Friday, October 25, 2013

Gifts of the Heart by Patricia Polacco

I love this new gem from Polacco. If the book flap is accurate, Gifts of the Heart may just be Polacco's dream alter-ego.

I don't know why the illustrations in the opening of this book so caught me, but I love the drawing of the Model A driving up to the old farmhouse. The color of the snow is just right and makes the drab wintery houses, lacking most color, stand stark on the page. Polacco's mastery shines bright in scenes she paints at nighttime too....I just love her work! Kay Lamity shines at the center of this story, bringing good tidings and joyful celebrations to a family dealing with hurting hearts. Richie and Trisha, the common characters in her books, lead us into their struggles honestly. I too have a red-headed older brother, and I know well the trials of being led through life with them at the helm. Okay, I know the humor too....and Richie always brings his own way of being to Trisha and in this book, their grandfather.

I can almost hear Kay Laminity in the story, cackling her lovely way of being all over the days and nights of a family experiencing a deep winter in their lives. Check it out and see what you think; see if you hear someone's voice singing true through this one. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Blessing Cup by Patricia Polacco

The divine Ms. Polacco has graced us with not one but TWO new books this fall. The Blessing Cup is a companion to her brilliant book, The Keeping Quilt, and is not to be missed. But then you wouldn't consider missing something written by Patricia Polacco, would you?

Polacco is definitely one of my favorite children's authors. She tells stories that capture a giant range of audiences from such an authentic, rooted home. She seems to invite us into her life with her stories, and The Blessing Cup fits that to a t. Through a simple cup, she leads us through her ancestor's trials and celebrations all the way to her own love and loss as an adult. She starts the story focusing on her young grandmother's life in Russia where her family was brutalized and bullied by the soldiers. Ordered by the czar to leave, they depart Russia, only to face further atrocities and losses in their new home in . But in each of her writings, hope reigns, and this book holds true to that vein. The blessing cup literally holds the blessings found in the gifts laid out by her invested relatives and kind friends.

Complimented by her expert ways of inviting us into her life stories, I often feel like I know her better because of her smart risks in her writing. This story offers that to us again; I look forward to finding the audience with which to share this lovely offering from Polacco.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Soldier Dog by Sam Angus



You know how you so enjoy a book that all you can do is shake your head and exclaim silly statements like, "Oh my gosh!" Well this is one of those books.

Stanley's father is flat-out pissed at the world, grieving the loss of his wife as well as his eldest son's transport to WW1. Stanley receives the brutality of Da's emotional state in a multitude of unfair ways. Life gets too ugly, Stanley signs up to train dogs for Messenger Dog Service through the War Dog School for the British Army. He is a gifted trainer, training a giant brute of a dog who will do anything for him. After an experience in France near the front, he is back at training school working with another dog. The dog obviously traumatized, Stanley reluctantly accepts working with the dog. I can't tell you anymore; I refuse to spoil any of the storytelling art that Angus leavens into this brilliant story.

Sam Angus has catapulted to one of my favorite authors with this read. Her historical researching offers critical, rare details into a world I never knew existed. The ways she weaves Stanley's family together artistic. The best part is the relationship she crafts between Stanley and the!!!! Treasured!!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Voyage of the Frog by Gary Paulsen

I love being outdoors. As a child, I was outside all the time. Catching snakes (no, my mother refused to let them inside and screeched even if I placed them on the very corner of the back porch in a glass jar when I had to run inside for something), studying scat (yes, I kinda love wild-animal poo), and learning from the natural world. I would read just about anything I could get my hands on that had to do with being outside. You know the list: Where the Red Fern Grows, Old Yeller, The Call of the Wild, My Side of the Mountain, Sounder...I think you get the picture. But only rarely do I recall reading a book about sailing. Confession: I have never been on a sailboat. Canoe, kayak, and a bigger yacht that I cleaned to make extra spending money, but never sailed. And I didn't come across many books about sailing.

I love water though, and I love books about kids sailing even more. Paulsen is an artist at his craft, and I easily reach for his books when I run across them. This one is solidly terrific, and I loved the role of sailing throughout this text. In fact, the sea terrifies and soothes, the sea giveth and the sea taketh. This engaging story kept me right beside David, curious to know how he finds his way after a brutal surprise storm tosses him well off his path and well beyond his belief in himself and his knowledge. But time, practice, and curiosity all are on his side, and in time, he indeed gathers and funnels his resources into finding his way back home.

Sweet, simple, and confirming as so many of Paulsen's books are, this one is worth searching out.