Monday, September 1, 2014
edited by Jon Scieszka
illustrated by Brian Floca
Walden Pond Press, 2014
On shelves: Sept. 16, 2014
Grades 4 and up
The reviewer received an advanced copy of the book from the publisher.
Author, Jon Scieszka, has dedicated his life to inspiring boys to read, and he's succeeding. Not only did he serve as the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature. He also created the popular Guys Read website, and he publishes a Guys Read anthology series. The latest addition to the Guys Read library is a real treat for middle grade readers (both boys and girls). In Guys Read: True Stories, Scieszka has compiled outrageous, amazing, and sometimes scary, informational stories from ten authors including Steve Sheinkin, Sy Montgomery, Candace Fleming, and Jim Murphy.
Readers will feel what it's like to be stranded in the Sahara Desert with Captain James Riley, study tarantulas in French Guiana, and learn about the sometimes painful history of dental care. Fans of Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales will appreciate Hale's graphic novel vignette about pioneer Hugh Glass set in 1823. There are also science poems by Douglas Florian, a memoir about growing up in Vietnam by Thanhha Lai, and a biography of Muddy Waters by Elizabeth Partridge. Each chapter begins with an illustration by Brian Floca and ends with a bibliography of sources.
The beautiful thing about Guys Read True Stories is that it's going to make everyone happy. History and science buffs will love these unbelievable (yet true) stories, reluctant readers won't be able to put it down, and teachers can use the book as a mentor text for writing or as an exciting read aloud. The most difficult aspect is deciding where to shelve it in the library. Do you put it in the series section with the other Guys Read books, shelve it with short stories (800s), or place it in general knowledge in nonfiction with the "survey" books? The answer is to put it on display and watch it get scooped up by the readers in your library.
Saturday, August 30, 2014
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Zest Books. 2014
The publisher sent me a copy of the book to review.
We are pleased to take part in the
Sticky Fingers: DIY Duct Tape Projects
summer blog tour.
Thursday, August 21, 2014
by Jacqueline Woodson
Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014
Grades 4 and up
On shelves Aug. 26, 2014
The reviewer received an advanced copy of the book from the publisher.
I read Brown Girl Dreaming on an airplane flying over the midwest on the way home from the ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas. I devoured it in one sitting then handed the book to Louise who also read it before we landed. I'm not sure if I can find the words to do justice to this beautifully crafted memoir, but I'll try.
Brown Girl Dreaming is an autobiographical account of Woodson's early life, raised by her mother and grandparents in South Carolina. Told in verse, Woodson uses the fewest words possible to paint a vivid story of what life was like for her family living in the south in the 1960s. Jackie's point of view is strong, allowing readers to see the story from a child's eyes.
In downtown Greenville,
they painted over the WHITE ONLY signs,
except on the bathroom doors,
they didn't use a lot of paint
so you can still see the words, right there
like a ghost standing in front
still keeping you out.
When Woodson and her siblings move to New York to live with their mother, the book offers readers a juxtaposition on life in America: north and south, rural and urban, black and white. Throughout the book, it's evident that Woodson had an affinity for writing and telling stories as a child.
How can I explain to anyone that stories are like
air to me,
I breathe them in and let them out over and over
Louise and I discussed how there are many themes (family, friendship, acceptance and race) from the memoir that appear in Woodson's novels and picture books. Brown Girl Dreaming is a powerful and eloquent memoir that will elicit rich discussions and will serve an inspiration to young writers. I encourage all children's librarians and middle grade teachers to add it to their biography collections. Pair Brown Girl Dreaming with the middle grade novel, One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, or Allen Say's memoir Painting from Memory.
Other books by Jacqueline Woodson:
The Other Side
Coming On Home Soon
See Jacqueline Woodson discuss her books in this video from Teachingbooks.net.
Monday, August 18, 2014
By Duncan Tonatiuh
To write the review, I borrowed a copy from my local public library.
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
by Marc Aronson and Adrienne Mayor
illustrated by Chris Muller
National Geographic, 2014
Grades 4 and up
The reviewer borrowed a copy of the book from her local public library.
The Griffin and the Dinosaur is a nonfiction mystery that brings together mythology, history, science, and art. In a narrative style, Aronson chronicles Adrienne Mayor's quest to prove the link between the mythological griffin and fossils that ancient people may have unearthed. Over a ten year period, Mayor traveled to Greece numerous times, visited museums, interviewed archeologists, and pored over ancient texts. Mayor's perseverance paid off in 1986 while doing research at the Cornell Library. She came across photographs of protoceratops fossils while reading On the Trail of Ancient Man. The fossils found in the Gobi provided the evidence Mayor needed to link the protoceratops to griffin stories told by the ancient Scythians.
While writing the book, Aronson spent time with Mayor at the American Museum of Natural History and interviewed her at her home in California. Muller's illustrations and the thoughtfully-placed photographs complement this intriguing story. A two-page map with detailed labels is located in the back of the book along with a glossary and list of related resources. The subject and length of the book (48 pages) will attract middle grade readers looking for a book to read an independently, and it would make an ideal classroom read aloud especially for students interested in mythology and ancient history.
Visit The Classroom Bookshelf blog for teaching ideas:
Thursday, August 7, 2014
by Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson,
and Peter D. Sieruta
Candlewick Press, 2014
The reviewers received a galley from the publisher.
We are excited to take part in the Wild Things blog tour. Today you are in for a real treat; we have a guest post from authors Betsy Bird and Julie Danielson.
Bird, Danielson and Sieruta spent several years researching subversive, controversial and scandalous stories from children's literature. Part history and part social commentary, Wild Things is a must-read for educators, librarians, authors and parents with a passion for kidlit. These provocative anecdotes will cause readers to pause and reflect on the role of children's literature in our society and how it has evolved over the decades.
Guest Post by Betsy Bird and Julie Danielson
Poor Ferdinand. He was merely waving a peace sign, yet as the book grew in popularity, critics claimed that perhaps the beloved tale of the Spanish bull was no less than commentary on the Spanish Civil War. In time the book was accused of being communist and fascist and was even banned in some countries.
Author Munro Leaf’s response to the controversy was to note that no political machinations were involved, and he went on to state precisely why he wrote this particular story. But then we can’t give away all of our book’s secrets.
And even if Leaf didn’t intend for the book to represent opinions that swirl around in the world of adults, children’s literature has a tendency to accompany---and sometimes precede---great social changes, another phenomenon we explore in the pages of our book.
And what other picture books have comfortably settled themselves into the canon of subversive children’s book titles, whether they meant to or not? You can find out when Wild Things hits shelves in early August.
Monday, August 4, 2014
DVD resources about Freedom Summer include 10 Days That Unexpectedly Changed America produced by The History Channel and PBS American Experience: Freedom Summer.
Friday, August 1, 2014
by Rebecca L. Johnson
Millbrook Press, 2014
The reviewer received an e-galley from the publisher.
Rebecca L. Johnson has made a name for herself as an outstanding writer of science books for children. Journey to the Deep won an Orbis Pictus Honor Award in 2011, and Zombie Makers was an ALA Notable Children's Book in 2013.
In her latest nonfiction book for middle grade readers, Johnson turns her attention to animal adaptations and defense mechanisms. When Lunch Fights Back will hook readers from the first chapter entitled, "Slip-Sliming Away." Readers learn how the hagfish produces strings of slime when predators attack. A close-up color photo shows slime oozing from the body of a hag fish. In each chapter, Johnson introduces readers to an animal and its defense mechanism and then explains "The Science Behind the Story."
Some of the other animals featured in the book include the African hairy frog with a concealed claw-like bone, the hoopoe chicken which shoots feces at enemies, and the Texas horned lizard that squirts blood out of its eyes. Johnson also adds information scientists who are studying the creatures and their defense mechanisms. The narrative writing style includes vivid descriptions making this a book that could serve as a mentor text for informational writing.
"In a blur of movement, the shark strikes. It grabs the hagfish in its toothy jaws- and instantly lets go. The shark's mouth is overflowing with thick, snot-like goo. The slimy stuff fills its throat and clogs its gills."
The layout of the book is ideal for young readers. Photos, captions and fact boxes are well-placed without interrupting the flow of the text. The black paper used at the beginning of each chapter with contrasting neon green headings and white text will definitely capture the attention of readers. Back matter includes a glossary, bibliography and companion books and videos.
When Lunch Fights Back is a complete package. It's sure to please science teachers looking for an engaging narrative text for the classroom, and it's will definitely be popular with children who want to reading about interesting, unusual and sometimes disgusting animals.
Monday, July 28, 2014
by Candace Fleming
Schwartz & Wade Books, 2014
Grades 7 and up
The reviewers received copies of the book from the publisher.
We are pleased to take part in The Family Romanov Blog Tour. Be sure to enter the giveaway at the bottom of the post for a chance to win a copy of the book.
The fate of the Romanovs, the last ruling monarchy in Russia, has been the subject of many books and movies. People hoped the Grand Duchess Anastasia had escaped the bloody massacre that befell the rest of her family: Tsar Nicholas II & Empress Alexandra, sisters Olga, Tatiana and Marie, and brother Alexi. But by 2007, the skeletal remains of all family members had been unearthed, thus putting the “Anastasia-is-still-alive” myth to rest.
- We are giving away one copy of The Family Romanov.
- You must be 13 years or older to enter.
- Only one entry per person will be accepted.
- Entries will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. on August 1, 2014.
- The winner will be contacted by email. If the winner does not respond within 48 hours, we will select a new winner.
Friday, July 25, 2014
by Sarah Albee; Illustrations by Robert Leighton
Walker Books. 2014
I reviewed a copy sent from the publisher.
Perfect for grades 6 and up
Readers will learn that there are good and bad insects. Some bugs, like honeybees and silkworms, are beneficial. While other bugs -- fleas and mosquitoes -- transmit diseases that killed a huge number of people through plagues and epidemics. In the U.S., between 1874 and 1876, locust darkened the skies from the Dakotas down to Texas. Crops were devoured in minutes, as was the wool right off the bodies of live sheep! Throughout human history, insects have contributed to some of the most interesting, deadly, and shocking episodes.
Monday, July 21, 2014
by Alan Rabinowitz
illustrated by Catia Chien
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014
The reviewer borrowed a copy of the book from the public library.
Wildlife conservationist, Alan Rabinowitz, stuttered as a child. However, he had a gift for talking to animals. Alan's parents took him to doctors and specialists looking for a cure for his stuttering, but it was the zoo that held the answer. At the Bronx Zoo, Alan fluently whispered a promise to a jaguar.
Young readers will empathize with Rabinowitz in this picture book autobiography. As an adult, Rabinowitz kept his promise and used his voice to speak for the animals, including the jaguar. Chien's acrylic illustrations capture the emotions of the characters. On one page, Alan stares out into the dark blue sky. The only words on the two-page spread read, "I can speak, but nothing has changed on the inside. I still feel broken." This is a contrast to the rich colors of the jungle on the following pages where Alan reflects, "The jungle makes me feel more alive than I have ever felt."
A Boy and a Jaguar is an inspirational true story of a young man who overcame adversity and had an impact on the world. Pair this book with The Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life with the Chimps or On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein.
This book was also reviewed by...
Waking Brain Cells
Friday, July 18, 2014
by Marcel Prins and Peter Henk Steenhuis; translated by Laura Watkinson
An Arthur A. Levine Book; Scholastic. 2014
Grades 7 thru 12
To review this book, I checked a copy out from my local public library
Monday, July 14, 2014
by Susan Goldman Rubin
Chronicle Books, 2014
Grades 5 and up
As a child growing up in Maine, Wyeth was a well-known name in my home. I vividly remember visiting the Portland Museum of Art with my parents the year I was in 6th grade for a special exhibition of Andrew Wyeth's tempera paintings. I was pleased to learn that Susan Goldman Rubin had published a history of the Wyeth family for young readers. Rubin has a background in art, and has written some top-notch biographies about many artists including Georgia O'Keefe, Edward Hopper, Diego Rivera, and Andy Warhol.
Everybody Paints! tells the story of three generations of Wyeth artists: N.C., Andrew and Jamie. The book's title is derived from a quote by Jamie Wyeth, "Everybody in my family paints, excluding possibly the dogs." Written in a narrative style, the story is structured chronologically beginning with N.C.'s early life growing up in the late 19th century. Rubin uses quotes to fill in the details of the narrative as she tells the story of how N.C. Wyeth convinced his parents to let him study art when he was a young man. N.C. studied art with Howard Pyle and found success as an illustrator for children's books such as Treasure Island and as an artist for Scribner's and The Saturday Evening Post.
N.C. gave art lessons to his children and encouraged them to draw and paint at their home in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. His youngest son, Andrew, shared his father's passion for art and became a successful artist known for his watercolor and tempera paintings including Christina's World and The Helga Pictures. The Wyeth family owns a summer home in Cushing, Maine, therefore the state is the setting for many Wyeth landscapes and portraits. Andrew's son Jamie showed an early talent for drawing. He was surrounded by the work of his father and grandfather, and studied painting with his aunt. Some of Jamie's best known works include a portrait of President Kennedy he was commissioned to paint for Jackie Kennedy in 1967 and a portrait of Andy Warhol he painted in 1976.
The unique design and size of the book (112 pages and 8 1/4 inches in height) will entice readers to pick it up and read it. Each glossy page is a different color, and full page images of paintings and illustrations by the Wyeths are placed throughout the book. This is effective in providing reference points for young readers who are not familiar with the Wyeths' art. Back matter includes a list of locations where artwork may be viewed, image credits, bibliography, and index. Source notes are available on the author's website.
Everybody Paints! is an inspiring story that will encourage budding artists to devote their energy to their art, and it exposes young readers to three important American artists. Teachers could even read aloud Everybody Paints! as part of a nonfiction unit or integrated art unit.
If you find yourself in midcoast Maine next month, you could meet Jamie Wyeth and Susan Goldman Rubin. They will be signing copies of Everybody Paints! at the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland on August 7th. http://farnsworthmuseum.org/event/book-signing-jamie-wyeth-everybody-paints
Saturday, July 12, 2014
Monday, July 7, 2014
We're pleased to take part in the Schneider Family Book Award 10th Anniversary blog tour. Alyson Beecher, chair of the Schneider Family Book Award, shared the Top Ten Schneider Award Favorites on the Nerdy Book Club blog yesterday.
The Schneider Family Book Award is an American Library Association Award that honors "an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences." The criteria states that the book may be fiction or nonfiction. Over the past ten years, two nonfiction books have won the award. This year the winning book for younger children was the picture book biography, A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin, by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet.
Louise reviewed A Splash of Red on our blog last year. We had the honor of seeing Jen and Melissa receive the Schneider Family Book Award at the ALA Awards Ceremony in Las Vegas last week.
In 2010 Bonnie Christensen won the Schneider Family Book Award for her picture book biography, Django: World's Greatest Jazz Guitarist.
Louise's thoughts on Django:
What attracted my husband to me when we first met was that I owned a Django Reinhardt record (we're talking vinyl here, folks). He turned to me and said, "I see you have excellent taste in music." I knew I did because no one has ever equaled Django's sound and technique. His music is fun, and Reinhardt's ability to move up and down that fret board lightning fast, making chords all with only two fingers makes him the perfect subject for the Schneider Family Book Award.
Using a rhythmic narrative, this informational picture book biography gives readers a brief overview of the life of the world's greatest jazz guitarist. Readers learn of Reinhardt's birth in 1910 in a gypsy encampment to his playing music throughout Europe, the accident that injured his left hand and up to 1930 when to took his first steps into performing in France.
"Django's only just beginning,
Bright and brillian stages waiting
Django's gypsy jazz guitar.
To float on music to the stars,
Float on music to the stars."
I had the pleasure of meeting Bonnie Christensen on a shuttle bus after the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet in Washington, D.C. in 2010. We chatted about our families and our hometowns. Near the end of our ride, Bonnie mentioned that her book, Django, had received the Schneider Family Book Award. Bonnie told me what an honor it was to win the award and said she would be signing copies of Django the next morning. The next day, I stood in line in the exhibit hall and had Bonnie sign a copy of the book for my school library.
When I returned to school in the fall, I read Django to my third grade classes as part of a biography unit. Christensen's lyrical narrative and muted, oil illustrations captivated my students. The children were inspired by Reindhardt's determination to continue performing after suffering serious injuries to his hand in a fire. None of my third grade students had heard of Django Reinhardt before reading the picture book. Thanks to the work of Bonnie Christensen and the Schneider Family Book Award, a new generation of readers know about Django Reinhart's inspiring story of overcoming adversity.
In honor of the 10th anniversary of the Schneider Family Book Award, the blog tour will give away the winning titles from 2014. One person will win a set of all 3 Schneider Family Book Award Winners from 2014. Participants must be 13 years or older and have a U.S. or Canadian mailing address.
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