Thursday, January 29, 2009

Becoming Billie Holiday -- book review

Becoming Billie Holiday by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Floyd Cooper (WordSong/ Boyds Mills Press, 2009)
Billie Holiday aka Eleanora Fagan, was probably one of the greatest jazz singers of all times. Yet she came by this greatness 'through the back door': fatherless, often in orphanages, poor, being turned away from hotels and restaurants because of her 'color,' and being mistreated by the men in her life. She performed and recorded in limited tours with bands like Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington. In this tribute to Holiday, renowned poet Carole Boston Weatherford, has written narrative poems each representing one of the songs Holiday had performed successful through 23 years, when she was just "becoming" a star. Says Weatherford, "The young woman who speaks through these poems is Billie Holiday before heroin and hard living took their toll." (Cooper's sepia-toned artwork is "created with a subrative technique, using erasers to make shapes from a ground of paint. The shapes were then enhanced with mixed media, mostly oil based, layered ina dray brush fashion") Both poetry and art is an extraordinary combination. * 2007 Honor Book - Coretta Scott King Award.
(for mature young adult and adult readers)

Sandy's Circus -- picture book review

Sandy's Circus by Tanya Lee Stone illustrated by Boris Kulikov (Viking 2009)

This is the story of Alexandeer Calder, the inventor of the mobile. His early works were wire circus animals and figures and "were always in motion." Today he is known as "one of the mosts imporant American artist of the twnetieth century". The bright stylized art is a tribute to the wonders of this man who man sculptures around the world. The author has included a complete bibliography for added study. (all ages)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Calder Game - book review

The Calder Game by Blue Balliett (Scholastic 2008)
When Calder Pillay goes to England with his father, he is able to explore all kinds of puzzles and mazes. In the courtyard of the village where they stay, there is an Alexander Calder sculpture (the exhibit Calder has seen in Chicago). But when the Sculpture and Calder both disappear, there is a mystery to be solved. Mr. Pillay brings in Calder's two friends to help with the problem. Tommy and Petra both have been part of two previous books by Balliett, ("Chasing Vermeer" and "The Wright 3") where mysteries were solved by the young sleuths. In the first one of Vermeer's paintings is involved and in the second one of Frank Lloyd Wrights' homes. Young readers ages 10- 15 will enjoy the intuition of the sleuths as well as the continued look at Calder Pillay's work with pentominoes. * An exhibit of Alexander Calder's famous works is at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City through February.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Hunger Games - book review

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic, 2008)

Katniss is a sixteen-year-old girl living with her younger sister and mother in the poorest of the twelve districts of Panem, the remains of what used to be the United States. The districts waged war on the Capitol and were defeated. As part of the surrender terms, each district agreed to send one boy and one girl to appear in a television reality game, Hunger Games. Kat's sister draws the lottery for their district but Kat steps in to go in her place. The rules and audiences change as the games proceed but the outcome never does; fight to the death. Kat has to not only defeat the other entries from the districts but also the boy, Peeta, from her own; whom she has learned to care for as the games go on. The idea and popularity of reality tv makes this an interesting read and the pace of the adventure is one to keep you up reading all night! Because of the idea of human-against-human violence, "The Hunger Games" is best for older readers. Although Collins intends this as a trilogy, I was perfectly pleased and thrilled with the adventure of one book, standing alone.
For a complete review see Deseret News 2/8/09 (

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Disappeared - book review

The Disappeared by Gloria Whelan (Dial)

Argentina, like many South American countries has had much governmental unrest. "The Disappeared" is an account of one family during the turmoil of 1977 when armed juntas snatched protesting citizens, jailed and tortured them. In this story, told in alternating chapters by a sister and her brother, a young man is jailed and his sister schemes to have him released by feigning attention to the General's son. She, too, is jailed but when their doctor father saves the life of the General, the family is free, are spirited out of Argentina, exiled to Spain. Whelan notes that hundreds of Desaparedicos were never returned and have never been heard of again. (for readers 12 and up)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Sovay - book review

Sovay by Celia Rees (Bloomsbury, 2008)
Take a combination of Les Miserable, Robin Hood, and the pathos of Dickens and you have the format for Sovay; a French Revolutionary tale set in France and Britain. Savoy, dressed as a boy, turns highwayman to steal documents which suggest her father's wanted for seditious acts. This is a breath-taking adventure filled with patriots, soldiers and fearless citizens trying to free themselves from tyranny. Because of the length (404 pages) and the historical details of war in both countries, "Sovay" is best for older readers, 14 and above.
For a complete review see Deseret News 2/1/09 (