Monday, January 21, 2013

Review #121: The Prairie Thief

Dad:  We just finished a big family reading of "The Prairie Thief" by Melissa Wiley.
Gracie (age 12):  I've got such a good blurb for this book. 
Dad:  Oh yeah?
Gracie:  It's better than any blurb Isaac will think of.  I'm going to whoop Isaac at the blurbage.  
Dad:  Okay, tell us your blurb.
Gracie:  I don't want to right now!
Dad:  You want to save it for the end?
Gracie:  Yes, because it still needs a little tweaking here and there.
Dad:  Alright... we're on pins and needles.  So let's talk about "The Prairie Thief."  Let's start with each of the words in the title.
Isaac (age 14):  I'll tell you about the word "The."
Dad:  How about "Prairie"?
Lily (age 9):  The characters live on a prairie.  A prairie is a nice field of long flow-y grass that blows in the wind.
Isaac:  This book takes place in the same timeframe as Little House on the Prairie days.
Gracie:  Yeah, when I think of prairies, I think of Laura.
Lily:  Little girls with braids in their hair, running through the fields.  It's the Old Days.
Elijah (age 7):  They're probably all dead by now.
Dad:  Tell me about the "Thief" part of the title...
Lily:  The girl's dad was accused of theft-ing.
Gracie:  You're not even saying it right.  It's "thievering."
Dad:  Uh, thievering?
Gracie:  Louisa is the main character.  A whole bunch of stolen property is found on their land, and her father is falsely accused.  He has to go to jail, and Louisa has to clear her father's name before they hang him, because her Pa is like an awesome honorable man.
Lily:  Louisa has to go stay with the people who accused her Pa because they are the only ones who live nearby.
Gracie:  It's miserable!  They are called The Smirches.  Which sounds like a totally evil name.
Lily: (growling)  Smmmirchhhhhh....
Gracie:  Doesn't that name just sound like an evil name?
Lily:  Smirch.
Gracie:  Like, listen to this.  Which one sounds like the evil character:  Mrs. Brody...  Mrs. Mack...  or Mrs. Smirch.
Lily:  Smirch.
Dad:  We talked a bit about how this book has a historical setting.
Gracie:  But it was also magical.
Dad:  The author did a good job describing what life on the prairie was like.
Gracie:  Yeah.  And then she did a good job describing what life was like with a Leprechaun for a neighbor.
Elijah:  It's a Brownie!  Louisa finds a Brownie.
Dad:  Brownies!  That sounds delicious!
Elijah:  No.  A Brownie is a little short man with a beard!
Dad:  Like you?
Kids: Ha ha ha hah!
Dad:  Elijah is a little short man.
Gracie:  But he doesn't have a beard.  You do.  It's a mix between you and Elijah.
Lily:  There are two kinds of Brownies.  The "little man" brownie and the "eating" brownie.  And you can't get them mixed up.  That would be pretty bad.
Dad:  Back to the story...
Gracie:  The author shows how difficult life really was back then on the Prairie Days.  She expresses that really well throughout the book.  But then she mixes in magical creatures.
Isaac:  It's a good mix... showing life a long time ago, but also with some fantasy.  It doesn't overdo it either way.  It's a good mix.
Lily:  Louisa crawls into a little hole that she thinks is a badger hole.
Elijah:  But she found a Brownie!
Gracie:  He's got a pointy little hat.
Lily:  And he can talk to animals.
Gracie:  She meets lots of fun little friends along her journey.  Like a pronghorn.  And wolves.
Elijah:  And a Brownie!
Dad:  Isaac, I have a question for you...
Isaac: (hesitantly)  Yeeeees?
Dad:  I've read a bit of debate online recently.  Some people claim that boys don't like books with girls as main characters.  What's your opinion?
Isaac:  Uhhh...  It depends on the book.
Dad:  They say that girls will read books with boys as main characters, but boys won't read books with girls as main characters.
Isaac:  That's not true.  It just has to be the right book.  I mean, boys aren't going to want "Barbie Princess."  It just depends on what the story is.
Dad:  Any examples of books you like that have girls as main characters?
Isaac: (Isaac starts rattling off books, no hesitation...)  The "Amulet" books have a girl in it -- those are graphic novels though.  "Where the Mountain Meets the Moon" would be another good book.  "A Series of Unfortunate Events" has two girls and one boy.  "A Wrinkle in Time" is not really a boy book or a girl book.  It's just a really good book I would suggest for people to read...
Dad:  So what about "The Prairie Thief"?  Is it a book that boys would read?
Isaac:  I don't know about all boys.  But in my opinion I thought it was good.  *I* liked "The Prairie Thief."
Lily:  Sleeping overnight with wolves. Riding on pronghorns. Climbing into mysterious holes.  That all sounds like stuff boys would like.
Elijah:  Yeah, it has to do with wolves and coyotes!  And Brownies!
Isaac:  It's a really good story.
Dad:  Great - thanks guys!  So, are you ready for your blurb now, Gracie?
Gracie:  Okay, I think I've got it.
Dad:  Let's have it.
Gracie:  "'The Prairie Thief' is a mystical mystery not to be missed."
Dad:  Hey, good blurb!
Gracie:  I'm the blurb master now.

Louisa crawls into the hole, by Lily

Louisa meets a wolf, by Isaac 

Louisa rides a pronghorn, by Gracie

Brownie riding a wolf, by Elijah

Author: Melissa Wiley
Illustrator: Erwin Madrid
Published, 2012: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Like it?  Here it is

Monday, January 14, 2013

Review #120: The Three Ninja Pigs

Dad:  It's "The Three Ninja Pigs."
Kids: (karate noises)  YAGH!  WHAH!  SWOOSH-WOOSH!
Dad:  Written by Corey Rosen Schwartz.  And illustrated by --
Lily (age 9):  Dan Santat.
Gracie (age 12):  He's an illustrator and a ninja.
Dad:  The 6 kids and I just read the book.  And now the 3 oldest kids are here reviewing it, while the 3 littlest ones are...
Gracie:  Doing karate stuff. 
Dad:  They've turned into little ninjas, spinning all over the room.
Gracie:  They're all like WAH!  HAWAH!
Dad:  It's funny to see the baby running around doing ninja moves.  Hey, you three need to be quieter while we do the review...
Gracie:  This book is about these three pigs that live in China.  There's this wolf in their village that they have to get rid of because he's blowing things down.  He's a big bully and he rules the world or something.
Dad:  So, there are Three Pigs... a Big Bad Wolf... this sounds like...
Gracie:  The Three Little Pigs.  It's pretty much the same only they changed the word 'little' to 'ninja.'
Isaac (age 14):  It definitely makes it different.
Lily:  They are taking the original and they are re-storying it.
Gracie:  They are strange-ing it up.
Lily:  Twisting it.
Isaac:  It's cool - I like how it's twisted with ninjas and karate. 
Gracie:  Twisted Ninjas!
Lily: (singing)  I'm a twisted ninjaaaaaaa!  A twisted ninjaa-aa-aa!
Dad:  So what happens in this ninja version?
Gracie:  The pigs don't like the wolf being a bully, so they go train at different Ninja Schools.  The first pig drops out because he's lazy.
Lily:  I think he's not very smart.  All the other animals in the dojo are flipping each other like, WAH!  SHOOP!  WHAP!   But Pig One is just snoring.
Dad:  And the second pig?
Lily:  Pig Two stopped halfway through too.  He thought, "I don't need any more learning.  I'm good enough to defeat the evil wolf now.  Ha- ha-ha-ha."
Isaac:  But he got kicked.
Dad:  Third pig?
Isaac:  Pig Three studies karate, she goes through all the lessons, and she masters it.  She defeats the wolf.
Gracie:  She scares him.
Lily:  By splitting bricks on top of each other. 
Gracie:  That third pig is a millionaire!  Did you see how big her house is???
Lily:  WAH!  WEW!  WHEW!  Pork Chop!
Gracie:  The author and illustrator probably based Pig Three off of Miss Piggie. 
Isaac:  They are probably Muppet fans.
Gracie:  Are you guys Muppet fans?
Lily:  When Miss Piggie gets offended her eyes get really big!
Gracie:  And she goes HI-YAH! with her perfectly manicured hooves.
Dad:  So that sums up the story.  What did you think about the art?
Lily:  I like the end pages.  Those are pretty nice.  They are pretty scenes.
Isaac:  I really like how the author told the story with all the rhyming and the twist to it.  I also really like the artwork.  I like the... the... whatchacallit... the um, perspective of the characters.
Dad:  You mean Foreshortening?
Gracie:  New word!
Dad:  When a character has an arm or a leg coming out toward you, the artist needs to know how to use 'foreshortening' -- they make the leg look bigger and overlapped to show that it's closer.
Isaac:  Yeah.  I'm bad at that!
Dad:  You see foreshortening a lot in superhero comics.  It's really tricky.
Isaac:  Yeah it is. 
Dad:  Done right, it looks like the foot is coming toward you.  Done wrong it looks like, "Man, that dude has a really short leg and a huge foot."  It's definitely a skill you have to learn.
Isaac:  Dan Santat is good.
(One by one the older kids have been slinking away to join the younger kids in jumping around the room karate style)
Lily:  Bacon action!
Gracie:  WAHHH!
Lily:  WHEW!  WEW!  WEW!
Dad:  Are you guys done with this review then?
Gracie:  WAP!  WAP!  WAP!
Isaac:  NINJITSU!   Ow!  I just pulled something in my leg!
Dad:  Are you guys going to go make your review-fan-art now... or practice ninja skills on each other?
Isaac:  Ouch.  I'm going to go get a heating pad...

Pig Three versus A Duck, by Lily

Pig Three versus Miss Piggie, by Gracie

Pig Three versus A Punching Bag, by Isaac

Author: Corey Rosen Schwartz
Illustrator: Dan Santat
Published, 2012: Putnam
Like it?  Here it is...