Showing posts from February, 2011

Mix N' Match Monday: Ocean Creatures

I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean
by Kevin Sherry
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2007.
Grades K-2
Reviewed from personal copy

The giant squid is delighted to inform readers that he is "biggest thing in the ocean."  He is bigger than the shrimp, the clams, a crab, and a jellyfish.  He continues on comparing himself to various other ocean-dwelling creatures until he comes up against something that causes him to change his statement, but only slightly.

This book presents itself as a great read-a-loud.  The kids can guess at the upcoming animals as they get bigger.  The illustrations are bright and colorful and not too busy, perfect for kindergartners or 1st graders.  The surprise ending may even elicit gasps of surprise or giggles.  This book goes perfectly with Steve Jenkin's Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea.

Down, Down, Down: A Journey to the Bottom of the Sea
by Steve Jenkins
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2009.
Grades K-5
Reviewed from personal copy

Nonfiction Monday: Ants by Melissa Stewart

By Melissa Stewart
National Geographic, 2010.
ISBN: 978-1-4263-0608-2
Reviewed from purchased copy

Ants in large numbers help keep ecosystems healthy.  They are also fascinating insects in their own right. Millions of ants live around the world.  They live underground, in trees, inside thorns, or in nests they build themselves.  Each colony usually has a single queen with thousands of workers (always female) to gather food and take care of the larvae and pupae.

Ants also provide food for other animals and aerate the earth aiding plant growth.  Some ants even grow wings that allow them to fly off to start new colonies.

Being a National Geographic book, the photographs in this book are gorgeous and very informative.  They show ants gathering food, traveling through tunnels, and taking care of the young.  The writing is appropriate for new readers with vocabulary words defined in the text in addition to the glossary at the end.  The definitions in the glossary also have pictures to aid in …

Fantastic Friday: Where's Walrus?

Where's Walrus?
by Stephen Savage
Scholastic Press, 2011.
ISBN13: 9780439700498
Reviewed from purchased copy 

Walrus is bored at the zoo in which he lives and sneaks out to find some excitement.  The zookeeper pursues him from place to place.  Walrus disguises himself as he moves from fountain to diner to storefront window to construction site and several other places before ending up at a diving competition.  The zookeeper finally lures the walrus back by providing a pool with a diving board allowing him to showcase his prowess.

I shared this book with my kindergartners today and they enjoyed it immensely.  I had several requests afterwords by students who wanted to check it out.  The book is wordless, telling the story completely through the illustrations and the children got a big kick out of helping me make up the story to go with the pictures.  The book also provides a great opportunity to discuss how illustrators use different art techniques to focus the readers attention.  Savage…

Wild & Wonderful Wednesday: Pirates

by Gregory Mone
Scholastic Press, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-545-11632-9
Reviewed from personal copy

Maurice Reidy, known as Fish to his family and friends, has a natural affinity for the water.  Unfortunately, this skill does not aide his family in working the family farm.  When things become desperate, Fish goes to work with his uncle in the city to earn money to help his family. 

Things change dramatically, when Fish is given a mysterious pouch to deliver.  Fish is waylaid before he can deliver the pouch and finds himself desperately trying to get the pouch back.  He swims out to the ship where the thief has gone and inadvertently finds himself setting sail with a group of pirates.  Leaving behind everything he knows, Fish joins the captain in searching for a mysterious treasure, wrestling with his own conscious, and trying to prevent a mutiny.

What I find most interesting about this book is the fact that Fish has a conscience and quite a strong sense of right and wrong.  When he first find…

Book Review: The Romeo and Juliet Code

The Romeo and Juliet Code
Phoebe Stone
Arthur A. Levine Books, 2011
Grades 3-6
Reviewed from purchased copy

Felicity Bathburn Budwig arrives at her father's family home in Maine in the fall of 1940 only to discover that there is tension between her father and his family. She determines not to be influenced by this strange new family, including her Uncle Gideon, Auntie Miami, and The Gram. But as she gets to know them, she realizes that there is more to her family than she ever imagined. The situation gets more complex when she discovers Derek, an adopted boy, who is recovering from polio. When her Uncle Gideon starts receiving letters from Portugal that she is positive come from her parents, who are supposed to be in London. But he won't let her read them. The mystery grows when she and Derek discover that the letters are written in code. She is determined to discover what the letters mean and why her new found family harbors bad feelings toward her parents, Danny a…

Mix N' Match Monday: American Revolution

Today being President's Day, it seems appropriate to highlight some books that revolve around the founding of our country.  I have read a lot of books about the American Revolution, but none quite like the ones that I am highlighting today.  Generally speaking, most books about the American Revolution focus on the patriots, the white patriots.  But like all historical events the reality was much more complex.  These books help present that complexity.

Laurie Halse Anderson
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2008.
Grades 5 and up
Reviewed from personal copy

Isabel and her sister, Ruth, having lost both their mother and their owner, expect to be freed as their owner promised them they would be.  Unfortunately, Mr. Robert does not free them, instead he sells them to a British Loyalist and his demanding wife.  After arriving in New York, Isabel meets a slave boy by the name of Curzon, who encourages her to spy on her owners to help the patriot cause. Isabel does so believing that it …

Fantastic Friday: Jessica Day George

On Fantastic Fridays, I will be highlighting books that I have shared with my students, that they seem to particularly enjoy.  I will also be highlighting books that I have personally really enjoyed.  Today, I will be writing about a trilogy by Jessica Day George.

Dragon Slippers
Jessica Day George
Bloomsbury, 2007.
Grades 4 and up
Reviewed from personal copy

After being sent by her aunt to a dragon's cave to wait for the local squire's son to rescue her, Creel decides that it is time for her to set out on her own.  She makes a bargain with the dragon.  If he will let her take something from his treasure, she will get rid of the knight that the dragon doesn't want to fight.  To her surprise, she discovers the dragon's treasure consists of shoes, but after choosing a beautiful pair of blue slippers, Creel keeps her bargain.

She sends the knight on his way and sets off for the King's Seat to find work as a seamstress.  Along the way she finds herself set upon by bandits a…

The Hole in the Wall Book Review

The Hole in the Wall
By Lisa Rowe Fraustino
Milkweed Editions, 2010
ISBN13: 9781571316967Grades 3-5
Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher through NetGalley

Sebby and his twin sister, Barbie, live with their parents on one of the few remaining properties that have not been claimed by Mr. Odum's mining company.  Sebby's father grew up with Mr. Odum and thinks well of him.  Sebby is not so sure.  When strange things start happening involving disappearing chickens, flashing colors, mysterious caves, and strange phone calls from his runaway brother, Jed, Sebby is sure that Mr. Odum is involved and it all seems to revolve around Sebby's secret place known only as the hole in the wall and a strange substance he and his sister discover.  Sebby and Barbie must work fast if they hope to save their family and their home.

The characters brought to life so vividly are the best part of this book.  The story is told from Sebby's point of view and his opinions on his life and the world …

Book Review

Ragdolls Are the Best
Elaine Landau
Lerner Publishing Group, 2011
Grades K-5
Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher through NetGalley

Ragdoll cats earned their name from the way they relax and hang like a 'ragdoll' when they are picked up.  They are also soft and warm, and the perfect cat to cuddle with.  But like all cat breeds they are not for everyone as Landau smartly points out.  With gorgeous blue eyes and bushy tails, ragdolls can make themselves at home almost anywhere.  Because of their friendliness and the high maintenance care they require however, they make better indoor cats than outdoor.

Landau does a great job of presenting a good overview of this cat breed.  The writing is clear and easy to follow.  The author provides just enough information with becoming heavy handed.  She covers all of the major points, history of the breed, characteristics, how to chose a cat, and the kind of care required.  The layout is outstanding and very attractive.  Children are likely t…

First Wild & Wonderful Wednesday

Today I am sharing three books that offer a variety of interesting topics and story lines, including traveling around the world by car, delightful pets, and minerals that can cause petrification.

Around the World in 100 Days
Gary Blackwood
ISBN13: 9780525422952Dutton Children's Books, 2010
Grades 4-8
Reviewed from purchased copy

Jules Verne's Around the World in 80 Days is considered a classic adventure tale.  This book revolves around the experiences of an Englishman named Phileas Fogg and his servant, Passeportout traveling around the world by boat, train, and any other form of transportation they could find.

This new book surrounds the exploits of Phileas Fogg's son, Harry, who has inherited his father's pride leading him to make a wager similar to his fathers. He must travel around the world by car in 100 days.  Harry and his friend, Johnny, have built what they believe to be the ultimate motorcar.  Now, Harry and Johnny have the opportunity to test this belief, but there…

Graphic Novel Review

Chicagoland Detective Agency: #2 The Maltese Mummy
by Trina Robbins and Tyler Page
Graphic Universe
Reviewed from ARC provided by publisher through NetGalley

 Megan, Raf, and Raf's talking dog, Bradley, run the Chicagoland Detective Agency.  But Megan is more focused on a chance to meet her favorite musician, Sun D'Arc.  While Raf is stuck at home sick, Megan recruits another friend, William to go with her.  Unfortunately, on the way home from what turned out to be a very short interview, William disappears.  It is up to Megan and Bradley to find out what has happened to William and how it is connected to the disappearance of a valuable Egyptian artifact.

Like many graphic novels, this one starts right in on the plot.  The book is rather lacking in character development, a common flaw in many graphic novels, but reluctant readers won't care.  The fast plot, interesting characters, and entertaining artwork are bound to win over even the most reluctant of readers.  This is one …

First Mix N' Match Monday

Here is my first post on a Monday.  I have a couple of good books to share that complement each other nicely.  The common denominator is Afghanistan, a relevant topic these days.

Extra Credit
By Andrew Clements
Atheneum, 2009
192 pgs.
Reviewed from purchased copy

Abby Carson has perfected the art of homework avoidance.  It's not that she can't do it, she just finds other things more enticing.  She discovers to her shock, however, that unless she can make up some of the missing work, she will be held back a year.  Abby finds herself working on a project involving a pen pal from Afghanistan.

Sadeed loves his schoolwork and is the best student in his class, but he cannot correspond with Abby directly, because she is a girl.  His younger sister is given the task of corresponding with Abby, but Sadeed finds himself intrigued with the American girl and starts writing to her himself. 

Both students find themselves fascinated by the experiences of the other.  They soon discover that not a…

First Review

This is my first post on my new blog.  I am both excited and nervous, excited because I love talking about childrens books, and nervous because these words will be out there and available for anyone to see.

The name of my blog comes from the fact that my undergraduate degree was in geography education and my graduate degree was school library services.  I currently work as a elementary school librarian, which I love.  But my love for learning more about the world around me has never left.  This blog gives me an opportunity to share both my love for books and reading and my love for the fascinating world around us.

This blog is still under construction, so I hope you will be patient as I try to put it together in a pleasing way.  Since the bulk of the posts on this blog will be about books, I will go ahead and share my first blog review.

The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, April 2011. 432 pages.
Reviewed from ARC received from publisher.

The title of…