Tuesday, August 28, 2018

PICTURE BOOK REVIEWS: Imagine! by Raul Colon/Interrupting Chicken and the Elephant of Surprise by David Ezra Stein


ABOUT THE BOOK

 A wordless picture book about a visit to the museum and the power of art and imagination.

After passing a city museum many times, a boy finally decides to go in. He passes wall after wall of artwork until he sees a painting that makes him stop and ponder. Before long the painting comes to life and an afternoon of adventure and discovery changes how he sees the world ever after.


REVIEW

I love this book for several reasons.  I love the book because of the gorgeous art.  Colon has become one of my favorite illustrators for this reason.  The second thing I love about the book is the theme revolving around the power of imagination to help see and experience things we couldn't otherwise.  In the book which is wordless, a young boy leaves his home, crosses a bridge, and visits an art museum.  But as in so many other books that involve youngsters interacting with art in unusual ways (Journey by Aaron Becker, and Harold and the Purple Crayon come to mind) things change quickly.  Some of the characters interact with the boy and then step out of their frames to go on an adventure with him, outside of the museum.  After returning the characters to the museum the boy returns home, but along the way he sees the side of what seems to be an abandoned, lonely looking building.  He stops and paints a picture of the adventure he and his 'friends' just went on, finally returning home a changed boy.  It was interesting to read about the artist's reasons for creating the book, which he details in his author's note.  The choice of characters from real life paintings also makes for some interesting pondering.  All in all a wonderful book about the possibilities of art and human creativity. 

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ABOUT THE BOOK

Surprise! The little red chicken is back -- and as endearingly silly as ever -- in David Ezra Stein's follow-up to the Caldecott Honor-winning Interrupting Chicken.

It's homework time for the little red chicken, who has just learned about something every good story should have: an elephant of surprise. Or could it be an element of surprise (as her amused papa explains)? As they dive in to story after story, looking for the part that makes a reader say "Whoa! I didn't know that was going to happen," Papa is sure he can convince Chicken he's right. After all, there are definitely no elephants in "The Ugly Duckling," "Rapunzel," or "The Little Mermaid" -- or are there? Elephant or element, something unexpected awaits Papa in every story, but a surprise may be in store for the little red chicken as well. Full of the same boisterous charm that made Interrupting Chicken so beloved by readers, this gleeful follow-up is sure to delight fans of stories, surprises, and elephants alike.


REVIEW

Sequels aren't always as good as the originals.  But this one is just as delightful and laugh-inducing.  I love the relationship between Little Chicken and her father.  Her enthusiasm balances sweetly against his efforts to correct her misunderstanding.  He tries to explain to her that her teacher didn't mean that every story has an "elephant" of surprise in it but an "element" of surprise.  But Little Chicken doesn't believe her father and as they read together is delighted to point out to her startled father the 'elephant' of surprise that keeps appearing.  Once again the stories within the story make for some fun reading as things don't turn out the way one might expect.  This delightful read has plenty of surprises of it's own and makes for fun read for both parent/teacher and child.  Adults will relate to Papa's exasperation and fondness for Chicken.  And children will relate to Chicken's surety that she heard her teacher correctly.  A worthy sequel and fabulous story all on it's own. One of my favorites of the year.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

SERIES THURSDAY: The Last Firehawk, books 1-4


ABOUT THE BOOK

A terrible darkness is spreading across Perodia. Thorn, a powerful vulture, is using dark magic (and his dark army of spies!) to destroy the magical land. A young owl named Tag may be the only one who can save it! Tag dreams of one day becoming a brave warrior, but he is small . . . In this first book, Tag and his best friend -- a squirrel named Skyla -- meet the last firehawk. Together, the three friends learn about a magical stone. Could this stone be powerful enough to defeat Thorn? This action-packed series makes a great introduction to fantasy and quest stories for newly independent readers. Realistic black-and-white artwork appears on every page!

REVIEW

The Ember Stone is the first book in a new series that's part of Scholastic's Branches early chapter book series.  These books are highly illustrated chapter books that work well for young readers who are ready to move on from early readers.  This fantasy series revolves around the adventures of a young owl named Tag, and his best friend, a squirrel named Skyla and their efforts to retrieve a magical stone that will help save their home from an evil vulture. Rescuing the egg of a young firehawk sets them on their way as the firehawk can help them find the stone. This is an appealing fantasy series for those young readers who love animals and magic and aren't ready yet for the longer, more difficult series.


ABOUT THE BOOK

In the second book in this page-turning series, Tag, Skyla, and Blaze journey to the Crystal Caverns. They are searching for a piece of the magical Ember Stone. But they do not know exactly where it is, and they are not the only ones searching for it . . . The powerful vulture Thorn is also after the stone -- and after Blaze! Thorn's dark magic is quickly spreading across Perodia, so the friends must move fast to reach the stone! This action-packed series makes a great introduction to fantasy and quest stories for newly independent readers. Realistic black-and-white artwork appears on every page!

REVIEW

This second book in the series continues the excitement from the first one.  Tag, a young owl, continues on his quest with his friends, Skyla, a squirrel, and Blaze, the last firehawk.  Having found the first piece of the Ember Stone, they are determined to find the rest.  The second part of their quest takes them to the Crystal Caverns that are made of ice as well as being on the other side of the island.  The three young animals must use all their skills to deal with the challenges that arise, including ice leopards and collapsing ice caves.  Young readers who enjoyed the first book are bound to enjoy this one as well. 


ABOUT THE BOOK

In the third book in this page-turning series, Tag, Skyla, and Blaze journey to the Whispering Oak in search of the next piece of the Ember Stone. There, they find strange creatures called grumblebees. But where is the magical stone? Thorn's dark magic continues to spread. If Tag and his friends don't find all of the pieces soon, Perodia will be destroyed! This action-packed series makes a great introduction to fantasy and quest stories for younger readers. Realistic black-and-white artwork appears on every page!  

REVIEW

Tag and his friends continue their journey to gather all the pieces of the Ember Stone in this third book.  After running into more of Thorn's evil spies and barely escaping, they discover the keeper of the stone has no intention of giving it up without getting something in return.  But the bears who have the stone want the last honeycomb the grumblebees have made and the bees refuse to give it up.  Can Tag, Skyla, and Blaze sort out this problem before more of Thorn's spies turn up to take the Stone from them?  While lacking in depth, this light, fun fantasy has enough tension and action to keep younger readers entertained.  This series works best with readers who aren't yet into the big, thick, more detailed fantasies.  It works well as a read aloud for younger readers who aren't yet ready for chapter books on their own. 


ABOUT THE BOOK
 

In the fourth book in this fast-paced series, Tag, Skyla, and Blaze continue their journey in search of the next piece of the Ember Stone. The magical map leads them across the poisonous Bubbling Bog, all the way to the fairy-filled Lullaby Lake. As they travel east though, the friends are also moving closer and closer to Thorn's dark territory. What will happen when Tag finally comes face-to-face with his enemy? This action-packed series makes a great introduction to fantasy and quest stories for younger readers. Jeremy Norton's realistic black-and-white artwork appears on every page!

REVIEW

This fourth book in the series is my favorite so far.  In this book, Tag and his friends must confront Thorn himself.  When Thorn flies off with the Ember Stone, Tag and his friends fight desperately to get it back.  The Stone gets dropped into Lullaby Lake.  Tag and his friends try to retrieve the Stone, but something keeps putting them to sleep preventing them from doing so. They eventually discover that the lake is watched over by a group of nixies who are determined to protect the lake and keep the stone.  Will they be able to get the Stone back before Thorn returns with more of his army?  The tension in this book has gone up a bit since the last book. But it's not too scary for young readers/listeners.  The adventures are a bit more interesting as well.  This is a good series for young fantasy lovers who aren't ready for longer more detailed reads.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

WILD & WONDERFUL WORLD: History's Mysteries: Curious Clues, Cold Cases, and Puzzles from the Past by Kitson Jazynka


ABOUT THE BOOK

Why were the Easter Island heads erected? What really happened to the Maya? Who stole the Irish Crown Jewels? The first book in this exciting new series will cover history's heavy-hitting, head-scratching mysteries, including the Lost Colony of Roanoke, the Bermuda Triangle, the Oak Island Money Pit, Stonehenge, the Sphinx, the disappearance of entire civilizations, the dancing plague, the Voynich manuscript, and so many more. Chock-full of cool photos, fun facts, and spine-tingling mysteries.

REVIEW

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this well-researched, and engagingly told account of a variety of mysteries.  There are 7 chapters and each chapter discusses several different mysteries related to that topic.  Topics include vanished civilizations, unexplained deaths and disappearances, creatures of myth and legend, freaky phenomena, mystifying monuments, and cryptic codes and lost languages.  Individual topics cover everything from the Mary Celeste, yetis, Anastasia, and Atlantis.  I found the information interesting and well-organized.  Each section is beautifully and attractively designed.  Each section gives a brief background, before providing additional details involving clues, and closing with various theories related to the described mystery.  This book makes for a great read cover to cover or some fun browsing. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

PICTURE BOOK REVIEWS: Goodbye Brings Hello/What Do They Do With All That Poo?/A Boy, A Bear, A Balloon/A Home for Leo


ABOUT THE BOOK

Like Bernie Waber's COURAGE and Davis' KINDERGARTEN ROCKS!, this inspiring, vibrantly illustrated gift book is perfect for celebrating life's milestones, both great and small—especially that first day of kindergarten.

There are many ways of letting go.
With each goodbye, a new hello.
 
From being pushed on a swing to learning how to pump your legs yourself, from riding a beloved trike to mastering your first bike ride, from leaving the comforts of home behind to venturing forth on that first day of school, milestones are exciting but hard. They mean having to say goodbye to one moment in order to welcome the next.  
 
Honest and uplifting, this cheerfully illustrated ode to change gently empowers readers to brave life's milestones, both large and small.


REVIEW

If there is one thing that many people hate, it's change.  It can be difficult to adjust when something we've grown used to isn't the same anymore.  It truly requires effort to say goodbye to the familiar.  This book highlights some of those changes and the fact that when we say goodbye to something, we are often saying hello to something else.  And those hellos can be fabulous.  Whether it's learning to pump on a swing, or moving from a preschool trike to a big kid bike, or trying a new hair style, change can be exciting and joyful as well as scary and difficult.  The book takes the reader through several different changes, leading up to a big goodbye/hello: the first day of school.  The book is a cute way to introduce young readers to those changes that come our way and how they can be a wonderful thing if we approach them right.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Find out what happens to all of the poo at the zoo in this funny and factual picture book!

There are so many different kinds of animals at the zoo, and they each make lots and lots (and sometimes LOTS!) of poo. So what do zoos do with all of that poo? This zany, fact-filled romp explores zoo poo, from cube-shaped wombat poo to white hyena scat, and all of the places it ends up, including in science labs and elephant-poo paper—even backyard gardens!


REVIEW

While the subject of this book is rather gross, it's also a fact of life.  And the title question is a good one.  I have to admit that when I heard the title for the first time, I was both grossed out and intrigued. Grossed out for obvious reasons.  Intrigued because I was curious to know the answer.  And I think that at least some young readers are bound to be intrigued as well.  And since the book is nonfiction it treats the subject matter in a straight-forward, down-to-earth manner.  The book starts by talking about the waste produced by a variety of different zoo animals, such as pandas, giraffe's, hippos, and sloths. Each page has a basic statement about that animals and it's poo, followed by additional information at the bottom of the page.  The second part of the book covers the various ways that zoos dispose of the large amount of waste they collect on a daily basis.  I found it interesting.  And the illustrations are bright and cheerful and not too graphic.  An interesting book on a fascinating if disgusting topic. 


ABOUT THE BOOK

Leo grew up in the sea. He has a family of sea lions he loves. He’s happy, but he has always known he was different. Then Leo’s suddenly reunited with his human parents, and he finds he loves them too. But he still feels like a fish out of water. Being from two worlds and having two families isn’t so easy. Leo has a lot to figure out…

Splashed with humor and grounded in heart, this brightly illustrated story explores ideas of family, home, and belonging in a way that’s as relatable as it is unique.
 


REVIEW

This is a cute book about a young boy who gets lost at sea and is raised by a sea lion, sea gull, and sea otter.  When he is discovered and returned to his human parents he is overjoyed, but he finds himself missing his animal family.  The illustrations are darling and I enjoyed them.  I could have done without so many scenes with the boy wearing nothing, but he is primarily covered in some way, except when he looks at his rear end and realizes he doesn't have a tail like his sea otter friend.  The themes related to finding a way to belong to both families is one that all too many children will be able to relate to, although not in quite so unusual a fashion.


ABOUT THE BOOK
 
Retelling touching scenes from the upcoming Walt Disney Studios' upcoming Christopher Robin film, this charming picture book finds Christopher reuniting with Pooh, Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore, and the rest of his old friends when he returns to the Hundred Acre Wood for the first time since childhood. As he returns to the life he once new, Christopher sees the world through new eyes and discovers that even as everything around us seems to change, the most important things remain constant.

REVIEW

Growing up often has unfortunate side effects.  One of those side effects is losing the hopefulness and imagination of youth.  In this picture book based on the upcoming Disney movie, Christopher Robin returns to the Hundred Acre Wood as an adult.  He's a bit distracted though by the important papers in his briefcase.  And while he enjoys seeing his friend Pooh Bear, he's weighed down by his "respons-a-bil-a-bees".  When his papers go flying, he stops to pick them up only to realize that Pooh has disappeared.  As he searches for his old friend, Christopher Robin slowly starts to realize that sometimes the best thing to do is nothing, and enjoying the joys of imagination can lighten one's load, and waiting for somewhere to come to you can be the best thing of all. I'll admit I'm a bit Winnie-the-Pooh fan so I was interested in this book when I heard about it.  But the thing that made me especially pick it up, was the illustration on the cover.  The illustrations scattered throughout the book are darling and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.  It was fun to see Christopher Robin reconnect with his old friends and take some time to relax and enjoy life.
 

Monday, August 20, 2018

MIDDLE GRADE REVIEW: wishtree by Katherine Applegate


ABOUT THE BOOK

Trees can't tell jokes, but they can certainly tell stories. . . .

Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood "wishtree"—people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red's branches. Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red's hollows, this "wishtree" watches over the neighborhood.

You might say Red has seen it all. Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red's experiences as a wishtree are more important than ever.


REVIEW

I absolutely adored this book by Katherine Applegate.  After loving The One and Only Ivan, I've been an eager fan of hers.  And this book doesn't disappoint in the slightest.  It's a fairly short book at 211 pages, but the story is a tender, thoughtful one.  Interestingly the story is told from the perspective of a 200-year-old tree that is facing removal.  And yet, Red's greatest concern is Samar, the young Muslim girl who lives in one of the two houses near Red.  Samar and her family are facing poor treatment, and Samar desperately wants a friend.  As the local wishtree, Red is well aware of this wish, having had hundreds of wishes written on paper and fabric and attached to her branches over the years.  But this is the first wish that she has ever tried to help come true.  With her animal friends, Red sets out to change Samar's life before her own life ends.  I enjoyed Red's 'wise old tree voice' as well as the contrasting voice of Red's crow friend, Bongo.  And the relationships between Red and the animals that live in her offer a parable to the ways that people do and do not get along.  All in all a wonderful tale that simply and beautifully illustrates the power of kindness and compassion.

Friday, August 17, 2018

FANTASTIC FRIDAY: Snared--Escape to the Above by Adam Jay Epstein


ABOUT THE BOOK

Chopping blades, scorpion nests, giant spiderwebs—no one makes traps better than Wily Snare.

He has never seen the sun, or blue sky, or even his parents. Wily Snare lives underground, creating traps to keep treasure-seekers away from the gold in an ancient wizard’s dungeon. He spends his days mopping up giant slug slime, avoiding poison darts, and herding undead skeletons. It’s all he knows.

Until an unusual band of adventurers—an acrobatic elf, a warrior with a magic arm, and a giant made of moss—successfully defeat Wily’s traps. And they want the ultimate treasure: Wily himself. His skills can help them invade every other dungeon in the kingdom. He might even aid their fight against the Infernal King, whose gearfolk and prisonauts terrorize the land.

But for a boy who has never been outside, dungeons aren’t nearly as scary as the world above. Or an evil king who builds the trickiest traps of all . . .

Snared: Escape to the Above is the first book in a new fantasy adventure series from bestselling author Adam Jay Epstein.

REVIEW

I'll say right at the beginning that I absolutely loved this book.  I loved the characters.  I loved the plot and the surprises that came my way.  And I love the themes.  I am also excited to know that there will be more stories about these characters.  I've read enough fantasy stories over the years that sometimes they all seem to follow the same basic formula.  It's refreshing to come across one like this that feels new.  It's also a pleasant surprise to be surprised as I'm reading.  There were several plot twists that I really didn't see coming which made for a delightful reading experience.  The STEM elements also make this a valuable educational book as well.

Wily Snare makes for a wonderful main character.  He's smart and dedicated, as well as curious.  He works as the trapsmith for Stalag in Carrion Tomb.  He plans and maintains the traps that protect Stalag's treasures.  And he does so successfully.  But he remains curious about the world Above.  Never having seen the outside world, he wonders about it.  And he loves books, despite not knowing how to read.  Things don't seem like they will ever change though, until the day three individuals arrive to steal the treasure and manage to get around his traps.  He's even more stunned when the three want to take him with them. 

As Wily travels with his three new companions, Odette, an acrobatic elf, Pryvyd, a former knight with a floating arm named Righteous, and Moshul, a golem, he's amazed at the world of the Above.  He's also thrilled to have his only friend from below, Roveeka, a hobgoblet.  What Wily doesn't expect is the discovery of the evil of the Infernal King, and the refreshing nature of freedom.  And he wonders about his own family.  Who is he and where did he come from?  As his companions continue with their plan to gather enough treasure to leave the land, Wily goes along with it because he has no where else to go.  But as he learns more about himself, he begins to wonder if maybe he owes more to this land than he ever could have imagined.

Epstein has created a delightful new fantasy series that young fantasy readers are bound to enjoy.  The creativity exhibited in the creation of the characters and plot is fabulous.  And the themes of family, freedom, and sacrifice are powerful ones.  I also liked the theme of books and the value of reading.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

WILD & WONDERFUL WORLD: SHARKS!


ABOUT THE BOOK

For over 400 million years, sharks have been the ocean's top predator! They're vital to our ecosystem, but their importance is often overshadowed by our own fear—even though they hardly ever threaten humans.

Dive in for an intimate look at the dynamic hammerhead, infamous great white, primordial megalodon, and the gentle nurse shark, the rare species that will let a scuba diver pet them! This book is filled to the gills with jaw-dropping illustrations and razor-sharp facts that shed light on these fascinating creatures of the deep, including their undersea terrain, cunning adaptability, and staggering variety.

REVIEW

Sharks are a fascinating animal.  And many children are interested in learning about them.  So this addition to the Science Comics series is a welcome one.  The book mixes humor with fact using a red snapper and diver and silly illustrations.  The information covered includes types of sharks, anatomy, hunting abilities, and brief two page spreads on specific species.  Issues related to shark survival are also mentioned including pollution of the ocean, over fishing of prey, and killing of sharks for their fins.  The illustrations in this book play a heavy role in reader understanding with some silly pictures breaking up the serious ones.  The only issue I had with the book was the heavy use of official scientific name which slowed the reading of the book a bit, but passionate readers will push past that.  A fun addition to a great series.

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ABOUT THE BOOK

Dive into the wild world of sharks! Get up close to learn the truth behind these fantastic, ferocious fish with famed National Geographic photographer and explorer Brian Skerry.

Join this amazing underwater adventure to track the sharks of the world, from the teeniest dogfish to the ever feared great white. This ultimate book features every species of shark on the planet, with awesome photos, fascinating facts, the latest science, and firsthand stories of real-life encounters with these incredible creatures. Learn how sharks live, how they eat, the challenges they face, and whether or not you are actually on the menu!

REVIEW

I really enjoyed reading this book.  This book demonstrates clearly the things that I love so much about National Geographic publications.  The photographs are gorgeous and stunning.  Some of them almost made me jump they were so close up.  The author, Brian Skerry, took many of the photographs and as a result shares some of his experiences taking some of them.  This is a fascinating glimpse into the career of a talented underwater photographer.  The design of the book is large and browser friendly with bright colors and eye-catching arrangements of text and photographs.  The subjects covered include definition of sharks and types of sharks, shark anatomy, shark reproduction and babies, the top sharks, shark myths busted, and colossal fossils.  The information is fascinating making this a book to pore over.  A great book for shark lovers of all ages.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

PICTURE BOOKS for TEACHING 2018-2019


ABOUT THE BOOK

The reds, the yellows, and the blues all think they're the best in this vibrant, thought-provoking picture book with a message of acceptance and unity.

In the beginning, there were three colors . . .

Reds,

Yellows,

and Blues.

All special in their own ways, all living in harmony--until one day, a Red says "Reds are the best!" and starts a color kerfuffle. When the colors decide to separate, is there anything that can change their minds?

A Yellow, a Blue, and a never-before-seen color might just save the day in this inspiring book about color, tolerance, and embracing differences.

REVIEW

People can be quick to judge others and children are no different.  It can be especially difficult to be welcoming to someone who is quite different from you.  As such I am always looking for books that can help me teach the importance of kindness and being welcoming.  This book fits that need perfectly.  Not only is it a fun way to introduce children to primary colors and how they mix, but the story also shows the dangers of pride: considering ourselves better than others who are different.  The story revolves around the Reds, Blues, and Yellows, who are getting along just fine as the story opens.  Things change though when a Red loudly declares (and others agree) that Reds are better than the Blues and Yellows.  Naturally, the Blues and Yellows don't take this very well and before long the three groups have separated themselves.  Things don't change until a Yellow reaches out to a sad-looking Blue and the two become friends before marrying and having a green child.  At first, others are shocked at Blue and Yellow associating with each other, but their fascination with Green slowly leads them to open up to associating with each other again.  While real life isn't that simple, the idea of reaching out to others who are different and appreciating each other's strengths instead of rejecting them because they are supposedly inferior, is a powerful idea. I also think the illustrations are adorable. I plan to use this book with my kindergartners to teach not only colors but the importance of reaching out to each other. 


ABOUT THE BOOK

Wordy Birdy LOVES to talk. "Hello, sunrise. Hello, pink sky. Hello, orange sky. . . ." But does she love to listen? NOPE. One day, while she's walking through the forest, her gift of the gab gets her into hot water: "That's a pretty tree and that's a pretty tree and that's a pretty danger sign and that's a pretty tree. . . ." Will this inattentive bird walk right into danger? Will her faraway thoughts lead her along a path of doom? It's up to her long-suffering, heard-it-all-before pals Squirrel, Raccoon, and Rabbit to save their distracted friend.

REVIEW

In this silly story, Wordy Birdy is so busy talking that she doesn't listen to the warnings her friends try to give her.  Not until she's in serious trouble does she bother to listen.  As anyone who works with children can explain, listening is not a skill that comes naturally to everyone.  Young children especially prefer to talk rather than listen.  Stories like this one can gently point out that listening is a valuable and important skill.  The story is both funny and thoughtful, making it's point through the events of the story rather than through preaching.  The bright, colorful illustrations are appealing and eye-catching and add to the book's effectiveness.  I plan to use this book to teach my youngest students the importance of listening.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Owen McPhee doesn't just like to talk, he LOVES to talk. He spends every waking minute chattering away at his teachers, his classmates, his parents, his dog, and even himself. But all that talking can get in the way of listening. And when Owen wakes up with a bad case of laryngitis, it gives him a much-needed opportunity to hear what others have to say.

From the author-illustrator team behind The Invisible Boy comes a bright and lively picture book that captures the social dynamics of a busy classroom while delivering a gentle message about the importance of listening.

REVIEW

Owen McPhee loves to talk. In fact, he loves to talk so much that he doesn't listen to his teachers or his friends.  This leads to problems when he doesn't follow instructions and messes up not only his own science project but another group's project as well.  His friends get annoyed with him when he interrupts their conversation with his own opinion.  But he doesn't understand how the others feel until he wakes up one morning unable to speak and has to resort to writing things down to communicate.  As he deals with the frustration of trying to communicate when others aren't paying attention to his notes, he comes to realize the importance of listening to others.  Not that he changes entirely, just that he is more aware of the value of listening.  I loved the power of the idea of self-discovery here.  Despite his teachers and classmates both telling Owen he needs to listen, it isn't until he discovers for himself the value of listening that his behavior starts to change.  The speech bubbles included by the illustrator make a great visual representation of Owen's chatter.  This is an important idea for me as a teacher.  I plan to use this book with my second or third graders to introduce the importance of listening.  The inclusion of questions for discussion at the end is a helpful inclusion for teachers.


ABOUT THE BOOK

When something terrible happens, Taylor doesn't know where to turn. All the animals are sure they have the answer. The chicken wants to talk it out, but Taylor doesn't feel like chatting. The bear thinks Taylor should get angry, but that's not quite right either. One by one, the animals try to tell Taylor how to process this loss, and one by one they fail. Then the rabbit arrives. All the rabbit does is listen, which is just what Taylor needs.

Whether read in the wake of tragedy or as a primer for comforting others, this is a deeply moving and unforgettable story sure to soothe heartache of all sizes.

REVIEW

This story really touched me.  Sometimes as adults, teachers forget that what seems little to us, is a big deal to a child.  As Taylor grieves over the loss of his tower, the animals all come and tell him what to do to make things better.  Something that as adults we have a tendency to do.  When Taylor doesn't respond to any of the animals, they leave.  Until the rabbit shows up and just sits quietly next to him. Eventually, Taylor reaches out to the rabbit and does all the things the other animals suggested to him. The rabbit listens quietly until Taylor reaches the point where he is ready to rebuild his tower.  I plan to use this book with my kindergartners when I talk to them about listening and the value of empathy.  It's also a powerful reminder to me to be empathetic myself.  An adorable book with a powerful lesson


ABOUT THE BOOK

Crunch is a lovely and quiet brontosaurus who has hidden himself in some shubbery and is rather shy. He would like to play, but it will require some gentle coaxing from you! If you are patient and encouraging, you will find yourself with a new friend!

This picture book is a warm, funny example of how to engage with someone new, who is perhaps a bit different from you. Lessons in friend-making (such as minding personal space and demonstrating interest in another’s hobbies) are delivered so subtly that children will absorb them unconsciously as they delight in Crunch’s silly hat and dance moves!

REVIEW

This interactive book involves young readers in befriending a dinosaur that is quite shy.  The narrator serves as the introduction to Crunch and encourages young readers/listeners to speak to Crunch in a gentle, reasonable manner.  I loved the way the book simply teaches how to befriend someone who is shy.  As a shy person myself, I could relate to Crunch's discomfort.  I also liked how the book demonstrates how to adjust one's own behavior based on that of the other person (or dinosaur in this case).  I plan to use this book with my kindergartners when talking about how to be a good friend.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

SERIES THURSDAY: The Year of.. by Andrea Cheng


ABOUT THE BOOK

When Anna is gifted a copy of The Secret Garden, it inspires her to follow her dreams—maybe she can plant ivy and purple crocuses and the birds will come.  Or maybe what grows from her dream of a garden is even better: friendship. And friendship, like a garden, often has a mind of its own.       In this prequel to Year of the Book, join Anna in a year of discovery, new beginnings, friendships, and growth.

REVIEW

This is an adorable book about a young girl, Anna, who has moved into a new house and new neighborhood and isn't sure where she fits.  But after visiting one of her mother's clients, she's inspired to create her own garden, especially after starting to read the copy of The Secret Garden she's given. But after meeting Laura, a neighbor and possible new friend, Anna discovers that friendship is much more complicated than creating a garden.  She and Laura don't necessarily like the same things for one thing.  Laura loves animals and soccer and Anna loves books and gardens.  Confusion and conflict require Anna to decide what it really means to be a friend and if she and Laura have what it takes to be friends.  Not only is this an sweet story about the challenges of friendship, but it's also about the beauty of gardens, books, and animals.  This is also a book about facing things that don't feel comfortable such as Anna starting at a new school, her mother learning a new language, and Anna and Laura learning to compromise.  A nice diverse title where Anna diversity isn't the main issue but is factor in her life (for example the principal at the school mispronounces her name).


ABOUT THE BOOK

In Chinese, peng you means friend. But in any language, all Anna knows for certain is that friendship is complicated.

When Anna needs company, she turns to her books. Whether traveling through A Wrinkle in Time, or peering over My Side of the Mountain, books provide what real life cannot—constant companionship and insight into her changing world.

Books, however, can’t tell Anna how to find a true friend. She’ll have to discover that on her own. In the tradition of classics like Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy books and Eleanor Estes’ One Hundred Dresses, this novel subtly explores what it takes to make friends and what it means to be one.

REVIEW

Anna Wang is afraid she's losing her friend Laura to Allison and Lucy, but she doesn't know what to do about it.  She's more comfortable with her books and crafting activities.  In addition, her mother's job of cleaning isn't something she wants known because she doesn't find it something to be proud of, despite the fact that her mother is working toward attending nursing school while learning English and how to drive.  Anna struggles to know how to be a friend to Laura when she wants to do other things, especially when it becomes apparent that things are not going well for Laura at home and Laura still seems to prefer Allison.  But gradually, with the help of her family, Anna learns what it means to be a good friend.  Cheng has created a great character in Anna, one that I could really relate to, because I was a lot like her.  While I'm not Chinese American, I could relate to Anna's social awkwardness and love of reading.  I enjoyed reading about Anna's family's Chinese traditions as well.  This is a fun series for young readers about growing up in America while keeping one's own heritage alive and well.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Last year, Anna learned how to be a good friend. Now that her family has adopted a baby girl from China, she wants to learn how to be a good sister. But the new year proves challenging when the doctor warns that the baby isn’t thriving. Can Anna and her best friends, Laura and Camille, create a science project that saves the day? In this heartwarming sequel to The Year of the Book, readers will be just as moved by Anna's devotion to her new sister as they will be inspired by her loving family and lasting friendships.

REVIEW

Anna is excited to have a new baby sister, Kaylee.  But having been recently adopted from China, Kaylee is still adjusting to her new home and life.  Anna's parents are both worried when the doctor tells them that Kaylee isn't thriving and gaining weight the way she should be.  This contributes to a bit of tension at the home.  Anna loves taking care of her sister but doesn't feel her Mom trusts her to be responsible with the baby.  In addition, Anna's younger brother, Ken is having a hard time adjusting to being the middle child.  Also, Anna is struggling to come up with a science fair project.  But with the help of her two best friends, Camille and Laura, and her Grandma, just maybe Anna can find a project and help her baby sister at the same time.  Once again, Cheng has written a realistic story about a child dealing with the realities of her life with Chinese elements blended in smoothly.  A great addition to a fun diverse series.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Eleven-year-old Anna heads off to sixth grade, leaving the comfort and familiarity of elementary school behind and entering the larger, more complex world of middle school. Surrounded by classmates who have their roots all in America, Anna begins to feel out of place and wonders where she really belongs.  When Anna takes a trip to China, she not only explores a new country and culture, but finds answers to her questions about whether she is more Chinese or more American.

REVIEW

Anna wants to travel with her former teacher to China when she picks up her baby, but she's uncertain about going without her family.  At the same time, she's struggling to adjust to middle school.  Her friend, Laura is attending a different school, and although she still has her friend Camille to hang out with, she's not feeling real comfortable.  After joining a school club devoted to doing good deeds, she starts to feel like she's found a place.  As she gets ready to go to China, she and the club raise money to give to the orphanage that gave them Anna's sister, Kaylee. Anna travels to China and has some neat experiences as she connects with her mother's country of origin for the first time and makes a friend.  This book is a fun addition to the series that gives the reader a glimpse into Anna's life as a Chinese American.  A valuable addition to realistic fiction for young readers that has characters with diverse characteristics.


ABOUT THE BOOK

It's summer time and twelve-year old Anna Wang  is writing letters and exchanging English for Chinese lessons with her pen pal Fan in China. When Anna and her friend Andee decide to invite Fan to stay as an exchange student  in Cincinnati, Fan responds in an unexpected way. Through this experience, Anna learns more about family values in today's Chinese culture.

In the fourth chapter book sequel to The Year of the Book, The Year of the Baby, and The Year of the Fortune Cookie, Anna grows her understanding of how to overcome conflict with communication in order to build enduring friendships. With lively and warm illustrations by Patrice Barton throughout.

REVIEW

Anna is both nervous and excited when her friend Fan, from China, comes to stay as a cultural exchange student with Anna's friend Andee.  But she and Andee are determined to help Fan feel like one of them, so they can be 'three sisters'.  But things don't go as smoothly as Anna hoped.  Fan is obsessed with studying, Anna's friend Camille is attending another school for a year, and Anna feels alone at her school.  It also becomes apparent that Fan and Andee aren't getting along which creates tension between all three of them.  But Anna is determined to resolve things with her friends.  I enjoyed reading about Anna and Fan and the way cultures and personal choices differed among the girls.  The conflicts between the girls felt genuine and realistic.  This is a delightful series that makes for both a mirror and a window for young readers.

 
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