Gifted and Talented Books

May 7, 2009

10 Things

Filed under: Around the House,Picture Books — amandalorenzo @ 10:26 AM

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10 Things I Can Do to Help My World
Melanie Walsh
Candlewick Press 2008

A timely picture book for young children who are eager to ‘Go Green’, this book will challenge and delight. Be warned parents, this one could change your life as well. It will also totally amuse, as the message is delivered via some ingeniously designed pages. From the cut out hard cover, to the sculpted inner pages you and your child will be moved, motivated and surprised with every turn of the page. Big bright illustrations lead us along to an eco-savvy way of life.

After reading this book I’m much more aware of how a few simple actions can save energy, money and yes, the planet we love. I did cringe though at the idea of unplugging the TV when it is not in use. The satellite box and the VCR at my place are on the same power strip and I had to go through a lengthy downlink cycle the next time I wanted to watch. And now the VCR is flashing 12:00 12:00 12:00. Yikes! (Fortunately I am one of the few people on my block who actually can reprogram a gadget.)

Not just a pretty book, this one puts it’s reputation on the line by being made of 100% post consumer waste material, saving tons of trees, green house gases and energy. Hats off to Candlewick Press for another winner.

Read On!

Amanda Lorenzo

Not every weasel in the woods is a bad guy. In my new book series you’ll meet one who is kinda sweet, if not overly bright.
Come back soon and I’ll keep you posted.

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February 25, 2009

ABC Book of American Homes

Filed under: Around the Country — amandalorenzo @ 2:22 PM
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Review – The ABC Book of American Homes
Michael Shoulders
Illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen
Charlesbridge 2008

A friend of mine is fond of saying, “We live in a designed world.” He believes all of us should study design to develop an appreciation of it’s power and influence in our lives. Smart young children with the encouragement of their parents and well-wishers can get a jump start on their exploration of our increasingly designed world by reading this book or having it read to them.

This ABC book pushes the boundaries of what a home is. Yes, A is for Apartment and B is for Beach House, but you’ll be delighted to see that C is for Cajun Cottage and D is for Dome Home. From RVs to Quonset huts this book contains concise and useful information about houses, building techniques, history and some leading questions for children to ponder. “Are kings and queens the only people living in castles?” Kudos as well to author Michael Shoulders for his treatment of X is for . . . no, I will not give it away!

The illustrations are bright and engaging. I especially like the illustrations of T is for Tree House and Y is for Yurt. The later is surrounded by snow and is virtually glowing with warmth to welcome a couple of weekend skiers.

This book occupies a niche in the area of architecture for little ones and will not disappoint the discerning parent.

Read On!

Amanda Lorenzo

Some very smart mice are making a home in my new book series! Find out more early next year.

February 24, 2009

Brilliant Birdman

Filed under: Around Town — amandalorenzo @ 9:07 AM
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Review – My Dad’s A Birdman
by David Almond
Illustrated by Polly Dunbar
Candlewick 2008

Lizzie, dear Lizzie! On the first page she is jumping out of bed, washing up and putting the kettle on for tea and I’m right there with her on page one, thinking ‘You go, girl!’. Next page, uh oh, she’s calling up stairs to her dad, “Time to get up! . . . If you don’t get up now, I’ll come up there and . . .”

Well now, here’s a howdy do, this story has a serious role reversal happening. Little Lizzie is taking care of dear old Dad. What’s his story? As I wandered deeper into the story it became clear that he is crackers, loonie, ’round the bend. Dad, it seems, thinks he is a bird and he even eats worms! Eeew. He stumbles down stairs in his moth-eaten robe and jammies, hair mussed, unshaven and he has been dreaming. Dreaming of flying like a bird, of soaring on the wind, floating on warm breezes.

Dad’s delusional state does not faze his daughter. She soldiers on telling him what he needs to do. She gets him to drink his tea and eat some toast. “Eat it properly Dad . . . and chew it.” Oh, dear. This little girl has a big problem and before too many pages go by I am right there with her wondering what she is going to do about it.

This quirky story is brilliantly done by award-winning author David Almond, for Lizzie and her father have a shared sadness in their lives and each is following their own way through it. He in apparent madness and she, out of sheer love for him, doing what she must, donning wings and entering The Great Human Bird Competition right along with him.

The book has some suitably daft supporting characters, Mr. Poop, the competition director, Auntie Doreen, who makes a mean dumpling and Mr. Mint, Lizzie’s headmaster. The color illustrations are just right, taking us from that scruffy first morning to a soaring ending with humor and grace. From the detailed endpapers to the feathery bits on the hardback binding this book is a visual delight. I do have to say though, as a stickler for illos matching the text, that Dad should have been wearing his holey slippers when we first lay eyes on him and shouldn’t have been wearing his wings later on when the story said they were hanging on the back of the door. Oops!

Did I mention the characters are British? You’ll love reading words like Oriyt, Nowt and Mebbe. Don’t worry, you’ll get it!

Because each one of us, gifted and talented though we may be, will run into difficulties and sorrows in life, this story is a treasure that we can tuck away for the ride. For there surely will be a time when we must take a leap on ‘wings and faith’.

Read On!
Amanda Lorenzo

Ever had trouble with weasels? My characters do too!
Read about it when my new book series, Runt Farm, comes out.

February 23, 2009

Writer’s Ghost

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Review – Steinbeck’s Ghost
by Lewis Busbee
Feiwel and Friends, 2008

I took this book with me on a recent trip to San Francisco and was pleased to see that I was reading it in the author’s home city. Then another delightful surprise emerged: the locale of this middle grade novel is not far from where I grew up. Salinas, California is a few miles over a range of hills from my hometown and just as Travis does in this book, I visited Monterey and its Cannery Row when I was his age.

Sometimes I know I’m going to like a book by the time I read the third page and this book hooked me that fast. It is not your average ghost story, no bloody hands gripping the throats of foolish people who have ventured into places they never should have gone, no gruesome monsters, no formula here either. The ghosts in this book have stepped out of the books of John Steinbeck and ignited a mystery that our protagonist, Travis, is compelled to pursue.

Years ago a woman named Malvina Reynolds penned a song entitled Little Boxes. It’s about a town where all the houses are the same and all the people are the same and, well, you get it. Travis discovers early on that he has just moved to a section of Salinas that is a mirror image of such a town. He names it Camazotz, after the planet in the book A Wrinkle in Time, where sameness is the rule of the day, where nothing is out of place.

Even Travis’ parents seem to have been changed by Bella Linda Terrace’s blandness, no more family trips to the old John Steinbeck Library, no more late Sunday morning guitar jams with his Dad still clad in PJs. His one salvation is his new friend, a funny guy with the equally funny name of Hilario. Travis and Hil pair up to put some life into their little section of Camazotz, but when Travis starts seeing the ghosts, including the ghost of the young John Steinbeck, he has a hard time sharing that detail with anyone, even Hil.

This books is full of references to Travis’ favorite books, real books, most by Steinbeck. I found myself wanting to reread my favorites as I listened to Travis talk about them. The Red Pony, The Pastures of Heaven, Cannery Row, Tortilla Flat; he has read them and reread them many times. The antithesis of Camazotz, they are for him examples of a gritty, vibrant life that he can taste, that should be remembered and preserved. When the very existence of the John Steinbeck library is threatened by cutbacks Travis steps up to do something about it, but wherever he turns the ghosts lead him deeper into the past, into the places that Steinbeck haunted in life, and into the truth behind the author’s written words. This twisting path of secrets and revelations leads to a stunning ending.

Though I describe this as a middle grade work it is smart and fresh enough to satisfy any adult. The writing is precise and textured. In it I experienced again the tang of dry Eucalyptus leaves giving up their fragrance as they are trod underfoot. I saw the old Spreckles sugar plant just as I remember it, with its rusted piping and conveyors baking away in the summer sun, the run down company town nearby. That being said thirteen year olds who love books and bikes and the adventure of breaking the rules a bit here and there will totally relate to Travis and Hil. In this book Busbee sets fire to our desire to uncover the hidden, to honor the past, to protect what is valuable, and to get out of Camazotz.

As a friend of mine says – Buy the Book!

Read On!
Amanda Lorenzo

Did a friend ever cheat you out of your marbles? One of mine did and one of my characters can relate.
Read about it when my new book series Runt Farm comes out.

February 21, 2009

Tracking Trash

Filed under: Around the World — amandalorenzo @ 5:34 PM

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Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam and the Science of Ocean Motion
Loree Griffith Burns
Houghton Mifflin Company
2007

What happens when thousands of sneakers fall off a ship in the Pacific ocean? How fast do 28,800 bathtup toys go on the open seas? Have you ever found something that washed up on the beach? It might just have traveled from half a world away.

This book is a winner. Great information about the stuff that is circulating around our planet and how it is making life dangerous for animals, reefs and us too. You will find great color photos, maps and diagrams and even a section on what you can do to make a difference. Read about a beachcomber scientist and his network of beach watchers. You can even sign up to track trash yourself. Who knows what treasure you may find or how your feedback may influence people to start taking better care of the only planet we have.

Even if you don’t live near the ocean, you can make a difference right where you are. Find out how plastic is clogging up the works for all of us. Remember to ask yourself when you throw something away — Where is “away”?

Read On!

Amanda Lorenzo

When Kitten gets hold of a cigar, things around Runt Farm heat up fast. Find out more when Amanda Lorenzo’s Runt Farm series comes out.

February 7, 2009

Book Review – Sea Queens: Women Pirates Around the World

Filed under: Around the World — amandalorenzo @ 5:22 AM
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      Jane Yolen’s Sea Queens is no romanticized yarn about the joys of pirating, but rather a sea shanty to the women who followed the sea as buccaneers. A pirates life was no picnic, more so the lives of women sailors. Cramped quarters, rotten food, next to no sanitation and any number of people ready to kill you, from those you robbed, to governments and of course other pirates.
       Despite all the danger and privation, not to mention criminal activity, there is something that stirs us in tales of treasure and daring. The stories include women fighters like Artemisia, a fleet commander whose career included teaming up with the Persians to attack a fleet of Greek ships. In 500 BC Greece was not a unified country, but rather a collection of warring city states and Artemisia took advantage of any she could, and thought nothing of siding with the Persians against her own countrymen at one point. In order to escape a blockade during that battle she rammed an enemy ship and was allowed to get away as the Greeks assumed she was with them!
       This beautifully turned out hardcover book, by award winning author Jane Yolen, is engaging and eye-opening. From Lady Killigrew, who ran a family pirating business in England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, to  Madame Ching, who successfully battled the fleet of the emperor of China in the 1800s, women pirates are shown to be knowledgeable and seasoned leaders, some as cutthroat as any of their male counterparts and ready to risk all for the chance to take the helm. The nifty woodcut style illustrations by Christine Joy Pratt are perfect for this book and a reason alone to own it.
       The final pages include a roundup list of other women pirates, bibliography, list of website resources and an index. A great book for learning about what women have done, empowering and sobering by turns.

Read on!

Amanda Lorenzo

Tooth is stirring up a poultice, but who will need it? Cletus has ordered up his favorite dish, and it’s going to get him into no end of hot water. Find out more when my new book series comes out this year.

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