Friday, October 29, 2010

Bathroom humor

Here's a little bathroom humor (board book style) from Leslie Patricelli. I don't usually review board books, but these are so funny that I had to share!

Patricelli, Leslie. 2010. Tubby. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.

I'm naked! Wheeee!
That about sums it up.  Tubby is just doggone funny! But wait, does that dog have muddy paws? It looks like this little guy may need another bath.

Patricelli, Leslie. 2010. Potty. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.

Baby has to go.  He could go in his diaper. But then again, maybe he won't.   Maybe dog or cat has a better idea.  Nope.  Maybe he'll just try out the potty. Well, whaddya know?
Tinkle, tinkle, toot.  I did it!
An adorable boy makes his own decisions; and what does he get for his trouble?  What else, but

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

39 Clues - the end?

A quick wrap up of the final two audiobooks in the 39 Clues series - as with all the other titles, David Pittu narrates -

Park, Linda Sue. 2010. The 39 Clues: Storm Warning (Book 9). New York: Scholastic. which Dan and Amy are reunited (finally), the true secrets of the Madrigals are revealed, the hunt moves to Jamaica, and the death of someone not connected to the hunt deeply affects Dan, Amy, and Nellie. Oh yes, and one more thing, most excellent reader, David Pittu, finally finds an accent that's too hard to handle - Jamaican patois.

Haddix, Margaret Peterson. 2010. The 39 Clues: Into the Gauntlet. (Book 10). New York: Scholastic.

In this longest of all the 39 Clues titles, the Starlings return to play a major role (remember them from the bomb blast at the Franklin Institute?) and all of the clues are finally revealed as the hunt moves to London. 

The series did not wrap up as I had anticipated and surprisingly, the door has been left open for further adventures.  All in all, it was a good run.  Kids love the series and it keeps them reading.

And a surprise addition -

Monday, October 25, 2010

Guinea Pigs Add Up to 1+1=5!

Math isn't a huge topic in picture books, but there are some great ones - Math Curse by Jon Scieszka, A Million Dots by Andrew Clements, How Much is a Million? by David M. Schwartz.  Here are two new math-related picture books that recently arrived in my book bag.

First up - another guinea pig related book (is there a trend here?)

Cuyler, Margery. 2010. Guinea Pigs Add Up. New York: Walker Books for Young Readers.

If a fun way to introduce math is what you're after, this is the book for you! A cute, rhyming tale of addition from one to twenty. And what are we adding? Guinea pigs, of course!

"Then -- uh-oh -- eight weeks later,
five pets have fifteen more.
We count them -- one to twenty;
help -- guinea pigs galore!"
After the teacher finds homes for all of the guinea pigs, there's still more fun to be had when the class gets a new pet - a rabbit! Simple, playful, watercolor and pen illustrations are complemented by a comic font. Cute!

LaRochelle, David. 2010.  1+1=5: and Other Unlikely Additions. New York: Sterling.

Q: When does 1+1 not = 2?

A: In David LaRochelle and Brenda Sexton's whimsical picture book, introducing the concepts of addition, pairings, and sets.

One page shows two musicians entering separate doorways - one door marked Jazz Club, the other, Orchestra Hall. The boxed text reads,
1+1 = 6?
The following page reveals the answer,
1 duet + 1 quartet = 6 musicians!
The accompanying illustration shows all the musicians on stage with a sign reading "Double Feature Tonight!!" Other pairings include the Saltwater Reef Exhibit,
 Yes, it does.
1 octopus + 1 starfish = 13 arms!
A fun way to introduce new math concepts or practice counting!

David LaRochelle's website offers a teaching guide, coloring sheet, number hunt and lots more!
Another review @ The PlanetEsme Plan

Today's host for Nonfiction Monday is Write About Now. Writer Sherrie Petersen's got a great blog.  Be sure to check out her site, and all of today's Nonfiction Monday posts!

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Friday, October 22, 2010

And Then There Were Gnomes

Venable, Colleen AF. 2010. And Then There Were Gnomes (Guinea Pig: Pet Shop Private Eye series) Ill. by Stephanie Yue. Minneapolis, MN: Graphic Universe.

Smartly written, funny, and filled with the sometimes brief,
"Little help?"
 sometimes verbose
"So there I was ...walking! And then I stopped and was like "Man, the ground is cold right here." And I stepped back and was like "Man, the ground is warm right here." And then I stepped forward again and I was all BRRRRR. And then I stepped back and was like, "It's so warm, I am going to get a tan!" It was so scary!"
comments of the inhabitants and visitors at Mr. Venezi's Pets & Stuff, And Then There Were Gnomes is the second in the Guinea Pig: Pet Shop Private Eye series. The animals speak in the language of today’s kids, and take center stage in this mystery of the haunted aisle in the pet shop. Sasspants is the mystery-solving guinea pig, Hamisher is the loquacious, but not very bright Hamster, and Mr. Venezi is the lovable, scatterbrained shop owner, who regularly mislabels the animal cages. Interesting facts on the last page help the reader discover the difference between chinchillas and chimney sweeps, hamsters and gnomes, and other common mix-ups. ;)
a spread from the first book in the Guinea Pig Private Eye series

A small, slim graphic novel, it may appear to be for the very young, but it's funny and trendy enough for kids up to 5th grade. Also available in e-book format.

Graphic Universe, a division of Lerner Publishing Group, leaves me nothing to complain about. This book is clearly and definitively classified as follows:
Reading Level 3
Interest Level 2-5
Ages 7-11
Lexile 220
ATOS 2.6
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Monday, October 18, 2010

Halloween read-alouds for preschoolers

There are so many great Halloween books and scary stories (Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series comes to mind), but sometimes it’s difficult to find books for the littlest of listeners.

Here are some of my favorite read-aloud Halloween books for preschoolers and toddlers.  Enjoy!

Halloween by Harry Behn  -  simple poem, minimal words, spooky illustrations, sets a Halloween mood
Brooms are for Flying by Michael Rex - great for action, get the kids up and moving!
Boo Who? A foldout Halloween adventure by Lola M. Schaefer - fun for tiny tots

Ghosts in the House by Kazuno Kohara - simple wording, easy to follow, great retro-look illustrations!

Plumply, Dumply Pumpkin by Mary Serfozo - rhyming fun extolling the virtues (or flaws) of pumpkins, “Finally on a winding vine he spies a pumpkin fat and fine.”
Boo Who? A spooky lift-the-flap book by Joan Holub - an oldie, but goodie, another choice for tiny tots

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams - another old tale, this one’s a cumulative rhyme, great for participation
Halloween Night by Elizabeth Hatch - another cumulative tale in the same vein as “The House that Jack Built”

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Friday, October 15, 2010


Funke, Cornelia. 2010. Reckless. New York: Little Brown. (Translation by Oliver Latsch)

We don't know the difficulties encountered by Jacob Reckless when he first entered the mysterious Mirrorworld from a portal in his father's study.  By the time we meet Jacob Reckless, he is to the Mirrorworld as Aragorn is to Middle Earth - a master of local lore, people, plants and magic, easily navigating the dangerous, primitive and magical world - a world where the more evil elements of our fairy tales still reside.  The gingerbread houses of witches who eat children, the thorns that put one into deathly sleep, the Lorelei who lure boaters to their deaths - these and worse can still be found.  In the Mirrorworld Jacob is a treasure hunter, and more comfortable in the primitive world of Fairies, Dwarves and Goyl than in his own.  But he is not invulnerable, even with the help and adoration of the shape-shifter, Fox, that protects him.

In the modern world of humans, his mother, sad and withdrawn since his father's disappearance, has little hold upon Jacob.  But his brother, who has looked up to him as the father he doesn't even remember, his brother is Jacob's link to the world of his birth. Will is the reason that Jacob continually returns to the modern world.
But this time is different, it is not Jacob who has returned to Will, but Will who has traveled through the mirror, into a world where he doesn't know how to protect himself - a world where one moment, one mistake can be fatal; close behind him, his girlfriend Clara follows.  And now, it's up to Jacob to save him, to save them all.

    He picked the rose, and Clara heard the wood stem snap.  One of its thorns pricked his finger, and Will looked in surprise at the pale amber blood oozing from his petrified skin.
      He dropped the rose and rubbed his forehead.  "What's this? he said, faltering and looking at his brother.  "What have you done?"
     Clara reached out to him, but Will flinched away from her, stumbling over one of the skeletons.  The bones cracked like rotten wood under his boots. 
     "Will, listen!" Jacob grabbed his arm.  "You have to sleep.  I need more time.  When you wake up, all this will be over.  I promise."
     But Will shoved him away with such violence that Jacob staggered back, out of the shelter of the trees into the open expanse of the autumnal meadow.
     "Jacob!" Fox yelped. "Come back under the trees!"
     The image would stay with Clara forever.  Jacob, looking back.  And then the gunshot.
  Reckless is the first of a planned series about the Mirrorworld. As she did with the Inkworld, Cornelia Funke creates a dark and believable fantasy setting with a plot as thick and twisted as a path through the dark wood.  Jacob Reckless is a flawed, but likable, even admirable character.  Though this is only the first book, the conclusion is definitely satisfying.  Fans of the Inkheart series, older readers and fantasy fans will love it! Highly recommended.

As it reads on the dust cover,
"If you're looking for happily ever after, you've come to the wrong place."
 Watch and listen to Cornelia Funke read from Chapter 1. She's great!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Skit-scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald

Orgill, Roxanne. 2010. Skit-scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald. Ill. by Sean Qualls. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.

There are other picture book bios of Ella Fitzgerald, but this is the best one I've seen. An unvarnished look at her tattered upbringing that manages to be honest but uplifting at the same time. Rich, emotion-filled illustrations take center stage and offer a feeling for the era, the music and the woman, while remaining accessible to children. An extensive bibliography is included. Makes you want to queue up a record and dance!

Want to know more?  Visit the official Ella Fitzgerald website.

It's Nonfiction Monday again and this week's host is Anastasia Suen's Picture Book of the Day.  Anastasia is the creator and organizer of Nonfiction Monday!

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Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Dreamer

Ryan, Pam Muñoz. 2010. The Dreamer. Illustrated by Peter Sís. New York: Scholastic.

The Dreamer is a book that almost defies description.  Is it poetry?  Is it biography?  Is it fiction?  This fictional account of  real life poet Pablo Neruda's childhood is all of these things.  Born Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto, he was a shy, stuttering, skinny youngster with a larger-than-life domineering father. Working with Neruda's prose and poetry, along with anecdotes of his early life, Pam Muñoz Ryan invents the thoughts, hopes and dreams of the shy young man who quietly refuses to become the man his father wishes. With beautifully poetic language, she paints a portrait of a boy determined to be true to himself.  This is a book for thinkers and dreamers and poets and all children who yearn to be nothing but themselves.

A better artist than Peter Sís could not possibly have been chosen for this book.  The white spaces of his signature illustrations are filled with symbolism - the image of  the small and frightened faces of Neftali and his sister swimming in an ocean whose shoreline is the outline of his domineering father speaks volumes without words.  Illustrations are abundant throughout the book.

An illustrated, color discussion guide is available from Scholastic. Scholastic also offers this video booktalk, but this is a book that does better speaking for itself. It must be read to be appreciated.

If you've ever searched for a story with a calm and caring stepmother, this is that book, too.

Other reviews @
Kids Lit
Dog Ear

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Woods Runner

Paulsen, Gary. 2010.  Woods Runner. New York: Wendy Lamb.

At only thirteen years old, Samuel is already a man in some ways.  Born on the frontier, he is at home in the woods; hunting, tracking and providing for his family.  His parents have taught him to read, to be curious, to enjoy the hard work and simplicity of the frontier, but at heart, they are city-born, content to live at the edge of the great woods. Samuel, though, is perhaps even more at home in the woods than in his family's modest home.

So it is that Samuel is away hunting bear when the war comes to Western Pennsylvania.  Carefully deciphering the tracks and signs near the scorched earth of what was once their settlement, Samuel knows that his parents have been taken captive by British Redcoats and their Native allies.  Others from the settlement were not so lucky.  After burying the dead, Samuel sets out to find his parents - traveling eastward to the Redcoats stronghold, New York.

Like a Cold Mountain for teens and young adults, Woods Runner doesn’t recount the battles of war , but rather, its impact on civilian life.  Samuel, his parents, and his traveling companions do not fight in the war, but neither can they escape it.

     "It is the way of it," Abner put in from the darkness, "of war.  Some get, some don't, some live, some ... don't.  It's the way of it.
     "It's bad."
     "Yes. It is.  But it is our lot now, and we must live it."  Abner sighed. "The best we know how.”
A historical tale of action, suspense, determination and survival.  Single page entries of historical facts (ammunition, orphans, communication, etc.) separate the chapters and add background and perspective to this short, gripping story. History repeats itself every day in some location in the world.  It's good to remind ourselves sometimes of war's less visible consequences.  Highly recommended for grades 6 and up.

Read an excerpt from Woods Runner.

Bookpage has a great interview with Gary Paulsen.

Woods Runner, Three Rivers Rising, One Crazy Summer, The Keening, Countdown ... this has been a great year for historical fiction. I can’t wait to see what wins the Scott O’Dell Award.  It’s hard for me to pick a favorite.

I nominated this book for the Cybils (Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards) in the Young Adult category.  Anyone can nominate books until October 15th.  Just be sure to read the nomination rules first.

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Monday, October 4, 2010

All Aboard! Elijah McCoy’s Steam Engine

Kulling, Monica. 2010. All Aboard! Elijah McCoy’s Steam Engine. Ill. by Bill Slavin. Ontario, CA: Tundra.

One of the things that I love about reviewing children’s nonfiction is the number of new things that I learn every day.  Today I learned a little-known, but interesting and inspirational life story, as well as an interesting tidbit of etymology, the origin of the phrase “the real McCoy.”
Get on Board!

we hear our conductor
singing low
the song she uses
to let us know
now is the time
to get on board...

the midnight train
runs underground
we hide and pray
not to be found
we risk our lives
to stay on board...
So begins All Aboard! But All Aboard! is not the story of the Underground Railroad, rather it is the culmination of the Underground Railroad's greater purpose - a self-determined, productive life, lived out in  freedom.  Elijah McCoy was the son of slaves who escaped to Canada on the Underground Railroad. His determined and hardworking parents saved enough money to send Elijah to school overseas, where he studied to become a mechanical engineer. 

He returned in 1866 to join his family in Michigan.  Though he may have been free, his opportunities were not equal.  Despite his education, he was only able to secure work as an "ashcat," feeding coal into the firebox of a steam engine for the Michigan Central Railroad,
What a letdown! Elijah knew engines inside and out.  He knew how to design them.  He knew how to build them.  He also knew the boss didn't think much of him because he was Black.  But Elijah needed work, so he took the job. 
Still, Elijah persevered in his job while his mind, trained in engineering, sought to find a solution to the miserable job of "grease monkey," the boys (including Elijah) who oiled all of a train's gears when they frequently seized up due to friction and lack of lubrication.  Trains of the time were typically stopped every half hour or so for greasing.  After several years, Elijah invented (and patented) an oil cup, which was used successfully  to keep the trains running.  Travel by train became faster, safer, and more efficient.  He continued to invent throughout his life, eventually filing 57 patents!  Others tried to copy Elijah McCoy's oil cup, but none were able to match his success. 
When engineers wanted to make sure they got the best oil cup, they asked for the real McCoy.
All Aboard! Elijah McCoy's Steam Engine is an obscure but inspiring story, made particularly poignant by the juxtaposition of his parents' Underground Railroad experience, and his own experience working for the Michigan Central Railroad.  The dialogue is invented and there are no references cited, however, the engaging story is simply told in a manner that makes complex topics like the inventive process and racism accessible to young readers.  All Aboard! is short enough that it can easily be read aloud to a classroom or storytime for older children.

 The book's pen and watercolor illustrations are colorful, and full of life and expression; the reverse side of the dust jacket doubles as poster. The cover design, however, does not showcase the Slavin’s work in the most favorable manner and gives the book a rather dated appearance. The design was likely chosen to match the series format.  Don't judge this book by its cover. All Aboard! Elijah McCoy’s Steam Engine is the second book in the Great Idea series.

All Aboard has been nominated for the Cybils, Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards,  in the nonfiction, picture book category.  You can nominate books in many categories until Oct. 15th.  (Be sure to read the eligibility rules first!)

Review copy received from publisher. 
It's Nonfiction Monday and today's host is Madigan Reads.
Check out all of today's posts.
(I'll be hosting again on Nov 8)
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First page of US patent 129,843 for Improvement in Lubricators for Steam-Engines
(from Wikimedia Commons)

Beneath the Waves - a review

As we read disturbing news accounts of dying manatees , environmental disasters caused by toxic waste, and ocean pollution on the scale of ...