A CONSPIRACY OF KINGS by Megan Whalen Turner (Greenwillow 2010) has received nothing but high praise and starred reviews, deservedly so. One of the things that is most remarkable to me is how it stands alone even though it is part of the story begun in THE THIEF and continued in THE KING OF ATTOLIA and THE QUEEN OF ATTOLIA. How can I state this so assuredly? Somehow I had never read the other books (I will now). Nothing like a coup and a kidnapping to get a story underway. Sophos has been instructed in the ways of leaders. He has had lessons but now he must bring those lessons to bear as he assumes the throne of Sounis. It will not be easy for Sophos to do so as he is young and inexperienced and there are many who want to see him be more of a puppet than a true leader. With the aid of the King of Attolia, Sophos rises to the challenges he faces. What works so well here is the political intrigue. Who can be trusted? Really, can anyone be trusted? How does power work and affect relationships from friendship to romance?
What has fascinated me is the way Turner lets new readers in on some of the intrigue that has come before this story. Little bits and pieces are tasty offerings that welcome readers to come back for larger bites in the other books. Amazing and absorbing and beautifully written. <328>
This short audio (a tad over an hour) kept me company on the drive into Houston. Six folktales are performed in TELL ME A STORY 3, WOMEN OF WONDER. What a lovely way to introduce a unit on folktales or on storytelling. The folktales range from those set in England to Ethiopia to Turkey to Siberia to America. Some were familiar to me: Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind and Whiskers of the Lioness. However, all of them offer fresh takes even on familiar ground. Music opens the audio and also plays roles as intro into the six tales. Some stories use sound effects and some do not (nor are they missed). Different narrators range from Paula Poundstone who does a remarkable job with Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind to some children and teens who do likewise terrific jobs with fully and partially voiced narration. This was such a great choice as I made my way through traffic and construction. The drive seemed effortless just like the storytelling. <329>
THIS IS SILLY by Gary Taxali (Scholastic 2010) blew me away visually. Somehow the illustrations to me are reminiscent of some of the book illustrations from my childhood. I do know they are distinctive and march across the pages of this silly story told in rhyme. <330>
Look at the cover of SWIM! SWIM! by James Proimos (Scholastic 2010) and tell me you could put it to one side without reading it. I think I annoyed by better half by sharing it aloud this morning but I do not care one whit. This picture book crosses over into GN territory with some of its pages. The story is simple but hysterical; the art is bright and bold and simple but so expressive. What a lovely start to my morning along with my daily dose of Stewart and Colbert. <331>
Shout out to the wonderful Houston ISD librarians who came to hear me talk about books and ladders today. Loved all of your energy. Have a great year with the kids.