Saturday, December 31, 2011

Book Review : Non-Fiction, Folk Tales, Poetry

Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein (1974). 166 pages.
This book was a favorite growing up, and rereading it, I can understand why. Shel Silverstein delivers in writing poetry that children understand. Not all of them make sense, and most of them are quite silly, but no one can deny the fact that these poems are fun. The line drawings that accompany them just add to the fun. For example, in a poem about writing from inside a lion, there is a large drawing of a peaceful-looking lion with a hand coming out of its mouth, attempting to write. The fact that the pages are simple (there is usually only one poem with an illustration per page) enhances each poem’s individual brilliance.

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse (1997) 227 pages.
A ten-year-old girl that I know who loves writing poetry has repeatedly told me that this is her favorite book. I now understand why. In her poetry, Hesse both tells the story of a young girl who loves playing the piano and the sad events of the Dust Bowl. This story would not be told as effectively in prose. The continued use of “dust” helps guide the story and show the reader how dust controlled many part of these people’s lives. I also really enjoyed reading about Billie Jo. Her character was very believable and heart breaking. I felt myself rooting for her during the entire story—rooting for her to play the piano despite having burnt hands. Overall, this story in free verse was beautifully told.

Amelia Lost by Candace Fleming (2011). 108 pages.
Amelia Lost is the story of the amazing woman pilot, Amelia Earhart. It is fantastically designed. It goes back and forth between Earhart’s disappearance and her biography. To distinguish between the two, the parts about her disappearance have a gray background and the parts about her life have a white background. What I loved about this book is that even though I know the story about her disappearance, Fleming made Earhart’s story exciting. She often ended each chapter on “cliffhangers,” making me want to read the next chapters to find out what happened next. Another part that I loved about this book is that Fleming provided plenty of photographs and text boxes explaining different technical parts of the story (such as radio communication). This helped clear up any confusing plot parts. Overall, this book does a great job at telling about the life of Amelia Earhart in an exciting manner.

Marching For Freedom by Elizabeth Partridge (2009). 62 pages.
Marching For Freedom tells the story of the March on Montgomery, Alabama for equal voting rights for African Americans. I can honestly say that this story made me a little emotional. Partridge tells the story from the point of view of children—the stories of individual children involved in the march are told along with a broader scope of the events. What really got me emotional was the use of photographs along with the text—as I would read the stories of brave individuals, the photographs included helped give a face to the movement. Some of these photographs were quite stirring—for example, some photographs showed police brutality while others showed African Americans praying together. Overall, both the stories of children and the accompanying photographs helped to make this book both informative and emotional.

The Girl Who Married the Moon by Joseph Bruchac and Gayle Ross (1994). 122 pages.
I absolutely loved this book. The authors took 16 stories from Native American tribes and divide them by region. Reading each story, one can tell that they should be read aloud. I like that Bruchac and Ross really kept the oral tone of the tales, for example, he would start each with some variation of “Let me tell you this story,” which keeps it conversational. I also really appreciated that Bruchac and Ross took one theme (coming of age stories for girls) and picked each story to fit the theme. It allows the reader to see how different tribes respond to the same theme.

The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tale by John Scieszka (1992).
Illustrated by Lane Smith. 56 pages.
The Stinky Cheese Man is a fun book to read. Anyone who grows up learning fairy tales and folktales and has a good sense of humor would love this book. Scieszka and Smith take well-known stories and turn them upside down (for example, the Gingerbread Man becomes a Stinky Cheese Man). The illustrations and text are perfect together. The text changes size and shape and illustrations creep into pages. This book’s one negative, however, is that it requires the readers to be “in” on the stories. If someone did not know the traditional stories that Scieska’s stories are based on, she would not get most of the jokes.

Rapunzel by Paul O. Zelinsky (1997). 34 pages.
Paul Zelinsky’s version of Rapunzel is absolutely beautiful. Each illustration looks like its own Renaissance painting, richly illustrated with a lot of pigment in each color. The text is simple and straight to the point. It does not get stuck on giving any more background information than necessary, which is extremely helpful if one were to read it aloud. I also really appreciated that Zelinsky gave detailed source notes, giving the reader insight as to where he found different versions of the Rapunzel story.

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