Book reviews (and news) you can use. A librarian's opinion on books and media for children and young adults
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Count Down to Fall
There is much to like about Countdown to Fall. Ostensibly a counting book, its true value is in its leafy pages. Seasonal leaf identification is as easy as falling off a log with simple rhymes and realistic, double-spread illustrations.
Not all of the rhymes flow perfectly, but each offers a fun way to memorize each leaf type. Beech tree leaves are described "like yellow cat's eyes," and my favorite,
"Six linden leaves
in Valentine shapes
reflect golden sun
in autumn's landscape."
Linking the Linden tree's leaves to a Valentine shape is original and memorable.
The real beauty of this book, however, is in its illustrations. Four corner insets on each spread offer depictions of a leaf in spring, a leafy tree in autumn, a seed pod, and an autumn leaf. The illustrations are bordered by a lifelike depiction of the tree's bark. The featured artwork shows the tree sharing its habitat with the creatures of nature - bears, birds, bugs, and more.
For Creative Minds is an educational section that follows the story and contains simple quizzes (match the spring leaf to the autumn leaf) and questions. Click to see.
This book is a teacher's dream - engaging, entertaining, and educational.
(If you're a librarian, check the publisher's site for crafts to do in conjunction with each of Sylvan Dell's titles- cool!)
Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs
Written by Sharon Draper, this series is a welcome addition to a genre in which people of color are often missing, or serving as token characters. Check the author’s website for activities and study guides.
One Book NJ
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
All of Me! A book of thanks.
All of Me! A book of thanks, is a joyful book that fits many needs. It is foremost, a child's book of thankfulness for his body,
"What grand hands! Thank you, hands, for gripping and throwing and patting and holding. And for hugging,"
"I listen with my ... ears. Outside I hear cars rumbling. I hear music playing. I hear honking, singing, barking, and laughing,"
and his place in the world,
"All this is my home. I am ALIVE."
The illustrations are a large and colorful mix of collage art, paint and crayons. The endpapers include directions for children to create their own books. In "Books are Fun to Make," author-illustrator Molly Bang, tells children how she made the book using paper bags, cloth and paper, crayons (!!), paints, paintbrushes and water. She includes simple directions and illustrations. Perfect for a budding artist!
Finally, All of Me! A Book of Thanks is perfect choice for Thanksgiving storytime (reminding us that we have more to be thankful for than a full plate) and for showcasing multiculturalism. The child is has biracial parents and lives in a vibrant and diverse neighborhood.
A simple book with a positive message.
Friday, October 23, 2009
Easy Readers for people of color?
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Where the Wild Things Are
I have not had a chance to see the new movie Where the Wild Things Are, based on Maurice Sendak's Caldecott Medal winning book of the same name, however, I thought I'd pass this information along.
My niece, who has two preschoolers, went to see the movie and posted this message on Facebook, "Just saw Where The Wild Things Are. It is NOT a children's movie. I repeat, NOT a children's movie."
Of course, this is only one person's opinion, but I pass it along because I've noticed that many movie trailers are crafted to appeal to very young children, when the movie itself is intended for an older audience.
When in doubt about the appropriateness of a children's movie, you can check the website of Kids-in-Mind.com, which contains reviews and commentary on all new movies. The site rates them on gore, violence, profanity, etc. Movies are reviewed in excruciating detail and reviews usually contain spoilers, however, you'll never be unpleasantly surprised at the theater, and the site is a cheaper option than previewing the movie yourself before bringing the kids.
Common Sense Media is another great site for movie reviews. They suggest this movie for ages 9 and up.
Where the Wild Things Are is rated PG for "mild thematic elements, some adventure action and brief language."
I'd love to hear comments from anyone who has seen the movie with young kids! If I get to the movie this weekend, I'll be sure to post again.
Monday, October 19, 2009
It's Dog Days as in the dog days of summer (the timing of this book's release could have been better) and Greg Heffley is looking forward to some quality indoor time, but unfortunately, his Mom's idea of the perfect summer vacation does not include horror movies, video games and TV. In Dog Days, Greg woefully recounts his misadventures at Rowley's country club, the public pool, his summer job, and the cabin at the beach. Rodrick, Manny, Gramma, Mom, Dad, the Jeffersons, and Fregley, all make appearances in this latest installment of the Wimpy Kid series. However, the true stars of Dog Days are Greg and his Dad, who learn that father-son bonding may not be the same in every family. Sometimes hating the same comic strip is all that you need.
"I knew I had to rescue Manny, so I closed my eyes as tight as I could and went in to save him... When we got to the other side, Manny seemed fine, but I don't think I'll ever totally recover from that experience."
Well, Jeff Kinney does make sense to a person of Greg Heffley's age! In fact, based on the phenomenal interest in his books, he makes sense to kids of all ages - from 9 to 99.
Friday, October 16, 2009
Anne Frank: Her Life in Words and Pictures
Friday, October 9, 2009
Murder at Midnight
Set in Italy at the end of the Middle Ages, Murder at Midnight, finds Fabrizio, a young servant boy, negotiating the deadly intricacies of the royal court in order to save his master, Magnus the Magician. This is not my favorite of Avi's mystery books. It is lacking in the rich language and total period immersion of The Traitor's Gate, Seer of Shadows or Newbery Award winner, Crispin: Cross of Lead. However, it succeeds as a gripping, suspenseful, and fast-paced (perhaps too fast?) murder mystery with strong protagonists in Fabrizio, and his friend, Maria. It's hard to go wrong with Avi.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
14 Cows for America
Deedy, Carmen Agra. 2009. 14 Cows for America. Illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez. Atlanta: Peachtree. (In collaboration with Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah)
On September 11, 2001, Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah, a college student from the Massai tribe in Kenya, was in New York City, studying to become a doctor. The following spring, he returned to his small village,
“He has brought with him one story. It has burned a hole in his heart,”
This is his story. It is not a story of the terroristic attacks upon the United States, but rather, a story of the compassion of the Massai people for the victims. The Massai, former warriors, now proud and peaceful cattle herders, believe that “the cow is life.” “Without the herd, the tribe might starve.”
After the tribal members and elders contemplate fires that can melt iron, buildings that can touch the sky, and three thousand lost souls, they respond with a gift for the U.S. Ambassador - the gift of life, fourteen cows for America.
The endpapers list Thomas Gonzalez’s medium as “pastel, colored pencil, and airbrush on 100% rag archival paper.” Its effect is stunning. The majesty of Kenya and the pride of the Massai people are evident in the rich, colorful illustrations.
A “Note from Kimeli Nayiyomah” follows, offering the story in greater detail for older readers. He notes that, in the gift of the Massai to America, “a connection between the two cultures had been made. We felt we had taken some of America’s pain into our Massai hearts.”
14 Cows for America is a touching story of compassion. The combination of Carmen Agra Deedy’s simple yet powerful words, the vibrant illustrations of Thomas Gonzalez, and the moving story of Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah, is a book that defies superlatives.
Thursday, October 1, 2009
New picture books
From the picture book collection:
Pinkney, Jerry. 2009. The Lion and the Mouse. New York: Little Brown.
Jerry Pinkney’s The Lion and the Mouse is a (nearly) wordless re-telling of Aesop’s fable of the same name. The story unfolds clearly and simply. The only “words” are the sounds of the Serengeti plain – the screech of an owl, the squeak of the mouse, the putt-putt of the hunter’s truck, the roar of the trapped lion. The pencil, watercolor, and colored pencil illustrations on paper, are simply stunning, conveying both the vastness and majesty of the African Serengeti and the myriad emotions of the lion and the mouse as they encounter each other by chance and again by purpose. The soft butter-yellow pages blend artfully with the earthy hues of Africa’s birds, plants, insects and wildlife. A beautiful book!
Felicity Floo has a cold and she’s off to visit the zoo – without a tissue. Trouble ensues as little Felicity spreads her germs,
“All of the animals down at the zoo
Are snuffling and snorting and sneezing ACHOO.
The lions won’t roar, and the tigers just mew.”
The double-spread illustrations are delightfully dreary. The disheveled Felicity sports a red nose, baggy eyes and a slimy, shiny, green hand print which she plasters throughout the zoo. Emus, elephants, flamingos and more, eye her with wide-eyed dismay.
Of course, one could argue that the idea of a zoo visitor touching the animals and spreading germs is a poor and erroneous example for little listeners; however, this is an engaging, rhyming story that spreads, not just germs, but a timely reminder to use a tissue and keep one’s slimy, green germs to oneself! A fun introduction to hand-washing and flu prevention.
And now our computers are working and it's time to get my nose out of books ...
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