Monday, June 30, 2014

What's New? The Zoo! - a review

Krull, Kathleen. 2014. What's New? The Zoo!: A Zippy History of Zoos. New York: Scholastic.  Illustrated by Marcellus Hall.


What's New? The Zoo? is an illustrated overview of zoos that combines history with hard science and social science.  Kathleen Krull outlines the history of zoos, and offers insight into what compels us to keep animals, what we've learned from them, and what has changed in zoos since the founding of the first known zoo,

4,400 Years Ago, The Sumerian City of Ur, in Present-Day Iraq
The king of beasts lunges and roars.  The King of Ur roars right back, feeling like the ruler of all nature.  How delicious to wield his power over dangerous animals!  It's the world's first known zoo, and all we're sure about (from clay tablets in libraries) is that is has lions.
From this beginning, Krull highlights transitional moments in zoos throughout the ages and across the globe.  Just a few examples include:

  • Ancient Egypt and Rome where zoos were created to impress
  • Ancient China where the zoo was a contemplative and sacred place
  • Sweden where the science of zoology was established in 1735
  • The U.S. National Zoo where the concept of zoos protecting threatened species was introduced
  • South Africa's Kruger National Park where the protection of rhinos was so successful that rhinos were delivered to other zoos
  • Germany, 1907, where the "cageless zoo" concept is introduced
(Did you know that Aristotle wrote the first encyclopedia of animals?)

On most pages, humorous, watercolor illustrations nestle around paragraphs of simple font against white space.  Several pages, however (including one depiction of fifteen buffalo waiting for a train at Grand Central Station, 1907), are double-spreads with many amusing details.

The very talented Kathleen Krull never disappoints!  If you like your science accessible and entertaining, this is the book for you.

A SLJ interview with Kathleen Krull on the history of zoos.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Loot: How to Steal a Fortune - a review


Watson, Jude. 2014. Loot: How to Steal a Fortune. New York: Scholastic.
(Advance Reader Copy)

After my book club meets tomorrow, my Loot will be long gone. Here's a quick preview before it's snatched up.

It begins with a foreboding prophecy regarding stolen semiprecious moonstones:

You will be caught tonight and made to pay.
Death by water, before the moon is set.
Before the passage of thirteen years, the two birthed together will die together.

Two of the prophecies have already come true. Two thieves are dead.

Now, 12-year-old March, son of a thief, must figure out the mystery with no other assets than a getaway bag, some cryptic clues, and remembered advice from his deceased father,

Never trust a guy who says, "Trust me."
Never give your real name to a cop.
Never let someone steal your getaway car.
If you think nothing can go wrong, you'd better think again.

March, his twin sister, and fellow foster home escapees, Izzy and Darius, will match wits with jewel thieves, fences, cops, and millionaires in a desperate search for answers and the mysterious moonstones. This is a fast-paced, action-packed thriller with plenty of plot twists and intrigue—a globe-trotting trek with its roots in the underbelly of New York City.


Due on a shelf near you June 24, 2014.
For grades 3-7
272 pages

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A 2% Effort is not Sufficient for a 100% Life

A 2% Effort is not Sufficient for a 100% Life
or
In public schools throughout the country, a student is taught to read in Grades K-3. Beginning in Grade 4, there is a fundamental switch.  A student is no longer learning to read, but instead is reading to learn

A school year in my state of New Jersey consists of 180 days. Kindergarten through Grade 3 is 4 years of schooling, or 720 days (assuming 100% attendance). The approximate average life span is 78 years or 28,470 days.  
Roughly stated, those 720 days amount to only 2% of a child's lifetime. Think about that.  Only two percent of a lifetime is allotted to impart the fundamental reading skills which positively or negatively impact the remaining 98% of a life!

A student who cannot read or read well upon entering Grade 4 will be at a distinct disadvantage, possibly for the rest of her life. (see related articles below)


Public libraries around the country stand ready and able to help children attain reading success.  In New Jersey, as in many states, librarians are licensed professionals with a Master of Library (or Information) Science degree.  We are trained to assess the needs of those in our community and provide opportunities for early and lifetime learning.  During the year we typically offer story time programs which promote early literacy skills, as well as book clubs, computer classes, and a host of other educational fare.  In the summer, youth services librarians turn our attention to preventing the "summer slide," the loss of reading skills that occurs during the summer break from school.  We do everything short of standing on our heads to encourage kids to read, and have fun doing it!


Summer reading clubs at the public library are fun, they're free, and they pay lifetime benefits. 


Related articles:



Thanks to school superintendent Peter Morris, for helping me to frame this conversation.







Monday, June 23, 2014

The Star-Spangled Banner and We the People for kids

Just in time for Independence Day, Doubleday Books for Young Readers (Random House Kids) has released two new titles by Caldecott Medalist, Peter Spier. He has taken the words of two of our nation's greatest symbols, the Constitution and "The Star-Spangled Banner," and created two sprightly illustrated, perusable picture books,

We the People: The Constitution of the United States and The Star-Spangled Banner.


In We the People, it is the preamble to the Constitution that creates the story.  Short phrases ("We the people of the United States") appear on each double-spread page, accompanied by many small pen and watercolor vignettes relating to the phrase.  On many pages, such as "promote the general Welfare," the small paintings contrast our past and future.  One set of images shows a man with a three-cornered hat delivering the post on horseback.  The facing image is that of a U.S. mail truck stopping at a line of rural mailboxes.We the People has a copy of the original document as its endpapers, and contains a brief history of the Constitution and its entire text in the back matter. Names and images of the Constitution's signers are also featured.


The Star-Spangled Banner features large, often double-spread paintings for each line in our national anthem. The illustrations depict the 1814 Battle of Baltimore which inspired the lyrics.  The first two verses comprise the illustrated story, while the remaining two verses, along with the sheet music are included in the back matter.  Also included is an image of the original hand-written poem, a receipt for the 30' x 40' flag that flew over Fort McHenry (made and sold by Mary Young Pickersgill for the sum $405.90), a photograph of the battered Fort McHenry flag when it arrived at the Smithsonian Museum in 1907, and of course, historical information regarding the flag and battle.  The endpapers feature "A Collection of Flags of the American Revolution and Those of the United States of America, Its Government, and Its Armed Forces."


At 48 pages each, and a sizeable 12.5" x 9", these books offer young readers plenty of opportunity to peruse their many small characters and details. Both books should have a place in every school.


Monday, June 16, 2014

Stink and the Shark Sleepover - an audiobook review

I don't feature many early chapter books here, but I had the opportunity to review this one for the June, 2014, issue of School Library Journal.  An excerpt of my review is below.

McDonald, Megan. 2014. Stink and the Shark Sleepover. 2 CDs.  Brilliance Audio.
Read by Barbara Rosenblat. About 1 hour on CD or mp3 download.

Stink's family and several of his friends have won a sleepover at the local aquarium. Everything is going swimmingly until the aquarium guide tells the story of "Bloody Mary," the undead vampire squid locked behind the door marked "Do Not Enter." Between worrying about Bloody Mary and the fact that his best friend Sophie's hermit crab is missing, Stink may never fall asleep!

Copyright © 2014 Library Journals, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. Reprinted with permission.
###
Interspersed throughout are facts on sharks and other aquatic creatures, and a brief history of the "Bloody Mary" ghost story featured in the book.

The first few books in the Stink series were narrated by Nancy Cartwright (the voice of Bart Simpson).  Barbara Rosenblat is the current narrator.
Listen to an excerpt here.
Read a sample here.

There are now seventeen books in the Stink series, and he even has his own website, Stink Moody. Both are testament to the popularity of the fictional Judy Moody's little brother.


Note:
I don't have a Nonfiction Monday post today, but you can check out all of today's offerings at the Nonfiction Monday blog, always a great resource for the latest in children's nonfiction.


Friday, June 13, 2014

The Bambino and Me - an audiobook review

Hyman, Zachary. 2014. The Bambino and Me. Plattsburgh, NY: Tundra.  Read by Jason Alexander.
(Advance Listener Copy)

Huge baseball fan, Jason Alexander (of Seinfeld fame), reads this fictional memoir of 10-yr-old Yankee fan,George Henry Alexander, in The Bambino and Me. The story simply begs to be read by Jason Alexander who certainly needs no accent coaching to create this believable boy from the Bronx in the summer of 1927.

Babe Ruth has been sold to the Yankees and George is his biggest fan.  When he gets a ticket to a Yankees/Red Sox game for his birthday, he couldn't be more excited! But then comes the error - his Uncle Alvin has given him a Red Sox jersey to wear to the game! His mother insists that he wear it. Enemy colors! What could be worse?

The audio version is filled with the wonderful sounds of baseball and summer - jazz music, the chatter of kids on the street, the crack of a bat, the roar of a crowd. If this audio book were a baseball game, it would be a perfect one.

Recommended for ages 6-9, and unabashed lovers of America's Pastime.

This is "hands-down" the best audio book that I've listened to since Three Times Lucky.
"And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces."
From Field of Dreams, 1989. Directed by Phil Alden Robinson. Screenplay by Phil Alden Robinson, based upon the book Shoeless Joe (1982) by W. P. Kinsella



Note:
 Although it looks wonderful, I can't offer comment on the printed version of The Bambino and Me. I picked up the CD at ALA Midwinter in Philadelphia, and asked if I could have the accompanying book. I was told that I could only have the CD, which I tossed in my bag where it sat unnoticed and unremembered until this week when I had a lull between audio book reviewing assignments. I'm so glad I remembered it!



Monday, June 9, 2014

Monday Miscellany v.7

It's not that I haven't been reading lately...
I've just been writing book reviews that have to be appear in traditional print before I can post them here. I also was busy traveling, attending my state library conference and Book Expo America.

Here are some great things that will be coming up soon:
  • For kids that can't wait for The Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul (Book #9 due out in November), The Wimpy Kid School Planner will be out in June. If this can't keep your student using an organizer, probably nothing will.


  • Loot by Jude Watson will also be available in June.  I'm reading it right now, and I can tell that it's going to be very popular. Advance reviews have been great.



  • SYNC's free downloads continue all summer.  If you're an audio book fan, you really should take advantage of this.  A classic book is paired with a similarly-themed modern book.  Both can be downloaded for free, forever, for you.  You can't beat it.

Now through June 11,
ALL OUR YESTERDAYS by Cristin Terrill, Narrated by Meredith Mitchell (Tantor Audio)
JULIUS CAESAR by William Shakespeare, Performed by Richard Dreyfuss, JoBeth Williams, Stacy Keach, Kelsey Grammer, and a full cast (L.A. Theatre Works)

Beginning June 12,
CODE NAME VERITY by Elizabeth Wein, Narrated by Morven Christie and Lucy Gaskell (Bolinda Audio)
THE HIDING PLACE by Corrie Ten Boom, John Sherrill, Elizabeth Sherrill, Narrated by Bernadette Dunne (christianaudio)



Duke by Kirby Larson
Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell
The Song of the Quarkbeast by Jasper Fforde
The Last Wild by Piers Torday
The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage
and others

And coming in September,




Monday, June 2, 2014

The Streak - a review


Rosenstock, Barb. 2014. The Streak: How Joe DiMaggio became America's Hero. Honesdale, PA: Calkins Creek. Ill. by Terry Widener
(Advance Reader Copy)

If you know only one baseball statistic, you likely know its one "unbreakable" record - Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak.  According to the Author's Note, its probability for occurrence is once every 746 to 18,519 years.  It was the most talked about news story of 1941, even edging out  news of the war raging in Europe.

Oil-painted illustrations evoke the bygone era; references to new immigrants and mention of the war in Europe place the story in the context of history. However, The Streak is essentially a story of baseball, one man, and his favorite bat, Betsy Ann.

When DiMaggio was up, he strolled to home plate.  He didn't pull at his cap, scuff his feet, or make Betsy Ann dance behind his head.  He rubbed dirt on his hands, tapped the plate just once, and set his wide-legged stance.  For a minute, Joe stood perfectly still, then he and Betsy Ann went to work.
The book includes: Author's Note, Statistics, Source Notes, Bibliography, Acknowledgments

Baseball, it's my favorite season of the year.  Enjoy The Streak: How Joe DiMaggio became America's Hero, and be sure to take in a baseball game this summer.  You may witness history in the making.  You never know.


Other reviews at

If you're looking for another great picture book about Joe DiMaggio, the 1941 baseball season, or "the streak," be sure to check out The Unforgettable Season: The Story of Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, and the Record-Setting Summer of '41.

This YouTube link will let you see Joe DiMaggio's famous swing and hear Les Brown's popular song of the day, "Joltin' Joe DiMaggio."

Today is Nonfiction Monday.  Check it out.