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Showing posts from May, 2011

Mix N' Match Monday: Vietnam

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I love reading books about other places and cultures, but for the most part I consider myself an armchair explorer.  I read about the adventures and experiences of others while sitting at home on my own comfortable couch.  But books like the ones I am sharing today make me want to pack my bags and take a trip to experience some of the sights and sounds so beautifully described.  These books talk about war however and I am more than willing to skip that part.

Inside Out & Back Again
by Thanhha Lai
HarperCollins, 2011
Grades 3-6
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Ha has spent all of her ten years in Saigon (Vietnam).  She knows the markets, she does well in school, and she loves the papaya tree that she planted behind her family's house.  But the war is creeping ever closer and her mother struggles to provide enough food. As it becomes apparent that Saigon will fall to the Communist North, Ha and her family make a painful choice to flee the country in hopes of finding refuge.  When they l…

Nonfiction Monday: Thunder Birds

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Thunder Birds: Nature's Flying Predators
written and illustrated by Jim Arnosky
Sterling, 2011
All Grades
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, and herons are some of nature's most impressive hunters.  With sharp beaks and talons and intense eyes, these birds are magnificent in appearance as well.  In Thunder Birds, Jim Arnosky presents the reader with a gorgeous look at these predators and what makes them such deadly hunters.

From the powerful (and sharp) talons of the eagle, to the stabbing beaks of herons, these birds create striking images in our minds.  Arnosky's illustrations are the best part of this book.  The fold-outs are particularly striking as they show some of these birds at their actual size. In addition to the illustrations, Arnosky provides a glimpse into some of his own experiences with these birds including, watching black vultures tear apart an eight-foot alligator and an owl brushing by in the dark of night without making a sound. A …

Fantastic Friday: Small Persons With Wings

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Small Persons with Wings (they hate to be called fairies)
by Ellen Booraem
Dial Books for Young Readers, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-8037-3471-5
Grades 3-6
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Mellie had a small friend named Fidius when she was young.  He was a small person with wings (NOT a fairy). Unfortunately, Mellie bragged about him one day in kindergarten and the kids pressured her into bringing him to school.  When Fidius found out about this, he disappeared.  Soon, all the kids at school were calling Mellie, 'Fairy Fat.'  Mellie responded by turning away from all things imaginary and becoming an avid student of math, science, and artists.  She's relieved when she finds out her family is moving to take over her grandfather's old inn because she hopes it will give her a chance to start over.  Her relief is short-lived however, when she discovers the inn's basement has been taken over by small persons with wings and that her family has an obligation to them.  Soon, things go from b…

Book Review Extra: The Great Moon Hoax

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The Great Moon Hoax
by Stephen Krensky
illustrated by Josee Bisaillon
Carolrhoda Books, 2011
ISBN: 9780761351108
Grades 3-5
Reviewed from copy received from publisher through netGalley.

Jake and Charlie sell newspapers. Based on how well they do each day, they chose a place to sleep, varying from alleyways to boarding houses.  Often the headlines determine how well the newspapers sell. When the paper starts printing stories about a telescope that allows the moon to be seen, the boys start doing really well.  Each day the newspaper carried an article about the fantastic things that were being seen on the moon. But could Jake's and Charlie's good fortune last?

I find this book very unusual, first because of the idea that such stories were believed, and second, the strangeness of the stories being told.  The illustrations are rather strange in and of themselves, which I think matches the strangeness of the stories the newspaper printed.  Unfortunately, I don't think the illustratio…

Wild and Wonderful Wednesday: Anna Hibiscus

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Anna Hibiscus
by Atinuke
illustrated by Lauren Tobia
Kane Miller, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-935279-73-0
Grades 1-3
Reviewed from purchased copy.

Anna Hibiscus lives in amazing Africa.  She lives in a white house with a courtyard with her parents, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents (except her mother's relations who live in Canada).  There is plenty for her to enjoy and learn in her life, whether it is visiting the beach with family, selling oranges to help someone else, or dreaming of snow in far off Canada.


This book contains four short stories about Anna Hibiscus's life in Africa. The stories move smoothly and comfortably through life in Africa.  The reader learns a lot about a different culture almost without being aware of it.  This is the best kind of story, in my opinion, where the reader learns about different points-of-view without the author trying to teach it.  The reader quickly learns to like Anna Hibiscus and her extended family.  The delightful illustrations bea…

Book Review Extras: Big Bouffant

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Big Bouffant
by Kate Hosford
illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown
Carolrhoda Books, 2011
ISBN: 9780761354093
Grades K-3
Reviewed from copy received from publisher through NetGalley.

Annabelle wants to be noticed. Her first day of school she realizes that all the girls have the same types of hairdo, ponytails and braids.  At home, she sees the picture of her grandmother's bouffant and decides to try it for her face.  She tries to create a bouffant by herself using butter and other ingredients, finally her mother helps and she does indeed get her classmates attention.  Once all the girls are wearing bouffants however, Annabelle decides that to be unique she needs to try something else.

I have to say, this book reminds me of the girls who like to play with each others hair during story time.  I confess I like to have my hair played with as well.  These girls are the primary audience of this book.  The illustrations are delightful and cute.  And the writing is perfect for reading out loud, al…

Nonfiction Monday: Big Cats

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I consider myself pretty much a cat person.  I do like dogs, but I think personality wise, I get along with cats better.  So, I've really enjoyed reading some great books about cats, specifically big cats, over the last couple of weeks. The first three books are all based on the new Disneynature movie African Cats.  I have not yet seen the movie, so my impressions are based solely on the books.

Disneynature African Cats: Sita the Cheetah
by Laura Driscoll
Photographs by Keith Scholey, et.al.
Disney Press, 2011
Grades K-1
Reviewed from personal copy.

This book focuses on the experiences of a female cheetah and her cubs trying to survive on the African plains.  Cheetahs while being the fastest land animal on the planet have a disadvantage when it comes to hunting.  They simply are not strong enough to hold off other predators, like lions or hyenas, who wish to take their kill.  In addition, a female cheetah must protect her cubs from not only other predators but other cheetahs (usually m…

Nonfiction Monday: The Many Faces of George Washington

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The Many Faces of George Washington: Remaking a Presidential Icon
by Carla Killough McClafferty
Lerner Publishing Group, 2011
Grades 5 and up
Reviewed from copy provided by publisher through NetGalley and personal copy.

None of the paintings of George Washington that most Americans are familiar with are considered truly accurate by many historians, this includes the painting used to create the image of Washington on the one-dollar bill.  In 2005, a group of historians, scientists, and skilled artisans at Mount Vernon decided to try to create life-size models of Washington at three major points in his life.  The book describes these efforts and the incredible amount of work that went into the creating of these three full-body representations of Washington.  The process required the efforts of many skilled individuals, including tailors, leather-workers, and computer programmers.  Numerous images and writings were examined to come up with every possible detail to add to the authenticity of …

Fantastic Friday: Kat, Incorrigible

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Kat, Incorrigible
by Stephanie Burgis
Atheneum, 2011
Grades 4 and up
Reviewed from copy provided by publisher.

I confess, I've been waiting for this one for over a year.  It just sounded like a delightful read.  And it was well worth the wait.  Kat is just the sort of character that I love to read about.  She's feisty and loyal and determined, but very human in her mistakes.

When Kat learns that her sister, Elissa, in order to save the family from disgrace, is being pushed into a marriage with Sir Neville, a rich widower about whom rumors swirl, she is determined to stop it.  When her first plan involving running away dressed as a boy to London fails, she must come up with another plan to save her sister and family.  Taking place in the Victorian era, this has shades of Jane Austen, except for a younger age and with magic thrown in for good measure.  I found the writing to be good but not perfect, but the real fun is in the characters and plot.  Almost immediately the reader start…

Wild and Wonderful Wednesday: Flight

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The process and challenges of inventing things has long fascinated me.  Invention is one of the things that make us, as humans, different from the creatures around us.  While science does not by all means have all the answers to the many questions we have about our earth, still it provides us with a way to try to understand the world around us as well as making our world a better one.  Of course like all things in an imperfect world, science and invention don't always lead to good results.  Flight is one subject that humans have long dreamed about.  Long before the first airplane took off, scientists and inventors experimented with the concept. There have been many people who helped make manned flight possible.  The book I'm reviewing today, provides a glimpse of the passion that people have shown for flight.  While this book is fiction that involves altering history, it does a beautiful job of showing the challenges and delights of flight and invention.

The Atomic Weight of Se…

Book Review Extra: Between Two Ends

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Between Two Ends
by David Ward
Amulet Books, 2011
Grades 3-6
Reviewed from copy provided by publisher through NetGalley.

Things aren't good between Yeats' parents and he doesn't know why.  They have come to visit his Gran to try to help his father come out of the depression that continues to plague him.  Yeats quickly discovers that there is more going on than he ever dreamed.  He finds a pair of bookends that allow him to travel inside any book.  When he learns that his father's depression is related to the disappearance of a girl into the Arabian Nights twenty years earlier, he determines that the only way to help his father is to bring the girl back.  But that means he himself must travel into the story, where anything could happen.

As a librarian, I passionately believe in the power of stories to change people's lives.  I enjoyed reading a story about the power of story, but also the power of our own seemingly insignificant lives.  As Yeats learns, stories have the…

Mix N' Match Monday: Hurricanes

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I guess today is my day to highlight disaster books.  For Nonfiction Monday, I highlighted tornadoes and for Mix N' Match Monday, I am highlighting hurricanes.

Storm Runners
by Roland Smith
Scholastic Press, 2011
Grades 3-6
Reviewed from personal copy.

Storm Runners is the first in a new trilogy by Roland Smith.  After his mother and sister's deaths, as well as his father's brush with death, Chase travels around the country with his father, offering 'help' to those whose property is damaged by natural disasters of various kinds.  Chase doesn't think that helping people prepare for storms for free and then charging to help repair the damage afterwords is very ethical.  This time he and his father head down to Florida in preparation for a big hurricane that has been forecast.  Chase stays with the trailer and semi-truck while his father and Tomas head to the city that seems to be the hurricane's target.  Chase discovers to his surprise that he is staying at an ani…

Nonfiction Monday: Tornado!

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After the disasters that have struck around the country, it seems appropriate and not a little ironic for me to review a book about one type of disaster: tornadoes.  It does bring home, however, the point that when publishing science books it is almost impossible to keep up to date.  This book came out just a few weeks ago and yet some of the records mentioned in the book have been shattered by the recent outbreak of tornadoes.  Still as with most National Geographic Children's books, it provides a high quality introduction to the phenomenon we call tornadoes.

Tornado! The Story Behind These Twisting, Turning, Spinning, and Spiraling Storms
by Judith Bloom Fradin & Dennis Brindell Fradin
National Geographic, 2011
Grades 2 and up
Reviewed from personal copy.

The book starts by telling the reader about a monster tornado that struck Greensburg, Kansas back in 2007.  Using bulletins from the weather service and comments by those who lived through it the reader gets a glimpse of the ter…

Mix N' Match Monday: Jeff Corwin

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It's been a couple of weeks since I've posted anything, it seems that good habits are hard to keep up and bad habits are easy to keep going.  But with this post I hope to get back to a regular schedule, despite the stresses that pile up at the end of every school year. Today, I will be highlighting books by or about the TV naturalist Jeff Corwin. I'll start with the fiction series.

Junior Explorer Series
by Jeff Corwin
Puffin Books, 2009.
Grades 2-4
Reviewed from personal copies.

This new series follows the travels and nature discoveries of Benjamin and Lucy Baxter. In book one, Benjamin and Lucy travel to New York City to visit their cousin Gabe.  While touring the city, Benjamin and Lucy show Gabe a side of New York that he has never noticed before, revealing that the natural world is never to far away, even in an urban environment. 


Book two finds Benjamin and Lucy traveling to Alaska with their mother, a biologist, and father, an ecologist.  While their mother conducts some…