Monday, February 29, 2016

Austin, Lost in America (A Geography Adventure) by Jef Czekaj –ESSENTIAL

Czekaj, Jef Austin, Lost in America (A Geography Adventure)  Balzer and Bray (Harper Collins), 2015. $17.99 PICTURE BOOK

This is the story of Austin the dog, who wasn’t adopted at a pet shop and instead escapes. He decides to seek his new home in one of the States. Traveling to all 50 states, he learns interesting things, scary or funny facts that make him keep looking, and learns new things. Will he ever find where he belongs? A Map with states and capitols is included in the front and back covers of the book. Features large, bright, adorable illustrations.

Where has this book been all my life! This blows any other picture books about the States out of the water. I have despaired finding just the right book for this topic for younger grade teachers (There are many and I don't like any of them), and here it finally is. Because of the story format learning is so fun and fabulous that even students readers will want to read this on their own. The artwork is darling and engaging. The book is funny, interesting and would be a top notch introduction to United States for young readers.

EL(K-3) –ESSENTIAL Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Whoops by Suzi Moore –NO

Moore, Suzi Whoops Templar(Candlewick) 2015. $16.99 PICTURE BOOK
A Dog, Cat, and a Mouse can’t speak. Owl suggests they seek a witch for a spell to cure them. The witch gives it try after try, but things don’t always go so great.
I loved the cover and was eager to read it, but his book wasn’t my favorite read, both in story and illustrations. The illustrations are minimalist and despite some bright pages, it has an empty cold feeling to me. One of my favorite books has a spell that constantly goes wrong, but this one was sort of pointless and odd.
EL (K-3) –NO Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Monster and Son by David Larochelle –ADVISABLE

Lorochelle, David Monster and Son Chronicle, 2016. $16.99 PICTURE BOOK
A book about father’s and son’s, this story features a harmonious and wholesome story about a day in the life of a father and son. The pictures tell a different story as they show a wide variety of monster dads and monsters sons acting out the words of the story. For example eating a snack together is show as eating a car and campsite as Sasquatch’s.
This is a fun book! I like using these kind of books in lessons about the elements of a picture book; I will read just the words and talk about it, then re-read it and show the pictures. (Sam and Dave dig a hole is a good on for this too). The illustrations are stellar and fun to look at without being too scary. I don’t know if any dads will object to boys being portrayed as monsters though.
EL(K-3) –ADVISABLE Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author

Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield -OPTIONAL

Litchfield, David Bear and the Piano Clarion (Houghton Mifflin), 2015. $16.99 PICTURE BOOK
A bear finds a piano in the middle of the woods, eventually learning to play it. All the bears love listening and he is quite popular. When humans discover his talents he embarks on a world tour and is wildly successful. But he misses home, he worries his friends will have forgotten him or be mad that he left. He hurries home to the forest and discovers his piano isn’t there! What is going on?
First off these illustrations make my heart sing they are so stellar. The story is wholesome and sweet, easily added to a library any library collection. However, the lesson here, about fame and friendship is a bit odd to me for young readers, so few will encounter that. Even breaking it down smaller into support your friends when their hobbies/sports take up time, is also asking a bit much of younger readers, and I don’t think they will make that leap after reading this story on their own.
EL (K-3) –OPTIONAL  Reviewer: Stephanie Elementary School Librarian & Author.

Save Me a Seat by Weeks and Varadarajan - OPTIONAL

Weeks, Sarah and Gita Varadarajan Save Me a Seat, 240 pages.  Scholastic Press, MAY 2016.  Content: PG (bullying).

With the help of his 5th grade teacher, Joe ended the year on a high note and has high hopes for 6th grade.  Ravi has just moved to town from India, where he was the star student at his school; this first week of life in America is going to be a very rude awakening for the boy, starting with introducing himself to the class and no on e can understand his speech, which he thought was perfect English and his teacher thinks he might need ESL classes.  By the end of the week, the two boys will find out that they need each other in order to survive. 

As much as the cover conveys the differences between the two cultures, I wish it were more appealing.  I enjoyed Joe and Ravi’s story very much, but unless it is a classroom read, I am not sure that students will pick it up on their own.  The author does an excellent job of conveying Ravi’s immigrant experience, including a little lesson for the boy who used to be king of the hill.

EL – OPTIONAL.  Cindy, Library teacher

Girl & Gorilla Out and About by Rick Walton - ADVISABLE

Walton, Rick Girl & Gorilla Out and About, illustrated by Joe Berger.  PICTURE BOOK.  Harper, 2016.  $18.  Content: G.

A girl and her gorilla want to go to the park to play.  Gorilla, however, has elaborate plan after elaborate plan fro how they should get there, and is increasingly agitated when things don’t work out the way he wants them to.  Girl, however, also has a plan to distract her worried friend.

Such a  sweet book and the illustrations are the perfect compliment to the text.  Many adults will either recognize themselves or little friends in Gorilla.  In fact, In his bio at the back of the book, Rick says that the book is auto-biographical and that he is gorilla.  This will be fun to share as a read aloud.  Kids could come up with other crazy plans to get to the park, or you could use it as a springboard to talk about anxiety and how to cope when plans are changed.

Pre-K, EL (K-3) – ADVISABLE.  Cindy, Library teacher

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Everland by Wendy Spinale - ESSENTIAL

Spinale, Wendy Everland, 320 pages.  Scholastic Press, MAY 2016.  $18.  Language: G, Mature Content: G; Violence: PG (honestly, I was so caught up in the story that I didn’t keep track of the violence – it may be PG-13).

Gwen, her sister Joanna, and their little brother Mickey are barely surviving in a London that has been devastated by a deadly disease that was unleashed by the tyrannical queen of Germany.  They have been hiding an accepting help from no one, until an encounter with Pete and Belle, who help them escape from Captain Hook and his Marauders, show them a whole other side, or under side, of the city.  Things are about to rapidly change from bad to worse, however.

I am always a little skeptical about Neverland rewrites, but there was no need for skepticism this time.  Spinale has crafted a masterpiece of fiction.  If you hade never seen a Peter Pan movie or knew nothing about the story, you would still treasure this book.  Having read and seen many such items, I enjoyed the appearance of every single detail that she wove into her narrative.  This is a must read for anyone who lieks alternate history, fantasy, or even steampunk.  The eye-catching cover will sell it on its own and the story will satisfy your soul. I’m adding this to my personal favorites.

MS, HS – ESSENTIAL.  Cindy, Library teacher

Will’s Words: How William Shakespeare Changed the Way You Talk by Sutcliffe - ESSENTIAL

Sutcliffe, Jane Will’s Words: How William Shakespeare Changed the Way You Talk, illustrated by John Shelley.  PICTURE BOOK/NON-FICTION.  Charlesbridge, 2016.  $18.  Content:  G.

Sutcliffe tells the story of play-going in Shakespeare’s time, especially goings-on at The Globe Theatre and about Shakespeare’s plays.  She weaves in Will’s own word, including side notes with definitions and origins in his plays.

Any part of this would be a gem to share with theater class, Language Arts and anywhere that Shakespeare or his plays are studied. 

EL, MS, HS – ESSENTIAL.  Cindy, Library teacher

Sophomores and Other Oxymorons by David Lubar - ESSENTIAL

Lubar, David Sophomores and Other Oxymorons, 414 pages.  Dutton, 2015.  $18.  Language: PG (5 sweares, 0 ‘f’); Mature Content: G; Violence: G.

Scot Hudson is ready to start his sophomore year.  Unfortunately, he got off on the wrong foot with his English teacher and he can’t seem to dig himself out of the massive hole he created.  How could he feel so smart last year, but be acting so dumb this year?  He seems to be avoiding the other pitfalls of his freshman year.  But this is Scott we are talking about, so something is sure to go wrong!

Ahhh – David Lubar!  You are a comic genius!  Even if I have to wait a few more years, I hope I get to follow Scott through the rest of high school.  I love that Lubar lets a good idea percolate until it is actually ready.

MS – ESSENTIAL.  Cindy, Library teacher