Friday, November 19, 2010

Everything Else: Cybils Nominations, The F's

My next installment of short reviews! I'm working my way through the alphabet, reading many gorgeous, interesting, and delightful books!

  • Fabulous Fair Alphabet by Debra Frasier. Living in a town which hosts one of the largest county fairs in the Midwest, I never, never have enough fair books! There just aren't any contemporary books about this classic event. I was really excited to see this one. Each letter of the alphabet covers a different aspect of the fair, from the food to the activities, lights, people and happy exhaustion at the end of the day. The illustrations were very busy with multiple letters in different styles crammed onto every page. I thought they were rather too busy and it was hard to focus on the words - or find them. However, this is such an empty gap in my library that I'm not going to be picky at all - and kids will love finding all the different things they do at the fair. I would recommend reading the story several times before storytime so you find and memorize the basic text and don't have to search for it while reading aloud. From a distance, the pictures are much more cohesive, so it should work better for storytime than one-on-one reading. Review copy received from Simon and Schuster.

  • Famous Nini: A mostly true story of how a plain white cat became a star by Mary Nethery. I liked John Manders curving illustrations (at my library we really like his collaboration with Carolyn Crimi on Henry and the Buccaneer Bunnies). The story was interesting and I appreciated the author's note about the inspiration in historical fact. Older children, kindergarten and up, will probably appreciate this the most. Review copy provided by publisher.
  • Firehouse Light by Janet Nolan. Nolan takes the true story of a little light bulb in a firehouse that has been burning over 100 years and builds around it the history of a town and a country. The reader sees the changes from horses to automobiles, from small town to city, as shown in the changes in the firehouse. Information on the real firehouse light bulb is given at the end. Lafrance's illustrations strongly reminded me of Barbara Cooney's lines and colors. They have a primitive but modernistic style. This story would be a good fit for one-on-one sharing or for classes studying American history. Borrowed from library.
  • Floating on Mama's song/Flotando en la cancion de mama by Laura Lacamara. A little girl loves her mama's songs, but when she turns seven her mother's singing makes everyone who hears her float. The little girl's grandmother - backed up by complaints from the neighbors - makes the mother stop singing. The mother grows sadder, the neighbors' animals are unhappy, and the little girl decides she has to help. She finds out that her Grandma also made people and animals float with her song, but stopped singing and now her "heart is a bitter grapefruit." The three generations sing and float together and everyone is happy. How, exactly, does this work? Are her neighbors willing to trade an occasional float for their animals' well-being? How do they keep from floating off into the sky? It's nice to see a multi-generational story, and I need more books with Hispanic children and adults, but this one is too...floaty for our patrons. The artwork has artistic merit, but isn't what I would choose to attract a child to a book, since it's mainly figures in different positions, set against different landscapes. The Hispanic kids in our community don't live in a cultural vacuum - they watch plenty of TV and movies, attend preschool, daycare, and Head Start, and absorb information from their older brothers and sisters in school. They like plenty of movement and detail in their illustrations, plots they can follow, jokes they can laugh at, and kids they can relate to. I would like to see less magical realism and high concept books and more realistic stories with contemporary kids of color in the picture books I buy for my library. This could be a good fit for a library with kids coming from a very rural background, or for a large collection, but it's not a good fit for my library. Borrowed from the library.
  • Forever Friends by Carin Berger. This is also a high concept book, but works better than the previous title for a variety of reasons. The illustrations work better for me, personally. I like the clean lines of the cut paper and the more muted and the varied colors. The main reason this book works better is the focus is on the illustration with minimal text. The simple story is told in only a few lines on each page, but the emotion and subtext are shown in the characters and backgrounds of the illustrations. The text and illustrations need each other to become a complete book; both complement and improve the story. This won't be a huge favorite like Fancy Nancy, but will certainly find fans among parents, librarians, and teachers looking for a quiet book to end a busy day. Borrowed from the library
  • Frankie Stein starts school by Lola Schaefer. I felt like I was missing something in the storyline, but maybe that's because it's a sequel. Frankie Stein, a "normal" human boy by human standards, sticks out in monster school. He finally fits in when he demonstrates a hidden talent. A cute book for Halloween or starting school. Review copy received from Marshall Cavendish.
  • Franklin's Big Dreams by David Teague. Kulikov's dreamy blue illustrations are delightful, but this I thought the story was rather weird and confusing. Although I figured out quite soon that Franklin is dreaming, the bits of the story just didn't match up and I'm doubtful about a preschool audience understanding what's happening. Not recommended. Borrowed from library.
  • Fur and feathers by Janet Halfmann. Sophia is enjoying a bedtime story about animals with her mother when she falls asleep. In her dreams, the animals lose their fur, feathers, and scales and she has to replace them. She first tries clothes, but then realizes the animals need special coverings. With her grandma's sewing basket, she makes just the right thing for each animal. Information on classification, various animal skin coverings, and more as well as activities are included. I like Laurie Klein's cheerful illustrations. The animals losing all their fur etc. is a bit strange, but on the whole this is an interesting story with a neatly woven nonfiction element. Recommended, especially for school libraries. Review copy received from Sylvan Dell.

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