Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Noah Barleywater Runs Away by John Boyne - ADVISABLE

Boyne, John  Noah Barleywater Runs Away, 222  p. David Fickling Books, 2010. $16.99 Language: G (0 swears, 0 'f') Violence: G, Mature Content: G.  Noah Barleywater has run away from home.  The further he goes the stranger things get; from an apple tree that won’t let him pick its fruit, to a newspaper in the next town that already knows what he did! He decides to stop and stay for a while at a magical toy shop with a strange old man and the most amazing handmade wooden puppets.  Noah’s story unfolds as he hears about the old man’s life (which, by the way, is strangely familiar to this reader - - no spoilers here) and he learns some very valuable lessons about living his own.  Although Noah is only 8, the appeal of this book is for a bit older reader, at least middle school because the most enjoyment is figuring out who the old man might be (or have been) and without the background knowledge to help with that, it’s just a magical story.   MS, HS - ADVISABLE.  Lisa, Reading Teacher

Dinosaur vs The Library by Bob Shea - ESSENTIAL

Shea, Bob Dinosaur vs The Library.  Disney, 2011.  $16.  PICTURE BOOK.  

Dinosaur is on his way to the library, and as he travels, he wins every roaring contest he creates.  When he gets to the library, however, he must use his inside roar.  Can he actually be quiet through the entire story time???  

Make way for a new story time favorite.  Your library may not be silent, but children will definitely have fun acting out with Dinosaur and then displaying their good manners.  

Pre-K, EL (K-3) – ESSENTIAL.  Cindy, Library Teacher

Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Bradley - ESSENTIAL

Bradley, Kimberly Jefferson’s Sons, 360 pgs.  The Penguin Group, 2011.  $17.99.  Language: G (no swears); Mature Content G; Violence G
Thomas Jefferson had seven children by one of his slaves, Sally Hemings, who was two years younger than his oldest child.  Even though Jefferson’s wife had died, a romantic slaveholder/slave relationship was considered unacceptable.   These children of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings were strictly forbidden to acknowledge Jefferson as their father. 
Throughout the course of this book, the children struggle with the concept that their father penned the Declaration of Independence which states:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” yet still held 130 slaves. 
I found myself empathetic to the plight of these children who were too black to white, and too white to be black. EL/MS –ESSENTIAL.  Reviewer: Rebekkah Ward

The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse by Eric Carle - ADVISABLE

Carle, Eric  The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse  Philomel Books, 2011. $17.99  PICTURE BOOK Content-G.  Beautiful paintings of animals in different colors than they are normally painted; for example, a blue horse, a yellow cow, a polka dotted donkey.  This book conveys the freedom and creativity that an artist can enjoy.  There are around four to five words per page, so it concentrates on the pictures.  This could be used in the art classroom, to show how great artists sometimes go against the norm.  I wish it was also available in a board book.  EL, MS, HS -ADVISABLE. Reviewer, C. Peterson.

The Game of Triumphs by Laura Powell - ADVISABLE

Powell, Laura The Game of Triumphs, 265pgs. Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. $16.99. Language: PG    (6 swears, 0 “F”); Mature Content- PG-13; Violence: PG-13
15-year-old Cat is a loner and prefers it that way. She is able to negotiate the streets of London in a way that allows her to observe, but remain invisible. This holds true until the day she finds herself unwittingly pulled into a complex game that will lead her into another reality unlike anything she knows. As she discovers more about the game she learns more about her past and realizes that what she thought was real may in fact be a sham. Playing Tarot has never had such fantastic rewards or dire consequences.  Powell wastes no time in starting the action of this book. From the first page the reader is immediately draw into the “game” alongside Cat. The book is well written with teenage characters that are portrayed as intelligent and free of the usual stereotypes that plague most young adult literature. My only hesitation with this book is the complexity of the tarot game the characters are involved in. Many times I had to reread passages and use the reference pages to attempt to understand how the game worked and what this meant to the plot and characters.
HS—ADVISABLE. AEB, Social Studies Teacher

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lost! A Dog Called Bear by Wendy Orr- ADVISABLE

Orr, Wendy.  LOST!  A Dog Called Bear, 112 pgs.  Henry Holt and Co., 2011.  $15.99.  Inside cover: Logan is moving from the farm to the city.  He’ll miss all the things he’s leaving behind, but at least he has Bear.  He loves Bear more than anything else in the world- because Bear is his dog.  Hannah lives in the city.  What she wants more than anything else in the world, is a dog of her own.  At the Rainbow Street Shelter, Logan and Hannah find a talking parrot, an old black Labrador, a three-legged goat, a puppy that looks like a peanut- and a surprise that just might be the best thing in the world.” I liked this book because the illustrations were good.  The story was interesting and exciting.  I liked how the book ended.  EL.  ADIVSABLE.  Student Reviewer: JL- age 9. 

Jumping off Swings by Jo Knowles - PUBLIC

Knowles, Jo Jumping off Swings, 230 p. Candlewick, 2009, 2011.  Content: R.  One of my favorite books ever is now available in paperback.  Here is what I wrote about it in my original post:
For all of its harsh language, there is something very beautiful about this book. Knowles shows so many sides of complicated teen thoughts on sex and love and blends them skillfully. We see the girl who thinks that sex will bring her love, the callous boys who see girls as trophies, but we also see the sensitive boy who realizes that he shouldn’t have treated a girl that way. There is nothing idyllic about the outcome of this book, no fairy tale ending. But it is a very honest look at the intricate dance of human emotions. I wish I could say yes, but I will have to leave this to public libraries or for brave parents. I had my daughter read it right away, but there is no way I could keep this in my school library without know that I would get challenged right away. PUBLIC. Cindy, Library-Teacher.

I still love this book - I share it with lots of young people; my middle school is just too young for the presentation of the material.

The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot by Margaret McNamara - OPTIONAL

McNamara, Margaret  The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot Illustrated by Mark Fearing.  Schwartz and Wade Books (Random), 2011. $16.99.  PICTURE BOOK.  Content-G.  In the same story format as The Three Little Pigs, three little aliens move away from home and the first two pick homes that are fun, while the last alien picks a house that is secure.  When the robot comes to destroy the aliens, they find their homes destroyed and end up at the safe alien’s house.  Great illustrations, but one of the aliens’ name is “Nklxwcyz” which is awful when you are trying to read a book to a child, which is the age group this book is geared towards.  EL (K-3)-OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Flint Heart by Katherine Patterson - ADVISABLE

Paterson, Katherine and John, The Flint Heart, 288 pgs.  Candlewick Press, 2011. $19.99.  Language-G (0 swears, 0 "f"), Sexual Content-G; Violence-G;  This book is a fun book of fairies and mystical creatures with a goal of keeping people pure and good.  The characters are up against an evil flint heart that, when in someone's possession, it gives them tremendous confidence and success with the dramatic side effect of being bad.  The authors take you on a trip through the many hands the flint heart happens upon.  The reading is fast and fun for elementary students.  Plus, the illustrations are gorgeous.  I was entertained the entire book, but mostly because my son of eight-years was enjoying it so much.  I don't think this would have been the case for me personally or if I was in High School.  EL (K-3) and EL (upper elementary) - Advisable.  Reviewer:  BMN

No More Hitting for Little Hamster! by Bernette Ford - OPTIONAL

Ford, Bernette No More Hitting for Little Hamster!  Illustrated by Sam Williams.  Boxer Books (Sterling), 2011.  $14.95  PICTURE BOOK Content-G.  Little Hamster has a short temper and whenever he wants something while playing with his friends he takes it, or he hits the friend that won’t give it to him.  Because he has a bad reputation, nobody wants to play with him, until Bunny comes along and tells Hamster that he will play with him if he will not hit.  Hamster learns that playing nice makes it so others will play with you.  Good lesson for kids, but the pictures are not very engaging. PRE-K-OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

The Downside Of Being Up by Alan Lawrence Sitomer - PUBLIC

Sitomer, Alan Lawrence The Downside Of Being Up, 213 pgs. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2011. $ 16.99. Language-R (3 swears, 0 “f” – LOTS of innuendo), Sexual Content-R (lots of innuendos to boy puberty challenges); Violence-G; This book is about an eighth grader who is experiencing puberty and love and life.  His goal is to make it through middle school with the girl of his dreams by his side.  However, he will have some of life’s unexpected fumbles thrown his way first. This book is super funny and a very easy read. In my opinion it doesn’t have a place in the normal classroom and is more for adult audiences.  I think this book would be great in a public library, because it repeatedly talks of boy puberty inappropriately.   PUBLIC LIBRARY ONLY.  Reviewer: BMN

Estie the Mensch by Jane Kohuth - ADVISABLE

Kohuth, Jane  Estie the Mensch  Illustrated by Rosanne Litzinger.  Random House, 2011. $16.99.  PICTURE BOOK  Content-G.  Estie is a little girl that likes to act like different animals, which can cause some embarrassing social situations for her parents and grandmother.  Her adult family members ask her to “Act like a Mensch” which means to act like a person.  But it takes an outing with her grandma to the zoo with a friend for Estie to learn when it is okay to play and act like an animal and when it’s important to act like a person.  Cute illustrations and good moral.  Pre-K and El (K-3) ADVISABLE.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

E-Mergency! by Tom Lichetnheld-OPTIONAL

Lichtenheld, Tom.  Fields-Meye, Ezra.  E-Mergency! 40 pgs.  Chronicle Books, 2011.  $16.99.  Inside cover:  “What Happens when the most important letter in the alphabet gets a big owie?  One of the other letters has to take her place while she recuperates, but who?  Z is too sleepy.  And Y asks too many questions.  Is O well-rounded enough to handle the job?  It’s a real E-MERGENCY!”  Kids will love it when the reader attempts to say the words with E missing from the sentences.  “I’m roady to roam!” “I’m oxcitod”  We laughed in our attempt.  This book could be used in primary grades introducing or reinforcing the alphabet.  Pre-K.  EL (K-3).  OPTIONAL.  Reviewer: SL

Bun Bun Button by Patricia Polacco-OPTIONAL

Polacco, Patricia.  Bun Bun Button., 40 pgs.  Putnam Juvenile, 2011.  $17.99.  Inside cover: “Paige loves cuddling with Gramma and all of Gramma’s pets in the Old Blue Chair.  But cuddling there is even more wonderful when Gramma makes her Bun Bun Button, an adorable stuffed bunny with a button nose.  Then, on an outside day, a balloon steals Bun Bun Button and floats her away.  Paige misses her dear little friend!  She can only hope that luck-or love- will bring Bun Bun Button home again.”  The illustrations are bright, bold and inviting.  We weren’t sure about all the pets.  A squirrel living in her gramma’s house?  That was strange.  The story has a sweet, but unrealistic ending.  Pre-K.  EL (K-3).  OPTIONAL. Reviewer: SL

A New Year's Reunion by Zhu Cheng-Liang-OPTIONAL

Cheng-Liang, Zhu.  Li-Qiong, Yu.  A New Year’s Reunion, 40 pgs.  Candlewick Press, 2011.  $15.99.  Inside cover:  “Maomao’s  father works far away and comes home only at Chinese New Year.  When Papa arrives, Maomao hardly recognizes him at first.  But before long, the family is making sticky rice balls, hearing firecrackers, and watching the dragon dance in the street.  Maomao loves doing ordinary things with Papa- getting a haircut, fixing things around the house, and sleeping tucked between her parents.  But all too soon it is time for Papa to go away again.”  This book explores the different celebrations surrounding Chinese New Year and is informative in that way.  We were sad while reading this story knowing that Maomao’s father would be leaving soon.  I am sure this is true of some families, but it wasn’t a very uplifting story. This book could be used in a unit celebrating Chinese New Year.  Pre-K.  EL (K-3).  OPTIONAL.  Reviewer: SL. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Don’t Stop Now by Julie Halpern - OPTIONAL

Halpern, Julie  Don’t Stop Now, 232 pages.  Feiwel and Friends, 2011.$16.99 Language PG-13 (31 swears, no “F”); Mature content PG-13; Violence G.  Lil and Josh have been best friends since they were freshman in high school, but now that it’s the summer after graduation they don’t know how their relationship is going to change with Lil preparing to go to college and Josh dreaming up his latest plan for a musical band.  When their friend Penny stages her own kidnapping, Lil and Josh decide to go on a road trip to find Penny, and to have one last adventure before responsibility kicks in.  This book has likable characters, fun dialogue and a realistic ending, but it is not a must read.  HS-OPTIONAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson, teacher.

This Child, Every Child by David J. Smith - OPTIONAL

Smith, David J. This Child, Every Child, illustrated by Shelagh Armstrong.  Kids Can Press, 2011.  $19.  Following in the footsteps of “If the World was a Village”, Mr. Smith tries to present a overview of the lives of children around the world.  With each subject he gives an overview, and then he gives a more detailed look into the particulars of one child.  The book also reviews the Rights of Children, a document that was created by UNICEF at the United Nations.  This particulare book is a little unwieldy – I wish the format were more like “We Are All Born Free”, which goes over the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from the U.N.  EL – OPTIONAL. Cindy, Library Teacher

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Sass and Serendipity by Jennifer Ziegler - ESSENTIAL

Ziegler, Jennifer  Sass and Serendipity, pgs. 369. Delacourte Press, an imprint of Random House, Inc., 2011.  $15.99.  PG – Language (20-25 soft-core swears); Mature Content: PG-13 (party with drinking and making-out); Violence: G.
This is a delightful book that follows, more or less, Jane Austin’s “Sense and Sensibility.”  Set in the present, Gabby is the sensible, serious “Elinor.”  She is a 17year old senior and older sister to 15year old Daphne, the “Marianne” character.  Gabby works hard to get good grades and help support their family.  Daphne, ever the cheerleader, goes out to buy a Prom dress, spending money the family doesn’t have, before she even has a date.  Their mother, Liz, is recently divorced and not doing well financially or emotionally.  They are in dire circumstances and being threatened with near homelessness when an unexpected turn of good luck saves them.  Who are the Edward Ferrars, John Willowby and Colonel Brandon characters?  You’ll have to read the book to find out!  I really liked reading this book.  The characters were believable.  It was a breath of fresh air to have main characters that weren’t interested in drugs, alcohol, or premarital sex… or vampires. There were enough unexpected twists and turns in the story to keep me wanting more.  The flaws in this book were:  the plotline didn’t follow “Sense and Sensibility” as much as hoped for; the sisters didn’t come together to overcome adversity as much as expected.  MS / HS – ESSENTIAL.   Mary Jane Burton

Aliens Love Panta Claus by Claire Freedman - NOT RECOMMENDED

Freedman, Claire  Aliens Love Panta Claus  Illustrated by Ben Cort.  Aladdin, 2011.  $16.99  PICTURE BOOK  Content-G.  This book is obviously part of a series of some sort.  There is no set up for the characters and their motivation.  Aliens who are obsessed with underwear decide to help Santa Claus get ready for Christmas by wrapping underwear in with the kids’ toys.  When Santa’s sleigh breaks they let him use their spacecraft.  Also, when they go into the homes with Santa they exchange children’s stockings for underwear.  The illustrations are bright and colorful, it’s too bad they are wasted on this weird, creepy story about underwear.  Pre-K and EL (K-3) NO.  Reviewer, C. Peterson.

The Friendship Doll by Kirby Larson -OPTIONAL

Larson, Kirby The Friendship Doll, 208 pgs. Delacorte Books for Young Readers , 2011. $9.59. (Rating: G in all categories)
An interesting piece of historical fiction, this book starts in the 1920’s, when over fifty Japanese dolls, called Ambassadors of Friendship, were sent to the United States. This is the story of one of those dolls –Miss Kanagawa, as she encounters children through the decades, and finds she can communicate with some of them. Each section of the book features the dolls encounter a new child, each in a different time period, such as the depression, and offering her advice.
I realize the doll is used as a thread to tie together the unique stories of each child. However, I must say that it just plain creeped me out - imaging this sentient doll trapped in a box for long periods of time, just waiting (even with good intentions) to influence a susceptible child. That being said, the individual stories of the children in the various time periods were wonderful. They were well written, engaging, and featured just enough ‘history’ to set the tone without overriding the voice of the character. This might be worth purchasing just for that component, especially if you want to represent elementary age children during the early to mid 1900’s.
ELEMENTARY –OPTIONAL Reviewer: Stephanie MLS graduate.

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos - ADVISABLE

Gantos, Jack Dead End in Norvelt,  341 pgs. D&M Publishers, Inc.,  2011. $15.99  Language – (4 Swears, 0”f”), Sexual Content – G; Violence – G. Jack Gantos’  plans for summer vacation are shot down when he is grounded for the whole summer. Locked in his room, he escapes by reading old history books his mother gave him.  He is volunteered by his mother to help an elderly neighbor, Ms. Volker.  He becomes her typist as she dictates obituaries of the original Norvelt residents.  Jack eventually looks forward to helping Ms. Volker each day, it gets him out of his room and he gets to see his best friend Bunny.  In the end, this book was really about a town and the stories it had to tell.  This book is actually very interesting, especially for the age it is intended for. It had a slow beginning.  I didn’t care for Jacks parents at first; they both were so dysfunctional.  I was half way through the book when it suddenly dawned on me that what I was reading really did happen.  The author did a good job in developing the relationships in the book especially the relationship between Jack and Ms. Volker. This book would be great read for elementary and middle school age children.  EL, MS – ADVISABLE.  Reviewer:  Elaine Miller

Carl and the Kitten by Alexandra Day - ADVISABLE

Day, Alexandra.  Carl and the Kitten Square Fish (MacMillan's Children Publishing Group), 2011. $15.99.  PICTURE BOOK.  This is a book in the My Readers early reader book series.  My review is based on my experience as a father of a five-year-old boy just learning to read.  In the book, Carl the dog must save a kitten that is stuck in a tree.  I like this book.  It is a good story.  Some of the early reader books contain names that kids don't recognize, but they are in the book because a child might be able to sound them out.  I am of the opinion that it's better if the child recognizes the name than be able to sound it out because pulling from prior knowledge is more important than being able to sound out easily but still be confused about what the word is saying.  Carl in this book is a great choice of name.  I know that repetition is good, but sometimes early reader books are too repetitive; in fact, my son sometimes says, "It just said that," because it is too repetitive.  This book uses repetition, but does it in a creative and less obvious way.  This is a good choice for a LEVEL 1 early reader.   Pre-K, EL(K-3) - ADVISABLE.  Brent Smith, Reading Teacher

The Scar by Charlotte Moundlic - ADVISABLE

Moundlic, Charlotte.  The Scar, illustrated by Olivier Tallec.  Candlewick Press, 2011. $14.99.  PICTURE BOOK.  

The narrator is a young boy and his mother dies on the first line of the book.  He has to deal with the grief and so does his father.  When Grandma comes (his mom's mom), he sees that she is dealing with the grief.  But going on does get a little easier as the book progresses. 

This is not a happy book.  It was originally written in French in 2009 and it has been translated into English this year.  I can see why it was translated, but it is not the easiest book to get through.  I am embarrassed to say that my first thought was that this is too sad for children to read or have read to them.  But then, naturally, my next thought was that there are children everyday who have to do more than read this book; they have to live the same grief.  I can see that this is a simple book that could offer some help to someone going through the death of a parent, but I am not of the opinion that everyone should read this just to let them know that death is real.  This is a good book to have on hand if the need arises.   

Pre-K, EL(K-3), EL, MS, HS - ADVISABLE.  Brent Smith, Reading Teacher

Bad Kitty Meets the Baby by Nick Bruel - ESSENTIAL

Bruel, Nick.  Bad Kitty Meets the Baby.  Roaring Brook Press, 2011 143 pgs.  $13.99  

Kitty’s owners bring home a new surprise-a baby.  Kitty isn’t thrilled about the new addition, but her cat friends run the baby through a Kitty Olympics and prove that the baby is more kitty than human.  Eventually Kitty learns to adapt to the change.  This series as a whole is funny with great pictures.  

EL (K-3), EL  - ESSENTIAL.  Reviewer, C. Peterson

The Carpenter’s Gift by David Rubel - ADVISABLE

Rubel, David The Carpenter’s Gift: A Christmas tale about the Rockefeller Center Tree, illustrated by Jim LaMarche.  Andom House, 2011.  $18.  PICTURE BOOK.  Henry and his father are headed to New York in order to make a little bit of money selling Christmas trees from their woods to the City folk.  They give the last of their trees to the workmen building the new Rockefeller Center, who in turn do Henry’s family a great service.  from the pinecone that Henry plants that day, comes a huge tree that many decades later becomes a tree for New York’s famous celebration. While the story itself is not true, it is a beautiful idea – and since 2007, the old tree from each year is milled into lumber that is given to Habitat for Humanity.  It is a wonderful Christmas story to read and presents a great opportunity to talk about the Great Depression and about Habitat for Humanity.  EL – ADVISABLE.   Cindy, Library Teacher

Death Sentence by Alexander Gordon Smith - ADVISABLE

Smith, Alexander Gordon Death Sentence: Escape From Furnace 3, 261 pgs. Farrar Straus Giroux, 2009. $16.00. Language: PG13 (15 swears); Mature Content- PG13; Violence: PG13; This is the third book of the Escape From Furnace series and Alex has become one of the monsters he’s been so afraid of. While being programmed to crave power and hurt others, Alex fights to remember his name and who his friends are. He experiences a rush of power and control, but then feels that it leaves a stain behind, like the slime trail that follows a slug. This book is full of action scenes and conflicts both internal and external. Although there is some violence, this book feels more hopeful than the others in the series. It is still a horror book, however, and readers need to expect some gore and tense moments. MS HS-ADVISABLE. Reviewer: M. Mathews School Librarian

The Art Collector by Jan Wahl - OPTIONAL

Wahl, Jan.  The Art Collector, illustrated by Rosalinde Bonnet.  Charlesbridge, 2011. $15.95. PICTURE BOOK.  When Oscar visited Great-Granny (who only looks like a great-grandma because she has glasses dangling on a necklace and her hair is gray--not even white; otherwise she looks as wrinkle free and young as I imagine Oscar's mom would look), she drew him a picture of a chicken.  Oscar's parents helped him frame the picture, and that was the beginning of his art collection.  He collected and collected and collected some more.  Well, I didn't love this book.  I didn't hate it, but like so many picture books, it seemed to be trying too hard to be artistic and clever.  I can't imagine someone would be inspired to collect art by reading this book.  Pre-K, EL(K-3) - OPTIONAL.  Brent Smith, Reading Teacher