“From Sea to Shining Sea,” compiled by Amy L. Cohn

“From Sea to Shining Sea,” compiled by Amy L. Cohn is “a treasury of American folklore and Folk Songs.” This excellent collection of traditional tales and tunes does a great job of giving young readers a taste of the rich ethnic and cultural foundation of America. The collection is beautifully illustrated by eleven Caldecott Medal and four Caldecott Honor artists.

“From Sea to Shining Sea” is organized into several main sections, the first being “In the Beginning.” If you have ever been interested in the creation myths and religious beliefs of Native Americans then this is a good place to start. Nine traditional Native American tales and songs show how Raven brings fresh water and creates the first river, how Grandmother Spider brings light to world by stealing the sun, and how Coyote decorates the night by creating the stars. Perhaps the most interesting traditional tale is “Sedna, the Sea Goddess” an Inuit legend about how the animals of the sea came to be.

After covering the creation of America, “From Sea to Shining Sea” moves on to early colonization. Twelve tales from Mexico, Spain, French Louisiana, and the early British colonies. I really enjoyed the story “Why Alligator Hates Dog.” This creole tale explains how dog got on the bad side of Alligator and why Alligator likes to wait in the water like a half sunken log.

The third section, “The Shot Heard, 'Round the World” contains songs and stories from the American Revolution of 1776. The original thirteen colonies were small but they were surprisingly strong in their fight against the British. Perhaps it was due to the strength of their story telling abilities. Along with such traditional favorites such as “Paul Revere's Ride” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy” readers will find tales of courageous women and children who choose to help their country.

After the War of Independence America began to grow as it absorbed the territories to the West. The fourth section, “Bridging the Gap” contains some of the wild stories that arose during this tumultuous time. My personal favorite is “Jack and the Two-Bullet Hunt,” a humorous story about an easy going young boy who goes out on a hunt with only two bullets but comes home with much more game than he ever would have imagined!

“From Sea to Shining Sea” then moves on to tales of the sea, and the sailors that traveled it. From Mister Stormalong, to the Salem Ghost Ship the sea was a topic that created some fascinating traditional stories. Also included are such rousing sea shanties as “Blow, Boys, Blow” and “Blow, Ye Winds in the Morning.”

The fifth section, about slavery and emancipation, is entitled “Let My People Go.” It includes famous spirituals, the story of Harriet Tubman, and other tales told by slaves. The interesting thing is that the majority of the stories are filled with hope rather than despair.

Section number six is about railroad tales. After the Civil War railroad played a large role in linking the country together again, and many tales revolve around it. Well known songs such as “John Henry” rub shoulders with fascinating historical stories such as “Death of the Iron Horse,” about a group of Indians who destroy a train.

“O Pioneers,” the seventh section of “From Sea to Shining Sea” is about the pioneers who traveled across the Western lands to create new communities. This mass movement resulted in many stories including that of Charley, the first woman to vote in California.

“From Sea to Shining Sea” then moves on to modern times with fascinating and often humorous tales about tricksters, nonsense, animals, ghosts, baseball and other topics that bridge a wide range of different story genres and styles.

I think that “From Sea to Shining Sea” is a great book for young people because it gives them a broad look at the stories that were written about America and its development. The shear scope and quality writing and illustrations of “From Sea to Shining Sea” make me highly recommend it.

Inkweaver Book Rating:

★★★★Story Selection


Inkweaver Review 2009-08-29T14:54:00-05:00

“The Treasure of Savage Island,” by Lenore Hart

“The Treasure of Savage Island,” by Lenore Hart is an adventure story that includes a runaway slave, pirates and buried treasure.

Molly Savage lives with her father in an inn that the Savage family used to own. But her father gambled it away and now it is owned by a cruel woman who works Molly and her father like servants. Rafe is a young boy who ran away from the plantation where he was a slave. For Rafe staying hidden is a necessity, because if he is discovered slave catchers will take him right back to his former life. When Molly discovers Rafe she decides to keep help hide and feed him.

Molly and Rafe will have to work together when looting pirates attack. They're after a legendary treasure supposedly hidden near the inn where Molly and her father now live. Can Molly and Rafe survive the pirate attack, or perhaps even better, find the treasure for themselves?

“The Treasure of Savage Island” isn't exactly a masterpiece of writing. The combination of pirate themes and an escaped slave is unique but the storyline is lacking a certain amount of believability. Most of the characters are slightly cliché, and their interactions are almost routine. To summarize “The Treasure of Savage Island” is an average book, but it lacks that special zest that I like to see in the books I read.

Inkweaver Book Rating:




Inkweaver Review 2009-08-27T14:52:00-05:00

“Danny, The Champion of the World,” by Roald Dahl

“Danny, The Champion of the World,” by Roald Dahl is a novel about a young boy who lives with his mechanic father in a gypsy caravan.

Danny has always enjoyed his life. Not only does Danny live in a fascinating gypsy caravan, but his father has taught him to work on automobiles. But one day, Danny discovers a surprising secret about his father, something that he has kept hidden for years.

Danny's father loves to poach pheasants. As Danny comes to learn more about the illegal art of poaching he discovers that just about everyone he knows likes to poach, even otherwise upstanding citizens such as the doctor that makes house calls on Danny and his father, the local reverend, and the policeman that Danny has been frightened of for years. All these people have one thing in common, they steal pheasants at Hazell's Woods, a forest owned by Mr. Victor Hazell, a local rich brewery owner, and owner of a huge flock of game birds.

No one likes Mr. Hazell, and they all want to do something to put him in his place, even if it means stealing from him. That's when Danny comes up with the ultimate plan. If they can just pull it off correctly, then Danny and his father should be able to steal every last one of Mr. Hazell's pheasants.

To be honest, I found “Danny, The Champion of the World” to be a surprisingly disappointing book. Roald Dahl's other books typically teach good lessons, though they sometimes have satirical aspects to them. In “Danny, The Champion of the World,” however, Dahl glorifies poaching, which is really nothing more than stealing. Perhaps everyone that Danny knows is a poacher, even the local policeman and reverend, and Mr. Victor Hazell may not be a very nice man, but that still doesn't make stealing from him right.

“Danny, The Champion of the World” shows no consequences of stealing. In the end Danny and his father get away with it completely, and I find that very disturbing. As a consequence I would not recommend this book.

Inkweaver Book Rating:




Inkweaver Review 2009-08-25T14:49:00-05:00

“The Ice Cream Con,” by Jimmy Docherty

“The Ice Cream Con,” by Jimmy Docherty is the story of a boy who decides to do something about the crime in his neighborhood.

When Jake gets mugged and loses all of his grandmother's food money for the week, he decides that he needs to do something about that crime that is running rampant in his housing project. Jake and his friends invent an imaginary gangster that they name Big Baresi. By starting rumors and placing stickers that say “I'm watching you. - Baresi” Jake and his friends manage to convince others that this crook is real. Soon though, the situation snowballs out of control when two local gangs enter the scene and a stash of stolen diamonds surfaces. Will Jake be able to keep up the deception of will he end up in trouble for the crimes of an imaginary crook?

“The Ice Cream Con” is a simply ridiculous book. Jimmy Docherty was obviously aiming for humor with this junior read but the result is just foolish. The escapades of Jake and his friends are terribly over played and completely unbelievable. In the end “The Ice Cream Con” comes across as idealizing a life of crime. I would not recommend this book to any reader.

Inkweaver Book Rating:




Inkweaver Review 2009-08-23T14:46:00-05:00

“If You Come Softly,” by Jacqueline Woodson

“If You Come Softly,” by Jacqueline Woodson is the story of romance between a Jewish girl and a black boy.

The two main characters are Jeremiah, a teenage boy attending a fancy prep school in Manhattan. Although he is one of the few black boys there he still feels relatively comfortable being who he his. Jeremiah's greatest worries are about his rich parents who have separated and just can't seem to get along. But Jeremiah's life is due to change when he meets Ellie.

Ellie is a Jewish girl who has her own family problems. She lives with her mother, who has twice abandoned her, so she doesn't really trust her. So when Ellie meets Jeremiah she choses to not tell her mother about him, in part just because she is shy, but to a large extent because she is afraid of what her response will be to the news that Jeremiah and her are romantically attached.

I felt that Jacqueline Woodson did a remarkably good job of approaching this rather delicate subject with careful balance, but also vivid clarity. “If You Come Softly,” has very well designed characters that the reader can commiserate with, no matter what race or color they are.

“If You Come Softly” is about how Ellie and Jeremiah must cope with other people's reactions to their relationship. Though it is not the best book I've ever read, it has a rather unique plot that not many other authors have dared to tackle.

Inkweaver Book Rating:




Inkweaver Review 2009-08-21T14:41:00-05:00

“Red Cap,” by G. Clifton Wisler

Book Cover Art for Red Cap by G. Clifton Wisler“Red Cap,” by G. Clifton Wisler is a historical fiction novel based on the life of a boy who lived during the American Civil War.

At the age of thirteen Ransom left home against his family's wishes to join the Civil War. At first the Union Army wouldn't accept him, but after lying about his age Ransom was finally accepted into the army as a drummer boy.

“Red Cap” does a good job of showing the reasons why most young boys left home to join the Civil War. Most of the youngsters around Ransom joined the army just to get away from home or to be with their friends. None of them are prepared for the reality of war.

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Review of "Red Cap" by G. Clifton Wisler
Inkweaver Review 2009-08-19T14:37:00-05:00

“Diamonds in the Shadow,” by Caroline B. Cooney

Book Cover Art for Diamonds in the Shadow by Caroline B. Cooney“Diamonds in the Shadow,” by Caroline B. Cooney is a young adult novel about an American family who takes in a group of African refugees with a dangerous secret past.

Jared Finch is not in the least bit thrilled about his parent's plan to sponsor four African refugees, a mother and father and two children. The way Jared sees it, if his parents and their church committee want to go to all that work they can do so, but he doesn't have to help. To make matters worse, the apartment that the committee had planned to house the refugees in fell through, so now the refugees will be living with Jared and his family until they can find other accommodations.

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Review of "Diamonds in the Shadow" by Caroline B. Cooney
Inkweaver Review 2009-08-17T14:33:00-05:00

Book Review Blog Carnival #24

Welcome to Book Review Blog Carnival #24!

Over the past two weeks book bloggers from around the world have been searching book shelves and libraries for the best books to review and contribute to Book Review Blog Carnival #24. This week Inkweaver Review is the lucky host of the carnival. If you were a contributor to this carnival feel free to browse through some of your fellow blogger's submissions, and if you like the carnival, please link to it on your own blog.

If you are one of Inkweaver Review's regular readers then I encourage you to read these worthy, handpicked reviews from a variety of different genres.

If you are a book blogger yourself then please submit your own book review for inclusion in the next edition of the Book Review Blog Carnival.

Nonfiction Books
"The Pluto Files" by Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Clark Bjorke presents a fascinating book about the history of science with respect to Pluto and its recent demotion from being a planet.
"More Quick Rotary Cutter Quilts" by Pam Bono Designs

Krista Zaleski presents a nonfiction book that contains a variety of fascinating quilt patterns, from vintage to modern.
"Then Man Created God" by D.G. McLeod

Joana says: "I have little doubt that a good deal of people will find this book to be highly insulting.... it’s an amusing read to be taken with a grain of salt."
"The Richest Man in Town" by W. Randall Jones

The Richest Man in Town by W. Randall Jones bills itself as containing the “inside secrets of America’s self-made millionaires.”
"Born to Run," by Christopher McDougall

Deborah Dunham called this book the "best book of the summer". It introduces readers to a unique group of Indians called "The Running People" and shows the narrator as he experiences the running which this remote group has perfected into an art form.
"Secret Recipes for the Modern Wife - Exposed!" by Nava Atlas

This book offers recipes. But not just any recipes, the secret kind… Success recipes for love, marriage, parenting, divorce, reconciliation — survival.
"The Dangerous Passion," by David M. Buss Ph.D.

This book explores the idea that we have to have jealousy in our human lives. This is unique from most views on jealousy since the general thought on the topic is that jealousy is a bad thing and we need to expunge it from our personalities.
"The Challenge," by Jonathan Mahler

A Progressive on the Prairie reviews a fascinating book about a United States Supreme Court case and the background and details behind it.

"Brody - The Triumph and Tragedy of Wrestling's Rebel" by Larry Matysik and Barbara Goodish

Eric Gargiulo presents an enthusiastic review of the life story of a famous wrestler.
"The Element," by Ken Robinson Ph.D.

According to a popular myth there is a calling for each one of us, something that we are so good at and love doing so much that it doesn't feel like work at all. Ken Robinson advocates for the existence of this perfect occupation. He calls it being in one's "element."
"Winning Ugly," by Brad Gilbert

Famous tennis player Brad Gilbert wrote "Winning Ugly" a few years back. It is filled with advice for recreational players on how to maximize your game and gain a winning advantage over your opponent by playing smarter.
Children's Fiction
"Grow: A Novel in Verse" written by Juanita Havill

Roberta Gibson presents a poetic middle grade book with "strong and realistic adult characters".
"Starclimber," by Kenneth Oppel

I was especially thrilled to see this excellent review of one of my favorite alternate reality fantasy series for young adults. Author Kenneth Oppel takes readers to a world where the skies are home to brave explorers and fantastic creatures.
"Where the Mountain Meets the Moon," written and illustrated by Grace Lin

Tanya Turek presents a detailed review with plenty of pictures of Grace Lin's delightful fairytale story.
Adult Fiction
"Best Friends Forever," by Jennifer Weiner

Shanyn had glowing words to say about Jennifer Weiner's novel:

"It's not every day you read a book with such complexity, emotion, and feeling".

"The Shadow Lines," by Amitav Ghosh

Surbhi Bhatia presents a detailed review of a book that "explores how communal riots flare up with conflicting identities."

"Midnight Fugue," by Reginald Hill

Kerrie S. says of this mystery by Reginald Hill: "About 50 pages from the end I thought I had it all sussed out. That was before Hill introduced the final element of the fugue."

"Year of the Cock," by Alan Weider

Jackie's excellent review includes a humorous anecdotal story about receiving the book in a box marked with the embarrassing label "Year of Cock".
"The Poison that Fascinates," by Jennifer Clement

Jim Murdoch says: "This book is a fable, a work dripping in symbolism. A fascinating read, multi-layered and with an ending to leave you wondering."
"The Scarpetta Factor," by Patricia Cornwell

Book of Randomness talks about how great the Kay Scarpetta series is: "The Patricia Corwell books are easy, entertaining, and action packed reads. I guarantee you will enjoy them."
"Dark Mirror," by Barry Maitland

A research student collapses and dies in the London Library, vomiting and going into seizures. It appears that the cause of death is arsenic poisoning. A fascinating murder mystery by a much under-rated Australian author.
"Fountainhead," by Ayn Rand

This 1943 novel is still attracting readers who enjoy its unique style of writing.
"The Year of the Flood," by Margaret Atwood

The Year of the Flood is a novel that manages to explore the consequences of how we live now--particularly how we've been treating the environment and our attitude towards the inevitable pandemics to come--by showing the effects on a group of characters that includes someone with whom every reader will be able to identify.
"The Remains of the Day," by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Remains of the Day is a first-person narrative of two journeys. We’re not exactly sure who the audience for this narrative is (us? an unseen character? just the narrator’s own thoughts?) and in what format it is supposed to exist (letter? diary? internal monologue?), but we do know who the narrator is.
"Stranger Than Fiction," by Jim Murdoch

Scottish author Jim Murdoch introduces his new novel 'Stranger than Fiction' in which the hero of his first novel is once again pitted against the personification of truth. So much was revealed to him in the first novel that you would think he had nothing more to worry about. Far from it.

Inkweaver Review 2009-08-16T01:00:00-05:00