"A library book, I imagine, is a happy book." Cornelia Funke

"Everything puts me in mind of a story." Ben Franklin

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata

The Thing About Luck by Cynthia Kadohata, 2013.

In this quiet and unusual story, 12 year old Japanese-American Summer spends the summer helping her family harvest wheat around the country. Her parents have been called to Japan to take care of aged relatives, so Summer is travelling with her strict grandparents, her unpopular and quirky younger brother and her beloved dog. She expects to help her Obaachan (grandmother) cook meals for the harvesting crew, but she doesn't suspect that a boy that she's known for years has become really attractive and she doesn't plan on her Jiichan (grandfather) getting too sick to drive the combine and maybe not get the wheat harvested before the rain comes. Summer's mom told her that a lot changes in the summer before seventh grade, but Summer didn't realize that she'd have to get along with prickly Obaachan, worry about her brother, deal with her fear of/obsession with mosquitoes and malaria and possibly save her family's jobs.

Kadohata's strong characterizations make this book a great read. Summer is a thoughtful girl who loves her family, who makes mistakes and learns to face her fears. Summer's brother Jaz is an unusual boy who has had three different psychological diagnoses, but to Summer, he's just her intense brother and she hopes that he can find friends. Obaachan and Jiichan, while funny when they quarrel, are multi-dimensional people and not just comic relief.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Platypus Police Squad: The Frog Who Croaked

Platypus Police Squad: The Frog Who Croaked by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, 2013.

This fun read is like a mild version of your favorite cop show with all of the characters played by animals. Immediately after young Rick Zengo joins the Platypus Police Squad he and his older partner O'Malley are drawn into a case with a missing frog, Professor Hopper, and a possible illegal fish buy gone bad. Suspects range from Pandini, the son of a former crime kingpin who seems to be improving the city in every way, to rich high school sports hero Blake Cameron (who also happens to be dating O'Malley's daughter) to club bouncer and boxer Joey. TV stereotypes abound, but are given a tongue-in-cheek, child friendly twist. Expressive greyscale illustrations add charm to the story, but don't always match text descriptions. The second book in this series, The Ostrich Conspiracy is already available.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Boy on the Porch by Sharon Creech

The Boy on the Porch by Sharon Creech, 2013.

In a small farming community, in an undetermined time, a young couple find a boy asleep on their porch. He seems to be about six to eight years old and is unable to speak. There is a note in his pocket that says that his people will return for him, but when? John and Marta quickly become attached to the special boy, but how long can they be a family?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Summer Family Storytime: Keep Healthy!

Our library teamed up with Public Health and did a program on staying healthy, focusing on being active, eating well, hygiene, dental health, etc.

Book Possibilities:

Move! by Steve Jenkins & Robin Page: shows how animals get around, can be used with this action rhyme to get kids moving:


Can you hop like a rabbit? (hop on one foot)
Can you jump like a frog? (jump up & down)
Can you walk like a duck? (waddle, arms like wings)
Can you run like a dog? (run in place)
Can you fly like a bird? (flap arms)
Can you swim like a fish? (swim with arms)
And be still and listen, just like this? (sit down, hands folded)

Gorgonzola: a Very Stinkysaurus by Margie Palatini, Illus. by Tim Bowers: Gorgonzola is the worst dinosaur of them all, but that is because he is the dirtiest.

Get Well, Good Knight by Shelley Moore Thomas, Illus. by Jennifer Plecas: The three little dragons are sick and need care to get better. Good Knight to the rescue!


Whose Teeth are These? by Joanne Randolph: Kids must guess what animal has the teeth shown in each photo.

Clarabella's Teeth by An Vrombaut: Clarabella the crocodile takes so long to brush her teeth that there's no time left to do anything else!

Music & Activities:

I  used some songs from Jim Gill's CD The Sneezing Song and Other Contagious Tunes, "Silly Dance Contest" and "Spaghetti Legs." These are always popular, even among scoffers who want "cool" music.

I also found a good activity from http://www.k-3teacherresources.com/action-words.html . They provide 42 action words and this game:

 'Well we walk, and we walk, and we walk and STOP (freeze), and then we stomp, and we stomp, and we stomp and STOP (freeze), yes we hop, and we hop, and we hop and STOP (freeze), and then we wave, and we wave, and we wave and STOP (freeze)... and so on.

I made flash cards of the words to hand out to the kids.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

When the Beat Was Born by Laban Carrick Hill

When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop by Laban Carrick Hill, Illus. by Theodore Taylor III, 2013.

In a few sentences per page, Hill tells the story of music-loving Little Clive, a Jamaican transplanted to New York City. As a teen, he had ambitions to become a house party DJ  like his childhood hero DJ King George. So, he and his sister threw hot parties in the Bronx. He became DJ Kool Herc.  This led to him developing a style in which he would use more than one turntable to make seconds-long breaks in songs last at least twenty minutes. He chanted over the music and called out his friends' names.  His music became super popular, and people, including members of street gangs, began to do athletic break-dancing. He started Hip Hop music, which spawned rap and launched performers such as Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Flash and Kurtis Blow.

Hill has included a time line from 1973, when DJ Kool Herc deejayed at his sister's birthday party, to 1986, when the Beastie Boys Licensed to Ill came out, marking the release of mainstream hip hop. There is also a bibliography of books, film and websites for further exploration.

The information is delivered in a picture book format, with lively illustrations by Theodore Taylor III.

Serafina's Promise by Ann E. Burg

Serafina's Promise by Ann E. Burg, 2013.

In this novel in verse, readers meet Serafina, an eleven year old who lives in a poor rural village in Haiti and dreams of becoming a doctor. She wants to go to school like her friend Nadia, but her Manman is expecting a baby and depends on her help at home. Serafina hopes she can convince her parents that she can keep up with her chores and also get an education. She knows that she can find a way to earn enough money to buy a uniform and schoolbooks. In spite of her determination, the young girl will face monumental challenges including natural disasters that have devastating impact on her neighborhood and family.

Readers will care about Serafina and marvel at her spirit in the face of tremendous hardships.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein

Escape From Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein, 2013.

For kids who like puzzles, reading and libraries, this book is a sure winner. Kyle loves playing the games invented by his hero, Mr. Lemoncello. He's not much of a reader, but when he learns that a new public library designed by Lemoncello is opening in his hometown, he'll do anything to be part of the grand-opening lock-in. He'll even write an essay about why he finds the library exciting. Soon, he and eleven other twelve year olds are spending the night in the fantastic space playing games, competing for prizes and watching Mozart play music with Metallica in the building's IMAX theater. In the morning, the kids know that the lock -in is over, but why won't the doors unlock? Kyle and his friends have a chance to be part of a Lemoncello game with a very cool prize, but to win it they need to figure out how to get out of the library. Kyle is going for it, but so is his best friend Akimi, bookworm Sierra, library fans Miguel and Andrew and smarmy, privileged Charles Chiltington, among others.

Readers will enjoy the many nods to their favorite authors and books. They will wish that their libraries also had a Wonder Dome, holographic tigers and authors, a Story Corner with animatronic geese,and all of the snazzy surprises of Lemoncello's library. Librarians will smile over the character of the red headed, red suited Dr. Yanina Zichenko, "...the most famous librarian in the whole world!" And everyone will like trying to solve the challenging puzzles that Kyle and company must work through in order to win!

Friday, July 18, 2014

My Weird Writing Tips by Dan Gutman

My Weird Writing Tips by Dan Gutman, Illustrated by Jim Paillot, 2013.

Author of the My Weird School series, Dan Gutman, has put together a kid-friendly guide to writing and sounding less like a "dumbhead."

His honest and humorous voice keeps his writing lively. Section headers like: "You're going to hate this part," "How not to bore people to death," and "Kill the adjectives!" grab readers' attention. Kids will be happy to see familiar characters from the My Weird School books, A.J. and Andrea (drawn by Jim Paillot), comment on Gutman's suggestions and snark back and forth.

From harpercollinschildrens.tumblr.com

Gutman's guide gives suggestions for writing stories and non-fiction, from finding ideas to writing in proper form. He encourages kids that anyone can write a story, even if they are themselves very boring. Using the setting of "your mouth" and the character of a germ, he walks readers through building a story from scratch. He then reveals his "secrets" of revising and perfecting it. In a fun and gentle way, he shows kids how to improve their writing, talking about grammar, punctuation and spelling errors, but never comes off like a grammar textbook. Along the way he inserts short quotations by literary greats such as Kurt Vonnegut, James Michner, Toni Morrison and William Safire.

Young writers will enjoy learning from Gutman's accessible writing guide.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Adventures of a South Pole Pig by Chris Kurtz

The Adventures of a South Pole Pig: a Novel Of Snow and Courage by Chris Kurtz, Illus. by Jennifer Black Reinhardt, 2013.

Flora the piglet is not like her brothers. They may be happy staying in their pen, eating and napping, but Flora wants more out of life. When she learns that the farm dogs are being trained as sled dogs and preparing for expeditions, she realizes that she's found her dream, When men suddenly come and take her to the ship the Explorer, Flora just knows that she's been chosen to be a sled pig, and will do her team proud. So what if she's been put in the rat infested cargo hold? This plucky pig knows how to make new friends and keep herself in shape. With her winning ways and positive attitude, Flora plans to fulfill her ambitions and readers will love and admire her for it.

Reinhardt's adorable black and white illustrations make the book even better. Her expressive pictures show the sled dogs' pleasure and pride, Flora's cat friends' affection and haughtiness and the porcine heroine's many moods, from befuddled to sad and tired to overjoyed.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Scaly Spotted Feathered Frilled: How Do We Know What the Dinosaurs Really Looked Like?

Scaly Spotted Feathered Frilled: How Do We Know What the Dinosaurs Really Looked Like? by Catherine Thimmesh, 2013.

After reading this outstanding book by Sibert medalist Thimmesh, I learned that  nearly everything that I was taught in elementary school about dinosaurs was incomplete or just wrong. In pre 1975 class, I was told that dinos were cold blooded, related to reptiles, slow moving and stood upright with dragging tails. I learned about a creature called a Brontosaurus. And I was terrified of the Pterodactyl and had nightmares where one giant eye looked into my window before it carried away my house.

With the exception of my fear of winged dinosaurs, views on all of the above dinosaur "facts" have changed greatly and this book is full of them. Did you know that more than 700 species of dinosaurs have been identified? Or that the Brontosaurus' correct name is now the Apatasaurus? Or that dinos have both bird and reptile relatives and like them, they have no facial muscles? Thimmesh explains how scientists and amateur fossil hunters have made discoveries of bones, fossils and mummified animals that help them make very strong educated guesses about how the creatures moved, what they ate, what their skin was like (T-Rex may have been feathered!) and even what colors they may have been.

The book is dramatically illustrated by current paleoartists Sylvia & Stephen Czerkas, Mark Hallett, Tyler Keillor, Greg Paul and John Sibbick. Fascinating contrast with their work is provided by the inclusion of 19th century dinosaur art by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins and Charles R. Knight. These pictures underscore the evolution of our knowledge of dinosaurs and their lives. The endpapers show a timeline of the Mesozoic era and a breakdown of the three major dinosaur groups: Theropods, Sauropodomorphs and Ornithischians. Additional reading suggestions and a glossary are included.

Anyone with curiosity and an imagination for dinosaurs will love this book.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Wild Boy: the Real Life of the Savage of Aveyron by Mary Losure

Wild Boy: the Real Life of the Savage of Aveyron by Mary Losure, Illus. by Timothy Basil Ering.  2013.

Losure's story of the wild boy begins in southern France in 1797. A lone 9 year old child lives in the forest, summer and winter, taking care of himself. He goes naked, has no tools and avoids the nearby village. A few times he is caught by people and brought into town, but he always escapes until 1800, when he is admitted to an orphanage by a village official. He is unable to speak, but is not "deaf and dumb" as is at first thought. The boy draws the attention of priest, professor and scientist Pierre-Joseph Bonnaterre, who has a mind to study him. So begins years of attention from people who want to examine and educate him, but not necessarily love him.

In her touching narrative non-fiction, Losure shows Victor the Savage of Aveyron as a person of strong emotions, who in spite of his unusual life, is primarily a joyful soul who wants to please the people that take care of him. Readers will feel compassion for the child who was left alone in the woods for unknown reasons and who only knew the outdoor life, but who suddenly lost his familiar world and couldn't understand why. Although Victor's story seems a melancholy one, Losure notes that the methods used to teach him were later helpful for schooling thousands of children who had previously been considered unreachable, as well as influencing Maria Montessori in her famous education methods.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

A Splash of Red: the Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant

A Splash of Red: the Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant, Illus. by Melissa Sweet, 2013.

I had never heard of Horace Pippin, and perhaps I am not alone. This title took care of that oversight. Admired and promoted by N.C. Wyeth, Pippin was an important self-taught African American artist. He was born in the late 1800s and loved to draw with charcoal and paint pictures from childhood until his creativity was temporarily arrested by World War I. He was wounded in the trenches and his right arm was badly damaged. Still, he returned home to the United States, married, and taught himself to draw again by supporting his right hand with his left wrist and using a hot poker to burn drawings into wood. Using this method, and strengthening his arm, he began to paint again. He hoped to sell his works for $5.00 per painting. His art hung in a shoe store window, and soon he was discovered, had his own art show and his public career as an artist was made.

Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet closely collaborated on this book, researching Horace Pippin together and visiting his home in West Chester, Pennsylvania. They clearly have love for their subject. Further reading, websites and sources of Horace Pippin's quotes are included. Sweet's watercolor, gouache and collage illustrations are inspired by Pippin's work, and she includes some of his quotations in her pictures. The back endpaper is a map of the places that you can see Pippin's art.

You can also view many of Horace Pippin's paintings here: http://www.museumsyndicate.com/artist.php?artist=213