Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tap Dancing on the Roof; Sijo (Poems) by Linda Sue Park

A new twist for our poetry units. Sijo is a form of poetry from Korea; similar to haiku, it is dependant on a certain number of stressed syllables, and has an unexpected joke or twist at the end. (Maybe you guys knew about this form, but I'd never seen it)

These poems are neither monumental or side splittingly funny but this book and poetry style are charming. These little poems are playful and light and the illustrations are a little odd but are equally as spirited.

The author gives sufficient but not overwhelming background on the form and includes further reading and some tips on how to write your own.

A fun "something new" and I learned a new word in one of the poems: sesquipedalian - lots of syllables.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Into the Woods by Lyn Gardner

Illustrated by Mini Grey. Three sisters battle an evil villain and his bloodthirsty wolves in this novel filled with fairy tale allusions. Elements of Hansel and Gretel, the Snow Queen, Rapunzel, and Sleeping Beauty are woven together in a plot that is filled with hair-raising suspense and narrow escapes. The sisters have well-developed personalities and learn about bravery and family loyalties as they discover their own unique gifts. The black and white drawings that are scattered through the text add a note of whimsy to the story.
Grades 4-7

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Bearskinner : A Tale of the Brothers Grimm retold by Laura Amy Schlitz

Illustrated by Max Grafe. A dejected young soldier makes a bargain with the devil. He will live seven years encased in a bearskin, during which time he may not clean himself in any way, nor may he pray. However, he will have all the gold he wants. If he fails to fulfill this promise, his soul will belong to the devil. As the years go by, he becomse increasingly disgusting but saves himself by giving his money away and asking the poor people whom he helps to pray for him. Dark brooding illustrations reinforce his sense of hopelessness. Older readers will respond to this story of mainitaining hope when all hope seems lost. The final spread, detailing the happy ending, shines golden. This will make a great discussion starter.
Grades 4-8

One Thousand Tracings : Healing the Wounds of World War II by Lita Judge

Illustrated by the author. A young American farm girl and her mother collect necessities such as food and clothing, especially shoes, to send to families in post-war Germany. The tracings of the title are of shoe bottoms, enclosed with the poignant letters that they receive. The story is based on real events in the lives of the author's mother and grandmother. It represents an untold part of the history of World War II. Soft, slightly out of focus watercolors and photographs of actual artifacts from the period complement the text. This is a heartwarming tale, told in a gentle, low key style.
Grades 2-6

Who Was First? Discovering the Americas by Russell Freedman

Five clearly written chapters explore the issue of who the first people to discover the Americas actually were. Columbus, the Chinese, the Vikings, and the Indians all receive a thorough treatment. The author has used the most recent research to explain the questions and controversies. Superbly reproduced paintings, maps, and photographs liberally illustrate the text. A selected bibloigraphy and index are included. This book will be relevant for any study of American history and could be utilized in the North Carolina history curriculum.
Grades 5-8