Friday, September 27, 2019

The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy

The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy 
by Mackenzi Lee 
464 pages, YA
Katherine Tegen Books (Harper Collins), 2018

When I heard someone mention the title of this book, I hoped it might be nonfiction. You know, a tell-all about famous women pirates.

But I was delightfully surprised to find it an adventure tale spun in the eighteenth century starring a young woman who desperately wants to become a doctor. That is SO not socially acceptable for her family’s station, besides which no hospital (or physician) will accept her as a student.

Plus there’s her name, Felicity Montague: a star-crossed name if ever there was. And this intriguing first line: “I have just taken an overly large bite of iced bun when Callum slices his finger off.” We learn that Felicity works in the bakery that Callum owns. And he’s a bit distracted as they wash the dishes, which is how he ends up slicing the tip of his finger off. Felicity, who has been reading medical treatises for so long, is now faced with an actual medical emergency.

And not to put too much of a damper on her relationship with the baker, she reveals that “with a chunk of his finger missing, Callum is the most interesting he has ever been to me.” Then we dive into Felicity’s mind. She is thinking about the 27 bones four tendon, three nerves, two arteries, and other aspects of hand anatomy. Callum, on the other hand, would like Felicity as his wife. She could do worse than marry a baker, he posits…

We know she’s going to leave before she knows it. She’s got a brother in London. Surely he’ll take her in. Before long, Felicity is up to her eyeballs in intrigue. My favorite part is where she runs off to join a pirate expedition to protect sea monsters – a far cry from applying to medical studies. But science is science.

The writing is fun to read! For example: “…traveling with Johanna and Sim will be like trying to wrangle kittens into the bath…” This is the kind of writing that leaves the sting of sea salt on your face and your hair tangled in knots by the wind.

And then – there’s Back Matter. As many of you know, I love back matter, and Mackenzi Lee does not disappoint (though I will point out the distinct lack of end notes). She talks about women characters in historical fiction and then addresses the aspirations of her three women characters. And she shares stories of real-life women in history who inspired each of them. And so we learn about women in medicine, scientist, and piracy in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Review copy discovered @ my library.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Astro-Nuts to the Rescue!

Astro-Nuts Mission One: The Plant Planet 
by Jon Scieszka  ; illus by Steven Weinberg
220 pages; ages 8-12
Chronicle Books, 2019

If you’re looking for a funny, smart book that combines climate change with a zany space adventure, then look no further. AstroNuts begins with a count-down to an emergency blast-off. Emergency, because “humans finally crossed a BIG RED LINE – putting more than 400 ppm (parts per million) of CO-2 (carbon dioxide) into my beautiful atmosphere.”

Yep, the story is told by planet Earth, and boy does Earth have a story to tell. It’s about four super-powered animal astronauts who launch into space to search for a Goldilocks planet. You know… not too hot, not too cold, juuuust right! ”Like I used to be,” says Earth. “Before you got here.”

Need a quick lesson on climate change and why 400 ppm is so important? Read this and this.

So, our mutant heroes arrive at a planet full of plants. No dangerous animals, but… viney vines wind around the rocket. Alas, our trusty Astronuts are captured by intelligent vegetation and imprisoned in a plant cell (complete with a map blueprint diagram).

Will they escape? Will they go on another mission? Will they find a Goldilocks planet before we humans set off a huge extinction brought on by our inability to moderate our addiction to fossil fuels?

And now, a word from our sponsor - Earth.

What I like about this book: I love the point-of view. I love the occasional astronaut reports, the glitch computer, and “Official NNASA transcripts”. The illustrations are fun, the presentation combines elements of comics, and there’s a bit of atmospheric chemistry tossed in. Plus I love the way the Astronuts harness the golgi apparatus and a bunch of mitochondria to escape the plant cell. There are plenty of space references some readers will appreciate and new words, such as “snotrocketing” (verb). And no, it’s not in the glossary.

There’s also a couple pages at the back of the book that describe how the collage illustrations were created. And a challenge for readers to create their own collage artwork, along with a link to an Astronut website where you can download some helpful printouts.

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Hide and Seek ~ Splish and Splash!

If you’re looking for some fun books featuring animals, these might fit the bill.
themes: animals, colors, adaptations

If You Played Hide-And-Seek with a Chameleon 
by Bill Wise; illus. by Rebecca Evans
32 pages; ages 8 - 12
Dawn Publications, 2019

If you played games with animals, would you win or lose?

Come to the Animal Fair and play games with twelve different animals – from basketball to twister. There’s the pie-eating contest with a hippo. Of course you’d lose that because a hippo has the biggest mouth of all the land animals. And of course, if you play hide-and-seek with a chameleon, you’d lose! Because … chameleons!

What I like about this book: Each game is matched with an animal whose natural traits would give it a great advantage. Shoot hoops with a giraffe? Race against a cheetah? A paragraph of animal facts accompanies each game, explaining why you have no chance against your animal competitor. Except the snail; you might have a chance against a snail.

I like the bright and fun illustrations that invite you to imagine yourself as part of the games. And I really like the back matter – four pages of fun facts, a challenge to look closer, and great STEM activities.

Splish, Splash, Foxes Dash! Canadian Wildlife in Colour 
by Geraldo Valério
24 pages; ages 2 - 5
Owlkids, 2018

Red, yellow, blue, here they come… Canadian animals in colour!

Brown features a duck, dabbling under the water. Green caterpillars munch green leaves. Pink prawns pirouette.

What I like about this book: The language is fun: dabble, pirouette, perch and peck. The colors are bright, and the illustrations are created using paper collage. Text on the page is simple and direct. But don’t fear; there is Back Matter! That’s where you’ll find out more facts about the animals featured in the book.

Beyond the Books:

 Go on an animal color-safari. If you can get to a zoo, great! If not, walk through a pet store. Look at the colors and patterns of the animals.

Make collage art to show one of your favorite animals doing something it would normally do. Use up old magazines, newspapers, and gift wrap to create your art. You can check out some of Geraldo Valério’s art at his website – just click on a book.

Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copies provided by the publishers.

Friday, September 6, 2019

My Name is Wakawakaloch!

My Name Is Wakawakaloch! 
by Chana Stiefel; illus. by Mary Sullivan
32 pages; ages 4 - 7
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2019

theme: names, friends, problem-solving

Wakawakaloch was in a volcanic mood. Everyone was bungling her name.

Schools in our neck of the woods are just getting started this week, and teachers are faced with learning new names.  So I thought this might be a fun book for the new year!

In this book, the kids at school mangle Wakawakaloch's name. They call her Walawala or Wammabammaslamma. But those aren’t her names, and Wakawakaloch gets so mad that she wants to change her name to something easy to pronounce. Besides, she can’t ever find a T-shirt with her name printed on it. Gloop would be a good name, right?

What I like about this book: I love the language: the image of Wakawakaloch being volcanic. I like the mis-names that kids give her. And I like when Wakawakaloch sees images of her great-great-great-great-great-grandmother’s acts of bravery, and understands how powerful her family's name is. Not only that - she comes up with a way she can help other kids with unusual names. It involves T-shirts.

I also like the end papers with illustrations of children and how to pronounce their names. No Wakawakaloch, but there is a Chana (like the author) and, according to the handy-dandy guide, the way to pronounce her name is Kh-ah-nah. Make sure you begin with a throat-clearing “ch” ant the beginning!

Beyond the Books:

Check out this brief interview with Chana, and watch the book trailer.

Names are important. Where does your name come from? You might discover an exciting family tale when you ask about your name.

Write down the way you say your name. And when you meet new friends, ask how to say their names. You don’t want to bungle it up!

Today (or as soon as it starts up again) we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website . Review copy provided by my friends at Blue Slip Media.