Friday, August 5, 2011


by Kathi Appelt
Read by Gabra Zackman.

Appelt, Kathi. 2008.THE UNDERNEATH. Ill. by David Small. Read by Gabra Zackman. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Audio. ISBN 0-7435-7208-4.

THE UNDERNEATH, by Kathi Appelt, is an awesome book that has left me reflecting upon days after reading.  The novel mixes real life situations with fantasy about survival.  A calico cat hears the howling blues of a hound dog and follows his bellowing until she discovers Ranger, the hound dog, chained underneath a porch in the swampy forest country of east Texas. She quickly discovers Ranger's owner, Gar Face, is abusive.  When the calico delivers two babies underneath the porch, she warns them never to go out from the underneath.  As predicted, one day one of the kittens is curious and ventures out, only to be discovered by Gar Face.  Other characters and their stories are played out at the same time as the main plot and eventually come together in an interesting twist.  

The animals and trees in THE UNDERNEATH are personified in their actions, feelings, talking, and the fact that they hope, hold grudges, etc.  "For trees,  who see so much sorrow, so much anger, so much desperation, know love for the rare wonder of it, so they are champions of it and will do whatever they can to help it along."  Moreover, the reader definitely feels a kinship with the protagonist, Ranger, rooting for his freedom from the abusive owner, fearing for his safety, and feeling the pain of the blows he endures.  Likewise, Ranger's sadness causes the reader to sympathize with him, hoping for him to  triumph over Gar Face.  Likewise,the irony that the man is a better meal for the alligator than the dog or the cat satisfies the reader's need for justice.

The majority of the plot is believable, logical and internally consistent.  Fantasy definitely come into play with the snake's family, transformed into humans and back.  "Here is a woman who has stepped out of her human skin donned her serpent body...But here is a woman who did not know that once she returned to her serpent shape and slid into the water, she could not ever go back to the world of humans."  Although the plot is original and creative, in places the reader is reminded of other famous stories.  For instance, the snake scenario reminds me of the bible story in which the baby was going to be sawed in two so the the real mother and phony mother could each have half.  The real mother wouldn't allow it because she loved the baby too much.  The snake was being selfish, much like a phony mother.  As well, the story is full of journeys, such as the kitten trying to find its way home; with tasks to accomplish, such as that kitten trying to break the chain and fulfill its mom's last command.  There were many obstacles to overcome and numerous villains to vanquish.

The setting is crucial to the story, accommodating the particular animals and lifestyle of Gar Face.  The description is very detailed and it is easy to visualize the events.  The details play a very integral part of the story.  The theme reflects universal truths that transcend time and place.  In the end, the mother snake chose love and she is the one who freed Ranger by biting the chain.  She offered hope in the end.
The style has a clear and consistent point of view that encourages the reader to believe in the fantasy world.
I especially enjoyed listening to THE UNDERNEATH on audio.  The reader had a pleasant voice with an accent appropriate for the story.  The story was written so that at time certain phrases were repeated, making it more theatrical in places.

Horn Book (March/April, 2009)
This haunting story of one dog's and two kittens' journey toward freedom is a unique amalgam of repetition, rhythm, and sustained foreboding. Zackman's narration is appropriately melodious, each syllable carefully pronounced and the interpretations of Alligator King and Grandmother Snake kept realistic, not melodramatic. Eschewing musical enhancements and elaborate voices, this recording features simplicity and clarity as it pulls the listener in to learn what will happen to Ranger, the hound dog who sings the blues, and whether the 1000-year-old lamina (half human, half serpent) will finally win revenge for the loss of her daughter, Hummingbird. A tale of sacrifice and enduring love that will reward careful listeners.

Publishers Weekly (July 28, 2008)
On the page, Applet's first novel, about abused animals and set in a Deep South swamp, reads like it might be spoken with a pronounced twang. Zackman's interpretation, however, is so mellifluous that it sounds like a lullaby. That smooth delivery strikes a discordant note with the material, a story that braids three dark narrative strands: the vodka-swilling Gar Face's battle with the 100-foot-long Alligator King; Gar Face's abuse, chained hound dog's ill-fated shepherding of a mother cat and her kittens; and the thousand-year imprisonment of Grandmother Moccasin, a serpent so selfish she resents her daughter falling in love. The even-keel delivery also makes it hard to keep track as the story shifts among the myriad points of view, which include those of the villain, a family of shape-shifters, various animals and sentient trees. Appelt's stylistic choice to use repetition as a construct--"This cat, this feline, this creature he is supposed to hate..."--makes for a monotonous audio experience, and her use of words such as "goldy" (to describe sunshine) makes this disquieting book sound precious. Ages 9-12. Simultaneous release with the S&S/Atheneum hardcover. (May) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Kansas William Allen White Children's Book Award Nominees 2010-2011: Grades 6-8 Audiovisual List Lamplighter Award Nominees 2010-2010 - Audiovisual List
New Mexico Land of Enchantment Book Award Nominees 2010-2011: Young Adult - Audiovisual List
King (Coretta Scott) Honor Books Past
Newberry Honor Books - 2009
Newberry Honor Books Past
Judy Freeman's BER List for 2008-2009: What's New in Children's Literature: 100+ Favorite 2008 Children's Books for Grades PreK-6
Judy Freeman's Winners List, May 2009: 100+ Top-Rated 2008 Children's Books for Grades PreK-6
Kansas William Allen White Children's Book Award Nominees 2010-2011: Grades 6-8

Read other books about dogs/animals, and about survival
Max the Missing Puppy by Holly Webb
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien, illustrated by Zena Bernstein
The Escape (Animorphs, Book # 15) by K. A. Applegate

Research animal rights
Research and/or visit the local pound
Interview the "dog catcher" and/or veterinarian

by An Na

Na,An. 2001. A STEP FROM HEAVEN.  Asheville, NC: Front Street. ISBN 1-886910-58-8.


The characters in A STEP FROM HEAVEN, by An Na, are easy to relate to because they have feelings that are universal to all humans.  I especially related to Young Ju because I had a similar experience when I was a little girl.  When my grandmother died, everyone said she went to heaven.  So my idea of heaven was a funeral home in Quanah, Texas.  This thought led me to wonder if this might be a common misunderstanding for young children when a loved one dies.   Young Ju questions, "We are not in the sky with God?"  This profound realization is painful for Young Ju, "I do not understand why they are showing happy teeth...  This is not heaven."  The reader can feel her sorrow. 

The plot is captures the struggles that immigrants face in our country.  The characters seem real with problems that so many will be able to relate to in their own lives, the feeling that one is less important in a family, dealing with mental illness in a family, friendship, changes in life, etc. Likewise, the setting is vital in the plot because the change in coming to America is important to changes made in the characters.

Although this novel may be a little difficult to read because of the names of the characters and their speech patterns, it is a fabulous story that lingers on the mind of the reader.  Because of the subject content and the fact that it is more complicated to read, this book is definitely more for teens and  young adults. 

Publishers Weekly
Na convincingly conveys the growing maturity of her perceptive narrator who initially (and seamlessly) laces her tale with Korean words, their meaning evident from the context. And by its conclusion, readers can see a strong, admirable young woman with a future full of hope. Equally bright are the prospects of this author; readers will eagerly await her next step. Ages 12-up. (Apr.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

The Horn Book
Young Ju's voice is convincingly articulated… Throughout the novel, images of reaching and dreaming poignantly convey the young narrator's desire to survive her father's brutality and its devastating effect on her family… An epilogue reveals that Young Ju's inspiration all along has been her mother, who, powerless in many respects, exerted power in other ways, working hard to make a better life for her children.
Starred Review, Booklist
This isn't a quick read, especially at the beginning when the child is trying to decipher American words and customs, but the coming-of-age drama will grab teens and make them think of their own conflicts between home and outside. As in the best writing, the particulars make the story universal.

2001 National Book Award Finalist
2002 Children's Book Award in YA Fiction – International Reading Association
2005 California Collections Selection
2005 Asian American Booklist, Grades 9 and Up, Read Across America, National Education Association
2001 - 2003 Asian Pacific American Award for Literature, Text in Children and Young Adult Fiction – Asian/Pacific American Librarians Association
2004 Reading List – Women's Division Reading Program Committee, General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church
2003 - 2004 Gateway Readers Award Nominee, Missouri Association of School Libraries
2003 - 2004 William Allen White Children's Book Award master list
2002 Notable Books for a Global Society – International Reading Association
2002 Notable Children's Book – American Library Association
2002 Best Book for Young Adults – American Library Association
2002 Children's Books of Distinction Award – Riverbank Review
2002 Fanfare Book – The Horn Book Honor List
2002 Bay Area Book Reviewers Association Award
2002 CCBC Choices
2002 Children's Literature Choice List
2002 Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award Master List
2002 Amelia Bloomer Project List
2002 White Ravens – International Youth Library of Munich
2002 Notable Books for the Language Arts – NCTE
2002 Notable Books for a Global Society, Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest group of the IRA
2001 Editor's Choice – Booklist
2001 New York Times Book Review Notable Book
2001 Best Books – School Library Journal
2001 Kiriyama Prize Notable Book Shortlist
2001 Best Children's Books – Publishers Weekly
2001 Best Book –
2001 Book Links Lasting Connections
2001 Capitol Choices: Noteworthy Books for Children
2001 Top 10 Youth First Novels – Booklist

Jimenez, F. (2002). Breaking through. Houghton Mifflin. young adult
Taus-Bolstad, S. (2005). Koreans in America. Lerner. grades 4-8 nonfiction
Martin, J. (2005). Immigrants in America - The Korean Americans. Lucent. grades 9-12 nonfiction

Visit Ellis Island (in person or virtually)
Research Korea and its customs

by Jennifer L Holm and Matthew Holm

Holm, Jennifer L. and Matthew Holm. 2005. BABYMOUSE. 1, QUEEN OF THE WORLD!  New York, NY: Random House. ISBN 0-375-93229-1.

BABYMOUSE. 1, QUEEN OF THE WORLD! is about a girl mouse who fantasizes about being the queen of the world, idolizing the popular, pretty girl in school. Babymouse compromises herself in school work and with her best friend.  After finally getting an invitation to the Felicia's slumber party, she discovers that the "cool girls" aren't so cool and that she is already queen of her world.

The characters in the story are all different kinds of animals, very much like the population of schools today.  It is very easy to relate and identify with the characters because everyone has experienced jealousy and wanting the unknown at some time.  "But everybody knew who the real queen was...Felicia Furrypaws.  Babymouse would've settled for being assistant queen."  We can also relate to her ply with the curly whiskers.  Girls are seldom happy with their own hair. 

The plot is relateable, with very valid ideas.  The characters are fantastical with all different kinds of animals talking and being friends.  Babymouse learns an important lesson in life that friends are more important than fame and that the grass really isn't always greener on the other side of the fence.  At the party she was bored and didn't enjoy doing the same things as the others.  After dumping popcorn on Felicia's head, Babymouse exclaims, "I have somewhere more important to be."

The setting is vital to the story, because it allows Babymouse to go through social events both at school and away.  Although the description of the setting isn't detailed, it isn't needed for the understanding of the story.

Being a graphic novel, the story is written like a comic book with pictures and captions.  The font is in all caps and pictures are black, white, and pink.  The pages are very busy and thus particularly appealing for those who need a lot of action.  It was easy to read and had a much different feel than a non-graphic novel. 


Booklist (December 1, 2005 (Vol. 102, No. 7))
cpg1252 Gr. 4-6. The Holms spruce up some well-trod ground with breathless pacing and clever flights of Babymouse's imagination, and their manic, pink-toned illustrations of Babymouse and her cohorts vigorously reflect the internal life of any million-ideas-a-minute middle-school student.

Horn Book (January/February, 2006)
New readers will appreciate the familiar situations, humorous asides, and easy-to-digest plots. The graphic format is easy to follow, especially since Babymouse's rich inner life is painted pink while the real world is depicted in a less flashy black-and-white. Babymouse is here to stay, and fans of Fashion Kitty and Captain Underpants will now add her to their collection of well-thumbed volumes to read over and over again. [Review includes these titles: Babymouse: Our Hero! and Babymouse: Queen of the World]

Kirkus Review (November 15, 2005)
In a graphic novelette illustrated in minimal, two-color style, the Holms introduce a small, klutzy mouse with a very big imagination. Babymouse compensates for the lack of glamour, excitement and adventure in her everyday life by mentally casting herself as Queen, as a space explorer, as star of "Babymouse vs. the Squid," and more at the drop of a hat-all while fretting that she hasn't been invited to nemesis Felicia Furrypaws' slumber party. But, finally trading her book report for an invitation, she discovers that the party's a mean and gossipy bore-so it's off to steady friend Wilson the Weasel's for cupcakes and a horror movie. Young readers will happily fall in line to follow Babymouse through both ordinary pratfalls

School Library Journal (June 1, 2011)
Gr 2-5-Give Babymouse, with her black-and-white-and-pink peppered palette, to anyone who thinks that comics are enjoyed primarily by boys. A plucky, resilient mouse (read middle-grade girl), Babymouse negotiates issues of friendship, popularity, and sense of self. The format and indeterminate age of our heroine makes for broad appeal with a wide range of readers. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

2006 - Gryphon Award
2006 - ALA Notable Children's Book
2006 - New York Book Show Awards

Read other books Babymouse series books
Read other graphic novels

Create a double bubble map comparing and contrasting characteristics of Babymouse and Felicia
Write a poem about Babymouse

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


by Christopher Paul Curtis

Curtis, Christopher Paul. 2007. ELIJUAH OF BUXTON. New York, NY: Scholastic Press. ISBN 0-439-02344-0.

Christopher Curtis’s, ELIJAH OF BUXTON, tells about a boy named Elijah, the first child born in freedom in his family. Living in a slave free, black community in Canada, Elijah’s family had escaped the oppression of the pre-Emancipation Proclamation and pre-Civil War frayed United States. Going about his daily routines, Elijah was faced with a dilemma when the preacher steals money that was supposed to be used to help others buy their freedom in the United States. Elijah shows his bravery when he is goes to the U.S. to get the money back. He soon discovered what his ancestors had endured.

The characters are very believable, donning personalities that are familiar and heartwarming.  The characters use language that is appropriate for it's time and for their culture.  The descriptions of their actions are colorful and enjoyable.  Having a conversation with the boys about hoop snakes, the preacher declares that after being bit, one's body explodes and they die of starvation.  Cooter questions this and the preachers replies, "Because, Cooter, no matter how much food you swallow, it simply falls through the hole where your internal organs used to be and drops to the ground right in front of you!" 

The plot allows the reader to learn about this time in history in a very accurate and meaningful way.  Young readers can easily relate to the feeling of Elijuh, making it easy for the readers to put themselves in his "shoes."  The plot is not overloaded with details, but rather brings them into the story in the events.  The setting is a very integral part of the story, from Canada to America.  The descriptions are vivid throughout the story, but the author's notes tell about Buxton and its importance.

The theme reflects the morals of the times, but is more reflective of history than of modern times.  However, the characters help to make the story timeless.  Treating men equal, living the good life, taking care of loved ones are all universal themes.

The author's voice captures the flavor of the times along with the speech pattern of that culture.  Many of the words are written with a slang.  An example of this is when Ma shook her head and said, "'Lijah, 'Lijah, 'Lijah. What'm I gunn do 'bout you?..."  The information is accurate and authentic.  The facts are intermingled throughout the novel to make it fun to read.

Booklist starred (September 1, 2007 (Vol. 104, No. 1)
Grades 6-8.  Narrator Elijah tells an episodic story that builds a broad picture of Buxton’s residents before plunging into the dramatic events that take him out of Buxton and, quite possibly, out of his depth. In the author’s note, Curtis relates the difficulty of tackling the subject of slavery realistically through a child’s first-person perspective. Here, readers learn about conditions in slavery at a distance, though the horrors become increasingly apparent.  Many readers drawn to the book by humor will find themselves at times on the edges of their seats in suspense and, at other moments, moved to tears. A fine, original novel from a gifted storyteller.

Horn Book (November/December, 2007)
The story of the Underground Railroad, which led escaping slaves to Canada, has been richly celebrated in fiction.  There is no easy happy ending here, but, in a heart-rending scene, Elijah reacts with courtesy, courage, and respect, according the wretched their dignity and giving them the one gift of freedom in his power. This arresting, surprising novel of reluctant heroism is about nothing less than nobility.

Kirkus Review starred (August 15, 2007)
This is Curtis's best novel yet, and no doubt many readers, young and old, will finish and say, "This is one of the best books I have ever read." (author's note) (Fiction. 9+)

Library Media Connection (January 2008)
Award winner Christopher Paul Curtis doesn't fail to deliver with his latest novel. Curtis deals with the difficult topic of slavery from a youthful perspective, allowing Elijah to learn of its sadness and pain first hand. This is done without overwhelming the reader, by infusing the novel with humor. Character development and voice are great strengths of this terrific novel. Highly Recommended. Spencer Korson, Media Specialist, Bullock Creek High School & Middle School, Midland, Michigan

Publishers Weekly (September 10, 2007)
 The powerful ending is violent and unsettling, yet also manages to be uplifting. Ages 9-12. (Oct.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

School Library Journal (October 1, 2007)
Gr 4-8  Curtis's talent for dealing with painful periods of history with grace and sensitivity is as strong as ever.-Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Coretta Scott King Award 2008
Newbery Honor Book for 2008

Days of Jubilee: The End of Slavery in the United States by Fredrick McKissack and Patricia McKissack
The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick
An Acceptable Time by Madeleine L'Engle
First in the Field: Baseball Hero Jackie Robinson by Derek T. Dingle
Sitting Bull Remembers by Wendell Minor and Ann Warren Turner

Research about the underground railroad
Compare and Contrast the lives of the slaves to the freed slaves of Buxton

by Laurence Yep

Yep, Laurence. 2006.
THE EARTH DRAGON AWAITS: THE SAN FRANCISCO EARTHQUAKE OF 1906. New York, NY: HarperCollins Children's Books. ISBN 0-060-27524-3.

THE EARTH DRAGON AWAITS: THE SAN FRANCISCO EARTHQUAKE OF 1906  is a historical fiction book based on a true story about the earthquake and fire that destroyed San Francisco in 1906.  Yep tells the story through the fictional characters of a family, their houseboy and his son, and others they meet through their struggle to survive.  Even though the characters are made up, the facts that surround the incident are true, including the night before the quake and some events that followed.  The story begins with in the Travis family home, with Ah Sing and his son, Chin, there too.  The Travis couple goes out for the evening, leaving Henry at home with Ah Sing.  When they return, Ah Sing and Chin return to China Town.  San Francisco and the surrounding area is awoken the following morning to an earth shaking event that will change their lives and the history of San Francisco forever.

Readers can identify with the characters in this story because Yep paints the picture of a normal family living in the city.  One important character in the story is the family dog.  Evidently, animals can feel the earth moving long before people can.  All the characters are very believable.  Little things like the fact that Mrs. Travis had an umbrella collection point to the fact that it rains often in San Fransisco.  The umbrellas play an important role in the plot as well.  The fact is that a wild horse really was stopped by people flapping umbrellas at him.  In this story, it was the Travis's.  Having a "houseboy" was also a very common occurrence in the early 1900's. 

Throughout the novel, Yep kept the details authentic to the time period, however the plot is not overwhelmed by details.  Rather, Yep worked the details into the plot in less assuming ways.  Also, the book is designed so that the chapters rotate between what Chin and his dad are experiencing, the Travis's, and facts about the event.
The setting is not only an integral part of the story, but what the story is about.  Yep is very clear about the various parts of San Francisco, which makes it interesting to visit today.  People still talk about the events of the earthquake and the Great Fire of San Francisco.  Moreover, quakes of today are often compared to the one of 1906.  The story is timeless and enjoyable to read no matter when you were born.  The statement that really captured just how profound the devastation was was a little sentence in the chapter where the library burned.  He says, "the wisdom of the ages turns to ashes."

This historical book is a "must read," easily accomplished in a short time due to it's simple terminology.

School Library JournalGr 3-7-Yep covers all the most significant repercussions of the event, its aftershocks, and days of devastating fires, and peppers the story with interesting true-to-life anecdotes.  But the story as a whole should appeal to reluctant readers. Its "natural disaster" subject is both timely and topical, and Yep weaves snippets of information on plate tectonics and more very neatly around his prose. A solid supplemental choice.-Catherine Threadgill, Charleston County Public Library, SC Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews This is a timely reminder of a historical disaster that turned over 2000 acres of city into a wasteland. Each chapter is headed with a time and place to help less than proficient readers keep track of the narrative strands. Simple sentence structure and the use of present tense throughout make this a very accessible introduction. With little character development, the focus is on the what rather than the who. Still, this is solid historical fiction full of details about the times and backed up with an afterword explaining the author's connection and suggesting sources for further reading. It is notable especially for the attention paid to the experience of San Francisco's Chinese immigrants, and a good choice for reluctant readers. (Historical fiction. 3-6)

Georgia Book Award Nominees for 2007-2008

Related Titles About San Fransisco:
ABCDrive! by Howland, N
Barrio: José’s neighborhood by Ancona, George
The cable car and the dragon by Caen, Herb; illustrated by Byfield, Barbara Nind
The City by the Bay: a magical journey around San Francisco by Brown, Tricia and the Junior League of San Francisco; illustrated by Kleven, Elisa
Celebrating Hanukkah by Hoyt-Goldsmith, Diane
Dancers in the garden by Ryder, Joanne; illustrated by Lopez, Judith
Earthquake by Lee, Milly; illustrated by Choi, Yangsook
Goodnight San Francisco by Gamble, Adam; illustrated by Cohen, Santiago
Hannah is my name by Yang, Belle
He's got the whole world in his hands by Nelson, Kadir

Make travel brochure about San Fransisco
Research earthquakes
Research trolleys
Research the Chinese culture
Contact a classroom from China through the internet for penpals -
Contact a classroom from San Francisco for penpals

by Clare Vanderpool

Vanderpool, Sy. 2010. MOON OVER MANIFEST. New York, NY: Delacourt Press. ISBN 0-385-73883-8 .

In this historical novel by Clare Vanderpool, twelve-year old Abilene Tucker was sent by her father to the somewhat deserted, lackluster town of Manifest, Kansas, to live with Pastor Shady Howard while her father worked in Iowa during the 1930s. When Abilene arrived she was bewildered about why her dad would send her there and was even more confused about why no one in town wanted to speak of her dad. Then Abilene found a hidden box of mystifying objects which led to her investigation of her dad’s past. While exploring, Abilene visits an elderly diviner who enlightens her with gripping stories from years past about two boys. This book offers enjoyable reading, urging readers to put the puzzles together in pursue of solving the mystery.

Vanderpool created characters who make the story believable and somewhat lovable.  Abilene is easy to identify with, whether one is thinking back to that age or living through it now.  The time period, early to mid1900's is represented in many ways, such as the way that the children were expected to entertain themselves and the modes of  transportation. "The movement of the train rocked me like a lullaby."

Sadie, the diviner, helped to bring the novel to live as well.  The novel almost seems to be as much her story as it is Abilene's.  The setting is very important to the plot, giving Abilene a reason to solve the mystery of her dad and his place in the town.  "Thinking of spies and people going insane made everyone seem a little frightening." The scenery is vividly described and contributes to the realness of the story.
Wanting to know one's heritage and family secrets is a universal theme in life.  This story is relevant at anytime.

Booklist starred (October 15, 2010 (Vol. 107, No. 4))
Grades 5-8.  Vanderpool weaves humor and sorrow into a complex tale involving murders, orphans, bootlegging, and a mother in hiding. With believable dialogue, vocabulary and imagery appropriate to time and place, and well-developed characters, this rich and rewarding first novel is “like sucking on a butterscotch. Smooth and sweet.”

Kirkus Review starred (September 15, 2010)
Abilene and readers get so caught up in the past in this richly detailed, splendidly written novel that they easily make the transition between the Depression and WWI eras and long to learn more about the town that once was. Readers will love guessing how Abilene's dad fits into all the stories and townspeople's memories. The absolute necessity of story as a way to redemption and healing past wounds is at the heart of this beautiful debut, and readers will cherish every word up to the heartbreaking yet hopeful and deeply gratifying ending. (author's note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Library Media Connection (May/June 2011)
Anyone interested in historical fiction would be mesmerized by this story, even students who enjoy stories about adventurous kids will be satisfied. Recommended. Annette M. Mills, School Librarian, Triad High School, Troy, Illinois

Publishers Weekly (September 27, 2010)
Replete with historical details and surprises, Vanderpool's debut delights, while giving insight into family and community. Ages 9-12. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

School Library Journal (November 1, 2010)
Gr 5-8-  This thoroughly enjoyable, unique page-turner is a definite winner.-Renee Steinberg, formerly at Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Children's Books of the Year 2011 - 12 to 14
Newbery Medal Winner - 2011
Notable Children's Books 2011 - Older Readers
Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People 2011

Firehorse by Diane L. Wilson
Heart of a Shepherd by Rosanne Parry
Night Fires by George Edward Stanley
Tales from the Homeplace: Adventures of a Texas by Harriet Burandt and Shelley Dale
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
Standing in the Light: The Captive Diary of  Catharine Carey Logan by Mary Pope Osborne

Give students a lunch sack and have them bring 5 things in the unmarked sack that will give clues about them, then have them guess who brought the items.
Research spies and how they interact
Research the depression

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


text by Sy Montgomery
photographs by Nic Bishop

Montgomery, Sy. 2004. THE TARANTULA SCIENTIST. Ill. by Nic Bishop. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin . ISBN 0-618-14799-3.

THE TARANTULA SCIENTIST is an informational book about arachnids, hard to hold and read if you are an arachnophobia like me!  Montgomery teaches us about tarantulas and other arachnids, from spiders to scorpions, in a very adventurous way.  "Here she comes, he announces. She thunders out of the hole."  There is a map in the front of the book which comes in handy as Montgomery leads readers from one country to another in search of the several species of the big spiders.   

The information in THE TARANTULA SCIENTIST is very detailed and Montgomery proves to be a true authority on tarantulas and the likes.  "He knows exactly what he is doing.  Sam is a spider scientist, or arachnololgist (pronounced "ar-rack-NAWL-o-gist")."  It is also helpful that the pronunciation of potential unfamiliar words is included in the text.

THE TARANTULA SCIENTIST is a very well organized book, leading readers from place to place in search of tarantulas, all the while giving information about other animals encountered along the way.   By the end of the book, the author mentions that readers can purchase their own tarantulas for pets.  A glossary is included at the end to help clear up any questions about terms used in the book. 

The book is very attractive, if you could call pictures of tarantulas, vinegaroons, poisonous frogs, etc to be attractive.  Just holding the book gives you the feeling that spiders are crawling on you!    The pictures are vivid in color, large, and certainly add to the information in the book.  The photos are well coordinated with the information on the page.  Going from place to place to enlighten readers about spiders helps keep the design simple and easy to follow.

The author and illustrator work well together to entice readers to learn about tarantulas.  They provide an abundance of information but in a way that the reader is not overwhelmed.  THE TARANTULA SCIENTIST unquestionably peeks curiosity and leads one to think.  "Amanda want to investigate their courtship and child rearing.  Do theses tarantulas also have a courtship dance? She'll be the first to find out."  All through the book questions are raised that encourage discovery. 

Booklist (March 15, 2004 (Vol. 100, No. 14))
Gr. 4-7. Montgomery and Bishop, who worked together on Snake Scientist (1999), team up once again to deliver another fascinating slice of the natural world. Readers will come away armed with facts about spiders in general and tarantulas in particular, but even more important, they'll have a clear understanding of how the answers derived from research become the roots of new, intriguing questions.

Horn Book (July/August, 2004)
Writer and photographer team up again to bring us another excellent entry in the Scientist in the Field series. We follow arachnologist Sam Marshall on a field expedition to South America, and then back to his laboratory in Ohio to investigate several tarantula species. Information about spider basics, spider silk, and how to observe your own local spiders is woven into the main narrative. Montgomery is effective in showing how scientists' research questions integrate their field and laboratory study, and how Marshall's enthusiasm drives his scientific work.

Horn Book starred (Fall 2004)
This book follows arachnologist Sam Marshall on an expedition to South America to investigate several tarantula species. Information about spider basics, spider silk, and how to observe your own local spiders is woven into the main narrative. The color photography is so interesting that even the squeamish may take a second look at the hairy tarantulas portrayed in close detail. Websites. Bib., glos., ind.

Kirkus Review starred (February 15, 2004)
 Montgomery has a gift for scene-setting, describing Marshall's activities in just enough detail. She deftly weaves clear explanations and comparisons into the main text (" . . . their 'skin' is called an exoskeleton, because exo-like exit-means 'outside' "). Bishop's phenomenal photos show spiders mating, shedding their skin, even leaping through the air. It's enough to make Miss Muffet fall in love. (Nonfiction. 8-14)

School Library Journal (May 1, 2004)
Gr 5-10-Superb color photos abound in this spectacular series addition. Readers follow the career of Sam Marshall, tarantula scientist extraordinaire, from his "Spider Lab" at Hiram College in Ohio to the rain forests of French Guiana as he hunts for, finds, and studies the creatures he loves so well.  A treat, even for arachnophobes.-Patricia Manning, formerly at Eastchester Public Library, NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

2005 Robert F. Sibert Honor Book
2004 School Library Journal, Best Books of the Year
2005 Texas Bluebonnet Award
2004 John Burroughs Honor List of Nature Books for Children
2005 National Science Teachers Association and Children’s Book Council
Outstanding Science Trade Book for Children. The book received the further
distinction of being noted as a “Selector's Choice” among these outstanding
works for children.
2005 Notable Children’s Book in the Language Arts
2005 Voice of Youth Advocates Nonfiction Honor List
Kirkus Reviews Editor’s Choice List, a compilation of what reviewers
consider the top books of the year.

Read other books by the author and/or illustrator
Other Books by Montgomery
Search for the Golden Moon Bear
Encantado: Pink Dolphin of the Amazon
The Man-Eating Tigers of Sundarbans
Journey of the Pink Dolphins; An Amazon Quest
The Snake Scientist
Walking with the Great Apes: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, Birute Galdikas

Books written and photographed by Bishop
Backyard Detective: Critters Up Close
Digging for Bird Dinosaurs: An Expedition to Madagascar
Forest Explorer: A Life-Sized Field Guide
The Secrets of Animal Flight

Books with photographs by Bishop
Chameleon, Chameleon by Joy Cowley. by Joy Cowley.
Looking for Life in the Universe by Ellen Jackson. by Ellen Jackson.
The Red-Eyed Tree Frog by Joy Cowley. by Joy Cowley.
The Snake Scientist by Sy Montgomery. by Sy Montgomery.

Related Titles: Spiders
Tarantulas and Other Arachnids by Sam Marshall. by Sam Marshall.
Spiders and Their Kin by Herbert W. and Lorna R. Levi. by Herbert W. and Lorna R. Levi.
Florida’s Fabulous Spiders by Sam Marshall and B.B. Edwards. by Sam Marshall and B.B. Edwards.
Tarantula Shoes by Tom Birdseye. by Tom Birdseye.
Spiders and Their Webs by Margery Facklam. by Margery Facklam.
The Tarantula in My Purse and 172 Other Wild Pets by Jean Craighead George. by Jean Craighead George.

Have the students go for a hike and draw one animal that they spy.  Then return to the classroom to research about the animal and give facts around the picture.  Then put all the pages together to form a book, written by the student scientists. 
Compare and contrast spiders and insects.
Write a narrative story from the viewpoint of the spider.

by Steve Jenkins

Jenkins, Steve. 2009.
DOWN, DOWN, DOWN: A JOURNEY TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 0-618-9663-3.

DOWN, DOWN, DOWN: A JOURNEY TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA is a nonfiction book about sea life and their surroundings, starting at the ocean's surface and descending to the ocean floor.  Jenkins takes us down, down, down, in a magical way that allows readers to actually get a feeling for what it is really like at different levels in the sea.  In the end, the author says it will take two hours to ascend to the surface and then I think he leaves an open opportunity for a sequel to the book.  "Some scientists believe that we've seen fewer than half the large animals living in the sea. If we're lucky, we'll encounter some of these unknown creatures on our return trip."
Jenkins uses many details in temperatures in both Fahrenheit and Celsius, depth in both feet and meters, and sizes compared to the adult human body and/or size of a hand.  He is also very accurate about the light in the ocean at various levels.  This informational book is chocked full of facts about sea life and their environment. 

Likewise, the author organized the information by going down in different levels of the ocean, thus the title, DOWN, DOWN, DOWN.  It is arranged so that it is very "kid friendly."  At the end, is a glossary which gives details about each ocean creature featured throughout the book. 
The illustrations are very detailed as well.  As the book progresses, and the reader progressed deeper into the sea, the pages get darker, as does the ocean.  "We've reached the dark zone.  Not even the faintest sunlight can reach us here.  It's colder, and the pressure is enormous."  Just reading those words gives you the feeling of being there, an eerie and strange feeling! 

The writing style and display of pictures will definitely appeal to the young, especially the way that Jenkins included the details about the creatures at the end of the book.  The pages are not full of information that could be overwhelming.  The grid on the right of the page is a very resourceful way to show the depth of the ocean.

Booklist (April 1, 2009 (Vol. 105, No. 15))
Grades 2-4. In this plunge into the deep, Jenkins displays his usual keen awareness of what is fascinating about biology and imparts it without sensationalism—the facts speak for themselves.

Horn Book (May/June, 2009)
Jenkins takes his signature collage to the oceans, sinking readers from the surface of the Pacific Ocean down nearly 11,000 meters to the bottom of the Marianas Trench.. Excellent details, including facts and to-scale comparisons to humans, are organized in the end pages of the book.
Kirkus Review (April 15, 2009)
 Once again, Jenkins provides an almost irresistible entry into our natural world for the youngest readers. (Informational picture book. 5-8)

School Library Journal (April 1, 2009)
Gr 3-6-The bold views tend to emphasize the weirdness of these little-known species, but the repeated message that humans have much to explore and learn in the deeper ocean is intriguing and inviting.

ALA Notable Book 2010
2009 Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Book
New York Times-one of the eight most Notable Children's Books of 2009
2011 Beehive Book Award Nominee (Utah)
Bluebonnet Reading List. 2010 - 2011

Related Literature About Oceans
The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino
Thunder from the Sea by Joan Hiatt Harlow
The Giant Rat of Sumatra by Sid Fleischman
All Stations, Distress! The Titanic by Don Brown
Sea Clocks by Louise Borden
Hello, Ocean by Pam Munoz Ryan
Old Shell, New Shell by Helen Ward

Have student choose one sea creature and research it.  Then student can make a poster with a picture and all the information on it.  Then display them in the hall or room.
Students become familiar with some of the latest discoveries in ocean research, including hydrothermal vents and historical shipwrecks. They explore the work of deep-sea explorer Robert Ballard and hypothesize about what they might find in the ocean.

by Barbara Kerley
illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham

Kerley, Barbara. 2008. WHAT TO DO ABOUT ALICE? Ill. by Edwin Fotheringham. New York, NY: Scholastic Press. ISBN 0-439-92231-3.

WHAT TO DO ABOUT ALICE?, a pictorial bibliography, is told in a very entertaining way by Barbara Kerley.  It begins with Alice, at two, losing her mother.  It seems that event created somewhat of a "rounder," to say the least.  She grew up headstrong, overcoming obstacles such as leg braces and sadness of her mother's absence.  Even though she was a tomboy, she was able to win over people with her infectious personality.  She left all to wonder, "What to do about Alice?"  She ended up an American legend, of sorts, they daughter of the President and wife of a Congressman.  This story is fun to read and the pictures are delightful.

Kerley accurately depicts the life of Alice Roosevelt in a way that children will enjoy reading.  The events that Alice participated in help to inform the reader of what was happening in history at that time.  Likewise, the story points out that girls were expected to act a certain way in that day, not like the girls of today who have the freedom to be themselves.  Even so, finishing school didn't work on Alice.  "And she still ate up the world, dancing the turkey trot at diplomatic balls and playing poker with the boys." 

The bibliography is told from the beginning of Alice's life to the end in chronological order.  The pictures guide you through a timeline with Alice growing up throughout the book.  At the beginning of the book, her dad is not President. 
The pictures correlate well with the story.  Fotheringham did a fabulous job of  rendering the style of clothes from the time period, the style of houses, transportation, etc.  The story is definitely enhanced by the artwork.  The words are easy to read on the pages, scattered in various places on the pages. 
At the end of the book, the author's note is informative and adds more understanding of the characters.  The book absolutely focuses on Alice and her life, mentioning others in historical ways.  The author and illustrator worked together to tell about the life of a historical figure in an intriguing manner. 

Booklist starred (January 1, 2008 (Vol. 104, No. 9))
Grades K-3.  Kerley’s text has the same rambunctious spirit as its subject, grabbing readers from the first line: “Theodore Roosevelt had a small problem.” Children will be impressed with the way Alice took control of her life: eschewing formal schooling, she convinced T. R. to “let her loose in his library.” The large format gives Fotheringham, in his debut, plenty of room for spectacular art, which includes use of digital media. In almost every picture, Alice is running, motoring, racing. One clever spread shows what it was like to be a media princess: newspaper pages fly across the spread, obscuring Alice. There are a few flaws.

Horn Book (March/April, 2008)
This sassy biography of Alice Roosevelt Longworth validates President Theodore Roosevelt's famous quip about his oldest child: "I can be president of the United States, or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both." With a palette that emphasizes Alice Blue, her signature color, the illustrations often match Alice's spirit with zigzag streaks, circular pieces of spot art, and slanting figures. What to do about Alice? Enjoy!

Kirkus Review starred (February 1, 2008)
Theodore Roosevelt's irrepressible oldest child receives an appropriately vivacious appreciation in this superb picture book.  Fotheringham's digital illustrations perfectly evoke the retro styles of an earlier age, depicting a confident Alice sailing through life and tackling every challenge with delight and aplomb. The illustrator takes every opportunity to develop Alice's character further; one memorable spread shows a blandly smiling Alice leading her smaller siblings in riding trays down the White House stairs while the text merely remarks, "She watched her younger brothers and sister so her stepmother could get some rest." It's a gleeful celebration of a fully, unapologetically led life.

Library Media Connection (February 2008)
This successful melding of text and pictures showcases the life of Teddy Roosevelt's irrepressible daughter, Alice.  A subdued palette with touches of red highlights the vitality of the subject matter. Large cartoon-like images of Teddy and Alice effectively convey their larger-than-life personalities.  Alice's antics will have plenty of child appeal. The book does an excellent job of conveying a lot of history in an entertaining way as it illuminates the life and personality of one of America's icons. Highly Recommended. Quinby Frank, Librarian, Green Acres School, Rockville, Maryland

Publishers Weekly (March 31, 2008)
It's hard to imagine a picture book biography that could better suit its subject than this high-energy volume serves young Alice Roosevelt.  Debut illustrator Fotheringham creates the perfect mood from the start: his stylish digital art sets a fast pace, making use of speed lines (rendered in dots, these earn their names) and multiple vignettes to evoke characters in perpetual motion. His compositions wittily incorporate headlines, iconic images and plenty of Alice blue, too. Kids will embrace a heroine who teaches her younger step siblings to sled down the White House stairs ("Alice tried to be helpful," Kerley writes soberly as Fotheringham shows her in action), entertains dignitaries with her pet snake and captivates a nation with pranks and high jinks. Ages 4-8. (Apr.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

School Library Journal (March 1, 2008)
Gr 2-4-Kerley brings another historical figure to life.  Kerley's text gallops along with a vitality to match her subject's antics, as the girl greets White House visitors accompanied by her pet snake, refuses to let leg braces cramp her style, dives fully clothed into a ship's swimming pool, and also earns her place in history as one of her father's trusted advisers. Fotheringham's digitally rendered, retro-style illustrations are a superb match for the text. The energy in his pictures is palpable as when Alice is turned loose in her father's library and five Alices dart about followed by lines that trace her frenetic path as she reads eclectically and voraciously. The illustrations not only enhance but are frequently the source of humor: -Grace Oliff, Ann Blanche Smith School, Hillsdale, NJ Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Sibert Honor Book
Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book
Irma Black Award Honor Book
Parents Choice Award
Washington State Scandiuzzi Children's Book Award
California Collections
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
An ALA Notable Book
Capitol Choices
New York Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
Nominated for Young Reader awards in Texas, Illinois, Utah and Tennessee

Stand Tall, Abraham Lincoln, by Judith St. George
If I Ran for President by Katherine Stier
George Washington's Teeth by Katherine Stier
Duck for President by Doreen Cronin
The Kid Who Ran for President by Dan Gutman 
Kennedy Assassinated by Wilborn Hampton

Have students list the facts they learned about first daughter Alice Roosevelt.
Describe and list character traits for Alice.
Research a first daughter of interest.
Create a story “What To Do About ________?” based on their research.

Friday, July 1, 2011


by Sones, Sonya

Sones, Sonya. 2001. WHAT MY MOTHER DOESN'T KNOW. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0689841140

WHAT MY MOTHER DOESN'T KNOW is a captivating book of poetry, which reads much like a novel, composed of short free verse poems. 
It is written from the prospective of a teenage girl, Sophie, who is trying to find herself in a world of family, cyberspace, school, friends and boys.  In the end, she befriends the school outcast, and eventually falls in love with him. 

WHAT MY MOTHER DOESN'T KNOW, by Sonya Sones, is a very easy and quick read.  I think the storyline is something to which most teenage girls would relate.  Mostly the poems are written in free verse, except one poem tucked about midway in the book.
"More or Less
If Dylan and I had met
by catting on the Net
in a room in cyberspace
instead of face to face..."
There was also one concrete poem in the book.  The author used language that is consistent with a teenager, especially a girl.  At times the storyline reminded me of the modern day Cinderella story, with the masked dancer at the party,  However, it seemed very believable throughout most of the book.  I don't really think boys would enjoy this book has it really seems to target female adolescents. 

Publishers Weekly (February 24, 2003)
"Drawing on the recognizable cadence of teenage speech, the author poignantly captures the tingle and heartache of being young and boy-crazy," wrote PW in a starred review. "She weaves separate free verse poems into a fluid and coherent narrative with a satisfying ending."

listed by the American Library Association as one of the Top 100 Most Banned Books of the Decade (2000–2010)
listed by the American Library Association as one of the Top Ten Most Challenged Books (2004 and 2005)
winner of the Iowa Teen Book Award (2005–2006)
Michigan Thumbs Up Award Honor Book (2002)
unanimously chosen an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults (2002)
unanimously chosen an American Library Association Top Ten Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers (2002)
named an International Reading Association Young Adults' Choice (2003)
named a Booklist Editor's Choice (2001)
voted a VOYA Top Shelf for Middle School Readers (2003)
Pennsylvania Young Reader’s Choice Award: YA Recommended Title (2003–2004)
named a New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age (2002, 2003, and 2004)
named a Texas Lone Star State Reading List Choice (2003–2004)
named a Top Ten Editor's Choice by (2001)
named a Best of 2001 for Teens
chosen a Junior Library Guild selection
chosen a Scholastic Teen Age Book Club selection
chosen a Scholastic Trumpet Book Club selection
chosen a Scholastic Book Fair selection
nominated for the following state awards:
     Volunteer State Book Award (TN) (2004–2005)
     Utah Children's Choice Beehive Award (2003–2004)
     Garden State Teen Book Award (NJ) (2003–2004)
     Pennsylvania Young Reader's Choice Award (2004)
     Rhode Island Teen Book Award (2004)
     South Carolina Young Adult Book Award (2003–2004)
     Missouri Gateway Reader's Choice Award for Teens (2003–2004)
     Wyoming Library Association Soaring Eagle Book Award (2003–2004)

Other books written in verse for teens:
Aleutian Sparrow by Karen Hesse
A Bad Boy Can be Good for a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone
By the River by Steven Herrick
Crank by Ellen Hopkins
Crash Boom Love by Juan Felipe Herrara
The Geography of Girlhood by Kristen Smith
God Went to Beauty School by Cynthia Rylant
Hard Hit by Ann Warren Turner
Hugging the Rock by Susan Taylor Brown
Jinx by Margaret Wild
Keesha's House by Helen Frost
One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies by Sonya Sones
One Night by Margaret Wild
Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse
The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan
Rubber Houses by Ellen Yeomans
Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham
Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell
Stop Pretending: What Happened When My Big Sister Went Crazy by Sonya Sones
Street Love by Walter Dean Myers
Things Left Unsaidn by Stephanie Hemphill
Who Killed Mr. Chippendale?: A Mystery in Poems by Mel Glenn

Write in journals using free verse

by Nikki Grimes
Illustrated by Michael Bryant

Grimes, Nikki. 1996. COME SUNDAY. Ill. by Michael Bryant. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eardman's Publishing Company. ISBN 0-8028-5108-8

COME SUNDAY is a picture book of poetry which is compiled of poems, mostly with rhythm and  rhyme.  The poems take you through a day, a Sunday, through the eyes of a little African American girl.  The poetry reveals her feelings, experiences, and thoughts as she progresses through the day.

This book of poetry, by Nikki Grimes, appeals to all the senses.  The poems all revolve around an ordinary Sunday.  I easily related to the poems, maybe because I am from the south or maybe because I went to church as a little girl.  I remember the blue haired women, white gloves on Sunday, women's hats and sneaking peeks during prayers.  The words in the poems flow easily, allowing for the reader to paint mental pictures.  These poems allowed me to connect to my childhood and warmed my heart.

The watercolor illustrations, by Michael Bryant, are detailed, colorful and vivid.  They fully support the text and aid in painting pictures in the mind of readers.  The pictures could almost tell the story without the poems. 

I love this book and will definitely read it to my students.  The one question I have in the back of my mind is whether this book will cause questions to be raised regarding religion in school.

Booklist starred (Vol. 92, No. 19 (June 1, 1996))
Ages 4-8. Grimes and Bryant combine their talents in a book that's bursting with joy. Grimes' short poems, boxed neatly into each ink-and-watercolor double-page spread, capture both the jubilation of a spirit-filled African American congregation and the more solemn moments. Yet both author and illustrator make sure that all this wonder is reflected strictly from the child's point of view.

Horn Book (September, 1996)
In fourteen poems, a young girl named LaTasha describes a typical Sunday of worship at the Paradise Baptist Church. From the joyful rhythms of singing and swaying and the spiritual plunge of baptism to church suppers and visiting preachers, the conversational verse evokes both solemn and joyous moods. Loose-lined watercolors burst with life, aptly conveying a community gathered in worship.

Kirkus Review (1996)
Composed as a suite of pitch-perfect poems, Grimes (Portrait of Mary, 1994, etc.) affectionately portrays a young girl's enjoyment of the spirit and practice of Sunday services in her community's church. While some of Bryant's watercolor paintings are more skilled than others, the overall effect is one of exaltation tempered by serene faith. Whatever their religious background, readers will smile at the jubilation.

Publishers Weekly (April 8, 1996)
In lively and delicious poetry, accompanied by evocative, full-color illustrations, Nikki Grimes recounts LaTasha's Sunday adventures in Paradise--Paradise Baptist Church, that is. From rising in the morning, to greeting the blue-haired ladies at church, to the soft and powerful voice of the visiting lady preacher, the church offering, a baptism, a church supper and finally home to bed, Grimes brings the experience of Sundays at church to life. Reverent, funny and wildly energetic all at the same time, this is a wonderful book for introducing children to church life. Ages 5-9.

School Library Journal (June 1997)
Gr 1-4--Fourteen short poems narrated by an African-American girl that concentrate mostly on preparing for and going to church with family and friends. Bryant's lively watercolors reveal a congregation caught up in its worship. The people are of all ages and are dressed in their most colorful best. Light flows through stained-glass windows, and the minister's Afrocentric-style vestments add another touch of color. Grimes' topical poems are short and down-to-earth enough to engage children and occasionally will sweep them along with a bouncy rhythm or a spark of recognition that brings LaTasha's Sunday to life. Both the text and pictures evoke a celebration of one ethnic and religious group.

2009 Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize for Fiction
Finalist for The Commonwealth Prize
Finalist for Audie 2010 Award for Literary Fiction
Longlisted for The Sunday Times Literary Award

Other books that would go along with this book are:
The Lord's Prayer by Tim Ladwig
When Daddy Prays by Nikki Grimes
Psalm Twenty-Three by Tim Ladwig
He's Got the Whole World in His Hands by Kadir Nelson
Baby Dance (Harper Growing Tree) by Ann Taylor
This Little Light of Mine by Public Domain
Tulip Sees America by Cynthia Rylant

Visit places in the community where people go (nursing home, bank, church, park)
Discuss family traditions
Make a circle map that includes important people who have had an influence in your life

Selected by Mary Ann Hoberman and Linda Winston
Illustrated by Barbara Fortin

Hoberman, Mary Ann, and Linda Winston. 2009. THE TREE THAT TIME BUILT. Brainerd, Minnesota: Bang Printing. ISBN: 978-1- 4022-2517-8

This enlightening collection of poems centers around science and nature. The poems are categorized by themes. A glossary provides definitions for scientific and poetic terms.

This collection a poems, put together by Mary Ann Hoberman and Linda Winston, combines both science and art and is inspired by Charles Darwin and his contribution to literature and nature. Some of the poems are serious, while others are fun and quirky. Each section is titled either by a poem included in that section or by a notable line in a poem within the section. Likewise, every section is introduced with a prose piece. Most of the poems can be easily related to something with which children will identify. In the following lines from "Birth" from "Field of Wonder," one can contemplate how each of us fits into the universe.

Oh, fields of wonder
Out of which
Stars are born,
And moon and sun
And me as well,

The tree in the book is a sketch that was in Darwin's notes and is exhibited in a museum. The authors used this tree as their inspiration and thus THE TREE THAT TIME BUILT.

Booklist (December 15, 2009 (Vol. 106, No. 8))
Grades 3-7. Even if the organization occasionally feels arbitrary, the well-chosen selections will provoke thought and inspiration. Explanatory notes accompanying many poems, a glossary of both scientific and poetic terms, short biographies of the poets, and an accompanying CD featuring a selection of the poems read aloud make this attractive and unusual hybrid of poetry and science a great choice for classroom sharing.

Horn Book (Spring 2010)
The selections beautifully capture the variety of the world's natural wonders.

Library Media Connection (January/February 2010)
This collection would be a great choice to use as a collaborative tool with Middle School Science and English classes.

Publishers Weekly (November 30, 2009)
Taken in total, the poems encompass nature's multitudinous qualities, from harsher realities ("On my early walk/ I passed the Frog Prince/ dead in a rut of the road," in Virginia Hamilton Adair's Early Walk) to its ability to inspire at its most microscopic, as Ralph Waldo Emerson writes, "Atom from atom yawns as far/ As moon from earth,/ as star from star." Ages 7-12

School Library Journal (January 1, 2010)
Gr 5 Up From the playful to the profound, the poems invite reflection and inspire further investigation.

2010 Lee Bennett Hopkins Honor Award
2009 Family Choice Award winner
2009 PW Cuffies Favorite Poetry Book

Other books that would go along with this book are:
ABSOLUTELY WILD: Poems by Dennis Webster
Douglas Florian's poetry books, (each with a different theme: insects, birds, beasts)

Decorate rocks to reveal something about you
Take a nature walk
Research the life of a tree
Make salt maps of earth

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


by Ashley Bryan

Bryan, Ashley. 1993. THE STORY OF LIGHTNING AND THUNDER. Ill. by Ashley Bryan. New York, NY: Antheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon and Schuster.ISBN 0-689-31836-7

The plot is full of action and somewhat episodic because when Son Ram Lighting’s actions are troublesome, the King sends Ma Sheep and Son Ram Lightning to a new location. The setting is established on the first page, in a little village in Africa.  The author paints a picture in the readers’ minds of lightning as Son Ram zigzags through fields and up mountains with Ma Sheep, thunder, calling after him.  The conflicts are extremely crucial to the plot.  The resolution, sending Ma Sheep and Son Ram Lightning, explains how thunder and lightning came to be.  At the end, the author allows the listener, or reader, to identify with Son Ram Lightning.  This is a perfect book to read aloud. 

THE STORY OF LIGHTNING AND THUNDER is based on Folk Tales from Southern Nigeria, West Africa, by Elphinstone Dayrell, however, this tale could relate to any culture.  It includes supernatural events, such as going into the sky.  There are also repeated elements, such as, use of “uh-uh,” throughout the story.  Also, after every troubled incident the King would send Ma and Son farther away, where the same thing would happen again. The African culture in represented, other than already stated, through the village and what was sold.  Likewise, interestingly, no matter what, Ma Sheep Thunder did what King requested without question.  Although this story is mostly about how lightning and thunder came to be, it also has a moral.  The story seems to highlight friendship, being that Rain always tried to help her friend, Ma Sheep, when needed.  That is why King sent her.  Also, the most important lesson is that children should obey their parents.  In not doing so, bad things happened.
The illustrations are colorful, vivid and are complementary to the story.  The character is well portrayed in African clothing.  The story would easily be followed through the pictures. 

Booklist (Vol. 90, No. 2 (September 15, 1993)"Bryan's swirling watercolors depict a bright African terrain peopled with decorative, colorful characters. The text has music and style and moves along quickly, thanks to the humor inherent in the exploits of the rambunctious ram. Specific source notes are included. This is a solid title for reading aloud that will appeal to a wide age range."
Horn Book (March, 1994)"Stylized illustrations, in pretty shades of blue, green, orange, and yellow, accompany a mildly amusing retelling of a folktale from southern Nigeria about how Thunder -- a mother sheep -- and her mischievous son, Lightning -- a ram -- were banished from the Earth to the sky."
Kirkus Review starred (1993)"Written to be read aloud (perhaps to a rambunctious child), with bits of rhyme and unexpected wordplay--the King scolds Lightning: "It is an outrage at your age to go on such a rampage!" There is one of Bryan's uniquely vibrant, swirling, light-filled paintings on every page."
Publishers Weekly (October 18, 1993)"Bryan takes a highly conversational, genial tone, with frequent interjections of ``uh-huh'' and ``uh-uh,'' that quickly develops camaraderie between the reader, the narrator, the spirited ram, and his frazzled mother. Brilliantly colored and ingeniously patterned, Bryan's illustrations are a playful take on stained glass."

THE STORY OF LIGHTNING AND THUNDER does not appear to have been awarded any honors, however, Ashley Bryan has written several other books which have been heavily awarded.  He has compiled, written and illustrated numerous books, many of them African folktales.

Other books that would go along with this book are:
Ashley Bryan's African Tales
Uh Huh and The Story of Lightning and Thunder
All Night, All Day: A Child's First Book of African American Spirituals
What a Morning
Beat the Story Drum, Pum-Pum
Lion and the Ostrich Chicks
Owl Moon by Jane Yolen
Same series: Why Mosquitos Buzz in People's Ears (Imagination Library Books)
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola
Mirette on the High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
Doctor De Soto by William Steig
The Amazing Bone by William Steig

  • On rainy days, this would be a good story to read during recess time.
  • Students could research about lightning and thunder, completing a KWL chart before and after research
  • Students could make up their own story explanation for lightning and thunder, first discussing other stories they have heard in the past, such as "angels mopping in Heaven."
  • Study about Ben Franklin and his kite
  • Make a chart of rain events

by Susan Lowell ~ Illustrated by Jim Harris

Lowell, Susan. 1992. THE THREE LITTLE JAVELINAS. Ill. by Jim Harris. Flagstaff, AZ: Northland Publishing Company.  ISBN 0-590-48170-3

THE THREE LITTLE JAVELINAS is a picture book variant of THE THREE LITTLE PIGS.  This entertaining book by Susan Lowell uses javelinas, cousins of pigs, to reenact the original story in a desert setting.  The javelinas possess human traits of hairy legs and a desire to seek their fortunes.  As the three javelinas part ways, they all discover different materials with which to build their houses.  Like the old story of the pigs, the javelinas are stalked by a predator, the sneaky coyote.  He huffs and puffs their houses in, one by one.  The javelinas all use the familiar term, “not by the hair on my chinny chin chin.”  They eventually all end up in the house made of solid adobe, keeping the desert flavor. 

The story progresses quickly as the plot is full of a large amount of action.  The setting is established quickly, somewhere in the southwest.  The coyote is definitely the villain in the story.  In the end, he is “cooked” as he climbs down the stovepipe.  However, he is seen running from the javelinas’ house in the form of smoke, howling in pain.  This explains why you can hear coyotes howling in the moonlight on any given night in the desert.  The story captures the language of the southwest, even sounding out some Native American words.  There are repeated elements in the form of actions and sayings. 

The illustrations are fabulous, the kind you just need more time to take in than the words allow.  I found myself flipping back through the book to look at the pictures.  They absolutely create the mood, are appropriate for the story, and reflect the cultural heritage of the desert.  There is a great sense of cultural representation in this picture book.

Booklist (Vol. 89, No. 9 (January 1, 1993)
Harris' illustrations are appealing and humorous and children who loved the original will enjoy this version. 
Horn Book (March, 1993)In this southwest retelling of "The Three Little Pigs," the setting and characters work comfortably within the tale's framework.
Publishers Weekly (September 14, 1992)This clever and flavorful change of scene puts a diverting spin on an old favorite. Harris's lively, finely detailed illustrations, with the bristling, pink-nosed peccaries clad in cowboy outfits, amusingly contrast the villain's vigorous wiles with the title characters' cozy domesticity. Sprightly fun. Ages 3-8.

Arizona Young Readers Award 1994
Mockingbird Award
PBS Reading Rainbow 1994
Washington Children's Choice Picture Book Award Finalist 1996

Other books that would go along with this book are:
Josefina Javelina: A Hairy Tale by Susan Lowell
Cactus Hotel (Owlet Book) by Brenda Z. Guiberson
There Was a Coyote Who Swallowed a Flea by Jennifer Ward
The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig by Eugene Trivizas

Research life in the desert
Read several variants of The Three Little Pigs and compare and contrast
Have the students act out the book (Could have the students get in groups and act out different variants and let the others guess which one they are out out.)

by Simms Taback

. Ill. by Simms Taback. New York, NY: Penguin Books.  ISBN 0-329-15300-5

JOSEPH HAD A LITTLE OVERCOAT, written by Simms Taback, is a folktale adopted from a Yiddish folksong that he sang growing up.  The main character, Joseph starts out with an overcoat and as it wears out he alters it to become another piece of clothing.  In this tale, the only evil is time and use, wearing something down.  The setting is in the country.  Time passes quickly, as every other page he makes a new garment.

The theme is one in which everyone can relate.  Joseph really does triumph over evil, even when he has nothing.  He writes a book to show that one can always make something good out of nothing.  So… a happy ending!  The very first sentence introduced Joseph, a simple character with an overcoat.  “Joseph had a little ___ . It got old and worn,” was a phrase that was repeated throughout the story.  Also, the character always goes somewhere in his new garment, another repeated element.  In the back of the book, Taback provided the original folksong he sung growing up.  He successfully maintains the integrity of the original piece.   

The illustrations, also generated by Taback, not only complement the story but actually make the story come to life.  When I first started reading the book, I thought someone had cut out his jacket.  Because of the illustrations, this is definitely a book to read aloud to children.  The illustrations are very cleaver and timeless.  Although the pictures indicate that Joseph lives in the country, they also show that he likes to travel, go to the theater, and be artistic.  He scattered little clues about his life throughout the pages through his drawings.  There is an authentic cultural representation through the images and with explanation of how the story came to be.  

Booklist (Vol. 96, No. 9/10 (January 1, 2000))Ages 4-7. This newly illustrated version of a book Taback first published in 1977 is a true example of accomplished bookmaking--from the typography and the endpapers to the bar code, set in what appears to be a patch of fabric. Taback's mixed-media and collage illustrations are alive with warmth, humor, and humanity. Their colors are festive yet controlled, and they are filled with homey clutter, interesting characters, and a million details to bring children back again and again. The simple text, which was adapted from the Yiddish song "I Had a Little Overcoat," begins as Joseph makes a jacket from his old, worn coat. When the jacket wears out, Joseph makes a vest, and so on, until he has only enough to cover a button. Cut outs emphasize the use and reuse of the material and add to the general sense of fun. When Joseph loses, he writes a story about it all, bringing children to the moral "You can always make something out of nothing."
 Library Talk (March/April 2000)Based on a Yiddish folk song, this delightful story of ingenuity and thrift has been re-illustrated and is told in simple, repetitive text. The folk-style illustrations are created from Joseph's little overcoat and feature innovative die-cut pages that highlight each object from jacket to button. Taback's illustrations, created with gouache, watercolor, pen and ink, and collage, are eye-catching. The illustrations move the story along and provide many details for the lingering eye to enjoy.  Music to the song "I Had a Little Overcoat" is included on one of the final pages--an addition which, along with the illustrations, will bring readers back to this tale again and again. Highly Recommended. Sharron L. McElmeel [Editor's Note: Taback has won the 2000 Caldecott Medal.]
Publishers Weekly (November 1, 1999)As in his Caldecott Honor book, There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, Taback's inventive use of die-cut pages shows off his signature artwork, here newly created for his 1977 adaptation of a Yiddish folk song. With its effective repetition and an abundance of visual humor, this is tailor-made for reading aloud. All ages.
School Library Journal (January 2000)Pre-Gr 3-A book bursting at the seams with ingenuity and creative spirit.  The rhythm and repetition make it a perfect storytime read-aloud.-Linda Ludke, London Public Library, Ontario, Canada

2000 Caldecott Medal

Other books that would go along with this book are:
Caldecott Medal Winners
Children's folktales from different cultures
All children's folktales
Compare folktale from different cultures
Make a collage from magazines depicting own style (or drawings)
Write about a time you made something from nothing.
Decorate a can or container with different buttons.