Monday, January 28, 2013

Play Ball! Baseball books for the very young

"People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring."
Jay Schyler Raadt CC-BY-SA-3.0
Baseball Hall of Fame baseball player, Rogers Hornsby
Source: Baseball Almanac

Yes, it's January and the temperatures have been in the teens, but soon catchers and pitchers will report to spring training, and on February 21, Spring Training games will begin.

Here are two new books for the littlest of fans:
  • Kawa, Katie. 2013. My First Trip to a Baseball Game. New York: Gareth Stevens.  (part of the My First Adventures series)
In three very simple chapters, this little book introduces children to a baseball game, offering information on the park, the food and the game.  From the chapter, "At the Baseball Park,"
My dad holds our tickets.  They tell us where to sit. We get food to eat. My mom and dad get hot dogs.
The illustrations are simple cartoon-style depictions of a family's trip to the game with a heavy focus on the family's activities.  If just a little bit of baseball is what you're seeking, this will do fine.
A Table of Contents, Index, and Words to Know make this one perfect for school use, however, it's also suitable for adding a little nonfiction to storytime.

Reading Level: Grade K 
Fountas & Pinell: C 
Dewey: 796.357 
Specifications: 7 5/8" x 7 1/8", 24 pages 
Lexile Level: 130

Less perfunctory and more enjoyable is Goodnight Baseball.

  • Dahl, Michael. 2013. Goodnight Baseball. N. Mankato, MN: Capstone. (Illustrated by Christina Forshay)
(Advance copy provided by NetGalley)

Beginning with a sing-song rhythm,
The great big stadium is outside of town.
Fans and friends come from miles around.
and ending with a nod to Margaret Wise Brown's Goodnight Moon,
Goodnight, popcorn boxes under the stands
Goodnight, mascot and goodnight, fans!
Goodnight, friends. Goodnight, cars.
Goodnight, stadium, under the stars ...
Goodnight Baseball takes the reader on a baseball outing with a small boy and his father. Snacks, caps, and even a foul ball are part of a winning day. Brightly colored full-bleed illustrations offer a broad view of the game, the fans, and the park with a focus not on the boy and his dad, but rather, on their place in the larger context of the day.  Expressive faces show the myriad expressions seen during a day at the park - excitement, determination, surprise (no sadness here - the home town wins). Creative endpapers evoke the Green Monster, the boy's favorite team, and tickets stuffed in the pocket of denim jeans.  Goodnight Baseball is a hit.
(Due on shelves March 1, 2013)

Today's Nonfiction Monday roundup is at author Laura Purdie Salas' blog, laurasalas.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Hard Gold - an audiobook review

My review of Hard Gold as it appeared in the January 2013, issue of School Library Journal.

Hard Gold: The Colorado Gold Rush of 1859 (I Witness Series). By Avi. 4 CDs. 4:00 hrs. AudioGo. 2012. ISBN 978-1-935430-84-1. $49.95.

Gr 5-8--Early Whitcomb's family is in danger of losing their farm. They're behind in their payments, and a local banker is working with the railroad company to force them into selling. Early's young uncle, Jesse, thinks he has the answer. Handbills from the West indicate that gold has been found in Pike's Peak, Nebraska Territory, and it's there for the taking. Early's parents and older brother discount the reports, but Jesse and Early have the itch. Jesse soon sneaks off (under a cloud of suspicion due to a coincidentally timed bank robbery) to strike gold and save the farm. Early's family forbids him to follow, but when word arrives that Jesse has found gold and is in danger, he strikes out alone, joining a wagon train as a hired hand for a barber, his ailing wife, and feisty daughter. The grueling journey, a budding romance, and the possible ill intentions of fellow travelers add suspense and intrigue as Early learns how desperation and circumstances can change the course of one's life. The historical focus of Avi's novel (Hyperion, 2008) is broad. The endless wagon trains are likened to advancing lines of tiny white ants, but individual hardships are presented with considerably less detail. Dialogue and behaviors ring true, and the narration by Alston Brown is clear and pleasing. The diary style is well-suited for audio format. Similar to the "My Name Is America" series, Hard Gold brings history alive, particularly for boys.

Copyright © 2013 Library Journals, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. Reprinted with permission.


Monday, January 21, 2013

It's that time of year - biographies!

By In Helmolt, H.F., ed. History of the World.
New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1902.
Author unknown, [Public domain or Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons
Whether you're a school media specialist, a public librarian, a parent or a teacher,

if you know children over the age of 7, you're familiar with "the biography assignment."  It comes around every year, and depending one's perspective, it may be a source of excitement, drudgery, irritation, disappointment, interest, or a mixture of all.

Some thoughts on "the biography assignment"

Children need to understand the difference between an autobiography and a biography.  Many students arrive at the library insistent that their teacher has assigned an autobiography and a biography will not suffice.  I always try to comply with their request, however, there are few autobiographies written for children, though if the child is slightly older, I will always recommend Jon Scieszka's, Knucklehead (hands down, the best and funniest autobiography for children). For older kids, Walter Dean Myers and Gary Paulsen have both written excellent memoirs.  In most cases, the teacher will accept either an autobiography or a biography, but children don't always realize that.

Graphic novels biographies are perfect in certain circumstances and I wish more people would give them a try.  A reluctant reader might love Terry Collins', King of Pop: The Story of Michael Jackson, or any title from the American Graphic Biography Collection, or other similar offerings. Just because they have panels, that doesn't make them less true, less valuable, less informative.
Picture book biographies are not just for very young children - in fact, seldom are.  There are so many wonderful and informative picture book biographies.  I urge teachers to read a few and give them a chance.  Demi's books are not only informative, but beautiful and evocative - Marco Polo, for example is simply stunning.  Or how about Bill The Boy Wonder by Marc Tyler Nobleman? Or Michelle Markel's, The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau?  I could go on for days ...

The most important thing to look for in a biography is veracity.  Are there source notes, back matter, photo credits, suggestions for additional reading - in short, all of the things that indicate the author has thoroughly researched the subject? Has the author taken "artistic license?"  That's not necessarily a bad thing, however, older students should be trained to look for it.

The point is, I understand the dictates of local, state and national policies on what must be taught to children, however, within the parameters of those dictates, there is, hopefully, some room for flexibility - some leeway for children to choose different formats, different topics, different means of delivery. To this day, I don't like the poetry of Percy Bysse Shelley.  Why?  Because when I was in grammar school, I wanted to do my "famous poet" report on Edgar Allen Poe. I was forced to choose Percy Bysse Shelley.  I've long forgotten that teacher's name, and I still don't like Shelley.   In another year, a wonderful teacher allowed me to choose Edgar Allen Poe.  Her name was Ms. Romano and I still read Poe from time to time.  See how it works?

When the biography assignment rolls around, keep your options open!

One more thing:

I haven't had one in hand yet, but Abdo Publishing has a new series of Children's Author biographies. Tell me what young boy given a biography assignment would not want to choose, Dav Pilkey?

Related posts:

Today's Nonfiction Monday roundup is at The LibrariYan.  Check it out.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Mark of Athena - this and that

Riordan, Rick. 2012. The Heroes of Olympus: The Mark of Athena. New York: Disney Hyperion.

Usually, I listen to Rick Riordan's books, but I read this one instead.  I think I prefer this series in print.

US trailer

UK trailer

The Mark of Athena, in which:

Percy and Annabeth are finally reunited
We don't see nearly enough of Ella (I love that harpy!)
Seven demigods set forth on a quest
Leo is odd man out
The end is a real cliffhanger

Here's the plot, according to Ella,

Wisdom’s daughter walks alone
The Mark of Athena burns through Rome,
Twins snuff out the angel’s breath,
Who holds the key to endless death.
Giant’s bane stands cold and pale,
Won through pain from a woven jail.

Some odds and ends:

Next up: The House of Hades, due out in October 2013.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Flood - a review

Villa, Alvaro F. 2013. Flood. North Mankato, MN: Capstone. 

(Advance Reader Copy provided by NetGalley)

If you read my blog regularly or read my monthly posts on the ALSC Blog, you'll know that my family was one of the tens of thousands affected by Hurricane Sandy.  It is for that reason, that I requested a copy of Flood for review.  I now have first-hand knowledge of the devastation caused by a hurricane, but more importantly in my area of the Jersey Shore, by flooding; I feel that I have a certain sad connection with the topic.  While I say that, I am also mindful of the fact that though thousands may be affected by the same natural disaster, no two personal disasters are the same.  There is a commonality, but yet, each town, each neighborhood, each family, each individual, must deal with a different set of difficulties.  Because of this, I approached Flood with trepidation and apprehension.  It was obviously not written in response to Superstorm Sandy, but nevertheless, it arrives at a time when people are particularly vulnerable.  To date, more than half a million disaster assistance claims have been filed with FEMA, with much of the damage caused by flooding.

Forgive me if I reveal the entire story, but this one I must follow through to the end.

Alvaro F. Villa's Flood appears to be the story of a flood more typical to the Midwest than along the nation's coastlines. In this wordless picture book, a family's modest home stands alone in the middle of a beautiful, grassy, rolling countryside, a river flowing behind. Two children and a dog play alongside a weathered picket fence.  Only the lone dark bird flying overhead hints at danger to come.  In the evening, the family spends a relaxing evening indoors.  Dawn brings the first hint of trouble as bad weather moves in.  The next days are spent in anxious discussion, preparation, and finally, evacuation. A violent and raging storm arrives, the river rises, wreaking destruction on the idyllic landscape.  In an eerie depiction of the storm's aftermath, the lone bird now sits upon the stump of a broken tree - looming large and black against the reddish hues of the dawning sky and the browns of the sandbags and silt left in the yard.  The family's muddied SUV returns.  From a distance the house can be seen, damaged but still standing.  The hopelessness of the family, the agonized tears of the young daughter are palpable as they survey the wreckage.  But of course, that is not the end.  It can never be.  No matter one's sense of hopelessness, helplessness - a start must be made. There is no other choice.  And so the rebuilding begins.  As the family paints and replants, the palette brightens and smiles return. The house, in its new coat of paint looks better than ever. It's not the same.  It will never be.  But the family is together and they have survived.

I passed this book along to my husband and children.  Of course, they are not librarians or book reviewers or educators. I asked them only because the experience is fresh in their minds.  My daughter had a keen observation.  There is a scene in which the family is spending the night in another location, having evacuated their home; the children are shown sleeping on the floor (as so many children, including mine, have recently done for days, weeks and months on end) while the parents and dog huddle in bed watching the television, presumably for news about the flood.  In a powerful use of symbolism, Villa shows their calm refuge surrounded by dark and raging flood waters - a powerful reminder of what is occurring elsewhere; but as my daughter pointed out, also easily misinterpreted by young readers who may be frightened by the water that appears to be menacingly approaching their makeshift beds.  Although beautiful and moving, and ultimately uplifting, this is not a picture book for preschoolers.  Appropriately, the publisher suggests Flood for Grades 1-3.

Is Flood  hopeful? Cautionary? Bibliotherapeutic? Empathetic? Preparatory?  I suspect Alviro F. Villa intended to offer hope.  I also suspect that much depends upon who reads it and when. 

Due on shelves February 1, 2013. 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Coming attractions ....

Happy New Year!  It's been a hectic few months, and it's time for me to get caught up.  This is what you can look forward to on Shelf-employed in the coming weeks:

I've got piles of new books to read but here are a few that I know I won't miss:

Other coming attractions ...

Coming up in March, Margo, of The Fourth Musketeer, and I, will again host our month-long celebration of Women's History Month at KidLit Celebrates Women's History Month.  We'll have a guest post for each day in March, and as in the previous two years, the lineup will be a stellar group of authors, illustrators, and kidlit bloggers. Follow the blog and watch for the lineup that we'll be posting soon.

And in musical news,

By TJCWemba at en.wikipedia [GFDL ( or
CC-BY-SA-3.0 (],
from Wikimedia Commons

I've got a ukulele!  Thanks to this post and encouragement from Tess Goldwasser, I asked for a ukulele for Christmas.  I plan to bring more music and fun to storytime with my nice, new, Red Burst Makala Dolphin ukulele.  What better to accompany poor singing than poor playing?  Seriously, I'm practicing very hard and hoping that the kids will like it.  In any case, I'd love to hear from any of you who may be ukulele players.  All advice, particularly for storytime use, will be cheerfully and gratefully accepted.  I'll let you know how it goes.

And a final few notes ...

If you didn't catch my post on the ALSC blog today, see how life as we know it would change "If the world were a children's novel..."  A bit of humor for the weekend.

If Facebook or Twitter is more convenient for you,  I've got a fledgling Facebook page and I'm @shelfemployed on Twitter.

If you cannot find a review you're looking for on this blog, use the search bar on the right or visit my searchable collection of over 1,000 books and nearly 600 reviews on LibraryThing.

That's where I stand at the cusp of a new year.  How about you?

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 ...