Friday, November 30, 2007
Title: The Higher Power of Lucky
Author: Susan Patron
Illustrator: Matt Phelan
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's
Publication Date: February 2007
Lucky, a ten-year-old girl, struggles with her life in Hard Pan, California. Fearing that her guardian, Brigette, who is her father's first wife, wishes to return to her homeland of France, Lucky plots to run away into the desert. Unfortunately, Lucky doesn't count on the dust storm or the five-year-old, Miles following her and altering her plans.
This book has recently been the focus of a windstorm of controversy for the use of the word "scrotum" in the initial chapter. More information regarding that may be found here, however I was disappointed by this Newbery winner.
Frankly, the book was rather dull and boring. While I understand that a ten-year-old child who is now motherless and placed into guardianship might fear that the placement was impermanent, I think that this book stretches Lucky's fears and irrationalities too far. First, Lucky never verbally expresses her fears to anyone. Her inner monologue and tendency to ramble to extremes would probably be behavior that was noticed by an adult. The fact that adults don't speak to Lucky about her mother's passing or her feelings regarding the matter strikes me as unusual, particularly since the book is set in contemporary times in which psychology would be used for a child who has suffered the trauma of losing a parent and probably grief counseling as well.
The book isn't as enjoyable to me as many other Newbery winners. The story is slow moving and focuses entirely upon Lucky's fears. The only catalyst that seems to be Lucky's reason for leaving is her fear that she will be abandoned. "They can die, like Lucky's mother. They can decide they don't even want you, like Lucky's father. And they can return to France as suddenly and easily as they left it, like Brigette." (p. 81) While Lucky presumes, incorrectly, that Brigette is studying a restaurant management course so that she will return to France, this doesn't seem to be the unseating moment that drives her to leave. Lucky had already mentioned running away several points in the past and she is obsessed with abandonment.
Patron's poignant Newbery-winning story about a girl who fears being abandoned by her legal guardian—and her only semblance of a family—sails along with believable childlike rhythms and kid's-eye-view observations. Listeners will especially appreciate Campbell's subtlety and smooth, comforting delivery in a heartbreaking scene in which 10-year-old Lucky recalls, with gentle support from her best friend, her deceased mother's memorial service. On the remainder of the recording, Campbell remains a welcoming guide to Lucky's world—populated by eccentric friends, the quirky townspeople of tiny, struggling Hard Pan, Calif.—and Brigitte, the guardian she desperately wants to keep, maybe with some help from a Higher Power. Campbell appropriately gives recent Parisian transplant Brigitte a French accent, though it's thankfully never overplayed. By program's end, listeners will be rooting for Lucky and Brigitte to remain together forever. Contains an interview with the author, in which Patron says she is working on a companion novel. Ages 9-up. (Jan.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Tie into a lesson on desert animals.
Compare and contrast Lucky's desert environment with other environments and ecosystems including arctic, rain forest, tundra, and grasslands.
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Publication Date: April 2006
Melinda Sordino is suffering from a choice she made to call 911 from a high school party - right before school starts. Ostracized by her peers and selectively mute, Melinda is entirely alone in her freshman year experience. Avoiding the issue that brought her to this fate, Melinda works to strive to create an existence for herself, living through a project in her art class in which she is challenged to express a tree as art.
I found that this book really connects with many of the aspects of young adult literatures.
Becoming one's own person: Certainly the character of Melinda goes through a transformation throughout the book. Melinda, while not mute, chooses to speak selectively, and some of her choice can be attributed to the trauma she suffered. Her art teacher, Mr. Freeman says to Melinda, "I think you have a lot to say. I'd like to hear it" (p. 123) In fact, Melinda does carry an inner monologue throughout the book including a war between Melinda One and Melinda Two, in which she describes her desire to participate but her fear based in her traumatic experience. Melinda's character even describes learning to be comfortable in her own skin, comparing herself to a burn victim, "I just need to hang on long enough for my new skin to graft." (p.125)
Coping with problems of the human condition: Melinda also deals with the repercussions of her rape. Though the actual event isn't described until the book is nearly two-thirds completed, Melinda obviously struggles with many issues related to high school and young adulthood in addition to her traumatic experience, which has colored all of her other experiences. For example, Melinda identifies herself as a "The Victim" in a performance art piece (p. 35) when her parents discover her first quarter slipping grades. Melinda deals with issues of being individual or part of the group when describing the different social groups and cliques at the school and even counters her friend Heather who believes that one must belong to something by stating that they should join a club; Melinda's response: "Nothing. The clubs are stupid. Want some popcorn?" (p.23) and Melinda recognizes Heather's enthusisam, which was formerly hers, "Have I change that much in two months? ... My goal is go home and take a nap." (p. 24) But Melinda's biggest issue, by far, is her fear of what she calls "IT", the senior boy who raped her. Throughout the text, Melinda compares herself to a rabbit, being chased by a predator. "Maybe he won't notice me if I stand still. That's how rabbits survive; they freeze in the presence of predators." (p. 97)
As much as I enjoyed the book, I would be hesitant to have younger adult readers (eighth grade or lower) read it as it discusses the rape, although not in graphic detail. I certainly would love to use this as a cross curricular discussion for all high school students perhaps using it in the freshman year and then again as a senior to discuss where they were then and where they are now.
(Young Adult)Speaking out at the "wrong" time-calling 911 from a teen drinking party-has made Melinda a social outcast; now she barely speaks at all. A conversation with her father about their failed Thanksgiving dinner goes as follows: "Dad: 'It's supposed to be soup.' / Me: / Dad: 'It tasted a bit watery, so I kept adding thickener....'/ Me: ." While Melinda's smart and savvy interior narrative slowly reveals the searing pain of that 911 night, it also nails the high-school experience cold-from "The First Ten Lies They Tell You" (number eight: "Your schedule was created with your needs in mind") to cliques and clans and the worst and best in teachers. The book is structurally divided into four marking periods, over which Melinda's grades decline severely and she loses the only friend she has left, a perky new girl she doesn't even like. Melinda's nightmare discloses itself in bits throughout the story: a frightening encounter at school ("I see IT in the hallway....IT sees me. IT smiles and winks"), an artwork that speaks pain. Melinda aches to tell her story, and well after readers have deduced the sexual assault, we feel her choking on her untold secret. By springtime, while Melinda studies germination in Biology and Hawthorne's symbolism in English, and seeds are becoming "restless" underground, her nightmare pushes itself inexorably to the surface. When her ex-best-friend starts dating the "Beast," Melinda can no longer remain silent. A physical confrontation with her attacker is dramatically charged and not entirely in keeping with the tone of the rest of the novel, but is satisfying nonetheless, as Melinda wields a shard of broken glass and finds her voice at last to scream, "No!" Melinda's distinctive narrative employs imagery that is as unexpected as it is acute: "April is humid....A warm, moldy washcloth of a month." Though her character is her own and not entirely mute like the protagonist of John Marsden's So Much to Tell You, readers familiar with both books will be impelled to compare the two girls made silent by a tragic incident. The final words of Marsden's books are echoed in those of Speak, as Melinda prepares to share her experience with a father-figure art teacher: "Me: 'Let me tell you about it.'" An uncannily funny book even as it plumbs the darkness, Speak will hold readers from first word to last. l.a.
Develop a "revisit the novel" concept in which students who are freshman read the book and then again revisit it as seniors, perhaps basing a senior theme comparing their own high school experience to the Melinda's and reflecting on the previous four years.
Title: The Giver
Author: Lois Lowry
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication Date: September 2002
Jonas lives in a futuristic society in which everyone's roles are predetermined by a committee. He is reaching an age in which he will be assigned his lifelong occupation and receive training for it. However, unlike his classmates, Jonas is chosen for a unique occupation within the community - he does not receive an assignment but rather a duty. As the Receiver, Jonas takes on the memories of the community and learns about the secrets, passions, and fears as well as other emotions that his society has forsaken in the pursuit of order.
I am not a fan of apocalyptic books. In fact, when I read this book, my first thought upon completion of it was that it is simply a young adult version of Orwell's 1984. I was also reminded of the apocalyptic and futuristic film Soylent Green. The author chose to create a society in which there are little to no choices. No color, no feelings or emotions (although feelings are shared during the evening meal - but as Jonas comes to realize the "feelings" that they have within this society are not truly feelings at all.)
I found this book to be rather distasteful. First, it deals rather practically with the issue of euthanasia. The elderly are "released" upon their request. As Jonas discovers, in the case of the twin, "release" is not a sending off to another place to live in peace, but rather a medical procedure of putting oneself to sleep. The society sees little use or no use for duplicate humans, as in the case of the twin, of problematic children, such as Gabe, or for the elderly as they have lost their functionality. I'm not sure that the discussion of euthanasia is appropriate with younger young adult readers; my local librarian shared that seventh grade students in our ISD are reading this as a required text. While euthanasia is a topic that appears in the news, thirteen years old is a bit young, in our society in my opinion, to discuss putting humans "to sleep." Second, the book addresses the concept of independence in a rather cavalier manner: choice is taken from all citizens in this society by those who create the infrastructure. It is argued that the choice was removed because it was safer, that if people chose they might choose incorrectly. This particular theme will probably strike a chord with young adults who are beginning to experience freedom and independence in a very concrete manner, but I found the society in this book to be exceedingly oppressive and very socialistic. Finally, the book deals with sexuality and burgeoning sexuality in an oppressive manner. Because emotions often "muck up the waters", members within this society simply take a pill to prevent sexual feelings. Marriages are not made by choice but rather by a committee match based upon compability. Again, young adults are confronted with sexual feelings and in our society sexual images at this age and frequently earlier than young adulthood. While I was off-put by the book's society's choices regarding sexuality, I found that the topic would allow for an interesting, but guided, discusssion.
I did like the character of Jonas himself and that he recognized the value of independent thinking. One example of this was Jonas' choice to stop taking his "pill" so that he could enhance his receivership and the emotions that he felt and was learning to accept. Students will probably sympathize with Jonas because young adults experience many of the same emotions, challenges, and fears that Jonas experienced: uncertainty regarding career, challenges with dealing wtih emotions and change, fear of the unknown, frustration with authority and the status quo.
I think that this text is an excellent example of a book that could easily be tied into social studies for comparing socialist and capitalist societies as well as comparing the challenges of contemporary times to the decisions that led Jonas' society to become the society that it is/was.
Winner of the 1994 Newbery Medal, this thought-provoking novel centers on a 12-year-old boy's gradual disillusionment with an outwardly utopian futuristic society; in a starred review, PW said, ``Lowry is once again in top form... unwinding a tale fit for the most adventurous readers.'' Ages 10-up. (Sept.)
"Wrought with admir-able skill -- the emptiness and menace underlying this Utopia emerge step by inexorable step: a richly provocative novel."
Lowry won the Newbery award for this book, her first science fiction story. Jonas is an adolescent living in a world that has a decidedly futuristic feel. When he turns twelve, he gets the job that will last him the rest of his life. He's the Receiver of Memory, the one who receives from the Giver all the memories of his society. Jonas is given great privileges, new privacy, and information that allow him (and readers) to see through the society's apparent Eden. At first his world seems great, but then, bit by bit, she tears away at the perfection she has built.
Jonas lives in a perfect society. There is no pain, poverty, divorce, delinquency, etc. One's life's work is chosen by the Elders. At the Ceremony of 12, Jonas is shocked to learn that he has been awarded the most prestigious honor. His assignment will be that of Receiver of Memories. He studies with "the Giver," a man he comes to love. Within time he learns the horrifying secrets of his community and must make a decision that will test his courage, intelligence, and stamina. This is a stunning, provocative science fiction story that will inspire discussion. 1997 (orig.
The ALAN Review
Winner of the 1994 Newbery Medal, Lowry's thought-provoking fantasy challenges adolescents to explore important social and political issues. The Giver trains twelve-year-old Jonas as the next Receiver of Memory, the community's receptacle of past memories. This seemingly utopian society (without pain, poverty, unemployment, or disorder) is actually a body- and mind-controlling dystopia (without love, colors, sexual feelings, or memories of the past). In an exciting plot twist, Jonas courageously resolves his moral dilemma and affirms the human spirit's power to prevail, to celebrate love, and to transmit memories. From the book jacket's evocative photographic images-The Giver in black and white; trees in blazing color-to the suspenseful conclusion, this book is first-rate. Just as Lowry's Number the Stars (which received the 1990 Newbery Medal) portrays the Danish people's triumph over Nazi persecution, The Giver engages the reader in an equally inspiring victory over totalitarian inhumanity.
School Library Journal
Gr 6-9-- In a complete departure from her other novels, Lowry has written an intriguing story set in a society that is uniformly run by a Committee of Elders. Twelve-year-old Jonas's confidence in his comfortable ``normal'' existence as a member of this well-ordered community is shaken when he is assigned his life's work as the Receiver. The Giver, who passes on to Jonas the burden of being the holder for the community of all memory ``back and back and back,'' teaches him the cost of living in an environment that is ``without color, pain, or past.'' The tension leading up to the Ceremony, in which children are promoted not to another grade but to another stage in their life, and the drama and responsibility of the sessions with The Giver are gripping. The final flight for survival is as riveting as it is inevitable. The author makes real abstract concepts, such as the meaning of a life in which there are virtually no choices to be made and no experiences with deep feelings. This tightly plotted story and its believable characters will stay with readers for a long time. --Amy Kellman, The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
Use text to compare and contrast types of economic and governmental systems.
Compare and contrast Jonas' experiences with independence and authority with students' own current experiences.
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Title: Stepping on the Cracks
Author: Mary Downing Hahn
Publication Date: October 1, 1992
Margaret and Elizabeth share the common experience of having brothers serving in World War II. These young women encounter an unique experience when they discover that the local bully, Gordy, is hiding his brother, Stuart who is a deserter. Despite their feelings and what they have been told to believe about those who don't serve their country, the girls decide to help when Stuart takes ill and is at death's door. Listening to her heart, Margaret acts despite the loss of her brother, Jimmy, and the possible consequences that might occur.
I loved this book about the homefront experience of young girls during WWII. Hahn's approach to the discussion of life for those who were left behind is a realistic portrait of the common experience of that time. The characters in the novel note that other than a few rations and an inability to get bicycles for Christmas, their lives really didn't change all that drastically.
However, facing the reality of assisting a known Army deserter is a choice that Margaret and Elizabeth must make on their own. Margaret's growth as a person by choosing to listen to her heart and evaluate the sitaution on its merits, rather than on her parents' choices to follow blindly, create an individual rather than a young girl. Margaret shows tremendous growth and maturity throughout the book, dealing with her brother's death, her parents' abandonment of her due to their son's loss, and her choice to respect Stuart's beliefs that killing anyone, enemy or friend, is not the ultimate solution.
Additionally Margaret demonstrates herself to be a profoundly interesting character when she discusses her dilemma regarding her wish that her brother had also been a deserter but her pride in his service to his country.
From Publishers Weekly
Most WW II homefront novels are unambiguous in their approach to patriots and traitors, allies and enemies. Hahn's subtle, thought-provoking work, however, proposes the legitimacy of a variety of ethical responses to critical situations. Margaret's brother Jimmy is overseas fighting, and Margaret and her parents avidly follow news of Allied advances. She and best friend Elizabeth, united in their dislike of Gordy the bully, slowly uncover several ominous secrets: Gordy is helping his older brother Stuart, an Army deserter, hide in a weatherworn shack in the woods; and Gordy's father batters his mother, his siblings and Gordy himself. At first Margaret and Elizabeth see their discovery of Stuart's shack as a way to "blackmail" Gordy into treating them decently, but when Stuart falls dangerously ill, the girls feel obliged to help care for him. Soon they begin to reexamine the standard propaganda about the war. While some of her characters seem anachronistic and certain developments are unlikely, Hahn succeeds in raising questions as valuable as they are vexing. Ages 9-12. Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From School Library Journal
Grade 5-8. In a small southern town in 1944, two girls secretly help a seriously ill army deserter, a decision that changes their perceptions of right and wrong. Issues of moral ambiguity and accepting consequences for actions are thoughtfully considered in this deftly crafted story. Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Have students write a letter to either a contemporary soldier or one of the characters in this novel and discuss the war and its implications on the homefront.
Monday, November 5, 2007
Title: Cowboys of the Wild West
Author: Russell Freedman
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Publication Date: September 1993
A bibliographic recounting of cowboys in the "wild west", this book debunks the myths and legends surrounding cattle drives and cow punchers. In the approximately 100 pages, the author retells the stories of the young men who inspired legends by working the open ranges and performing cattle drives in the 1890s.
What I enjoyed most about this biography was the interspersing of interviews and quotations among the retelling of the events. One cowboy, Hiram Craig, described a cattle drive in vivid recollection, "finally forming one big herd, and then the fun would start." (p. 38)
The author breaks the information down into manageable parts. He discusses not only the physical make up of the cowboys who generally were African American or Mexicans by ethnicity but also the various aspects of cow punching and the lifestyle. The author discusses the dress, saddle, acoutrements, and spending habits of the typical cowboy as well as the life on the trail.
The author uses colorful description such as those to describe the events that might generate a stampede. "Almost any noise or disturbance - a flash of lightning, a rabbit moving through the brush, a cowboy striking a match - could panic a herd... All hands would leap from their beds, dash to their night horses, and gallop into the dark." (p. 57) This helps the reader to live in the story and experience it rather than be a mere observer.
Freedman's careful research and inviting texts have made his nonfiction can't-miss titles in homes and libraries. Here is a sequel to Children of the Wild and the author's other award winners. He has selected over 50 photos from the Library of Congress and state archives to illustrate his chronicles of life on the range. Cowboys, readers discover, were really boys. Many were teenagers, a few ``old hands'' were in their early 20s; and they were responsible for driving great herds across the plains in the 1800s. Freedman describes the buckaroos' clothes and equipment, how they passed the days on the ranch and on the trail, during the big roundups, etc. There were black and Indian cowboys as well as whites, all working hard together. Although these storied riders of the purple sage are different from the gun-totin', steely-eyed movie types, they are as exciting and interesting to meet and learn about here. One feels wistful when the book ends with a lament from a man who remembers: ``I would know an old cowboy in hell with his hide burnt off.'' He says the fellows punching cows today couldn't match their predecessors, independent and proud, who sang as they earned a tough dollar, ``I've roamed the Texas prairies,/ I've followed the cattle trail;/ I've rid a pitchin' pony/ Till the hair come off his tail.'' (8up)
Make a Venn diagram comparing and contrasting a television or movie cowboy with the cowboy as presented in Freedman's book.
Title: Catherine Called Birdy
Author: Karen Cushman
Publication Date: May 1995
Catherine, or Birdy, is a young woman living in the Middle Ages. Having come upon marriageable age, her father decides to act. Through many attempts to foil her would be suitors, Catherine shows the reader the realities and some of the fantasies of life in the Middle Ages for a young woman of means.
Birdy is an unusual character who by expressing her personal distaste of her suitors would not react the way that a normal female in her position during the Middle Ages would. While I find the book amusing, the presentation of women's roles in the Middle Ages is inaccurate in regard to Birdy as a character. Other characters, such as Birdy's friend Aelis, are truer to the spirit of young women in the Middle Ages.
This book would have to, in my opinion, be used for comparison and contrast purposes as it does not at all accurately reflect Birdy's position in life nor does it reflect the manner in which a young woman in her position would react. While other characters behave in a traditional fashion, the author takes great liberties to give Birdy freedoms that would have resulted in punishments more severe than those that she endured in the text. Additionally the freedoms to run away (without an escort of any variety) and to associate with the local goatherder probably also would not have been allowed.
I will credit the author with remaining true to history. Jacobs & Tunnell (1996) note that historical accuracy is paramount and that historical occurances must not be ignored or white washed. Certainly Cushman recognized that young women in the Middle Ages, such as Birdy's friend Aelis, would be married to even younger men and that death could befall the spouse before the marriage was even consummated. Additionally Cushman often remained true to the physical environment (such as the fleas upon Birdy and the condition of the rushes in the main dining area), the patterns of daily living (Birdy's embroidery in the solar), and the spirit of the times (the daily events and happenings within the village and with the villagers.)
What saddened me most in reading this book was that while Cushman seemed to take great pains to be historically accurate, even to the recounting of Queen Eleanor's death, she took great liberties with the main character and painted an unreasonable portrait of life for a young lady in the Middle Age period.
``You can run, but you can't hide'' is the rather belated conclusion reached by Catherine, called ``Birdy'' for her caged pets, in this fictive diary of a medieval young woman's coming-of-age and struggle for self-determination. Escaping regularly into a fantasy life of daring escapades and righteous battles, Birdy manages to postpone the inevitable sale of herself as a wife to a very unwelcome suitor. Just as she resigns herself to her fate with the comforting knowledge that ``I am who I am wherever I am,'' word comes that she will not have to marry the oaf after all. Birdy's journal, begun as an assignment, first wells up in the reluctant and aggressive prose of hated homework, and then eases into the lighthearted flow of descriptive adventures and true confessions; the narrative device reveals Birdy's passage from rebellious child to responsible adult. Despite the too-convenient ending, this first novel introduces an admirable heroine and pungently evokes a largely unfamiliar setting. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)
Compare Aelis' reaction to her marriage with Catherine's.
Contrast Catherine's foibles with the realities of life in the Middle Ages for a young woman her age.
Compare and contrast Catherine's behavior and choices with a young adult's choices in contemporary society. Are there societies that exist in the "modern" world that would favor Catherine's parents' position?
Friday, October 26, 2007
Title: The Tarantula Scientist
Author: Sy Montgomery
Illustrator: Nic Bishop
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Sam Marshall, an arachnologist, leads the reader through the jungles of French Guiana in search of tarantulas. This colorful and humorous informational book laces vignettes of Sam's adventures with facts, figures, illustrations, and explanations regarding all types of spiders but focusing on tarantulas in particular. Montgomery is able to offer what could be dry and boring information in a palatable and entertaining way by interweaving the anecdotes of Marshall with basic fact. The captions for the beautiful illustrations offer further explanation and add to the air of authority the book carries.
As I have said before, I'm not a fan of nonfiction, but I was truly amazed and engaged reading this text. My eight year old son and I read the book from cover to cover and spent quite a bit of time commenting on the various illustrations, the commentary, and laughing at some of Marshall's misadventures (such as walking into a wasp's nest while searching for tarantula holes.)
Not only does the book offer information on spiders, but it also includes information on Marshall himself. In one vignette, Marshall reveals his struggles in college and how research on desert and jungle tarantulas turned his views regarding education and science, in particular, around. "Once I understood that anybody can do the process... that was the thing that totally changed my life!" (Montgomery, 2006, p. 26)
This book also explains the scientific process in detail to the reader but in an interesting way. For example, in one section, Marshall explains how he observed and experimented with a hypothesis regarding why a Goliath birdeater tarantula would molt onto a silk mat. What Marshall hypothesized was that fly larva were parasites that would be trapped by the silk mat. His subsequent testing proved his hypothesis and readers can follow along with this experience in an interesting anecdote rather than reading a research study.
The photographs are simply amazing. The detail as well as the color make this book pop up and engage the reader. While not all of the photos are to scale, these pictures offer detail to a reader that might only appear with use of a magnifying glass or microscope. I was completely intrigued to flip through the book to glance at the illustrations and I found that animals that can appear frightening are really fascinating.
Approximately eighty pages, this book is chockful of fun, facts, and arachnids. I would recommend it highly and I'll probably read it again to catch information I missed the first time!
School Library Journal
Grade 5-10-Superb color photos abound in this spectacular series addition. Readers follow the career of Sam Marshall, tarantula scientist extraordinaire, from his "Spider Lab" at Hiram College in Ohio to the rain forests of French Guiana as he hunts for, finds, and studies the creatures he loves so well. The conversational text contains as much spider lore as scientific investigation and provides a cheerful look at a dedicated scientist. (The fact that he did not do well in school may encourage those late bloomers who have not yet found their passion in life or believe it to be far beyond their academic grasp.) Informative, yes, but even more important, this is a vivid look at an enthusiastic scientist energetically and happily at work, both in the field and in the lab, questioning, examining, testing, and making connections. A treat, even for arachnophobes.
Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Gr. 4-7. Montgomery and Bishop, who worked together on Snake Scientist (1999), team up once again to deliver another fascinating slice of the natural world. This time they venture to the French Guiana rain forest, where they follow arachnologist Sam Marshall on his quest for his favorite quarry: tarantulas. Enthusiasm for the subject and respect for both Marshall and his eight-legged subjects come through on every page of the clear, informative, and even occasionally humorous text. Bishop's full-color photos, which concentrate on detail, not scale, are amazing--Marshall coaxing an elusive tarantula into the open or bringing readers literally face-to-face with a hairy spider. The section on students' research seems tacked on, but it adds an interesting sidelight to the book, which is longer and richer in both text and illustrations than others in the Scientists in the Field series. Readers will come away armed with facts about spiders in general and tarantulas in particular, but even more important, they'll have a clear understanding of how the answers derived from research become the roots of new, intriguing questions.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Invite an entomologist or arachnologist to the classroom to share live bugs and spiders with students.
Ask students to find the steps of the scientific process in a read aloud of one of the experiments described in the book.
Title: Seymour Simon's Book of Trains
Author: Seymour Simon
Publication Date: February 19, 2002
In a very interesting but simplistic format, Simon juxtaposes a full color photograph with a paragraph or two explanation of different train types (steam, diesel, electric) and various types of storage cars (boxcar, gondola, hopper, tank cars, etc.) The text is easy to understand and contains basic information regarding trains in the United States and a few other locations in the world.
I enjoyed reading this book to my four-year-old son who is a Thomas the Tank Engine addict and who loves to watch the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe railroad trains which are based in our hometown of Saginaw, TX. The information was easy for him to understand, the photographs were large and colorful, and the text wasn't overly informative or boring.
I found the book predictable in its format, a very comforting element to a young child who wishes to revisit a familiar topic, but I also found it to be less informative than other informational books on the same topic. In some regards, I found myself comparing this to Donald Crew's Freight Train, a basic concept book, and thinking that it would be a good follow up to that text. I have found DK's The Big Book of Trains to be more informative and more colorful.
I also found this book to be Eurocentric in its presentation of trains. Simon mentions the TGV, but does not offer an explanation of what this abbreviation means (Train Grande Vitesse) and while he mentions electric trains, he neglects to mentions maglev trains or the Japanese Bullet Train that travels faster than nearly every other train on the planet.
I would recommend this book to introduce more information on trains, but I would progress to another book with more information such as The Big Book of Trains for specific examples, more pictures, and a more global viewpoint.
In Seymour Simon's Book of Trains, the author dedicates one spread each to various kinds of trains, with a full-color photograph on one side and, opposite, a couple of paragraphs describing it. He covers everything from old-fashioned diesel trains to subways that run on electricity to France's TGV (with speeds of between 200-300 mph). A series of spreads on the freight train details different kinds of cars.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
School Library Journal
School-Grade 4-Trains and individual freight cars are displayed in glorious full color in this oversized book. Simon offers information on different types of these machines from the earliest steam locomotives to France's TGV, which can reach speeds of 300 miles per hour. The section on freight trains delves into each car from boxcars to the now-obsolete caboose. The sharp pictures cover half of each spread. One small complaint is that while the TGV and Japan's bullet trains are mentioned, they are not pictured. But never mind. Even preschoolers will be drawn in by the large, abundant photographs. Another winner from a popular author.
Anne Chapman Callaghan, Racine Public Library, WI
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Have students read book and then "train spot" for a weekend or a week. Create a graph of the various types of trains, cars, and other related transportation items that they saw.
AN AMERICAN PLAGUE: THE TRUE AND TERRIFYING STORY OF THE YELLOW FEVER EPIDEMIC OF 1793 (Genre: Non Fiction)
Title: An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793
Author: Jim Murphy
Publisher: Clarion Books
Publication Date: June 23, 2003
This eleven chapter Newbery Honor Book recounts the horror of the yellow fever epidemic that held the city of Philadelphia in its grasp in the summer and into the fall of 1793. The disease that chased thousands out of the City of Brotherly Love also succeeded in shutting down the Pennsylvania and federal governments. In this novel, Murphy tells the tale of the baffled physicians, the dedicated Free African Society nurses and caregivers that remained to help the ill and dying, and the middle class citizens who risked imprisonment for their choice to serve on city government and keep the city moving.
I am not at all a fan of nonfiction books. However, I really enjoyed reading this novel. From the beginning, Murphy sets out to create a setting that honors the reality of the situation while drawing the reader in and hooking him in the dire situation. The descriptions of characters such as Benjamin Rush paint a colorful portrait of the individuals who fought the dreaded disease. "He was passionate and outspoken in his beliefs; no matter what the subject... Along with his beliefs went an unimaginable amount of energy. Despite a persistent cough and weak lungs... he worked from early in the morning until late at night..." (Murphy, 2003, p.12) The book also includes drawings of various characters, when available that lend to the shaping of that person in the reader's mind.
Further, each chapter begins with an excerpt from the newspaper accounts of the time. These clippings help to support the author's points regarding the news reports of the day. In a later chapter, Murphy discusses the issues that surrounded the printing business due to the lack of imports arriving and the problems that arose for publishers. Philip Freneau, editor of the National Gazette, for instance limited fever never, avoided obituaries, was vague about the spread of the disease, and never mentioned the rise in the crime rate perhaps because Freneau had to limit himself to one page rather than his usual four to eight. (Murphy, 2003)
Overall I would highly recommend this book. It was balanced in its praise of the positive choices and in its criticism of choices that would impact the city of Philadelphia and the country for the short and long term. Additionally the author offered a balanced accounting of those who stayed to assist the ill and those who fled. This author was more generous in his accounting of the events than was publisher Matthew Carey, an individual who sat on the emergency council of twelve that ran the city of Philadelphia during the crisis. Carey published A Short Account of the Malignant Fever Lately Prevalent in Philadelphia... in which he openly criticized the Free African Society nurses for raising their prices to an almost usurious price. In his criticism, Carey neglected to mention the bidding war by the whites in the area which caused the price "gouging" and as a result generated the first African American written response to accusations in the United States.
Due to the graphic nature of the illness and some of the information contained in the book, I would limit exposure to this topic to children sixth grade and above. While none of the book is grotesque, the description of yellow fever symptoms that arise accompanied by the veracity contained in the book might best be evaluated by children who have a basis in history and are able to understand the events within the context in which they occurred.
From School Library Journal
Grade 6-10-If surviving the first 20 years of a new nationhood weren't challenge enough, the yellow fever epidemic of 1793, centering in Philadelphia, was a crisis of monumental proportions. Murphy chronicles this frightening time with solid research and a flair for weaving facts into fascinating stories, beginning with the fever's emergence on August 3, when a young French sailor died in Richard Denny's boardinghouse on North Water Street. As church bells rang more and more often, it became horrifyingly clear that the de facto capital was being ravaged by an unknown killer. Largely unsung heroes emerged, most notably the Free African Society, whose members were mistakenly assumed to be immune and volunteered en masse to perform nursing and custodial care for the dying. Black-and-white reproductions of period art, coupled with chapter headings that face full-page copies of newspaper articles of the time, help bring this dreadful episode to life. An afterword explains the yellow fever phenomenon, its causes, and contemporary outbreaks, and source notes are extensive and interesting. Pair this work with Laurie Halse Anderson's wonderful novel Fever 1793 (S & S, 2000) and you'll have students hooked on history.
Mary R. Hofmann, Rivera Middle School, Merced, CA
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Gr. 6-12. History, science, politics, and public health come together in this dramatic account of the disastrous yellow fever epidemic that hit the nation's capital more than 200 years ago. Drawing on firsthand accounts, medical and non-medical, Murphy re-creates the fear and panic in the infected city, the social conditions that caused the disease to spread, and the arguments about causes and cures. With archival prints, photos, contemporary newspaper facsimiles that include lists of the dead, and full, chatty source notes, he tells of those who fled and those who stayed--among them, the heroic group of free blacks who nursed the ill and were later vilified for their work. Some readers may skip the daily details of life in eighteenth-century Philadelphia; in fact, the most interesting chapters discuss what is now known of the tiny fever-carrying mosquito and the problems created by over-zealous use of pesticides. The current struggle to contain the SARS epidemic brings the "unshakeable unease" chillingly close.
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
1. Use excerpts from the book as a springboard for class discussion and comparison/contrast assignment based on early American government.
2. Have students take positions and debate whether Congress could have constitutionally been moved out of Philadelphia, arguing the viewpoints of Jefferson, Madison, and Adams.
3. Introduce a unit on health and wellness and the importance of sanitation. Ask students to evaluate the sanitation conditions at the beginning of the novel with later improvements. Use the maps provided and have students develop a sanitation plan for the city that might have relieved some of the disease's progress.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Title: Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Sister Went Crazy
Author: Sonya Sones
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
Publication Date: February 2001
This is, according to the author's website, an autobiographical account of what happened when her older sister was hospitalized due to her mental breakdown. The author reflects on her own feelings of frustration, fear, anxiety, and nostalgia as she walks through the text.
This book has some interesting points, particularly for a student struggling with depression or anxiety or with a parent or sibling struggling with these issues. One poem that struck a chord with me was "Snapshot" which describes the author's nostalgia as she recalls a particular photograph. "You didn't look crazy/at all back then./I wish you could be eight/again." The author is struggling with her feelings of frustration that her life and her sister's were normal and she is expressing her desire for normalcy. Certainly this poem can touch anyone who is having an "off" day - not just a person experiencing the roller coaster ride that is associated with manic depression and bipolarism.
However, this text is a fairly mature one and it deals with a difficult subject matter. For example, the poem "Mass Pike" describes the father's breakdown as they are driving down the road. While the father collapses emotionally, the rest of the world continues as it did before. "and we weep with him/while cars filled/with happy families/whiz past."
One Christmas eve, 13-year-old Cookie's big sister has a nervous breakdown: a wild-eyed Jewish girl wearing only a nightgown," she rushes out the door to Midnight Mass. Following this manic moment, the sister is institutionalized. This haunting novel, told entirely in Cookie's first person poems, is the story of what happens in the wake of this emotional disaster. Some of it is heartbreakingly predictable - Cookie is terrified that she will have a breakdown, her former friends shun her, her parents' marriage begins unraveling. But there are wonderful surprises, too: Cookie is introduced to photography and finds in it an opportunity to heal herself and her sister: a new boy comes to school, and he and Cookie fall in love. The poems - some as short as five lines, none longer than three pages - have a cumulative emotional power that creeps up on the reader, culminating in a moving, unexpected line or phrase: "I blink/and there you suddenly are/inhabiting your eyes again...and I'm feeling all lit up/like a jar filled/with a thousand fireflies." Such small moments become large in the context of their promise of healing and the demonstration of life's power to continue. Based on Sones' own family experience, this novel-in-verse shows the capacity of poetry to record the personal and translate it into the universal.—Michael Cart
School Library Journal
An unpretentious, accessible book that could provide entry points for a discussion about mental illness - its stigma, its realities, and its effect on family members. Based on the journals Sones wrote at the age of 13 when her 19-year-old sister was hospitalized due to manic depression, the simply crafted but deeply felt poems reflect her thoughts, fears, hopes and dreams during that troubling time. In one poem, the narrator fears that "If I stay any longer/than an hour/...I'll see that my eyes/have turned into her eyes/my lips/have turned into her lips..." She dreads having her friends learn of her sister's illness. "If I told them that my sister's nuts/they might act sympathetic/but behind my back/would everyone laugh?" and wonders what she could have done to prevent the breakdown. All of the emotions and feelings are here, the tightness in the teen's chest when thinking about her sibling in the hospital, her grocery list of adjectives for mental illness, and the honest truth in the collection's smallest poem, "I don't want to see you./I dread it./There./I've said it." An insightful author's note and brief list of organizations are included. —Sharon Korbeck, Waupaca Area Public Library, WI.
In a story based on real events, and told in poems, Sones explores what happened and how she reacted when her adored older sister suddenly began screaming and hearing voices in her head, and was ultimately hospitalized.
Individually, the poems appear simple and unremarkable, snapshot portraits of two sisters, a family, unfaithful friends, and a sweet first love. Collected they take on life and movement, the individual frames of a movie that in the unspooling become animated, telling a compelling tale and presenting a painful passage through young adolescence. The form, a story-in-poems, fits the story remarkably well, spotlighting the musings of the 13-year-old narrator, and pinpointing the emotions powerfully. She copes with friends who snub her, worries that she, too, will go mad, and watches her sister's slow recovery. To a budding genre that includes Karen Hesse's Out of the Dust (1997) and Virginia Euwer Wolff's Make Lemonade (1993), this book is a welcome addition.
From the author's own website: "But when I told my sister about the book, she was thrilled. She said, 'A book like this could be used in schools to open up discussions about mental illness.' My sister and I are hopeful that the people who read Stop Pretending will come away from the experience feeling more compassion for the victims of mental illness. "
Title: What Is Goodbye?
Author: Nikki Grimes
Illustrator: Raul Colon
Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children
Publication Date: April 1, 2004
Two children, Jerilyn and Jesse, express their feelings about the death of their older brother Jaron in this short text. Each child expresses his or her feelings a different way and in a different manner. The book's poems track the children throughout a year of loss, beginning with the initial news and ending with a new family portrait.
This is an excellent text for a child who is experiencing a loss. Because the text is written from two voices or viewpoints, it offers a child different visions of grief and loss. I especially think that the opening poem, "What is goodbye/Where is the good in it?/One leaves/and many hearts/are broken./There must be/a better arithmetic/somewhere." is an excellent example of the hole that is left when a beloved person or pet is lost. According to Morin and Welsh (1996) by the time an individual has reached adolescence, it is likely that he or she has been exposed to death. Some adolescents encounter it through a personal loss, such as the death of grandparents, parent, or even a peer. However, even those who have not experienced a direct loss, have some experiences and perceptions of death. It is virtually a universal experience to be exposed to the sensationalized treatment of death through the media such as television, movies, lyrics, and even video games such as Mortal Kombat.
Further, I think that the poem "Mad" which expresses Jerilyn's frustration about her dead sibling and how she wishes he had never been born could be used for bibliotherapy for a student who has experienced a recent loss and needs to release his or her anger.
Morin, S. M. and Welsh, L.A. (1996). Adolescents' perceptions and experiences of death and grieving. Adolescence, (31) 123.
From School Library Journal
Grade 3-8–Grimes's novella in verse is a prime example of how poetry and story can be combined to extend one another. When their brother dies, Jerilyn and Jesse cope with the anger, confusion, and the silence that grief brings to their family. Jesse's rhyming verse faces his older sister's free-verse comments on her experiences. When Jesse hits a home run in a league game soon after his brother's death, he glows, "I took off around the field,/legs pumping like lightning!/I slid into home plate clean./Man, I'm so cool,/I'm frightening!/...What am I supposed to do,/spend each minute crying?/I wish I could please you, Mom,/but I'm sick of trying." Jerilyn muses, "It's his right to smile,/isn't it?/To be delirious?/So what if I don't understand?/This ghost town,/draped in shadow,/is desperate for/a few more watts of light." Grimes handles these two voices fluently and lucidly, shaping her characters through her form. Colón's paintings in muted colors combine imagism with realism to create an emotional dreamscape on nearly every page. The clean design combined with the book's short, easy pace and small size give readers a comfortable place from which to listen to the characters as they make their way from "Getting the News" to "Anniversary," and finally to "Ordinary Days." The book closes with a poem in two voices, and Jesse and Jerilyn come together for a new family photograph. "Smile!"–and readers will. Fans of Vera B. Williams's Amber Was Brave, Essie Was Smart (Greenwillow, 2001) will appreciate this powerful title.–Nina Lindsay, Oakland Public Library, CA Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Gr. 4-8. At the funeral for her older brother, Jaron, Jerilyn is furious that "no one tells the truth": "Dead is dead. / Not 'gone away.' / Not 'lost.' / Not 'on a journey.' / Not 'passed.'" Her younger brother, Jesse, is angry, too, but he's mad at Jaron: "You left me . . . I hate you for that!" In poems that alternate between voices, Jerilyn and Jesse describe their complicated, private thoughts as they grieve for their beloved brother. Grimes often chooses rhymed couplets for Jesse's voice, and the singsong sounds and tight rhythm create a young tone that's indicative of Jesse's age but, nonetheless, feels distractingly at odds with the somber subject and raw emotions--feelings that Grimes gets just right. Moving and wise, these are poems that beautifully capture a family's heartache as well as the bewildering questions that death brings, and they reinforce the message in Grimes' warm author's note: "There's no right or wrong way to feel when someone close to you dies." Gillian EngbergCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Use as a starting point of bibliotherapy for a child experiencing a loss.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Title: It's Raining Pigs and Noodles
Author: Jack Prelutsky
Illustrator: James Stevenson
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Publication Date: 2000
This is a collection of children's poetry. Some are shape poems such as Zigzag (a poem shaped in a zigzag style) and I'm Caught Up in Infinity (a poem shaped like the infinity symbol and seemingly having no beginning and no end) and others are poems about childhood experiences such as Why Do I Have to Clean My Room? and I Ate a Tooth This Morning. However, whatever type of poem, children will relate to the amusing illustrations as well as the everyday events that take place in the poetry of this book. Some of the poems are purely nonsensical, such as The Sniffing Snutterwudds which are creatures that have a dozen noses but shut down their smelling when a skunk appears.
This book, like many others by the same poet-author will tickle the fancy of the young and the old. For children, Prelutsky raises the inevitable questions and issues of childhood. For example, in the poem Why Do I Have to Clean My Room? the young narrator questions the necessity of cleanliness. After all his room has bits of clay stuck to the walls, which he scarcely notices, week-old apple pie under the bed, pizza in the corner, and a drums and a basketball that he "almost never trips upon."
Shape poems such as I Am Shrinking, in which the text gets progressively smaller and smaller until it nearly disappears on the page will engage children and encourage them to attempt to read to find out the end... that is if they can read print that tiny!
However, my favorite poem is Hello and Good-Bye in which the poem begins in a standard print font but progressively lightens until it nearly disappears on the line "Good-bye!" The narrator in the poem ponders whether he or she exists, and when the question "It also seem I am not there.../perhaps I am not anywhere" the poem and the narrator begin to fade away on the page.
Following A Pizza the Size of the Sun, the reigning czars of silliness are back on the warpath, wreaking poetic havoc with yet another deliciously sly volume. The titles alone are a treat: "Never Poke Your Uncle With a Fork"; "I'm Ironing My Rhinoceros"; "Waffles Give Me Sniffles." Prelutsky trips the light verse fantastic across territory that's familiar yet fresh. He gleefully descends to the depths of gross-out humor ("Worm puree, oh hooray!/ You're the dish that makes my day"), engages in nimble wordplay ("There's no present like the time," he notes in "I Gave My Friend a Cuckoo Clock") and once again proves himself king of the final one-two punch (a knight confesses to ineffectuality in an ode closing with this couplet: "My name is famed through all the land/ I'm called Sir Lunchalot"). The sassy selection of nonsense rhymes and puckish poems will further endear Prelutsky to his many fans. Meanwhile, partner-in-crime Stevenson peppers the pages with his inimitably impish sketches, from pigs in kilts on stilts to fleas on a circus trapeze. Hats off to these two glorious goofballs! Ages 5-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 6-Another felicitous collaboration from this team, full of the joy of words and whimsical images. Though the format, size, and type of content is similar to the duo's other books, the verse is fresh and catchy with sparkling wordplay and unexpected rhymes, and Stevenson's line drawings project the humor with verve. Included are the usual poems about weird animals and unusual children, a dragon, yucky food, fantastic experiences in everyday situations, and quite a few clever shape poems. There is even a disappearing one that actually vanishes off the page. All but two of the selections are new. As in the previous books, a wide variety of typefaces and printing tricks are utilized to create an imaginative and entertaining look. Wonderful tools for teachers, the poems boast impeccable rhythms and rhymes and strongly appeal to a child's sense of humor, whether read aloud or independently.-Judith Constantinides, formerly at East Baton Rouge Parish Main Library, LA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
The Christian Science Monitor - Karen Carden
When kids feel silly, outrageous thyming poems can be great companions. Poet Jack Prelutsky and illustrator James Stevenson have teamed up again to offer more camraderie. It's Raining Pigs and Noodles is their fourth volume of funny, clever and just plain goofy verse...most kids will love it.
- Read the poem I'm Caught Up in Infinity and have the students develop a mathematical poem.
- Read the poem What Oinks? and have students develop poetry riddles.
Friday, September 28, 2007
Title: THE LEGEND OF THE INDIAN PAINTBRUSH
Author: Tomie dePaola
Illustrator: Tomie dePaola
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Publication Date: April 16, 1996
A young boy, Little Gopher, is encouraged in his art to paint after he receives a vision through a dream. This tale tells how the sunset is created through the art of this boy, later a man, using a white buckskin canvas and the various flowers (Indian paintbrush) available in his area, which he had not previously been able to achieve. The story tells how Indian paintbrush came to grow in the southwestern United States.
The illustrations in this story truly capture and express the spirit of the tale. My children have sat on my lap and at my knee listening to the tale of Little Gopher since infancy. The story is also engaging. It tells of an unathletic boy who will achieve his own fame through the arts.
The character of Little Gopher is flawed, and many children will connect with Little Gopher’s inability to excel in athletics or in a specific area. Demonstrating his human frailties allows children to see that everyone has his or her own unique talents.
Additionally the southwestern United States’ setting may help students to tie into their own geographic awareness.
From Publishers Weekly
In this companion to The Legend of the Bluebonnet, Little Gopher is smaller than the rest of the children in his tribe and can't keep up with those who ride, run, wrestle or shoot with bows and arrows. But, he has a talent of his own: he is an artist. When he grows older, a Dream-Vision comes to him: a young Indian maiden and her grandfather tell him that he will paint pictures of the great warriors with colors as pure as the evening sky. Little Gopher's paintings never satisfy him because the colors are dull and dark, but he keeps trying. In the night, a voice tells him how to find paint-filled brushes; Little Gopher locates them, and they become brilliantly colored flowers known as Indian Paintbrush. This tale is related with deceptive simplicity by dePaola; he enhances the plainness of the story with his primitive illustrations, and, like Little Gopher, he finds inspiration in the colors of the sunset. Ages 2-7.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.
- Use for lesson on explanation myths of how things have come to be.
- Use in an art lesson to tie in to color blending.
- Use for inspiration to those students who lack a skill to demonstrate that each person finds his or her talents.
Title: AND THE GREEN GRASS GREW ALL AROUND
Author: collected by Alvin Schwartz
Illustrator: Sue Truesdell
Publisher: Harpercollins Childrens Books
Publication Date: March 1992
This is a collection of folk poetry and rhymes. It includes various children’s songs such as The Green Grass Grew All Around and On Top of Spaghetti among others but also includes the children’s variants of famous songs such as Battle Hymn of the Republic “Mine eyes have seen the glory/Of the closing of the school” which makes an appearance yearly on the last day of classes.
This book enraptured all of my children (preschool, first and second grade.) They laughed and hooted at the different parody songs, and they sang along with the more traditional folk poetry and lyrics.
This text is a wonderful resource for educators to pull traditional folk literature. It is also a great book to use to inject some humor into the classroom when things are getting stressful or too serious.
The notes are very helpful for poetry study and could be used not only for primary information but also for springboards for in depth author or poet studies. I particularly liked the source section that traces historical information and helps readers to understand the roots of the poem or lyrics.
From School Library Journal
Grade 3 Up - A marvelous book that is sure to become a classic if children have any say in the matter. Schwartz has gathered sassy, funny, scary, and slightly naughty children's folk poetry heard on schoolgrounds and wherever else kids are having fun. Adults who stew over the appropriateness of Roald Dahl's books or Shel Silverstein's poetry may have concerns here, but kids will love having all their underground playground rhymes in one volume. Scores are included for ``On Top of Spaghetti,'' ``Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory/ Of the Closing of the School,'' and other songs. It's hard to imagine illustrations better suited to the book's silly, energized tone than Truesdell's big-eyed, animated, and humorous characters. Given plenty of white space, they tumble, goof, and guffaw across the pages, in ideal tandem with the poetry. These drawings may be in black and white, but readers will never pick up a more colorful book. Of additional interest to many people, adults in particular, are the ``Notes'' in the back on folk poets and poetry; ``Sources'' that trace the selections' origins are also helpful. Read this outrageous volume before it is shelved; once the kids discover it, it will always be checked out. --Lee Bock, Brown County Pub . Lib . , Green Bay, WI
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
Not since Carl Withers's A Rocket in My Pocket (1948) has there been such a grand compilation of familiar (and unfamiliar) rhymes and chants from the children's own tradition: riddles, games, wishes and taunts; poems about love, food, school, or animals; parodies, nonsense, and stories. Schwartz organizes them by topic and/or form and provides all kinds of fascinating supporting material: an engagingly conversational introduction; general explanatory notes plus full item-by-item sources, many of which are intriguing in themselves (``Avik Roy, age 13, Detroit...1986''; ``Editor's recollection, Ten Mile River Boy Scout Camp...1940''), or which give alternate versions; even an occasional tune. In b&w pen and watercolor, Truesdell's marvelous characters dance across the generously broad pages, peering inquisitively at the hilarious goings-on or gleefully joining in the shenanigans. It's hard to imagine a child who wouldn't greet this treasure trove with enthusiasm. Extensive bibliography (items ``of interest to young people'' are starred); index. (Folklore. 4+) -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
- Use as a resource for traditional children’s folk songs.
- Use for poetry study resource.
- Use as resource for tracing lyrical history and folk poetry history.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Title: CINDERLILY: A FLORAL FAIRY TALE
Author: Christine Tagg
Illustrator: David Ellwand
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: 2003
This book is a Cinderella variant featuring beautiful photographs of flowers as the various characters in the tale. The book features Cinderlily (Cinderella), two sisters (the stepsisters), a fairy godmother, and the Sultan (the prince). Cinderlily and the Sultan meet at a ball and dance. Cinderlily loses one of her petals when she leaves as the clock strikes midnight. The Sultan seeks the one maiden whom the petal fits and the two live happily ever after.
This Cinderella variant includes some interesting features. First, the book is written in three acts so it lends itself well to comparison with drama and dramatic elements. Second the photographs which compose the illustrations are beautiful in both their simplicity and their clarity. Third, the scientific naming of the flowers at the end of the text open the investigation toward various science lessons including classification, botany, and horticulture.
This Cinderella variant is missing the prototypical “evil” stepmother and the stepsisters are simply replaced by two sisters. However this text features many of the characteristics of the Cinderella tale including the prince, the ball, and the lost item; in this text the prince is a Sultan and the lost item is a petal rather than a slipper.
My biggest complaint is that the text is very difficult to read. The backgrounds are frequently black and the font type is more cursive style than serif or non-serif. Also the type font is small. It would be a difficult book for a younger reader to read simply due to the type font but it makes a good read aloud. Also, although I found the illustrations to be enchanting, I don’t think they would hold the attention of a younger child.
From School Library Journal
Kindergarten-Grade 3-In this visually intriguing twist on the traditional tale, Ellwand has replaced the human protagonists with flowers. Using Adobe Photoshop, he has arranged lilies, pansies, tulips, roses, and other petals in graceful poses against stark black backgrounds. While the pictures are technically well executed, it is unlikely they will engender other than a passing interest in children. Tagg's text, written in reasonably well-rhymed couplets, is thin on plot, character development, and imagery. In addition, the alterations she makes in the original tale are incongruous. The prince has become a Sultan, but nonetheless the "band strikes up a waltz" at his Royal Autumn Ball. The fonts, which change frequently in an apparent attempt to match the action of the story, are often hard to read, particularly when placed against those black backgrounds. For a more effective use of natural objects as characters, stay with Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffer's How Are You Peeling? Foods with Moods (Scholastic, 1999). Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights
Tie into lesson on botany or horticulture.
Introduce scientific classification.
Friday, September 14, 2007
Title: CLICK, CLACK, MOO: COWS THAT TYPE
Author: Doreen Cronin
Illustrator: Betsy Lewin
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Publication Date: February 2000
Farmer Brown throws out his typewriter only to hear “click, clack, moo” all day long as his cows and other farm animals begin to make outrageous demands in exchange for their services.
This book cracks me up every time I read it. My children have it on their shelf and in animated form courtesy of Scholastic videos DVD collection. The illustrations really bring the farm animals to life and make it seem possible that cows could type on a typewriter. This book is the first in a long series of books involving the same mischievous farm animals and the easy foiled and frustrated Farmer Brown.
"Cows that type? Impossible!" That's what Farmer Brown thinks when he first hears the "click, clack" from the barn, but then he reads the note the cows write him. All they want is electric blankets for the cold barn. When he refuses, they go on strike. What's worse for the farmer is that the strike spreads to the cold hens as well. Duck finally negotiates a compromise. Unfortunately for Farmer Brown, the ducks have learned from all this, leaving us with a smile at the ending. This broadly humorous nonsense finds an appropriately bold, almost slapdash visual counterpart in Lewin's illustrations. Thick, brushed black lines define the characters and farm environment, while washes of color help emphasize gestures and evoke emotions, as when the red door symbolizes the farmer's rage. Great slapstick also suggests thoughts on animal rights.
Esmé Raji Codell - Bookbag Magazine
This hilarious story with a surprise ending is a great tribute to fair play and introduces the power of communication in a way that even the youngest listener will enjoy.
From Publishers Weekly
Plucky barnyard denizens unite to improve their working conditions in this hilarious debut picture book from Cronin (appropriately enough, an attorney). Farmer Brown is dumbfounded when his cows discover an old typewriter in the barn and begin experimenting ("All day long he hears click, clack, moo. Click, clack, moo. Clickety clack moo"). Things really get out of hand when the cows began airing their grievances. Lewin (Araminta's Paint Box) conveys the fellow's shock as he reads: "Dear Farmer Brown, The barn is very cold at night. We'd like some electric blankets. Sincerely, The Cows." When Farmer Brown denies the cows' request, the bovine organizers go on strike. Through the use of the man's shadow, Lewin communicates his rage: the straw in his hat creates the appearance of his hair on end. With help from a neutral duck mediator, the exasperated Farmer Brown finally makes concessions. But, much to his dismay, the cows are not the only creatures that can type. Cronin humorously turns the tables on conventional barnyard dynamics; Lewin's bold, loose-lined watercolors set a light and easygoing mood that matches Farmer Brown's very funny predicament. Kids and underdogs everywhere will cheer for the clever critters that calmly and politely stand up for their rights, while their human caretaker becomes more and more unglued. Ages 3-7. (Feb.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Use this book to begin a unit on letter writing and communication to improve conditions or to protest events. This ties in well with a civics lesson in citizenship and the right to peaceably assemble in social studies.
Title: JOSEPH HAD A LITTLE OVERCOAT
Author: Simms Taback
Illustrator: Simms Taback
Publisher: Viking Juvenile
Publication Date: October 1999
ISBN: 978-0670878550Plot Summary
Joseph, a farmer, has a coat made of his favorite cloth. As it begins to wear, Joseph recreates his favorite cloth into a new article of clothing, with each successive article smaller than the last.
This is a wonderful picture book. It has all of the elements which make it a Caldecott Award book: vivid and descriptive illustrations beautifully done. What makes this an interesting text are the cut-outs on each section that grow smaller and smaller as the piece of cloth grows smaller and smaller. Children can visualize the cloth shrinking with wear. Because the story was adapted from folk songs, it captures and holds the attention and its repetition engages children of all ages.
From Publishers Weekly
As in his Caldecott Honor book, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, Taback's inventive use of die-cut pages shows off his signature artwork, here newly created for his 1977 adaptation of a Yiddish folk song. This diverting, sequential story unravels as swiftly as the threads of Joseph's well-loved, patch-covered plaid coat. A flip of the page allows children to peek through to subsequent spreads as Joseph's tailoring produces items of decreasing size. The author puts a droll spin on his narrative when Joseph loses the last remnant of the coat - a button and decides to make a book about it. "Which shows... you can always make something out of nothing," writes Taback, who wryly slips himself into his story by depicting Joseph creating a dummy for the book that readers are holding. Still, it's the bustling mixed-media artwork, highlighted by the strategically placed die-cuts, that steals the show. Taback works into his folk art a menagerie of wide-eyed animals witnessing the overcoat's transformation, miniature photographs superimposed on paintings and some clever asides reproduced in small print (a wall hanging declares, "Better to have an ugly patch than a beautiful hole"; a newspaper headline announces, "Fiddler on Roof Falls off Roof"). With its effective repetition and an abundance of visual humor, this is tailor-made for reading aloud. All ages. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc
Use this text to tie into a unit on recycling and have students write paragraphs about the original use of the item and the new use of the item.
Use this text to tie into recycled art projects.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Title: A CALDECOTT CELEBRATION
Author: Leonard Marcus
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 1998
This book highlights the backgrounds and back stories of six Caldecott award winning illustrators. The books chosen represent a decade of Caldecott award winners and exemplify some trait or aspect of the winning concepts within that decade. Marcus explores the reasoning behind the illustration, artistic types, and historical information while weaving an interesting story that explains how the book came to be.
This text would certainly be appropriate for elementary and middle school aged students to use as a resource text in an author or illustrator study. Written in an informal manner, the text identifies anecdotes that may or may not appear in basic character information available on book jackets and the like. However, I found that the book lacked a form of description or formula in characterizing each illustrator. Informational tidbits regarding specific illustrative techniques were described in detail for one individual and missing from others. All in all, I would recommend this text for classroom use and for individual pleasure reading.
Filled with witty anecdotes and pithy observations, Marcus's (Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom) approach to examining the works of six Caldecott Medalists will be of as much interest to adults as to picture book readers. He has chosen one book from each decade, "so that viewed together, the six offer an informal cross section through time of the American picture book": Robert McCloskey's Make Way for Ducklings, Marcia Brown's Cinderella; or, The Little Glass Slipper, Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, William Steig's Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, Chris Van Allsburg's Jumanji and David Wiesner's Tuesday. With a generous sprinkling of the artists' own words and sometimes those of his or her editor, Marcus chronicles the inspiration behind these works, the creative process, the artists' reactions to winning the prestigious award and its effect on their careers. He fills the volume with the kinds of details children relish: McCloskey once shared his Greenwich Village digs with 16 ducks and Steig does black-and-white drawings first, then fills in each color one by one throughout the book. Encouraging readers to see each picture book through the artist's eyes, Marcus shows Brown's compositional studies, explains how Van Allsburg chose from which perspective to view the coiled python in the living room and how Sendak decided "that the illustrations leading up to the rumpus would get larger and larger, as Max's emotions pushed out the words." He traces the evolution of the illustrations for Tuesday from Wiesner's first quick sketches, when the idea occurred to him on a jet plane. With Marcus's sure hand guiding this tour, readers will find cause for celebration. All ages.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Excellent for use as a reference text in an illustrator’s study. Use one illustrator who was nominated for multiple Caldecott awards and received Caldecott Honor Book in preceding or following years from the Caldecott winner and compare the artistic techniques developing a Venn diagram.