Wednesday, December 29, 2010

All The Things I Love About You by LeUyen Pham

Amazon Product Description:
There are oh so many things a mom loves about her young child. But most of all, she just loves him, no matter what.
Bestselling author and illustrator LeUyen Pham combines her experience as a mother and her proven storytelling skills in a humorous and heartfelt love letter of a book. In All the Things I Love About You, Mama lists the reasons she loves her little boy: the way his hair sticks up in the morning, the way he says "Mama" (even in the middle of the night), and the way he laughs. Simply written and beautifully illustrated, All the Things I Love About You honestly speaks to the unconditional love between a mother and her child. Children and parents alike will treasure this heartwarming book and, in reading it together, appreciate the small actions that make love grow stronger every day.

This is another feel good story with delightful illustrations. Even though the story is about the love a mother has for her little boy, it could just as easily be about a little girl.  It’s simple, yet beautiful description of unconditional love.  It would make an excellent present for a new mom or an experienced mom.

Recommended for Pre-school through Second Grade.

Mrs. Archer’s Rating: 5 of 5.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Of Thee I Sing by Barack Obama

Goodreads description:

In this tender, beautiful letter to his daughters, President Barack Obama has written a moving tribute to thirteen groundbreaking Americans and the ideals that have shaped our nation. From the artistry of Georgia O'Keeffe, to the courage of Jackie Robinson, to the patriotism of George Washington, President Obama sees the traits of these heroes within his own children, and within all of America’s children.

Breathtaking, evocative illustrations by award-winning artist Loren Long at once capture the personalities and achievements of these great Americans and the innocence and promise of childhood.

This beautiful book celebrates the characteristics that unite all Americans, from our nation’s founders to generations to come. It is about the potential within each of us to pursue our dreams and forge our own paths. It is a treasure to cherish with your family forever.

There was a great deal of hoopla over this book on the library listservs I follow.  Of course that made it almost impossible to read this book objectively.  What was frustrating about the discussions on the listservs  was that they focused not on the quality of the book, but on 1.) as president what was he doing writing a book when he should have been running the country and 2.) did he really write the book – of course he had to have had a ghostwriter.

President Obama may be the first sitting president to release a book, but I could not find anywhere that said the book was written after he took office. Personally, I don’t really care when he wrote it. That’s a political issue and this is a children’s book.  Books for children should not be political.

As for whether or not he wrote the book or just added his name – I honestly don’t know. I couldn’t find any authoritative sources one way or the other.  It’s not uncommon for well-known people to lend their name to a work in order to increase sales or what not. Many politicians have certainly done so.

All of the political grumblings aside, the question remains, is this a good book?

I think so. It’s a feel good story for young children. It provides a very positive message, something we all want for our children.  The illustrations are beautiful.

My favorite line is

“Have I told you lately how wonderful you are?
How the sound of your feet
running from afar
brings dancing rhythms to my day?
How you laugh
and sunshine spills into the room?”

My political views do not follow President Obama’s, but I didn’t find this book to be a political statement.  Rather, it is a positive book to share with children (not a bad one for adults either), but be sure when you pick up this book you put down your political opinions and read the book for what it is – a feel good book for children.

Recommended for Kindergarten to 3rd grade.

Mrs. Archer’s rating: 5 of 5.

Monday, December 27, 2010

2011 Colorado Children's Book Award Nominee - Snoring Beauty by Bruce Hale

Bruce Hale's Snoring Beauty has been nominated for the 2011 Colorado Children's Book Award. It's a cute book with a different take on a favorite fairy tale.  

Goodreads description:

Everyone knows the story of Sleeping Beauty: A handsome prince rescues a beautiful princess from a wicked fairy's terrible sleeping spell.
This story is just like the original. Except for the sarcastic frog narrator, the garlic-scented fairy, and—oh yeah—the princess in this book not only sleeps and snores . . . she's also been turned into a hot-pink and purple dragon! 

Recommended for Kindergarten to 3rd Grade.

Mrs. Archer's rating: 4 of 5

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Saturday Snapshot - December 25th

Saturday Snapshot is a weekly meme hosted by AlyceAt Home With BooksAll we have to do is post a favorite we’ve snapped, or one captured by family or friends.

I collect Santas and Snowmen. This is baker Santa is my new addition for this year.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Battle of the Books Friday - When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

When You Reach Me has been suggested for the 2011-2012 Pikes Peak Battle of the Books list.  It is the 2010 Newbery winner and one of my favorite reads from 2010.

Over the years I’ve found myself disappointed numerous times over the winners picked by the Newbery committee. That’s not to say that I don’t have some favorite books that happen to be a Newbery (HolesNumber The StarsThe Messenger, and The Graveyard Book, to name just a few). Lately, however, I feel as though the committee tends to forget that a book written for children has to appeal to children or they are never going to read it. If a book doesn’t meet that criteria, then it shouldn’t even be considered for the award. Those of you, who know me, have heard all of this before. So I’ll try not to get on my soapbox. Last year I was pleasantly surprised by The Graveyard Book. Strange tale, but one that does appeal to students (at least my students). I wasn’t sure this year’s committee would stick to the trend. But I was wrong. When You Reach Me is not only well written, but it will have an appeal to children.There’s a mystery. There’s a sci-fi angle to it. And there are the everyday conflicts that kids face. What’s not to like? Don’t forget there’s the connection to another Newbery winner – Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle In Time. (Perhaps my favorite Newbery of all time.)

I often say that a sign of a good book is if when you read it you feel as though the author has reached out a hand, grabbed you by your collar and pulled you into the story. This happens from the beginning of When You Reach Me. Miranda is a six grader in 1978 New York City. She lives with her single mom who spends her spare time practicing for The $20,000 Pyramid. Miranda’s favorite book is Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. She carries it with her everywhere. When she begins to receive a series of notes from an unknown person claiming to want to save the life of her friend, Miranda must decide if she will tell her story as the notes ask. Readers who have read L’Engle’s book recognize the ties between the two plots and adult readers may also recognize a hint of The Time Traveler’s Wife.

This is a well written story with a strong plot. Students will find themselves easily engaged by story. This is one Newbery that librarians will not hesitate to recommend to their students.

This would be an excellent addition to the Pikes Peak Battle of the Books list.

Recommended for 3rd Grade and up.

Mrs. Archer's Rating: 5 of 5.

Amazon has posted an interview with the author on their listing of the book.  You can check it out here.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco

I love Patricia Polacco’s books. The illustrations are always beautiful and the stories inspiring and touching.  This book is no exception.

The Junkyard Wonders is a wonderful and inspiring book based on a real-life event in author Patricia Polacco’s childhood.

Young Trisha moved from her old town so she could attend a new school and not be in the special class anymore. She is disappointed to find out that her new class is a special class, known as “The Junkyard.”  Things begin to look up when Trisha meets her teacher, the wonderful Mrs. Peterson and her classmates who are a in fact, a brilliant group of students with their own unique talents.  Trisha learns the true meaning of genius.  Some might consider Trisha’s class to be a group of misfits, but truly they are a group of wonders.  This is a wonderful tribute to teachers.  It’s an inspiring read that just might put readers onto their own path to finding their inner genius.

Recommended for 3rd grade and up.

Mrs. Archer’s Rating: 5 of 5!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Diary of a Wimpy Kid The Ugly Truth by Jeff Kinney

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth by Jeff Kinney

Description from Goodreads: Greg Heffley has always been in a hurry to grow up. But is getting older really all it’s cracked up to be? Greg suddenly finds himself dealing with the pressures of boy-girl parties, increased responsibilities, and even the awkward changes that come with getting older—all without his best friend, Rowley, at his side. Can Greg make it through on his own? Or will he have to face the “ugly truth"

I have enjoyed this series since the beginning.  However, this latest book does not live up to the others. My feeling is not based on the writing. Kinney does an excellent job of portraying a middle school pre-teen.  It’s just that after four other books, I was rather hoping Greg would have matured a little. Ok, I admit it, as a parent, Greg gets on my nerves. He’s not a wimpy kid, he’s annoying.  However, Kinney knows what kids like and produces humor that kids will not only enjoy, but with which they can identify.  Even though Greg is in middle school, he has a large following of fans at the third to fifth grade level. Taking that into account, I suspect that this is not the last Greg Hefley adventure.

Recommended for Grades 3 through 8.

Mrs. Archers Rating: 3 of 5

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at Broke and Bookish Here is what they have to say:Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This meme was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

Each week we will post a new Top Ten list complete with one of our bloggers answers. Everyone is welcome to join. All we ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND sign Mister Linky at the bottom to share with us and all those who are participating. If you don't have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Don't worry if you can't come up with ten every time..just post what you can! 

This week we're looking at the Top Ten books we hope Santa brings! It's hard for me to limit my wish list to just ten books, but I'll give it a try.

1. Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal:    From the author of Little Pea, Little Hoot, and Little Oink comes a clever take on the age-old optical illusion: is it a duck or a rabbit? Depends on how you look at it. Readers will find more than just Amy Krouse Rosenthal's signature sense of humor here--there is also a subtle lesson for kids who don't know when to let go of an argument. This is a smart, simple story that will make readers of all ages eager to take a side, Duck! Rabbit! makes it easy to agree on at least one thing: reading it again!

2. Fancy Nancy: Fashionista! A Coloring and Activity Book by Jane O'Connor. This one would have to be a late Christmas present as it's not released until January 4th. And yes, it's a coloring book, but I love Fancy Nancy and I'd love trying my hand at picking colors for her.  Product description: This fun-filled coloring and activity book contains coloring pages, mazes, connect-the-dots, and much, much more. It's perfect for any aspiring fashionista. (That's a fancy word for someone who really, really loves fashion!)

3. Judy Moody's Double-rare Way-Not-Boring Book of Fun Stuff to Do by Megan McDonald

Ready to join the T.P. (Take out your Pencil) Club? Get the low-down on
Screamin’ Mimi’s ice cream; knock yourself out learning knock-knock jokes; try out your Judy Moody trivia with quizzes and crosswords; plan a Judy-themed birthday party; make your own Me collage, cootie catcher, or custom T-shirt; and much, MUCH more. Whether the reader has just met Judy or is already her biggest fan, this fun-fi lled activity book — complete with twenty-four stickers — absolutely and positively rates a "rare squared."

4. Chalk by Bill Thomson - This wordless picture book tells the story of three children who find a bag of magical chalk at the playground on a rainy day. Their drawings come to life, which seems great when a drawing of the sun stops the rain, but is scary when a dinosaur stalks them. A drawing of a rain cloud inside a play tube brings the rain back and dissolves the frightening creature. This imaginative story is the perfect showcase for Thomson's extraordinary pictures. Though they look like photos or computer-generated images, each one is actually composed using traditional techniques with acrylics and colored pencils. 

5. Librarian on the Roof: A True Story by M. G. KingWhen RoseAleta Laurell arrived at the Dr. Eugene Clark Library in Lockhart, TX, she found a beautiful old building rich in history but short on patrons, particularly children. Attendance improved as she updated the collection, pushed for computers, and addressed the needs of the Spanish-speaking community, but she needed substantial funding if she was going to provide an attractive and appropriate children's section. What does any dedicated librarian do in such a situation? RoseAleta elected to pack a tent and supplies and be hoisted 50 feet up to the library's roof, and to remain there until the town raised enough money for the children. She remained on the roof for one week, braving severe weather at times. When she descended, the town had raised almost $40,000, twice her original goal. King's writing is clear and often witty, and she does a credible job of capturing Laurell's determined and forthright personality, as well as the drama and excitement of this unusual approach to fund-raising. Gilpin's hand-drawn, vibrantly colored cartoon illustrations enliven the story, particularly the spread that depicts the woman being hoisted to dizzying heights. Librarians will enjoy sharing this tribute to one of their own, but so will anyone wanting an inspirational tale of a committed and ingenious professional.

6.  The Library Gingerbread Man by Dottie EnderleIn this version of the oft-told tale, a plump, chocolaty-looking Gingerbread Man with frosting highlights, a gumdrop nose, and peppermint buttons escapes from his usual locale, in a book at number 398.2 at the library. He eludes the librarian, a word wizard (from 423.1), a giraffe (from 599.638), a robot (from 629.892), and so forth, and is pursued by a crowd of characters from each section of the Dewey decimal system, eventually meeting up with an Arctic fox (998), who offers to help him escape. Luckily, before the fox gets him, the clever librarian quickly closes the Gingerbread Man back into the book for the next eager reader. This is a clever, humorous, and basic guide to the library filled with attractive characters in a nicely appointed ambience of shelves chock-full of appealingly titled books. 

7. The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook: From Cauldron Cakes to Knickerbocker Glory -- More Than 150 Magical Recipes for Muggles and Wizards by Dinah BucholzBangers and mash with Harry, Ron, and Hermione in the Hogwarts dining hall.
A proper cuppa tea and rock cakes in Hagrid's hut.Cauldron cakes and pumpkin juice on the Hogwarts Express.
With this cookbook, dining a la Hogwarts is as easy as Banoffi Pie! With more than 150 easy-to-make recipes, tips, and techniques, you can indulge in spellbindingly delicious meals drawn straight from the pages of your favorite Potter stories, such as:

  • Treacle Tart--Harry's favorite dessert
  • Molly's Meat Pies--Mrs. Weasley's classic dish
  • Kreacher's French Onion Soup
  • Pumpkin Pasties--a staple on the Hogwarts Express cart
With a dash of magic and a drop of creativity, you'll conjure up the entrees, desserts, snacks, and drinks you need to transform ordinary Muggle meals into magickal culinary masterpieces, sure make even Mrs. Weasley proud!

8. Judy Moody: Girl Detective by Megan McDonald: Judy Moody is a Nancy Drew fan, so she is thrilled when it seems mysteries are all around her. First she figures out who stole her candy, but that’s Stink, of course. Then she locates her teacher’s glasses, though they weren’t exactly stolen. But when Mr. Chips, a police pup, goes missing, she has a real case on her hands. Kids who know the Nancy Drew books will enjoy this even more, as many Drewisms are sprinkled throughout. Mysteries and Moody, a winning combination.

9.  Fancy Nancy: Aspiring Artist by Jane O'Connor (this would have to be another late present as it is not due out until April of 2011.)

10. The 13th Reality: The Journal of Curious Letters by James Dashner: Atticus Higginbottom (Tick) is relatively happy, even though he wishes that he were a little braver or could make the bullies disappear. Then he gets a mysterious letter that begins a strange adventure into alternate realities. According to the letter, he and hundreds of other young people around the world have a choice: save the world by solving a puzzle or burn the letter and go on with their lives as usual. The 13-year-old is sure that it's a hoax, but once he begins getting the other clues from strange visitors, he is determined to figure out the puzzle. 

What do you want Santa to bring you?

Monday, December 20, 2010

2011 Colorado Children's Book Award Nominee - Jeremy Draws A Monster by Peter McCarty

Jeremy Draws A Monster by Peter McCarty
Goodreads description:

Alone in his room, Jeremy draws a monster. But then the monster wants lunch! As his creation takes over, Jeremy begins to wonder how he will ever get rid of the monstrous nuisance. He entertains his unwanted guest all day, but enough is enough. Jeremy finally draws him a bus ticket out of town!
With a sure artistic touch and more than a dose of humor, Peter McCarty cleverly blurs the line between his own drawings and Jeremy’s, and in doing so subtly questions the line between reality and imagination.

It’s Monday and time to talk about another book that has been nominated for the 2011 Colorado Children’s Book Award.

I’ll be honest I just didn’t like this book. There’s nothing wrong with it, but there are just so many more wonderful picture books that this one just didn’t make my cut.

Having said that, it’s important to remember that the books nominated for this award are picked by students and voted on by students.  I can see where the illustrations would appeal to young children.  And the monster is somewhat reminiscent of a demanding younger sibling. Anyone who has had to look after a younger brother or sister will sympathize with Jeremy.

In order to vote on this award, students have to have read a minimum of three the nominated books. This was not one of the books I shared with my students, but I think after the winter break, I will show it to them. I would like their opinion.  The book wasn’t written for adults, so it would be interesting to see the reaction of its intended audience.

Recommended for Kindergarten through 2nd Grade.

Mrs. Archer’s Rating: 3 of 5

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Two Excellent Books About Children With Special Needs

I apologize for my sporadic posting this past week. I know I missed both Colorado Children’s Book Award Monday and Battle of the Books Friday. I was under the weather most of this past week with a horrible head cold.  I hope to be back on track starting this next week.

I apologize for my sporadic posting this past week. I know I missed both Colorado Children’s Book Award Monday and Battle of the Books Friday. I was under the weather most of this past week with a horrible head cold.  I hope to be back on track starting this next week.

The Pirate of Kindergarten by George Ella Lyon

Goodreads description:

Ginny was not born a pirate. But since her birth she was headed in that direction.
This book tells the story of Ginny's voyage towards earning herself an eye patch - a voyage made mostly at school.
No other kid there had the honor.
Words and pictures offer up a double helping of surprise on the subject of seeing.

Stand Straight Ella Kate by Kate Klise and M. Sarah Klise

Goodreads Description:

Ella Kate Ewing was born in 1872. She started out small, but she just kept on growing. Soon she was too tall for her desk at school, too tall for her bed at home, too tall to fit anywhere. Ella Kate was a real-life giant, but she refused to hide herself away. Instead, she used her unusual height to achieve her equally large dreams.

I ran across a review of these two books on another blog, Kid Lit Frenzy. They were highlighting books about school children with special needs.  As an educator who is always looking for books to help children appreciate and understand differences, I knew I had to check them out for myself. I was not disappointed. These two books along with My Brother Charlie by Holly Peete Robinson are excellent resources for starting a discussion about how everyone is different and how that is ok.  Each of these books talks about the challenges these students face and how they can overcome them. They are written in kid friendly language – they get the message across without lecturing.

They are must for any school or classroom library.

Mrs. Archer’s rating: 5 of 5.

Recommended for Kindergarten through 5th Grade. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My Brother Charlie by Holly Peete Robinson and Ryan Elizabeth Peete

This book is a must read for everyone, even if you do not have an autistic child or do not work with autistic children.  Robinson and her daughter Ryan have created a simple, honest and heartwarming narrative about what it is like to have an autistic sibling.  Though the book is geared to helping children understand, my experience tells me that there are a number of adults who should read this book as well.  

The story is told by Callie who explains what autism is and how her family cares for her brother Charlie.  She is frank and open about the challenges as well as the special way she feels for Charlie. “I’ve learned from Charlie that love doesn’t always come from what you say. It can also come from what you do” and “there are days when it’s hard to be Charlie’s sister. . . Sometimes he can ruin the best playdates; other times he won’t speak” paint a clear picture of what it is like to live with someone who has autism.  The story is told with an endearing childlike honesty and frankness.  A concluding note at the end of the book offers more information about the Peete family’s experience as well as additional information on autism.  This is book is an excellent resource for introducing the subject of autism to young children or starting a discussion on how to deal with a disability.

Recommended for Kindergarten and up.

Mrs. Archer’s rating:  5 of 5!!!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It's To Read Tuesday

It's Tuesday - time to talk about what's on my "To Read List." (I apologize for missing yesterday's post about nominations for the 2011 Colorado Children's Book Award, but I was under the weather.)

I have managed to mark of two books previously on the list: Gregor The Overlander by Suzanne Collins (a review will be posted soon) and Emma Dilemma and the Two Nannies by Patricia Hermes (review posted on December 8th.)

Added to the list this week are the following:

Peak by Roland Smith
My Brother Charlie by Holly Peete Robinson
The Midnight Fox by Betsy Byars

What's on your list?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Adaptations of Ian Falconer's Olivia

Olivia Takes a Trip adapted by Ellie O’ryan
Product Description from Amazon
Summertime often means...vacation! Olivia hits the road with her family in this fun story based on an episode. Great travel theme.

Olivia and the Snow Day adapted by Farah McDoogle

Product Description from Amazon
It's a snow day and Olivia couldn't be more excited!  She's ready to have snowball fights, build a fort and best of all, interview the Abominable Snowman!

I’m a big fan of Olivia by Ian Falconer. I have to admit that I was disappointed when they turned her into a Saturday morning cartoon.  That almost always means there will be books based on the TV show.  They are never as good as the original.

That’s true in this case.  The illustrations can’t come close to Falconer’s original work, but they are still attractive illustrations. Children who like the original Olivia will recognize her in these illustrations.  And fans of the TV show will certainly enjoy the books.

As an adult, I find that the assisted reading device included in the text, to be a distraction.  I’ve never taught reading to beginning readers, so I wasn’t sure if this was actually helpful.  The kindergarten teachers at my school assure me that it is.  That makes them a good choice for beginning readers and a great addition to a classroom/school library.

This is not a very good photo, but it gives you an idea of what they use to assist beginning readers.

Recommended for Kindergarten to 2nd grade.

Mrs. Archer’s rating 4 of 5 (If they had used Falconer’s illustrations, I might have given them a 5.)