Category Archives: Book Reviews
By Liz Arrambide, Children’s Librarian
Occasionally families ask us what books do we have to teach very young children how to read. Most of the books we carry are designed for older children. Megan Sheridan has written an excellent article on this blog explaining fun ways to teach basic early literacy skills.
For families that want to teach their young children (under age six) how to read there is an excellent book: “How to Teach Your Baby to Read: the gentle revolution” by Glenn Doman and Janet Doman. Glenn Doman and his research team started in the 1950’s to see what they could do to help children with brain injuries increase their capacity to learn. The researchers learned that their methods helped the children to learn to read. They were surprised to find that a brain damaged child could read at ages three and four when their peers could not.
The institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential began to theorize that very young children seem to be learning differently than children who are six years or older. A child learns language by being shown an object and then being told the name of the object. The team experimented and found that this type of learning can be extended to teaching a child to read. Very young children can learn that the sound ”ball”, a physical ball and the word “ball” all mean the same thing. Their in-depth research showed that this facility of the brain disappears at age six.
As a young mother, I was intrigued with this book. I tried their methods with my then two and half year old child. We had a lot of fun and she learned to read really well. When she started Kindergarten, she tested at a third grade reading level. I’ve tutored others in reading since then. It was much easier for my daughter to learn to read using this method. She didn’t have to be taught about “consonant blends” or the “er” sound etc. She didn’t go through these stages. For interested families, this revised edition offers a fun and easy way to teach very young children to read.
By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Librarian
Christopher Paolini had an idea for a book in high school. Lucky for us all he started writing a fantasy novel featuring a young boy named Eragon who finds one of the world’s last dragons. Eragon and the dragon Saphira learn how to work together throughout the series, which enables them to fight the evil king Galbatorix. He has several setbacks, saves his village and his brother who becomes a warrior in his own right. Those of us who finished all four books (originally there were supposed to be only three) were happy to find out that Paolini will revisit Alagaesia again. If you are looking for something to read after Hunger Games, Twilight and Harry Potter, I suggest you revisit The Inheritance Cycle featuring Eragon and Saphira. The first volume is titled Eragon. Volumes two Eldest and three Brisingr followed not quickly enough for most of us waiting impatiently. The final volume Inheritance came out last fall.
By Stacy Parish, Children’s Assistant Librarian
‘Tis the season—for reading! Here is a non-comprehensive, totally subjective, but thoroughly festive list of Christmas books for children. In no particular order:
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg: This “new classic” and Caldecott Medal winner has amazing illustrations and a sweet, inspiring story about a boy’s Christmas Eve journey with Santa Claus and other children to the North Pole. (The page with the wolves is my favorite.)
How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss: “Maybe Christmas perhaps . . . means a little bit more.” Join The Grinch on his night of marauding and morning of soul searching when he learns that Christmas came to Whoville even without the boxes and bags.
Olive, The Other Reindeer by J.otto Seibold and Vivian Walsh: Colorful, whimsical artwork combines with a hilarious storyline about Olive the Dog for a fun holiday book that is sure to make anyone’s Christmas a little merrier.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: In October of 1843, Charles Dickens was giving new meaning to the term “starving artist.” Deep in debt and under huge obligations to his publisher, Dickens began crafting what would become the quintessential Christmas story, and creating one of the most memorable and enduring characters in English literature in Ebenezer Scrooge.
Auntie Claus by Elise Primavera: Is Sophie’s eccentric great-aunt Auntie Claus just another weird New Yorker, or is there something else going on there? Snuggle up and accompany Sophie on her yuletide adventure. (There are also some fun sequels!)
Christmas In The Barn by Margaret Wise Brown: There are two editions of this lovely interpretation of The Nativity; the original was published in 1952 and alternated pages in color and black-and-white, similar to Brown’s classic Goodnight Moon. The 2007 edition keeps the simple, beautiful original text but features all new illustrations in full color.
The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett: Teeka, a young Arctic girl living “in the shadow of Santa’s Winterfarm,” has been tasked with getting Santa’s reindeer ready to fly on Christmas Eve. The creatures are not responsive to Teeka’s tactics of yelling and bossing. She realizes that to prevent the annual sleigh ride across the skies from being a disaster, she is going to have to come up with some new motivational methods for Bramble, Heather, Windswept, Lichen, Snowball, Crag, Twilight, and Tundra.
The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg: A mysterious stranger rides into a small prairie town one cold November night. (No, it isn’t Clint Eastwood.) The stranger’s identity is revealed to a young girl named Lucy, and he tells her of the legend of the candy cane and provides the answer to the town’s dreams. Will Lucy in turn share her newfound knowledge?
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson: The horrible Herdman horde is a lying, cheating, stealing, fighting, smoking, cussing bunch of social outlaws. When they decide to commandeer the annual Nativity program at the local church, the congregation is caught completely flat-footed. However, the result is one of the most unorthodox—and hilarious—Christmas pageants ever.
Welcome Comfort by Patricia Polacco: Life is no sleigh ride for foster child Welcome Comfort at any time, but especially around Christmas, with no family or friends, no presents, and no Santa Claus. But when Welcome makes a new friend in the school custodian Mr. Hamp, his fortune just may be changing.
Happy holidays, and happy reading!
By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Librarian
Yes, this book is about Doc Holliday. You may think you know all you about John Henry Holliday, but this fictionalized biography focuses on his early years. J H holliday was a Southern gentleman, raised on a plantation, played piano and was devastated when his mother died, so very young, from tuberculosis. Ms. Russell portrays Doc as a Southerner who desperately missed his Southern family, but needed to go west for the dryer air. He first went to Texas, and eventually worked his way up to Dodge City, Kansas, where he first met the Earp brothers. Ms. Russell researched his early years a great deal and has poignantly shown his illness, his intelligence and wit and his loyalty to friends. She used creative license in some areas, but wrote a beautiful biography of John Henry Holliday, dentist and card sharp.
By Lindsay Roseberry, Reference Librarian
Fos and Opal find each other serendipitously, since neither would have been a great catch. Fos was nearly blinded by mustard gas in WWI, which sometimes hindered his work with bioluminescence and radium; Opal was a spinster and lived in back country North Carolina. They met while Fos was going home to watch the Perseid meteor shower on the Carolina coast. They settled in Knoxville; Fos and his war buddy Flash opened a photographer’s shop. On weekends, they went to county fairs and showed off the newest sensation—X-rays! They never did well in their photography business, but it wasn’t until Flash got in trouble with the law that they went bust. Their son, Lightfoot, was their pride and joy when their knowledge led them to help form Oak Ridge. Lightfoot tells the rest of the story, trying to figure out what happened to his parents. He finds Flash in prison, and learns more about his parents. When Flash is released, they travel together across the country. At the end, Lightfoot too, finds love serendipitously, but on the west coast.
I found this book compelling and intriguing. I am relatively new to Tennessee and knew nothing about the history of Knoxville. Fos and Opal have a great relationship. I never knew that X-rays were county fair material. There is a fuzzy, cloudy quality to the words, partly I suspect to show how Fos saw the world. He sees how cloudy or soft light reflects on and off things and people. Luminescence in many forms plays a role throughout the book. This is a satisfying story of a loving couple living and working in the early 1900s in Tennessee, and their son who finds his way to adulthood almost alone.
If you like humorous science fiction, I recommend The Sheriff of Yrnameer. This is Mr. Rubens’ first novel, but he has had plenty of experience with comedy while working on the Daily Show with John Stewart.
Cole is an opportunist, shady pilot and a thief; when we meet him he is between a rock and a hard place. A relentless tentacled bounty hunter named Kenneth has found him and his spaceship has been particalized by a robot for parking illegally. He really needs a way out. And he finds it unexpectedly—he high jacks a ship going to Yrnameer. The only problem is Yrnameer is known to be non-existent, and then there’s the whole issue of the twelve (no, make that eleven) bad men and becoming the sheriff…
Mr. Rubens writes like Douglas Adams with a dose of Terry Pratchett. Imagine an American version of these two authors writing about a much seedier Han Solo, and you can imagine the fun involved in reading this book.
Imagine waking up in a park with a ring of dead people around you. You have no memory of who you are, where you are or why you are surrounded by dead people with latex gloves on their hands. As you go through your pockets, you find an envelope with a letter inside. “Dear You, the body you’re in used to be mine…” is how the letter starts. Decisions need to be made and many letters have to be read. Agent Thomas learns she works in a secret organization—kind of like Her Majesty’s Supernatural Secret Service (think British Men in Black.)
The reader learns along with the amnesiac what happened and who she is. She finds out through letters written by her former self that she has lots of money, some sort of pet named Wolfgang and deadly enemies. She has to get up to speed quickly—people are trying to kill her.
I enjoyed this book—hard to believe this novel is Mr. O’Mallye’s first book. If you like wry humor, interesting paranormal monsters, and great fantasy fun, you should read this book. It is a little long, but moves quickly.
The War that Killed Achilles: the true story of Homer’s Iliad and the Trojan War By Caroline Alexander.
Ms. Alexander, the author of The Bounty; the true story of the mutiny on the Bounty and The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition, has written another riveting account of an historical event, even though the Trojan War is often thought to be mythical. Alexander reveals the story part by part, giving historical background and quoting the epic in large chunks. She explains where Achilles came from, why he is the main character, and why after two millennia we still read and remember this epic poem. I would recommend this for those interested in ancient history, and even for those who are just trying to write a paper on the Trojan War. It kept my attention, and I even looked up some of the footnotes. It turns out there is evidence that Aeneas really did go to the Italian peninsula from Troy.
Fans of Elizabeth Moon’s books featuring the heroine Paksenarrion will rejoice, as I did, when I heard that the author will be continuing the story of Paks in another trilogy. The first trilogy tells the story of Paksenarrion, a girl who doesn’t want to be a shepherd, so she runs away to become a soldier. She joins a tightly run mercenary troop, learns how to fight, becomes an outstanding soldier, works her way up the ranks while the troop fights Orcs, magic and evil, is knighted and is called to be a paladin.
When the first volume came out, some reviewers said Moon was following in Tolkien’s footsteps. While it is true there are Orcs, Elves and Dwarves, these tale are usually about the world of men. Moon is a former Marine, and her experiences certainly help make the novels more realistic, in a fantasy milieu. The first trilogy is comprised of Sheepfarmer’s Daughter, Divided Allegiance and Oath of Gold. The first book in this new series is Oath of Fealty. I recommend these titles if you like high fantasy, with a developed world, full of battles, magic, gods and kings.
Finn doesn’t know who his parents are, or even if he ever had any. All he remembers is waking up inside the terrible prison of Incarceron, a prison so vast it seems to be a world all of itself. Finn doesn’t know how he came to the prison. The one thing he does know, is that he doesn’t belong here, and unlike all the other prisoners, he’s certain there was a time when he wasn’t inside Incarceron. And that he must escape. But there is no escape from Incarceron. The prison sees to that— because Incarceron is alive, with a mind of its own, and eyes that watch his every move, and powers that defy understanding.
Claudia knows who her parents are (or were). She knows where she is and who she is. She is the daughter of the Warden of Incarceron, the mysterious prison which no one has ever been to and no one can find, except the Warden. Claudia may not be imprisoned, but her life is far from free. Her entire future has been planned out for her, from birth on. She has been promised in marriage to the heir to the throne, to be the Queen of a rather odious future King, and the pawn of whatever power game her cold and sinister father is playing. Claudia’s desire to escape is every bit as strong as Finn’s—and to do it, she knows exactly what she needs to do: find Incarceron and fling wide its hidden, impenetrable doors, sparking a revolution.
But neither escaping from or finding Incarceron are going to be simple tasks; indeed, they may both be impossible. Because Incarceron is not what it seems to be, nor what it was meant to be, and the secrets behind it all are beyond either Finn or Claudia’s wildest imaginings.
Part fantasy, part science fiction, Incarceron is a grand adventure inside (and outside) a fantastic world unlike any other. Full of twists and turns and unexpected revelations, it’s a book that’s as hard to predict as it is to put down—you may guess some of Incarceron’s secrets, but you won’t guess them all. And unlike Finn, once you enter Incarceron, you won’t want to escape.
CALL NUMBER: YA F FIS
Recommended for all readers.