Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Boy and the Moon

Carroll, James Christopher. 2010. The Boy and the Moon. Ann Arbor, MI: Sleeping Bear Press.

In simple black text, on a stark white page, we learn that
It was midnight
when a small boy, with his dog and  teddy bear, opened the door to reveal a glimpse of a van Gogh-inspired evening sky.

With a crescent moon high in the sky, the boy and dog, along with an owl, a rabbit, a frog, a chicken and a flower, cavort beneath an apple tree under a magical sky. When the moon becomes stuck in the apple tree, it is the brave young boy who devises a rescue plan.

The narrative is simple, yet compelling,
They howled at the moon, they howled at life, and they howled with all the things in the night. But that night was dusky dark and the moon got stuck in a tree.
and infuses the reader with the power of possibility,
Then the boy had a thought, a delicious thought, a bright, ripe, red thought.
The painted illustrations, full page and double-spreads, are a mix of magic and realism.  The texture of the boy's thermal pajamas is visible, while at the same time, we can view the swirling evening sky through the soles of his bare feet. The moon's life-like craters receive the same attention to detail as her many expressions. All are painted in the the dusky blue palette of a midnight sky.

Sure to be a bedtime favorite, The Boy and the Moon is a magical adventure. Highly recommended.

The Boy and the Moon is author/illustrator James Christopher Carroll's first children's book.  I look forward to seeing what's next.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

I Feel Better with a Frog in My Throat

Beccia, Carlyn. 2010. I Feel Better with a Frog in My Throat: History's Strangest Cures.  New York: Houghton Mifflin.
(a booktalk)

When you're trying to relieve a sore throat, do you prefer a frog down your throat, a necklace made from earthworms, or a dirty sock tied around your neck?  None of these? Well, I'm not surprised, but these were the cures of choice for Medieval Europeans and early 20th century Americans. Have a stomachache?  Have you tried urine, dirt, or millipedes? Medieval Europeans, Ancient Native Americans and 17th Century Britains did!

 Did any of them work?
To find out which ones, you'll have to read the true, humorously illustrated new book, I Feel Better with a Frog in My Throat: History's Strangest Cures. It's science, history and mystery combined!
Disclaimer: Side effects from reading this book may vary. Patients may experience rapid brain growth.
Highly recommended.

Reviews @
Kirkus Reviews
A Patchwork of Books
Three Turtles and Their Pet Librarian

Author interview @
Three Pipe Problem

Today is another Nonfiction Monday. Today's host is Playing by the Book.  Be sure to stop by.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

You know you're a children's librarian when ...

You know you're a children's librarian when...

you watch a commercial for a great new environmentally sensitive product, toilet paper without the cardboard tube, and inside you're thinking

 "Oh no, what will I use for crafts?"

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Octavia Boone's Big Questions About Life, the Universe, and Everything

Rupp, Rebecca. 2010. Octavia Boone's Big Questions About Life, the Universe, and Everything. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.

(a booktalk)

(If you're having trouble viewing this video, try these links instead: , )

 Vermont, seventh-grader, Octavia O'Keeffe Boone has lots of questions:
Why is there Braille at the drive-up ATM?
Is there a purpose to life?
Why is there algebra?
She lives with her dad, Boone, an artist, and her mother Ray, an environmental lawyer, always seeking a purpose in life. With her best friend Andrew, and caring neighbors, Octavia has a good life, At least she did, until her mother joins The Redeemers, a conservative Christian group that believes in strict obedience and a ban on the worldly influences of the Internet, television, public school and modern clothes.

At first, Octavia and Boone assume it’s another of Ray’s passing fancies.  But when it doesn’t pass, Octavia is forced to attend the Redeemers’ School. When the teacher asks the students to share stories about how God has helped them in their daily lives, Octavia is still asking the big questions,
Ronnie said that last Saturday he lost the money his mother had given him to go to the movies, but he asked God for help and then he found a five-dollar bill under a bush.

Marjean told how she’d lost her math homework and couldn’t find it anywhere, but she prayed and then she heard a voice in her head telling her where to look for it and she did and it was there.

What a waste of God’s time, I thought. What if he was supposed to be off taking care of starving people in Africa and instead he has to turn around and help some whiny kids find stuff?

If you're not the type to question authority, both earthly and otherwise, then this is not the book for you - for that is precisely what Octavia Boone does best. In the end, it may be that some questions just don’t have answers. And for Octavia, that just may be OK.
A review:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

November picture book roundup

Some new favorite picture books - short and sweet, here we go:

Wood, Audrey and Don. 2010. Piggy Pie Po. Boston: Harcourt.

Three very short, rhyming pig stories, starring the absolutely adorable, Piggy Pie Po - each with a humorous ending.
But when he's ready for the tub, to splish and splash and rub-a-dub-dub, Piggy Pie Po wears no clothes ... only bubbles, head to toes.

Raczka, Bob. 2010. Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys. Ill. by Peter H. Reynolds. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Guyku (rhymes with haiku) - illustrated haiku that features boys and things that boys like to do outdoors in each season. My favorite?
Hey, Who turned off all
the crickets?  I'm not ready
for summer to end.
 Brilliant!  Teachers should be all over this one.
Wish there were one for girls (but "Galku" just wouldn't cut it)

Fox, Mem. 2010. Let's Count Goats. Ill. by Jan Thomas.  New York: Beach Lane.
Here we see an over goat.  And this one's going under.  But can we count the crossing goats, terrified of thunder?
Mem Fox, Jan Thomas, silly goats, what's not to like? Great counting book for little ones. (You don't see the word careering very often.  Interesting choice.)

Mavor, Salley. 2010. Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Traditional nursery rhymes illustrated in "hand-sewn fabric relief collages."  Most of the rhymes are familiar - old classics including Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater, The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, and the like.  But a few may be so old as to be new,
I'm dusty Bill from Vinegar Hill.  Never had a bath and never will.
The depictions of the exquisitely detailed needlework are simply stunning.  Even a child who can't appreciate the work involved will know that this book is something special.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth

Kinney, Jeff. 2010. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth. New York: Amulet.

Greg and Rowley are fighting.  And to make things worse, Rowley's getting taller and already has his first pimple! Pimples, sweat, facial hair, "the talk," and other unmentionable horrors are awaiting Greg this year in middle school.

Poor Greg. Everyone used to think he was so cute.  That is, until Manny came along,
See, when you're a little kid,nobody ever warns you that you've got an expiration date. One day you're hot stuff and the next day you're a dirt sandwich.
Of course, Rodrick's no help either.  Mom's taking college courses and the boys have new chores.
And the bagged lunch thing isn't working out, either.  This week Rodrick was in charge of making lunches, and he wrote a note on  my lunch bag, just like Mom does.

(sketch of lunch bag with the note, "Dear Greg, Make sure to change your diaper after lunch.  Love, Mommy")

 I didn't even bother eating the sandwich, since I've never seen Rodrick wash his hands even once.
Greg Heffley is growing up.  And that's The Ugly Truth.

Growing up is never easy, but with Jeff Kinney, it's always funny.  Kids will love this latest in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.

Host your own Wimpy Kid party with The Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth: Wimpy Wednesday Event Pack.

Review copy provided by Amulet Books.  (It will be raffled off to a very happy child at my library's Wimpy Kid event party.)

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Saturday, November 13, 2010

Jazz Fly 2: The Jungle Pachanga

Gollub, Matthew. 2010. Jazz Fly 2: The Jungle Pachanga: Wherein los Jazz Bugs Meet la banda de las Termitas. Santa Rosa, CA: Tortuga.

Choo-ka Choo-ka ting,” the Jazz Fly’s back!
He’s in the rainforest, selva, so it’s time to pack.

But ¡Ay, caramba! - the Bug Band’s swing
just doesn't make las termitas sing.

So add Spanish words, a Latino beat.
Then those bugs start groovin’ in the southern heat,

proving jazz and Latin are a hoppin’ mix.
(Made all the better with Karen Hanke’s pix)

Let Matthew Gollub do the reading with the book’s CD.
Kids will love it. Es bueno. Check it out. You’ll see.

Listen to and see a preview of Jazz Fly 2 at Matthew Golub's site.
(The original Jazz Fly, is fly, too!)

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thanksgiving books for storytime

Thanksgiving is a wonderful (mostly) non-commercial holiday that we can all enjoy regardless of our ethnic and religious backgrounds. Following are some of my Thanksgiving favorites for sharing:

Anderson, Laurie Halse. 2002. Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving. New York: Simon and Schuster.

The fascinating true story of the woman who convinced the President Lincoln (the 5th president she petitioned!) to make Thanksgiving a national holiday - a quest on which she spent 38 years!  Written in a witty and engaging style, this one's a pleasure to share with older kids. This story never gets old.

Arnosky, Jim. 2009. I'm a Turkey. New York: Scholastic. (click for review)

A singing look at the natural world of turkeys.  Not a Thanksgiving book, but timely (and fun!), nonetheless.
Mayr, Diane. 2007. Run, Turkey, Run!
A cumulative tale (reminiscent of We're Going on a Bear Hunt) of a turkey on the run.  For the faint of heart, you can even end the book at the point where the family sits down to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner of grilled cheese while the turkey rejoices (and skip the final page when the turkey is spotted again when the family goes out to find a Christmas tree!).  Either way, it's a winner.

Anderson, Derek. 2005. Over the River: A Turkey's Tale. New York: Simon and Schuster. (Based on the song by Lydia Maria Child)
If you want to keep old songs alive, you've got to sing them - and children are the best audience.  They love to sing, they love you to sing with them, and they don't mind if you don't do it well! (I love kids for that)  Break out your singing voice and give "Over the River and Through the Woods" a go while you page through the delightful illustrations of this Thanksgiving classic.

Markes, Julie. 2004. Thanks for Thanksgiving. New York: Harper Collins.

This book's simple rhymes (one line per page)   
Thanks for Thanksgiving, for turkey and pie.
Thank you for fall and gold leaves floating by.
and warm illustrations make it perfect for sharing with your youngest listeners. (the "you" in thank you is left undefined and readers may draw from it what they wish)

Ruddell, Deborah. 2009. A whiff of pine, a hint of skunk: A forest of poems. (Ill. by Joan Rankin). New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books.

And if you're planning to have children create the classic hand print turkey this year, it simply begs for a reading of "A Wild Turkey Comments on his Portrait," from A Whiff of Pine, a Hint of Skunk: A Forest of Poems, if not for the kids, then read it for yourself!
I find it most insulting
that you traced around your hand
and colored all my feathers
either plain old brown or tan.

Where's the copper? Where's the gold
that a turkey should expect?
Where on earth is raw sienna,
and where is the respect?

Finally, I'm baffled
that you've made me look so dumb.
My head is quite distinguished
and it's nothing like your thumb.
The rest of the collection is great as well! Don't miss this one.

Finally, If you're thinking of choosing a book that tells the "traditional" "Thanksgiving story," check out the resources at Oyate first.  Oyate, a Native organization that works to promote honest depictions of Native history and stories, offers Recommended Books about Thanksgiving  and a guide, How to Tell the Difference. I'm thankful that they have decided to discontinue their page on "Books to Avoid."  A list of suggested books is more helpful and affirming than a list of offensive ones.  In the future, I hope that more culturally-correct, Thanksgiving inspired titles are written for preschoolers. In the meantime, I'll be sharing the ones above.

And that's Thanksgiving in a pie shell.  Enjoy!
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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Long Walk to Water

Park, Linda Sue. 2010. A Long Walk to Water. New York: Clarion.

A Long Walk to Water begins as the parallel stories of Salva, a young boy in the Southern Sudan of 1985 and Nya, a young Sudanese girl in the year 2008. 

Salva once had the life of a well-to-do villager's son.  His father owned many cows.  He attended school. He herded the cows.  But when the rebels arrived, shooting at everyone in the village, his life changed in an instant.  Now he is alone.  Get to the next hill, the next watering hole, the next day.  This is the mantra that keeps him going, one painful step at a time, searching for years for a safe haven - across deserts, war zones and countries.

Nya's life consists of providing water for her family.  When the brackish pond is full, she walks hours each day - first to the pond to collect water, then  home, carrying a full container upon her head.  After a quick meal of thin gruel, she has enough time for a second trip.  During the months when the pond is dry, her family relocates to a temporary shelter near a dry lake bed.  The work is easier there.  Nya spends all day digging in the mud, waiting for subterranean water to fill the hole she has dug with her bare hands.  She scoops out the water, one gourd full at a time and waits for the hole to refill.  It is tedious work and takes all day, but at least she does not have to walk for miles in the heat with the heavy water atop her head.

Park's minimal use of dialogue fits the stark landscape and mood of the story,
The nurse, a white woman, was talking to Nya's mother. "Her sickness came from the water," the nurse explained.  "She should drink only good clean water.  If the water is dirty, you should boil it for a count of two hundred before she drinks it."

Nya's mother nodded that she understood, but Nya could see the worry in her eyes.

The water from the holes in the lakebed could be collected only in tiny amounts.  If her mother tried to boil such a small amount, the pot would be dry long before they could count to two hundred.
Nothing else needs to be said.  How can a mother choose between dehydration and cholera for her children? 

As Salva's arduous journey continues, the years add on until Park has woven his story from the Sudanese Civil War years into the modern day Sudan of Nyla's time, of our time.  Sudan is Africa's largest country, full of wildlife and riches and oil and beauty and war and poverty and genocide and starvation. The reader can sense that the two stories will intertwine, but is at first, unsure how. When it becomes apparent how the lives of Salva and Nyla will intersect, it almost unbelievable, considering the circumstances.  And yet, their stories are true. Despite the overwhelming odds against Salva's survival, and Nyla's fragile subsistence existence, they do survive.

Salva, after more than ten years of wandering becomes one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, miraculously chosen from the untold tens of thousands of people in Kenyan refugee camps- chosen to start a new life in the United States.  And with his new life, he returns to repair his old one.

In an interview, author Linda Sue Park says that this was an easy book to write because she let Salva's story speak for itself.  Linda Sue Park gave Salva's powerful story a voice. Brief and straightforward, A Long Walk to Water is inspiring for its truth and simplicity.  Park eschews sentimentalism and allows Salva's understated dignity, perseverance and virtue to awe the reader.  No embellishment is necessary. This is a compelling story.  Highly recommended.

Review copy provided by NetGalley. Due on shelves, November 15, 2010.

 Linda Sue Park talks about A Long Walk to Water.

Watch Salva and see the work of his creation, the non-profit, Water for Sudan.

The November 2010 edition of National Geographic Magazine offers two feature articles on Sudan, "Sudan's Shaky Peace" and "The Lost Herds are Found."  Both are well worth reading.
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Monday, November 8, 2010

Rags and Riches: Kids in the Time of Charles Dickens

Welcome to Shelf-employed! I am today's Nonfiction Monday host!
Bloggers, please add your link below. Readers, I hope you visit all of today's posters.

Osborne, Mary Pope and Natalie Pope Boyce. 2010. Rags and Riches: Kids in the Time of Charles Dickens. (Magic Tree House Research Guide series #22)New York: Random House.

This is the companion book to A Ghost Tale for Christmas Time, a historical fantasy romp through Dickens' A Christmas Carol,which is why it has the subtitle, Kids in the Time of Charles Dickens, when "Kids in the Victorian Era" might seem more logical.

Charles Dickens lived from 1812 - 1870, largely in the Victoria Era.  Queen Victoria reigned from 1837- 1901. Rich or poor, life was difficult for Britain's children in those days.  Rich children suffered from serious diseases and were raised largely apart from their parents. Boys were sent away to strict schools while girls studied at home with a governess those subjects which were thought most likely to win them a suitable husband - French, dancing, drawing, music.  Of course, they were still much better off than the poor children and street children who filled the streets of London. They slept outside in rags or lived in debtors' prisons or squalid housing. They often worked in dangerous factories for long hours with little or no pay - beginning as young as five years old! Cholera and typhoid were epidemic. Life for a poor child in the time of Charles Dickens was wretched.  Rags to Riches explains all these facets of Victorian Era life and more, with liberal use of sketches and period photographs.

 It is doubtful that any child can read the accounts in the chapter, "Jobs for Poor Kids," and not be affected.  Imagine life as a climbing boy, often only five or six years old,
Since they were small, they could squeeze through narrow parts of the chimney.
     Climbing boys climbed to the top of the chimney and swept the coal dust out on their way back down. They got cuts and bruises from the jagged bricks.  To toughen up their skin, salt water was rubbed into it.
     If the boys got scared and stopped climbing, the chimney sweeps jabbed their feet with pins or lit fires to keep them moving.  At times climbing boys got burned or stuck in the chimneys and suffocated.
Quite a different reality from the friendly, Bert, of Mary Poppins fame!

A children's highlight from the Victoria Era?  The birth of the modern children's picture book - Beatrix Potter's illustrated Tales of Peter Rabbit.  Of course, without money, poor children likely only glimpsed the tiny little books through shop windows.

This is not an easy topic for which to create a research guide.  A chronological approach does not work well, and the many aspects of a child's life are almost too large in scope for a book of this small scale. Still, Pope has created a semblance of order, dividing the topic into six chapters: 'Hard Times for Kids," "What Charles Dickens Saw," "The London of Dickens," "Jobs for Poor Kids," Rich Kids," and "How Things Changed."

Avenues for further research and an index complete this guide book.

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Packing for Mars

So, yes, sometimes I read adult books, too.  I heard Mary Roach interviewed on NPR and couldn’t wait to read Packing for Mars.  You can hear the interview here.  I began reading the print volume, but switched to the audiobook.  Below are reviews of both.

Roach, Mary. 2010. Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void. New York: W.W. Norton.

Audiobook version read by Sandra Burr.  Brilliance Audio. (about 10.5 hours)

In Packing for Mars, Mary Roach proves that it is possible to be both reverent and irreverent at the same time.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Maclear, Kyo. 2010. Spork. Ill. by Isabelle Arsenault.Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press.

Spork - a touching book that tells the happy story of how a Spork who didn't fit in, found his true place and purpose in life - a positive message with illustrations to charm your heart.

Using minimal colors (the silver tones of cutlery and toasters, the green of cooked peas, and the tomatoey hue of pasta sauce), Aresenault has crafted the darling denizens of the silverware drawer and one Gerber inspired human. "The artwork in this book was rendered in mixed media and assembled digitally."  I'm not sure exactly how that's accomplished, but the finished result is wonderfully, happily, sporkishly delightful!

Don't take my word for it. View a slideshow off the artwork at Isabelle Arsenault's website. You'll fall in love with Spork, too!

And here is author, Kyo Mclear's introduction to Spork.

(I think I'm a fan of cutlery in general. I'm also fond of Spoon.)

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Monday, November 1, 2010

Veterans Day

Barely a day goes by without a preschool teacher asking me for "age-appropriate" nonfiction titles on a particular topic.  Some requests are easy - apples, winter.  Some are more abstract - community, kindness.
(Today's preschoolers work so much harder than I ever did)

Now for ages 4-6, Heinemann Library has just introduced its Holidays and Festivals series under the Acorn brand.  The books are a small 8x7 inch size and a uniform 24 pages each.  Each page contains one large photo and one or two sentences.
Rissman, Rebecca. 2011. Veterans Day. Chicago: Heinemann.

The Veterans Day title is a simple explanation of the holiday including a definition of a veteran, how we celebrate Veterans Day and Veterans Day symbols.  A calendar page (showing the date of Veterans Day), a picture glossary and an index complete the book.

There are 18 titles in the series, including Election Day, Arbor Day, Hanukkah, Labor Day and Diwali.  Not riveting reads, but teachers will like them and they can be paired with longer fiction titles for themed storytimes.

It's Nonfiction Monday again.  Today's host is publisher Capstone's blog,  Capstone Connect
Next week's Nonfiction Monday will be right here @ Shelf-employed!

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 ...