Saturday, December 8, 2007

Shark Girl by Kellie Bingham

Jane Arrowood had a promising future as an artist, until the day of the accident. Jane went to the beach and decided to go into the water to swim. She felt something tugging at her and she heard screaming from the shore. Unbeknownst to her, a shark had bitten off her right arm. Jane had to come to terms with this disability and was befriended by a little boy, Justin, to realize life still goes on. In this free-style verse, Kellie Bingham brought an unusual closeness to a character experiencing pain, self-esteem and recovery. This book is highly recommended for reluctant readers.

Grades 6-12

Monday, December 3, 2007


If you read the first 2 pages, you will be hooked for the remaining 206! Thirteen year old Capricorn Anderson lives on a commune with his hippie grandmother named Rain. When she falls and breaks her hip, Cap is forced into the real world of public school 8th grade. The reader becomes fond of Cap as he deals with bullies and finds his own unique way to deal with teenage life.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

One Well; The Story of Water on Earth by Rochelle Strauss

A timely title for our drought-ridden state this year. One Well is an enjoyable but urgent plea to save our planet's water supply. Short chapters with well-themed titles share the story that ALL things on earth are completely dependant on this non-renewable resource. "The amount of water on earth doesn't change - there's no more water now ...than when dinosaurs walked the earth." Interesting little factiods decorate each double page spread, sharing hard-to-imagine statistics and adding more urgency to the message.
The art didn't work for me though. It's very colorful and attractively done with a script-y font for chapter headings but the artwork's less structured nature fell flat for me. The blocks color used to get the extra facts in were distracting. A few spreads were broken in to blocks with small pictures to illustrate each fact, these seemed to work better than the larger illustrations that were broken up.
Overall, though, it is an attractive, readable, book with an important message. The back includes a section for students to plan ways to learn more or become active in water conservation. There is also a section for parents and teachers that offers even more inf. A very thorough index is included as well.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Peak by Roland Smith

Peak is his name, named by his mountain climbing parents. When he gets in trouble for climbing a skyscraper in New York City, he is picked up by his father, put through physicals and tests without explanation. Then the two fly to Nepal and Peak finds himself in the middle of "Peak Experiences", his father's mountaineering company and their expedition to the top of Mount Everest.

Grades 6-10.

Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt

This is the story of Holling Hoodhood's seventh grade year at Camillo Junior High in 1967, highlighted by Wednesday afternoons, when Holling is left alone in Mrs. Baker's class while his classmates go to temple or catechism class. Excellent middle school fiction.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Strong Man: The Story of Charles Atlas, by Meghan McCarthy

This picture book biography tells the transformation of a small, skinny, Italian immigrant named Angelo Siciliano into Charles Atlas, “The World’s Most Perfectly Developed Man.” Yes, Angelo really did get sand kicked in his face by a bully but with determination, ingenuity and hard work, he became strong and muscular. After watching a lion stretching at the zoo, he developed a fitness routine that built muscles as he stretched.At the suggestion of friends, he took a new name to go with his new body.
Atlas developed a course that not only would build muscles but encouraged his pupils to live a healthy life-style.Meghan McCarthy’s thick acrylic paint illustrations add humor and a cartoon-like quality to this work.At the end of the book, McCarthy illustrates four fun exercises for children to do daily. In her author’s note, McCarthy tells us other tidbits from Atlas’ life, many of which take on an exaggerated quality like those of a tall tale character.

Grades K-5

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I Am Rembrandt's Daughter by Lynn Culler

Cornelia is the daughter and caretaker of once reveered painter, Rembrandt van Rijn. Her beloved brother has just married and moved out and she is left with her nearly mad father and his awkward but devoted apprentice, Neel. Cornelia's dull life takes a romantic turn when she meets Carel, the son of wealthy shipping magnate and they share their love of painting. She begins to imagine herself living a courtly life when a dastardly family secret is revealed and her romantic ideals are shattered.

The story tries to give the historical and personal background to some of Rembrandt's most famous paintings (all is documented in strong historical notes at the end) but these parts don't really flow with the rest of the story very well, nice try though!. The reader does learn a great deal about how Rembrandt worked and how he truly felt he was "God's hand" when he painted.

Strong historical fiction with major ties to the art and art history world.

Middle School is Worse Than Meatloaf : A Year Told Through Stuff by Jennifer Holm

An inventive twist on the notebook style novel. Ginny's 7th grade school year is shown to the reader through a collection of stuff including To-Do lists, bank statements (despide several babysitting job deposits, it seems to always remain at $5 ), doctor's notes, store receipts (bad idea to dye your hair the day before picture day), principals notes to her mom, and some amusing poems.

Ginny deals with some difficult subjects during the course of the year; new stepfather, brother getting sent to military school because of his dangerous behaviour, ex-best friend getting the lead in HER ballet AND never returning her favorite sweater. She handles them with the awkward grace of a 7th grader but also with humor and a very appealing style.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Help!: A Story of Friendship by Holly Keller

This endearing story of friendship conveys a wonderful message. Hedgehog discovers that his buddy Mouse is hiding from their friend Snake because he has heard a rumor that snakes can be very dangerous for mice. Even though Hedgehog tries to remind mouse of Snake’s friendship, he is unable to distract him from his fears. In fact he worries so much that he ends up having an accident and finds himself at the bottom of a hole with a hurt foot. Who will save him? Several friends are concerned, but have reasons for not being able to rescue Mouse. That's when everyone learns a powerful lesson about friendship vs. gossip.

This book would be an excellent read-aloud for young students developing a sense of community and learning how to get-along. On the back flap Keller explains how she creates her collographs or printed collages. The characters have a warm and friendly look reminiscent of Lionni's work. An example of Keller's clever use of color is seen on the page when Mouse blushes "a deep shade of pink."

Audience - K-1, for sure, but perhaps older because the message is so valuable.

Monday, September 3, 2007

The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick.

After the death of his father, young Hugo continues to tend to the clocks in a large Paris train station so seamlessly that no one notices the absence of his father. Using a notebook left by his father he also works on restoring a mysterious automaton. The most amazing feature of this story is the telling alternating between pages of detailed black and white illustrations and text. Reading the text one makes the pictures in one's head and reading pictures, one adds the words. All in all a satisfying and innovative experience.

I'm not doing this book justice because it has been a while since I read it. I hope others will read and continue to comment. This is one of the most intriquing books of the year.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Lucky Jake, by Sharon Hart Addy

Illus. by Wade Zahares.

Jake longs for a dog and when his prospector father finds a nugget of gold, part of it goes to pay for a pig he names Dog. Thus begins a string of luck and hard work that ultimately results in father and son opening a restaurant and trading post. The refrain of "Yup. Lucky" throughout the sequence of events punctuates the storytelling. The illustrator's electric and surreal use of color, line, and perspective are a visual treat. Could be used to teach cause and effect or sequencing, this is definitely a title for read aloud.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Dogs and Cats, by Steve Jenkins.

Dogs and cats each deserve their own book and here the reader is given both in one package. Read about cats; flip the book and read about dogs. Lots of interesting facts are presented about each of these popular pets including descriptions of their variety, how they came to live with people, what makes each one special, and unique facts about each. The illustrator's trademark textured collage illustrations complete the package.

Grades 2-5

Me I Am! by Jack Prelutsky

There's only one me! as this lively poem emphasizes through the expressive illustrations of three young children each with a distinct personality: a girl who is active and imaginative, a boy who is a more contemplative young scientist, and another girl who performs as a dancer. This bright picture book celebrates individuality with a read aloud poetic text.

Grades PreK-1

Hurricane Force: In the Path of America's Deadliest Storms, by Joseph B. Treaster

A reporter for the New York Times engagingly presents the inside story of hurricanes, both the latest science and technology of forecasting and the impact on people of storms including the recent Katrina. Written by a journalist with excerpts from newspaper articles, the text draws in the reader with lots of human interest while presenting the latest technology used to describe, predict, and track hurricanes as they develop and potentially threaten populations in their path. The inside story from a reporter who was on the ground in New Orleans for Katrina and the aftermath is compelling drama.

Grades 5-8

It's Probably Penny, by Loreen Leedy

Lisa and Penny are back. This time the assignment concerns prediction and probability: what might happen, what is impossible, and what are equal and unequal chances. Will Penny want to go on a walk, bark at a squirrel, or see a shark? And who probably ate the missing peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Here's another mathematical topic that lends itself well to a picture book and the antics of Penny.

Here's a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry

Collected by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters.
Illus. by Polly Dunbar.

Exuberant poetry for the very young is presented in four sections: Me Myself and I, Who lives in my house?, I go outside, and Time for bed. The oversized presentation includes bright colored illustrations of a diversity of children and animals bound to appeal and appropriate for sharing with a group as well as individually. The unique selection of poems are on target for the audience.

Grades PreK-1

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A Good Day, by Kevin Henkes

What starts out as a bad day for a bird, a fox, a dog, and a squirrel ends well for all and especially for the little girl who finds the pretty feather the bird lost. A very simple, repetitive text pairs perfectly with expressive illustrations. The rhythm and mood of this story are perfect for very young listeners.

Grades PreK-1

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sweet Land of Liberty, by Deborah Hopkinson

Illus. by Leonard Jenkins.

As a child, Oscar Chapman was expelled from school for hanging a picture of Abraham Lincoln in the school. As an adult he was Assistant Secretary of State when Marian Anderson was told she couldn't sing at Constitution Hall and he helps clear the way for her to sing in front of the Lincoln Memorial instead. Interesting back story to the Marian Anderson story presented in picture book format suitable for reading aloud.

Grades 3 up

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Animal Poems, by Valerie Worth

Illus. by Steve Jenkins

Selected posthumously, this collection of poems are all about animals familiar to most children for example the porcupine, snake, and gorilla. The poetry makes amazing use of language and imagery to portray the familiar in surprising and unfamiliar ways: a snail's house includes a spiral stairwell; a penguin is "cheerful as a housecat"; and the hummingbird, "flew like a spark from the earliest star." Each poem has its own doublespread with striking cut paper illustrations offset with plenty of white space.

Grades 3 up

Today and Today: Haiku by Issa

Illus. by G. Brian Karas

Haiku by the eighteenth century Japanese poet, Issa, are arranged by season and accompanied by illustrations that tell a quiet story of a family experiencing nature, togetherness and loss. Not so much a narrative as a string of moments encapsulated in spare haiku and evocative illustrations.

Grades 2-4

1607: A New Look at Jamestown, by Karen E. Long

Photos by Ira Block

On the 400th commemoration of the founding of Jamestown, this book looks at the newest archaeological findings about this early settlement including details about trade and conflict with the Native Americans. Traces many roots of our country's economy, government, and way of life to this early and tenuous settlement in all its complexity.

Shells! Shells! Shells! by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace

Buddy, a young bear and his mother visit the beach and talk about the many seashells they find. Photographs of the seashells interspersed with the brightly colored collage illustrations assist young readers in identifying their own beach finds. The text conveys numerous facts about mollusks along with some silly word play.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

A Seed is Sleepy, by Dianna Hutts Aston.

Illus. by Sylvia Long.

Sleepy, secretive, fruitful, naked, and adventurous are among the adjectives applied to a variety of seeds in cursive text while delicate watercolor illustrations depict a gorgeous selection of small and large seeds, their life cycles, and the plants they grow into.

Grades 1-3

A Second is a Hiccup: A Child's Book of Time, by Hazel Hutchins

Illus. by Kady Macdonald Denton

How long is a second, a minute, an hour, a day, a week, a month, and a year? These common units of time are explained relative to each other and to events in a young child's life. Watercolor illustrations depict young children from two families in this appealing introduction or summary to time lessons.

Grades K-2

Pictures from our Vacation, by Lynne Rae Perkins

On a road trip to visit relatives, a brother and sister are each given cameras that make instant photo stickers to put in notebook journals. The trip to visit grandparents includes a search for a lake dad remembers, a memorial service for a great-aunt, and numerous relatives. The photographs are child-like images of feet, clouds, and electric towers that fail to capture the words and stories that also linger in the mind of the narrator. Fun to extend to writing personal narratives.

Grades 2-4

The New Policeman, by Kate Thompson

There never seems to be enough time in Kinvara, a town in Ireland and as J.J. soon discovers, time is also a problem in the magical land of Tir na n'Og. The two are connected in many mysterious ways but particularly by traditional Irish music sprinkled throughout the text. A compelling and mysterious fantasy.

Grades 6 and up

Tracking trash: flotsam, jetsam, and the science of ocean motion, by Loree Griffin Burns

Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer is a scientist and an expert on flotsam and jetsam. He tracks loads of sneakers and plastic bathtub toys that have fallen from cargo ships and washed up on beaches around the world in order to understand the ocean's currents. Aided by amateur beachcombers and computer simulations, Ebbesmeyer's work is fascinating to read about. The discovery that there are "garbage patches" where currents have distributed loads of our trash is a cautionary reminder of our impact on the health of our oceans and our earth.

Connect: Flotsam, by David Wiesner (2006)

Grades 4-8