Sunday, July 12, 2009

Books on the lunar landing

Books celebrating the 40th anniversary of the first lunar landing by man:
For eons of time the moon has intrigues scientists, soothsayers and tale-tellers by its mysticism. Shakespeare was only one of many writers who linked moon with love, inspiration and the cycle of life. Children learned that a man's profile sometimes appeared in the full moon, that it could be cheese and that a cow actually jumped over it. Aztec cultures used sacrifices to keep the moon in place and the ancient Sumerians had explanations (remarkably close to the latest scientific explanations) of how the moon is formed. These ideas and many more are found in "Moon: Science, History and Mystery" by Steward Ross (Scholastic)
Other books on the moon, its history, and especially the commemoration of the 40th celebration the following books are recommended:
"Look to the Stars" by Buzz Aldrin (one of the first men to walk on the moon) (Putnam)
"One Giant Leap" Robert Burleigh (Philomel)
"Mission Control, This is Apollo: The Story of the First Voyages to the Moon" Andrew Chaikin and Victoria Kohl. Paintings by Alan Bean (Viking)
"One Small Step: Celebrating the First Man on the Moon" Jerry Stone (Roaring Brook)
"Mission to the Moon" Alan Dyer (Simon&Schuster)

Wild Things

Wild Things by Clay Carmichael (Front Street)
Zoe, an eleven-year-old, is afraid a new home with a famous artist/doctor uncle, will just be another"short stay" as has been her life with a shiftless, now dead, mother. But Uncle Henry, a feral stray cat and a mysterious wild boy in the forest gradually turn her life into one of love and trust.
"Wild Things" has all the right story elements for 'tween readers of ten through fifteen; a spirited protagonist, twists and turns in an unpredictable plot and a setting so real the reader can almost taste the cornbread and feel the shadows of the north woods in Carolina.
Carmichael has crafted memorable characters; a famous surgeon whose true passion is metal sculpting, a neighbor making beautiful quilts as her hear 'wears out" and a feckless pastor with sermons carrying the same message week after week. Above all there is an independent young girl who has watched a mother destroy her own life with alcohol.
The coming of age story never glosses over the theme of making ones own choices. Even the school bully (the mayor's son) is a closeted artist, much to the chagrin of his arrogant father.
"Wild Things" is a fresh read --no need to dodge edgy language and sexual innuendos --with a satisfying conclusion. Zoe and her story could certainly invite a sequel, but I hope it doesn't happen. Too often a watered down second story lacks the luster of the first and nothing should take away form the spirit of Zoe and the "wild things' in her life.

I Wanna Be Your Shoebox

I Wanna Be Your Shoebox by Christina Garcia (Simon&Schuster)
Yumi Ruiz-Hirsch has a varied background; grandparents from Japan, CCuba and Brooklyn and a home life which isn't exactly traditional, either. Her mother is a published author (with a music professor suitor) and a punk-musician father straggling as a would-be song writer.
Interlaced throughout the story is Yumi's dedication to saving the school orchestra and her devotion to grandfather, Saul, whose daily council resounds in her decisions, "Whatever you want, you gotta go after it like them horses running toward the finish line."
The title "I Wanna Be Your Shoebox" comes from a poem Yumi's father adapts for a concert which brings success to the orchestra.
This is truly a believable story with fresh dialogue and clever plot twists. The pathos at the ending of Yumi attending her grandfather's death is tender and sweet. Certainly there must be another Yumi story from this talented author.