Friday, August 25, 2006

All because of my missing hamster

Was given two hamsters recently. Within a week of their arrival, one of the hamsters went missing!! It was such an unexpected event that the whole family was all excited and worried. Worried that the little hammy will die of hunger, thirst or accidents. Accidents such as eaten by neighbours' dogs, stray cats or stepped on by any of us at night. Don't laugh, was told that someone actually killed her pet hamster accidentally because she slept on it!! Of course her pet was a free roaming, house-trained hamster.

Well, why am I telling you all these? Yes, I was thinking of writing this whole incident from the perspective of my hamster (by the way, his name is Snuggle) when I realised it is pretty difficult to know how a hamster feels. I've not observed him long enough - is he happy to have escaped? Was he afraid when he was out in the open? Was he trying to find his way back to his cage when he was tired and hungry? I really do not know.

Thus I went to the library and found this book - A Dog's Life: The Autobiography of a Stray by Ann M Martin. This book is not just for animal lovers. This is a well-written story through the eyes of a dog. Squirrel, the dog went through many trials and hardships as she wandered from place to place, slowly growing from a pup into an old dog. Throughout her adventures she met a variety of humans - some caring while others irresponsible. This is a remarkable novel that will touch the hearts of all. In the end, it brings about hope that maybe, someday, all animals will live in peace, and none will be left "unwanted."

This book is available in NLB (J MAR).

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Picture Books to look out for

Noah's Mittens
by Lise Lunge-Larsen
This is a playful pourquoi tale. How the leopard got its spots. Why do chameleons change colour. These are examples of such tales. Pourquoi [por-kwa] means "why" in French. Pourquoi tales are old legends told to explain why certain events happened. These tales often start in the past and end when the explanation is complete.

A Very Full Morning
by Eva Montanari
A not so typical story about first day of school. First day is a frightening day for many. However, the kids will be reassured and sigh with relief when the story comes to an end.

by Chris Van Allsburg
If you are a fan of Chris Van Allsburg, you will not want to miss this. Once again, he had managed to marry his characteristic twist in the story and stunning illustration in this spell-binding tale.

These are Houghton Mifflin Fall 2006 publications (to be published in US around Sep/Oct).

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Chicken chickens

I would like to recommend you the JP book "Big Chickens" by Leslie Helakoski, illustrated by Henry Cole.
Cole's bright and colourful chickens on the cover is simply charming. The chickens' facial expression is realistic yet hilariously funny. The artwork runs in tandem with the plot and captures the silliness of the characters.
As I turned the pages, you was intrigued by the power of fear. Yet with all the hilarious happenings, I soon realised that we can find courage from humour and humour can be more powerful than fear.
Helakoski used repetitions, questions and rhyming action words to tell of all the sly, silly humour. He had put them together so cleverly and fluently that I just wanted to read on after the first two pages.
It is definitely a good book for story time.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Reading Sonya Hartnett's Surrender was a real eye-opening experience. This book may not appeal to everyone coz it isn't an easy read, but at the heart of the story is an intriguing protagonist whose state of mind is under constant attack and the reader is never certain whether to believe him. I certainly had a hard time reading this novel but I'm glad I did coz it gave me the opportunity to see things in a different perspective, a complex and complicated state of mind, not entirely sound, but not unsound too. Hope you know what I mean. At every stage of the story you are never certain of the reality that is happening. Surrender by the way is the name of the dog of the protagonist, Gabriel. If you are looking for a challenging read, this is one title you should have a go at.

Something Different

I read this book called Zoo, by Graham Marks who happens to be married to another author called Nadia Marks, who by the way, as i meander along, wrote a chick-lit title Bitter Sweet. The interesting things about Zoo is that the author took the trouble to go to US to do his research even though he is British. Probably not a new concept but when i read the novel it didn't come as coming from a British author as there was a great deal of American in it.
The story starts with a kidnapping of a boy called Cam but as he soon discovers, the kidnapping was the real beginning of his life for he discovers horrific details of how he came about, about his life which has been a lie. Almost akin to Maximum Ride by James Patterson but different in many ways. I don't like giving the story away but it was gripping and it makes you think that about the saying that things are not what they seem. Many things are a facade and the true picture manifests when the person or thing or situation is under stress.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Time well spent

One title that I am constantly raving about is Wolf Brother and the subsequent Spirit Walker by Michelle Paver. Set 6000 years ago, it has an immediate primitive feel about it and draws the reader in quickly. Torak, the chief protagonist of the stories, which by the way is in six parts, with only the first 2 books published so far, is both an admirable character and yet one that endears himself to us. I won't give a synopsis of the story so as to entice people to read it. But what I can say is that Paver has done a great deal of research to maintain the authenticity of the time frame, because that gives the story it's raw edge and a strong feel of how the ancients used to live. There is also an inextricable link between the spirit world and the real world so much so that that the two are sometimes inseparable. The various characters in the story are well-drawn out and by the second book, Spirit Walker, the characters grow through the challenges they face but at the same time more questions are posed which I believe the subsequent books will reveal.
Definitely a book worth your time.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

What Makes A Book A Children's Book?

  • A central character (protaganist) who is the age of the intended audience.
  • Central issues of the story concern children in some ways.
  • A straight forward story line.
  • A linear and limited time sequence in a confined setting.
  • Language is concrete and vivid and not overly complex.

Not too sure if the last 3 points really apply anymore. Children's book is getting more and more sophisticated. Even the age of the protagonist may not be a good gauge now.

However, the 5 points above do serve as a guide. : )

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A Timeless Tale

"Why should I care what happens to an arrogant,
over-dressed china rabbit?
But I did care, desperately,
and I think I can safely predict you will, too."
----- Katherine Paterson

"The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane" is a book about Edward, a very well dressed china rabbit, with a complete wardrobe of handmade silk suits, pajamas, and clothes for every occasion.

Edward belongs to a little girl who adores him completely. Unfortunately, he feels no emotions towards anyone. Then, in an unexpected event, Edward becomes lost and is found by a series of changing owners. With each new owner, his heart grows in love.

In the end, the question is not can Edward love, but can he love again after the depth of his heartbreak as he loses each owner.

A timeless tale , complete with stunning full-color plates by Bagram Ibatoulline, honors the enduring power of love. Don't pass this book by because it sits in the children's section...this book is for everyone.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Outstanding Illustrators for Children Books

The 2005 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award winner is Traction Man Is Here by Mini Grey, published by Alfred A. Knopf.

"In picture books, words and pictures are a fantastic double act, each doing a different job, maybe even telling a different story — but you need both of them to have the whole story. And even the youngest people are expert readers of pictures. So in pictures you can say very complex things, things that it would take an enormous number of words to explain." ----- Mini Grey (award acceptance speech)

The 2004 (awarded in 2005) Kate Greenway Medal winner is Jonathan Swift's “Gulliver” by Chris Riddell (Text by Martin Jenkins) published by Walker.

The 2006 Caldecott Medal winner is The Hello, Goodbye Window illustrated by Chris Raschka and written by Norton Juster (Michael di Capua Books, an imprint of Hyperion Books for Children)