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Book Reviews

January 5, 2010
Times Observer
By Valle Blair

Pre K-1st UNDER THE SNOW by MELISSA STEWART (Peachtree, 2009) *** In the winter, people have fun doing things in the snow. There is sledding and skiing, having snowball fights, and hiking in snowshoes. But what happens under the snow? In this book about animals in winter, you can find out. Did you know that ladybugs huddle together in a mass throughout the winter? Or that a frog can freeze solid and still be OK when he thaws in the spring? What animal makes tunnels under the snow? Which animals bury themselves in the ground and which just find a hole to climb into? What happens under the snow and ice on the pond? But most curiously, find out what animal still whizzes and darts around even though the world is frozen.

2ND – 4TH HAVE I GOT A BOOK FOR YOU! by MELANIE WATT (Kid Can Press, 2009) *** Mr. Al Foxworth is a great salesman. He can sell anything to anyone and has he got a book for you! Al goes through all his techniques for selling stuff to get you, the reader, to buy his book. It won’t put you to sleep like Sleeping Beauty. Or leave a bad taste in your mouth like a broccoli cookbook. “And, by the way, that outfit you’re wearing is gorgeous!” His book has so many uses, also. It could be a gift for a friend or a door stopper or something you could hide behind. Supplies are limited so buy now! And one more thing, you break it, you buy it! Check the last page to find out what that might mean!
MIDDLE SCHOOL THE MAGICIAN’S ELEPHANT by KATE DICAMILLO (Candlewick, 2009) *** Here we have another charming tale from Kate DiCamillo, author of The Tale of Despereaux. Young Peter has a grey and dreary life. His whole family has died and he was left with his father’s soldier friend, Vilna Lutz, to train to be a soldier. One day he gives into the urge to spend the coin Vilna has given him for food and he visits the fortuneteller to have one question answered. He wants to know how to find his sister if she is still alive. “The elephant.” she says. “She will lead you there.” But there are no elephants in the village. At that moment, a visiting magician performing in the opera house speaks a special magic phrase trying to do a really astonishing piece of magic and an elephant crashes through the ceiling of the opera house. Peter knows this is his elephant but how can he get to her and how will she help him find his sister, so long thought dead? This is a magical story with a magical ending ready for you to enjoy.
HIGH SCHOOL GRINGOLANDIA by LYN MILLER-LACHMANN (Curbstone Press, 2009) *** This historical novel is based on a family caught in the turmoil and brutality of the Pinochet military regime in Chile during the 1970’s and 1980’s. Marcelo, the devoted husband and father, is a journalist publishing an underground newspaper aiming to expose the dictatorship and bring down this regime to restore peace in his country. The story unfolds through the eyes of his son Daniel who has been relocated to the United States with his mother and sister and has adjusted very well to his new life and yet recalls his life in Chile where he witnessed his father’s arrest and now hears reports of his plight of being severely tortured in prison. A parallel storyline develops through the eyes of Daniel’s girlfriend, Courtney, whose parents are also activists and have been instrumental helping refugees, including the release of Marcelo. When Daniel’s father is released and exiled to rejoin his family, a new and equally frightening chapter of adjustment begins in their lives. This story will shed light on the realities of living under a military dictatorship and the human price paid for fighting for freedom.

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Valle Blair



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