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Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo Candlewick Press, 2013
I happily read this book a bit ago – but like Montgomery chose to ruminate before posting. Now – this book was just awarded the Newbery Award – and Kate DiCamillo has been chosen the new National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature. It is time I spread the word a little further.
Flora is a lonely girl who is obsessed with comics – her mother calls her a “natural born cynic.” But Flora’s life changes dramatically when she resuscitates a squirrel who is nearly killed in an encounter with a Ulysses 2000X vacuum cleaner. She quickly discovers that the incident has given the squirrel powers (the squirrel lifts the vacuum over his head in one paw.) Flora is reminded of her favorite comic hero the Amazing Incandesto – and her imagination helps her leap to the conclusion that the squirrel will perform great and wonderful feats. Soon the squirrel’s new abilities become even clearer as he shows his skills at understanding Flora, typing and composing poetry. Flora opens her heart totally to Ulysses. However, the squirrel’s greatest enemy is none other than Flora’s romance writing, squirrel hating mother.
DiCamillo has written a story full of heart and humor – but the quirky cast of characters give the reader even more as the author explores loneliness, accepting differences, overcoming fears, abandonment – and love. The black and white illustrations capture the mood and the comic sequences sporadically placed “illuminate” the amazing adventures of Ulysses – and augment Flora’s obsession with comics. Flora soon learns she cannot remain a cynic – once she opens herself and her heart to her squirrel.
Doggie Dreams by Mike Herrod Blue Apple Books, 2011
What dog owner hasn’t watched their sleeping dog and wondered: what does he dream about? The question really arises when the dog seems to be running hard in his sleep or starts whimpering. Does a dog dream like a human?
This early reader in graphic format (part of the Balloon Toons series) lets the reader in on some of those possible dog dreams.
The young dog owner loves his dog Jake – but Jake sleeps all of the time. All of this sleeping makes the boy wonder – what does Jake dream about? In his dreams – Jake is one adventurous pup. Jake dines at a nice restaurant in one dream; he is a rock star in another; and he is a knight in shining armor in the third. But the best dream of all is the one that Jake and his owner share – playing ball together (although the point of view may vary!)
The text is minimal. The illustrations are colorful and appealing. There are no more than four frames on any page (usually fewer.) This is a gentle tale that will elicit giggles. It is bound to lead to chat about pets – a favorite topic of children everywhere.
Won’t we all wonder – what are own pets dreaming about?
This title would be great for Preschool – to Grade 3.
(Apologies for the hiatus of Montgomery’s View for the last two months – we were lining everything up – and the book reviews will now appear each week.)
Something to Proveby Robert Skead, illustrated by Floyd Cooper Carolrhoda Books, 2013
Becoming Babe Ruth by Matt Tavares Candlewick Press, 2013
The World Series is here! For those who LOVE baseball – it doesn’t matter if you are a Cardinals fan or a Red Sox fan. All that matters is that the Fall Classic is starting tonight. — Here’s to baseball!
In celebration of the start of the Series – let me tell you about a couple of terrific nonfiction picture books on baseball subjects that were published in the last year.
Something to Prove: The Great Satchel Paige vs Rookie Joe DiMaggio
In 1936 the New York Yankees wanted to test a “young, skinny prospect named Joe DiMaggio” to see if he could prove himself a major leaguer. In order to test him, they needed him to go up against the best. It was the era of segregation and black players were only allowed in the Negro Leagues – but one of those players was asked to pitch against the rookie. Satchel Paige was that player – he was the best pitcher in the Negro Leagues and probably the best pitcher in baseball. This picture book tells the story of the day the Satchel Paige All-Stars played an exhibition game against Dick Bartell’s All-Stars (with Joe DiMaggio).
The illustrations are brown and grainy – reminiscent of 1930′s films. Once the game starts you can almost hear the crackle of the old radio and the play-by-play announcer recounting what is unfolding in front of him for listeners everywhere. The game went to extra innings and both players proved their talents. The game’s tension is evoked – and the issue of race and injustice is portrayed.
Becoming Babe Ruth
This is a picture book biography of George Herman Ruth – the kid born in Baltimore that was always in trouble from a very young age. When he was seven, his parents sent him to St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. Although difficult being removed from his family, the school remained a force in his life throughout his career. It was at the school that George met Brother Matthias who awed all the boys with his hitting prowess. Brother Matthias taught George the fine art of baseball – and sharpened the boy’s facility at the many aspects of the game. At 19 Ruth was signed by the minor-league Baltimore Orioles and soon earned his nickname as one of the new babes on the team. His rise to stardom was swift – but he never forgot Brother Matthias and St. Mary’s. He returned for games – and when the school burned down Ruth was there to lend support and financial aid.
Babe Ruth, the Sultan of Swat, was a larger than life celebrity before the television. Stories of the Babe and his adventures and excesses (and they were many) were told in newspapers and by the radio baseball announcers. This picture biography looks at Ruth’s life in baseball – and the school that remained a force in his life. The illustrations are full of activity – and there are many portraits of George Herman Ruth that show a twinkle in the eye, a joyful soul and a kid who didn’t like rules. The book is a tribute to a legend in the sport of baseball.
The book is written and illustrated by Maine’s own Matt Tavares.
Enjoy these books — and enjoy a great Fall Classic!