Picture Book #12: The Spider and the Fly

Tags

601598

Title: The Spider and the Fly

Author: Tony DiTerlizzi and Mary Howitt

Publication Date: 2002

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Price: $16.99

Number of Pages: 40

Awards: Caldecott Honor

Genre/Subgenre: Poetry, picture books

Ratings:

Popularity: 4/5

Quality: 5/5

Reader’s Annotation:

Mary Howitt’s “The Spider and the Fly” meets 1920’s and 1930’s Hollywood horror.

Summary: 

Using Mary Howitt’s cautionary poem, “The Spider and the Fly,” illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi brings a new take to the tale using 1920’s and 1930’s horror-inspired illustrations. “The Spider and the Fly” is the tale of a fly who is wooed and flattered by a spider into coming into his home, dining with him, sleeping in his bed, and eventually returning to his home to be eaten. The spider tells the fly how beautiful she is, and the tale ends by cautioning against vanity and flattery.

Evaluation:

This is such a fun, creepy read! The 1920’s and 1930’s horror film-style illustrations are fantastic and bring a wonderful new element to the poem. They really work perfectly with the original poem. This book also brings up really important issues like vanity and how it can lead people (and flies!) astray. I think children, especially slightly older ones, will really enjoy this book.

Why I Chose the Book:

I love poetry and I was very intrigued by the style Tony DiTerlizzi used to illustrate this book.

Read-Alikes

Sophie’s Masterpiece by Eileen Spinelli

The Book that Eats People by John Perry

I Wish I Were a Butterfly by James Howe

Book Talk Ideas

Have students or patrons write a new ending to the story in which the fly doesn’t fall for the spider’s flattery. Ask them how the character of the fly would be need to be different to see through the spider.

Discussion Questions

1. What is the moral of the story? How is this shown throughout the book?

2. What are some of the clues that we get from the illustrations that the spider intends to harm the fly?

Resources

DiTerlizzi, T. & Howitt, M. (2002). The Spider and the Fly. Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers: New York.

Goodreads (2014). The Spider and the Fly by Mary Howitt. Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/601598.Spider_and_the_Fly?from_search=true

“The Spider and the Fly.” NoveList K-8. EBSCO, 20 Dec. 2002. Web. 3 May 2014. <http://0-search.ebscohost.com.catalog.sjlibrary.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=njh&tg=UI&an=118534&site=novpk8-live&gt;.

Picture Book #11: The Little House

Tags

153540

Title: The Little House

Author: Virginia Lee Burton

Publication Date: 1942

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Co.

Price: $17.60

Number of Pages: 40

Awards: Caldecott Medal

Genre/Subgenre: Picture book

Ratings:

Popularity: 5/5

Quality: 5/5

Reader’s Annotation:

A little house in the country finds that city life is not what she imagined.

Summary: 

The Little House is the story of a house built in the country by a man who hopes his family will live there for generations. The little house loves living in the country but is curious about the city, which she can see at night by its lights. One day, people come to the country and build a road. People begin to build houses and then tenements, and finally skyscrapers. The streets turn into freeways and trains and subways. All the while, the little house gets lost in the shuffle of the city and has no one to care for her. One day, a descendent of the little house’s builder walks by and recognizes the house. She and her husband decide to move the house into the country and live their. The house is happy because she is back in the country and being cared for.

Evaluation:

This is really a sweet book. I love the illustrations – they make the story really come to life. Virginia Lee Burton has such an excellent ability to personify objects and turn them into protagonists. The little house had so much personality! The Little House‘s reputation as a classic is completely deserved.

Why I Chose the Book:

I remembered reading The Little House as a child and really enjoying it, so I wanted to see how my perspective had changed as an adult. I still love it!

Read-Alikes

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Burton Lee

Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Burton Lee

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey

Book Talk Ideas

Have students or patrons draw a new country home for the little house.

Discussion Questions

1. How does the little house’s opinion on the city change once she is living in one?

2. If you were a house, would you rather live in the country or the city? Why?

Resources

Amazon.com (2014). Pricing information. Retrieved from http://smile.amazon.com/Little-House-Virginia-Lee-Burton/dp/0812428080/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1399137506Burton, V.L. (1942). The Little House [Kindle Version]. Houghton Mifflin Company: Boston, MA.

Goodreads (2014). The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton. Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/153540.The_Little_House?from_search=true

“The Little House.” NoveList K-8. EBSCO, 01 Jan. 2001. Web. 3 May 2014. <http://0-web.a.ebscohost.com.catalog.sjlibrary.org/novpk8/detail?vid=23&sid=5111083a-445b-4675-917a-fc242099ca0f%40sessionmgr4003&hid=4101&bdata=JnNpdGU9bm92cGs4LWxpdmU%3d#db=njh&UI=108017&gt;.

Picture Book #10: In the Night Kitchen

Tags

,

95144

Title: In the Night Kitchen

Author: Maurice Sendak

Publication Date: 1970

Publisher: Harper and Row Publishers

Price: $17.99

Number of Pages: 40

Awards: Caldecott Honor Book

Genre/Subgenre: Picture book, Fantasy

Ratings:

Popularity: 5/5

Quality: 5/5

Reader’s Annotation:

One night, Mickey falls out of bed and into the Night Kitchen.

Summary:

In the Night Kitchen is about a boy named Mickey who falls out of bed one night into the Night Kitchen, where three bakers make a “morning cake” each night. The bakers mistake Mickey for milk and stir him into their cake, until he pops out of the cake and says “I’m not the milk and the milk’s not me.” Mickey builds an airplane out of dough and flies up to a giant bottle of milk, which he gives to the bakers for their cake. The bakers complete their morning cake and Mickey falls back into his bed safe and sound.

Evaluation:

This is a fun book, and I think young readers will really enjoy the adventure and imagination of it. The illustrations are wonderful, as are the protagonist’s little quips and quotes.

Why I Chose the Book:

I loved Where the Wild Things Are as a child but had never read The Night Kitchen Before. I wanted to experience more of Maurice Sendak’s work.

Read-Alikes

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Willy the Dreamer by Anthony Browne

Boy on the Brink by David McPhail

Book Talk Ideas

If you have access to a kitchen at your school or library, have a cake-baking lesson to accompany a reading of In The Night Kitchen. Eat cake and milk!

Discussion Questions

1. If you found yourself in the Night Kitchen, what would you want to make?

2. Is Mickey dreaming, or does he really go to the Night Kitchen? What do you think?

Resources

Amazon.com (2014). Pricing information. Retrieved from http://smile.amazon.com/Night-Kitchen-Caldecott-Collection/dp/0060266686/ref=sr_1_1_title_1_har?ie=UTF8&qid=1399134412&sr=8-1&keywords=In+the+Night+Kitchen

Goodreads (2014). In the Night by Maurice Sendak. Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/516348.In_the_Night_Kitchen

“In the Night Kitchen.” NoveList K-8. EBSCO, 01 Jan. 2001. Web. 2 May 2014. <http://0-web.a.ebscohost.com.catalog.sjlibrary.org/novpk8/detail?vid=9&sid=5111083a-445b-4675-917a-fc242099ca0f%40sessionmgr4003&hid=4101&bdata=JnNpdGU9bm92cGs4LWxpdmU%3d#db=njh&UI=114688&gt;.

Sendak, M (1970). In the Night Kitchen. New York: Harper and Row Publishers.

Picture Book #9: The Contest

Tags

1519624

Title: The Contest

Author: Nonny Hogrogian

Publication Date: 1976

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Price: $17.89

Number of Pages: 30

Awards: Caldecott Honor

Genre/Subgenre: Picture book/Folk tale

Ratings:

Popularity: 2/5

Quality: 4/5

Reader’s Annotation:

When two thieves become rivals for the same woman, they set out to prove which one deserves her.

Summary:

The Contest is the story of two thieves, Hmayag and Hrahad, who are both engaged to marry Ehleezah. Both decide to travel away from their village to improve their financial prospects, and they run into each other on the journey and realize that they are both engaged to the same woman. They decide to have a contest; whoever is the better thief gets to marry Ehleezah. They begin by stealing a bag of jewels – one of them takes the jewels and replaces them with stones and the other reverses the process. Then one of the thieves sneaks into the Ishkhan’s palace and steals his chickens. The other sneaks into his bedroom and talks to him when he thinks he is dreaming. The thief asks the Ishkhan which of the thieves is more clever, and the Ishkhan answers that they are both clever but the one who stole the chickens is more clever. The next day, Hmayag and Hrahad decide neither of them will marry Ehleezah and decide to stay where they are. Meanwhile, Ehleezah has found a new man to marry – this time a musician.

Evaluation:

The Contest is a beautifully illustrated, fun folk tale. I enjoyed the rivalry between the two thieves and the ways that they sought to prove themselves, and I think young readers will too. The Contest was also a great look into a fascinating culture that many young readers might not be familiar with.

Why I Chose the Book:

I enjoy folktales, and I was interested to read one from Armenian culture because I grew up in a town with a large Armenian population and cultural influence.

Read-Alikes

The Tiger of Turkestan by Nonny Hogrogian

The Golden Bracelet by David Kherdian

The Glass Mountain by Nonny Hogrogian

Book Talk Ideas

Have an Armenian culture lesson before reading this book. Talk about where Armenia is and its culture. Serve an Armenian snack or play Armenian music.

Discussion Questions

1. Were you surprised by the ending? Did you think that either of the thieves would go back to Ehleezah?

2. Who do you think is the cleverest of the two thieves? Why are they more clever?

3. What about the story told you that it was a folk tale? Can you think of any other folk tales that reminded you of The Contest?

Resources

Goodreads (2014). The Contest by Nonny Hogrogian. Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1519624.The_Contest?from_search=true

Hogrogian, N. (1976). The Contest. New York: Greenwillow Books.

Picture Book #8: Ella Sarah Gets Dressed

Tags

162720

Title: Ella Sarah Gets Dressed

Author: Margaret Chodos-Irvine

Publication Date: 2003

Publisher: Harcourt, Inc.

Price: $16.00

Number of Pages: 40

Awards: Caldecott Honor, ALA Notable Children’s Book for Younger Readers

Genre/Subgenre: Picture Books, realistic fiction

Ratings:
Popularity: 4/5
Quality: 4/5

Reader’s Annotation: 

Ella Sarah has a unique sense of fashion – will her parents and sister ever understand?

Summary:

Ella Sarah has picked out her outfit for the day: her “pink polka-dot pants, dress with orange-and-green flowers, purple-and-blue stripped socks, yellow shoes, and red hat.” Her mom, dad, and sister all try to get her to wear different outfits that they think she should wear, but Ella Sarah stands her ground and says that she is going to wear the outfit she picked out. She puts on her outfit, opens the door, and there are her friends over to play, each wearing their own colorful ensemble.

Evaluation:

I thought this was a very cute and fun book. I think young readers will enjoy the bright colors and the tenacity of Ella Sarah. If they are unique dressers themselves, they may even relate to Ella Sarah’s battle to wear what she likes. This would make a great read-a-loud book for story-time.

Why I Chose the Book:

I thought the premise of the book made for a very cute story. I loved to dress up in crazy outfits when I was a little girl, so I related to Ella Sarah.

Read-Alikes

Aaron’s Shirt by Deborah Lee Gould

Picture Day by Susan Nees

Book Talk Ideas

Have students or patrons come to school or the library dressed in their best Ella Sarah outfit – let them present their outfits in an Ella Sarah fashion show!

Discussion Questions

1. Imagine that, like Ella Sarah, you get to pick any outfit to wear today. What would you wear?

2. What would you do if people told you they didn’t like your outfit even if you loved it? Would you wear it anyway like Ella Sarah?

Resources

Chodos-Irvine, M. (2003). Ella Sarah Gets Dressed. New York: Harcourt, Inc.

“Ella Sarah Gets Dressed.” NoveList K-8. EBSCO, 20 Jan. 2004. Web. 2 May 2014. <http://0-web.a.ebscohost.com.catalog.sjlibrary.org/novpk8/detail?vid=3&sid=160b124b-876d-44ea-b1bf-8ee3be00fd77%40sessionmgr4005&hid=4101&bdata=JnNpdGU9bm92cGs4LWxpdmU%3d#db=njh&UI=121807&gt;.

Goodreads (2014). Ella Sarah Gets Dressed by Margaret Chodos-Irvine. Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/162720.Ella_Sarah_Gets_Dressed?from_search=true

Young Adult Book #15: It’s Kind of A Funny Story

Tags

248704

Title: It’s Kind of a Funny Story

Author: Ned Vizzini

Publication Date: 2006

Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children

Price: $9.99 (Paperback)

Number of Pages: 444

Awards: ALA Best Books for Young Adults

Genre/Subgenre: Realistic Fiction

Ratings:
Popularity: 5/5
Quality: 4/5

Reader’s Annotation:

Craig is about to spend five days in a hospital mental ward that will change the way he thinks about everything.

Summary:

It’s Kind of a Funny Story is about a fifteen-year-old named Craig who is struggling with depression and anxiety. After intending to commit suicide, Craig decides to check himself into the mental ward at a local hospital. Because the teen ward is closed for maintenance, he is placed in the adult ward and meets a unique cast of characters. Over the five days of his hospitalization, Craig comes to know the other patients and build relationships with them. He forms a particular bond with Noelle, a girl who has scarred her face with scissors. Craig also rediscovers a childhood love for drawing maps that helps him cope with his illness and gives him hope that he can get better.

Evaluation:

This was a very interesting read, and I think it does an excellent job of capturing what it is like to struggle with depression. Ned Vizzini created a multifaceted, complicated narrator in Craig and I think readers will definitely relate to him and root for him to succeed. After I finished the book I learned that the author actually had committed suicide last year, which brought a new perspective to the book for me. The novel ends on a hopeful note, which I liked, and it was very sad to find out that the author was ultimately unable to achieve the peace that Craig seems to at the end of the novel.

Why I Chose the Book:

I chose this novel because I was interested in the subject matter and I think it’s important for teens struggling with mental health to have books like this to read. I think it can be very encouraging.

Read-Alikes

Get Well Soon by Julie Halpern

Not as Crazy as I Seem by George Harrar

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Book Talk Ideas

Host a screening of the film version of It’s Kind of a Funny Story. This novel would also work as part of a curriculum or program on mental health awareness.

Discussion Questions

1. This novel was based on the author’s experiences as a teenager. In what ways does it read as autobiographical?

2. Compared to other depictions you have seen in books or media, how were the mentally ill characters in the novel portrayed? How does this impact the novel?

Resources

Goodreads (2014). It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini. Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/248704.It_s_Kind_of_a_Funny_Story

“It’s Kind of a Funny Story.” NoveList K-8. EBSCO, 20 May 2006. Web. 15 Apr. 2014. <http://0-web.a.ebscohost.com.catalog.sjlibrary.org/novpk8/detail?vid=6&sid=5d610195-288e-4982-b096-a0e39a981804%40sessionmgr4005&hid=4214&bdata=JnNpdGU9bm92cGs4LWxpdmU%3d#db=njh&UI=144184&gt;.

Vizzini, N. (2006). It’s Kind of a Funny Story. New York: Hyperion Books for Children.

Children’s Book #8: The Green Glass Sea

Tags

149132

Title: The Green Glass Sea

Author: Ellen Klages

Publication Date: 2006

Publisher: Viking

Price: $16.99

Number of Pages: 318

Awards: Scott O’Dell Award

Genre/Subgenre: Historical Fiction

Ratings:
Popularity: 4/5
Quality: 5/5

Reader’s Annotation:

Two outcasts form a friendship during the creation of the Atom bomb.

Summary:

The Green Glass Sea is about two girls, Suze and Dewey, who come to live in the “nonexistent” Los Alamos, New Mexico during WWII. They are both the daughters of scientists working on “The Gadget,” a mysterious invention that is supposed to help win the war. Both girls find themselves to be outcasts with the other girls in Los Alamos, but it is not until Dewey comes to live with Suze’s family when her father has to travel for the government that the two girls spend time together. Although they initially do not get along, over time and as progress on the Gadget continues Suze and Dewey realize that they have more in common than they originally thought and form a friendship.

Evaluation:

The Green Glass Sea is a unique, absolutely wonderful book. It features two strong, intelligent, and interesting heroines; I loved reading about two preteens who love science and learning. The novel provides an interesting and personal perspective on the creation of the atom bomb. I think this novel will greatly appeal to young readers who enjoy historical fiction, but it is such a great read that I would recommend it even to reluctant readers.

Why I Chose the Book:

I enjoy books about WWII. I also thought that a book about the creation of the atom bomb from the point of view of the children of scientists was a very interesting concept.

Read-Alikes

White Sands, Red Menace by Ellen Klages

On the Wings of Heroes by Richard Peck

Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata

Summer Secrets by Patricia Hermes

Book Talk Ideas

Taking inspiration from Dewey and Suze’s respective interests in science and art, host a classroom or library art or science workshop. Have students or patrons complete a science experiment or create a collage like Suze does in the novel.

Discussion Questions

1. What makes Suze and Dewey different from the other kids living in Trinity? How do these differences influence their initial relationship and eventually lead to them becoming friends?

2. The characters in the novel, particularly the adults, must keep their work and lives in Los Alamos top secret. What do you think it would have been like to live in Los Alamos during WWII?

Resources

Goodreads (2014). The Green Glass Sea by Ellen Klages. Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/149132.The_Green_Glass_Sea

“The Green Glass Sea.” NoveList K-8. EBSCO, 20 Nov. 2006. Web. 21 Apr. 2014. <http://0-web.a.ebscohost.com.catalog.sjlibrary.org/novpk8/detail?vid=3&sid=01472d23-7fa4-4459-9c7e-0a059b61e5b5%40sessionmgr4003&hid=4109&bdata=JnNpdGU9bm92cGs4LWxpdmU%3d#db=njh&UI=153357&gt;.

Klages, E. (2006). The Green Glass Sea. New York: Viking.

Spacebabe.org – website of Ellen Klages (2008). Books. Retrieved from http://www.spacebabe.org/books.html

Picture Book #7: What Do You Say, Dear?

Tags

380680

Title: What Do You Say, Dear?

Author: Sesyle Joslin (Illustrated by Maurice Sendak)

Publication Date: 1958, 1986

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

Price: $15.89

Number of Pages: 48

Awards: Caldecott Honor

Genre/Subgenre: Picture Books/Etiquette/Humor

Ratings:
Popularity: 4/5
Quality: 5/5

Reader’s Annotation: 

Manners for children no matter the occasion.

Summary: 

What Do You Say, Dear? covers the mannerly responses to a variety of situations, from making an introduction to thanking someone. Each lesson is connected to a cute scenario, from meeting a baby elephant to being captured by a pirate.

Evaluation:

What Do You Say, Dear? is an adorable picture book. It very cleverly introduces manners and how to respond appropriately to various everyday social situations using outlandish and funny scenarios. The illustrations are fantastic and will be appreciated by young and old readers alike. I think children will find the scenarios very funny and will be excited to learn about manners through this book.

Why I Chose the Book:

I love etiquette books and thought this one was a very cute way to teach children manners.

Read-Alikes

What Do You Do, Dear? by Joslin Sesyle

Bootsie Barker Bites by Barbara Bottner

D.W.’s Guide to Perfect Manners by Marc Tolon Brown

Book Talk Ideas

Design a game for students or patrons to practice the etiquette lessons in the book. Write scenarios on slips of paper, put them in a bowl, and have the children pick a scenario and act it out using the correct manners.

Discussion Questions

1. What was your favorite lesson in the book? What did you like about it?

2. Why do you think manners are important?

Resources

Goodreads (2014). What Do You Say, Dear? by Sesyle Joslin. Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/380680.What_Do_You_Say_Dear_?from_search=true

Joslin, S. (1958). What Do You Say, Dear? New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

“What Do You Say, Dear?” NoveList K-8. EBSCO, 01 Jan. 2001. Web. 23 Apr. 2014. <http://0-web.a.ebscohost.com.catalog.sjlibrary.org/novpk8/detail?vid=3&sid=885fa6ec-75e4-4211-bc2b-02e3bf950576%40sessionmgr4002&hid=4214&bdata=JnNpdGU9bm92cGs4LWxpdmU%3d#db=njh&UI=111150&gt;.

Picture Book #6: Tuesday

Tags

97860

Title: Tuesday

Author: David Wiesner

Publication Date: 1991

Publisher: Clarion Books

Price: $17.00

Number of Pages: 29

Awards: Caldecott Medal

Genre/Subgenre: Picture Book/Story without words

Ratings:

Popularity: 5/5

Quality: 5/5

Reader’s Annotation:

On an ordinary Tuesday night, a group of frogs will do something extraordinary: fly.

Summary:

It is Tuesday night and something amazing has happened: frogs have left their aquatic homes and are flying through the night sky! The frogs fly through neighborhoods, stopping to watch television and confuse someone’s dog. In the morning the frogs return to the water, leaving behind lily pads for police and detectives to ponder over. Next Tuesday, we see that pigs will be the next to fly.

Evaluation:

Tuesday is a fun, beautifully illustrated picture book. I think it will capture the imaginations of young readers – who doesn’t want to see frogs flying through the night and having all kinds of adventures? Tuesday doesn’t need words to tell a story – the gorgeous illustrations speak for themselves loud and clear.

Why I Chose the Book:

David Wiesner is an excellent author and illustrator, and I was really interested in the idea of a story without words.

Read-Alikes

Flotsam by David Wiesner

The Frog Prince Continued by Jon Scieszka

Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold

Book Talk Ideas

Have students or patron illustrate their own page for the story. Have them decide where the frogs should fly and draw it.

Discussion Questions

1. If you could fly like the frogs in Tuesday, where would you want to go? What do you think is the most fun place the frogs go in the story?

2. At the end of the story, the humans have no idea where all the lily pads came from and pigs are beginning to fly. What do you think the pigs will do when they fly? Why don’t the humans notice the frogs and pigs?

Resources

Goodreads (2014). Tuesday by David Wiesner. Retrieved from:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/97860.Tuesday?from_search=true

 “Tuesday.” NoveList K-8. EBSCO, 01 Jan. 2001. Web. 21 Apr. 2014. <http://0-web.a.ebscohost.com.catalog.sjlibrary.org/novpk8/detail?vid=5&sid=60c4f658-b54e-452e-803c-69b7b290bd9f%40sessionmgr4005&hid=4109&bdata=JnNpdGU9bm92cGs4LWxpdmU%3d#db=njh&UI=116129&gt;.

Wiesner, D (1991). Tuesday. New York, NY: Clarion Books

Young Adult Book #14: Belle Epoque

Tags

13642661

Title: Belle Epoque

Author: Elizabeth Ross

Publication Date: 2013

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Price: $17.99

Number of Pages: 323

Awards: William C. Morris Award Finalist, Junior Library Guild Selection

Genre/Subgenre: Historical Fiction

Ratings: 
Popularity: 2/4
Quality: 4/4

Reader’s Annotation: Hired as a “beauty foil” for a wealthy Parisian debutante, Maude begins to question her place in the world and the nature of beauty.

Summary:

Maude Pinchon runs away to Paris from her village in Brittany to avoid an arranged marriage to an older man. When she arrives in Paris, she finds that it is difficult to make ends meet and her best employment opportunity is to work with an agency that provides ugly “friends” for society women. Maude is hired as a “beauty foil” to Isabelle Dubern, the wealthy daughter of a count who is set to make her society debut. Maude is hired by Isabelle’s mother to make Isabelle appear more desirable and to spy on her, but Maude and Isabelle form a genuine friendship. Maude discovers that Isabelle aspires to study science at the Sorbonne and agrees to help Isabelle study. Meanwhile, Countess Dubern wants Maude to influence Isabelle to make an advantageous marriage. Maude must decide whether between her financial security and her friendship with Isabelle in this fascinating novel.

Evaluation:

I found Belle Epoque to be a very interesting work of historical fiction. I was not familiar with the concept of a repoussoir, or beauty foil, before reading this novel, but I think it made for a very interesting story. I thought the protagonist Maude was well-developed, as were the more secondary characters. This novel provided a unique take on 19th century French class relations and particularly the social standing of young women. I think this would be a good read for those who enjoy historical fiction or have an interest in French culture.

Why I Chose the Book: 

The Belle Epoque is one of my favorite time periods – the culture of that time period is fascinating. I was also very intrigued by the concept of the book, as I had never heard of a repoussoir or beauty foil before.

Read-Alikes

Manor of Secrets by Katherine Longshore

Deadly by Julie Chibbaro

Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly

Book Talk Ideas

Host a reading and discussion of the Emile Zola short story “Les Repoussoirs,” which inspired the novel.

Discussion Questions

1. How does being a repoussoir or beauty foil change the way that Maude sees herself? How does it change the way others see her and how she sees the other repoussoirs?

2. Despite the transactional method of their meeting and their very different backgrounds, Maude and Isabelle develop a true friendship over the course of the novel. What draws them to each other, and in what ways are they similar?

3. What do you think Belle Epoque is saying about the nature of beauty?

Resources

“Belle Epoque.” NoveList K-8. EBSCO, 17 May 2013. Web. 15 Apr. 2014. <http://0-web.a.ebscohost.com.catalog.sjlibrary.org/novpk8/detail?vid=10&sid=73dc2073-91c3-4ffc-a292-ff98c6fbcfcf%40sessionmgr4004&hid=4214&bdata=JnNpdGU9bm92cGs4LWxpdmU%3d#db=njh&UI=10187406&gt;.

Elizabeth Ross (2014). Books. Retrieved from                                                             http://www.elizabethrossbooks.com/books-belle-epoque/

Goodreads (2013). Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross. Retrieved from           https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13642661-belle-epoque

Ross, E. (2013). Belle Epoque. New York: Delacorte Press.