Monthly Archives: December 2010

Monday Children’s Book Reviews for December 27

If You’re a Monster and You Know It by Rebecca Emberley and Ed Emberley

“If you’re a monster and you know it, give a ROAR!”

“Children will stomp their paws, twitch their tails, snort and growl, and wiggle and wriggle along with this bright and bold picture book twist on “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” Rebecca Emberley has written a rollicking text, which she has illustrated in collaboration with her father, Caldecott Medalist Ed Emberley.”


The Big Catch: A Robot and Rico Story by Anastasia Suen

“Robot and Rico are off to the beach! While Rico is busy fishing, Robot is bored. Rico wants to catch the biggest fish, but Robot may end up with a bigger surprise.”  Stone Arch Readers Level 2                 [JE SUEN]

Willowood by Cecelia Galante

“There’s nothing ten-year-old Lily Sinclair likes about her new life in the city with her single mom. She misses her best friend, who seems to have forgotten her and their secret place, Willowood. She never sees her mom, who’s working long hours at her new job. She’s managed to make an enemy of the class bully. Mrs. Hiller from across the hall, who takes care of Lily after school, keeps preparing yucky healthy snacks for her. And she can’t get her mother to tell her anything about her absent father. Her only source of comfort is her beloved pet gecko, Weemis. Everything changes when Mrs. Hiller introduces Lily to the owner of the Pet Palace, a nearby pet store, and his adult Down’s syndrome son, Nate. Lily finds herself with an unofficial after school job — and forges a tentative friendship with Nate that’s threatened by a dark secret about Nate Lily knows nothing about.”                    [J GALANTE]

Base Jumping by S. L. Hamilton

Base Jumping takes action images and combines them with sports information, written in short, simple wording. From the crazy locations to the gear needed, kids will be captivated by this extreme sport. Unique quotes and facts add dimension to the text, without making it overwhelming.” [Series: Xtreme Sports]                                    [J796.046 HAMILTON]


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Christmas stories

Ecco Book of Christmas Stories

 Christmas is the storytelling time, the beginning of things expected but not yet seen, of tales suspenseful and mysterious, and full of a comfort of sorts. Internationally acclaimed anthologist Alberto Manguel offers an immensely enjoyable collection of twenty-three brilliant stories from across the globe, written under the merry canopy of Christmas.

The Ecco Book of Christmas Stories includes tales by the best master storytellers, such as “The Turkey Season” by Alice Munro; “Christmas Is a Sad Season for the Poor” by John Cheever; “Crèche” by Richard Ford; “Horatio’s Trick” by Ann Beattie; “Another Christmas” by William Trevor; and “The Leaf-Sweeper” by Muriel Spark.

The collection also features voices of writers whose work has seldom or never been translated into English, such as “A Risk for Father Christmas” by Siegfried Lenz and “The Night Before Christmas” by Theodore Odrach. Eminently readable, The Ecco Book of Christmas Stories is a celebration of the most magical of seasons.

And Thereby Hangs a Tale

International bestselling author Jeffrey Archer has spent the last five years gathering spellbinding stories from around the globe. These fifteen brand new tales showcase Archer’s talent for capturing an unforgettable moment in time, whether tragic, comic, or outrageous.

In India, Jamwal and Nisha fall in love while waiting for a traffic light to turn green on the streets of Delhi.

From Germany comes “A Good Eye,” the tale of a priceless oil painting that has remained in the same family for over two hundred years, until…

To the Channel Islands in “Members Only,” where a golf ball falls out of a Christmas cracker, and a young man’s life will never be the same…

To Italy in “No Room at the Inn,” where a young man who is trying to book a room at a hotel, ends up in bed with the receptionist, unaware that she…

To England, where, in “High Heels,” a woman has to explain to her husband why a pair of designer shoes couldn’t have gone up in flames…

Some of these stories will make you laugh while others will bring you to tears but, once again, every one of them will demand that you keep turning the page until you finally discover what happens to this remarkable cast of characters.

Find more Christmas Stories here….

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Coyote Hills Nature Preserve Naturalist Recreates The World of the Ohlones at UC Library

Using Ohlone tool to make a hole in leather hide

This past Monday afternoon kids and parents at Union City Library were transported back in time to relive the culture and life of the Ohlones during a visit to the Library by naturalist Dino Labiste of Coyote Hills Regional Park. He brought with him a fascinating display of artifacts showing how the Ohlones lived in harmony with nature.                                                                                                                                            

Dressing like the Ohlones

Trying on the Ohlone Carry Basket

He demonstrated how they used what was part of their natural environment to make tools and practical as well as beautiful essential household items.  Some adventurous members of the audience got to dress up as Native Americans and try out their tools. Hands in the audience were shooting up often as many of the kids in the crowd asked thoughtful questions sparked by Dino’s presentation.  To find out more about the Coyote Hills Regional Park and their programs you can contact Dino at

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Tiffany & Checkmate!

by Tiffany Cheung
Does a legend begin from a prophecy? Or is it written as you go?
Keladry Lebrasca and Damien Ayer were chosen to reveal what is hidden underneath a planet of secrets and lies, and what they find is nothing even close to what they had imagined. Read more….

Tiffany Cheung is a student at Logan High School in Union City. She is 11th grade and she is only 16 years old. She has been writing since she was 12.

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Monday Children’s Book Reviews for December 20

Thanking the Moon: Celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival by Grace Lin

“This simple, young, and satisfying story follows a Chinese American family as they celebrate the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival.

“Each member of the family lends a hand as they prepare a moonlit picnic with mooncakes, pomelos, cups of tea, and colorful lanterns. And everyone sends thanks and a secret wish up to the moon.” [JPB LIN]

Three Claws the Mountain Monster by Cari Meister

“Three Claws loves living in the quiet mountain village. He also loves eating rotten fish, so he always has really bad breath! The other mountain monsters don’t know what to do with him. Will Three Claws be forced to leave the village?”    Stone Arch Readers Level 3        [JE MEISTER]

Hide and Seek by Katy Grant

“Chase enjoys geocaching as a break from all the hard work at the small Arizona mountain resort owned by his mom and stepdad, and he frequently takes off into the woods with his dog in a quest to discover containers hidden by other enthusiasts. On one trip, however, Chase encounters a pair of hungry, scruffy little boys, who are camped out with a mysterious man. Eventually, Chase learns that the man is the boys’ father and that he kidnapped his sons from their home in Wisconsin months earlier. When one of the boys becomes seriously ill, Chase tries to help but ends up in serious danger.”         [J GRANT]

We Want You to Know: Kids Talk About Bullying by Deborah Ellis

“Deborah Ellis asked students from the ages of nine to nineteen to talk about their experiences with bullying. The results are thoughtful, candid, and often harrowing accounts of “business as usual” in and around today’s schools. The kids in this book raise questions about the way parents, teachers and school administrators cope with bullies. They talk about which methods have helped and which ones, with the best of intentions, have failed to protect them. And some kids reveal how they have been able to overcome their fear and anger to become strong advocates for the rights of others.

“This is a book for reading and sharing. Each interview is followed by questions that will encourage open discussion about the nature of bullying and the ways in which individuals and schools could deal more effectively with bullies and their victims. And additional comments from international students reveal how much kids the world over have in common in the way they experience and deal with bullies.”         [J302.3 ELLIS]

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The great storyteller, Charles Dickens

when liberty comes with hands dabbled in blood it is hard to shake hands with her.” ~Oscar Wild

As a novelist so much concerned with society and its ills and injustices, it is hardly surprising that Charles Dickens should have written two novels about social disorder in which the corrupt structure that looms up in so many of his books seems in danger of final collapse. The first of these, quite early in his career, was Barnaby Rudge (1840-41), in which the anti-Catholic Gordon riots formed the background to a rather conventional love story. The second, towards the end of his career, was A Tale of Two Cities, which first appeared during 1859 as eight monthly parts in Dickens’s own magazine, All the Year Round, and was later published as a novel. It is set in London and Paris at the time of the French Revolution, centering especially on the period of the Terror of 1793.

As a historical novel, A Tale of Two Cities has obvious limitations. It is highly derivative, mainly from Thomas Carlyle’s extravagant masterpiece, The French Revolution, for Dickens did little other research. Moreover, the attention it gives to the Revolution as a historic event is strangely restricted and evasive. Only two of the celebrated episodes of the Revolution are described at any length; the taking of the Bastille and the murder by the crowd of the old tax farmer Foulon, of which Carlyle also makes much. None of the celebrated revolutionary figures appear except for the executioner Samson, and even him we never see. The guillotine thuds away invisible, and though we are told of the great massacres in the prisons and shown a macabre scene of the killers sharpening their bloody weapons in the yard of the Paris branch of Tillson’s Bank, we do not see a single aristocrat actually being slaughtered by the people. We get only a limited glimpse of the slums of Paris, in the Faubourg St. Antoine, where the Terror has its birth, and even here our attention is mainly concentrated on the bloodthirsty Defarges who, it turns out in the end, are motivated to play their part in the action through thoughts of family revenge rather than of revolutionary zeal.

The central motif of the novel is in fact that of redemption through love rather than revolution through hate, and the central plot is a love triangle in which one of the two suitors for the heroine dies on the guillotine in the place of his rival. The heroine is Lucie Manette, daughter of a doctor formerly imprisoned in the Bastille, who at the beginning of the book is released, sheltered by Defarge who was his former servant, and brought to a refuge in England. Of the lovers one, Charles Darnay, lives in London as a French tutor, but is really a member of a particularly arrogant aristocratic family, whose pretensions he has already rejected before the Revolution. The other, Sydney Carton, is a brilliant but debauched lawyer. The two men meet dramatically at the Old Bailey, when Darnay stands falsely accused of spying for France, and Carton—who is Darnay’s double—stands up to confuse the identificatory evidence of the government spies. Darnay is acquitted—saved for a first time by his darker self—and courts and marries Lucie, whom his double also loved.

Then, when the Revolution starts and the Terror begins, Darnay foolishly returns to France in the hope that he can save the life of a faithful old servant who has been imprisoned. But he is himself arrested under suspicion of being an émigré aristocrat, and condemned when the Defarges reveal that his uncle and father were responsible for Dr. Manette having been sent to the Bastille and for crimes against the family of Madame Defarge for which she has vowed revenge.

It is now that the theme of the double, that gothic device which has been echoing throughout the novel, is completed; Darnay is again rescued by his darker self, Carton, who contrives to take his rival’s place in the cells of the Conciergerie and eventually at the guillotine, while Darnay is spirited back to England.

For Darnay it is a return to Lucie and his children and a long happy life. For Carton it means the transcendence of his own unworthiness, and as the book ends we recognize that the real theme is not revolution, though that is what gives the novel its local flavour in time and place, but redemption.

A Tale of Two Cities, in fact, takes its place not in the literature of political conflict, but rather in the literature of the kind of sentimental evangelical Christianity that permeated English life so deeply in the mid-19th century, at the height of the Victorian era. In this sense, it is a heavily didactic book, and to this didacticism we can attribute alike the awkwardness of the implausible and coincidence-ridden plot and the melodramatic stiffness of the characterization. Compared with Dickens at his best, a year later in Great Expectations, it gives the impression of an over-contrived but hastily written book, whose grasp on history is tenuous.

Woodcock, George. “A Tale of Two Cities: Literature Resource Center

“Every generation needs a new revolution”~Thomas Jefferson

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Monday Children’s Book Reviews for December 13

Soup Day by Melissa Iwai

A mother and child spend a snowy day together buying and preparing vegetables, assembling ingredients, and playing while their big pot of soup bubbles on the stove, in a story that includes a recipe for “Snowy Day Vegetable Soup.”

This book has it all – counting, shapes, a wonderful story, beautful child-like art, and a cozy, loving parent-child relationship. Pure joy!             [JPB IWAI]

Little Bear and the Marco Polo by Else Holmelund Minarik

“Since Else Holmelund Minarik’s beloved Little Bear made his debut more than fifty years ago, generations of children have grown up with Little Bear by their side, delighting in his charming adventures and curious spirit.

“Now Little Bear returns to the world of I Can Read in Little Bear and the Marco Polo — a story filled with imagination, warmth, and tender memories that Grandfather shares with Little Bear.”  [I Can Read Level 1]        [JE MINARIK]

What Happened on Fox Street by Tricia Springstubb

“Fox Street is missing a few things. One of them is foxes. The other is Mo Wren’s mother, who died when Mo’s sister, Dottie, was little more than a toddler. Even though they’re not around, 10-year-old Mo never stops looking for a fox in the ravine where her street dead-ends. And she never stops missing her mother, even as she takes on the responsibility of being in charge of wild-child Dottie and helping her dad. Fox Street, however, is home to some wonderful things as well: good neighbors, a plum tree in the backyard, and in the summertime, a best friend, Mercedes, who comes to stay with her grandmother, Da. When Mercedes arrives, summer really begins, but this year it is full of conundrums and upsets for both girls as their lives change and truths are revealed. Mo especially sees that the harder she tries to hold on, the less she can control.”             [J SPRINGSTUBB]

The Kids’ Guide to Paper Airplanes by Christopher L. Harbo

“”Long before anyone flew a real plane into the great blue yonder, people were tossing around paper planes.” So begins this enjoyably detailed guide to folding those paper missiles that have been the bane of elementary-school teachers since the invention of paper. Kids, on the other hand, will love this: using colorful, vivid, and clear step-by-step illustrations, Harbo demonstrates how to construct everything from the classic Dart to the circular Space Ring to the 18-step Silent Huntress.”             [J745.592 HARBO]

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