on the waves which spurred a great conversation about littering and how that can affect animals on land and in the sea. I hope that my kids keep in mind, not just on Earth Day but all year, how the actions of humans, even the smallest kids, can effect other creatures on earth and what a responsibility that is.

This review is for Nonfiction Monday,  hosted this week by A Mom's Spare Time.


Apr 21, 2013

Oy Feh So?

 Oy Feh So? (CAN, JP, US, INT)

Written by: Cary Fagan

Illustrated by: Gary Clement

Published by: Groundwood Books

Published on: April 9, 2012

Ages: 4+

Provided by the publisher for review. All opinions are my own.

I am sure you've met or work with or are related to someone who is a pessimist. Someone whose glass is always half empty, and probably has cloudy spots all over it too. How do you deal with that?

If you are the siblings in Oy Feh So?, you fight back. This creative trio does what they can to elicit a new reaction from their repetitive aunts and uncle. But nothing changes the outlook of these old codgers as much as a look through the children's eyes...at themselves.

Dry wit and the talent of the National Post's editorial cartoonist make this a fun romp for children and makes adults think about how they look through the eyes of the young. It's like a book was mixed with sketch comedy and satirical cartooning, eliciting double the laughs.

One of the best features of this picture book is that it lends itself to a number of book-related activities. The niece and nephews have a number of ideas for playtime. I got my kids to draw myself and their dad caricature-style after looking at these illustrations and that was illuminating. I didn't realize my forehead was quite so big.

This is the fortieth book I have reviewed for the Sixth Canadian Book Challenge.  

Apr 17, 2013

What Are You Reading? Wednesday

What are your eyes perusing today?

Last week I read nothing for myself. It was all elementary school work, all the time. So many forms to fill out and so much time spent finding the neighbours to see if they knew more about the vague explanations than I did. Luckily some did. I cannot believe how much work goes into elementary school here. Luckily the first week is over and only a slight amount of bloodshed (paper cuts for my husband and I!).

This week I am trying to make up for it but my book choice wasn't the best. I am reading Ender's Game which is really good but really intense. Plus it starts with a brilliant 6-year old (like mine and all of yours too!) going off to school...on another planet. I'm a little too emotional for this but can't stop reading, it's too good. I guess there will be a movie based on this and Ender's Shadow, out in the autumn, so I will try to read both.

My son made his first visit to the school library yesterday. He searched high and low for English books and came home with one. Pirates of the Caribbean. It's actually a full-length novel in Japanese but the title is in English so he brought it home. :) So proud. I  am distracting him with an English version of Usborne's Puzzle Pirates.

My daughter is really into baking right now so her choice is Strawberry Shortcake's Berry Bitty Bakers. I am still a fan of the old 80s Strawberry Shortcake but I like the diversity of this series.

Let me know what you are reading (and I hope my friends in Japan aren't still stuck reading information for the new school year).

Apr 14, 2013

2013-14 Afterschooling Programme, Grade 1 Edition

It's that time of year again, when I make a plan for my kids' education and totally freak out about how they will actually achieve.

This first week of grade 1 really knocked me for six. There is a lot more work to having an elementary school student in Japan than one in Canada. I've already messed up by not being able to read the teacher's mind and send textbooks (which they keep at home, not school) I didn't know they needed. At least I am not alone and some of my neighbours are having the same mind-reading problem and they went to Japanese school! But between this and my son's very competitive club activities I do not know how much of the curriculum I am planning will actually get done.

My main plan is to keep going along with what we did last year in Kindergarten -  see my afterschooling plan here. I plan to use the British Columbia grade 1 curriculum as a base, and work from there. Our main resources are the Lesson Pathways website and the Complete Canadian Curriculum workbook for Grade 1. (Here's a similar one for Americans)

Because my son goes to afterschool care while I work, and he needs drills to work on while he is there but won't have instruction, I have prepared a number of workbooks. My daughter (4) is using the Complete Early Skills for Preschool workbook aimed at Canadians, and my son has the same one for Grade 1 (US version). He also has Complete Reading for Grade 1, and Everything About Animals, both for Canadians.

Of course reading is going to play a huge role in both of my kids' afterschooling plans. I wish that I had a list of all the books grade 1 kids in a Canadian classroom read! I have ordered some books with themes that I know play a role in the grade 1 curriculum, such as What's for Lunch? How Schoolchildren Eat Around the World. But I am always on the lookout for more good fiction and nonfiction books at my son's reading level.

The good thing about students leaving their textbooks at home is I get a chance to leisurely leaf through and check out what my son is learning and try to match the books we buy in English to the subject he is learning in Japanese. He is starting this week with a poem about spring, so I found and English one in a book called Red Sings From Treetops by Joyce Sidman. It's perfect for his reading level, and for the feelings this season brings.

In Spring/ Red sings/ from treetops:
each note dropping/like a cherry/into my ear.

If you have an afterschool programme I would love to hear what has and hasn't worked for you. Or tell me I am being too ambitious. :)

Apr 8, 2013

What's For Lunch? How Schoolchildren Eat Around the World

What's For Lunch? How Schoolchildren Eat Around the World (CAN, JP, US, INT)

Written by: Andrea Curtis

Photography by: Yvonne Duivenvoorden

Published by: Red Deer Press

Published on:  October 15, 2012

Ages: 10+

My son started elementary school today. In Japan the school year begins in April, when the cherry blossoms are supposed to be at their peak (of course this year they are all gone!). I am annoyed at any number of things today ($400 backpack! PTA which assumes mothers don't work! paperwork, paperwork, paperwork!) but there are two things I unequivocally love about Japanese schools: the walk to school (get out that energy so they can learn!) and school lunch.

School lunch is called kyushoku here (queue-shock-ew), and it is mandatory in all government-approved daycares, elementaries, and junior highs. Onsite nutritionists and cooks work together to make balanced meals for children 5 days a week (soon to be 6 again, see list of annoyances above). Then at lunch the kids on lunch duty put on smocks, masks, and hats, and collect the lunch from the cooking area, deliver it to their classrooms, and parcel it out to their fellow students. Of course kids have things they don't like, but by and large the communal aspect of the meal means kids eat healthy food whether they like it or not. Look at the meal above- how many Canadian kids would eat the eyeballs and bones of a grilled fish and some seaweed soup? But the kids here love it! (mostly)

But my kids have so little exposure to what other kids eat. They patently do not believe I ate a peanut butter sandwich, an apple, and a drink box for 6 years. Where's the variety, they ask?

So when Jennifer at Jean Little Library posted about this book two weeks ago I need I needed to get it. Also, one of the main themes of my son's Grade 1 social studies curriculum is comparing the lives of children of his age around the world, and other books I have for this are based on comparing schools and homes, so this fit right in with our afterschooling plan.

This book is at a lot higher level than I had expected, and there is a lot of information about the politics of school food. Food is political. Religious issues, wealth, and the culture of an area are definitely reflected in school food choices. Whether or not kids even get a school lunch is political (and I honestly do not understand why Canada doesn't have them). My son and I got into a very big discussion about putting whale on the menu in Japan, which is mentioned in the book. It's not a traditional food for most Japanese but it the government wants to make it one to justify some of their whaling actions. What better way than to get kids used to it in elementary school?

The photographs are what draws my children's attention the most, and Duivenvoorden has done an amazing job here. Just the photograph of a Brazilian lunch compared to one supplied to refugees in Kenya tells a huge story. We feel very lucky.

My kids learned a lot from this book, and so did I! I was surprised to learn that spaghetti is a common Somali dish!

There were a couple of issues I had with this book which otherwise is a great resource. Like Jennifer mentioned, not all the foods are identified, and my kids really wanted a couple of recipes to try (or at least know the name of dishes so we could look recipes up). Also the Japanese words do not have a correct guide to pronunciation, with itadakimasu (eat-a-dack-ee-mass), kyushoku (queue-shock-ew), and gochisousama deshita (go-chee-so-sama desh-ta)being somewhat different from actuality. I wonder about the pronunciation of other foreign words in Spanish etc.

This post is for Nonfiction Monday, being held today at A Wrung Sponge.

This is the thirty-ninth book I have reviewed for the Sixth Canadian Book Challenge.  

Apr 6, 2013

Miki and the Moon Blossom

Miki and the Moon Blossom (CAN, JP, US, INT)

Written and Illustrated by: Stephen Mackey

Published by: Hodder & Stoughton

Published: 2009

Ages: 3+

This weekend all of the delicious cherry blossoms have been blown away by our April showers. Cherry blossoms are treasured in Japan precisely because of their temporal nature. Rearranging your schedule to have a drinking party under lit-up trees is one of the true joys of the year.

But what happens to those petals after they blow away? Miki and her arctic friends take a journey on one of these lovely blossoms, and it's a joy to go along for the ride!

I really enjoyed Stephen Mackey's illustrations. Miki and her friends are really adorable, and the colour of the moon blossom, a deep red in a sea of arctic white, makes you think of hope and the end of a long cold winter.

I won this book from the lovely Zara at The Bibliotaphe's Closet. We share a love for Canlit and Asian lit, but she is much more eloquent than I. Go check her out!

Apr 5, 2013

Mister Dash and the Cupcake Calamity

Mister Dash and the Cupcake Calamity (CAN, JP, US, INT)

Written by: Monica Kulling

Illustrated by: Esperança Melo

Published by: Tundra Books

Published on: March 12, 2013

Ages: 3+

Provided by the publisher. All opinions are my own.

As a nonfiction picture book afficianado, I am familiar with Monica Kulling's work in spreading knowledge about historical figures through such books as Lumpito and the Painter from Spain and
Going Up! Elisha Otis's Trip to the Top. Kulling has a knack for narrowing in on little known stories and relaying them with great flair.

So what a pleasure it is to get to read a fiction book from Ms. Kulling, where she is unconstrained by history and has the breadth of her imagination to fuel her story.

Like in Lumpito, the protagonist is an adorable dog. But this dog does it all, deliveries, cooking, and general support for Madame Croissant, who is anxious to put her cupcakes on the map. All is going well for this pair until the arrival of Daphne, Madame Croissant's niece. Daphne wants to do everything but doesn't quite have the skills of either Mister Dash or the baker. It's a struggle for both Daphne to find something she can do to be helpful and for Mister Dash to find his niche after he has his plans interrupted by Daphne.

The best thing about this book is that kids can cheer for either the organized Mister Dash or the lively Daphne. Each of my kids identified with a different character. An older sibling or friend who has their space invaded by a visitor, no matter how much they like them, can feel for Mister Dash. Whereas the child who doesn't really have as much practice as their older counterparts but wants to be constructive.

I love how organically Kulling includes French phrases throughout the book, great for an introduction to this lovely language. I can't wait to read the first book in this series, Merci Mister Dash, as well as to bake with my kids who are keen to try to make both croissants and cupcakes now, even if they won't be delivered by such an adorable creature!

This would be great to pair with The French Fry King, about another canine culinary wonder.

Apr 2, 2013

Mr. Flux

Mr. Flux (CAN, JP, US, INT)

Written by: Kyo Maclear

Illustrated by: Matte Stephens

Published by: Kids Can Press

Published on: April 1, 2013

Stand back Cat in the Hat. There's a new eccentric visitor in town.

Martin is a boy after my own heart. He lives in a place where things stay the same, and he thinks he likes it that way.

Until one day a new neighbour shows up and throws Martin's predictable life into flux. It starts with a box Martin delivers, the polite boy he is. This box is a harbinger of change (literally and figuratively). Mr. Flux and Martin bond over art they produce, and spur other people around them to make little and big changes to their lives. Will Martin's life forever be altered due to his association with his new neighbour?

Martin not only learns about change, but about courage. Facing change takes courage, it's not always easy. My son really related to this part of the book as he is going through some big changes at the moment, entering elementary school and having his entire daily routine upended. Every kid has to deal with change at some point and Martin can inspire them to deal with that change with aplomb.

International Book Day is today, April 2. This is the perfect book with which to celebrate as it has everything that the ideal picture book does; great writing, original characters, quirky illustrations, and multiple layers great for drawing in readers of all ages.

"Mr. Flux showed Martin that other artists made things people didn't see as art but that could still make you feel wonderful." It's never too early for kids to think about art in their lives and what makes art. Between this simple sentence and Stephens' portrayals of all kinds of art, you have a philosophy lesson and a number of art lessons inside a fantastic picture book. My kids recreated the "shoes outside the window" installation - and their giggles tell me it felt wonderful!

My deep and abiding love for all things Kyo Maclear is pretty clear to regular readers of this blog. But I too am like Martin and it is hard for me to accept change. I am used to her words being paired with the beauty of Isabelle Arsenault's artwork (as in Spork and Virginia Wolf, which was my number 1 favourite book of 2012). Like Martin learned, it's okay to change things up sometimes. Stephens' gouache illustrations are a wonderful tribute to the Fluxus movement and other artists who brought big changes to the art world (including Marcel Duchamp, whose Fountain of 1917 is included in 2D form in the book as well), but in his own unique style (which you can check out on Etsy, where he sells prints of his work - I love when picture book illustrators do this!!!).

Go, make a change from the usual picture books you read, and get inspired by Mr. Flux and the intrepid Martin.

Apr 1, 2013

Nic Bishop Snakes

Nic Bishop Snakes (CAN, JP, US, INT)

By: Nic Bishop

Published by: Scholastic Nonfiction

Published on: October 1, 2012

Ages: 4+

Provided by the publisher for the Cybils nonfiction picture books award panel.

This book of striking (sometimes literally) photographs of one of the world's scariest species was a finalist for the 2012 the CYBILS Nonfiction Picture Book Award.

Nic Bishop, who also has similar concept books about lizards and frogs and spiders (Sibert Honor boo) shows off over 20 kinds of snakes in a range of actions, from hanging on a tree branch, keeping warm in freezing Manitoba by sticking together in a crowd, to devouring their prey.

The best thing is Bishop seems to anticipate kids' questions and answers them almost as soon as my kids have asked them. "You might think that snakes would get stomachaches eating such big meals. But they have special ways to deal with giant portions."

The book is a little graphic with the eating, which might make more sensitive kids a little queasy, but my kids love the pictures of a couple of snakes partaking in their meals.

The book is above my son's (6) reading level, but this works great as a read aloud. One of the best things about the book is how Bishop points out the size of the actual animal in relation to the picture. This provides a great and fun math lesson! This will appeal to kids who love sharks and other predators.

This review is for Nonfiction Mondayhosted this week by Wendie's Wandering.