Clover Twig and the Magical Cottage

Clover Twig and the Magical Cottage by Kaye Umansky, illustrated by Johanna Wright

Clover is a sensible girl who isn’t bothered by being a housekeeper for a witch.  In fact, now Clover doesn’t have to tidy up after her many younger siblings at home and can have a bedroom all her own.  Tidying the witch’s cottage, cooking, cleaning and running errands is all very normal and domestic, but it can’t be that simple when magic is involved.  Clover meets Wilf, an exceedingly clumsy boy, who always seems to be in the middle of some sort of trouble.  But it takes a magic potion, a wicked witch, an invisible flying horse, and a lot more to really cause mischief and strife!

This book is funny and fast-paced.  The pace is a romp through a surprises, cunning plans, and twists.  Urmansky has written a book filled with magic that is not sentimental at all and happily pokes fun at the entire genre.  Clover is a wonderful and unexpected heroine in all of her quiet and clean glory.  Wilf is a great foil for her as he pratfalls around the book, causing confusion wherever he goes.  This book is not subtle.  It is vaudeville comedy wrapped in fairy tale paper. 

This would make a grand read-aloud for a 2nd or 3rd grade classroom where the broad comedy will play extremely well.  Appropriate for ages 7-11.

Reviewed from library copy.

Zero Is the Leaves on the Tree

Zero Is the Leaves on the Tree by Betsy Franco, illustrated by Shino Arihara

There are many, many counting books published every year, but this book focuses on one number that is often ignored: zero.  The absence of items is rendered here in verse and paintings.  Children are shown the many places that there is zero in everyday life:  no balls left in the bin during recess, no sleds on the hills when snow is melted. 

Franco’s simple and brief poetry, done so subtly that many won’t notice that it is a poem, nicely necklaces the instances of zero together.   Her examples of zero are simple, everyday occurrences that are made poignant by her focus on the transient nature of time.  These glimpse of zero change, replenish, refill.  Arihara’s gouache illustrations have small details but also an expansive view, matching the tone of the poem perfectly. 

Recommended for use in elementary math classes, this book will get children talking about where they see zero in their lives.  It will inspire with the beauty of the language as well.  Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from book received from publisher.

Also reviewed by A Patchwork of Books and PlanetEsme.

Airman Movie

ImageMovers and Disney will be producing a film of Eoin Colfer’s Airman.  Robert Zemeckis is involved in the film and Gil Kenan will be directing.  The film will be made using motion capture animation, which can be hit-or-miss. 

The book read like an action-adventure film, so it is a logical novel to adapt to cinema.  IMDB has the film listed for release in 2011.

Thanks to FirstShowing for their post on this.