Thursday, June 23, 2011

Looks Like We Made It......

I am very happy to announce that I have completed the 100 Book Challenge!!! (with 2 days to spare!!) I promised my students that I’d read 100 books by the end of the school year and on Tuesday night, I finished book #100! It has been a little stressful, but totally worth it. I read some great books this year (and some not-so-great ones) but all-in-all it’s been a great ride!! I thought I'd include a couple of pictures of our book tree in school so you can see just how many books the kids and I have been reading. I can't even reach the top of the tree!
See how far we've come!

Here are the last four reads:
Mercy on These Teenage Chimps by Gary Soto is a nice story about just how bizarre it is to turn 13 and to have your body completely change. One day you’re a regular kid, the next day you wake up only to discover you’ve turned into a chimpanzee – sort of human-like, but totally different. Ronnie and Joey are best friends who are struggling with their chimp-hood, but are getting through it together. When the coach embarrasses Joey in front of the girl he loves, he’s so humiliated he climbs a tree in his yard and refuses to come down. Some helpful battery and solar operated camping equipment make his exile a little more comfortable, but best-friend Ronnie feels like he has to smooth things over so he can actually hang out with his best friend again – on solid ground. I liked this story and its characters, but am wondering about the wisdom of every adult he meets to send Ronnie up on the roof!!
Stop Pretending: What happened when my big sister went crazy by Sonia Sones takes us through the unraveling of a family when one of the sisters has a mental breakdown and has to be hospitalized. When one member of a family goes through any traumatic experience, including mental illness and hospitalization, the rest of the family is traumatized also. This moving story told in verse is based on the author’s own experience when her older sister was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and was hospitalized. This is a very moving story, thoughtfully and honestly told.

Next up: The Amanda Project: Invisible, Book 1 by Melissa Cantor and its accompanying website, follow three very different teens as they discover that they were all (secretly) friends with the strange new girl in school. When Amanda disappears and allegedly vandalizes the Assistant Principal’s car he calls the three students to his office looking for Amanda’s whereabouts and an explanation of the vandalism. The three students, each believing they were the only one who really “knew” Amanda have to learn to trust each other in order to solve the mystery of Amanda’s disappearance. The strange messages they keep getting from Amanda only add to the mystery. On the website,, readers can create their own characters to add to the mystique of Amanda. I understand why readers would want to participate this way, but I think it is unnecessary since the books and story are strong enough on their own. I’m looking to reading the next one, The Amanda Project: Revealed.
And last, but certainly not least, Gimme A Call by Sarah Mlynowski. Devi’s boyfriend of four years dumps her days before prom and she’s devastated. She wishes that she’d never gone out with Bryan in the first place. After Devi accidentally drops her cell phone in a fountain at the mall, she discovers her phone is now connected to her freshman self. Trying to save herself from her current heartache, Devi tells the younger Devi not to go out with Bryan at all. Of course, altering the past has various effects on the future and the two Devi’s struggle to find a balance between trying to “fix” some events, while letting other people make their own choices and decisions. In the end, the two decide that more studying is a good thing (she gets into a great school!) but “fixing” the past isn’t always a good idea. “Having loved and lost” isn’t all that bad when trying to figure out who you are and finding your own true self.

At the end of this 100-Book journey, I would have to say that I agree with Devi in that “the point” of things isn’t the destination, but really the trip itself is where all the good stuff happens. I’m glad that I have reached my goal of 100 Books, but the most important part was the great characters I’ve met, creating this blog, reading people’s comments and talking about these wonderful stories with my students. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"Stay on target" "Almost there..."

I feel like the Red Five fighter and Gold Leader in "Star War"s trying to hit the Death Star’s weak spot. I’ve got my eye on the prize, but I’m exhausted! I’m up to 96 and have just a few to go!!

First up: What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know by Sonya Sones. The sequel to What My Mother Doesn’t Know picks up where the first book left off. This novel in verse is told from Robin Murphy’s point-of-view. Former “super-loser” Robin is just positive that his girlfriend (the super-popular Sophie) will dump him on the first day of school. But, to his surprise, she walks right up to him in the cafeteria and takes his hand. Sophie is shut out by her former friends for hanging out with Robin, so Robin and Sophie take on a “us against the world” attitude. Robin, an artist, is invited to audit an art class at Harvard and starts making new friends, potentially pulling him away from Sophie. Going from super-loser to “kind-of-popular-with-new-friends” is quite a ride for Robin and it is a lot of fun to take the trip with him. I really liked Sophie and Robin from the first book, and like them even more now.

Daniel X: Alien Hunter by James Patterson & Leopoldo Gout is next up. This is the graphic novel version of Patterson’s novel Daniel X. This one confused me a bit. The story suffers a bit when it changed formats, from a full-length novel to a graphic novel. I could still follow the story, but could tell there were lots of details that were left out. Daniel X is a shape-shifting alien hunter on Earth whose job it is to kill all the evil aliens on the List of Alien Outlaws he inherited after his parents’ murder. His next target is alien #7 and Daniel realizes he’ll have to get #7’s son to help him. The illustrations are great, but there was something lacking in the narration. I think I’ll try to read the novel to get the “full picture” (but maybe not this week).

Another winner!!! The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, this is Alexie’s first book for Young Adults and it’s amazing. This is the story of Junior, who lives on a Spokane Reservation with his family. The family doesn’t have much in terms of money, but they have plenty of despair, depression, and alcoholism. Junior decides he doesn’t want the rest of his life to be this way and decides to go to high school off the reservation. This decision isn’t taken too well by Junior’s friends, in fact, his best friend stops talking to him. Junior feels like he’s being split in two, the “kid from the Res” and “a normal kid with a kind-of girlfriend” in a white town. Junior’s voice is so real, I could feel his pain and his joy and I hope Alexie gives us an update on how Junior is doing. Junior is an artist and the comic-like illustrations are fantastic. This book landed on several “best of” lists last year for good reason.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I'm in the Home Stretch!!!

OK, I’m up to 93 books!! I never thought I’d make it this close to being done. Looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me this weekend!!
First up: Alchemy and Meggy Swan by Karen Cushman. Poor Meggy Swan, raised in the country outside London, she is disabled and can’t walk without the help of walking sticks. Her father, thinking his child was a boy, sent for her to help him in his alchemy shop. When a disabled Meggy arrives on his doorstep, he barely pays any attention to her. She forges on though and makes a few friends in London. Cushman packs in a lot of interesting history in this one, and it distracts from the characters somewhat. But anyone interested in Elizabethan England will enjoy this book.
Now, here are two books that I wouldn’t normally put together, but the characters go through similar situations: Breaking Up by Aimee Friedman and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth by Jeff Kinney. In both books the main characters have had a falling out with their best friends. Each one suffers through the loneliness of being without a friend. But each character comes a little closer to better knowing themselves and tries to put themselves in others’ shoes. In the end, both Greg Heffley and Chloe come to terms with who they are and are able to “get over themselves” and forgive their friends. Because really, life just isn’t as much fun without your friends!
Once by Morris Gleitzman was captivating. Na├»ve Felix, a Jewish boy raised in a Catholic orphanage for the past four years, decides to leave the safety of the orphanage to go find his parents. He tells himself stories to help him process the horrors of Nazi Germany that he sees on his travels. At first he believes that the soldiers are good guys, but quickly sees their terrifying behavior and begins to feel protective of another orphan. Felix tries to use his stories to comfort her too, but realizes he has very little control, and cannot understand what is happening around him. Felix’s present tense narration helps make the story move along and adds drama and immediacy to this powerful book.
Best Friends Forever: A WWII Scrapbook by Beverly Patt tells the story of Louise Krueger and her best friend Dottie Matuoka in Washington state in 1942. Dottie and her Japanese-American family are suddenly “relocated” to an internment camp after the U.S. enters the war and Louise keeps a scrapbook of all the things that happen while Dottie is away so they can still share everything when she comes back home. The scrapbook includes letters from Dottie as well as Louise’s thoughts and observations. Louise volunteers to write letters for injured soldiers and becomes very close with one in particular and is scared and upset when her brother enlists. She shares everything with the scrapbook for Dottie including photos, newspaper clippings, telegrams and movie ticket stubs. There are lots of details here about life in the internment camps from Dottie’s letters as well as life on the home front and what citizens did to help the war effort.
Book Number 93: Heaven by Angela Johnson. A companion novel to Johnson’s First Part Last, Heaven focus’ on 14 year-old Marley, an African American living in Heaven, Ohio. Marley is pretty secure in her small town living with her brother and parents. She knows exactly how many steps it is to the local Western Union to send her Uncle Jack money and loves to spend time with her family and babysit for Bobby’s daughter, Feather. When a letter arrives disclosing the truth about Marley’s adoption and her biological parents, she’s devastated to learn that her parents have been “lying” to her her whole life. Everyone is very supportive as Marley learns to deal with this new information and comes to terms with who she is and how lucky she is to have the family she does.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The English countryside, life in Ethiopia, somewhere in fairyland and finding new hope in Mexico.

I've been a world traveler lately, reading 3 books from around the world. First the children’s books :
Becoming Naomi Leon by Pam Munoz Ryan had me cringing at times but I loved the story. Naomi Soledad Leon Outlaw lives with her brother, Owen, and great grandmother in their trailer in California. Naomi and her brother haven’t seen their mother since she abandoned them seven years ago. While she is curious about her parents, Naomi is very happy living with Gram who she says is “both parents rolled into one.” But when Terri Lyn, now Skyla, wants to re-gain custody of Naomi and move her to Las Vegas, Naomi’s world is turned upside down. Skyla’s drinking, anger and occasional violence, and unstable history scare Naomi and she doesn’t want to go anywhere with her mother. Nor does she want to leave Owen, whose physical deformities repulse his mother. It’s Skyla’s complete rejection of Owen that had me cringing and made me so angry! Gram decides they need to re-connect with the children’s father and the family travels to Mexico. During this journey Naomi, who always speaks very softly, finds her voice and can finally stand up for herself and her brother.

I had a few Christenings to go to this weekend and bought books for the newest members of my family. I had fun in the board book section of the book store and came away with 2 copies of a book I hadn’t seen before Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allan Ahlberg is a great book to share with little ones. Characters from different nursery rhymes travel throughout the book and eventually all get together in the end to have a picnic. Toddlers will have fun trying to spot the 3 Bears and Jack and Jill in the illustrations.
I thought Alexander McCall Smith’s La’s Orchestra Saves the World was going to be similar to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer, but that comparison isn’t quite right. World War II has broken out and Lavender Stone, a widow in her 30’s known as La to her friends moves to her in-law’s country house. She forms a local orchestra that includes members of the RAF and other armed forces to keep everyone’s spirits up during the war. La gets to know her neighbors better, including Felix who is a Polish pilot and now a refugee living in England. The war eventually ends and the orchestra breaks up, but La wonders what could or would have been if only she would have or could have told Felix her true feelings. When leaving the theater in London many years later La just may get her chance. I said comparison to Shaffer’s book isn’t quite right because La’s Orchestra moves a little slower. You don’t get a big payoff until the very end of the book and at times it seemed like I was waiting and waiting and the payoff was NEVER going to come! But by the last page, I was a happy reader.

Cutting for Stone is quite a ride. Abraham Verghese’s characters are so memorable and his descriptions are so vivid, I feel like I was in Ethiopia during the revolution and that I worked at this field hospital. Shiva and Marion are conjoined twins whose mother died just after birth. After a risky delivery the twins are separated, but still feel such a connection during their childhood that they feel more like one person, ShivaMarion. After their mother’s death, their father abandons the twins and leaves the country. Shiva and Marion are raised by two doctors at the Missing hospital and are close with all the employees there. Both boys go into the medical field and make names for themselves in unique ways. Marion moves to the United States and finds friends in the Ethiopian-American community and Shiva revolutionizes healthcare for women. This epic novel and all its characters will stay with me for a very long time. It took me a while to get through this 600 page book, but it was worth it.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Questioning, pranks, sword fighting, a lot of money, and a new friend

No theme here, just a few interesting books
First, So Hard to Say by Alex Sanchez.  Thirteen year old Xio, a Mexican American girl in California, meets Frederick, a new boy at her school and the two become good friends. But Xio thinks she would like to be more than friends with Frederick. Frederick isn’t sure though if that is right for him. He really likes Xio, but he also has feelings for a soccer buddy, Victor. Frederick doesn’t want to hurt anyone, but mostly he’s just trying to figure out life for himself. Told in alternating voices of Xio and Frederic, this story is an important one to tell for questioning teens – and all other teens. Sometimes in life there is no road map and Sanchez handles this story with care and respect.
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockheart took a little while for me to get into, but by the end of the story I really loved Frankie and was happy she stayed true to herself. In the past year Frankie has changed from a scrawny kid into a beautiful young woman. When she returns to her boarding school, Alabaster Preparatory Academy, she attracts the attentions of one of the most popular seniors, Matthew. Once they start dating, Frankie realizes that Matthew is a member of the Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds, a secret society that her father once belonged to at Alabaster. She’d love to join in on the fun, but the Bassets are for boys only. Using a fake e-mail address, Frankie soon has the Bassets doing her bidding and playing pranks all around the school. Frankie’s pranks though are often politically motivated and are designed to get people thinking. Of course, she can’t keep her identity secret forever and the whole scheme comes crashing down. I really loved Frankie’s spirit and her determination and her desire to make things better.
Hereville: How Mirka Got her Sword by Barry Deutsch won all kinds of accolades and great reviews but I just wasn’t into it. Mirka is an Orthodox Jew who lives in a predominantly Orthodox town, and is pretty much a typical teenager, she fights with her siblings, doesn’t like doing chores, HATES that her grandmother is trying to teach her to knit. But while on her way to school, Mirka gets into a fight with a pig (very unusual pet for an Orthodox town) who, it turns out, belongs to a witch. The witch sends her on an errand to fight a troll, and by the end, boy does she wish she’d paid better attention to those knitting lessons! I liked the girl and the great illustrations, but the story seemed silly to me. It seemed like the story was just an excuse to write about an Orthodox girl and to pepper a book with Yiddish.  I’d like to see Mirka again – but with a better adventure.

Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce was a great story. Two brothers, Damien and Anthony, have to figure out to do with A LOT of cash in a short time. The pound is about to change to the Euro and this cash  is about to be burned by the government when it falls into the brother's hands (it either fell from the sky, or was thrown from a train near their house - whichever you believe). Having tons of money at your fingertips isn't all that it's cracked up to be though as the brothers quickly learn. Their flow of cash has created an inflationary system on the school playground and some adults are starting to get suspicious. Poignant, and funny, this is a great story for the whole family.

Jellaby by Kean Soo was right up my alley though. This one is a true friendship story. When ten-year-old Portia finds a strange looking monster out in the woods in the middle of the night she’s super scared. But after a few minutes, Portia realizes that this monster is kind and soft-hearted. So she takes him home and feeds him a tuna sandwich. Portia is forced to share her monster secret with classmate Jason and the two kids try to help Jellaby find his family. Cute story, great simple drawings and it has sequels!!!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

It's The End Of The World As We Know It

Lots of “the end of the world” stuff going on around here. In fact, I'm up to my ears in disaster stories and it's starting to affect my sleep. I'm having crazy dreams and am up all night thinking of all this terrible scenarios. I keep obsessing that I MUST sell my home and move into a place next to some woods, that has a wood burning stove and a wind turbine for electricity - when the big snow comes those solar panels just won't cut it!!!

OK - ready? First up: Trapped by Michael Northrop. Three friends decide to stay after school to work on a go-cart project instead of leaving during the early dismissal due to a blizzard like the rest of the students and staff. When they finally get around to checking out who is left in the building they discover there are 7 kids and one teacher left in the building. The blizzard shows no signs of slowing down and in fact just gets worse and worse. The teacher leaves to get help, but he never comes back. Their rides don't show up to save them, cell phones don't work, the heat goes off, power goes out and one by one the students start to panic. It doesn't end happily for everyone, and the final bit is a little ambiguous. I couldn't help but wonder what I would have done in the same situation. Yikes.

More trouble ahead - Empty by Suzanne Weyn is a frighteningly possible story. The earth is out of oil. Countries are fighting over the very little bit that is left. Unfortunately, most folks in the United States have not prepared for this day and are still VERY dependent on fossil fuels. People can't get to work because they can't drive to the office, food is becoming scarce because trucks can't deliver food, companies are cutting costs and laying people off, electricity, food, and other utilities are becoming very expensive. Black market gasoline is up to $90/gallon. People are scared and crime is on the rise. Folks try to go back to "simpler ways" by using bicycles and sail boats to travel and that works well. The Hudson River becomes an important way to get goods and information. Scientists and tinkerers are working on ways to convert standard car engines to using different types of fuel, but the process is slow. In this story though, there's a magic bullet. During a major storm Gwen discovers a hidden cave-house that is totally self-sustainable. This "magic house" is a safe haven for her and her friends, and is a plot device that is a little too convenient. Otherwise, this story seems to be very realistic and quite possible!

Now for a little mystery... The Christopher Killer by Alane Ferguson is more murder mystery than end-of-the-world scenario and I was happy to have a more "uplifting story!" Cammie loves science and wants to follow in her father's footsteps as a coroner. She loves the fact that it is the medical examiner who can listen to what the dead tell us through clues on their body. Cammie convinces her dad to let her be his assistant even though she's only 17 and still in high school. But when a friend turns up as the next body they have to examine, Cammie isn't sure she's made a good decision. Vowing to find her friend’s killer, Cammie investigates a pseudo-psychic and puts the clues together to discover who the real "Christopher Killer" is. This book can get a little graphic at times, so if you've got a weak stomach, this might not be for you. But, anyone who loves shows like “CSI” or investigative shows like “Criminal Minds” will like this one. I'm looking forward to reading more in the series.

The Off Season by Catherine Gilbert Murdock is the sequel to Dairy Queen. In this installment DJ starts the football season on the Red Bend team and quickly makes a name for herself. When she’s hurt on the field though, it looks like her season will have be over in order to heal in time for basketball. Her injury is nothing compared to her brother Winn’s however. The college quarterback has a major spinal-cord injury and will need serious rehabilitation. DJ’s relationship with Brian seems to be going well until an article in People Magazine features DJ playing high school football. Brian gets upset about being in the article too and the two stop talking for a while. I liked this book so much more than the first one. The character of DJ is growing and maturing and is becoming more insightful. She is a great narrator, walking us through the ups and downs of life on the Schwenk farm. Winn's story brings much depth to the book and each character changes and grows. Minor characters like DJ’s gay best-friend Amber hold their own and we get to know the other members of the Schwenk family better too. You don’t have to read the first book to enjoy this book, although I think it helps to have some background. But here's a tip – just breeze through Dairy Queen so you can get to book 2!

Ida B: And Her Plans to Maximize Fun, Avoid Disaster, And (possibly) Save the World by Katherine Hannigan is a good old story. Ida B has a great voice (reminds me of some of Francis O’Roarke Dowell’s characters) and a lot of spunk. Home schooled, Ida B has to go back to a regular classroom when her mother is diagnosed with cancer. Thinking this is just about the worst thing that can happen, Ida B. isn’t happy. With the help of a kind teacher and loving parents though, Ida B. finds her own place in the world, and (possibly) some new friends.

They Never Came Back by Caroline B. Cooney is, in a word, disappointing. Five years ago Murielle’s parents leave the country in order to escape prosecution for embezzling money. After being in the foster-care system for years Murielle, now Cathy, wants to re-connect with her long-lost aunt and uncle (she’s given up hope that her parents will come to get her). She enrolls at a summer school that she knows her cousin will be at, but when he recognizes her, Cathy denies being Murielle. Eventually though, she decides to admit her true identity and goes home with her aunt and cousin. In one chapter we learn that Cathy loves her foster parents and in what seems like the next chapter, she decides those people aren’t that important and although she’s lived with them for years, they’ll get over not having her around. While the idea for this plot isn’t a bad one, it is so unrealistic it was almost painful to read this one all the way through. And, I love Caroline B. Cooney’s earlier books, but this one was a miss.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Girls Girls Girls (at varying points in history)

I've been travelling through time lately. First stop - Salem, Massachusetts in 1692. Girls didn’t get much attention or respect in 1692 and in Puritan New England, they had relatively little freedom too. But, apparently, if you begin having “visions” and become possessed by evil spirits sent to you by witches – you get a whole lot more respect from your parents and neighbors. At least that is according to Stephanie Hemphill, who wrote Wicked Girls: A novel of the Salem Witch Trials. While historians don’t exactly know why the girls pretended to be “afflicted” in this book Hemphill gives the teenaged accusers some very believable motives like romantic jealousy, boredom, longing for attention or affection. The book is told in verse and each poem is from a different accuser’s perspective. The novel follows true events and it is easy to see how these olden-day “mean girls” could have created a very dangerous scheme. Back matter gives more information on the real accuser’s lives as well as what happened to those they accused of witchcraft.

Next stop – London, 1836. If girls in Salem Mass. didn’t get much respect, it wasn’t any easier in London 140 years later! In Prisoners in the Palace: How Victoria Became Queen with the Help of Her Maid, A Reporter, and A Scoundrel: A Novel of Intrigue and Romance by Machaela MacColl,  Elizabeth Hastings lives very comfortably with her parents in Munich but they travel all around the world for her father’s trade business. Liza is devastated however, when her parents are killed in a tragic carriage accident in London. With no money and no connections in London, Liza is desperate to find suitable work for herself. She lucks out and finds a job as Princess Victoria’s maid at Kensington Palace. Victoria has been sheltered and over-protected her whole life by her mother and a greedy family friend. The King is quite ill and Victoria may become Queen very soon. Liza’s job is to help keep Princess Victoria protected from the greedy Sir John, and keep Victoria entertained. This isn’t easy though. Victoria can be a spoiled brat and Sir John is a very dangerous man. Liza does what she can though, meeting some very interesting people along the way like Inside Boy Jones (who secretly lives inside the palace) and handsome Will, who published broadsheets (an early version of a newspaper). There is plenty of danger, secret messages, disguises, hope, fear and love in this story. I really enjoyed it.

Back to the future: Modern Day America. In Robin Brande’s Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature, Mena is starting high school totally ostracized from her former friends and everyone she knows from church for blowing the whistle on the Youth Group’s plan to harass and bully a gay teen all in the name of “saving him.” When law suits are filed, Mena and her family are targets of harassment themselves. Now Mena is starting the new year with a potential new friend in biology class. But when the teacher starts teaching evolution, Mena in the middle of more drama with the church kids when they start protesting the evolution unit, and demand equal time for a unit on intelligent design. When I first started this, I thought “oh no, here we go. This is going to be one of those predictable novels that are just an excuse for the author to share their own opinions.” But, I am happy to say I was wrong. While the novel is fairly predictable, the characters are real and the complex issues of faith are handled very well, making what could be over-the-top stereotypes seem more like actual people . The minister and his treatment of Mena and her family though are simply evil though. Not a lot of dimension with this character. I hope there are no ministers in this country (or anywhere else) who are actually that bad! Not my favorite of these books this round, but entertaining enough.
Same time, Florida USA. Scat is another of Carl Hiaasen’s ecological novels with greedy businessmen, crooked swindlers, and some good hearted kids trying to save the day. When the very mean biology teacher mysteriously disappears while on a field trip, at first the kids are happy to have substitute teachers. But when she doesn’t return after a few days, Nick and Marta get curious. In their investigation of what happened to their teacher the two friends stumble upon a scheme to exploit the natural habitat of the endangered panther by greedy oilmen. Nick, Marta, a hoodlum from school named Smoke and a few new friends do what they can to save the panther and her kittens. This one is so similar in feel to Hiaasen’s other YA books and he’s not great at character development, but this is an entertaining story nonetheless.

For some shorter stories… The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi is a sweet story that highlights that it is our differences make us fabulous! When Unhei moves from Korea to the United States she worries because her classmates have trouble pronouncing her name. She decides that maybe she’ll pick her own name that is easier to say. Her classmates make lots of suggestions and put them in a jar so Unhei can review them. In the end though, Unhei decides that her own Korean name is perfect and that she’s good enough just as she is.

One last one (about a boy): The Empty Pot by Demi is such a good book! The Emperor of China announces an unusual test to decide who will succeed him. He gives all the children in China seeds to grow and tells them to bring their flowers to the palace next year. Ping is normally a wonderful gardener, but he cannot get his seed from the emperor to grow. Very ashamed, Ping brings his empty pot to the palace on the appointed day to show the Emperor. When he gets there Ping is dismayed to see all the beautiful flowers of the other children. But the Emperor is most pleased with Ping’s pot since he knows that all the seeds he gave had been cooked, therefore none of them could produce flowers. Ping was the only honest person in the group. A wonderful story, beautifully illustrated.