Sunday, May 27, 2012

Pig Pig Meets the Lion by David McPhail

David McPhail is a prolific writer and illustrator with over 150 books to his credit. Pig Pig Meets the Lion is the latest in his Pig Pig series. McPhail's illustrations are so luscious, it's no wonder he has been a popular illustrator for many other authors besides his own.

Pig Pig Meets the Lion starts on the inside cover of the book, where we see the lion jumping over the zoo's fence while the other animals sleep. On the next page the lion is running down the road toward a lonely house in the middle of the countryside. Then we see Mother Pig bending down on her front porch for the milk and newspaper, the headlines read, "Lion Escapes". Turn the page and we're finally at the title page. Mother Pig is going inside the house, looking at the paper while lion is climbing the tree up to Pig Pig's bedroom window.

Throughout the book Pig Pig and Lion are playing all over the house, chasing each other, while Mother Pig is your typical busy mom, cooking breakfast and talking on her cell phone. Kids will recognize this mom who is chatting with her child but really not paying attention. She's stirring the pot while telling Pig Pig that a lion has escaped from the zoo. Pig Pig says, "I know" while he and Lion are diving under the kitchen table. Kids will squeal with delight while mother is oblivious until the very end of the book; the inside back cover, where she is surprised to see two zoo employees at her front door. We see Lion leaving Pig Pig's bedroom window to climb down the tree.

On the back jacket flap, the fun doesn't stop. "David lives in Rye, New Hampshire, and would very much like to meet a friendly lion over breakfast."

Pre-school age children and up will love the adventures of Pig Pig!

a bus called heaven by Bob Graham

Bob Graham is an author and illustrator from Australia. I don't know why, but I've yet to come across an Aussie author that wasn't unique...even quirky, in some way. This is no exception. An abandoned bus shows up one day in front of the house of a small, pale little girl named Stella. A hand-painted sign, held down with packing tape reads "Heaven". Books with illustrations that beg to be looked at over and over...those that reveal something new each time your eyes meet the page, are an indicator for me, of a great children's book. The first sentence reads, "The bus brought change to Stella's street". On this page, the people are curious about the bus and from every walk of life: young, old, different backgrounds, and Stella, gently pushing the door of the bus open. On a post is a no parking and a towing sign. The community comes together and makes it a place for everyone to gather, which makes it sound formulaic and preachy. Please, please don't assume here, the story is still Stella's, a young girl just doing what her heart tells her. Graham's book is so original and lovely that you don't want to miss what happens when the men come to tow Heaven away. The illustrations wonderfully provide the story with gentle humor. This will be my read aloud to end my school year...I feel it's that kind of story. One that reminds us that each night we are all looking up at the same stars...we are all in this together.

Saturday, May 26, 2012


If you like young adult books, fantasy with a hint of romance, and set in Victorian England, check out Cassandra Clare's series, The Infernal Devices.

Starting with the second series, The Infernal Devices, before reading The Mortal Instruments series, had me thinking this could have been a mistake. In my defense, I saw a review of Clockwork Angel not knowing about the first series, and liked the premise. Needing something in audio, I was delighted to see it was read by the wonderful Jennifer Ehle. She may be best known as the actress who was Elizabeth in the 1995 mini-series of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth (which I may be just a tad bit obsessed with). She also played Myrtle Logue, the speech therapist's wife in The King's Speech. Ehle is spot on with the different character's voices and I loved the book. Now I am onto the second one, Clockwork Prince. To say that I was duly disappointed that Ehle was not the narrator quickly turned into delight when I heard the amazing male voice of Ed Westwick.  Heather Lind is also good as the female counterparts.

This introduction to the series is taken from Cassandra Clare's website:

"Magic is dangerous—but love is more dangerous still.

When sixteen-year-old Tessa Gray crosses the ocean to find her brother, her destination is England, the time is the reign of Queen Victoria, and something terrifying is waiting for her in London's Downworld, where vampires, warlocks and other supernatural folk stalk the gaslit streets. Only the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the world of demons, keep order amidst the chaos.

Kidnapped by the mysterious Dark Sisters, members of a secret organization called The Pandemonium Club, Tessa soon learns that she herself is a Downworlder with a rare ability: the power to transform, at will, into another person. What's more, the Magister, the shadowy figure who runs the Club, will stop at nothing to claim Tessa's power for his own."

One of the things I love about this series, besides being set in England, is the author's obvious love of books, poetry, and reading. Each chapter starts with a quote from a book or a poem. Her main character, Tessa, constantly has a book in her hands. Will, the main male character, often spouts from books and poetry. It is this common interest that draws Tessa to Will, not to mention he's gorgeous and charming. But Will has a past and just when Tessa thinks he feels the same for her, he hurts her to the core. And then there is Jem, Will's best and closest friend. He's so unlike Will, but they are fiercely loyal to each other. These two Shadow Hunters' lives are fraught in mystery. Does Tessa dare get close enough to either of them to find out their secrets?  

The Mortal Instruments, Starting with City of Bones, takes place in modern time New York (and is being made into a movie). So that makes me feel a little bit better about reading them out of "order". Her newest series, The Dark Artifices, will come out in 2015. Los Angeles is the setting. I know I will be devouring the rest of these...will you?