Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Brian Selznick
Scholastic, 2007

When Hugo Cabret's cruel uncle disappears, it is up to Hugo to keep the clocks running in the Paris train station where he lives. If anyone finds out his uncle is gone, Hugo will be taken to an orphanage. Not only will he lose his freedom, but he'll lose the chance to repair the only thing he has left from his father - a mechanical man that Hugo believes will write a message for him if only he can get the mechanism to work.

Creeping between walls, stealing food, and collecting uncle's paychecks (though he doesn't know how to cash them) keeps Hugo from being discovered. But Hugo needs parts for his mechanical man, and when he tries to steal them from the strange old toymaker who owns a shop in the train station, Hugo stumbles into an even bigger secret than the one hidden in the mechanical man's gears.

Cinematic illustrations take turns with sparse, direct prose to tell a moving story of mystery, tragedy, and redemption. For ages 8 and up.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Louis Sachar
Yearling Books 1998

My very favorite book published in the 1990's has to be Holes by Louis Sachar.

There is no doubt that Stanley Yelnats is a very unlucky boy. Framed for stealing a valuable pair of shoes owned by a baseball superstar, he takes the option of serving out his sentence at Camp Green Lake. Turns out, there is no lake. Not any more. At this juvenile detention facility, the warden makes every boy dig a five-foot-deep, five-foot around hole in the dry lake bed every day. If that weren't bad enough, there's the deadly yellow spotted lizards you have to watch out for.

Stanley's family has always had bad luck, ever since his great-great-grandfather stole a pig from an old gypsy named Madame Zeroni back in Latvia. Stanley's mother doesn't believe in the family curse, but then again Stanley's grandfather's fortune was stolen by the infamous outlaw, Kissing Kate Barlow, and Stanley's father is an inventor who can't seem to invent anything.

And no rain has fallen on Green Lake, Texas since Kissing Kate left the town and turned to a life of crime.

Louis Sachar brings all these story elements together, twisting and weaving a marvelously complex plot that comes down to an absolutely satisfying ending. A great read for ages 9 and up.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

First Day Jitters

Julie Danneberg
Illustrated by Judy Love
Charlesbridge Publishing, 2000

One of my children brought this charming picture book home from the elementary school library. I liked the whimsical personality of the illustrations and the dialog that sounded just like those mornings when a reluctant child is protesting as I try to wheedle him or her out of bed. I read along as the tension mounted, enjoying the story, until I got to the last page. What an utter and delightful surprise! I never would have guessed. I had to go back and read the whole book again looking for clues. They were there, I simply didn't notice.

This is a great book, sure to be enjoyed by children and parents alike.