Friday, August 31, 2012

Review: Kindergarten Rocks!

In honor of my placement for the 2012-2013 school year in a kindergarten classroom, I've decided to read some kindergarten books! I'm so excited to start working with my cooperating teacher and her kindergarten class!

Kindergarten Rocks! by Katie Davis

Dexter is so excited to start his new year of school in kindergarten because his sister, Jessie, can tell him all about it. He is not scared at all! But his little stuffed dog Rufus is terrified. What if Dexter gets lost? What if his teacher is mean?

With Rufus, Dexter is able to express all his fears about going to kindergarten without anyone knowing he's the one who's scared!

When Dexter gets to school on his first day, Rufus is still a little scared. But Dexter has a great day! He reads books, builds towers, goes to the library, he played with Play-Doh, and writes letters. Dexter is having so much fun that he forgets where he left Rufus! (And Rufus was always afraid of getting lost..) Luckily Dexter finds Rufus sitting on top of the huge tower he built. Dexter goes home from school saying, "Kindergarten ROCKS!"

I think this is a great book for children who are going into kindergarten to read prior to school starting. They can see that other children are scared of school starting too. But then they'll see that kindergarten is actually really fun! There's a lot to learn, but it will be fun too. There are a lot of books for pre-kindergarteners about what the first day of school will be like and this seems to me to be an excellent one that includes humor and a happy ending.

The artwork in this book was created by the author, Katie Davis, but it is attributed to her children. All of the artwork looks like crayon to me, but I'm not positive. I think the artwork looks appropriate for the age level of the children who will be reading it. Some of the pages are full spread pictures, but many of them are framed.

I really enjoyed reading this book and I think children who are about to go into kindergarten would enjoy it too. It would help relieve their stress about starting school without having to say that they themselves are scared.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Review: Squish The Power of the Parasite

Squish: The Power of the Parasite by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm

In the third book of the Squish series, Squish is sent to a summer day camp to learn how to swim. He only had two options in choosing a camp.. Swim camp or Ballet camp. The only problem is that Squish doesn't know how to swim and last time he tried to swim, he almost drown! So he's a little nervous. Then he meets a new friend, Basil. Basil is a hydra, but he doesn't swim either. They're getting along really great until Basil starts taking jokes a little too far. He stings other students and the teacher with his tentacles. Squish is not too happy about that and he stops hanging out with him so Basil stings him to make his new friend laugh. Squish uses the ballet his friends taught him to send Basil away forever!

Another storyline in this book is the comic book that Squish reads. This book stars Super Amoeba and the Parasite. They join forces to form a Superhero Partnership until the Parasite starts being mean. He doesn't pay for the pizza he orders, he doesn't rescue cats from trees, and then he starts stealing money from the bank! Super Amoeba gives the Parasite one chance to leave the money he stole and never comes back... and he does! (Until the next book, maybe?)

Now I realize that many of the books I have read and reviewed are books in which girls would be interested because I pick them out because I'm interested and I'm a girl! Not to say that boys wouldn't like them, but I think books like Star-Bubble Trouble are probably not going to be the first one they pick up. I decided I needed to read more "boy books" for my blog because I'm going to have male students so I need to have books that will keep them interested in reading!
This book, Squish: The Power of the Parasite seems to be the male version of the Babymouse series. (I previously read and reviewed Camp Babymouse.) They are both graphic novels written by Jennifer and Matthew Holm. Both books also are black and white with one color for everything. In this book, the color is green. I think with the topic of this book  is focused on comic books and superheroes that boys will be likely to pick this up to read.

Like in Camp Babymouse, there is a narrator in this book. This time they don't really have conversations with the main character though. The narrator describes what's going on or what time of day it is. I thought the narrator in this book seemed somewhat sarcastic at some points in the book though. Also like in the Babymouse series, there are many onomatopoeias to express emotion and action. Some pages don't even have real words, just sounds!

I thought this was an interesting book that I will be including in my classroom, provided that the students are old enough! (I kind of want to work with the really little guys!) There are three books in the series right now, but the fourth one, Squish: Captain Disaster, will be out at the end of September!

Also, today is my first day of my fall semester of Grad School! I should be finding out who my Cooperating Teacher/Grade/School will be by the end of the week! I'm so excited!! This time next year I hope to be preparing my classroom!!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Review: There's No Place Like Space

There's No Place Like Space: All About Our Solar System by Tish Rabe
Illustrated by Aristides Ruiz

Dr. Seuss, Thing One and Thing Two take Sally and her brother out on a ride through space to explore the nine planets in the solar system. The characters visit each planet and learn a fun little fact about it and it's order in the line up. The book is written in rhyme like other Dr. Seuss books to show children that learning can be fun and entertaining! One poem I thought was really interesting and I did not know about was:
Saturn has rings.
It's so light--
who would think?
It could float in an ocean
and not even sink! (p. 22-23)
This book is part of The Cat in the Hat's Learning Library. This is a collection of nonfiction titles written for young children to explore science topics in the natural world. They're written as an introduction to these topics so children can build on this knowledge later. There is a wide variety of books in this series. Some other books are:
Ice is Nice: All About the North and South Poles
Fine Feathered Friends: All About Birds
Oh, the Pets You Can Get: All About Our Animal Friends
but there are many, many more! I like that some of the titles are based on older Dr. Seuss book titles like One Cent, Two Cent, Old Cent, New Cent: All About Money. That's pretty cute!

One thing I'm not sure about with this book is if it is considered fiction or nonfiction. I would say nonfiction because it is full of facts and it has a glossary, index, and section on further reading, but the characters are fictional, so I'm not positive!

As with all books (nonfiction, especially!), the teacher must be sure that the information in the book is accurate. The author does not include sources for her information, but I think that this book is pretty accurate just because of the knowledge I have about the planets. I would have liked to see sources however.
In this book, Pluto is still listed as a planet and as we know, Pluto is no longer a planet. :( Here's an article from National Geographic about why Pluto is no longer a planet and what makes a planet. Without Pluto, the awesome poem the author came up with to remember the nine planets in order is ruined!
nine hundred ninety-nine
pizzas! (p. 28)
Check out Seussville to find a lot of games and activities for children. There you will find information about all of the Dr. Seuss books as well as the books in the Learning Library. It is a very interactive website that children will love!

I got this awesome book from my sister for my birthday! She knew I was collecting books to start my classroom library and went to the thrift store and bought me a bunch of books! I'm so excited to read and review them and then put them in my future classroom for my future students to enjoy! Thanks Melissa! She also got me Book Fiesta! which was just awesome. :)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Review: Book Fiesta!

Book Fiesta!: Celebrate Children's Day/Book Day by Pat Mora
Illustrated by Rafael Lopez

This book was written in honor of celebrating Children's Day/Book Day in Mexico. The children in the book read with their families and friends everywhere. They read at the library, on an elephant, in boats, planes, and trains, and even on a whale! At the end of the book, the author has provided ideas for families, children, teachers, and other members of the community to have their own Children's Day/Book Day celebrations.

Book Fiesta! would be a great book to have in a classroom with English Language Learners who already speak Spanish. Each passage is written in English first and then written in Spanish below or on the next page. Children would be able to read the story in their native language and then see how to read it in the other. It would be effective for English speaking students as well to introduce them to Spanish. In addition to the story being written in both English and Spanish, the children are also reading books in other languages, including Korean and Navajo.

The illustrations by Rafael Lopez won the Pura Belpré Medal in 2010. They are bright and full of color. All the illustrations are full bleed two page spreads. One two page spread is even vertical! (The image of the book to the right.) The children in the images are very diverse. There are children of all different colors and cultures. There is a child in a wheelchair on one page. Books in the illustrations are written in multiple languages. I think this is important to show many different cultures and languages because even though this book was inspired by Mexico's Dia de los ninos (Children's Day), the author wants to encourage reading for every child. She wants to inspire every parent to read with their child. It's important that the illustrator included pictures of parents reading to and with their children.

Rafael Lopez has also won Pura Belpré Honor book Awards in illustration for the following books:
The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred written by Samantha Vamos - 2012
My Name is Celia/Me llamo Celia written by Monica Brown - 2006

Check out Pat Mora's "About the Book" for more information about Book Fiesta! There are professional reviews on this site as well. Pat Mora shares what inspired her to write the book in a video at the bottom of the page. She is also a Pura Belpré Honor book winner in 2006 for narrative with her book Dona Flor: A Tall Tale About a Giant Woman with a Big Heart.

This book has been translated into many languages. On the left is the book cover of Book Fiesta! in Arabic from Rafael Lopez's blog. On his blog you can see beautiful pictures from his travels as well as updates on his books and artwork.
He is also the designer of the poster for the National Book Festival on September 22-23 in Washington, DC this year and there is an amazing blog post about the creation of the poster. Be sure to check that out! I hope to attend the National Book Festival this year as well!

I thought this was a great book and a great way to encourage children and families to read together. In my future classroom, I plan to celebrate Children's Day/Book Day with my students!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Review: Star-Bubble Trouble

Star-Bubble Trouble by Cecilia Galante
Illustrated by Kristi Valiant

The third book in the Little Wings series by Cecilia Galante is about Willa Bean, a little cupid, and her class' cloudtrip to Cloud Nine! This is the first cloudtrip that Willa Bean and her friends have ever been on with school and they are very excited. At Cloud Nine they will practice with their bows and arrows and then spend the rest of the afternoon playing at Waterworld!

There's only one thing that's keeping Willa Bean from having as much fun as possible. Her baby brother, Louie, has lost his favorite red rubber star-bubble ball and he is not happy. He cried and fussed all night. Willa Bean comes up with a plan to get Louie a new ball, but faces some issues in her plan.

I thought this book was very appropriate for the age level as far as content and language. I also thought the overall message of being kind to other people and doing what is right was very important for young children to see.

I think this is a cute little book for young girls. It seems like a lot of little girls are interested in fairies and providing them with books that they are interested in is very important in getting them to love reading. I love that this book is part of a series too. When children find a book that they like in a series, I think they're more likely to keep reading them because they know if they liked the first one, they'll probably like the next one. I know that's how I was and even now, as an adult I do the same thing.

Willa Bean on the cloudbus with her class.
The illustrations were created by Kristi Valiant. Check out her website and her blog to learn more about her and her work. I thought they were very creative. I would really help beginning readers to see what is happening in the book. I think it also helps bridge the gap between picturebooks and chapter books because there aren't quite as many pictures, but they're still there. The cover is the only picture in color. The illustrations inside seem to be pencil or pen drawings. With this method, the illustrator is able to depict emotion in the character's faces, which I think is important for children to see as well!

I was very pleased with this book and I think it would be a good read for beginning readers. The book is on the 2.4 Reading Level. Below are the other books that are currently in the series. Check those out too! (The 4th one will be out the day after Christmas, which doesn't really make sense to me...)

The Little Wings Series:
Willa Bean's Cloud Dreams
Be Brave, Willa Bean!
Star-Bubble Trouble
The One and Only Willa Bean

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Review: In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson

In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson by Bette Bao Lord
Illustrated by Marc Simont

Ten-year-old Bandit and her mother move from their huge family in China to Brooklyn, NY where her father has been working and creating a life from them.They travel for a whole month on a boat and then fly across the country to her father. Before she can go though, she must pick an American name. She chooses Shirley Temple because that's the only female American name she knows! The book covers the first year of her life in America. Each chapter is a different month. She starts in the fifth grade and doesn't know any English. Shirley tries to make friends and fit in with the other students.

At the beginning Shirley feels a lot of pressure from her mom. Before her first day of school her mom says,
Remember, my daughter, you may be the only Chinese these Americans will ever meet. Do your best. Be extra good. Upon your shoulders rests the reputation of all the Chinese. (p. 43)
The real Shirley Temple
That seems like a whole lot of pressure to put on a ten-year-old and it comes into play later in the story when Shirley is worried about how she has to act because she is representing all the Chinese.

I think this book did a good job of representing what it is like for an English Language Learner coming to the United States. Since Shirley didn't know any English and she didn't understand American culture, she was really lonely and confused about what was right to do. The following passage shows her confusion and misunderstanding of American culture. Many children coming to America may not understand what is expected of them in classroom and socially.
Carefully she sidestepped the boys who played basketball, the girls who roller-skated, the groups who seemed to laugh or whisper whenever she passed. She dreaded the distance across the school yard. It was endless and full of traps. If a loose ball rolled by, should she catch it? If a girl fell, should she help her up? If someone glanced her way, should she wave? (p. 52)
Then when she was presenting a poem she had memorized, everyone in the class, including the teacher, laughed at her. I thought that was really sad and not a good way to help any student, an English Language Learner especially, feel confident in themselves and feel like they can learn and participate in the class.

Jackie Robinson
When Shirley's teacher is telling them about why baseball and Jackie Robinson are important to America, Shirley has a big realization as to why she was brought to America that I think was really powerful.
Here, she did not have to wait for gray hairs to be considered wise. Here, she could speak up, question even the conduct of the President. Here, Shirley Temple Wong was somebody. She felt as if she had the power of ten tigers, as if she had grown as tall as the Statue of Liberty. (p. 93)
One last thing that I thought was really funny is how Shirley said the Pledge of Allegiance.
I pledge a lesson to the frog of United States of America, and to the wee puppet for witches' hands. One Asian, in the vestibule, with little tea and just rice for all. (p. 86)
I read this book the other day while we were driving home from Maine. I chose it because we were heading to New York City to stay with Andy's friend and this book took place in Brooklyn. (Here's a picture of Andy and me tourist-ing it up in Times Square!) Even though we didn't go to Brooklyn, it's still relevant and I'm really glad I picked it! I remember the title from when I was in school, but I don't remember reading it. This time I loved the book though. I thought it was great. A great story and very interesting!

There are so many different resources you can find online to use when reading this book as a class. There are activities, lesson plans, quizzes, study guides, and many other things.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Review: The Borrowers

The Borrowers by Mary Norton
Illustrated by Beth and Joe Krush

Arrietty Clock and her parents, Pod and Homily, live underneath the kitchen floor. They are borrowers. Borrowers "borrow" things from the humans who live in the house, they don't steal. They take all sorts of things and turn them into something useful for them. Blotting paper is used as carpet in the Clocks' house. Children's mittens are cut up and turned into hats. The Borrowers are small enough that the doll house furniture, plates, and utensils are the perfect size for their little house! At the beginning, Pod is the only one who borrows from the Clock family, but once he is "seen" by the boy, Pod and Homily decide they need Arrietty to learn how to borrow just in case something happens to them. Only Arrietty is "seen" by the boy the first time she goes out! She talks to the boy though and they soon become friends, much to the dismay of her family. When the other humans in the house find out about the Borrowers, they try to capture and kill them because they took so many of their things. Will the Clock family survive the humans trying to get them?

This book starts out with Kate and Mrs. May. Mrs. May is telling a story about the Borrowers to Kate. While they discuss the Borrowers, Kate tries to figure out whether or not they could be real. She says that they must be real

 Because of all the things that disappear. Safety pins, for instance. Factories go on making safety pins, and every day people go on buying safety pins and yet, somehow, there never is a safety pin just when you want one. Where are they all? Now, at this minute? Where do they go to? Take needles, all the needles my mother ever bought--there must be hundreds--can't just be lying about this house. (p. 5)

I thought this was cool to see that this little girl was trying to figure out why all these things disappear from her house.

I was confused about the end of the book though. Kate and Mrs. May are talking about whether or not the Borrowers could be real and Mrs. May says she read about Arrietty in one of the books Arrietty had in her house. Mrs. May says that the book doesn't prove that the Borrowers are real because "Arrietty used to make her 'e's like little half-moons with a stroke in the middle" and her "brother did too" (p. 180). I was confused about whether Mrs. May actually thought they were real or know. Arrietty had been teaching the boy how to read by reading to him. But maybe she thought that the boy (her brother) had been writing the story himself. So I don't really know!

I've been waiting a while to blog this book! But we were out of town and then we got home and had a new kitten to entertain. He gets into all sorts of trouble, so you have to keep an eye on him and I couldn't write my blog! Now he's all settled and relaxed though so I can do my own things. In The Borrowers, the family all thinks that Arrietty's cousin was eaten by the cat that the humans' brought home to catch them. So here's a picture of our kitty. His name is Loki. The God of Mischief and Thor's half-brother!

I thought this book was awesome. I loved the movie when I was a kid, so I was very excited to read this book. Check out the preview for the movie above! I was surprised though that Peagreen, Arrietty's brother, played by Tom Felton (Malfoy from Harry Potter!) is not in the book. In the book it says that Arrietty is an only child and it doesn't even mention a brother at all. There are four other books in the Borrowers Series. Find out more about them on their Wikipedia page.

There have been many movies created based on this book. This year, a Japanese version of the movie came to the US, in English. It is called The Secret World of Arrietty. It's a cartoon version of the other movie. It looks cute, but I'm more a fan of the earlier movie.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Review: Island of the Blue Dolphins

As of 1:28 this morning, I'm officially 23 years old! yay! Happy Birthday to me! :)

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell

This is the story of Karana, an Indian girl living on the Island of the Blue Dolphins with her tribe. When the Aleuts come to hunt for seals, they decide they don't want to share with the island natives. They kill many of the village men, including the leader, Karana's father. When the white men come to take the islanders to the mainland, Karana gets left behind because she has to make sure that her brother gets on the boat. They tell her they'll be back from them eventually, but Karana waits and waits and waits. No one comes back for her. She must learn how to provide for herself and protect herself. But will she be able to survive against the harsh elements and the wild dogs that killed her brother? And will she be able to find enough food to survive?

I had heard of this book before, but I'd never read it. My Children's Literature class really introduced me to a lot of books that I added to my list to read. Luckily I have about 3 weeks from my 10 week session this summer until my fall semester to catch up on some of them for fun!

I thought this was a great book at the beginning. I was very interested while I was reading it until about 3/4 of the way through. I thought it was just dragging on and on and I was definitely tired of it by the end! One thing I thought was strange about the story is that the tribe forbade women from making weapons. They weren't allowed to make their own bows & arrows, spears, clubs, or anything. There was a legend that said if a woman makes a bow & arrow, the bow will break when she needs it the most, when she's in danger. It was interesting to see how Karana was still so concerned about this legend even when she was on her own and had to protect herself somehow.

It also made me really happy when Karana took the wild dog leader in as her own after she hurt it. She killed so many wild dogs on the island, but this one she helped heal and then kept. I hadn't even thought about how lonely that would be for someone. I know it would be hard for me not to have someone to talk to for years!

Karana tried to hunt the devilfish many times in the book and I was confused what kind of fish that actually was. She described it as having long arms with suckers on them. She also says that they shoot out a black cloud. I kind of thought it was an octopus, but I thought she would've mentioned the eight legs because that's pretty significant... So I looked up devil fish on Wikipedia and it came up with the guy on the right. That is not what I was imagining! But Wikipedia also says that devilfish is "an alternate and (rather obsolete) name for the octopus." So that is still an option. WikiAnswers says that it is clearly a squid. I don't really know though. I'm not an aquatic animal expert!

This is a really interesting website called The Real Castaways: True Stories of Being Stranded on a Deserted Island. Scroll about 3/4 of the way down the page and there is a section about Juana Maria, the girl who inspired Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphins. But there are also a bunch of other cool stories about people being stranded on an island. So check that out! The island in this picture is San Marino Island, where Juana Maria was stranded and lived alone for 18 years.

Today for my birthday we went to Monhegan Island in Maine. While we were hiking in the woods and on the big rocks, I was thinking about where we could've hid from the wild dogs and protected ourselves from the elements. It would be so weird to have to do that though! What about snakes! (Apparently there aren't many snakes in Maine though, because it's so cold). I guess I'm not nearly as resourceful as Karana was. But she was also raised in a completely different setting and lifestyle, so it should be easier for her to collect her own food and build her own weapons because she's already used to it.
Here's a picture of Andy and I climbing around on the rocks! (He's not actually that much taller than me, I am definitely standing on a lower rock!) This is when we had climbed down from the top of the cliffs and we're right above the water coming in! It was a lot of fun!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Review: Newf

Newf by Marie Killilea
Illustrated by Ian Schoenherr

This is the story of a north country legend about a mysterious big black dog who comes in from the sea. An unlikely friendship forms between this big black dog and a snow white little kitten. When Newf washes up on the shore next to an old abandoned house, he meets this kitten. He goes swimming everyday and the kitten comes to watch. The kitten gets swept away in the water but he comes to the kitten's rescue! They spend all their time together. Newf goes swimming one day when it's snowing and the kitten gets lost in the snow. Newf can't find him anywhere! He searches everywhere looking for the white kitten in the white snow. When he finally finds him, Newf carries him back to their empty cottage to warm up.

This is another book that Andy suggested I read and review. We're in Maine right now and he searched through his old bedroom to find children's books for my classroom (one day!) and he told me he loved this book as a child! It's a very cute story. Animals that get hurt or lost or scared always make me sad, but I'm glad this ended on a happy note!

I liked how the story started out and ended the same.
There was a time, long, long ago, when the cottage stood sturdy and strong on a bluff overlooking the ocean. It was a fisherman's cottage. (First page)
There was a cottage that stood sturdy and strong on a bluff overlooking the sea. It was a fisherman's cottage, but it was no longer deserted. (Last page)
I always think that animals have their families and friends, even though they are animals. They all have compassion and it's so cute that the dog and kitten became family and lived together in the cottage.

The illustrations by Ian Schoenherr are beautifully done. All of the pages are two page full bleed spreads. Many of the images are dark and shades of blue and black. The only bright color is the sand at the beach. If you look at his website (linked with his name above) you can see that just from the covers of the books, the earlier books seem to have very similar illustration styles.

I don't know if I've ever seen a Newfoundland dog in person before, so I did a little research on them. Check out the American Kennel Club's website for more information on these huge dogs! Here it says that a full grown male can weigh up to 175 lbs!!! Whoa! That is a big dog. They also can be up to 30 inches tall. I found the picture to the right for a size comparison of Newfoundland dogs to its owner and her car. That's a big dog! My dad and stepmother are part of Virginia German Shepherd Rescue and I thought those dogs were big, but these Newfoundland dogs look huge! (I used to be on the VGSR website under Past Events, no big deal!) According to Wikipedia, the largest Newfoundland dog on record was over 260 lbs and over 6 ft. long from nose to tail... Ridiculous. I can't even imagine! World's Largest Dogs is an amazing website with pictures of these huge dogs. Definitely check that out.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Review: Los Gatos Black on Halloween

Los Gatos Black on Halloween by Marisa Montes
Illustrated by Yuyi Morales

This is a Halloween story about las brujas, los esqueletos, and monsters that go about on Halloween night. The monsters and creatures of the night are all making their way to a big ball at the haunted house but they get the biggest scare when the scariest creatures on Halloween night come around and you will be shocked who shows up!

The author seamlessly intertwines Spanish words into the text and it reads beautifully because it is all rhyming as well. She uses the other words in the sentence and the surrounding sentences to help the reader get the meaning of the Spanish word.
October's luna, full and bright,
The fall moon lights a vampire's bite.
Even if you didn't know the definition of luna, from looking at the context clues, you could conclude that luna is moon.

Howling perros!
The illustrations are immensely helpful in doing that as well. When "los perros howl," the dogs are howling in the illustrations. All of the pages are full bleed, two page spreads. The colors are dark and spooky, because it's Halloween! There are not any straight lines in the illustrations. Even the witches' brooms and the railings aren't straight. I think this helps to illustrate how everything is spooky and crazy!

The Halloween Ball!
One thing I was concerned about when reading this book is that there is no help in the pronunciation of the Spanish words within the text. If you look in the back of the book, there is a Glossary section which lists the Spanish words, pronunciation, and the definition. But if you're just reading the book, it would be annoying to have to keep flipping back and forth. It is very appropriate to have a Glossary in the back of this book, especially if non-Spanish speaking children will be reading it.

This book won the Pura Belpré Honor for Marisa Montes' writing as well as the Pura Belpré Medal for Yuyi Morales' illustrations in 2008. The Pura Belpré Award is presented to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.

Yuyi Morales has also won quite a few other Pura Belpré Awards since it was established. Just In Case: A Trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet Book written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales won the Pura Belpré Medal for her illustrations and Pura Belpré Honor for her narrative in 2009. Just A Minute!: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales won the Pura Belpré Medal for her illustrations in 2004.

Since I have had a black cat almost all of my life, I wanted to know why people were so superstitious about them! Check out this website to see some funny superstitions different cultures have about black cats. Some cultures see black cats as good luck, while some think black cats will share their personal gossip! But I think our little black kitties are the best!! No bad luck from BJ. :) (As I write this, BJ is laying next to me glaring at me because my typing is disturbing his sleeping though...)

Check out my other blog post, Moonlight: The Halloween Cat by Cynthia Rylant for a less scary Halloween cat book for children!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Review: Bridge to Terabithia

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson
Illustrated by Donna Diamond

Jess is going to be the fastest runner in the 5th grade. That is, until Leslie moves next door. Even though Jess loses to Leslie, they form a fast friendship. Together Jess and Leslie create their own secret world called Terabithia and they become the king and queen. To get to Terabithia, they had to swing on a rope across a little ravine in the woods. One morning when Jess is out of town, Leslie goes on her own to Terabithia and has a terrible accident. Leslie dies and Jess is left to figure out what to do.

This is a great book about friendship and death from a young child's point of view. There were many powerful parts of the story that really resonated with me. When May Belle, Jess' younger sister, was asking why Leslie didn't believe in God, she said,
But Leslie, What if you die? What's going to happen to you if you die? (p. 128)
That was a good example of effective foreshadowing in the book. Although I already knew Leslie's fate, I didn't remember reading that part before, but it seemed apparent to me that Leslie was going to die. After Leslie died, Jess had a hard time comprehending it and he thought it was just a dream. Once he comes to terms with it, he's at Leslie's house and everyone is crying. He thinks to himself,
He, Jess, was the only one who really cared for Leslie. But Leslie had failed him. She went and died just when he needed her the most. She went and left him. She went swinging on that ropy just to show him that she was no coward... She has tricked him. She had made him leave his old self behind and come into her world, and then before he was really at home in it but too late to go back, she had left him stranded there--like an astronaut wandering about on the moon. Alone. (p. 171)
Fortunately, I have not had the experience of losing someone so close to me, but I think that that is such a deep feeling of loss that Jess expresses. I think children might be bad for thinking about themselves if a friend dies, but if they read this book, they see that other children feel that way too when they're in that situation. I think it might be comforting for them in that sense. Especially later in the book when Jess says that he hates Leslie. I think it's good for children to see that those are emotions that a lot of people would experience with the loss of someone so close to them.

This book won the Newbery Medal in 1978. It was the book that beat out Ramona and Her Father that year, which I previously reviewed.

I remember I started reading this book in 4th or 5th grade. I was about half way through it when this girl in my class, I believe her name was Melanie, told me that Leslie died at the end of the book was and I was so mad. I stopped reading the book. I always wanted to pick it up and read it again, but I never did until today. And I'm so happy I did! This is a great book about young children dealing with death. Even though it's not as common for young children to die, other children still have to deal with it. Having good books that they can read and relate to could be really helpful for them when they're trying to cope with the loss. 

Bridge to Terabithia is #28 on the American Library Association's life of the Top 100 Banned or Challenged Books from 2000-2009 as well as #8 on their list of the Top 100 Banned or Challenged Books from 1990-1999. Some of the reasons I found that this book is challenged is that death is a part of the plot, satanism, offensive language, and violence. That seems ridiculous to me, but whatever. There's no reason to ban a book, just don't let your kid read it if you don't like it.

I wasn't aware, but in 2007, this book was turned into the movie, Bridge to Terabithia starring Josh Hutcherson, AnnaSophia Robb (also the little girl in the Because of Winn-Dixie movie), and Zooey Deschanel. I wanted to include the trailer on here, but my YouTube isn't working! I can't watch videos on the website or even here, on my blog. :(

Review: One Green Apple

One Green Apple by Eve Bunting
Illustrated by Ted Lewin

On Farah's second day of school in America, her class goes on a field trip to an apple orchard. She doesn't speak any English and none of the students can speak her language either. She feels left out and lonesome. When the students have to pick out an apple, she goes to the little tree with green apples, instead of the trees with red apples like the other students. One of the boys objects to her putting her green apple in the apple cider with all the red apples, but it turns out great anyway! Farah gets more self-confident, says "apple" and starts to laugh with the other students.
Laughs sound the same as at home. Just the same. So do sneezes and belches and lots of things. It is the words that are strange. But soon I will know their words. I will blend with the others the way my apple blended with the cider. (p. 28)
I thought that was a great quote from the story. Farah realizes that even though the language is different, people are people wherever they are. She compares he acculturation to American culture to the way her apply blended with the other apples in the cider.

One Green Apple won the Arab American National Museum Book Award of 2006. The award honors significant literature by and about Arab Americans.

I think this would be a great book to use in the classroom. Students who are new to a school can relate to it and students who are there already can understand how it must feel for this new student to come into their class without knowing anyone. It's also great that Farah understands that she's going to learn the language and she'll be friends with all of these kids soon enough.

The illustrations, by Ted Lewin, were created with watercolors. I think the illustrations look great and are very detailed and life-like. All of the illustrations are full bleed on two page spreads. I'm really impressed how many details are in these pictures because so many other books with watercolor illustrations seem to lack specific details.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Review: And Tango Makes Three

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell
Illustrated by Henry Cole

This is the story of Roy and Silo, two boy penguins who were in love. They do everything together, just like all the other penguin couples. The only thing they can't do, is lay an egg. They found a rock that looked like an egg and tried to make that hatch, but of course, it didn't work. When the zookeeper has an extra egg from one of the other penguin couples, he let Roy and Silo have a shot at raising the baby penguin. The new baby's name was Tango. And they lived happily in the zoo.

I think this book is adorable and it's a great story. It made me so sad when Roy and Silo tried hatching the rock but it never worked. So I was very happy when there was another little penguin egg they could keep warm and have a little penguin baby from.

Chinstrap penguins.
Roy, Silo, Tango, and the other penguins in the penguin house are all chinstrap penguins. They get their name because of the black feathers that loop around under their beaks. Their love story is a true story. They currently still live in the Central Park Zoo in New York City, but now they are not together anymore. Check out this Wikipedia article on Roy and Silo (who I just found out, are both older than me!) for more information on them.

And Tango Makes Three was the number one book on America's most frequently challenged book list for 2010 and has been every year since it was first published.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Review: Roanoke The Lost Colony

Roanoke: The Lost Colony - An Unsolved Mystery from History by Jane Yolen & Heidi Stemple
Illustrated by Roger Roth

This historical fiction book is the story of a little girl trying to be a detective that solves the unsolved mysteries from history. As the story of the Lost Colony of Roanoke is told, she includes pages from her notebooks where she lists other relevant facts as well as sticky notes from her list of important vocabulary words with their definitions.

At the end of the book there are five theories as to what could have happened to the settlers at Roanoke Island. She mentions that this mystery is an "open file" because it has never been solved.

Since the fate of these settlers is open ended, this provides a great opportunity for students to come up with their own ideas about what happened to them. They can choose from the solutions in the book, or create their own. The girl in the book says "Only remember, as my dad always says, Check your clues," which would require the students to support their conclusions with facts.
Map from Total History
I loved this book. I remember learning about Roanoke in fourth grade and I couldn't get my head around the thought that no one knew what happened to this colony! I thought it was so interesting! So I was very excited to read this book in the fourth grade class I substituted for that I mentioned in Civil War on Sunday. (And I'm just now thinking how strange it was that students were reading a Civil War book and one about Roanoke and colonization at the same time....)

The authors provide a whole list of sources where they got the historical information for this book. There is also a list of websites with more information on the history of Roanoke. It is very important to give sources when writing about a historical time, especially when it's about 1587 and there's no way the author could've experienced it themselves!

The illustrations by Roger Roth were created with pencils and watercolors on watercolor paper. All of the pages are full bleed, two page spreads, except when the little girl is talking. The illustrations are full of blues, greens, and darker colors. There are not many bright colors used in this book. I think that might help set the stage that it is a mystery. But it could also just be because most of the story takes place outside or on the water.

This book is part of the Unsolved Mystery from History series by Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple and also illustrated by Roger Roth. There are three other books in the series, The Mary Celeste, The Salem Witch Trials, and The Wolf Girls. I would be very interested to read about the Salem Witch Trials because that was also so interesting to me as well!

In 2007, Roanoke: The Lost Colony, the movie was created starring no one I've ever heard of. If anyone ends up seeing this, let me know how it is!

There are so many websites and books about Roanoke! has an awesome video that I couldn't figure out how to upload on here about Roanoke. One of their theories is that John White returned and found all of the people dead, but the Queen in England knew that if people thought the New World meant certain death, that new colonists would never go and create new colonies for them, so they covered it up saying it was a big mystery. I think that is a very interesting idea! has a section on the history of Roanoke as well. There is also The Lost Colony website. Here is a news article about a new clue that may help solve the mystery of The Lost Colony of Roanoke!

Review: Those Shoes

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boeltz
Illustrated by Noah Jones

Everyone at school has these black high-top sneakers with two white stripes, except Jeremy. All he wants is a pair of these sneakers but his grandmother says they don't have room for want, just need. When Jeremy's sneakers rip, he thinks maybe he can get the new sneakers he really wants. They're really expensive though so he finds a pair that are way too small at the thrift store and buys them anyway. When he sees his friend's shoes are tapped together on the basketball court, he gives him his shoes and they fit just perfect. Jeremy does the right thing when he sees that his friend needs these shoes more than him.

This is a great book to show the differences between needs and wants with children. It also shows how you don't have to be cool by having all the nice new shoes and clothes that other students have. I think this would be great to a classroom because there is so much emphasis on what people are wearing. My boyfriend told me when he was teaching 6th grade science last year that students made fun of each other for not wearing the right brands. And they even made fun of each other for wearing fake brands. Like fake Aeropostale shirts. And that is so sad.

The coveted shoes.
I think children could easily relate to Jeremy in this story, whether they were the ones who had the cool shoes or if they were like Jeremy and wanted the shoes. Maybe after reading this book, children would understand how hard it is for some children who can't have all the popular things.

The illustrations were created with watercolor, pencils, and ink. Then they were put together digitally. Most of the pages are two page full bleed images. The colors are light and they appear washed out. There aren't many bright colors at all. The end pages start with fall pictures in the front and the back end pages depict snow and winter, which shows the progression from one season to the next in the book. Check out the illustrator, Noah Z. Jones's website to see other books he has illustrated!

I found a great way to integrate a lesson on inferring while reading this book from Kelly at All That Glitters in First Grade. Check out Maribeth Boelts's website for more information on her other books and works. She also has a blog called, a monkey and a cymbal, where she writes about her life as a writer.