Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters

By Natalie Standiford. New York: Scholastic Press, 2010.

The Sullivans are a wealthy, privileged family that live in Baltimore. On Christmas Day, the family is informed by their supremely rich grandmother, who they call Almighty, that someone in the family has deeply offended her. She is going to cut the entire family out of her will, unless she receives a confession from the offender by New Year's Day. The family determines it must be one of "the girls" who offended Almighty, and the Sullivan sisters (Norrie, Jane, and Sassy) each write up a confession to deliver to Almighty in the hopes of saving their family from poverty. Who offended Almighty? Will Almighty forgive them and restore the family's fortunes to them? You'll have to read this book to find out!

When I read the premise of this story, I wasn't impressed. I didn't think I'd want to read about poor, little rich girls who might lose their fortune. I mean, there are worse things in the world than this! But, I was intrigued with the idea of confessing to your crime, so I gave it a chance. I have to admit, the writing is really smart. The book is divided into sections, with each sister "confessing" her story. Norrie, Jane, and Sassy "could" be vapid, snooty girls, but instead, they are "real" - I believe a wide spectrum of readers can relate to the Sullivan sisters. There isn't a focus on material wealth in this story; rather, on each sister and their overall character. Yes, the sisters are rich, and yes, they go to a private Catholic school, but they also deal with issues and feelings that all teens go through, and that's what makes them relatable. Overall, this was a fun, quick read!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Clever Jack Takes the Cake

Written by Candace Fleming. Illustrated by G.Brian Karas. New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2010.

Jack is invited to the Princess's tenth birthday party. But, there's a problem. Jack is poor, and doesn't have money to buy her a gift. He decides he will make her a cake. He trades his ax and quilt for some flour and sugar, gets some eggs and milk from the hen and cow, gathers some walnuts, dips some candles, and picks the biggest, juiciest strawberry in the land. The cake turns out beautiful, and now Jack has to get it the castle. Easy peasy, right? Not so much. Poor Jack endures some trouble along the way - blackbirds, a troll, and a bear - and his beautiful cake doesn't quite survive the trip. What will the princess say when Jack finally arrives at the castle for her birthday without the cake? You will have to read this to find out!

This is a wonderful book! It uses aspects from different rhymes and tales (like 4 and 20 blackbirds and the troll guarding the bridge) to make a great adventure story. The illustrations are fabulous, and enhance the story. Observant children will notice what is going on in the endpapers. This is a fun read-aloud, and you will be eager to find out whether Jack and his poor cake survive the trip to the castle. Who knew birthday parties could be so stressful? :)