Sunday, May 10, 2009

Lunch Money


Lunch Money

Written by Andrew Clements

Illustrated by Brian Selznick

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2005

ISBN #: 978-0-689-86683-8

Summary:
Greg Kenton has a knack for making money. When he decides to sell comic books at school, he discovers that his latest money making scheme won't be quite so easy. First he discovers a competitor in his neighbor, Maura Shaw. When the two put their differences aside to join forces, they face a bigger obstacle in their principal, Mrs. Davenport. With the help of their math teacher, Mr. Zenotopoulous they might be able to make money after all.
My Thoughts About This Book:
Andrew Clements knows how to write a story that kids can relate to and enjoy. A testament to this fact is evident when you look for his books on my library shelves--there are none! Lunch Money is no exception to his kid-friendly writing style. I enjoyed reading this book and seeing how Greg was going to problem solve his money making problems. The characters Clements creates in this book are believable, likable people that you find yourself rooting for as you read. I like how Clements portrayed the character of Greg as one who thought things through to create a workable situation for his and Maura's plans. Having an adult character who supported Greg's and Maura's plans like Mr. Zenotopoulous, helped give believability to many of the situations you might not picture students doing on their own. (Such as confronting the school board.) I can see this book being a great one to jump start off a unit on economics and making money. It could lead to discussions about ways students could earn money to help their school.
Review Excerpts:
From School Library Journal: "Clements has created another clever, enterprising young protagonist in Greg...Along with providing a fast-paced and humorous story line, the author examines concepts of true wealth, teamwork, community mindedness, and the value of creative expression. The characters are rich with interesting quirks and motivations...fast-paced and humorous."

Babe and Me

Babe and Me

Written by Dan Gutman

Publisher: Avon Books, Inc., 2000

ISBN #: 0-380-97739-7
Summary:
Joe Stoshack has the ability to travel back in time to get to meet some of the greatest baseball players who ever played the game. He uses that ability to travel back to 1932, to learn once and for all if Babe Ruth actually called his shot during Game Three of the 1932 World Series. During his visit, Joe observes first hand the after effects of the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt's presidency campaign, and observes events important to World War II.
My Thoughts About This Book:
This was my third book to read in Dan Gutman's "Baseball Card Adventure" series. While I have enjoyed them all, I have to say that so far, this one is my favorite. I like how Gutman blends both baseball and the history and culture of the time period Joe travels to. Not only does the reader learn facts about the Babe, but important events that shaped America's history as well. I love how Gutman uses historical photographs and memorabilia from the time period as well. These elements help students picture people and places in each novel that otherwise might cause comprehension problems as they tried to picture moments that happened before they were born. Gutman has researched each time period and baseball great to help create an accurate picture of events to further aid the reader in understanding characters and historic events. This book was compelling and hard to put down as I read. I look forward to reading even more in this series.
Review Excerpts:
From School Library Journal: "The book does evoke the importance of a sports hero to an America mired in the depths of the Depression. An enjoyable escape into another decade."

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Ghost's Grave

The Ghost's Grave

Written by Peg Kehret

Publisher: Puffin Books, 2005

ISBN #: 978-0-14-240819-3

Summary:
Josh must face a summer of living with his aunt while his parents travel overseas for work. Convinced it will be the worst summer ever, Josh quickly changes his mind when he discovers he can see and talk to the ghost of an old miner. Josh finds himself agreeing to help Willie the ghost so he can move on to the next world, but soon wonders if that is the best decision when he finds himself having to dig in an old graveyard.
My Thoughts About This Book:
Based upon the number of times I had checked this book out this year, I knew based on kid standards, this had to be a pretty good book. Once I managed to get my hands on a copy and read it, I discovered it was not pretty good, it was GREAT! The story is fast paced and full of excitement. It was hard not to read this book in one sitting as the action kept you turning page after page, unwilling to stop. The characters were well-developed, and believable--even Willie the Ghost! I particularly enjoyed the character of Aunt Ethel, Josh's colorful aunt who would rather eat breakfast for dinner and dinner for breakfast. In my opinion, this book has everything that kids want in an adventure story---great characters, fast action, and that it is a ghost story. I am looking forward to reading more from Peg Kehret!
Review Excerpts:
From School Library Journal: "This fast-paced and engaging book should be a hit with fans of ghost stories.
Josh is a rich character to whom readers can relate and they will cheer him on as he searches for the truth."

The Baby-Sitters Club: Kristy's Great Idea

The Baby-Sitters Club: Kristy's Great Idea

A Graphic Novel by Raina Telgemeier

Publisher: Scholastic, Graphix, 2006

ISBN #: 0-439-73933-0

Summary:

Kristi Thomas decides to create a Baby-Sitters Club with three of her friends. The four girls work together to take on challenging toddlers while becoming close friends whom they can share secrets with.


My Thoughts About This Book:

While the Baby-Sitters Club series has been popular with students, I must admit that I had never read any of Ann Martin's original series. Telgemeier's adaptation was my first exposure to Kristy and her friends. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this book. I liked that this book was a good graphic novel for girls, as so many in this genre seem to be geared toward boys. I think that for girls who are reluctant/struggling readers, this book would be ideal. The limited text, and clear uncluttered accompanying drawings allow the reader to easily follow the story. The story line was well developed and moved along at a nice pace. It also included many situations that young girls could relate to such as a mother remarrying. I think this book would make readers want to read another in the series, or read a book from the original Ann Martin series.

Review Excerpts:

From Booklist: "The story has been effectively trimmed to accommodate the format (Kristy's actions and feelings are the focus), but there's still plenty of content, comedy, action, and emotion--in both the text and the art--as the kids cope with feisty toddlers and personal problems and fight with and help one another, while modeling right behavior and the ups and downs of friendship. "




Thursday, May 7, 2009

Island--Book One: Shipwreck

Island--Book One: Shipwreck

Written by Gordon Korman

Publisher: Scholastic, Apple Paperbacks, 2001

ISBN #: 978-0-439-16456-6

Summary:
Six students who are challenges to their schools and parents have boarded a ship as part of a program called Charting a New Course. Their ship is severely damaged when a storm strikes while they at sea. When they can no longer stay on the ship, the kids abandon it and wind up stranded on a deserted island. Now with only each other, these students who don't work well with others must learn to rely on each other if they want to survive.
My Thoughts About This Book:
This fast-moving story is a perfect fit for someone who likes a story full of action. It is high interest, but a low readability level would make it ideal for a student who struggles with reading, or finding a just right book. Korman creates a tight story that moves quickly--almost as quickly as the storm that hits the ship. I thoroughly enjoyed this story--the only thing I did not like was that it left me hanging. I will definitely be tracking down books two and three in the series to find out how the kids handled being on the island alone. A satisfying adventure read.
Review Excerpts:
From Amazon.com: "A hint of menace permeates Shipwreck, along with humor, angst, and mystery. Readers won't want to miss the continuation of the riveting saga in books 2 and 3."


Ruby Holler

Ruby Holler

Written by Sharon Creech

Publisher HarperCollins, 2003

ISBN #: 0-439-45808-0

Summary:
Named the "trouble twins" by the Trepids, caretakers of the children in the Boxton Creek Home, Dallas and Florida have spent their entire lives going from one foster family to the next. As a result, they have learned to become wary of adults and are doubtful that they will ever find a welcoming home. Tiller and Sandy are an older couple who seek companionship, and bring the Dallas and Florida to Ruby Holler in the hopes the children will accompany them on one last adventure. As the children learn to trust their new "parents," they discover that they might have finally found a loving home.
My Thoughts About This Book:
I have wanted to read this book for quite sometime--I think it was the cozy cabin on the cover that intrigued me. This module gave me the perfect excuse. I have been a big fan of Sharon Creech's writing ever since I first read Love That Dog, and this novel was no exception. I enjoy Creech's writing style because she has the ability to make me get lost in her words. When I began reading Ruby Holler, I was immediately there experiencing all of its loveliness as the characters did. The short chapters helped the story move along at a fast pace. I was always left wondering as each chapter ended about what was going to happen. I would look ahead to see that the next chapter wasn't very long, and before I knew it, I was reading one more chapter and then one more until soon the book was done. A good writer has the ability to draw the reader into the story, and Creech certainly did that regarding this story and my ability to get lost in it. I look forward to recommending this title to the numerous Creech fans I have in my school!
Review Excerpts:
From Publisher's Weekly: "This poignant story evokes a feeling as welcoming as fresh-baked bread. The slow evolution of the siblings who are no angels parallels the gradual building of mutual trust for the Moreys. The novel celebrates the healing effects of love and compassion. Although conflicts emerge, readers will have little doubt that all will end well for the children and the grandparently Moreys."


Luba: The Angel of Bergen-Belsen

LubaThe angel of Bergen-Belsen

As told to Michelle R. McCann by Luba Tryszynska-Frederick

Illustrated by Ann Marshall

Publisher: Tricycle Press, 2003

ISBN #: 978-1-58246-098-7

Summary:

Luba Tryszynska questioned why she was spared death as she spent her first night at the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp. When she discovers a group of children hiding from the Nazi guards she has her answer. She was spared to protect these lost children. Knowing she faced execution if caught, Luba risked her life to bring food and provide shelter for these children. She succeeded in keeping them safe until the camp was liberated by British soldiers.

My Thoughts About This Book:

This story was extremely moving and inspirational. Luba truly exemplifies the definition of an angel for her selfless acts during one of the most horrific events in history. This story is well-written and Luba's voice is what you hear as you read the words. This is a story that needs to be read, and would be a must read for any unit on the Holocaust. I particularly enjoyed the afterward where the follow-up to Luba's story was shared as well as photographs. These additions helped bring the story further to life, and I enjoyed learning how the children thanked Luba for her help. Ann Marshall's oil and collage illustrations are the perfect touch for rounding out this beautiful story.

Review Excerpts:

From Booklist: "Just when it seems a nonfiction Holocaust book can't tell us anything new, along comes a story like this one, an inspiring, upbeat, true rescue account that is essential to the history. Just when it seems a nonfiction Holocaust book can't tell us anything new, along comes a story like this one, an inspiring, upbeat, true rescue account that is essential to the history."

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Superdog: Heart of a Hero

Superdog: Heart of a Hero

Written by Caralyn Buehner

Illustrated by Mark Buehner

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers,2004

ISBN #: 978-0-06-623621-6

Summary:

Small dog Dexter gets picked on relentlessly by other dogs and even Cleevis the tomcat. Fed up with all the bullying, Dexter starts superhero training to become the top dog. Soon, he is Dex--Superdog willing to help anyone in need, even Cleevis. Dex discovers size isn't always the thing you need to do what seems impossible, determination is.

My Thoughts About This Book:

This book is a treat! This story has a wonderful message that shows others how when you are determined to do or become something, anything is possible. I look forward to sharing this with students who sometimes feel down when they can't do everything an older sibling can. Anyone would find inspiration in Dexter's determination. The illustrations add a great deal to the story, portraying Dexter's determination through his expressions and actions. The pictures will bring a smile to your face--especially the ones of Dex flexing his muscles.

Review Excerpts:

From School Library Journal: "The story line may be a bit predictable, but the Buehners' considerable talents render it fresh and funny. The author has created a lovable and memorable character in the endearing and stalwart Dex, and the illustrator's retro-style artwork is charming. As in Fanny's Dream (Dial, 1996), he has added to the fun by hiding cats, rabbits, and even a Tyrannosaurus Rex in the clouds and shadows. This dynamic combination of heart and humor should not be missed."

April Foolishness

April Foolishness

Written By Teresa Bateman

Illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott

Publisher: Albert Whitman and Company, 2004

ISBN #: 978-0-8075-0404-8

Summary:

Grandpa is on his toes as his grandchildren try to trick him by telling him various animals on the farm are loose. Not falling for their tricks, Grandpa continues to eat his breakfast until Grandma pulls a trick of her own. Told in rhyme, this is a great story that is sure to please readers.

My Thoughts About This Book:

From the moment I read this book I loved it. I was anxious to share it with my Kindergarten and First Grade classes to see how the story would be received. I was not disappointed in the reaction I got from this lively rhyming picture book. Students loved the story as much as I did. They quickly got into the story and enjoyed supplying the next word in the rhyme. I am a fan of any book that hooks students in that quickly and holds their interest the entire time it is being read. From the engaging rhyme to Wescott's fun illustrations, this book is the perfect combination for a great primary story time.

Review Excerpts:

From School Library Journal: "Cartoon artwork closely follows the action as the disarray grows, drawing readers into Grandpa's imagination and disbelief. Bold watercolors, punctuated by ink detail, frame the animals' frolic as described in the rhyming verse. Wake up a story time about farm life or save this one for April foolishness."

Boxes For Katje

Boxes For Katje

Written by Candace Fleming

Illustrated by Stacey Dressen-McQueen

Publisher: Melanie Kroupa Books, 2003

ISBN #: 978-0-374-30922-0

Summary:

Katje's hometown in Holland has been devastated by World War II. They have little to eat, their clothes are worn, and basic necessities such as soap are scarce. When a box arrives for Katje from the Children's Aid Society in America, it is as if Christmas has come early. Katje is grateful for the wonderful things inside--soap, chocolate, and socks. Katje sends a thank-you to Rosie, the American girl who sent the package. Inspired by Katje's thank-you, Rosie begins a campaign to get boxes of needed supplies to everyone in Katje's village. This touching story is based on a true story from the author's mother.

My Thoughts About This Book:

I am always intrigued by stories that involve actual events, and this story was one that I found very inspiring. I had no knowledge of the Children's Aid Society prior to reading this story. I was moved by the generosity of the group of people determined to help Katje and her village.
The illustrations conveyed the emotions and enhanced the mood of the story. I also enjoyed the author's notes at the end of the story where Fleming shared background information about how her own mother participated in the relief efforts by mailing a package to Europe. Her box was the one that reached Katje. Knowing the story behind this story made it even more real and enjoyable.

Review Excerpts:

From Publisher's Weekly: "Fleming 's engaging story of post-WWII Holland serves as a potent and merry lesson in generosity. . .Dressen-McQueen immerses readers in post-war Holland, crafting an entirely credible world of cobblestone streets, Dutch architecture and vintage clothing."

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

A Fine, Fine School

A Fine, Fine School
Written By Sharon Creech

Illustrated By Harry Bliss

Publisher: Joanna Cotler Books, 2001

ISBN #: 0-06-027737-8

Summary:

Mr. Keene thinks his school is fine. So fine that students should come to it more often--Saturdays, Sundays, and even the SUMMER! While it seemed like a good idea, the students soon realize their missing out on quite a bit of life being at school all of the time. One student, Tillie takes it upon herself to show Mr. Keene that their school is a fine place, but not so fine that they need to spend all of their time there.

My Thoughts About This Book:

This story is every student's worst nightmare! It is a good thing that Sharon Creech makes it such a fun read that students enjoy reading or listening to their worst fears unfold in this fictitious school. This story was engaging, and fun to read. Harry Bliss's illustrations help add to the fun of the story--I LOVE the facial expressions on the students as Mr. Keene continues to add school days. This story would be a great beginning of year book to share with students as they anticipate the coming school year.

Review Excerpts:

From Booklist (Starred Review): "This book has it all: a fine, fresh idea; a witty text that's fun to read aloud; and, most of all, intelligent, amusing art that provides an extra load of laughs. Bliss, an award-winning cartoonist at The New Yorker, takes a good idea and flies with it. He captures the initial intensity of the classroom and elevates it to the blissfully absurd, as banners spring up in the cafeteria ("Why not study while you chew?") and the children wear signs on their huge, stuffed backpacks that read, "How's my walking?" The closer one looks, the more laughs there are, and everyone--kids, parents, teachers, even principals--will want to look more than once."









The Gingerbread Girl

The Gingerbread Girl

Written and Illustrated by Lisa Campbell Ernst

Publisher: Dutton Childrens Books, 2006

ISBN #: 0-525-47667-9

Summary:

The sweet little old couple who baked the Gingerbread Boy only to lose him to a hungry fox, have decided to try again. Only this time, they bake a Gingerbread Girl hoping she will want to stay at home. However, the Gingerbread Girl has other plans, and when she is done baking she hops out of the oven and takes off running. Only this time, the Gingerbread Girl plans are for the sly fox who ate her brother. Her plan results in a houseful of guests for the old couple who created her, and they will always be surrounded by friends.

My Thoughts About This Book:

What a fun twist to the Gingerbread Man story we all know and love! I love that the Gingerbread Girl was wise enough to outfox the fox. Ernst's delightful illustrations add a light, fun feel to the story. Readers can't help but smile and root for the clever Gingerbread Girl as she learns from her brother's mistakes and cleverly makes it past the fox. This book is a natural fit to pair with the original Gingerbread Man story, and will delight students as they compare the two tales.

Review Excerpts:

From Booklist: "...she turns out to be a smart cookie with a clever plan, a twist that's the most innovative part of the story. Ernst's familiar art, here placed against gingham-check backgrounds, utilizes the oversize format to best advantage, with large characters leaping out of their frames. On the cover, the candy-studded Gingerbread Girl with licorice-whip hair stares boldly out at readers. Kids won't be able to resist following her inside."

Monday, May 4, 2009

Too Many Frogs

Too Many Frogs

Written by Sandy Asher

Illustrated by Keith Graves

Publisher: Philomel Books, 2005

ISBN #: 0-399-23978-2


Summary:

Rabbit lives a life much like a hermit. He spends his days working around his home taking care of himself, and looks forward to settling down at night to read by himself. His quiet life is interrupted by a frog who wants to hear Rabbit's bedtime story too. Soon, Frog wants Rabbit's snack, his pillow, and soon, Frog brings his entire family to enjoy Rabbit's story. Frustrated, Rabbit sends everyone away only to soon learn, he liked having someone hear his stories, and being alone isn't everything it's cracked up to be.

My Thoughts About This Book:

I love any story that involves sharing the joys of reading with others, and this book has quickly become one of my favorites. I plan on starting my library classes next school year so students can see why it is better to share books with friends. I like how this story also teaches students to see the importance of having friends and sharing what you have with others. Keith Graves's fun illustrations add humor to the story, and let the reader know how Rabbit feels about Frog's intrusions. The illustrations also help the reader be sympathetic with Rabbit when he realizes he rather liked sharing his home and stories with Frog and his family.

Reveiw Excerpts:

From School Library Journal: "The humorous illustrations create empathy for Rabbit but also for Froggie, who is genuinely delighted to listen to a story. The varied facial expressions lend credence to the adage "A picture is worth a thousand words." The simple text may say "but before he could begin, there was that knock-knockety-knocking again!" but the horror on Rabbit's face is priceless. A fun story that celebrates reading and standing up for oneself."





Sunday, May 3, 2009

Millions of Cats

Millions of Cats

Written and Illustrated by Wanda Gag

Publisher: Puffin Books, 1956 (Renewed copyright--Originally published in 1926)

ISBN #: 0-14-240708-9
Summary:

When a lonely old couple decide to get a cat for companionship, the man goes off in search of the perfect cat for his wife. Only to discover "hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats." When all of the cats except one fight to the end, the man returns home with the last cat left standing.
My Thoughts on This Book:

This is a book with staying power! Originally published in 1926, a quick glance at this book and it's contents would find you thinking that it would not appeal to today's children. However, after using this title for one library lesson, I'm happy to report that this book still receives enthusiastic response from young children. The repeating "millions of cats" phrase had students jumping right in after they hear it one time. Even though the illustrations are in black and white, I still had children studying them looking at all of the cats to determine which one was the "prettiest." This truly is a timeless story, that has a charming appeal which will continue to make it a favorite of children for generations to come.

Review Excerpts:
From School Library Journal's "One Hundred Books That Shaped the Century": "This Newbery Honor winner is distinguished by innovative design and a strong storyteller's cadence."


Togo

Togo

Written and Illustrated by: Robert J. Blake

Publisher: Philomel Books, 2002

ISBN #: 0-399-23381-4

Summary:

A small, wild and independent puppy, Togo was not expected to be a sled dog--especially a lead sled dog. Given to a woman to be a pet by his original owner Leonhard Seppala had no plans to make Togo a part of his dog sled team. However Togo was determined to become a sled a dog. That determination would go on to make him a vital part of the historic sled run that delivered the serum to Nome that would save the city form a life-threatening diphtheria outbreak.

My Thoughts on This Book:

This book not only won several awards, but also was nominated for many awards as well. I think it was definitely deserving of every honor it received. This beautiful story was inspiring, as well as informative. I, like so many others was aware of Balto's role in the great serum run, but had no idea about the role Togo played in this historic event. Robert Blake has done something wonderful in recording this heroic dog's story so that students can learn about Togo's bravery and determination to lead his team to a successful run. Blake's realistic illustrations help transport the reader to Alaska in 1925, and makes the reader feel like they are right there with Seppala and his dog team, braving the elements and helping get the serum to Nome. This book is a treasure that must be shared with students.

Review Excerpts:
From School Library Journal: "Many people feel that Togo is an unsung hero, and so will readers, who will feel the terrible cold depicted chillingly in Blake's paintings. The urgency and desperation come across clearly in both the dramatic text and the full-page impressionistic paintings. The dogs are not anthropomorphized, but their expressions are haunting. Pair this first-rate historical adventure with Natalie Standiford's The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto (Random, 1989) or with Blake's Akiak: A Tale from the Iditarod (Philomel, 1997)."