Friday, July 31, 2015

Bee Dance - a review

9780805099195Bee Dance by Rick Chrustowski (Henry Holt, 2015)

Suitable for sharing with a story time group, Bee Dance is presented as a conversational entreaty to bees,
Waggle faster, honeybee! Buzz louder! Your dance points the way to the prairie."
Bee Dance is lyrical nonfiction with large, bright, cut-paper illustrations.  An author's note contains additional facts and the author's source material.


  • You can watch an actual "waggle dance" below.




It's STEM Friday! (STEM is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy

The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy: A handbook for girl geeks by Sam Maggs, 2015
Read by Holly Conrad, Jessica Almasy
5 hrs.


Although it is essentially a book about fandoms of all types (Trekkers, Potterheads, cosplayers, and the like), The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy it is also a motivational book that entreats young women to embrace their fangirl passions without apology.

Here's a link to the audiobook review that I wrote recently for AudioFile Magazine. http://www.audiofilemagazine.com/reviews/read/101132/





Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Night Animals - a review

I think I am predisposed to like anything done by Gianna Marino, so I requested an Advance Reader Copy of Night Animals, which is on shelves now.  I was not disappointed.

Marino, Gianna. 2015. Night Animals. New York: Viking.

Full bleed illustrations let the night sky offer an expansive and inky stage for highlighting a comical group of nocturnal animals that are afraid of noises in the night.  The large illustrations clearly detail the animals' antics, wide-eyed fear, and varying reactions to things that go "aaaarrrrooo!" in the night.  The skunk is often depicted with a noxious greenish cloud behind him (much to the dismay of Possum), while the possum (appropriately) plays dead,

"I'm not here."

Minimal text is presented in cartoon-style word bubbles,

 "What are we hiding from?"  "Night animals!  Now keep QUIET!"

Bear, Wolf, Skunk and Possum run from the "night animals."  It takes a bat to tell them the real danger in the nighttime forest.

Night Animals will tickle the funny bone of any young child.  This is a perfect book for sharing with a group.  Possum is hilarious!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Picture Book Roundup - First Day of School Books

School will be starting before you know it! 
 Here are some new books that feature the first day of school.

(if you cannot access the slide show, reviews are below)
 



  • First Grade, Here I Come! by Tony Johnston 

A playfully rambunctious boy plans his first day of first grade, "For show-and-tell, no teddy bears. I'll bring my snake - oh joy! My friends will hold my boa up. (I call him Huggy Boy.)" For this scene, the playful illustrations show the teacher standing atop her desk while the kids hoist Huggy Boy. Cheerful, silly fun!

  • Bob and Flo by Rebecca Ashdown

It's Flo's first day at preschool. Not only does she find her missing bucket, she finds a friend. Cute.

  • ABC School's for Me! by Susan B. Katz

"Eating snack around the rug, Friends who share a hello hug." A cute, rhyming, and encouraging ABC book. Dad's First Day Mike Wohnoutka Here's a twist on "first day of school" books - it's Oliver's dad who has the first day of school jitters! (Picture Oliver's teacher carrying Oliver's crying dad outside.) "The teacher walked Oliver's dad outside." "Bye, Daddy!" But don't worry ... it all turns out OK.

  • Monkey: Not Ready for Kindergarten by Marc Brown

In crayon-inspired illustrations, Marc Brown tells the story of a monkey worried about his first day at school. "What if his teacher doesn't like him? What if he gets on the wrong bus? What if he can't find the bathroom? ..." With time and patient help from his parents and friends, Monkey slowly gets ready for Kindergarten.


  • Rosie Goes to Preschool by Karen Katz 

Rosie's not worried about her first day of preschool. In fact, she'll tell you all about it! Happy, simple, and multicultural - this is a classic Karen Katz book.

  • Not This Bear: A First Day of School Story by Alyssa Satin Capucilli 

In this story of a bear's first day at school, author Alyssa Satin Capucilli shows that going to school does not mean giving up one's individuality. Bear clings to some familiar things and habits from home, but still fits in and enjoys himself at school. An interesting and reassuring take on "first day at school" books.

  • Ally-saurus & the First Day of School by Richard Torrey 

Is there room for a dinosaur girl in a school filled with princess girls? Of course there is! "Taking off her favorite dinosaur pajamas, Ally-saurus dressed in her brand-new first-day-of-school outfit. "Your pants are on backward," said Father. "That's so my dinosaur tail can stick out," explained Ally-saurus. Let's wear our pants the right way," said Father. "ROAR!" said Ally-saurus."

  • Eva and Sadie and the Best Classroom EVER! by Jeff Cohen 

Big sister Sadie tries to help Eva get ready for Kindergarten - but teaching her math and reading may not be the best way to help!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Book reviews for kids, by kids

As I do from time to time, I'm blogging at the ALSC Blog today.  Stop by if you want to read some humorous kids' book reviews, written by kids.


Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Lightning Queen - a review


When I was a small child, I read and sang folksongs like other children read books. One of my favorite songs to sing was "The Wraggle-Taggle Gypsies, O."  I was enthralled with my idea of gypsy culture. The images in my family's book of folksongs were of music and dancing and cards and horses.  It all looked so wonderful. And so it was that I was thrilled to receive the story of The Lightning Queen from Scholastic.  It was as enchanting as I'd hoped it might be.  Middle grade readers will enjoy this finely crafted story of two outsider cultures - Mexico's indigenous people and the Roma, or gypsies.  Look for it on shelves in October.


The Lightning Queen  by Laura Resau. (2015, Scholastic)

Advance Reader Copy supplied by the publisher.  Final version subject to changes.


Mateo travels with his mother every summer to visit his relatives on the Hill of Dust in Oaxaca, Mexico.  This year, his grandfather Teo says that he needs young Mateo's help;  he begins to tell Mateo a fascinating story of his youth,

     As he speaks, his words somehow beam light onto an imagined screen, flooding the room with people and places from long, long ago.  "Mijo, you are about to embark on a journey of marvels.  Of impossible fortunes.  Of a lost duck, three-legged skunk, and a blind goa - all bravely loyal.  Of a girl who gathered power from storms and sang back the dead.  Of an enchanted friendship that lifted souls above brutality.
     He pauses, tilts his head, "Perhaps there will even be an itermission or two.  But as of yet, there is no end.  That, mijo, will be up to you."  He winks, clears his throat, and begins.
     "There once was a girl called the Queen of Lightning ..."
The story then retreats to the Oaxaca of the mid-1900s, a time when Mexico's indigenous Mixteco people crossed paths with the mysterious Roma in the hills outside Oaxaca.

Grandfather put his hand on my shoulder and said, "They are like us, outsiders in Mexico.  Both our people have little voice in the government.  City folk consider us backward.  We live on the fringes, the wilds of our country.  So it is with the Rom." 

...

I looked at Esma and her grandparents, who were admiring the sawdust mosaic of the flowered caravan.  And I wondered if the key to her people surviving had been separating themselves from outsiders -  gadj√©s. Maybe that's what bonded them together as they danced around their bonfires, night after night for hundreds of years.

     As was foretold by the fortune teller and against impossible odds, young Teo becomes "friends for life" with Esma, the young Romani singer.  It is as if they are bound to each other by magic and music and the power of lightning - their destinies tied inexplicably to one another.

Teo reminisces to his grandson Mateo,

She could work magic.  One moment, I'd felt hurt and angry.  The next honored that she'd confided in me.  And now, inspired, as though anything were possible, if I believed it enough.
     She climbed onto the rock, raised her arms. "If you believe you're weak, you'll be weak.  You're cursing yourself.  Yet if you believe you're strong, you'll be strong.  Give yourself a fortune and make it come true."
   
There is definitely magic between Teo and Esma, the indio boy and the Roma girl, and there is magic in the pages of The Lightning Queen.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler - an audiobook review

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose. Narrated by Phillip Hoose and Michael Braun.  (2015, Recorded Books)

This is the heretofore little-known story of schoolboys who challenged the Nazi army even as their country's leaders collaborated with the Germans. Alternating first-person accounts of young saboteur, Knud Pedersen, with carefully researched narrative, Phillip Hoose tells the compelling story of these daring young boys who were willing to risk their lives to free Denmark from German occupation. Without their parents' knowledge, the boys raided, stole, and destroyed German property with nothing more than bicycles for transportation! Their heroic actions sparked the Danish resistance.

Michael Braun narrates the chapters containing Knud Pedersen's first-hand recollections of the events. While his delivery is weighty, it lacks personality. It is through the actions of Knud that the listener learns to like and admire him, rather than through his speech. Because the book is targeted at a young audience (ages 12-18) and Knud himself was only a teen at the time, a younger narrator may have been more appropriate. Author Phillip Hoose does an excellent job with the alternating chapters. He reads precisely and takes great care in the pronunciation of Danish names and places.

This is a well-researched, captivating story that proves the ability of individuals to effect change against overwhelming odds.

4 CDs

Review copy supplied by LibraryThing.


Today is Nonfiction Monday


Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Great War ... - an audiobook review

The Great War: Stories Inspired by Items from the First World War by by David Almond, John Boyne, Tracy Chevalier, Ursula Dubosarsky, Timothee de Fombelle, Adele Geras, et al. | Read by Nico Evers-Swindell, JD Jackson, Gerard Doyle, Richard Halverson, Sarah Coomes, Nick Podehl
(2015, Brilliance Audio) is a powerful collection of short stories that view World Ward I and its repercussions from many different points of view.  

The link to my short review for AudioFile Magazine is below.  An audio sample is available at the link as well. Publisher recommended for grades 5 and up.




Note:
 I'm still working on a follow-up post to my trip to the American Library Association Annual Conference in San Francisco. It was a great experience.