by Casey Maynard on February 17th, 2017
La Madre Goose by Susan Middleton Elya and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal, has become my new favorite picture book for February.
Elya is famous for intermixing Spanish and English within her stories in a way that incorporates rhythm and rhyme. Her updates to traditional Mother Goose rhymes are no exception in this collection.
The poems and classic rhymes presented here seamlessly flow from Spanish to English and back again making it a lovely read aloud for any family. Martinez-Neal’s warm illustrations help show those not as familiar with the Spanish vocabulary what the slight changes to the rhymes are. The glossary directly following the title page also helps to make this accessible for multi or single language homes.
Children and parents familiar with classic Mother Goose will be certain to enjoy the twists and turns that this bilingual title takes.
by Shawna Riggins on March 21st, 2016
While I am loving my slow trek through Tolstoy’s War and Peace as part of a book group, I do appreciate some additional input after finishing some chapters. While searching online recently for a chapter summary and analysis, I found an edition of War and Peace that really broke the book down to a level that I could certainly understand and included some beautiful images. While actually intended for babies and toddlers (considering it is a board book), I must admit I wasted no time in ordering a copy from Amazon.
I was happy to discover this edition of War and Peace is merely one in the delightful Cozy Classics board book series. On their website, creators, Jack and Holman Wang explain, “…no classic was written for the classroom; every one was written to give pleasure. We prefer to get away from the classroom and have kids grow up thinking of The Great Books as great fun.” This series, with its simplified stores and beautiful art, is a great way to make classics interesting and accessible at an early age. Find books in this series including Pride and Prejudice, Tom Sawyer, and others in our collection. Jack and Holman Wang introduce little ones to other essential stories with their similar series, Star Wars Epic Yarns, also available from ICPL. Still curious about these books? Check out their YouTube Channel for book trailers and behind the scenes clips.
Now be honest, who will be more excited about these books; you or the little one in your life?
by Mimi Blankenship Coupland on October 29th, 2015
Nowadays, it seems like horror equals gratuitous gore, especially in movies. These stories, to me, are the ones that are truly horrible. They strike to the primal core and are remembered decades after reading.
Let’s start with my favorite from the master of macabre, Edgar Allan Poe: The Cask of Amontillado (1846). It’s a short story of revenge mixed with wine – one that rarely ends well. It’s told from the viewpoint of the “villain” who is specific with many details except for a definitive reason for his grievance. The ending is not nice but what really gives me the chills are the false displays of friendship.
I first read on On the Beach (1957) by Nevil Shute when I was a teenager. It was still the Cold War and as a fan of Tom Clancy, I thought “Aha! Here’s what happens if Jack Ryan does not save the day.” After World War III, the radioactive fallout has not yet reached Australia but it’s on the way. The survivors know they only have months to live and act accordingly. I highly recommend this book as own it and have read it multiple times since then.
The Lottery (1948) by Shirley Jackson takes place in the center of a tiny village. It’s small enough that everyone knows each other’s name and most of their business as well, very much like where I grew up. This short story develops quickly, interspersing character introduction with descriptions how the lottery works. By the time the winner is revealed, it’s completely different from the idyllic beginning.
I read Flowers for Algernon (1959) by Daniel Keyes once long ago and never again. That’s not because the novel is awful (it’s brilliant!) – it’s because the story line is so plausible and that is terrifying. It’s written in diary form by Charlie Gordon, a man with low IQ, as progress reports for Dr. Strauss. The doctor performs an experimental operation on Charlie to increase his intelligence like Algernon, the lab mouse. The changes are gradual, yet noticeable, and Charlie shares them all with the reader.
Lastly, you know that short story about that guy on an island that hunts other guys? Most people say yes but can’t remember the title or author. Thanks to the magic of the internet, I plugged the above phrase into a search engine and voila: The Most Dangerous Game (1924) by Richard Connell. That plot may not seem like much but consider that it was written almost 100 years ago and is still a popular basis for both books and movies.
Thanks for letting me share some scary stories with you. Happy Halloween!
by Mimi Blankenship Coupland on August 18th, 2015
This one is for you, Mom. As Iowa City residents know, it’s that time of year and, this time, I was going to be part of the chaos. As I was talking about how stressful things were, my mom said, “You should write about this in your blog.” At that time I thought, “Ugh! I’m calling you as a procrastination or avoidance technique.” But now that I have “settled” into my new place, I realized she was right so here you are.
According to Jonah Winter, Beethoven had to change his address 39 times, including 5 pianos. This picture book (2006) is filled with interesting facts and whimsical illustrations. Reading it will make most moves seem quite easy in comparison. The Berenstain Bears’ Moving Day (1981) by Stan and Jan Berenstain depicts a more realistic undertaking.
The Bromeliad Trilogy (1998) by Terry Pratchett features 4-inch tall creatures called nomes who originated from another planet; consider them to be alien Littles or Borrowers. In the beginning, they live Outside but too many predators and a scarcity of food convince them to migrate to the Store. Other nomes already reside there and allow the immigrants to stay. Soon, through a “great and powerful” object dubbed the Thing, they discover the Store is to be demolished and they must all move again. This trilogy consists of Truckers (1989), Diggers (1990), and Wings (1990).
In the classic book From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1967) by E. L. Konigsburg, Claudia Kincaid is bored with her life and decides to run away from home and live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She recruits her brother Jamie, primarily as a roommate to help with expenses. They quickly settle into a routine when, one day, a mysterious marble statue of an angel arrives. Jamie is ready to return home but Claudia is intrigued and refuses until she resolves the enigma.
How to Survive a Move (2005) is an advice book that I had not actually read before my relocation, but should have done. It is comprised of recommendations from everyday people who have already undergone that experience. Some are amusing and some are “what not to do” but most are beneficial. Keep this book in mind for the residence reshuffle next year.
Whether you are already established in your home or still unpacking boxes, take a break to read about various moves. Finally, a humongous thank you to all my friends and family who helped me change my residence so I would still have enough sanity to write this blog.
by Mimi Blankenship Coupland on March 31st, 2015
Image courtesy of Amazon.com
Since this is my very first blog ever, I’d like to recommend my most favorite book of all time: The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. This epic novel is not in our Book Madness bracket, most likely because I forgot to submit it. Because it was originally serialized, each chapter is full of action and the book reads more like modern-day authors David Baldacci and Brad Thor.
Before he became The Count, Edmond Dantes was a naive merchant sailor with a life full of happiness. That changes when he is sent to the foreboding Chateau d’If for reasons unknown to him. After his “release”, he methodically wreaks vengeance on those he deems responsible, but also helps others he believes are worthy.
If you don’t have the time for 117 chapters or are just a bit daunted, we have a 4-part TV mini-series (starring Gerard Depardieu; 1998) and the 2002 theatrical version (starring Jim Caviezel). There are also many revamped versions including:
Since I am a fervent fan, I’ve also read The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss. This is a biography of Alexandre Dumas’s father who served as an inspiration for the novel.
Edmond Dantes is a complex character and the plot is quite intricate – with every re-reading I discover something new. The Count of Monte Cristo is a classic because its themes still resonate today.