Monday, April 27, 2009

The Red Tree

by Shaun Tan

This beautiful picture book dramatically illustrates the darkness of despair and how one small, fragile thing can be a ray of hope.

The girl, weighed down by her sorrow and the feeling than no one understands, fails to see the one shred of hope - a red leaf that follows her throughout her journey until she comes full circle, back to the bedroom where she started and is able to find her smile as the leaf has become a glorious tree.

The wonderful dream-like imagery created using a range of artistic techniques from paintings to collages depict and enhance our understanding of the child’s growing depression and her smile at the astonishing red tree.

Part of my 100 + reading challenge

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Fantastic Mr Fox

by Roald Dahl

This is a delightful children's tale by the renown author, Roald Dahl, perhaps best known for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Soon to be made into a movie, this story of a wily hero and three dastardly farmers is full of fun and daring deeds.

Boggis and Bunce and Bean
One short one fat, one lean.
These horrible crooks
So different in looks
Were nonetheless equally mean.

Mr. Fox and his wife and his small children have been living off the chicken and geese and ducks owned by three greedy villains: Mr. Boggis, Mr. Bunce and Mr. Bean. All three farmers are quite aware of Mr Fox's thievery and are extremely angered by it. But are hero is far to wily for them to catch.

One night, the mean old farmers decide to get rid of Mr. Fox once and for all. Mr. Bean devises a cunning plan. They will wait for the fox right outside his hole on the hill and shoot him when he comes out. But when Mr. Fox, outsmarts them at the lose of his tail, the villains are so enraged they decide to dig him out. The more they dig the fast the foxes dig, until the hill becomes a crater. The farmers are sure they have him now and again lay siege to the den. And that is when Mr. Fox has an idea. An idea so, clever, so wonderful, so fantastic that if he can pull it off it will mean he, his family and all the other animals will have as much food as they want and be able safe from the farmers forever.

Part of my 100+ book challenge

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Mystery of Grace

by Charles de Lint

When John meets Grace he knows there is something unusual about her but he is falling in love with her two weeks too late.

Grace is an unusual woman. Not because of the tattoos, or because of her job as at Sanchez Motor work where she restores and customizes old cars. No, Grace is dead. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time - the corner shop when a kid decided to rob it.

But instead of passing on, Grace wakes up in her own apartment in a realm occupied by the dead of her neighbourhood. She soon learns the inhabitants can cross back into the world for a night on Hallowe’en and May Eve.

Both John and Grace have problems that need to be fixed. After meeting John, Grace is determined to solve the mystery of the realm she inhabits, and John needs to come to terms with his brother’s death years earlier. With the help of each other, friends, “rockabilly” music and old cars Grace and John learn the value of love, hope and the necessity of letting go.

This romantic fantasy brings together a wonderful mix of folklore, fairy tale and urban legends. De Lint creates well balanced, energetic, imaginative people that puts my lack of incentive to shame!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The lightning Thief

by Rick Riordan

Percy (short for Perseus) Jackson is a 12-year-old kid living in New York. He has ADHD, dyslexia and a bad temper, and has been expelled from many different schools, despite his good intentions. But when Percy’s Math Teacher turns into a monster and tries to kill him on a museum trip, Percy begins to realize that he really is different from other kids – in fact he is a half-blood offspring of one of the Greek gods!

Sent to Camp Half-Blood where he meets the other children of the gods and Percy finally learns who his father really is. But the knowledge comes with a price as Percy must make his way across America, helped by his new friends, Annabeth the daughter of Athena and Grover a satyr, on a terrifying quest to find Zeus’ missing lightning bolt.
Dealing with Furies, monsters, other gods and immortals, Percy must return the bolt to Mount Olympus (the 600th floor of the Empire State Building!) before Midsummer’s Day or a war will break out in the heavens that could destroy the earth.

A funny, adventurous tale of a reluctant hero, with a fascinating blend of classic mythology and present day. The only let down for me was the story lacked imaginative deviations from the classical quests.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

A photographic memory, circus abilities, puzzle solving skills and extreme stubbornness.  Four abilities, four children, one dangerous mission.

Encouraged by his tutor, Reynie Muldoon responds to an advertisement in the newspaper for "gifted children looking for special opportunities". After a series if weird and wonderful tests Reynie, along with Kate Weatherhill, Constance Contraire, and George (Sticky) Washington, is selected for a dangerous mission – to go undercover at L.I.V.E, the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, and discover what is really behind the strange messages broadcasting from the school.

Reynie, Kate, Constance, and Sticky must use all their special talents to solve the mystery and uncover Mr. Curtain’s dastardly plan before it is too late.  But close knit as the four become, will their bond, courage and talents be enough in the face of real danger?

Part of my 100 + Reading challenge

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan

A boy on the beach is searching for a bottle cap for his collection when he notices a huge, pot-bellied-stove looking creature that doesn’t seem to belong to anyone, and no one else seems to see. When he takes it home even his parents don’t notice it until the boy points it out to them. Immediately, the boy is told he can not keep it, but finding where the creature belongs proves to be a difficult task.

Filled with the weird and wonderful drawings I have come to expect from Shaun Tan, the story of the boy and his “lost thing” seems very simple. But when one delves deeper into the imagery the book becomes more of a puzzle book as one reads the exterior diagrams and newspaper articles, or perhaps text book entries, which include things such as: "The Federal Department of Odds & Ends," where the motto is "sweepus underum carpetae."

Through Tan’s story and images we see the world around us anew, a world were not everything fits neatly into place, and begs the question, aren’t we all lost things?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

May BCB: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Product Description
Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women—mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends—view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.

Taken from

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Cygnet and the Firebird by Patricia A. Mckillip

A mysterious mage fleetingly appears at Ro Holding looking for a magical object, closely followed by a man with no memory of the past, transformed into a firebird, whose mournful cries turns anything in its path into precious gems or gold.

Convinced the two are connected in some way, Nyx, sorceress and heir to Ro holding searches all her books for knowledge and spells to help the firebird regain his memory. When the mysterious mage reappears, fights with the firebird and abducts her warrior cousin Meguet, Nyx must use all her skill to find a way to follow them and unravel the mystery. A quest that will take her to the land of Sapier where dragons slumbering in the eerie magical desert, and a plot against her homeland is in the making.

An interesting tale that disappointingly fails to live up to its full potential.

Part of the 100+ book challenge

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Broken Moon by Kim Antieau

By night a weaver of tales, by day a scarred, scared young women.

As 18 year old, Nadira writes home to her little brother, Umar, she slowly reveals through her letters and stories her sadness at her unmarriageable status due to scars inside and out. The most prominent - a half moon scar on her face - left by an assault, allowed by Pakistani traditions, as revenge for her brother’s alleged assault on a rival family’s daughter.

When her brother goes missing, Nadira is convinced her cruel Uncle Rueben has sold him to the camel riders as an illegal child jockey. Feeling she has nothing to lose, Nadira dresses as a boy and sells herself to the camel riders, hoping they will take her to the same camp as Umar. Instead, she is taken to an desert camp where bullies gradually wearing down the new boys spirits. During the day Nadira trains for the races, and takes care of the camels with the other boys, hoping to go to a race and find her brother. At night she resourcefully tries to protect her little group from the bullies. In a final attempt to stop them from being attacked, Nadira makes an offer of peace with masala chai and stories from the Arabian Nights.

As her friendship with the bullies and her usefulness to the camel riders grows, Nadira begins to come to terms with herself and learns that even emotional scars can begin to heal.

Antieau's breathtaking story of loss, determination and the power of tales, can not fail to leave readers moved. Narrated through letters to her brother, the past and present are skillful woven together with the life and the traditions of Pakistan, highlighting the hideousness of child slavery and assault.