Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday Morning Miscellany v. 4

 Here's the latest version of  Monday Morning Miscellany. I hope you find some news you can use.

  • If you haven't heard already, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Third Wheel will be out on November 13, 2012.  Get all the details on the Diary of a Wimpy Kid siteDog Days, the movie, will be out on August 3.  Jeff Kinney's website answered my earlier question - Why is the 3rd movie titled after the 4th book?  Apparently, the movie is a mashup of The Last Straw and Dog Days. Mystery solved. Enjoy!

  • It's Nonfiction Monday again. Today's host is Check it Out.  If you're a regular reader or contributor, please note the new Nonfiction Monday "about" page.  It appears that Anastasia, our roundup coordinator, has finally found a place of her own on the Internet.  Best wishes with your new site, Anastasia!   Next week's Nonfiction Monday roundup will be here!  Please join me.

Shakespeare by the Sea
  •  Last night I enjoyed a small-scale production of Shakespeare's "A Comedy of Errors," in a lovely nearby park.  The performance was preceded by a short lecture in which I learned the following: Although the average modern speaker of English has a vocabulary of approximately 7,500 words, in the time of Shakespeare, the average vocabulary was a mere 500 words!  (My husband, a man of few words, noted that he could probably get by with only 500. I believe him.)  Shakespeare, on the other hand, found it limiting.  So much so, that he added approximately 2,000 words to the English language.  Fascinating! 

And one final tidbit of "noteworthy" news ...

Have a great week!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Crow - a review

Wright, Barbara. 2012. Crow. New York: Random House.

Moses Thomas is part of a new generation.  Though his grandmother, Boo Nanny, and mother, were born into slavery, his father is a respected alderman and newspaperman in Wilmington, NC.  Somewhat segregated by choice, there is, nevertheless, a sense of community and purpose in this mixed race town.  Moses' father believes in education as the path to Negro prosperity.  Boo Nanny holds fast to the old ways,

"If I had me some cash money, I'd start a school of common sense, 'cause that's what so many needs and so few gots.  And you'd be my first pupil," Boo Nanny said to Daddy. "'Cause if it ain't in a book, you don't believe it.  The boy needs to learn by living, is all I'm saying."
Mrs. Thomas, a pragmatic woman, balances her mother's old ways and her husband's dreams of a bright future for their race.

But everything is about to change.  Boo Nanny sees it in the omen of a buzzard's shadow.  The rest of the family will see it only when it arrives in the form of another bird - a crow, Jim Crow.  Life as Moses has known it, is changing rapidly,

I didn't like all this talk about failure and mistakes.  I wanted the old Daddy back, the one who was wise and sure of himself and knew what to do.  Always.
"I raised you in the belief that what it took to succeed in life was the same thing that it took to be a good man: honesty and hard work, courage and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism.  But we're up against something I don't understand and don't know how to adapt to."
Based on true events from 1898, Crow is a powerful story from the fading days of Reconstruction.  Moses is a likable and believable 12-year-old, who struggles with the same issues as all 6th grade boys, as well as those of his time and his race.  Boo Nanny is an especially memorable character.  Wright offers a glimpse of hope in the story's conclusion as Moses and his white friend come to terms after the harrowing race riot of Wilmington, NC, 1898.

A powerful story accompanied by limited Historical Notes.

Best for upper middle grades.

Newbery Blueberry Mockery Pie, a blog maintained by librarians of the NJ Library Association's Children's Services Section, will be discussing Crow along with other possible 2013  Newbery Medal contenders.  Please feel free to join in the discussion!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Flint Heart - an audiobook review

Paterson, Katherine and John Paterson. 2011.  The Flint Heart. Read by Ralph Lister. Brilliance Audio.
4 hrs. 9 min.

First written and published in 1910, by Eden Phillpotts, The Flint Heart is a re-telling of his fairytale by Newbery-winning author Katherine Paterson and her husband, John.  

In the same vein as the better-known "one ring," from J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy, a heart of flint is forged, containing both evil and power.  It survives for thousands of years, occasionally surfacing and disappearing, landing finally in a British moor, where it is unearthed by a kindly farmer who falls immediately under its wicked spell. With the help of fairyland creatures, the farmer's children, 12-year-old Charles, and 5-year-old Unity, undertake the task of finding the vile heart and ensuring that it does no more harm.  Though they receive help from fairies, pixies, and the all-knowing Zagabog, their most delightful helper is the hot-water bottle, an ancillary character who will win your heart.

Ralph Lister's reading is decidedly British, both in accent and style, calling forth comparisons to English classics.  Winnie the Pooh comes immediately to mind.

The audiobook book was nominated for an Audie Award, and the print version is beautifully illustrated by John Rocco.  The audio version contains lengthy and interesting commentary by Katherine Paterson regarding the making of The Flint Heart.

This chapter book will make a great family read or listen-aloud, and will appeal to fans of British fantasies similar to The Chronicles of Narnia.

Listen to a sample of The Flint Heart here.

John Rocco's illustrations may be one reason you might prefer this one in print. (Either way, you can't go wrong.)  Take a look.

The Flint Heart Book Trailer from Candlewick Press on Vimeo.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Eight Days Gone - a review

McReynolds, Linda. 2012. Eight Days Gone. Illustrated by Ryan O'Rourke. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.

In simple, four-line rhymes, Linda McReynolds has captured for a new generation the eight breathtaking, breath-holding days of the Apollo 11 mission.  Eight Days Gone recounts the July 1969, launch, orbit, landing and return of the spaceship Columbia and the lunar module Eagle.

It begins on a cheerful, sunny, colorful day in Florida,

Hundreds gather.
Hot July.
Spaceship ready -
set to fly.
McReynolds skillfully distills this immense project, this watershed accomplishment into its most basic elements, yet she disregards no aspect of the mission, giving recognition to Aldrin and Armstrong,  the nation, the command center, Collins (who stayed aboard the Columbia), even the Navy - remember the days of "splashdowns?"

The words are not always simple, but O'Rourke's stunning oil paintings fill in the necessary details. The font is either black or white and appears in a corner, never obscuring the double-spread, full-bleed illustrations.  Because of the subject matter, much of the artwork is in the creamy colors of the lunar surface, the spacecraft, and the astronauts' clothing.  Against the black of the universe, the colors of the American flag, the striped parachutes, the faces of the astronauts, and the dazzling blue and green of the earth, demand the reader's attention. 

Most striking is the painting of the "earthrise" on the black lunar horizon, a small astronaut placed in the lower left corner,

Silent. Dark.
Tranquil sea.
Barren. Stark.
Our tiny place within the cosmos is illustrated, but is boldly followed by the illustration on the following page where the astronaut fills a third of the page, confidently setting forth across the lunar landscape,

Haul equipment.
Careful test.
Lunar quest.
May we always be reminded of both our infinetesimal status and our immense capacity to overcome it.  A stunning book. Highly recommended.

A photo, bilbiography, author's note and websites are included.

This is Linda McReynolds' first children's book.

Other Eight Days Gone reviews @

NASA offers a K-4 student website as well as a NASA Kids' Club.

Did you know that China has its own space station and in June, they sent a manned (or should I say "wo"manned) mission to live aboard the station for two weeks?  Details available from NASA or The New York Times. China plans a moon landing for 2016.

Today's Nonfiction Monday roundup is at Pierogies & Gyoza.  Please stop by.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Librarianship rules, #s 2 and 3 (or Knuckle and Potty save the day)

OK, so I've been reading some wonderful books lately as part of my commitment to participate in the mock award blog, Newbery Blueberry Mockery Pie.  Of course, this is a great way to read quality books and discuss them with colleagues


I also remember that it's summer, that kids have summer reading assignments, and many (I'd guess most)  kids do not care if the books they read are "distinguished books."  They just want books they like. So, I am reminded of something every would-be librarian learns in library school - Ranganathan's five laws.  I won't share all five with you, just the two that matter at the moment:

2. Every reader, his book.
3. Every book, its reader.
Simple, but profound, and particularly timely in the summer.  So, taking a break from my mock Newbery reading, I share the following:

A new Dav Pilkey book is due out next month, Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers! (Scholastic)  It won't ever win a Newbery award, but thousands and thousands of kids will be rejoicing over this latest installment.


here's a new book that should appeal to fans of Captain Underpants and Stone Rabbit:

Proimos, James. 2012. Knuckle & Potty Destroy Happy World. New York: Henry Holt (Macmillan).

When I saw this cover, I just had to read it.  Any book with Knuckle and Potty as its protagonists just begs to be read.  I wasn't the only one taken with the book.  I'll leave the reviewing to Gene and Bill of Unshelved today. This hysterical graphic novel deserves a comic review from the masters.

Print this out from the Unshelved site, put it on display with the book and watch Knuckle & Potty Destroy Happy World fly out of your library in the hand of a young boy.
From the Unshelved site, Friday, July 13, 2012
Watch a book trailer for Knuckle & Potty here.
Coincidentally, I wrote this post last night, and today at work, one of my favorite young readers came in looking for Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers!  I had to deliver the bad news that it won't be out until August 28, but I was ready.  I had Knuckle and Potty in hand, and the boy and his mother took them home - laughing. 

The (happy) End.

The moral of this story: (see rules 2 and 3)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Bill The Boy Wonder - a review

Nobleman, Marc Tyler. 2012. Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman. Ill. By Ty Templeton.  Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.

Batman.  Who doesn’t know Batman in one format or another? The 1960s TV show, the incredibly popular Dark Knight movie series, cartoons,  and of course, the original comic books which first appeared in 1939, bearing the name of Batman creator, Bob Kane. 

Every Batman story is marked with the words “Batman created by Bob Kane.” 
For almost thirty years, fans did not suspect otherwise.  But that is not the whole truth.  Bob Kane himself said so.
A Finger had a hand in it, too.
Bill the Boy Wonder is the story of that Finger, Bill Finger, the co-creator and long-time writer of Batman.

First forced to hide his identity as a Jew (his real name was Milton) to obtain work during the Great Depression, later writing in obscurity while Batman illustrator, Bob Kane,  rose to fame, and finally working (if only half-heartedly) to gain his duly deserved recognition, Nobleman chooses to present Bill, The Boy Wonder as a story with three parts, "Secret Identity 1 – Bill," "Secret Identity 2 – Writer of Batman," and "Secret Identity 3 – Co-creator of Batman."  This well-sourced and researched biography is as fascinating as it is entertaining,

Bill liked to ride through the city to think.  As the bus picked up passengers, Bill picked up plots from street scenes and daydreams.

He recorded stray facts – the boiling point of mercury, the Chinese character for virtue, what happens when a dog’s nose gets cold – in what he called his “gimmick book.”  He routinely skimmed it for a spark that might ignite a story.  In time he had a library of gimmick books at his Fingertips.  He even let other writers – his competitors – hunt for story ideas in them.

Though brimming with details and quotes, Nobleman moves the story along with the talent of a comic book writer.  A six-page Author’s Note adds details and period photographs.

Ty Templeton, a Batman artist himself, was the perfect choice to illustrate this fascinating look at Bill Finger’s work and the work of other talented artists, writers and fans who struggled to garner for him the credit he deserved.  The end papers are dramatic and inspired, and the illustrations are done, of course, in comic book style with white text box insets.

from Ty Templeton's site

Even if you’re not a Batmanian, you’ll love this book. It's clear that it was a labor of love for the author.

(I'll be showing this one at my book club meeting!)

Can’t get enough of Bill The Boy Wonder?  Check out these great sites:

 and just for fun,

As I was reading this book, I could see a small child wearing the Batman symbol on his tee-shirt and his Crocs, and my own children were planning an opening night visit to the theater to see the Dark Knight’s latest incarnation.  Bill Finger’s now not-so-secret-identity lives on.

Today's Nonfiction Monday roundup is at Practically Paradise.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Glory Be - a review

Scattergood, Augusta. 2012. Glory Be. New York: Scholastic.

Glory's biggest concern in that hot and humid summer of 1964 should have been planning  her 12th birthday party, held every year at the Hanging Moss Community Pool, but more than just the weather is heating up in Hanging Moss.  "Freedom Workers" have come to town.  They're opening up a health clinic, befriending the town's Negroes,  encouraging them to advance the work of the civil rights movement in the South.

Quite unwittingly, Glory has made friends with Laura, a "freedom worker's" daughter - a Yankee, about as welcome in Hanging Moss as a mosquito at a picnic.  This causes no problem in Glory's house.  Reverend Hemphill of the First Fellowship United Church bears no ill will toward the Northerners, nor does Glory's sister, Jesslyn, or their housekeeper; in fact, they're sympathetic to the cause - but others are not so understanding.  The very fabric of the town begins to fray as the Town Council and the newspaper go up against the Hemphill family and Miss Bloom, the librarian.  Neighbors take sides in a battle that is waged not in the streets, but in the newspaper, in the signage at the Community Pool, and in that most communal and equalizing of locations, the Public Library.

Glory Be encapsulates the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s into one small town's fight to maintain its segregated community swimming pool,

      "I don't think the Pool Committee's worried about your birthday" was all Jesslyn said.
      Here I was, sure that one little part of this town had changed. That maybe people like Frankie's daddy finally got together to decide opening the pool up for everybody, just in time for a Fourth of July celebration, was the kind of thing you should do on our country's birthday. But I was wrong. My thinking was all mixed up.
      "A lot of things are different this summer, Glory," Jesslyn said, the corners of her mouth turned down like maybe she wished it was last summer. "Including your friend."
When I peered through those hard metal fence links at the bluest, cleanest water, I was so mad I wanted to spit. I vowed never to speak to that hateful Frankfurter Smith if I lived to be a hundred.

Thankfully, my childhood activities at the public pool were more in line with those of Greg Heffley in Jeff Kinney's Dog Days, than those of Gloriana June Hemphill's in the fictional 1964 town of Hanging Moss, Mississippi. Glory Be is a timely reminder that change does not come easily, that having truth or righteousness on your side does not make things easier, that it is easier to do what comes easily than what is right.

Sometimes, a girl, a family, a town, even a whole generation must sacrifice to make a better future. Readers will enjoy Glory's down-to-earth qualities. She's not a larger-than-life hero, she's a diminutive slice of life itself.

Librarians will appreciate the prominent role that author and former librarian, Augusta Scattergood, gives to the public library.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Can you find these ... ? a review

Enslow Publishers, Inc. has a new series titled, All About Nature.  There are 6 titles in the series, and they're available in paperback and hardcover.
  • Can You Find These Bugs?
  • Can You Find These Butterflies?
  • Can You Find These Flowers?
  • Can You Find These Rocks?
  • Can You Find These Seashells?
  • Can You Find These Trees?
Living near the beach, I was immediately taken by Can You Find These Seashells?, and planned to review it, but I couldn't justify taking it home for the weekend.  I knew that if I put it on display, it would make its way home with a local child.  It did, as did Can You Find These Flowers?  So, I'm left with my 2nd favorite of the bunch, Can You Find These Birds?

Bredeson, Carmen and Lindsey Cousins. 2012. Can You Find These Birds? Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow.

Table of Contents
Regardless of where one lives in the country, it's probable that at least several of these beautifully photographed birds will look familiar - House Sparrow, Robin, Cardinal and Crow are just a few of the nine featured birds.  A photograph of each bird is on the left side, with a simple, one page "chapter," on the facing page,

Barn Swallow
These birds zip through the air.
They catch bugs while they fly.
Barn swallows have long tails.
Their tails look like the letter V.
Downy Woodpecker
2 page spread
That's it!  Short and simple - all that a young one needs to know. 

Each concludes with "Read More," "Web Sites," "Index," as well as the book's Guided Reading Level and word count.

I don't think these are the perfect books for sharing with a large group, but I would definitely have wanted them at home when my children were small. At approximately 7"x 6", these simple nonfiction books are perfect for little hands and invite backyard and neighborhood discovery.

This series should inspire budding naturalists (and their parents!) to get outside and discover.

Today’s Nonfiction Monday roundup is at A Curious Thing.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Friday Fun

Some summertime silliness -

I'm blogging at the ALSC Blog today.  Stop by and find out why I won't be eating a banana today. 

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Words, words, wonderful words!

Here are two books that are beautiful celebrations of words and books.  Enjoy!

At a recent "family reading night" event, I was looking for a short book to read to begin the evening.  Lucky for me, this one had just arrived on my desk a few days earlier:

  • Joyce, William. 2012. The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. Ill. by Joe Bluhm. New York: Atheneum.

The book is wonderful, but to truly appreciate it, you must see it all. The website, the film (only 15 minutes long and readily available on the web), the app!  The film won the 2012 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. 

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore Trailer from Moonbot Studios on Vimeo.

Here's the app ad:

And although it's hard to follow all that, another book celebrating the power of words and worth mentioning is

  • Wimmer, Sonja. 2011. The Word Collector. English translation by John Brokenbrow. Madrid: Cuento de Luz.

Read the Kirkus review of The Word Collector.

Monday, July 2, 2012

American Graphic biographies - a review

I haven't seen this entire series, but I think that the American Graphic biographies by Capstone Press may fill two needed niches.  The first, and probably the intended purpose is to fill the need for easy reading biographies that will interest older kids.  A secondary benefit, however, is that these books can bring complex historical figures to a level where they can be understood by young elementary schoolers who so often express interest in people and things way "beyond their years."

First up, the King of Pop

Collins, Terry. 2012. King of Pop: The Story of Michael Jackson. Ill. by Michael Byers. North Mankato, MN: Capstone Press.

Written largely as a first-person account, ten short chapters chronicle Michael Jackson's life, focusing both on his genius and his pecularities, though not going in to great detail regarding the latter.  A two-page illustration of tabloid headlines offers the reader a glimpse into Michael's personal life, but "Thriller" and "Billy Jean" are also illustrated expansively - including his famous moonwalk. The book concludes on a positive note with a collage of the many faces of Michael Jackson and the following summation,

And in his heart, he was still a little boy who never grew up ...
... and the world is all the richer for it.
The panels are easy to follow and have easy to read text. This graphic novel biography concludes with two pages of standard text titled, "The Legacy of Michael Jackson," followed by a Glossary (which includes eccentric and surrogate, as well as innovation and mourn), sites and books where more information can be found, and a small index.

I predict this one will be popular.

 Next up, Hip-Hop Icon: Jay-Z

This book never even made it onto the shelf!  Within minutes of receiving it, a young adult male spotted it on my desk and asked to borrow it.  Sometimes, a little bit of information is enough - perhaps that's a third niche for these easy-reading comic style biographies.

Other titles in the American Graphics series include: ELVIS: A Graphic Novel, Obama: The Historic Election of America's 44th President, Sara Palin: Politcal Rebel, The Bambino: The Story of Babe Ruth's Legendary 1927 Season. A complete list of the American Graphic biography collection is available on Capstone's site.

Also on the site are complete readability statistics - ATOS, Lexile, and GR.  These high-interest, low-level biographies are suggested for grades 3-9, with general reading levels equivalent to grades 3-4. These may not be the best biographies ever written, and granted, I've chosen to display the most eye-catching of the twelve covers, but I would bet that these two books at least, will be quite popular.

Sadly, their minimal page count may preclude kids from using them for school assignments (only 31 pages in King of Pop), but these are books that will surely interest lower level readers in upper level grades.

Now if there were only a children's bio of Marilyn Monroe, surprisingly, my most-requested biographical figure.

It's Nonfiction Monday again.  Today's hosit is none other than author and Nonfiction Monday founder, Anastasia Suen.  Visit her at her Booktalking blog.

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 ...