Red: the true story of Red Riding Hood

Today’s book is actually the third book in a series by Liesel Shurtliff. The first book was Rump: the true story of Rumpelstiltskin.

I read this book back in the summer of 2013 – before I started at the school. I cannot begin to say how much I loved it. Rump is an orphan living on the Mountain in a Kingdom where names hold your destiny, but what kind of destiny can a name like Rump give you? Rump’s adventure through a fairytale land won’t be easy, but with help from his friend Red, he may find his true name and destiny. You thought you knew how this story goes, but you may be surprised at who the villains of this story are. 

Jack is like any other boy, except that he sees his father stolen by a giant. Jack isn’t going to sit and mope, he’s going to rescue his father, no matter what! Unfortunately, his little sister has tagged along for the adventure. We learn that for Jack, the land of the giants its the land where Rump comes from. Can ones so little change the world?

I’ve been waiting to read this book for quite awhile. It came out in March but I ran out of money to buy it at school. I’m lucky that the public library had a copy for me to borrow. I read it in one evening! We met Red in the first book, Rump, and her story picks back up after Rump has left the Mountain. In fact, everyone has left because the gold mines are empty. Red loves her granny more than anything and so when Granny gets sick, Red is willing to do anything to save her.

There were a lot of great fairytale references woven into the story. Granny, or the Witch of the Woods, has the given name Rose Red. Her sister, Snow White, married a prince enchanted into a bear years before. (This it’s not the same Snow White who lived centuries ago in the Kingdom.) As Red ventures out into the forest, she is followed by a wolf and an annoying blonde called Goldie–yeah, that Goldie. In this story we meet an enchanted beast, dwarves, and a huntsman. Red must make unlikely allies and defeat more than just a monster to fulfill her quest.

One of the best parts of this book was Red’s refusal to bend to a preordained destiny. I got a lot of great quotes from this book but here is my favorite:

I disliked the idea that I couldn’t determine my own future. I wanted to decide for myself how things would go for me…I was going to give destiny a good punch in the face.

Overall, Red, along with the reader, learn that facing our greatest fears will reveal our greatest power. Shurtliff wrote this book at the end of her own grandmother’s life, and her love is clearly evident in this wonderful story.

…I’d stay alive through others, and we’d never really go away. We’d just all grow together, like a forest, like the world, changing seasons and living on and on and on.

Shurtliff could easily continue this series, a there are no shortage of characters who need their true story told. I think Goldie should get her own book. Red’s personality reminded me of my older daughter and Goldie reminded me of my younger daughter. Their interactions were just perfect. The most unlikely people end up being the most important in our lives.


Fuzzy Mud

One of my job perks this summer is getting to help with clubs – Lego Club, Cooking Club, Crochet Club, Coding Club and the Tween Book Club. One of the girls who comes to multiple clubs was adamant that I read this month’s book, Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar.

I’ve discussed other Sachar books before, Wayside School. I also love his book Holes, but Fuzzy Mud very different from them. It has a menacing feel to it, so this book is geared more towards 5-7 grade students.

The story is set in a private school in Pennsylvania. Tamaya is a 5th grader, Marshall is a 7th grader and Chad is his bully. Marshall leads Tamaya through the woods one day so that he can avoid a fight with Chad. Chad finds them, and to help Marshall, Tamaya grabs a handful of a strange tar-like mud that has a fuzz of moss on top, and shoves it into Chad’s face.

The story progresses quickly from there. Tamaya developes a strange rash on her hand that keeps spreading and Chad goes missing. There are transcripts from a environmental hearing where the safety of a new alternative fuel is being debated spread between the chapters. The fuel uses a genetically modified slime-mold for energy. Is it safe? What if it wasn’t contained? What if there was a leak into the surrounding countryside? 

Sachar has also put in clues as to how quickly the problem is progressing. The chapter headings show an illustration that might just be a Petri dish. For Chapter 1 there is a single dot in the dish. As the story progresses, it begins to look more and more like this:

The ergonym in the biofuel doubles every thirty-two minutes. As the story builds towards its climax, we also see simple math equations:

2 x 1 = 2

2 x 2 = 4

2 x 4 = 8

It doesn’t take long for the equations to create very high numbers.

2 x 67,108,864 = 134,217,728

2 x 134,217,728 = 268,435,456

Tamaya, Marshall and Chad are in grave danger and no one knows it. The kids have to overcome all of their fears to make it through.

Science Comics

I really like to learn new things. I’m fabulous at trivia. I soak facts up and secret them away in the books and crannies of my brain, and I’m always looking for more.

I learned the coolest facts about bats this weekend, thanks to a great series of graphic novels called Science Comics.

Did you know bats are extremely important in pollination? Trees and plants who only bloom at night can’t rely on bees, so they rely on nectar drinking bats. Fruits like mango, guava, bananas, durian and cocoa rely on bats too. And guess who is responsible for replanting trees by pooping after eating…that’s right, bats.

I was astounded to learn that bats have this awesome leg tendon that automatically tightens when the bat hangs upside down. The bats use more energy to let go then they do to hang because of it! And speaking of their anatomy, they are more closely related to primates then rodents! They have a thumb, something almost all animals besides primates lack.

But I didn’t just read about bats this weekend, I also read about dinosaurs.

This book was told in a neat way. As the information about dinosaurs was collected, each “generation” was positive that they knew everything and they were 100% sure of it. Of course, as new specimen are found and the ways scientist study those specimen becomes more high-tech, we are constantly changing what we thought we knew about ancient life.

I knew that coprolites (fossilized dinosaur poop) existed but I did not know that originally they were thought to be bezoar stones from the stomach. And who knew the idiocy that competition caused in the men looking for fossils! Two feuding paleontologists were know to purposely plant false fossils to discredit each other’s work and weren’t above dynamiting fossil beds to keep each other from making finds.

The book does a great job explaining how the different dinosaur families are divided, how they probably evolved and furthered other sciences. It is because of dinosaur fossils that we understand plate tectonics.

The series has quite a few titles:

I have read Coral Reefs: Cities of the Ocean but I don’t own the other books. I plan to buy them all and get anything forthcoming. They are published by First Second Books, the same company that publishes the Olympians series.

Ok, saving the best for last, here is a page of Dinosaurs: Fossils and Feathers that explains the different ways Dinosaurs may have died to later become fossils.

Look at that first panel with the T-Rex and the Stegosaurus. Now imagine the “Aw yeah!!” in a voice like Flava Flav. LOL!!

The Girl Who Drank the Moon

Kelly Barnhill won the Newberry Medal for her amazing story, The Girl Who Drank the Moon. It’s not like anything I’ve ever read before.

There once was a village nestled between the never-ending bog and the most dangerous of forests. The village, called the Protectorate lived in fear of the witch in the woods who demanded that the villagers sacrifice their youngest child each year. What did the witch do with those babies? It’s probably better not to think about it.

There once was a witch who lived in a dangerous forest with her simply enormous (pocket-sized) dragon and four-armed bog   monster. Once a year the witch rescued a baby abandoned in the woods by the people of the Protectorate. What did the witch do with those babies? She traveled through the dangerous forest, feeding them starlight. She then took them to new villages where she found loving families for them.

There once was a little baby girl whom the witch accidentally fed moonlight. It enmagicked her and set events into motion that were 500 years in the making.

I really want you to read this book for yourself. It makes us think about what we accept in our lives without question, and it forces us to reconsider who we think of as the villains. As I said before, it is very different than anything I’ve ever read before. Time has a way of warping our memories and it’s even worse when the villain changes the story of what really happened. 

Fans of fantasy will love Luna, Xan, Fyrian, Glerk and Antain, I know I did! I would like to read more of Barnhill’s books, especially The Witch’s Boy.

Author Spotlight: Leo Lionni

Leo Lionni did not study to be an artist or writer, but after creating a story to amuse his grandchildren in 1958, he found his true calling. That first story was little blue and little yellow.

Most of us have read at least one of his books. I doubt I could show his full body of work in one blog entry, but here are some I’m familiar with.

An Extraordinary Egg may be my favorite to read aloud. The kids get so frustrated with me when I agree with the frogs and insist that a chicken hatched from that egg.

Alexander and the Wind-Up Mouse and Frederick are favorites with my girls. I also like Cornelius. Today I read one that I’d never seen before:

Pencil and Scissors decide to make rabbits and each has their own style. The rabbits get hungry and discover what makes a character “real”. Very cute and simple, as many of the best books are.

I hope I helped jog your memory of a great book by this author. He isn’t too far forgotten though, he was recently the Kohl’s Cares author (my daughters got Frederick and one of the frogs.) He also has numerous board books for little hands and there are others like me who still read his stories to children on a regular basis.

My Baby Crocodile 

I have never read anything by Gaëtan Dorémus before. 

I was very intrigued by the cover art in this picture book, so I figured, why not?

Before I tell you about his book, here’s what Google had to say about him:

Gaetan Doremus: Born in 1971, GA TAN DOR MUS received his degree from the School of Decorative Arts in Strasbourg in 1999, after which he picked up a few other degrees while creating picture books and illustrations for the press. Doremus has illustrated over 20 books and has produced hundreds of freestanding illustrations and cartoons. He loves to bicycle ride, walk in the mountains, and eat green tomatoes with cinnamon. In 2006, he became a Papa.

Born: November 20, 1976 (age 40), Lille, France

Books: Chagrin d’ours, Empty Fridge, My Baby Crocodile, Swimming with Dolphins, Leander, Ping pong

So now, the book! A kind-hearted but cross-eyed crocodile discovers a baby crocodile one day and decides to adopt him. For some reason the baby can’t swim, doesn’t like raw meat and keeps trying to run away! Worst of all, he squeaks and gets rusty….

Eventually, the crocodile figures things out and the baby crocodile, now revealed to be a little boy, tells his side of the story. He considers leaving but it’s awfully fun to live with a crocodile. The question then becomes can a boy trust a crocodile and can a crocodile trust a boy?

This story has a poignant ending that I didn’t expect. I might have to seek out more of Dorémus’ work.

Author Spotlight: Bob Shea

Bob Shea is one on my newest favorite author/illustrators. Besides illustrating numerous books written by other great authors like Jody John and Kelly DiPucchio, he writes his own hilarious books.

I brought this book up in my unicorn post a few weeks ago. It was my first Bob Shea book. I adore this book. But, since you know that already, let’s move on!

Cheetah thinks a whole lot of himself and the kittens know it. But the kittens aren’t innocent. They try more than a few sneaky tricks on Cheetah. They remind me of that super-wonderful, old Little Golden Book The Color Kittens.

Bob Shea has a son who inspired a series of books about a fierce dinosaur. These books are simple and fun.

Another great series is Ballet Cat. They are nice for early readers. They seem very pink and girlie, but boys are going to giggle at them too. There are three or more in this series, I just haven’t found all the covers.

He has plenty of books that aren’t series that are well worth reading. I haven’t read them all, but I’m working on it!

What would daddies do without help from their little ones? A perfect Father’s Day story.

This one is definitely getting purchased for my library this year!

I think, since it says Buddy and the Bunnies on the top, that this may be the start of another great series. Buddy is a fierce monster but who can blame him for wanting to eat the cupcakes the bunnies make before he eats them? And if he agrees to play hide-and-seek with them while the cupcakes bake, that’s no big deal, right? Buddy’s plan to eat those cute little bunnies just seems to keep derailing. Those bunnies are kinda smart!

I know I didn’t get all of Shea’s books. He even has some who were illustrated by other great illustrators like Lane Smith. I think Shea is going to become as popular as Mo Willems. Their illustrations are actually quite similar and I think kids will see that and have no problems enjoying both authors.