Monday, May 31, 2010

Review #73: The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Dad:  Today we are looking at one of my favorite books in the world.
Gracie (age 9):  The Invention of Hugo Cabret.
Dad:  It's by Brian Selznick.
Gracie:  No it's not -- It's by Professor H. Alcofrisbas.
Dad:  Well, that's what the introduction claims.  But according to the cover, it's by Brian Selznick.
Gracie:  Just the cover is written by Brian Selznick.
Isaac (age 11):  Brian Selznick is really creative.
Dad:  Before we discuss the story, tell us about the physical book itself...
Isaac:  I've never seen another book like this.
Lily (age 7):  It's, like.... big.
Isaac:  It's huge.  It's giant.
Gracie: (grabbing a ruler)  It's three inches thick.
Dad:  Thanks for measuring it for us.
Isaac:  Giant.  It's like a 500 page book.
Dad:  Should that scare readers away?  What if they think, "That book is honking huge!"
Gracie:  It's honking easy to read.  We read it in two days.
Lily:  It has tons of pictures.
Dad:  So how about the opposite concern...  If it has lots of pictures, might people think it's only for younger readers?
Gracie:  No.  It's a chapter book for pete's sake.  And big people like pictures too.
Dad:  So this is a book for everyone!
Gracie:  The pictures are very very very very very important to the story.
Lily:  They are black and white like in an old movie.
Isaac:  And the pictures are like a movie itself... the way the pictures zoom in and zoom out, and the angles they show.
Gracie:  The pictures help tell the story.
Isaac:  The words stop, and the author starts telling the story in pictures.  Then the pictures stop, and he starts doing it in words again.
Lily:  Sometimes when it got to an exciting part at the end of the page, we were like "Oo! Where is the picture!"
Dad:  You knew!  When things got exciting, you knew pictures were sure to come!
Lily:  This book is the opposite of boring.  It is wonderful, and glorious, and exciting, and adventurous!
Isaac:  It's a really good mystery book.
Lily:  And there was a big chase!
Gracie:  "Every good story has a chase."  That's what Hugo said.
Dad:  The mysteries that unfold throughout the story are part of the fun.  Can we talk about the story without giving away any surprises?
Gracie:  That's kind of hard to do.  But I guess we've done it before.
Dad:  So, tell us about the story...
Isaac:  It takes place in 1930.  I don't think it takes place in America.  Is it in Italy?
Lily:  Africa?
Dad:  No.  It takes place in France.
Isaac:  Oh.  I was close.  Italy and France are... alike.
Dad:  And tell us about Hugo...
Isaac:  Hugo is an orphan.  He lived with his uncle who fixed the clocks at a train station, and Hugo was his apprentice.
Gracie:  He fixes the clocks from inside the walls.
Lily:  And he lives in a wall.  That would be awesome.
Isaac:  Then Hugo's uncle disappears.  If the station master had found out, he would have taken Hugo and put him in the orphanage.  So Hugo keeps fixing the clocks himself so no one will know.
Gracie:  Everyone calls Hugo a thief.
Dad:  Why do they call him a thief?
Gracie:  Because he is one.  He steals everything.  Milk.  Croissants.  Cookies.  Toys.  Actually, I don't think he's evil -- he needs the food to survive.  And he just takes the toys so he can re-build an automaton because he thinks there is a secret message from his father that will save his life.
Lily:  An automaton is a robot that moves exactly like a human.  Hugo was trying to fix it.  He stole wind up toys so he could take them apart and fix the automaton with their little parts.  There was a pen in the automaton's hand, and Hugo thought it would write a message.  But the automaton actually made--
Isaac:  Don't tell!
Lily:  Awwwwwww....
Isaac:  That's one of the surprises.
Dad:  Who are some of the other characters.  Who does Hugo meet?
Lily:  A little girl named...  What's her name again?
Gracie:  Isabelle.
Lily:  She's beautiful.  Hugo stole a key from her.  So that's another thing he steals!  He's evil!
Dad:  And Isabelle is related to whom?
Lily:  That guy who works at the toy shop.
Dad:  There's a lot of mystery around that old man.
Gracie:  Papa Georges.
Isaac:  He makes little crank-up mice and toys.  He's really grumpy about stuff.
Gracie:  He goes crazy.  He freaks.
Lily:  He found this chest filled with papers.  And when he saw the papers he was like, "No No NO NOO!" and he started ripping them apart.
Gracie:  He freaked out and muttered things like, "I'm a broken thimble...  an unwound watch...  a knotted shoelace...  a bad shirt..."
Dad:  A bad shirt???
Gracie:  "...I'm an ugly baby..."
Dad:  Now you're making stuff up.
Gracie:  Ha ha ha!
Dad:  Did the book make you care about the characters?
Gracie:  I got sad when Hugo smashed his fingers.  And I got sad when Isabella smashed her foot.  And I got sad when the old man smashed his cabinet.  And I got sad when the automaton got smashed!
Isaac:  There's a lot of smashing in this book.
Dad:  The book had quite a few reoccurring motifs, didn't it.
Gracie:  What-the-cabbage is a motif?
Dad:  A motif is a story element that keeps reappearing.
Isaac:  You mean like: "Something caught his eye."
Dad:  No... that's just a writing tic the author probably wasn't aware he had.
Isaac:  The next time we read this book, we should count how many times he writes "Caught his eye."
Dad:  I never would have noticed that, but you guys sure did.
Isaac:  I didn't notice until Gracie mentioned it, then I kept hearing it over and over.
Dad:  But a motif is like a repeating theme or symbol.  Let's go around and see how many reoccurring themes from the book we can name.  If you get stumped you're out.  I'll start:  Trains.
Gracie:  Clocks.
Isaac:  Stealing.
Lily:  Ummmm...
Gracie:  She's out.
Lily:  I'm just thinking!
Isaac:  Fixing broken things.
Gracie:  Gears and machines.
Lily:  Has anyone mentioned clocks yet?
Gracie:  Yes.
Lily:  The moon.
Dad: Greek myths.
Lily:  Eyes.
Gracie:  Movies.  Old movies.
Dad:  Good list!  Now one last thing before we wrap up...  Speaking of old movies, the ones mentioned in this book are actual movies from film history.
Lily:  Like the guy hanging from the clock.
Dad:  Yeah, Harold Lloyd!  We later watched him on YouTube.  What did you guys think of Harold Lloyd?
Isaac:  Funny!
Lily:  He climbed up a building like boop, boop, boop, then he fell and hanged on a clock!
Isaac:  We watched another movie on the internet from the book too.  We saw "Trip to the Moon."
Dad:  The man in the moon gets a rocket in his eye... it's a pretty famous old movie.
Isaac:  We even found movies about automatons on the internet.  They are actually really cool.
Gracie:  The internet rocks.

trip to the moon, by Lily

Hugo and Isabelle, by Gracie

And lastly, Isaac built a cool automaton out of legos!  Although not able to move on its own, all the joints (neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, knuckles) do indeed twist and swivel and bend just like human joints.  It's rather lifelike and eerie the way it moves!

Author/Illustrator: Brian Selznick
Published, 2007: Scholastic
Like it? Find it

Monday, May 24, 2010

Review #72: Hugo and the Really, Really, Really Long String

Dad:  Today we are taking a look at "Hugo and the Really, Really, Really Long String" by Bob Boyle.
Isaac (age 11):  Okay -- there is one thing we cannot say.  We cannot tell anyone what the extremely awesome, super cool, awesomeness surprise is at the end of the string.
Gracie (age 9):  It's funny.
Isaac:  It's so awesome at the end.
Dad:  When you saw this book, did you immediately know who made the pictures?
Lily (age 7):  YES.
Gracie: (singing)  Wow Wow Wubbzy, Wubbzy Wubbzy, Wow Wow!
Isaac:  Bob Boyle made all the characters up for the show "Wow Wow Wubbzy."
Dad:  How would you describe his style?  You can tell immediately that Hugo and Wubbzy come from the same guy.
Isaac:  It's the exact same style.
Gracie: (singing)  Go Go Hugo, Hugo Hugo, Woo Woo.
Dad:  But how would you describe that style?
Gracie:  He barely makes any circles.  There are always square faces.
Isaac:  But there is not one sharp edge.  All the squares are ovally.  It is all round and swerved.  There are no sharp corners.
Gracie:  And he has wiggly lines.  He draws wiggly.
Lily:  He draws cartoony.  It looks like video games.
Isaac:  It really looks like a computer game, or a book that teaches you how to get through the levels of a video game.
Dad:  So, tell us what the story is about...
Isaac:  There is this guy named Hugo who looks like a purple... hippo.  Or is it a cow?
Gracie:  We especially like hippos when they are purple.
Isaac:  Hugo finds this mysterious, awesome, cool string.  So he follows this string thinking there is treasure or something amazing at the end.  He is following, and following, and he meets lots of people like an alligator policeman.
Lily:  And he meets a noodle person.
Isaac:  The noodle man who gives all the otters noodles.
Gracie:  No.  Bunnies.  He gives the bunnies noodles.
Isaac:  Otters must get french fries.
Gracie:  He stirs his noodles with an oar.
Dad:  Because the pot is so big...
Isaac:  He must be the famous bunny noodle man.
Gracie:  Hugo also meets a fish snake.
Isaac:  It's a snake that looks like a sea serpent.
Gracie:  She looks like a fish.
Isaac:  She does.  It's actually just her hair-do that makes her head look like a fish.
Gracie:  She would be a fish if you cut off her body.
Isaac:  There's a whole bunch of different people that Hugo meets.
Gracie:  Why is that mole taking a bath underground?  In the dirt?
Isaac:  That is a good question.
Dad:  Regardless of what he finds at the end of the string, what does he meet along the way?
Lily:  Friends.
Gracie:  And a fish.
Dad:  It's a snake.
Isaac:  Who is your favorite character?
Lily:  I like the Noodle Bunny.
Isaac:  I like the Mr. Alligator Police Officer Dude Man.
Lily:  I also like the Fish Girl.
Dad:  It's a snake.
Gracie:  I like the surprise at the end.
Dad:  Did you have any guesses of what was going to be at the end?
Lily:  At first I thought it would be a ribbon that says "Hugo" and a heart.
Dad:  You mean like a present for him?
Isaac:  I just thought it was going to be a ball of yarn.
Gracie:  I thought it was going to be this really big thing.  But actually we were all so surprised.  And it was so funny.
Isaac:  Everyone reading this review will be really curious about what the surprise is and will go get the book.
Gracie:  Red strings and purple hippos.  Even just that would make me excited to read it.

some really long string, by Gracie

this blue string leads to a piñata!  by Isaac

Hugo tangled in his really long shoelaces, by Lily

Author/Illustrator: Bob Boyle
Published, 2010: Random House
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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Review #71: The Cobble Street Cousins

A special treat this week!  For a year and a half we've reviewed books that we read together as a family.  But the kids are all voracious readers on their own as well.  So I thought I'd chat with them one-on-one to find out about the books they are reading for their own pleasure.  These are books I personally know nothing about, so I'm learning too!  Here's the schedule for the week:

Monday:  Isaac with the "Percy Jackson" series

Yesterday:  Gracie with the "Just Grace" series

Today:  Lily with the "Cobble Street Cousins" series

So let's hear from Lily...

Dad:  Alright, we need to find out what Lily is reading right now.
Lily (age 7):  I'm reading The Cobble Street Cousins.
Dad:  Who are the Cobble Street cousins?
Lily:  There is one girl named Lily.
Dad:  Just like you?
Lily:  Yes!
Dad:  Oh my lands.  Gracie reviewed a series about a girl named Grace, and you are reviewing a series with a girl named Lily!
Lily:  Hee hee hee!
Dad:  Who are the other cousins?
Lily:  There's Rose and Tess.
Dad:  And what do they do?
Lily:  The cousins make a whole bunch of stuff.  They make cookies.  They sell cookies.  And they make a dollhouse out of cardboard and scraps.  They have to get the little teeny furniture.  And they make little paper dolls of the people in their family.
Dad:  Wow, that sounds like the kind of stuff you guys like to do!
Lily:  Yeah.  But we don't sell cookies.
Dad:  Right.  But you guys like making stuff.  Don't the cousins also make a newspaper?
Lily:  Uhhhhh...
Dad:  Maybe that's in a book you haven't gotten to yet.  I think I remember that from when Gracie read the series.
Lily:  I'm still on book number two.
Dad:  They sound like creative, crafty kids.
Lily:  They live at their aunt's house.  In the attic.  And they put up blankets like forts for their rooms in the attic.  It's cool.
Dad:  And I know you are learning some big words.  What word did you ask me about the other day?  "Botanist"?
Lily:  You said it was a plant guy that studies plants.
Dad:  And now you know a big word.
Lily:  Botanist.
Dad:  Do you like reading books that help you learn new words, or would you rather read books where you already know all the words.
Lily:  I just like reading books.  Any books.  I just read books that seem interesting.
Dad:  And what is one reason you like these "Cobble Street Cousin" books?
Lily:  They give you all these different ideas of stuff to do.  Like, if you are old enough to sell cookies, you could do that.  And they have little adventures.  Realistic ones.
Dad:  So it's not like the cousins are flying to the moon.  They are adventures that you could even have.
Lily:  Yeah, selling cookies or making dollhouses.  And catching birds.
Dad:  Woah, they catch birds?
Lily:  This old lady had a parrot that flew away, so they had to catch him!  And Rose said, "He's on the turkey!"
Dad:  On the turkey?
Lily:  I mean, "He's on the chicken!"
Dad:  A parrot was sitting on top of a chicken?
Lily:  You know those little chickens that tell "north"...
Dad:  Ahhhh... a weather vane?
Lily:  Yeah.
Dad:  Thanks for telling me about these stories Lily!  It makes me want to read them.
Lily:  Yeah.
Dad:  We should tell people that these are written by Cynthia Rylant.
Lily:  Do you know her?
Dad:  No, I've never met her, but I know about her.  We have lots and lots of her picture books.  "The Cobble Street Cousins" books are chapter books, but they do have pictures too.  How would you describe the pictures?
Lily:  Like... old timey.  And realisticyness.
Dad:  Realistic-y?
Lily:  Ness.
Dad:  Realistic-y-ness?
Lily:  Because they are realisticynesses.
Dad:  Realistic-y-ness-es?  Oh my lands, this word is getting longer and longer!
Lily:  Hee hee hee ha ha hahh!
Dad:  The pictures are by Wendy Anderson Halperin.
Lily:  I love her drawings.  They are cool.
Dad:  Now, I did meet her once.
Lily:  Aaaaaaaah!  I'm flabbergasted.
Dad:  Did you see what she wrote in this one?  "To Lily..."
Lily: (Gasp!)
Dad:  Oh, you haven't gotten to that book in the series yet!  You didn't know?
Lily:  What?
Dad:  You girls each have one signed to you.
Lily:  I have a new favorite book!  It is signed "To Lily."

Lily, Tess, and Rosie, by Lily

Author: Cynthia Rylant
Illustrator: Wendy Anderson Halperin
Book 1: "In Aunt Lucy's Kitchen" published, 2000: Aladdin
Like it?  Find it

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Review #70: Just Grace

A special treat this week!  For a year and a half we've reviewed books that we read together as a family.  But the kids are all voracious readers on their own as well.  So I thought I'd chat with them one-on-one to find out about the books they are reading for their own pleasure.  These are books I personally know nothing about, so I'm learning too!  Here's the schedule for the week:

Yesterday: Isaac with the "Percy Jackson" series

Today: Gracie with the "Just Grace" series

Tomorrow: Lily with the "Cobble Street Cousins" series

Now, take it away Gracie!

Dad:  Hello Gracie.
Gracie (age 9):  Hi.
Dad:  Do you know why you are the only one here Bookie Woogie-ing?
Gracie:  It's just me today.
Dad:  Just you?  Just Grace?!
Gracie:  Yeah!!!
Dad:  And what book are we going to discus?
Gracie:  "Just Grace."
Dad:  I know it's just you.  But what book are we going to look at?
Gracie:  "Just Grace!"  The book is called "Just Grace!"
Dad:  Oh.... okay.
Gracie:  HA ha ha!  You know that.
Dad:  Why do you love these books?  Is it because your name is Grace?
Gracie:  I like them because the books are funny.
Dad:  So it's coincidence?  If the series was called "Just Hildegard," you would have still read them?
Gracie:  Hildegard is an awesome name.
Dad:  What does the "Just" in "Just Grace" mean?
Gracie:  She is in school with three other Graces.  There is Gracie, Grace W, Grace L, and Just Grace.  When she signs her papers she has to write "Just Grace" above them.
Dad:  I see.
Gracie:  This is how it started: At the beginning of the school year, the teachers said, "We can't have four Graces, we won't know who is who."  So they said, "your new name is Grace W for--" ...I don't remember what her last name was.  Grace Weebsnopper or whatever.
Dad:  Weebsnopper?
Gracie:  "And Grace... uh... Lowwee - you will be Grace L."  So Just Grace is thinking, if everyone else has a new name, maybe I can be Grace with no initial.  So she says, "Teacher, since everyone else's name isn't Grace anymore, can I be just Grace?"  So the teacher calls her Just Grace.  But I'm thinking the teacher really knew what she meant.
Dad:  So it was just a joke.
Gracie:  But kids loved that -- "Just Grace!  Just Grace!"
Dad:  Ah, kids, kids, kids...
Gracie:  You shouldn't blame kids about teasing.  You are the biggest teaser ever!
Dad:  Who me?
Gracie:  Yes you!  You tease about everything!
Dad:  Dad's are good at teasing.  So, what are the stories about?  Is there anything special about the main character?
Gracie:  She has empathy powers.
Dad:  Woah!  What does that mean?  What is "empathy."
Gracie:  I have no idea.  All I know is that she calls them "empathy powers."  And when somebody feels bad, she automatically has to do something to make them feel better.
Dad:  Then, I think you do know what empathy is.  "Empathy" means if someone feels a certain way, you feel it along with them.
Gracie:  I have empathy powers too.
Dad:  Does she use her powers for good or for evil?
Gracie:  How can you use "feeling bad for someone" for evil?
Dad:  Yeah, you're right.
Gracie:  Anyone out there with empathy powers who wants to destroy the world... sorry.  You are going to have to find something else to do.
Dad:  So give me an example of one time when Just Grace had empathy powers.
Gracie:  Once her best friend Mimi got this big triple ice cream cone, and Grace got a strawberry fudge one...
Dad:  Is this in the first book or a different one?
Gracie:  This isn't in any of the books.
Dad:  What???
Gracie:  I'm making it up.
Dad:  Pbbbbbb...
Gracie:  Ha ha ha ha ha!
Dad:  Okay.  So you are writing further adventures?
Gracie:  Oops... No...
Dad:  You are just trying to create an example.
Gracie:  Mm-hm.  So, if somebody gets a big fudge ice cream cone, and they spill it, you feel so bad for them that you give them yours.
Dad:  Is there anything else to say about the characters?
Gracie:  Just Grace loves to draw.  Whenever she feels sad or bad or mad or even happy, she goes up to her room, draws a comic, and then she feels, "Okiedoke, okay I'm fine..."
Dad:  Is that where you get that?  Sometimes when you are mad, you draw a picture about what happened.
Gracie:  I draw a picture of what just happened and then it calms me down.  But I started that before I read these books.
Dad:  So you are just like "Just Grace."  Same name.  Same powers.  Same drawing.  Maybe that could be the next book in the series... "Just Like Grace."
Gracie:  She's just a normal girl with empathy powers.
Dad:  Do you have to read the books in order?
Gracie:  I haven't been reading them in order at all.  It doesn't matter.
Dad:  Does the series feel complete?
Gracie:  The author needs to write more.  Please.
Dad:  Do you who the author is?
Gracie:  Fashion Kitty!!!
Dad:  Yep - it's the same lady who wrote the Fashion Kitty books.
Gracie:  I love them.
Dad:  Her name is Charise Mericle Harper.
Gracie:  She rocks.
Dad:  Is there anything similar between the Fashion Kitty graphic novels and the Just Grace chapter books?
Gracie:  The style of the pictures looks the same.  They have really squishy oval eyes.
Dad:  Well, thanks for telling us about these book!  I have one more question for you.  What are you currently reading?
Gracie:  Inkspell.  I'm on chapter 11.
Dad:  We all read Inkheart together.  Then you liked it so much that you decided to read the sequel on your own.  You know, you're just like Isaac - you are leaving me behind!  You are leaving me in the dust!
Gracie:  Ha ha ha!

four Graces, by Gracie

Author/Illustrator: Charise Mericle Harper
Book 1: "Just Grace" published, 2007: Houghton Mifflin
Like it?  Find it

Monday, May 17, 2010

Review #69: Percy Jackson & the Olympians

A special treat this week!  For a year and a half we've reviewed books that we read together as a family.  But the kids are all voracious readers on their own as well.  So I thought I'd chat with them one-on-one to find out about the books they are reading for their own pleasure.  These are books I personally know nothing about, so I'm learning too!  We invite you to check back later this week as well to hear from each of the kids.  Here's the schedule:

Today: Isaac with the "Percy Jackson" series

Tomorrow: Gracie with the "Just Grace" series

Wednesday: Lily with the "Cobble Street Cousins" series

And now, heeeeeeere's Isaac!

Dad:  Hello Isaac.
Isaac (age 11):  Hi.
Dad:  What books are we going to discuss?
Isaac:  Percy Jackson and the Olympians.
Dad:  By Rick Riordan.  Did you like them?
Isaac:  Yes.  Tons.  I loved the action and adventure of them.  They are based on all the Greek myths.  Like, Zeus and the Big Three, and the 12 other gods...
Dad:  Who are "the Big Three"?
Isaac:  The Big Three are the greatest ones -- Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades.
Dad:  Are they good guys, or bad guys, or a mix?
Isaac:  Zeus is the highest of the three, so he has the most authority.  He is really solemn.  Poseidon is really kind.  And Hades just really doesn't care that much.  He's angry at all the other gods.
Dad:  And who is Percy Jackson.
Isaac:  He's the main character through the whole series.  He's the son of Poseidon.
Dad:  I gather from the covers that he's got some special powers?
Isaac:  All the people who are half-gods have powers.  He can use water.  I guess you could call him a water-bender.  He can make huge tidal waves.  He can breathe underwater.  And if he wants, he can make himself never get wet.
Dad:  Go, go, gadget umbrella!
Isaac:  No, he does not have a giant robotic umbrella arm come out of his head.
Dad:  Is there one storyline that goes through the series, or is each a self-contained story?
Isaac:  Kind of both.  There are different adventures, but they tie into each other.  Especially the last two books.  They definitely go together.
Dad:  What storyline ties them together?
Isaac:  Kronos is trying to come back and take over.
Dad:  Kronos is the father of the Big Three if I remember my Greek mythology right...
Isaac:  Yeah, he is the Titan.  Percy has to stop the monsters because Kronos is trying to take over.  In myths, the gods have to send people to fight for them.  Not just in these books, but in real myths.  So Percy and his friends have to fight, because the gods can't do it by themselves.  But the gods would never admit that.
Dad:  Did you have a favorite book in the series?
Isaac:  The last book was really good.  It had a ton of action in it.  But I was really mad that one person died.  I was so mad.  And then you find something out that made me even madder -- the thing he died for was just a decoy, so he didn't die for any purpose.  It made me really mad.
Dad:  You really got into these books.  Now, why did you love them so much?
Isaac:  I'm not sure.  The first one was hard to get through...
Dad:  Yeah, you started it before you were a big reader.  It was a daunting task to finish that whole big book.
Isaac:  I almost stopped three times.
Dad:  But what happened when you finished it?
Isaac:  It was just so good I wanted to read the next one.
Dad:  And then you started reading them day and night!  Every time you finished one, you couldn't wait to get the next.
Isaac:  These are the books that got me into reading.  Now I read tons of 300 page books.
Dad:  You are a reading machine.  But tell us -- what happened when you finished the final Percy Jackson book.  Was life wonderful and cheery?
Isaac:  Uh, not really.  They are such good books -- so awesome.  But there were no other books like them.  No other books that good.
Dad:  As long as there are additional books in a favorite series, it's a safe bet you'll like them.  But when you're done, every other book you try is a roll of the dice...
Isaac:  You have to go searching, but you could never find another one just like them.
Dad:  You were such a good reader after finishing the series, I thought -- Yea! We have a house full of books! Go at 'em!  I gave you book after book after book.  But you always said, "It's not the same...  It's never going to be the same...  I'll never find a book as good as these..."  For a few weeks, you were such a sad little puppy.
Isaac:  I tried though.
Dad:  You tried a lot.  You began book after book.  And finally you found one that stuck.  And now you are a voracious reader again.  What was the book that finally broke the spell and set you back on the reading path?
Isaac:  "Leepike Ridge" was the book I finally found.  N.D. Wilson wrote it.  That was really good as well.  It had lots of adventure.
Dad:  And now you devour books like crazy again.  And I'm amazed.  But I'm actually kind of sad.  You are reading all these books that I've always wanted to read.  Up until recently, we've always read books together.  And now you are having all these adventures without me!  I'm jealous.  But you are a reader.  I guess that's how it's supposed to be...
Isaac:  Yeah.
Dad:  Now, I want to ask you about "The Shadow Thieves" from the Cronus series.  I specifically hunted that book down for you because I knew it was supposed to be similar to Percy.  I think the first books in both series came out right around the same time.
Isaac:  It's pretty much the exact same thing as Percy Jackson.
Dad:  I knew they were both based on mythology but set in modern times.  Did you like it?
Isaac:  At first it was extremely hard to get into.  The first half was really hard to get through.  It didn't really have any action.  It was just talking.  The book goes slower.
Dad:  But you finished it.  And it was a huge book.
Isaac:  Yeah, I did finish it finally.
Dad:  There are more books in that series.  Would you read those?
Isaac:  Someday.  I liked the first one.  At the end.
Dad:  Aww... so it took until the very end before you liked it!
Isaac:  Yeah.
Dad:  Do you ever think you'll read through the Percy Jackson books a second time?
Isaac:  I'd like to read through them again.  But I already have so many other books I want to read now.  It may take a while.
Dad:  And what are you reading at the moment?
Isaac:  100 Cupboards.  That is also really good.  Also by N.D. Wilson.
Dad:  Well this has been fun!  I've enjoyed talking with you one-on-one for Bookie Woogie!
Isaac:  Yeah!  It's really nice.
Dad:  We'll have to do it more often.  You don't have to divvy up time with other kids.
Isaac:  Yeah, I get to talk as much as I want.
Dad:  Thanks for sharing your favorite books with us, Isaac!
Isaac:  You are welcome.

Percy Jackson, by Isaac

Author: Rick Riordan
Book 1: "The Lightning Thief" published, 2005: Hyperion
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Monday, May 10, 2010

Review #68: Mathilda and the Orange Balloon

Dad:  Today we are looking at "Mathilda and the Orange Balloon" by Randall de Seve, illustrated by Jen Corace.
Lily (age 7):  This book is about balloons.
Isaac (age 11):  And imagination.
Lily:  Imagination and balloons.
Dad:  Do you guys remember who Jen Corace is?
Gracie (age 9):  She illustrated Little Pea, Little Hoot, and Little... um... Pig.
Isaac:  She's back.  And cooler than ever.
Dad:  Who is the star of this book?
Isaac:  The book is about this sheep who has a huge imagination.
Gracie:  Mathilda is the sheep.  Mathilda is kind of a weird name for her.  It sounds like a boring name, even though she is fun.
Dad:  You think the name "Mathilda" sounds boring?
Gracie:  It sounds like a name you would give one of those really proper stepmothers that live in the big mansions.
Isaac:  It sounds like a name from Anne of Green Gables.
Gracie:  I think the sheep's name should be "Marshmallow."
Lily:  Mathilda saw a big, orange balloon.  And she wanted to be one.  But all the other sheep said, "You can't do that, because... we are boring - that's why.  Sheep are boring, so you are not allowed to turn into an orange balloon."
Isaac:  She changed their minds by proving them wrong.  By turning into a big rubber round thing.  And turning colors.  And turning fluffy.
Gracie:  She imagined all the things that balloons look like.  Round, flying, and orange.  So when the sheep say, "A balloon is round," all of a sudden Mathilda is like - POOM!  And she is round.  Then the sheep say, "And it flies." And she says, "Like this?"  And then she's 15 feet off the ground.  And when they say "orange," she turns into a freaky tiger and all the sheep freak out.
Lily:  You said "freak" two times.
Dad:  Was she really doing these things, or was she imagining them?
Gracie:  I hope she was really doing it.  Because that would be funny.
Isaac:  It would be funny if it really was happening, and then right when she turns all big, round, and fluffy and started floating, the farmer opens up the door!
Gracie:  She is a balloon.  A freakishly strange balloon.
Isaac:  She has an orange imagination of fun.
Lily:  And all the other sheep turn into flowers, bees, buses, and even sailors!
Isaac:  Actually - it just occurred to me...  When she turns into the tiger, all the other sheep are cowering.  So it must be real.
Dad:  Or maybe they also got caught up in her imagination...  Has that ever happened to you?  Have you ever gotten swept up into someone else's imagination?
Gracie:  Yeah!  That happens a lot.
Dad:  Think of movies even.  Other people just make them up, but you get caught up into the story and for a while you feel like it's real.
Gracie:  I had to stop watching a movie.  Right in the middle of "2012," it scared me half to death.
Isaac:  Like "Signs" did for me.  That's the first scary movie I ever watched.  I did not expect that.
Dad:  So maybe all the little lambies had to stop in the middle of Mathilda's orange tiger story because it scared them half to death.
Gracie:  Ha ha!
Isaac:  Did you see that tiger's teeth!  They look like huge bent up needles!  Look at them!
Gracie:  They are so shocked.  Look at their faces.
Dad:  So, do you guys have good imaginations?
Gracie:  I don't want to toot my own horn...
Dad:  I don't know, (sniff)...  I think I just heard Gracie's horn toot.  Or...  something tooted over there...
Isaac:  Ha ha ha ha HA!
Lily:  Grammy always says to me, "You have such a good imagination."
Gracie:  Dad, you are most like the old sheep.
Dad:  Why?  Because I'm old?
Gracie:  No.
Dad:  Because I'm gray?
Gracie:  No.
Dad:  Because I'm poofy?
Kids:  Ha HA HAH ha ha!!!
Gracie:  No - because sometimes instead of letting us have fun, you make us clean the living room.
Dad:  Well, just use your imaginations!  Maybe you can make clean-up fun!  Now, do you guys ever do what Mathilda does?  Do you ever imagine you are some other thing?
Isaac:  Hmmm... I'm trying to think.... what's the weirdest thing I've ever pretended I was.
Gracie:  Oh!  Oh!  Remember.  Just last night you were pretending to be--
Isaac:  NO!!!  NOT THAT!!!  DON'T SAY IT!!!
Isaac:  NO NO NO!!!
Dad:  Alright...  I know what picture I'm drawing for the review...
Gracie:  Isaac the underwear model!
(Laughter by all)
Isaac:  It was pajama pants.
Dad:  How about you, Lily -- Do you ever pretend to be something funny?
Lily:  Yes.  A bird.  I make a nest out of blankets, and I pretend I'm a bird.
Gracie:  Sometimes I wish with all my might that I could be small enough to fit into Polly Pocket clothes.
Dad:  Be careful what you wish for!

Mathilda as an orange balloon, by Gracie

Mathilda as an orange tiger, by Lily

Mathilda as an orange...  orange! by Isaac

Author: Randall de Seve
Illustrator: Jen Corace
Published, 2010: Harper Collins
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Saturday, May 8, 2010


Bookie Woogie has been a great place for the kids and Dad to have fun, to learn, and to bond.  And even though Mom is mostly behind the scenes of this blog, she is front and center in our lives.  Sure I get to share kidlit-knowhow once a week -- but she schools them all week long!  Sure, the kids and I talk about books -- but she taught them to read!  Sure, I tell them about art techniques -- but she keeps order in a house filled with all the paint and its splatter, pencils and their shavings, paper and its scraps.

So I'd like to take a moment to thank Z-Mom, and recognize how very precious she is to us all.  And in doing so, also acknowledge the matchless impact all YOU moms have in the lives of your dear little ones as well.

In honor of Mother's Day, I invite you to check out this post from last year.  And I'd also like to share a Mother's Day recording made in 2002 when Isaac was just 3, Gracie was 1 1/2, and Lily had yet to be discovered:

I don't think  the above audio needs translating.  But just in case the only reason I can understand the toddle-speak is because they're my own kids, here are some subtitles to scan as you listen:

Dad:  Who does Gracie love?
Gracie (age 1):  Ba-bub!
Dad:  Who?  Who does Gracie love?
Gracie:  Cee-cie!
Dad:  Gracie?
Gracie:  Uh-huh!
Dad:  Who is a pretty lady that Gracie loves?
Gracie:  I do too!
Dad:  You do too?  We'll ask brother first.  Isaac, who do you love that is a pretty lady?
Isaac (age 3):  Mommy.
Dad:  You do!  Who does Gracie love?
Gracie:  Mommy.
Dad:  You do!  Who does Daddy love too?
Isaac:  Umm...  Turkey!  Ha ha!
Dad:  What?  No - it's Mommy!  Why do you love Mommy, Cee-cie?
Gracie:  Moose.
Dad:  Moose?  You love Mommy because she is a moose...
Isaac:  Ha ha ha!  I love Mommy because her is pretty.
Dad:  Because she's pretty?  Oh, why else do you love Mommy?
Isaac:  Because... I love her because her says "I love you" to me.
Dad:  That's very nice.  Why do you love Mommy?
Gracie:  Jesus!
Dad:  You love Mommy because of Jesus?
Isaac:  Daddy?  I want to hear the sounds. [from the taperecorder]
Dad:  Would anybody like to sing a song about Mommy?
Isaac:  Yeah.
Dad:  Okay.  Let's hear your song.
Isaac: (singing)  I love Mommy.  I love Mommy.  I love Mommy.  Yes I do.  Yes I do.  I love Mommy.  I love Mommy.  Because her pretty.
Dad:  Good one!  Does Gracie have a song?  Let's hear your Mommy song.  Can you sing it, Gracie?
Isaac:  Can you sing that moose song?  That moose that you just said on the radio?
Dad: (singing)  I love Mommy...
Gracie: (singing)  I do too...
Isaac:  That was my song!  Gracie, that was my song I was doing!
Dad:  Yeah, Gracie knows it.  Let's hear you sing it.  Let's hear you sing the I love Mommy Song.
Gracie: (singing)  Love Mommys...
Dad:  That was great.  That was very pretty.
Gracie: (singing)  I do too...
Isaac: (singing)  I love Mommy...
Gracie:  I do too...
Isaac:  I love Mommy.  Yes I do.  Yes I do.
Gracie: (heavy breathing)  Love Mommy.  I do too.  I do too.
Dad:  Very pretty.
Gracie:  I do too.  I do too.
Dad:  What are some of the things you can think of that Mommy does for you that you are very thankful for?
Isaac:  Her sings me songs.
Dad:  That's good.  Does Mommy do anything else?
Isaac:  Yeah.  Her tells me "I love you."
Dad:  She tells you that she loves you...
Isaac:  Her say "I keep you."  Yep.  And Mommy... her make me food, and her said "I love you."
Dad:  Wow.  Those are great!  What does Mommy do for you Gracie?
Gracie:  Jesus.
Dad:  She tells you about Jesus?  What else does Mommy do?
Gracie:  Jesus!  Do too!
Dad:  Does Mommy give you huggies?
Gracie:  I do too.
Dad:  Does Mommy give you kisses?
Gracie:  Yeah!  I do tooooo!
Dad:  Who likes Mommy's kisses?
Gracie:  I do too.
Dad:  Who likes Mommy's hugs?
Gracie:  I do too.
Dad:  Do you like to give Mommy hugs?
Gracie:  Yes!
Isaac:  Her says, if something is breakable, I can't touch it.
Dad:  Why does she do that?  Does she say that to keep you safe?
Isaac:  Yeah.  Like a sword.  If I have a sword backward, it would hurt myself.
Dad:  Mmm.
Isaac:  Happy Mother's Day, Mommy.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Review #67: The Quiet Book

Gracie (age 9):  I can't see the book!  Your head is too big.
Isaac (age 11):  Shh!  It's "The Quiet Book."  You have to be quiet.
Dad:  Two people worked on "The Quiet Book"...
Lily (age 7):  Deborah Underwood and Renata Liwska.
Isaac:  People should know -- if you are reading this book to kids, it is not going to be a very quiet book.
Dad:  And why is that?
Isaac:  You are going to find yourself actually laughing.  Everyone here just kept laughing.
Dad:  So, what is the book about?
Lily:  "The Quiet Book" is about people being quiet.
Dad:  People?
Lily:  No.  Animals.
Gracie:  Cute animal characters.
Isaac:  Fluffy.
Gracie:  Cute.
Isaac:  And some have bad haircuts.
Dad:  Why was it so funny?
Isaac:  The pictures are really funny.  And sometimes the words help a picture to be funny.  If you just saw the picture by itself you would think, "Oh that's kind of sad."  But with the words it's really funny.
Dad:  The book lists many different kinds of quiet.  What were some examples?
Lily:  "Looking at your horrible new hairdo quiet."  And "underwater quiet."  And "I don't have a flashlight quiet."
Isaac:  And "trying not to hiccup quiet."  A bear is just holding this bunny up by his legs, dangling him down!
Lily:  There are tons of characters.  My favorite character is a porcupine.  Because he has an awesome hairdo.
Isaac:  Ha ha!  It's freaky.
Gracie:  It looks horrible.  He has the worst hairdo in the whole world!
Isaac:  I want that porcupine to come back.  He's funny!  He does not have very good luck.  Everything that has to do with that porcupine is hilarious.
Gracie:  Look at the kid in the background!  She's trying to get away from the barber!
Dad:  She doesn't want to end up like the porcupine...
Isaac:  Hi, little freaky hair dude!
Lily:  I like quiet.  I also like loud.  Crazy loud.
Dad:  What are some times that you guys are quiet?  Gracie, are you ever quiet?
Gracie:  Nope!
Isaac:  I like "trying to sleep quiet."  Or "getting out of bed quiet."
Gracie:  I like "first bite of cake quiet."
Dad:  Does the first bite of cake make you quiet?  Really?  Of course not long after, the sugar winds you up.
Lily:  I don't like "Daddy taking an hour on the phone quiet."
Dad:  Yeah, sometimes you guys have to settle down while I'm on the phone.
Lily:  I hate it.
Isaac:  One kind I don't like is "Being sent to my room quiet."  But nobody likes that.
Gracie:  Actually, if I was in trouble, I would like that.  Quiet means I wouldn't be getting yelled at.
Isaac:  (yawn)
Dad:  Talking about all this "quiet" made Isaac yawn.
Gracie:  (yawn)
Dad:  Now Gracie is yawning too!  We should save this book for before bed.
Isaac:  (yawn)  Agh - I keep yawning.
Lily:  (yawn)
Gracie:  That was a big yawn.
Dad:  Do you recognize the style of the drawings in this book?
Gracie:  "Little Panda."
Dad:  That's one of our favorite books by one of our favorite artists.
Gracie:  In "The Quiet Book" there is a clue that Renata Liwska also made "Little Panda."  In one of the pictures there is a "Little Panda" book on a shelf.
Isaac:  Her books have really good artwork.
Gracie:  She draws sketchy and cute.
Isaac:  Very sketchy.  Scribbly.  But amazingly cool.
Gracie:  The pictures have dull colors.  But that matches the book.
Dad:  Does that mean it's a dull book?
Gracie:  No!  It's hilarious.  But if the pages had bright purple or neon pink, that would wreck the book.  It's a quiet book, so it needs quiet colors.
Dad:  That's pretty clever of Mrs. Liwska, huh?
Lily:  She's one of our favorites.
Isaac:  She's going to get that medal thingie someday probably.
Gracie:  The Caldecott.
Isaac:  Yeah.  The Caldecott.  The drawing just looks so good.

picking a flower quiet, by Gracie

sneaking up on a duck quiet, by Lily

sailing through space quiet, by Isaac

Author: Deborah Underwood
Illustrator: Renata Liwska
Published, 2010: Houghton Mifflin
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