Monday, January 31, 2011

A Nation's Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis

Peña, Matt de la. 2011. A Nation's Hope: The story of boxing legend Joe Louis. Ill. by Kadir Nelson. New York: Dial.

A Nation's Hope begins at the end -  at the historic rematch between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling, the German boxer, the only man ever to have put Joe Louis on his back.

Matt de la Peña's words have a poetic quality,
The world waits for Joe Louis to take the ring,
take center stage
White men wait standing beside black men,
but standing apart
Jim Crow America.
Kadir Nelson's artwork is a stunning complement. In realistic style, the story begins with a two-page spread of Yankee Stadium in 1938.  The text is in simple black font, mixing in with the darkening sky. The crowd awaits entrance to the stadium in the gathering dusk, a sliver of daylight low on the horizon.  One side of Yankee Stadium is bathed in a the last bright light of day, the other in shadow. Jim Crow America.

As the fighters climb into the ring, Peña flashes back to a young Joe Louis, a powerful boy with large hands and persistent stammer. The reader learns of Louis' determination to box, his rise to the top, his graceful behavior as a competitor, and his stunning defeat at the hands of one Max Schmeling, a favorite of Hitler.  Realistic paintings of period photos and newspaper headlines, dark gyms,  and sinewy arms with poised gloves take center stage.  The text lives within the illustrations, never detracting from them.  The faces of Black America wait and hope and pray for their hero.  And in the end, when all of America dances for Joe Louis' victory over Schmeling, the page is no longer split between light and dark.  The country dances together, in the dark.

This is Matt de la Peña's first picture book.  The pairing of de la Peña and Nelson results in pure emotion.  I wouldn't be surprised to see this book on many short lists at the end of the year.  Highly recommended.

Larry Schwartz, of ESPN, wrote an interesting article, "Brown Bomber was a Hero to All," as part of ESPN's Sports Century Athletes list - good reading.

It's Nonfiction Monday again. Today's roundup is at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Just in time for Chinese New Year: The Runaway Wok and Fortune Cookies

February 3, 2011 will usher in the Year of the Rabbit.  Chinese New Year is the first day of the first month in the lunar calendar.  The celebration lasts 15 days and includes the Lantern Festival.  If you were born in 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, or 2011, you were born in the Year of the Rabbit.

Here are two timely new books that just crossed my desk: 

Compestine, Ying Chang. 2011. The Runaway Wok. Ill. by Sebastia Serra. New York: Dutton.

Based on the Danish folktale, The Talking Pot, The Runaway Wok is a new Chinese folktale about old Beijing and a magic wok,  a wok determined to right the wrongs committed by the greedy Mr. Li and his family.  It is the eve of the Chinese New Year and the poor Zhang family sends its son, Ming, to trade eggs for rice at the market.  In a move reminiscent of Jack and the Beanstalk, Ming trades his eggs not for rice, but for a wok that sings out to him,
Boy, Boy, trade for me, I am more than what you see!
And so it is!  But this wok has greater plans than residing with the Zhangs.  Ming's mother barely gets the wok cleaned up before it rolls out the door singing,
Skippity-hoppity-ho! To the rich man's wife I go,
And so the wok, like an Asian Robin Hood, travels back and forth, taking from the rich and delivering to the poor,
Skippity-hoppity-ho! To the poor man's house I go,
much to the delight of the Zhangs and all their friends. The Runaway Wok pays tribute to classic tales in a manner that is still wholly original. Kids will love hearing the wok's rhyming songs and exploring the book's detailed, folk art illustrations full of colorful parasols, foods, flowers, lanterns, and brocade garments. 

An author’s note explains the Chinese New Year holiday (with an emphasis on the culinary aspects), and concludes with a recipe for Festive Stir-Fried Rice. Yum!

Bitterman, Albert. 2011. Fortune Cookies. Ill. by Chris Raschka. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Fortune Cookies isn't a Chinese New Year book, but it's a

Monday, January 24, 2011

Sarah Emma Edmonds Was a Great Pretender

Jones, Carrie. 2011. Sarah Emma Edmonds was a Great Pretender. Minneapolis: Lerner.

Author, Carrie Jones, probably best known for her Need series, is not be the first author who comes to  mind when thinking of picture book biographies, however, in Sarah Emma Edmonds, she has clearly found a subject that sparks her interest.
Sarah Emma Edmonds was born in Canada to a cruel father who wished she were a boy.  Unhappy and unable to please him, she eventually fled to the United States and began a new life on her own. She began by selling Bibles, door-to-door, and soon discovered that she sold more and was more readily accepted when dressed as a man. When her adopted country began recruiting soldiers for the Union Army, Sarah joined up, disguised as a man, and giving the name of Frank Thompson.  This would be remarkable enough, but Sarah Emma Edmonds went on to become a successful Union spy. She darkened her skin with silver nitrate and posed as a Southern slave, stealing information on Southern positions and fortifications.  Two months later, she returned to the Confederacy. 
This time she pretended to be Bridget O'Shea, a chubby Irish peddler. She was a woman (Sarah) pretending to be a man (Frank) pretending to be a woman (Bridget).  This would be confusing for most people, but not for Sarah.
Jones does a fine job of distilling the life of this complex woman into a hero story that can be easily understood by younger readers.  The basics of the war are explained, but the war is not the story here.  Sarah Emma Edmonds is the story; children should find her bravery and cunning fascinating.

Although the Author's Note reveals that Sarah Emma Edmonds later revealed her Civil War exploits in a memoir and was belatedly accepted by her fellow soldiers (even the federal government eventually granted her a pension), the book ends with the following, 
She pretended that she was never Frank Thompson, never a spy, never rode a horse named Rebel, and never stole Confederate secrets. Sarah Emma Edmonds was a fantastic pretender.  No one had a clue.
Hopefully, readers will persevere through the fine print author's note and discover the successful resolution of Sarah Emma Edmonds' dual life. Leaving the reader with the impression that her valor and determination went unappreciated is a bit disheartening. Overall, though, this is an inspiring story of a young woman who took a bad beginning and turned it into a grand and honorable adventure.

Sarah Emma Edmonds bookmark available as a PDF download.

Digital Advance Reader copy supplied by Netgalley.

Because I do not own a Color Nook, I will again refrain from commenting the double-spread, painted illustrations by Mark Oldroyd.  In the future, I will be sure not to request picture book review copies in digital format.  My apologies to Mr. Oldroyd.

Photograph of Emma Edmonds in women's clothing
Photo from Library Archives Canada
Emma Edmonds in women's clothing

Source: Frank Thompson : her Civil War story
by Bryna Stevens 1st ed. -- New York : Macmillan Pub. Co. ; Toronto :
 Maxwell Macmillan Canada ; New York : Maxwell Macmillan International,
 c1992. -- 144 p. : ill., map, ports. ; 22 cm. -- ISBN 0027881857. -- P. 124
© Public Domain

 Today's Nonfiction Monday is at Great Kid Books.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword

Deutsch, Barry. 2010. Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword. New York: Amulet.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I placed a hold on Hereville:  How Mirka Got Her Sword (tagline: "Yet Another Troll-Fighting 11-Year-Old Orthodox Jewish Girl") in anticipation of hosting an author or illustrator on the Sydney Taylor Book Awards blog tour. (I don't know yet whom it will be, but I'm excited and trying to be prepared!)

Hereville is the 2011 gold medal winner in the Sydney Taylor Awards "older readers" (think middle school) category, and it is anything but what I thought it might be.  I expected a heavy, perhaps historical fiction, story of the Jewish experience.  What I found instead, was a modern, graphic novel,  fairytale adventure, offering a prolonged peek into a very insular community - that of the Orthodox Jew.  Through Mirka, the book's lively and determined protagonist, the reader sees a young girl who, despite the tenets of her faith that keep her apart from secular and non-Orthodox society, is much like any other young girl - willful and curious, tempered with love for her family and friends, and a grudging respect for her elders.

Of course, the fact that Mirka is an Orthodox Jewish girl cannot be missed.  The clothing,  religious observances, frequent use of Yiddish words (defined in footnotes), gender segregation, large families and dietary restrictions of the faith are all on display in Hereville, an apropos name, as "here," within the community, is the only place that an Orthodox child is likely to be.  But Mirka longs to fight dragons and isn't afraid to occasionally disobey her stepmother, Fruma, in search of adventure.  Mirka doesn't ever find dragons, but she does find a witch, a talking pig, and eventually, a way to win her sword - even if it doesn't involve slaying dragons.

Most of the interactions take place between Mirka and her younger brother Zindel, her closest companion in the family, and Fruma, a very wise woman, well-versed in turning both sides of any argument to her own favor, much to Mirka's consternation. The pig serves as a bridge of sorts between the Orthodox world and the world-at-large. It is unclear whether the witch is a fairy tale convention or a metaphor for the larger world, a sometimes dangerous place full of the strange and unfamiliar. Mirka must navigate the magical world of the witch in the wood while managing the growing discontent of  family and friends with her occasional decidedly unorthodox behavior.

The illustrations are easy to follow, usually in neatly-defined rectangular panels. Dialogue and text are in white bubbles or boxes in an easy-to-read font.  The artwork was created in pen and ink by the author; a colorist later added a tan palette for daytime scenes, and purple hues for Mirka's forays into the night. The faces are simple, yet expressive. There is enough action to satisfy regular graphic novel fans.

In my state of New Jersey, Orthodox Jews are not uncommon.  Knowing anyone who truly understands much about their lifestyle is. Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, has opened a window into the Orthodox culture.  In Hereville, Barry Deutsch manages to promote cultural understanding (and knitting!) in a graphic novel adventure.  It's no wonder that Hereville is this year's winner. A truly unique concept.

A fifteen-page preview of Hereville, the graphic novel, is available hereHereville began as a web comic in 2008, and may still be found online at

Think you've got what it takes to be a graphic artist?  Check out this video of author/artist, Barry Deutsch, drawing Mirka at 20x normal speed.

About the Sydney Taylor Book Awards:
The Sydney Taylor Book Award is presented annually to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience. Presented by the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) since 1968, the Award encourages the publication and widespread use of quality Judaic literature. Gold medals are presented in three categories: Younger Readers, Older Readers, and Teen Readers. Honor Books are awarded silver medals, and Notable Books are named in each category.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Crossing: How George Washington Saved the American Revolution

Murphy, Jim.2010. The Crossing: How George Washington Saved the American Revolution. New York: Scholastic.

The brave young men who first enlisted as soldiers under General George Washington's command were promised
a few happy years in viewing the different parts of this beautiful continent, in the honourable and truly reputable character of a soldier, after which, he may, if he pleases return home to his friends, with his pockets FULL of money and his head COVERED with laurels.
Of course, anyone familiar with the Revolution knows that nothing could have been further from the truth, which is why the choice of this 1775 recruiting poster makes such an excellent place to begin The Crossing: How George Washington Saved the American Revolution. After the victories at Lexington and Concord, Congress and soldiers were feeling brave and confident.  It seemed that only George Washington understood the gravity of the situation and the enormity of the task ahead. 

Jim Murphy's latest book is not a chronicle of the American Revolution, but rather a close look at the period between June 15, 1775, when Washington was appointed commander-in-chief of the Continental army, and January 3, 1777, when the Continental army defeated the British troops at Princeton, following the famous victory at Trenton on December 26, 1777.  This was, Murphy contends, the most crucial period in the American Revolution, the period when the very survival of the nation hung in the balance.

In seven chronological chapters, Murphy carefully recounts the strategy, battles, and general mood of the soldiers and citizens during this period.  Maps, period artwork and quotations help to set the desperate mood of the times. At one point, after George Washington's "humiliating retreat through New Jersey,"
even a signer of the Declaration of Independence, Richard Stockton, gave "his word of honor that he would not meddle in ... American affairs" and swore allegiance to King George III.
(Here I am left to wonder why one of New Jersey's colleges is named after Mr. Stockton, though he apparently did, at a later date, again swear allegiance to the United States.)

During a retreat from Fort Lee in November of 1776, just barely ahead of advancing British troops, Murphy writes that Washington's
desperate soldiers abandoned cooking kettles, muskets, ammunition pouches, and unnecessary clothing as they staggered along.  A New Jersey citizen recalled that these soldiers "looked ragged, some without a shoe to their feet, and most of them wrapped in their blankets."
As always, Jim Murphy's book is thoroughly researched, highly engaging, and exhaustively indexed.   A timeline, list of Revolutionary war sites, and notes and sources are also included.

As a New Jerseyan, an undergrad history major, and  mother who has accompanied the annual 4th graders' class trip to Trenton, I am quite familiar with New Jersey's Revolutionary history, but still found The Crossing to be enlightening and engrossing.  Particularly interesting to me is the lengthy explanation following the final chapter, of the famously inaccurate painting, "Washington Crossing the Delaware." Murphy has given me new insight into, and appreciation for artist Emanual Gottlieb Leutze's iconic painting, depicting the standing George Washington crossing the Delaware River.  Art (and history) teachers would do well to use Murphy's text to introduce this painting. I plan to take a fresh look at it myself, as unfortunately, in keeping with the book's sepia-tones on white pages, only the back of the book jacket shows the painting in color in its entirety.

Highly recommended.

Enjoy this virtual visit to the present-day site of the famous landing spot,
 Washington Crossing State Park in NJ, where a reenactment is held each Christmas.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

An invitation to KidLit Celebrates Women's History Month

Women's History Month is not until March, but for the past few months, I have been working with fellow blogger, Margo of The Fourth Musketeer, on a special blog. To highlight Women's History Month as it pertains to the field of children's literature, we have created Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month 2011. The blog will feature one post each day in March from distinguished children's authors and bloggers. In addition to the daily musings of outstanding authors and bloggers, we will feature a compilation of Women's History Month Resources.

If you would like to join in our celebration, check out our Join page for further details.  If we are unable to accommodate all those who would like to contribute, we encourage you to write a Women's History Month post on your own blog during the month of March, and we will gladly link to all appropriate posts.You can already "follow" this blog through Blogger, RSS, or e-mail subscription. We will also soon have a blog button that you can post on your blog as well.  Contact us as soon as possible if you'd like to participate.  The list of dates still available is on the site.

Suffragettes EnRoute To Boston 3820613246
Questions?  Leave a comment or send an email.  All of the details may be found at Kidlit Celebrates Women's History Month 2011.  We hope to make this an annual event! 

I'll be back next week with  my usual nonfiction review.  In the meantime, this week's Nonfiction Monday is at NC Teacher Stuff - always a good read there!

Photo credit: By The Library of Congress [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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Saturday, January 15, 2011

High-tech retro

New - that's the theme requested by Challenging the Bookworm Blog, the host of this month's Carnival of Children's Literature.  So, I started thinking, what's new?

A new year, a new decade - everything is new. Color e-readers, computing in the cloud, smarter phones, 4G networks - the list is endless; and I am a fan of “new” and “high-tech.” In fact, this post was written “in the cloud” that most of my documents call home. However, as I ponder the new year, I have a nagging feeling that for librarians, it is the old that may matter most. Despite the wondrous new advances in technology, librarians (particularly children’s librarians) must remember that many people don’t live in the shiny new world - they live in the old one, and perhaps our greatest challenge is to ensure that we use the latest technology to do our ages-old job.

As a public librarian, I see firsthand, the large number of people who do not have home access to the Internet, printing capabilities, or telephone service. We bloggers and other denizens of the Internet are so familiar with technology that we may take it for granted that others have the same knowledge base. Imagine my surprise when my son received a new touch screen, video music player with the capability to receive RSS feeds. “Oh,” I thought, “how excited he’ll be to find that he can receive ESPN updates!” Oh, how surprised I was to learn that he had no idea what an RSS feed is or why he might want to use one! In some cases, the ubiquitous social networking sites have made the internet so easy, that people no longer understand how it works. And this is good that they don’t have to, but it’s also bad, because it’s limiting. Voice over Internet (VOI) protocol, free cloud computing applications, RSS feeds - all of these have the potential to aid librarians in assisting customers, particularly students, teachers, and those with limited resources; but only if customers know how to use them.

It’s also wonderful that new tablets and color e-readers make picture books accessible in digital format. The small size and portability of new e-readers makes them uniquely personal, but also uniquely solitary. I love my e-reader, but I still want to see children with loved ones, cozying up with beautiful, full-sized picture books. Yes, there may be a cool phone app for a beloved children’s book, but we have to make the physical book available as well - especially for the child who will never have an e-reader.

Smart phones are also a boon, however, a growing portion of society relies solely on wireless phone service for Internet access - for reasons of convenience, cost, or availability. But is the same information available to mobile users? Will they be shut out from some content, or forced to pay more for service because of the deregulated nature of wireless access? I just turned on the new “mobile template” for my blog, making it easier to read on a smart phone, but I wonder if it matters. Do most people access RSS feeds? Do they know how to access them from a phone? Do content providers know how to make them accessible? Again, another opportunity for us to ensure that we use high-tech capabilities to fulfill an older, low-tech obligation - leveling the playing field, offering equal access to information.

So to sum up my rather lengthy post, I love the new technology, but I think, especially in this era of great economic uncertainty, that our primary job is still old - old in the classic sense - to ensure that information is available to people, that the people with the least means are not left behind, that children are encouraged to read, share, and explore great books (and not so great books if they choose), and that we, as a group, do our best to make use of the new to do the classic job of old.

So, in with the old and in with the new, let’s go high-tech retro!

Clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bless this Mouse

Lowry, Lois. 2011. Bless this Mouse. Ill. by Eric Rohmann. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

Bless this Mouse is a short, fun, anthropomorphic tale featuring a clan of 219 mice (not including Mouse Mistress Hildegarde) and their daily challenges as church mice in St. Batholomew's Church. St. Bartholomew is very apropos name, considering that the annual blessing of the animals for the Feast of St. Francis may very well be indoors this year because of rain - and the mice know what that means - cats! and lots of them! As if this weren't enough trouble, disobeying Hildegarde's orders, several mouselings have been spotted by the ladies' auxiliary and Father Murphy plans to telephone The Great X! It's Hildegarde's duty to keep her clan safe and hidden.

As the mice prepare for the worst, one of the youngsters seeks advice from Ignatius, an ally of Hildegarde's whom she respects for his knowledge,
"They told me to ask you what exodus means."
 Harvey folded his paws politely and looked up with big eyes.
"Departure," Ignatius replied.  "It's Greek."
Actually, he could forgive a tail yank if someone was genuinely seeking knowledge.  And he remembered Greek fondly, from the university library.  He had nibbled quite a bit of Greek. "An ancient language."
"Greek?" Harvey giggled, and said it several times. "Greek? Greek?" It was so close to squeak that it amused him.  Ignatius gave him a meaningful dark look and he subsided.
"It means 'the departure of large numbers.'"
"Of mice?"
"In this case, mice."
Ignatius sighed.  He knew that once a young one started with why there would be many whys to follow. "Because we're in danger. We have to escape."
"To where?"
Harvey squealed nervously, "Outdoors?"
Does Hildegarde rise to the challenge of protecting her colony, despite constant undermining by her rival, Lucretia? Yes, she does; and everyone learns a little something in the process - even Father Murphy.

Like The Birthday Ball, Bless this Mouse is a short chapter book, but there is little else they have in common. Rather than wittiness, Bless this Mouse relies on simplicity; the simplicity of a simple story well told. This is what adults might call a "gentle read," a tale in which the reader can rely on well-developed characters, a dash of adventure, and a happy ending.

Although they appear to be delightful sketches, I will refrain from commenting on the artwork for two reasons - I read the book on my Nook which is not the ideal platform for viewing artwork (no, I don't have a Nook Color) and more importantly, several of the illustrations had a note of "artwork not final."

Advance Reader Copy supplied by Netgalley.
Due out in March 2011

Another review @
Librarian Pirate

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Monday, January 10, 2011

And the winners are ...

Today the American Library Association's Youth Media Awards winners (including the Caldecott and Newbery medals) will be announced from San Diego, beginning at 7:45am EST PST.  Check back throughout the day for updates to this post or view the official ALA webcast.  I can't wait to find out the winners!

(Follow Twitter hashtag #ALAYMA if you can't wait.)

Odyssey Award for best audiobook for children or teens
The True Meaning of Smekday

Pura Belpre Award
The Dreamer

John Newbery Award
Moon over Manifest
(Oh no!  I read all the honor books but not the winner! It will be next on my reading list for sure!)

Randolph Caldecott Award
A Sick Day for Amos McGee

Coretta Scott King Award
One Crazy Summer

Theodore Suess Geisel Award
Bink and Gollie

Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal
Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World's Strangest Parrot
and more!

These are some of the major award winners.  Watch the webcast for all the winners and the honor award recipients.

It's also Nonfiction Monday.  Today's roundup can be found at Tales from the Rushmore Kid.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Ol' Bloo's Boogie-Woogie Band and Blues Ensemble

Huling, Jan. 2010. Ol' Bloo's Boogie-Woogie Band and Blues Ensemble. Ill. by Henri Sørenson. Atlanta: Peachtree.

I don't normally like modernized re-tellings of classic folk or fairy tales, but today, I do. Perhaps it's the Old South feeling that Jan Huling has given to this bluesy rendition of the famous Brothers Grimm tale, The Town Musicians of Bremen, or perhaps it's the very appealing cover art and the endearing oil renditions of the rag-tag crew (I particularly like One-Eyed Lemony Cat. He wears a patch over one eye!),
Rusty Red Rooster - whose voice sounded like a player piano bein' hit with an ax - and One-Eyed Lemony Cat- whose voice sounded like a fiddle bein' played with a carvin' knife - and Gnarly Dog - whose voice sounded like a guit-tar bein' scraped with a washboard - and Ol' Bloo Donkey - whose voice sounded like an accordion fallin' down the stairs,
who head out from the fields with a notion to sing in a New Orleans honky-tonk.  Of course, just as in the original Grimm story, they end up scaring off some robbers, but in Ol' Bloo's Boogie-Woogie Band and Blues Ensemble, the robbers are not in the German forests, they are inside a cabin at a table filled with
gumbo and etouffee, muffaletta and po-boys, praline and bread puddin', and more besides.  And sittin' 'round that table were three rough, tough, ugly-lookin' thieves, jest glarin' at one another and pickin' their teeth with their knives.

And though they didn't look like music lovers, Ol' Bloo's band sets up and starts in singing - their very first gig!  And you know the rest of the story - the Blues Ensemble never did make it to the Big Easy, but they "sang in harmony for the rest of their days" in the old cabin.

The easy-going, laid-back language of the south adds some welcome down home American comfort to this old story that I actually remember disliking as a child.  However, in a nod to older versions, classic silhouettes of the troupe in the various stages of its journey appear under the text on the page facing the painted illustrations of the animals in their more colorful Southern habitat.

Fun and funny!

Interestingly, author Jan Huling's website lists her primary occupation as a "beadist."  If writing books is her hobby and her true calling is beading, then she must must certainly be a woman of many talents! The jacket flap lists her as a kazoo player as well - first chair!

This title has been nominated for an ALSC Notable Book in the Nonfiction - Folklore category. Click to see other nominees.

Review copy supplied by the publisher.

Another review @

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Monday, January 3, 2011

Food is Categorical

When I was a child, life was simpler.  There were four food groups -  dairy, fruits/vegetables, grains, and proteins. (Although I was always insistent that there was also a dessert category)  Then in 1992, a food pyramid was introduced.  It was constructed similarly to an Egyptian pyramid,  with foods as the building blocks for good health.  It didn’t last nearly as long as its four food group predecessor, and was replaced by the current My Pyramid in 2005.  The new pyramid, pictured below, looks more like a Maypole with ribbons of color suggesting the food categories. Boring, right?  Well, if you’re bored by it all, imagine how kids feel about the topic!

Enter the CATegorial cats to help out.

Food is CATegorical is the name of a new seven book series featuring the main food groups and healthy living.  I read two of the new books.

  • Cleary, Brian P. 2011. Apples, Cherries, Red Raspberries: What is in the Fruits Group? Ill. by Martin Goneau. Minneapolis, MN: Millbrook.
  • Cleary, Brian P. 2011. Macaroni and Rice and Bread by the Slice: What is in the Grains Group? Ill. by Martin Goneau. Minneapolis, MN: Millbrook.
Light-hearted rhymes in a simple and sometimes colorful font, introduce foods and facts about their benefits, origins, or usage.
Bananas are cool ‘cause they’re packaged in peels. They’re equally good on desserts or with meals.  Whether on cereal or with your lunch, this fruit’s sure to pack a potassium punch!
The rhymes are accompanied by lively and humorous cartoon illustrations of cats.  On one page, a cat is whistling on his way to the bathroom. A bowl of fruit is on the table. Dressed in a robe and slippers and carrying a newspaper under his arm, he’s accompanied by this rather graphic rhyme,
A plum or a prune or some nice honeydew -
all these will help us to go “number two.”
Each book concludes with the proper amount of that should be eaten (for grains, 5-6 ounces per day), and illustrations of portion sizes (1 slice whole wheat bread equals 1 ounce).

These are not the books that children will come looking for, but I’m betting that teachers will be whisking them off my shelves and into the classroom.  If your goal is to teach healthy eating and the food pyramid -- like prunes, these books will get the job done.

Coloring sheets, games and other activities related to the Food is CATegorical series are available on the author’s website.

The current USDA food pyramid

Today’s Nonfiction Monday is at Charlotte’s Library.

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Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Just a quick post for this New Year's Day -

My daughter and I went to see The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader tonight.  I reviewed the book back in 2009, so it wasn't fresh in my head, but all in all I think the movie was fairly faithful to the C.S. Lewis story.  There was some evil green mist (why is evil mist always green?) and a "dark island" that neither of us remembered, but otherwise, the plot was as we remembered.  I thought that the 3D wasn't really necessary, but my daughter thought it was a nice touch.

So, if you've got one day of vacation left and you're a fan of the Chronicles of Narnia, seeing the movie is not a bad way to kill 112 minutes.

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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 ...