Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Module 12 Biography and Autobiography

When I Was a Soldier 

by Valérie Zenatti


Summary

Valérie Zenatti explores her past as student and then as a soldier in the Israeli Army.  She enlists for a two year span when she turns eighteen and does well in training.  She is given an intelligence position.  She regularly listens in on various radio channels to observe and report activity of other military installments like neighboring countries.  She finds herself questioning the political standing of the military, but understands that there is no perfect answer.  Her friends also join the army as they turn eighteen and each of them have very different experiences.  During her time in the military Valérie forms a new friendship with coworker and reunites with another friend from school.     

Bibliographic Citation

Zenatti, V. (2002). When I Was a Solider. New York: Bloomsbury U.S.A. Children’s Books.

My Impressions of the Book

Valérie Zenatti’s memoir is a true coming of age tale.  She begins her service in the army with such excitement and hope for the future.  She initially holds on to an ex-boyfriend in the hopes that he will take her back and they will find happiness together.  She learns the hard way that she must make her on happiness and can’t rely on him to love her.  As Valérie gains confidence in her career with the army she transforms into a responsible adult with ideas and beliefs of her own.  Her story is compelling.  Readers should find her memoir enjoyable and her candid voice delightful.

Reviews 

In this compelling memoir, Zenatti, first among her group of friends to be called for compulsory military service, chronicles two years of growing up in the Israeli army between 1988 and 1990. With teen self-absorption, she describes the end of her high school years, her initial excitement with the uniform and gun, and grueling training. At first overwrought and pretentious, her voice matures as she continues her course, suffers an anxiety attack, and is posted to a security listening post. As Zenatti grows away from her old friends and a former boyfriend, she becomes more aware and open to the ideas, interests, and needs of others–even, eventually, to the Palestinians who share her country. It is true, as adults told her, "The army changes everything." Although immersed in the country and the experience at the time, Zenatti retains her outsider perspective. French by origin, she and her family emigrated to Beersheva when she was 13, where she learned Hebrew. Her love of language shines through, and the translation, though undeniably British, is smooth. Journal entries in italics are interspersed with the present-tense narrative. This is a fascinating glimpse of a different part of the world and a different kind of experience. Older readers, facing the end of high school themselves, will be drawn to this description of the interim between childhood and adulthood that is a universal Israeli experience.–Kathleen Isaacs, formerly at Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC

Isaacs, K. (2005, May 1). When I Was a Soldier. [Review of the book When I Was a Soldier, by V. Zenatti]. School Library Journal, 162.

Ideas for Library Use

Invite and class to the library after they have read When I Was a Soldier and challenge them to write a biography.  Introduce students to self publishing ideas. 


Module 11 Informational Books

How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg and illustrated by Kevin O’Malley


Summary

In How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous, Bragg shares fun facts about various famous historical figures. She also details the illness or event that lead to their deaths as well as any medical treatment given in an effort to save them.  A very common treatment throughout the book is bloodletting. 

Bibliographic Citation

Bragg G. (2011). How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous. New York: Walker and Company.

My Impressions of the Book

While the book is informative Bragg approaches the topic of death with humor.  The humor does not distract from the facts in any way.  Yes, it lightens the mood, but so many of these topics are overlooked in history.  I found the medical treatment facts very interesting.  For example, after President Garfield was shot a number of doctors inserted their unwashed pointer fingers in his back to find the bullet.  These helpful doctors only managed to further injure him and become the cause of his infection.  How They Croaked is amusing and opens the door to historical figures in a new and clever way.

Reviews 

Georgia Bragg has her tongue firmly in cheek as she describes "how some of the most important people who ever lived--died" in this engaging book (Walker, 2011). Beginning with King Tut and moving chronologically through to Albert Einstein, Bragg explains in a conversational style what maladies brought 19 of the great ones down. Listeners will be clued in to Henry VIII's gluttony, George Washington's little mouth of horrors, and James Garfield's oh-so-slow death by ignorance. Narrator L.J. Ganser uses sarcasm, timing, pauses, and tone to wring out every last ounce of disgusting, gross misery from the deaths of Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, Christopher Columbus, Napoleon, Mozart, and others. There are humorous subtitles to each story, such as "Marie Curie: You Glow Girl!," and sidebars that add to the history. Be sure to pair this with the print version so students can giggle at Kevin O'Malley's hysterical illustrations. A perfect choice for boys who are reluctant readers. - Tricia Melgaard, formerly Centennial Middle School, Broken Arrow, OK

Melgaard, T. (2011). How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous [Review of the book How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous, by G. Bragg]. School Library Journal, 57, 75.

Ideas for Library Use

Have a discussion with the book club and find out information they found interesting in How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous. 

Module 10 Historical Fiction

The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen


Summary

After bing lectured of the importance of remembrance Hannah attends Passover dinner with her family.  One moment she is standing at the door to welcome the prophet Elijah into the home and the next she has been transported to 1942.  In 1942, she is known as Chaya and she has trouble remembering her real life or even determining which life is true.  Unfortunately, she all to aware of the terrible actions that take place between the Nazis and the Jewish community.  She is forced to live through these events knowing that the people around her will die and everything is not as it seems.  As Chaya she learns the ways of the camp quickly and does all she can to help others.  She experiences loss and forms a bond with a girl named Rivka.  In the end she sacrifices herself for her friend.  Like a dream she is transported back to the moment she opened the door.  

Bibliographic Citation

Yolen, J. (1988). The Devil’s Arithmetic. New York: Puffin Books.

My Impressions of the Book

Yolen gives the readers the experience of sharing these moments with fictional Holocaust victims.  However, it is more eye opening than history books that account for the victims in numbers without an glimpse into personal activities of feelings.  The story is also told with the new element of one character (Hannah / Chaya) knowing exactly what awaits them in the concentration camps.  It is unimaginable what these victims experienced, but Yolen allows readers to remember the love they continued to share with one another even when all hope was lost.  The Devil’s Arithmetic is a must read and I hope readers carry on the message of remembrance. 

Reviews 

The Devil's Arithmetic is about a girl taken into the time of the Holocaust. She experienced everything she had read about her religion and almost experienced the terrifying way some of her fellow Jews died.
Throughout this book, the emotions sweep over you, not fully sinking in until the end of the book when you realize what happened. There is so much truth and reality, it hurts. It hurts to actually have to face the fact that there were and still are people in this world so cold-blooded and mean that they would actually put people through such torture. I don't think I've ever read a book more meaningful than The Devil's Anthmetic. It would take the coldest of hearts to read this book without feeling pain for the Jews and hatred for the Nazis. I kept asking myself questions: "How could somebody do this? Who could have been so powerful to plant these thoughts and ideas in the heads of their pathetic followers?"
I recommend this book to anyone who wants to read a very powerful book. -Bailey O'Keefe, Grade 8 Oyster River Middle School, Durham, New Hampshire
O’Keefe, B. (1998, September). The Devil’s Arithmetic [Review of the book The Devil’s Arithmetic by J. Yolen]. Voices From the Middle, C5.

Ideas for Library Use

A creative way to continue Yolen’s message of remembrance would be to allow students to help make a bulletin board of memories for Holocaust victims and their families.  Include a cover shot of The Devil’s Arithmetic in the center of the bulletin board.  


Module 9 Mystery

Breaking Beautiful by Jennifer Shaw Wolf



Summary

Allie begins the novel in recovery of her car accident with her boyfriend Tripp.  Tripp doesn’t survive the accident, but he continues to haunt her with his past deeds.  He physically and mentally abused Allie throughout their relationship.   Allie can’t even look in the mirror without a reminder of Tripp.  Her face is scarred and depression keeps her in bed.  Once Allie finally returns to school she is mistreated by other students because she survived and Tripp did not.  She even receives threats in her locker.  Allie begins to seek comfort in Blake and even the new detective questions Allie’s knowledge and involvement of the accident.  Her brother tries to help Allie recover emotionally, but it becomes clear that Allie find out who is threatening her safety now.  

Bibliographic Citation

Wolf, J. S. (2012). Breaking Beautiful. New York: Walker and Company.

My Impressions of the Book

The book is creative and looks at abusive relationships through the eyes of both the victim and her family as well as the unsuspecting and judgmental public.  Allie faces the pain of her injuries and heartbreak as well the blame of her classmates.  If she shares what Tripp did to her then she looks guilty, but if she keeps the past a secret Tripp remains the town hero.  Allie’s determination to carry on is slow to build, but it is great to see her regain a sense of self.  The take away from the book is that she does have hope and with a little help she can overcome her past. 

Reviews 

Eighteen-year-old Allie's life changes in an instant when her boyfriend, Trip Phillips, drives off a cliff in small-town Pacific Cliffs. Allie survives the wreck but wishes her secret would have died with him. She is haunted by the fact that Trip was physically and emotionally abusive. She can't remember that fatal night but is sure that the incident wasn't an accident. Maybe her twin brother was trying to protect her from Trip's abuse, or maybe it was her best friend, Blake. Regardless, the case is reopened as suspicious circumstances begin to emerge, and Allie must relive that night and find the courage to speak up about the abuse even though she fears that no one will believe her. Teens will be consumed by the mystery, and romantics will hope that Allie and Blake can make it even though it seems that the town is against them. The author has done a good job of helping readers understand the accident as it is told in flashbacks yet intertwined with present-day events. The story unfolds in a convincing manner; nothing is left open-ended, which leaves readers sure that Allie is no longer in turmoil, and that she has moved forward.—Karen Alexander, Lake Fenton High School, Linden, MI

Alexander, K. (2012). Breaking Beautiful [Review of the book Breaking Beautiful, by J. S. Wolf]. School Library Journal, 58, 178

Ideas for Library Use

Breaking Beautiful is a creative mystery and would make for a fun book club read.  It could be paired with a mystery solving contest for book club members.

Monday, April 29, 2013


Module 8 Fantasy and Science Fiction

Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause



Summary

Vivian Gandillon is a werewolf and the daughter of the recently deceased pack alpha.  After losing her father Vivian and the rest of the pack are uprooted and forced to live in a new community.  She refuses to hangout with her out of control pack mates and seeks friendship at school.  She quickly falls for a human and the pack warns her against it.  It is not until she reveals herself to him that she learns their worlds are too different to continue the relationship.  However, a dangerous trap has already been set for her and she must take control of the situation save her life. 

Bibliographic Citation

Klause A. C. (1997). Blood and Chocolate. New York: Ember.

My Impressions of the Book

Vivian may begin the novel as an uncertain teenage girl with more concerns than confidence, but she battles past the loss of her father in this coming of age tale.  It has a sense of mystery about it and switches gears in latter part of the book.  Vivian is forced to care for herself and her strength shines through in the end.  Klause balances the character well by mixing in honesty and compassion as two of her traits.  It is a fun read and a little girl power never hurt anybody.

Reviews 

-Klause keeps this story powerful and sexy, reveling in the ferality of her characters and the overtones of legend; some characters are a bit predictable or indistinct, but a few—especially Vivian's human boyfriend, who thinks he wants mysticism and falls apart when he gets it—are intriguing and vivid. At heart here is a classic romance about a girl torn between the sensitive aesthete and the dark dominant enigma; fans of that genre will know where they're headed, but they'll still relish the hunt. - Deborah Stevenson, Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Stevenson, D. (1997). Blood and Chocolate (Book Review) [Review of the book Blood and Chocolate, by A. C. Klause]. Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, 50, 400.

Ideas for Library Use

Advertise a school book talk and invite students to come see why science fiction is so popular.  Use Blood and Chocolate as one of the selections in hopes to win over more girls in the genre.


Module 7 Realistic Fiction

Out of My Mind 

by Sharon Draper


Summary

Melody is an eleven year old girl with no way to express herself.  She has cerebral palsy and she cannot talk or walk.  Fellow students, teachers, and doctors mistakenly assume she is mentally challenged.  Despite all the emotional pain of such judgement Melody never lets her disability limit her goals.  She pushes herself to learn and with a little help she finds a device to enable her to communicate.  Melody begins to excel in an academic achievement group, but not everyone can except her for the wonderfully clever and brave girl she is.

Bibliographic Citation

Draper, S. M. (2010). Out of My Mind. New York: Atheneum Books.

My Impressions of the Book

Out of My Mind is an emotional read.  Draper captures the emotions of heartbreak, triumph, and love and allows the reader to join in as Melody makes a place for herself when so few believed in her.  Melody’s mother champions her daughter whether she faces negative medical experts, uninformed mentors, or hurtful people, she is always there for Melody.  The combination of personal success and a loving family unit make this book a must read for everyone.

Reviews 

-Born with cerebral palsy, Melody, 10, has never spoken a word. She is a brilliant fifth grader trapped in an uncontrollable body. Her world is enhanced by insight and intellect, but gypped by physical limitations and misunderstandings. She will never sing or dance, talk on the phone, or whisper secrets to her friends. She's not complaining, though; she's planning and fighting the odds. In her court are family, good neighbors, and an attentive student teacher. Pitted against her is the "normal" world: schools with limited resources, cliquish girls, superficial assumptions, and her own disability. Melody's life is tragically complicated. She is mainly placed in the special-ed classroom where education means being babysat in a room with replayed cartoons and nursery tunes. Her supportive family sets her up with a computer. She learns the strength of thumbs as she taps on a special keyboard that finally lets her "talk." When she is transitioned into the regular classroom, Melody's undeniable contribution enables her class to make it to the national quiz team finals. Then something happens that causes her to miss the finals, and she is devastated by her classmates' actions. Kids will benefit from being introduced to Melody and her gutsy, candid, and compelling story. It speaks volumes and reveals the quiet strength and fortitude it takes to overcome disabilities and the misconceptions that go with them.-Alison Follos, North Country School, Lake Placid, NY

Follos, A. (2010). Out of My Mind [Review of the book Out of my Mind, by S. M. Draper].  School Library Journal, 156.

Ideas for Library Use

As anti-bullying campaigns continue to help students accept one another I feel this book would be ideal for an anti-bullying challenge.  



Wintergirls 

by Laura Halse Anderson



Summary

Lia loses her friend Cassie after they make a pact to be the skinniest girls in school.  Even after Cassie dies Lia cannot shake the need to lose weight.  She counts every calorie she allows herself to consume.  Despite her mother’s insistence to see a therapist Lia still manages to manipulate others into believing she isn’t losing weight.  Only in her journal entries does Lia allow herself to be completely honest with her hunger and self hate.  It isn’t until she understands the harm she is inflicting on her family, primarily her stepsister that Lia decides to rethink her actions. 

Bibliographic Citation

Anderson, L. H. (2009). Wintergirls. New York: Penguin.

My Impressions of the Book

Wintergirls is an eyeopening novel into the world of eating disorders, from calorie counting to “thin girl” support sites.  Melody’s drive to be thin dominates the novel, but by doing so it illustrates the all consuming need for her self inflicted hunger and pain.  Her journal entries show just how badly she struggles with her thoughts with slashes eliminating her most negative thoughts.   No matter how many concerned family members show melody support, it is Melody who must decide she needs to care for herself again.  It is a moving and detailed cautionary tale.  

Reviews 

-The intensity of emotion and vivid language here are more reminiscent of Anderson's Speak (Farrar, 1999) than any of her other works. Lia and Cassie had been best friends since elementary school, and each developed her own style of eating disorder that leads to disaster. Now 18, they are no longer friends. Despite their estrangement, Cassie calls Lia 33 times on the night of her death, and Lia never answers. As events play out, Lia's guilt, her need to be thin, and her fight for acceptance unravel in an almost poetic stream of consciousness in this startlingly crisp and pitch-perfect first-person narrative. The text is rich with words still legible but crossed out, the judicious use of italics, and tiny font-size refrains reflecting her distorted internal logic. All of the usual answers of specialized treatment centers, therapy, and monitoring of weight and food fail to prevail while Lia's cleverness holds sway. What happens to her in the end is much less the point than traveling with her on her agonizing journey of inexplicable pain and her attempt to make some sense of her life.-Carol A. Edwards, Denver Public Library

Edwards, C. A. (2009). Wintergirls [Review of the book Wintergirls, by L. H. Anderson]. School Library Journal, 96.

Ideas for Library Use

It is my hope that readers will take in the novel and discuss Lia’s choices and then learn from those decisions.  With that in mind student reviews for Wintergirls could be submitted digitally or in a drop box to allow for complete anonymity.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


Module 6 Picture Books

Thunder-Boomer! 

by Shutta Crum and illustrated by Carol Thompson 


Summary

In the summer heat a family wishes for a rain storm to cool them off as they relax by the pond.  The storm arrives and they rush indoors and protect the animals as well.  The family chicken is anxious to get back outside.  She leads the family to a new furry member of the family. 

Bibliographic Citation

Crum S. (2009). Thunder-Boomer!. New York: Clarion Books.

My Impressions of the Book

Thunder-Boomer is playful. Crum joins the family together in the fast paced dash to secure everything on the farm.  The story is exciting from the first page to the end.  Thompson’s graphics reflect the urgency of the storm, but allow for funny moments and detail character emotion well.  If only all storms could be this much fun.  It makes for a fun family storytime on any thunder struck night.

Reviews 

A farm family is sweltering, hoping for "a thunder-boomer" to relieve the heat. Thompson's illustrations, done in pastels, ink, and watercolor, are full of motion and capture the sensations of the gathering clouds, the rain coming down, the intensity of the storm, and the feeling of cold wetness on the characters. The free-verse storytelling is light, airy, and perfectly matched to the drawings. Readers will enjoy the pictures of the family scurrying home as well as the one of Dad running outside to rescue a stray chicken from the downpour. The ending fully satisfies, as the children discover a wet kitten after the storm and appropriately name it Thunder-Boomer.-Adrienne Wilson, Edith Wheeler Memorial Library, Monroe, CT

Wilson, A. (2009, June 1). Thunder-Boomer! [Review of the book Thunder-Boomer! by S. Crum]. School Library Journal, 80.

Ideas for Library Use

Thunder-Boomer! would make a fun addition to an all about the weather storytime.


Module 5 Other Award Winners

One Crazy Summer 

by Rita Williams Garcia


Summary

In the summer of 1968 three sisters named Vonetta, Fern, and Delphine travel to Oakland to reunite with their estranged mother.  Life with their father and grandmother in Brooklyn is sheltered and they surprised by the differences on the west coast.  The are excited to spend time with their mother, but she sends them to community center.  In this new community the girls are introduced to Black Panther members.  They find themselves questioning why things are so different back in Brooklyn as they volunteer their time to help the Black Panthers.

Bibliographic Citation

Williams-Garcia, R. (2010). One Crazy Summer. New York: Amistad.

My Impressions of the Book

Fern, Vonetta, and Delphine all have very different personalities and they interact well together throughout the novel.  Delphine questions more than her sisters, but together they make a great team.  The girls do a good job speaking up for themselves in a strange place where they have no one to lean on as they build a relationship with their mother.  It is delightful to see their courage grow as begin to find a place for themselves.  The bond they form between themselves and their mother in the end is heartwarming and it proves important things are worth fighting for whether it’s family or rights.

Reviews 

It is 1968, and three black sisters from Brooklyn have been put on a California-bound plane by their father to spend a month with their mother, a poet who ran off years before and is living in Oakland. It's the summer after Black Panther founder Huey Newton was jailed and member Bobby Hutton was gunned down trying to surrender to the Oakland police, and there are men in berets shouting "Black Power" on the news. Delphine, 11, remembers her mother, but after years of separation she's more apt to believe what her grandmother has said about her, that Cecile is a selfish, crazy woman who sleeps on the street. At least Cecile lives in a real house, but she reacts to her daughters' arrival without warmth or even curiosity. Instead, she sends the girls to eat breakfast at a center run by the Black Panther Party and tells them to stay out as long as they can so that she can work on her poetry. Over the course of the next four weeks, Delphine and her younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, spend a lot of time learning about revolution and staying out of their mother's way. Emotionally challenging and beautifully written, this book immerses readers in a time and place and raises difficult questions of cultural and ethnic identity and personal responsibility. With memorable characters (all three girls have engaging, strong voices) and a powerful story, this is a book well worth reading and rereading.-Teri Markson, Los Angeles Public Library

Markson, T. (2010). One Crazy Summer [Review of the book One Crazy Summer, by R. Williams-Garcia]. School Library Journal, 170.

Ideas for Library Use

One Crazy Summer would make a great  addition to a diversity workshop.  It is a great example of how we can all work together and it’s important to fight for that.



Where Things Come Back 

by John Corey Whaley


Summary

Brothers, Cullen and Gabriel Witter are very close, but just as the town is over come with interest in an extinct bird Gabriel vanishes.  Cullen’s friend Lucas stands by his side during Gabriel’s disappearance.  Together they try to force the community to focus on Gabriel rather than the Lazarus bird.  Cullen finds love, but he is left with a sense of emptiness without his brother.

Bibliographic Citation

Whaley, J. C. (2011). Where Things Come Back. New York: Antheneum Books.

My Impressions of the Book

Whaley cleverly writes the novel from multiple viewpoints and guides the stories together in an intermingled catastrophe.  Two very different stories allow for a surprise trigger that sets the entire event of Gabriel’s disappearance into motion.  The relationships are a true testament to friendship and brotherhood.  There couldn’t be more detail packed into a short novel.  This is an absolute must read.  

Reviews 

Cullen observes the events unfolding around him with the lyrical voice of a writer; he looks for connections among the details of the frayed lives of his family and friends and weaves his fantasies in with his narration of actual events. . . . Thoughtful readers will appreciate this coming-of-age story overlaid with a ripped-from-the-headlines mystery and enfolded in a larger narrative about great expectations, loss, and acceptance of the ordinary. -Karen Coats

Coats, K. (2011). Where Things Come Back [Review of the book Where Things Come Back, by J. C. Whaley]. Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, 64, 445.

Ideas for Library Use

Where Things Come Back could be used as a challenge book for a high school reading list.  As a Michael Printz winner it would help broaden young adult reading skills and encourage lifelong reading.


Module 4 Newbery Winners

The Witch of Blackbird Pond 

by Elizabeth George Speare


Summary

In 1687, sixteen year old, Kit Tyler moves to Wethersfield, Connecticut from Barbados following her grandfather’s death.  Kit’s aunt Rachel convinces her husband to take Kit in as one of their own.  However, Kit is not accustomed to Puritan ways and struggles to fit into the community.  She goes to church with the family and joins them in daily chores.  Kit befriends a Quaker named Hannah and community members begin to wonder if Kit is also a witch like Hannah.  Her fiancé  even falls to community pressure and stops visiting Kit.  Only Nate a young sailor stands by her side when her family is helpless in the matter.  

Bibliographic Citation

Speare, E. G. (1958).  The Witch of Blackbird Pond. New York: Sandpiper.

My Impressions of the Book

The Witch of Blackbird Pond is a bold imaging of what it must have been like to live in a community where individual differences lead to witchcraft accusations.  Kit is a brave young girl who accepts her new life with chores, a new religion, and loss.  Speare manages to create Kit’s character in a way that makes her courageous and fragile at the same time.  She will follow a new religion, push herself to finish men’s work, and she speaks her mind.  Yet, Kit is shaken as she meets Hannah and sees her poor living conditions.  Kit and Hannah both enjoy the meadow and form a bond.  Kit also helps a young girl named Prudence by giving her private lessons when her mother won’t allow her to attend school.  The Witch of Blackbird Pond  is a great read.  It allows readers to slip into the witch trials with the glaringly painful view of the accused and questions whether judging others is right. 

Reviews 

Somehow I never read this one as a kid, and that fact hasn’t bothered me.  But if you check out the 90-Second Newbery video of this title at the end of this post, you’ll be forced to agree with me when I say . . . where can I get that book?
School Library Journal described the plot as, “The setting is the Colony of Connecticut in 1687 amid the political and religious conflicts of that day. Sixteen-year-old Kit Tyler unexpectedly arrives at her aunt and uncle’s doorstep and is unprepared for the new world which awaits her. Having been raised by her grandfather in Barbados, she doesn’t understand the conflict between those loyal to the king and those who defend the Connecticut Charter. Unprepared for the religious intolerance and rigidity of the Puritan community, she is constantly astounding her aunt, uncle, and cousins with her dress, behavior, and ideas. She takes comfort in her secret friendship with the widow, Hannah Tupper, who has been expelled from Massachusetts because she is a Quaker and suspected of being a witch. When a deathly sickness strikes the village, first Hannah and then Kit are accused of being witches. Through these conflicts and experiences, Kit comes to know and accept herself. She learns not to make hasty judgments about people, and that there are always two sides to every conflict.”
This was Speare’s second children’s novel. Silvey says that with this book, “After spending a year and a half working on the novel, Speare sent it to Mary Silva Cosgrave, the editor who had rescued her first book, Calico Captive, from a pile of unsolicited manuscripts. Cosgrave found the manuscript for The Witch of Blackbird Pond to be the most perfectly crafted she had ever seen. Because Speare had been so thorough in her research and in the way she had pieced the book together, Cosgrave suggested only one minor correction before the book went to press.”
It won the Newbery, of course, beating out The Family Under The Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson, Along Came A Dog by Meindert Dejong, Chucaro: Wild Pony of the Pampa by Francis Kalnay, and The Perilous Road by William O. Steele. But Silvey reports a shocking piece of news about that committee. “Although the details of the Newbery’s selection process usually remain confidential, the chair of the committee revealed that The Witch of Blackbird Pond won the Newbery Medal unanimously on the first ballot, an extremely rare event.” No secrets that year, I see.

Bird, E. (2012, May 30). Top 100 Children’s Novels # 36: The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. [Review of the book The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by E. G. Speare]. School Library Journal, Retrieved from http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/2012/05/30/top-100-childrens-novels-36-the-witch-of-blackbird-pond-by-elizabeth-george-speare/

Ideas for Library Use

The Witch of Blackbird Pond can be used to compare the view of history without glances into personal life and the special perspective of reading historical fiction with a close examination of character views.



A Wrinkle in Time 

by Madeleine L’Engle


Summary

A Wrinkle in Time follows Meg’s journey to find her missing scientist father through time and space.  Meg travels with her friend Calvin O’Keefe and her brother Charles Wallace.  Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Which, and Mrs. Who help them understand the perils of the universe and guide them on their adventure.  Charles is the clever member of the group and he understands more of what these “women” have to share with them.  They are up against a very serious darkness in the universe and the children are fighting for more than Dr. Wallace’s return.

Bibliographic Citation

L’Engle, M. (1962). A Wrinkle in Time. New York: Square Fish.

My Impressions of the Book

A Wrinkle in Time is inventive and ahead of it’s time.  It focuses on family and friendship with good triumphing over evil.  The sense of camaraderie is strong in the group and as the odds continue to mount against the children and their guides you can’t help but cheer them on to victory.  The family continues to believe that their father will return and they don’t allow gossip and negativity to crush their dreams.  It’s definitely an uplifting read and I recommend it to everyone.

Reviews 

There's a reason that A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle has been a favorite for so many years. Who doesn't like a good old-fashioned struggle between good and evil?
A Wrinkle in Time is a fantasy novel about Meg Murry and her brilliant little brother, Charles Wallace. They must travel through different dimensions of time and space, known as "wrinkling" or "tessering," to free their scientist father from the control of a nasty brain called IT on the planet Camazotz.
One stormy night, the siblings meet three peculiar beings named Mrs. Which, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Whatsit. These women push Meg and Charles along on their journey. The women explain that a great evil called the Dark Thing threatens the universe. Several planets have already surrendered to this evil force, including Camazotz, the planet on which Mr. Murry is imprisoned.
Mrs. Which tells Meg that she has one thing that IT does not have, and this will be Meg's weapon against evil. But Meg must discover what this weapon is for herself.
A Wrinkle in Time is about the ultimate triumph of love in the battle of good and evil. I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes the fantasy genre and enjoys a good battle.
Wallarab, T. (2008, October 13). A Wrinkle in Time. [Review of the book A Wrinkle in Time by M. L’Engle]. Scholastic Scope, 15.

Ideas for Library Use

This Newbery winner should be displayed up front and center to represent Newbery and other award winners.

Saturday, April 27, 2013


Module 3 Caldecott Winners

Song and Dance Man 

by Karen Ackerman and illustrated by Stephen Gammell



Summary

Grandpa dazzles his grandchildren with a rendition of his performance from his past as a song and dance man.

Bibliographic Citation

Ackerman, K. (1988). Song and Dance Man. New York: Random House.

My Impressions of the Book

The children are enthralled by their grandfather’s routine, but it is not his talent as a dancer that makes Ackerman’s story special.  It is the gentle way he cares for his grandchildren and the tender moment when he assures them that the time he spends with them is more special to him than his time dancing at the Vaudeville stage.  Gammell’s artistry creates a dreamlike state as if the grandchildren and readers can see Grandpa on the stage.  

Reviews 

Gammell's animated, crisp, colored pencil line drawings enhance this story of Grandpa, who was famous for his vaudeville song and dance. Clever details of his and his grandchildrens' personalities are consciously delineated as he now performs on his attic stage. The shadow and the performer, transformed by his art, complement the text tenderly. The spirit of song and dance are reflected in the careful placement of drawings and text; five times they stretch voluminously across double-page spreads, although the text is always legible. It is also poetic at times. The accurate depiction of old age and the magic of the theater rhythmically combine like a dance with a solid beginning, middle, and end. It offers enchantment for children and for the person of any age who reads it to them. In its entirety, this glimpse into a unique, artistic personality offers a sweet reminder of the joy in the diversity of people, much like Blos' memorable Old Henry (Morrow, 1987). In boldness, realism, and linear strength, the illustrations are reminiscent of Steig's Amos and Boris (Farrar, 1971), which is also about individuality and acceptance. However, the persistence of memory and the acceptance of individuality are sophisticated concepts. The book's only weakness is that it may too often be set aside by adults looking for something easier to digest. -Gratia Banta, Germantown Public Library, Dayton, Ohio

Banta, G. (1989). Song and Dance Man (Book Review) [Review of the book Song and Dance Man, by K. Ackerman]. School Library Journal, 35, 58.

Ideas for Library Use

The Song and Dance Man would be ideal for an activity display.  While the story is fun and heartwarming the illustrations are interesting and set the cover apart from others with the color pencil detail.



The Hello, Goodbye Window 

by Norton Juster and illustrated by Chris Raschka




Summary

Nanna and Poppy’s granddaughter shares her love for her grandparents as she describes the fun activities she embarks on with her grandparents.  Her grandparents are often in the kitchen and she enjoys interacting with them through the window as well.  She waves hello and goodbye, plays hide and seek, and checks the weather with them.

Bibliographic Citation

Juster, N. (2005). The Hello, Goodbye Window. New York: Michael Di Capua Books/ Hyperion Books for Children

My Impressions of the Book

The Hello, Goodbye Window is just plain fun.  It is a reminder of how wonderful each moment with grandparents can be.  There is nothing like being chased by your grandfather with the water hose while you beg for mercy, but later plead for more.  The granddaughter makes spending time with her grandmother in the garden adventurous when she imagines an alley cat is a tiger.  Is is an ode to the little things that make family so precious.   

Reviews 

–The window in Nanna and Poppy's kitchen is no ordinary window–it is the place where love and magic happens. It's where the girl and her doting grandparents watch stars, play games, and, most importantly, say hello and goodbye. The first-person text is both simple and sophisticated, conjuring a perfectly child-centered world. Sentences such as "When I get tired I come in and take my nap and nothing happens until I get up" typify the girl's happy, imaginative world. While the language is bouncy and fun, it is the visual interpretation of this sweet story that sings. Using a bright rainbow palette of saturated color, Raschka's impressionistic, mixed-media illustrations portray a loving, mixed-race family. The artwork is at once lively and energetic, without crowding the story or the words on the page; the simple lines and squiggles of color suggest a child's own drawings, but this is the art of a masterful hand. Perfect for lap-sharing, this book will find favor with children and adults alike.–Angela J. Reynolds, Washington County Cooperative Library Services, Hillsboro, OR

Reynolds, A. J. (2005). The Hello, Goodbye Window [Review of the book The Hello, Goodbye Window, by N. Juster]. School Library Journal, 174.

Ideas for Library Use

The Hello, Goodbye Window focuses on how special the protagonist’s grandparents are to her.  This book would make a great discussion starter for a who is special to you storytime.




Sunday, April 21, 2013


Module 2 Classic Children’s and Young Adult Literature

Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day 

by Judy Viorst and illustrated by Ray Cruz



Summary

Alexander stumbles from one bad event to another all day long.  He is the only kid without a cereal prize, a window seat on the way to school, and a dessert for lunch.  He is picked on and blamed for fights.  Alexander simply cannot turn the day around.  

Bibliographic Citation

Viorst, J. (1972). Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. New York: Antheneum Books.

My Impressions of the Book

We’ve all had bad days.  Days when nothing seems to go right and our feelings overwhelm us when it’s all too much.  Children and adults alike can relate to Alexander’s emotional state.  Alexander’s mother tries to reassure him with the knowledge that some days don’t go our way.  This book allows readers to relax and laugh at the things that frustrated Alexander.  It’s comforting to know that everyone experiences these days and each new day may be a brighter, happier day.

Reviews 

Alexander's day may be awful for him, but it is pure enjoyment for 5- to 9-year-olds. ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY scores high on the reality meter; just about any school-age child has had at least one terrible, horrible day. As a bedtime read for any kid who has just had one of those days, this one's a winner--it's almost guaranteed to chase away the blues. When it was read to a group of 5- and 6-year-olds, it was hard to tell who was having more fun, the adult reader or the audience of giggling kids.
The plot, though simple, presents an interesting take on everyday childhood problems. The text is written in a conversational style from the viewpoint of a young boy, so it's by far more entertainment than English lesson. Ray Cruz's black-and-white line drawings lend themselves well to the story's mood. Cruz has an undeniable knack for realism, and he captures Alexander's emotions wonderfully.
LeCompte, M. (2013). Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. [Review of the book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by J. Viorst]. Common Sense Media, Retrieved from http://www.commonsensemedia.org/book- reviews/alexander-and-the-terrible-horrible-no-good-very-bad-day

Ideas for Library Use

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day could be used to help children understand and express their feelings.  

Are You There, God, It’s Me, Margaret 

by Judy Bloom



Summary

Margaret finds herself questioning aspects of her life after she moves to the suburbs.  Margaret and her friends form a club and discuss topics like boys, periods, and religion.  She is very curious about religion because she has a Jewish father and a Christian mother, but no religion of her own. 

Bibliographic Citation

Blume, J. (1970). Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. New York: Random House.

My Impressions of the Book

The novel is open and honest with each subject Judy Blume tackles.  It is refreshing to see a young character strive to find her place in the world as she opens her heart to both Christianity and  Judaism.  Margaret looks for the positive in life rather than focusing on the heartache that has been created by her maternal grandparents.  These challenging moments are lightened by the humorous banter between friends and the all important conversations of preteen girls.  
  

Reviews 

In her June/July 1999 American Libraries article “Places I Never Meant to Be: A Personal View”, Ms. Blume says of writing this story, “I wrote Are You There God ? It’s Me, Margaret right out of my own experiences and feelings when I was in 6th grade. Controversy wasn’t on my mind. I wanted only to write what I knew to be true. I wanted to write the best, the most honest books I could, the kinds of books I would have liked to read when I was younger. If someone had told me then I would become one of the most banned writers in America, I’d have laughed.”
The synopsis from the publisher reads, “No one ever told Margaret Simon that eleven-going-on- twelve would be such a hard age. When her family moves to New Jersey, she has to adjust to life in the suburbs, a different school, and a whole new group of friends. Margaret knows she needs someone to talk to about growing up-and it’s not long before she’s found a solution. ‘Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret. I can’t wait until two o’clock God. That’s when our dance starts. Do you think I’ll get Philip Leroy for a partner? It’s not so much that I like him as a person God, but as a boy he’s very handsome. And I’d love to dance with him… just once or twice. Thank you God.’ ”
This was Ms. Blume’s third book (#1 was The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo and #2 Iggie’s House), but her first big seller. It was a relative hit when it first came out, but according to Twentieth Century Young Adult Writers, “it was only when the book appeared in paperback in 1974 that the hundreds of letters became thousands, all of them from readers who saw themselves and their lives reflected perfectly in Margaret’s story.”
It was probably also the earliest Blume title that has been routinely challenged and banned. American Writers for Children Since 1960: Fiction says that, “Attempts at censoring the book have continued throughout its lifetime; the Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom reports that it has been charged with ‘denigrating religion and parental authority’ and being ’sexually offensive and amoral’.” Ms. Blume says of her first experiences with banning, “. . . one night the phone rang and a woman asked if I was the one who had written that book. When I replied that I was, she called me a communist and hung up. I never did figure out if she equated communism with breast development or religion.”

Bird, E. (2012, May 19). Top 100 Children’s Novels #74: Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret? by Judy Blume [Review of the book Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, by J. Blume]. School Library Journal, Retrieved from http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/2012/05/19/top-100-childrens-novels-74-are-you-there-god-its-me-margaret-by-judy-blume/#_

Ideas for Library Use

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret would be a wonderful addition to a girl’s book club for ages 10 to 13 or presented as an optional read in health class.  It discusses the changes girls face as they step into their teenage years and it is sometimes easier to read about these issues.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Module 1 Introduction to Children’s Literature

Guess How Much I Love You 

by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram




Summary

Guess How Much I Love You is about the measurement of love between a parent and child.  The child “Little Nutbrown Hare” wants to express his love for “Big Nutbrown Hare” and Big NutBrown Hare counters each declaration of love with an even greater amount of love in a similar fashion.  

Bibliographic Citation

McBratney, S. (1994). Guess How Much I Love You. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick.

My Impressions of the Book

The book easily expresses the feelings between a child and a parent.  The father’s love is always greater than the child’s love for his father.  It is not that the son or daughter is incapable of such love, but the love a parent holds for his or her children is never ending.  The book says what we all feel as parents, that no matter how much our children love us or how much time has past, our love for our children will always grow and it is limitless.  It is a lovely reading selection for storytime between a parent and a child.  The story conveys the importance of the family relationship and expresses love so much more powerfully than using the simple words “I love you”.

Review

In this simple story, a father and son try to outdo one another in expressing their affection. Little Nutbrown Hare says that he loves his father as high as he can reach. Big Nutbrown Hare replies that he loves his son as high as he can reach--which is very high. Father seems to be winning--until the young rabbit tells dad that he loves him right up to the moon--which his father agrees is very far away. But as he kisses his son goodnight, he replies, `Ì love you right up to the moon--and back.'' The watercolor illustrations are composed of scratchy lines and large areas of watery washes that are charming, but not too sweet. Large typeface and repetitive refrains invite beginning readers. It's refreshing and realistic to see a father and son relationship that is both competitive and loving.--Karen K. Radtke, Milwaukee Public Library

Radtke, K. K. (1995). Guess how much I love you [Review of the book Guess How Much I Love You, by S. McBratney].  School Library Journal, 41, 86.

Ideas for Library Use

Guess How Much I Love You would be an excellent addition to a family themed storytime in a school library or a perfect choice for a Valentine’s Day read along.