Friday, May 30, 2008

Ballerina Dreams: A True Story by Lauren Thompson, Photographs by James Estrin

Abbey, Nicole, Shekina, Monica, and Veronica range in age from 3 to 7 years. They all shared the dream of being ballerinas. Joann Ferrara, a physical therapist and their dance instructor made that dream come true. Each girl is challenged by Cerebral palsy or Erb’s palsy, but they don’t let that keep them from working hard to fulfill their dream. Bright action photos show each girl and her teenage helper as they work to hold their bodies in the various ballet poses. Their story is inspiring and conveys a lesson of perseverance.


Roanoke: The Mystery of the Lost Colony by Lee Miller

Miller presents a conspiracy theory in an attempt to solve the mystery of the lost colony. Along with primary documents and John White's beautiful illustrations, she describes the colonists' journey, the decsion to return for supples, delayed efforts to return, and the final discovery that the colonists were missing. It is a unique perspective of what happened both in England and in the colony and why. Includes maps, time line, source notes, and photographs. A thought-provoking book examining a fascinating part of NC's history. It would be great to use with NC studies / 4th and 8th graders.

Grades 4 - 8

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Yum! MmMm! Que Rico! America's Sproutings, by Pat Mora

Illus. by Rafael Lopez

A haiku and an informational paragraph introduce several foods native to the Americas including chocolate, potatoes, corn, and papaya. Influenced by Mexican murals, the illustrations have a bright and distinctively Southwestern feel. This would be a fun accompaniment to geography or nutrition units.

Grades 1-4

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Pass it down: Five picture book families make their mark, by Leonard S. Marcus

Short biographies take a different twist in this collection that focuses on families who create picture books: Donald Crews, Ann Jonas and Nina Crews; Clement and Edith Hurd and Thacher Hurd; Walter Dean Myers and Christopher Myers; Jerry Pinkney and Brian Pinkney; and Harlow and Anne Rockwell and Lizzy Rockwell. Family photographs, artist sketches, and final illustrations accompany the stories.

All ages.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson

This compact novel tackles prejudice, faith, hope and fear through the eyes of Frannie, a sixth grader in a predominately black school. One day a white-looking boy shows up at her school, seeming out of place. He is quickly knick-named Jesus-boy because of his long, flowing hair. Frannie puzzles over her classmates’ mixed reactions to this newcomer. The class bully instantly starts making fun of him while her friend Samantha, whose father is a conservative Baptist preacher, believes that he really is Jesus. Meanwhile, Frannie contemplates her family’s future. Her mother is expecting another baby after having lost her last three and her older deaf brother, Sean expresses a desire to be able to live in everyone else’s world as well as his own deaf world. All of these concerns are woven together as Frannie learns more about herself and the meaning of an Emily Dickenson poem “Hope is a thing with feathers that perches in the soul...” This thought-provoking novel could foster lively discussion among middle-school students.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Blue Lipstick: Concrete Poems by John Grandits

These 34 creative poems are told by fifteen-year-old Jessie who voices typical teenage concerns such as annoying siblings, bad hair days, problems with parents, AP classes, jocks and cheerleaders. Students will laugh aloud at the poetry, hilarious illustrations, and surprises. For example, there is a clever poem on Grownups Talking (A+) and Grownups Listening (D-) Although the poems deal with high school life, they will appeal to students in Grades 5 - 8. Students would enjoy listening and comparing these poems to those written by Grandits in Technically, It's Not My Fault (poems by Robert, Jessie's younger brother). I can see this title being used for poetry, writing, and art activities .

Traveling Tom and the Leprechaun by Teresa Bateman

Illustrated by Melisande Potter. An Irish princess, Kathleen declares that she will marry "only a man who could win a leprechaun's pot of gold in a single day's time." Tom, a wandering minstral who falls in love with the princess, vows to be that man. Readers will enjoy how he outwits a leprechaun so that he can claim the hand of the fair Kathleen. Watercolor illustrations vividly portray the Irish countryside. Grades K-3.

Fiona's Luck by Teresa Bateman

Illustrated by Kelly Murphy. During the Irish potato famine, a leprechaun king steals away the luck of the Irish. A clever young girl named Fiona outsmarts the leprechaun and manages to trick him into setting luck free again. Shamrocks, leprehauns, and the Irish countryside are beautifully illustrated which helps make this a delightful read aloud at St. Patrick's Day or during a unit on folktales. Grades K-3.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Escape of Oney Judge: Martha Washington's slave finds freedom, by Emily Arnold McCully

Oney Judge was a young slave owned by first lady, Martha Washington. Her father had been an white indentured servant and her mother was a slave. Favored by the Washington family, Oney moves to Philadelphia with them for Washington's presidency. There she encounters freed slaves and the Quakers active in helping others to escape. In this fictionalized account, Oney realizes that Martha Washington plans to give her away to one of her married daughters and decides to escape. This story serves to round out our understanding of early American history.

Grades 3 and up

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller by Sarah Miller

Anne Sullivan had always been called Miss Spitfire because she was so unruly and feisty, and she learned how those traits would serve her well when she became teacher to Helen Keller, every bit a Miss Spitfire herself, at all of six years old! From the moment Anne meets Helen, the psychological, emotional, physical and mental battles begin. Anne had nowhere else to go when she took the job as a teacher to Helen. She daily reminds herself of that fact, as she struggles to gain respect from all the Kellers, who have let little Helen terrorize their lives, and to reach Helen, who seems so frustrated, angry and isolated. The story is engaging and quite a page-turner, as we read of Anne's struggles and hope for a breakthrough with Helen. The chapters begin with exerpts from the letters Anne really wrote to her former housemother at Perkins Institute for the Blind. Miller also includes an Author's note, photos, a Chronology, and Bibliography.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler

This razzy, jazzy picture book will make you want to get up and dance. Daddy puts a record on and the tapping, and the snapping, and the clapping begin, with baby in the center of the action. The beat brings in the extended family and even the neighbors get in on the dancing. The illustrations are as energetic and joyful as the text. A great read aloud for pre-K-1 with lots of opportunities for audience participation.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Champions on the Bench: The Cannon Street YMCA All-Stars by Carole Boston Weatherford

Illustrated by Leonard Jenkins
The first-ever African American little league team in SC (1955) was not allowed to play in the series tournament when the other white teams refused to play them. Instead, they are invited to watch the Little League World Series from the stands. This story puts the history of racial discrimination in sports into perspective for younger readers. Weatherford does a nice job of blending fact and fiction with the inclusion of an Author's Note and photographs of the team in 1955 and in 2002 when they were hoored at the Little League Baseball World Series.

Good Sports: rhymes about running, jumping, throwing and more by Jack Prelutsky and Chris Rashka

A collection of poems about a variety of sports (baseball, basketball, gymnastics, frisbee, swimming, etc). Lots of humor. many of the poems are about NOT winning, NOT making the team, or dropping the ball. All sorts of defeated things but the kids are still playing and enjoying what they're doing. It's quietly about sportsmanlike attitude! Other poems are about the joy the kids have in the activity itself - not winning, just doing it! (pun, intended!)

Rashka's illustrations are whispy, bright and action packed. The movement of each game or activity is included in the mood of the artwork.

The Great Smelly, Slobbery, Small-Tooth Dog retold by Margaret Read Macdonald

A story of the Language of Flowers wrapped in a fairy tale.

This folktale from Great Britian tells a somewhat familiar tale of a beast (in this case a big smelly slobbery dog) rescuing a man from peril. The man offers the beast whatever he wants and the beast wants his daughter. She goes away with him but hates him, often calling him a"big,smelly, slobbery, small-tooth dog" and hurts his feelings. However, in great folktale, fairy tale fashion, she eventually comes to love the big smelly dog and they live happily ever after.
Oh, forgot to mention, of course he turned into a prince once she declaired her love.
Personally, I might have wanted to keep the dog! But what's a fairy tale with out the prince!

The Langauage of Flowers is demonstrated on the endpapers with a pattern of the flowers and their emotion or meaning. Throughout the story, the painted tapestry-like illustrations include the flowers that correspond to the events in the story. Very pretty and an interesting way to show a nice aspect of British cultural.

The All-I'll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll by Patricia C. McKissack

Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney.
This beautiful picture book is set in the "poorest place in America" during the Depression. Laura wants a Baby Betty doll of her very own. however, Santa brings one doll for three sisters and the girls are told by their father to "work this out." Pinkney's rich watercolors portray a warm family life during a cold and challenging time. Based on a true story, McKissack' s telling provides a wonderful lesson on sharing.
Grades K-3.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Jesse Owens: Fastest Man Alive by Carole Boston Weatherford

Illustrated by Eric Velasquez
This is a well-researched, poetic, second-person tribute to Jesse Owens (Go Jesse, Go. Trounce Jim Crow). Details are provided about how he won four Olympic gold medals as well as the controversy surrounding his accomplishments. Nice pastel illustrations add to the story. The final pages provide a summary of his life and a bibliography of titles for further reading.
Grades 2-6.

Hello, Bumblebee Bat by Darrin Lunde

llustrated by Patricia J. Wynne
A delightful look at a bat that is one inch long and six inches wide. This short book contains nine questions and answers in a pattern that makes for an appealing read-aloud for young children. The illustrations are warm yet realistic. The last two pages provide additional facts about this endangered species.
Grade K-1.

The Purple Balloon by Chris Raschka

This tiny, yet powerful book is for terminally ill children, their family and friends. The simple text tells the touching story that dying is hard work but others, such as medical workers, clergy, friends, and family, can help. Raschka provides a list of "What You Can Do to Help" for friends at the end.
All ages.

I Love You Always and Forever by Jonathan Emmett

Illustrated by Daniel Howarth
A father fieldmouse and his daughter play games in the woods where the daughter learns that losing to her father won't last forever but his love for her will. Delightfully realistic illustrations fill the pages making this a great read-aloud for young children. Grades PreK - 2.

Jazz on a Saturday Night by Leo & Diane Dillon

This beautifully-illustrated tribute to jazz is a 2008 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor book and it is easy to see why. The illustrations almost jump off the page alongside brief descriptions of jazz masters such as Monk, Fitzgerald, Parker, Coltrane and others. An accompanying CD provides an intro to jazz. Grades K-4 but this would be a great picture book to use with older students as well.