Saturday, September 30, 2006

New Book Roundup

Ahhhh – there’s nothing like browsing through a New Book Roundup on a lazy Sunday, is there? So settle back with your hot cup of joe or jane or whatever, and skim away.

The Loud Silence of Francine Green by Karen Cushman

I can’t imagine why some people are making such a big deal out of this book. I’ve enjoyed everything else of Cushman’s that I’ve read, but this book was downright dreary. Set in L.A. during the height of McCarthyism, Francine Green is a quiet, mousy Catholic-school girl nursing a crush on Montgomery Clift when loud-spoken liberal Sophie Bowman enters her life. Add a downtrodden Russian immigrant couple, an blacklisted Jewish actor, and I think you can figure out the rest of the plot yourself. Oh, and as I’ve mentioned before: the research was primarily done via Google. Erlack.

To Dance by Siena Cherson Siegel, illus. by Mark Siegel.

Ballerinas and graphic novels – who knew that this would be such a winning combination? The tale of Siena’s journey from after-school basement dance classes to performances at the Lincoln Center is just a joy to read and look at. There’s cameo appearances by Balanchine, Baryshnikov, and Suzanne Farrell, plus butterflies, harlequins, twirling toeshoes, and a poignant and heartbreaking ending. Oh, and a gorgeous retelling (and illustration) of Giselle. Yum.

Fire! Fire! Said Mrs. McGuire by Bill Martin, Jr. illus. by Vladimir Radunsky.

Yarrrgh. Martin’s text, published posthumously, was probably inspired by the old nursery rhyme:

Mrs. Mason bought a basin.
How much did it cost? Said Mrs. Frost.
Half a crown, said Mrs. Brown.
Did it indeed? Said Mrs. Reed.

And so on. This one’s about a bunch of mice fretting over a fire seen through die-cut keyhole, (“Water! Water! Said Mrs. Votter”) which turns out to actually be candles on a birthday cake. Yeah, it’s kind of lame, but made even lamer by Randunsky’s dark, confusing illustrations. In one scene, a mouse is talking about where the fire is while pointing in the opposite direction of the firelight. Pleh.

Clementine by Sarah Pennypacker, illus. by Marla Frazee.

There’s been a spate of spunky girls in Easy Chapter Book land. Joining the ranks of Judy Moody and Junie B. comes Clementine -- whose lilting voice and goofy adventures are probably going to be devoured by most third graders I know. This book deals mainly with the ups-and-downs between our heroine and her prim best friend as they have more than one wacky adventure. Hair is cut off, foreheads are Sharpied, pigeons are hosed down, and principals are unamused. Sweet and funny, just like the fruit. (Erm, please don’t make me explain how clementine oranges are funny.) Marla Frazee’s spot illustrations are pure genius, as always. If you haven’t seen Frazee’s books before, run out and buy some right now. Her delicate lines capture the graceful, round sloppiness of children with a wit and energy that is magical.

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