Saturday, December 6, 2008

2 + 3 + 2 = Book Reviews

2 Cybils

Keep Your Eye on the Kid: The Early Years of Buster Keaton by Catherine Brighton

Two more Cybils read this week, leaving eight to go.

Keep Your Eye is the story of Buster Keaton's childhood and early days in film. It is told from a first person point of view, a more powerful way to take in someone's life, but also more difficult to write convincingly.

The pictures look like little movie clips. The illustrator effectively zooms in and zooms out just like a movie of a person's life might do.

Brighton, the author/illustrator, provides a nice source list and a list of movies for Keaton and also adds a short author note at the end about Keaton's life.

Ballots for Belva: The True Story of a Woman's Race for the Presidency by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

If Hillary Clinton had won the nomination for president, this book would probably be on every library shelf in America.

It's a good book. Belva lived a big life. She went to law school despite terrible obstacles. She got her law degree despite terrible obstacles. She ran for president despite terrible obstacles.

She overcame the obstacles, time and again. What a great role model!

The book contains an extensive author's note and a selected bibliography along with a glossary.

3 More Picture Books

Up and Down the Andes: A Peruvian Festival Tale by Laurie Krebs and Aurelia Fronty

We in America seem to forget there are other countries, other people in the world.

We who are teachers should not forget this.

This book highlights the Peruvian festival held each year to honor the Sun God. The pictures and text combine to give children a little glimpse into the celebration that takes place.

The pictures are vibrant and show the colors and textures of the Peruvians who attend this celebration.

The author uses a long author note at the end of the book to explain more about the Festival of the Sun, other Peruvian festivals, a history of Peru, the people of Peru, Machu Picchu, the Andes, and cool facts about Peru.

I would rate this book a 4. Most children in the US have little exposure to Peru and this would be a welcome introduction.

Every Human Has Rights based on the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adapted by the United Nations sixty years ago. The atrocious violations of basic human rights by the Nazis during World War II shocked the world. A need for such a declaration was seen.

Sixty years later, reading over the list of thirty basic human rights, I am surprised to see both how fundamental they seem and how often they are ignored.

How different the world could be if countries around the world united together to ensure that all humans have these rights.

I will add this book to my school library collection.

We Are All Born Free: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Pictures
What a beautiful book! The Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides the text and children's picture book authors from around the world provide the pictures.

I am so amazed that these basic human rights are not yet deemed valid for all peoples in the world. We continually see some humans are treated better than others. Sixty years have passed since these were adapted by the UN. Will they ever be universally adopted?

I will add this book to my school library collection.

2 Grownup Books

No Choirboy by Susan Kuklin

The true stories of young men who were sentenced to death as teenagers is the subject of this book. It is a brutal world, the life of a teenager on death row. How did these young men get there?

Most hardly remember the crime for which they were given the death sentence. Most show deep remorse. It seems obvious to me as a reader that all were immature and easily led.

It is a hard decision, I think: How do you appropriately punish young people who have done abominable things yet bear in mind their age?

And we must also hope to find a way to help these people back into productive lives or, at a minimum, find a way to keep others safe from them.

These are not happy stories. It would be interesting to see what teens might think of these stories.

French Milk by Lucy Knesley

I'd originally requested this book thinking I might share it with my eighteen-year-old niece who visited France last year with her mom.

After having read it, I think not.

While, for the most part, I enjoyed reading the fun combination of comic drawings and photographs detailing the author's month-long trip to France with her mom, I am always surprised to see books I'd see as for teens containing profanity and sex-references. I was surprised to see how blase Knisley seemed to be about the entire adventure.

I wish my niece had written this book. She'd have brought to the subject things I wish Knisley had: enthusiasm for the trip, a freshness of vision, a deeper look at France, greater appreciation for writing and art.

I liked best the way the graphics were laid out, in big, full-page rectangles instead of the usual small squares. The liked the juxtaposition of photos and drawings.

But I was disappointed overall.

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