The Crystal Ribbon

The Crystal Ribbon by Celeste Lim

girl flowers eyes book cover

BIBLIO: 2017, Scholastic Press an Imprint of Scholastic Inc., Ages 12 through 16.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter.
FORMAT: Middle Grade
ISBN: 9780545767033

An utterly engrossing first novel, Lim has created an adventure set in the rural area of China under the Song Dynasty. The main character Jing comes from a poor farming village and lives in with her two brothers Wei and Pan, her Baba, Aunt Mei, and Grandmama. This comfortable life changes soon after Jing’s eleventh birthday.

The adventure begins when Jing’s family goes to the village shrine to offer homage to the local jing spirit and the village’s protector The Great Golden Huli Jing. This jing spirit was said to be a great golden fox with five tails. Shenpopo, the village shamaness read’s Jing’s fortune saying that her life will be filled with hardship but good will come from it and that she will find her place eventually, and that she must rely on hope and faith to see her through.

Shortly after, Aunt Mei arranges Jing’s marriage to three year old Juan’an, the son of a rich dressmaker in the near city Xiawan. Distraught, Jing must got to the Guo’s household and babysit her young husband and act as servant to her new family. She befriends the cook and the pet nightingale Koko. In her new life she suffers very much by the hand of her in-laws. While living there, she encounters several magial jing spirits.

A little less than two years after she arrives in Xiawan the family becomes financially troubled and plans to resolve their debt by selling Jing to the city’s chinglou, the courtisans’ residence. The luxurious lifestyle doesn’t appeal to Jing, as she sees it for the empty life it is. With the help of some friends she escapes and travels home.

On the road she reunites with Koko and gains a new acquaintance, Kaizhen. They rest at the town of Dolan and reveals the evil jing spirit that controls the villagers. After an epic battle Jing finds herself in her village, Huanan. She must decide what to do with her newfound freedom and the wisdom she has collected in her time away from home.

This book is emotional, and has a lovely element of culture. The book is a well paced book that works well as on a summer reading list. I would recommend this book to 12-16 year olds. I enjoyed this book and thought it was very similar to Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan.

Mercy Watson to the Rescue

Mercy Watson to the Rescue by Kate DiCamillo

pig running book cover

BIBLIO: 2005, Candlewick Press, ages 6 to 8, $12.99.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter.
FORMAT: Early Reader.
ISBN: 0-7636-2270-2

Mercy Watson to the Rescue is about Mercy the pig’s antics one night. Her parents Mr. and Mrs. Watson tuck her in and she gets scared of the dark and runs into their bedroom and they are dreaming when the bed starts to fall through the floor because of their weight. They all wake up in a panic. Mercy the pig, thinking about toast, jumps off the bed leaving the Watsons stranded. She searches for toast, disappointed when there is none she goes to the neighbors’ house, Eugenia and Baby Lincoln, in search of sugar cookies and affection from Baby. Lurking at the window she scares Baby and Eugenia calls the firefighters telling them there is an emergency because they think Mercy is a monster. Ned and Lorenzo the fire fighters arrive to see Eugenia chasing Mercy but then they hear the Watsons calling for help. They are able to rescue the couple before the bed crashes through the floor. Everyone celebrates Mercy’s [inadvertent] success by eating her favorite food, toast.
The gouache artwork by Chris Van Dusen adds a humorous and lively feel to the book. The interspersing of the pictures adds a lot to the story and helps to reaffirm what is happening. The cartoonish style and detail draw the eye.
This book is great as a classroom tool because it addresses literary topics like vocabulary, sentence structure, repetition, plot development, etc. It also provides openings for discussions such as fear of the dark, being judged, “Pigs should not live in houses”, being a hero, and social interactions.

More titles in the Series:
pig in car book coverpig in bush book coverpig at drive in theaterpig in princess costume book coverpig in shadow book cover

Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant

Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant by Jack Prelutsky

collage elephant book cover

BIBLIO: 2006 GreenWillow Books/ HarperCollins publishers, ages 4 to 8, $17.89.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter.
​FORMAT: Picture Book
ISBN: 978-0-06-054318-1

Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant is a charming collection of poems written by Jack Prelutsky and illustrated using collages by Carin Berger. The short picture book has a total of seventeen different poems. Each poem showcases an individual animal object hybrid. The wording is at an easy to medium reading level with words such as “clamorous” “circumnavigates” and “proficiency” adding a dash of vocabulary. A quaint and useful touch is that each animal hybrid has a phonetic pronunciation guide for example “pan-thur-MOM-it-ur”. There are many ways to uses this book as a teaching tool. The rhyming is switches between the classic ABCB patterns and AABB patterns. There is a musical lilt to it and makes it easy to follow along and read independently. Entertaingly, Prelutsky’s love of music has influenced his poetry to the point where his poems can be performed as songs. The animals’ antics fit the objects of the hybrid well, such as the Splatoons calling out for syrup! It would be quite easy to keep young children absorbed in the details of the poems and the collages. This book would be a great start to an imaginative art project or daily writing exercise. The collages of mixed media of illustration and scrap paper is illustrative and adds a whimsy homemade feel. The collages contain subtle word art, for example the umbrellaphant is collaged out of what appears to be an arabic text and the shoehornets nest has a pattern of chinese characters. Poetry is painting with words and Berger did a great job at visually embodying that concept. This is a work with prestige. The Lee Bennett Hopkins Award is only given every three years! Jack Prelutsky is also very popular for his work Scranimals, a book the precedes Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant and hybrids animals with vegetables. He is the first Children’s Poetry Laureate the years 2006-2008 appointed by the Poetry Foundation.