Review: If You Lived Here by Giles Laroche

if you lived here

If You Lived Here: Houses of the World by Giles Laroche

This book invites readers to explore the different types of houses that are lived in throughout the world.  Beginning with the phrase, “If you lived here…” the book then describes some unique features of that particular type of home.  There are homes that you would have to go outside to get to the kitchen, others where you would not have to go out to even get to the barn, others are built around caves, still others are close to water or surrounded by it.  The book then defines the type of house, what materials it is made from, where this type of house is found, the date that this house first appeared, and a fact about them.  The tone is kept light and interesting, which will invite young readers to explore this subject in depth.

Laroche’s writing is welcoming and light.  He finds the most unique features of a home and describes them in simple and inviting ways.  Even the information on the materials and location are kept short and contain only the most interesting details. 

The illustrations, done in paper, have a three dimensional effect.  The homes are done in exacting detail that includes individual shingles, decorative features, and even the ability to peer closely and see into the windows to the rooms beyond.  There is a physical quality to this, creating almost a model effect where you lean in closer to see even more.  The illustrations are a delight and truly bring the structures to life.

When I first started reading this book, I wondered who would be the audience for it.  The entire book is so appealing that it will have no trouble being enjoyed by young readers interested in architecture, history, or travel.  Appropriate for ages 8-10.

Reviewed from library copy.

Sharp Fangs of Vampire Authors


In a perfect story for Halloween, Interview with a Vampire author Anne Rice takes a fanged snap at Stephenie Meyer’s new version of the vampire mythos via Rice’s Facebook page:

Lestat and Louie feel sorry for vampires that sparkle in the sun. They would never hurt immortals who choose to spend eternity going to high school over and over again in a small town —- anymore than they would hurt the physically disabled or the mentally challenged. My vampires possess gravitas. They can afford to be merciful.

After almost 2,000 comments that went back and forth between fans of the different vampire series, Rice attempted to clarify that it was all meant in humor. 

In the end, she offered an olive branch:

I very much love the new vampire authors, no doubt of it. I have unqualified praise for the originality of Charlaine Harris and Stephenie Meyer and for their success. This is fun, guys, all these new vampires roaming the fantasy world. And a little humour about it is not out of place.


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Review: The Ice Bear by Jackie Morris


The Ice Bear by Jackie Morris

Poetic and mystical, this picture book is a rich read.  In the beginning of time, people and animals were as one.  Two tiny polar bear cubs were born into the world and cared for by their mother bear in an ice cave.  But the mother was tricked, and Raven was able to steal one of the cubs away.  A hunter found Raven with a bundle of white fur.  Raven flew off, and the hunter picked up the bundle of fur and headed back home on his sled.  When he brought the furs into his home, he and his wife discovered a baby inside.  The two had wished for a child and here was one.  They raised him as their own.  When the child was seven years old, Raven returned and drew him out onto the ice and away from home.  There he almost froze to death, until the bears found him and took him away with them.  He is a boy of two families, two worlds, who must make a choice.

Morris proves here that she is just as radiant a writer as an illustrator.  Her story is told in words that make you slow down, savor them.  If you read them aloud, it reads as verse, a poem in paragraph form.  The world she creates is one of wonder and timelessness.  It is a world at birth, a world that mirrors our own, but is also filled with magic and connections.  She has created a picture book that is an invitation to dream.

Her illustrations have a lot to do with this too.  They capture the Arctic landscape in all of its blues, whites, and purples.  Then they also show the human family filled with the warmth of fire, furs and the snugness of their home.  But most powerful of all is the bear home, where it is still cold, but the heat and warmth comes from the animals themselves, shown powerful in creams and yellows and equally loving.

A gorgeous story that is both beautifully written and illustrated, this book is radiant.  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Also reviewed by:

Check out the video of the author reading the book:

Review: Love, Mouserella by David Ezra Stein

love mouserella

Love, Mouserella by David Ezra Stein

Mouserella misses her grandmother.  She had to go back to the country, and Mouserella lives in the city.  So her mother suggested she write a letter, and she did!  The pages are filled with drawings, photographs, and plenty of great details.  Though Mouserella doesn’t think there is much to share, she actually finds lots of everyday things to talk about: creating seed parachutes, visiting a museum, experiencing a blackout, and playing with her brother.  The story is jolly and warm, filled with homey details, a loving family and the joys of the small things in life.

Stein’s writing and art here create a harmonious whole.  The writing is winningly child-like and wandering.  Mouserella’s voice is clear and personal throughout, creating a solid base for the book.  Stein then embellishes the book with art that ranges from Mouserella’s drawings to photographs of her world.  The combination of crayon art with Stein’s own more realistic but still whimsical art makes for a striking read.

This warm, wonderful picture book will be enjoyed by grandmothers and grandchildren alike.  It is a perfect accompaniment to letter writing units or story times about grandparents.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Penguin Young Readers Group.

Also reviewed by A Year of Reading.

Hunger Games Posters

Oh my, now this is one gorgeous line of posters!  Spread across several movie and entertainment sites, you can see the new posters for The Hunger Games movie due out on March 23rd. 

IGN has Woody Harrelson as Haymitch, as well as links to the other posters.  My favorites are Rue, Katniss and Cinna.  Lovely! 

Here is Rue:

How about you?  Do you have a favorite?

Review: Amplified by Tara Kelly


Amplified by Tara Kelly

The author of Harmonic Feedback returns with another book that centers around music.  Jasmine has decided that she doesn’t want to attend Stanford in the fall, so that she can follow her dream of becoming a musician.  She finds herself homeless when her father kicks her out for her decision.  Jasmine’s car breaks down in Santa Cruz.  She finds a listing for a place that she can almost afford but the kicker is that she needs to audition for a band and get picked as their guitarist in order to get the room.  All she has to do is convince three jaded, ultra-cool guys and one amazing girl that she can do it.  The problem is that she’s never played for anyone except her best friend.  Can Jasmine fool them all and for how long?

This book sings.  The character of Jasmine is complex, haunted, frigid, closed off, wide open, and entirely human.   The other band members are equally fascinating, often veering away from what you would expect from them, making them all the more intriguing.  Though it would have been easy to make Jasmine’s father a cardboard stereotype, Kelly didn’t.  One of the conversations with her father shows that both Jasmine and her father are trying yet unable to connect. 

Music is difficult to write about in novels, but Kelly manages to invite readers into a band, allow them to experience the hard work, the drive, the crap and the intensity of the relationships that music creates.  The music in this book is not subtle, this is not another book about a quiet pianist or violinist.  Instead this book thrashes and rocks. 

Impossible to put down, readers will thrum to the rhythm of disaster, recovery, lies and truth.  It is a compelling and remarkable combination.  Appropriate for ages 15-17.

Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt and Company.

Also reviewed by

Review: The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse by Eric Carle

artist who painted a blue horse

The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse by Eric Carle

A young artist paints a blue horse running against a yellow sky, then continues to paint animals in amazing colors.  There is a red crocodile, a yellow cow, a pink rabbit, and an orange elephant.  The book speaks powerfully and simply to the spirit of creativity, the ability to change the world through art, and the right to express yourself.  This becomes even more clear as the book ends with Carle’s own childhood experiences in Nazi Germany where he first saw the forbidden work of Franz Marc who painted Blue Rider.  This is not a picture book biography, but rather a statement of support for all artists who see the world in unique ways.

Carle’s art is really the center of the book with the words just naming the color and animal.  As I read it, I could see it being used very nicely in elementary art classes to encourage children to break away from the norm.  In toddler story times, it could also be used to learn colors and animals perhaps even with some animal noises thrown in to add to the fun. 

This is a book that will speak to many ages, adapt well to projects and conversation, or simply be used as a color and animal book.  It is infinitely flexible, wonderfully expressive, and makes a powerful statement.  Appropriate for ages 2-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Philomel Books.

You can also check out the auction of art by artists and celebrities that was inspired by this picture book.

Review: Peter and the Winter Sleepers by Rick De Haas

peter and the winter sleepers

Peter and the Winter Sleepers by Rick De Haas

This snowy book is the story of Peter, who lives with his grandmother and pet dog in a lighthouse.  One day, it snowed, a wonderful clean fluffy snow that was perfect for making snowmen.  But then it just didn’t stop snowing.  They moved the chicken and goat inside to be safe, and then there was a scratching at the front door.  It was a rabbit.  Peter made a bed on the stairs for the rabbit when there came another noise at the door.  It brought more animals: squirrels, mice, hedgehogs, birds, a bat.  It got hard to sleep at night and the droppings were smelly.  After a few more days, the came another knock on the door.  It was a fox.  At first, Peter was eager to welcome a new animal to the lighthouse.  But how in the world was a fox going to live with the animals that it usually eats?

De Haas has created a friendly, cozy world here.   There is a gentle feel to the entire book, a hominess.  Anyone who has been stuck at home during a blizzard will recognize the feeling, and will probably start to wish that the animals would knock at their door next time.  The text of the book has a gentle quality as well, a quiet building as animals enter the lighthouse.

The lighthouse is filled with curved lines from the arched doorways to the curve of the stair to the gentle arc of the walls.  Complementing the curves is the warm yellow tones of the interior, that contrasts well with the cool blues of the snowy landscape outside.  This is a haven that is deliciously warm and welcoming.

A great pick for wintry story times, this book is quiet, gentle and welcoming just like its storyline.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from NorthSouth.

Review: 11 Experiments That Failed by Jenny Offill

11 experiments that failed

11 Experiments That Failed by Jenny Offill and Nancy Carpenter

A series of experiments take place in this book, each one funnier than the next.  They attempt to answer questions like: Can a kid make it through the winter eating only snow and ketchup?  Do dogs like to be covered in glitter?  Will a piece of bologna fly like a Frisbee?  The only way to find out is for the protagonist to test it scientifically.  That means trying to eat only ketchup and snow and observing the results.  Sprinkling her dog with glitter to see what happens.  Testing flight capabilities of bologna in the lunchroom of school.  All of the experiments have a question, a hypothesis, instructions, and results.  Budding scientists are sure to find plenty to laugh along with in this book, along with new ideas for experiments of their own.

This very funny book and also great fun to share.  The book design plays a big role in the fun.  Since the results are after a page turn, we enjoyed guessing what the results of the experiments would be.  Each experiment is unique, silly and entirely engaging.  The other winning part of the book is that this is a girl doing science, wearing her pink goggles and gloves, and her lab coat. 

The illustrations add to appeal.  The collage illustrations mix photographs and drawing.  They are quirky, colorful and glorious.

Get this one in the hands of science teachers who are teaching the scientific process.  Young scientists will also love it as well as any kid who enjoys silliness in their books.  But beware of flying bologna!  Appropriate for ages 5-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Schwartz & Wade Books.

Also reviewed by Pink Me and Young Readers.