Monday, February 28, 2011

Calendar Mysteries by Ron Roy

Amazon Product Description:
January Joker:  Green Lawn, we have a problem! When Bradley Pinto wakes up in the night to strange lights in his backyard, he thinks there are aliens in town. When he sees three-toed footprints in the snow, he’s sure of it. His twin, Brian, and friends Lucy and Nate aren’t so certain. But then Lucy’s cousin Dink, the twins’ brother, Josh, and Nate’s sister, Ruth Rose, all disappear. Are there really aliens in Green Lawn? And where could they be taking Dink, Josh, and Ruth Rose? 

February Friend: It's a Valentine's Day party! Bradley is passing out his class’s valentines, but one of them has no name on it. Inside, the card tells the class to look in the closet. When they open the closet door, the kids find a rabbit named Douglas in a cage! What mysterious “friend” left him there? And why? Then the bunny gets sick. It’s up to Bradley, Brian, Lucy, and Nate to track down his owner and figure out what is wrong with poor little Douglas.

This a wonderful new series by the author of The A to Z Mysteries. It highlights the adventures of the younger siblings of Dink, Josh, and Ruth Rose from the original series.  Brian, Bradley, Lucy and Nate are all first graders. Not only are these books an entertaining and great read aloud, but they are excellent for teaching critical thinking and problem solving skills.  Readers who have enjoyed A to Z Mysteries will enjoy these series as well.

Recommended for Grades 1-3.

Mrs. Archer's Rating: 5 of 5

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Saturday Snapshot - February 26th

  Saturday Snapshot is a weekly meme hosted by Alyce, from At Home With Books.  All we have to do is post a favorite photo we've snapped, or one captured by family or friends. (No internet poaching.)

One of the 4th grade classes at Chinook run "free" time in the library for having logged the most minutes read.  They could chose to play games, work on puzzles, read or draw. One of my students drew this for me and I promptly hung it up on the library door.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Book Beginnings on Friday - February 25

How to participate: Share the first line (or two) of the book you are currently reading on your blog or in the comments. Include the title and the author so we know what you're reading. Then, if you feel so moved, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line, and let us know if you liked or did not like the sentence. This weekly meme is hosted by  A Few More Pages every Friday.  Check out their blog for a list of other book beginnings.

Ben and Me: An Astonishing Life of Benjamin Franklin by His Good Mouse Amos - Discovered, Edited, and Illustrated by Robert Lawson

"SINCE THE RECENT death of my lamented friend and patron Ben Franklin, many so-called historians have attempted to write accounts of his life and his achievements.  Most of these are wrong in so many respects that I feel the time has now come for me to take pen in paw and set things right."

Doesn't this must make you want to keep reading?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman by Ben H. Winters

Summary from Booklist:  Ms. Finkleman, a mild-mannered Music Fundamentals teacher, is a completely anonymous figure at Mary Todd Lincoln Middle School. She is such a nonentity that ace student Bethesda Fielding determines there must be more to her—a secret history that needs to be uncovered. When Bethesda discovers her teacher’s punk-music past, the repercussions are hilarious, revolutionary, and TWR (“Totally Way Rock”)

Mr. Melville is notorious for assigning "special projects" in his social studies class.  Who knew his assignment "to solve a mystery" would turn the quiet mouse-like music teacher's life upside down. 

Students who enjoy Andrew Clements' (Frindle, No Talking, etc) style of writing. It is a quick, engaging read that will also serve as an introduction to mysteries. The characters are well developed and the plot moves along at a good pace.  Students will enjoy the musical references.  Would make a great read a loud for the classroom.

Mrs. Archer's rating: 5 of 5

Friday, February 18, 2011

Book Beginnings

Book Beginnings
Book Beginnings on Friday is now hosted by Katy at A Few More Pages 

Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading. 

If you like, share with everyone why you do, or do not, like the sentence.
January Joker by Ron Roy (Calendar Mysteries)
"Bradley Pinto sat up in bed. His red hair was flat on one side. He blinked and rubbed his sleepy brown eyes. Bradley thought he'd heard a strange noise outside his bedroom."

Ok. I shared more than just the opening sentence, but I wanted to try and hook you on this book. I am almost half way through the book. I'm a big fan of Ron Roy's A to Z Mysteries and was excited about reading this new series.  If you like mysteries be sure to check out either series.

The first four books in the Calendar Mysteries (January Joker, February Friend, March Mischief, and April Adventure) just arrived in the Chinook Trail Library. Stop by and check them out.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Things That Make a Librarian's Day

There is nothing like getting in new books for the library.

The Chinook Trail Tiger Den recently received a box of new books.  Many of these I've already read and review here on this blog. But there are a few titles that are new to me.  Check back for reviews on January Joker, February Friend, March Mischief and April Adventure - the first three books in Roy Roy's Calendar Mysteries series and Mallory Goes Green Laurie Friedman.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Teaser Tuesdays (Feb 15th)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

~Grab your current read
~Open to a random page
~Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
~~~BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
~Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers! 

The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman by Ben H. Winters

pg. 133
Her kids noticed, of course and figured it was only natural.  They assumed this new voice -- icy, tough, unemotional -- was that of the punk-rock lady who had emerged from within the nerdy band teacher.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Helping Children Say Goodbye

Goodreads Summary:
Crystal had lived in the garden for many years. She was growing old. Zelda was just starting out in life. They were best friends. They read books together. They took trips together. And they talked about everything. But one day Crystal was not in the garden. She had died. In this gentle story, children learn, with Zelda, that true friendship is a gift that doesn’t die.

Goodreads Summary:
A young girl and her lovable dog, Lulu, are the best of friends. They play games together, explore their neighborhood, and even cuddle up to read bedtime stories each night. Lulu is the best dog a girl could ever hope for, but when she grows older and gradually becomes weak, the little girl must face the sad possibility of losing her dear friend, and inevitably, cope with the death of her canine companion. Though she is deeply saddened by Lulu's passing and misses her very much, over time the little girl discovers that the sweet memory of her beloved Lulu will live on forever... in her heart.

With realistic, hopeful illustrations by Ard Hoyt,
this tender tale offers an accessible lens to young children learning to understand and cope with the mixed emotions that come with the loss of a loved one.

Once again, I gave into impulse when checking out these books. Just like kids, I tend to grab a couple of picture books on my way to the checkout.  These impulse checkouts are almost always due to the cover.  Sometimes I might find the title intriguing, but usually it's the cover.

This time, both impulse checkouts had to do with helping young children deal with death.  It would be wonderful if children never had to experience saying goodbye to a loved one (whether it be a family member or a beloved pet).  Unfortunately, death is a part of life and if you find yourself looking for ways to help a young child cope with such a situation, these two books are excellent tools.  Saying Goodbye to Lulu uses realistic illustrations to help tell a beautiful, yet bittersweet story of love between a young girl and her dog.  

Sebastian Loth's Remembering Crystal is another beautifully illustrated book with a strong message about how true friendship outlasts even death.

Both of these are excellent additions to school libraries or home collections.

Recommended for Pre-school to 2nd Grade.

Mrs. Archer's rating:  5 of 5

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Groundhog Weather School by Joan Holub

GoodReads Summary:
The must-have book for Groundhog Day—and the rest of the year!
With pop-art illustrations, a tongue-in-cheek tone, and a riot of detail, kids learn all the important aspects of Groundhog Day. And where better to learn it than Groundhog Weather School!
Professor Groundhog opens a school so groundhogs can learn to accurately forecast the weather each February. Following along with the amusing cast of students, kids are drawn in by the thoroughly engaging tale while they learn fun facts about different animals (groundhogs in particular), seasons, weather, and predicting the weather. With funny asides and a comic-style approach to the illustrations, this informational story presents a fresh look at Groundhog Day through the eyes of the animals who live it each year.

This is a great book for introducing children to weather and the complicated task of forecasting.  Shelved in some libraries as an easy fiction book and shelved in others as a non-fiction book, this book is both entertaining and informative.  Readers will learn about groundhogs (including famous  groundhogs like Punxsutawney Phil) and weather.

This is a must have for any school or classroom library.

Recommended for Kindergarten and up.

Mrs. Archer's rating 5 of 5.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Lemonade Club by Patricia Polacco

Patricia Polacco is one of my favorite children's authors.  I often read her books over and over.  One of my all time favorites is The Lemonade Club.

Amazon Product Description:
Everyone loves Miss Wichelman’s fifth-grade class—especially best friends Traci and Marilyn. That’s where they learn that when life hands you lemons, make lemonade! They are having a great year until Traci begins to notice some changes in Marilyn. She’s losing weight, and seems tired all the time. She has leukemia—and a tough road of chemotherapy ahead. It is not only Traci and Miss Wichelman who stand up for her, but in a surprising and unexpected turn, the whole fifth-grade class, who figures out a way to say we’re with you.

I love Patricia Polacco's books. They touch on real life situations that we sometimes forget that children may have to face. Spoiler alert:

In this book, when Marilyn loses her hair due to chemotherapy, the entire class, including Miss Wichelman, shaves their heads.  Soon everyone's hair begins to grow back - everyone's but Miss Wichelman. Turns out she has breast cancer.

Even more of spoiler:

This is not a sad book. (Ok, that's as far as I'm going to go without giving you the ending to the story.)  Even if you have not been touched by cancer in some way, even if you do not have any young children in your life - you should read this book.  As are many of Polacco's books this one is based on a true story. Polacco does her usual excellent job of taking a tough subject and turning into a touching and beautifully written children's story.

Recommended for 3rd Grade and up.

Mrs. Archer's rating 5 of 5.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Martha Speaks

I'm a big fan of the Martha Speaks books by Susan Meddaugh.  Martha is a dog whose owner gave her Alphabet Soup for dinner and instead of the letters going to her tummy they went to her brain and Martha could talk, just like humans.

Recently, I discovered, due to an an impulse check out the library, that like many popular kids books, Martha has been turned into a Saturday cartoon. (I'm guessing it's a Saturday cartoon. I don't watch Saturday morning cartoons any more, so I'm not up on the line up these days.)  As with other popular kids books turned into TV shows there's been a spurt of books based on the show.  I'm usually not a fan of those.  These books tend to be a hastily prepared knock off of the originals.

This time it seems to be a little different. There are a couple of beginning reader type picture books, but the majority of the books seem to chapter books. I actually like the idea of the picture books moving on to chapter books. Younger readers who enjoy Martha can grow along with her as their reading skills improve.  I just wish that the books were written by and not "based on the characters created by" Susan Meddaugh.

As for the TV show, well some of the episodes are out on DVD. So I checked some out and watched them last week while recovering from surgery.  Martha Speaks - the TV show is a PBS show. They are fairly well done and of course are educational. They talk about character lessons and vocabulary words (at least the episodes I've seen so far.)  I guess if TV has to poach an idea from an author, PBS is the way to go.

Martha Says it With Flowers by Susan Meddaugh (by the original author and there is a TV episode as well.)
Martha on the Case by Jamie White (chapter book)
Martha Speaks: A Pup's Tale by Jamie White (chapter book)
Martha Speaks: Shelter Dog Blues by Jamie White (chapter book)
Toy Trouble by Karen Barrs (beginning reader)

If you looking for these books on Amazon, don't be fooled by the listing that they are by Susan Meddaugh. They are not. (Well, Martha Says It With Flowers is by Meddaugh, but the rest of the books all say "adapted by . . ."

Recommended for ages: Kindergarten through 3rd grade (interest level) Reading level - 3rd grade and up.

Mrs. Archer's rating: 3 of 5

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tomie DePaola

Tomie DePaola is one of my favorite children's author/illustrators.  He is the 2011 recipient of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. To find out more about the award click here.  Tomie also has a wonderful website that teachers and children both will enjoy. It can be found here.

It's hard for me to pick a favorite DePaola book.  I love the books about Strega Nona and the books about Tomie's childhood. Even though his childhood took place during the WWII era, students today can still identify with much of what Tomie felt and experienced.  I what I enjoy most about his books is that they are so kid friendly. The illustrations are beautiful, but easily copied by a child. We all know that kids like to try to draw the pictures they see in the books. It's one way they learn.  Tomie's illustrations are very distinctive. I can usually spot a book he illustrated from across the library.

Reading Rockets has a video interview with Tomie DePaola. I shared it with my 4th graders.  He talks about the stories behind some of his autobiographical books such as The Art Lesson.

Though Tomie writes and illustrates his own books, he also illustrates books written by other authors. One of my favorites is Simple Pictures Are Best by Nancy Willard.  Back in the school I worked at in North Carolina, I did a Tomie DePaola author/illustrator study with the second grade classes. After reading this story I took a class picture - a simple one, then I took another one allowing the students to use all the props they wanted to use. It was great fun. I'm thinking of doing the same with my current 4th and 5th grade classes.

Tomie is a very prolific author/illustrator. Since ALA announced him as the 2011 winner of the Laura Ingalls Wilder award, I've been trying to catch up his books that I have not read.

Here are a few of my latest reads.

Stagestruck is another autobiographical story from Tomie's childhood.  Tomie, disappointed at not geting the lead in the school play, "Peter Rabbit" still manages to steal the show, but learns a valuable lesson as well.  Little Grunt and the Big Egg is a pre-historic dinosaur fairy tale. Kids who love dinosaurs will love this book.  A New Barker in the House is a delightful picture book about adoption, from the point of few of two twins who are excited (but still not quite prepared) for the addition of a new member to their famil.  To be honest,  Let The Whole Earth Sing Praise is not one of my favorite DePaola books. The illustrations are beautiful in a folk artsy kind of way, but I thought it would have made better note cards than a children's book.

If you've never read any Tomie DePaola books, I hope you will take time to check him out. If you've only read his Strega Nona books I hope you'll check out his other series (The Barkers, folktales and his 26 Fairmont Ave series about his childhood.) 

Friday, February 4, 2011

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Goodreads Description:
Eleven-year-old Delphine has it together. Even though her mother, Cecile, abandoned her and her younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, seven years ago. Even though her father and Big Ma will send them from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to stay with Cecile for the summer. And even though Delphine will have to take care of her sisters, as usual, and learn the truth about the missing pieces of the past.
When the girls arrive in Oakland in the summer of 1968, Cecile wants nothing to do with them. She makes them eat Chinese takeout dinners, forbids them to enter her kitchen, and never explains the strange visitors with Afros and black berets who knock on her door. Rather than spend time with them, Cecile sends Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern to a summer camp sponsored by a revolutionary group, the Black Panthers, where the girls get a radical new education.
Set during one of the most tumultuous years in recent American history, one crazy summer is the heartbreaking, funny tale of three girls in search of the mother who abandoned them—an unforgettable story told by a distinguished author of books for children and teens, Rita Williams-Garcia.
This is not a fast paced book, but the story moves along at pace that keeps the reader engaged.  Eleven-year-old Delphine is wise beyond her years. Through her eyes young readers can experience 1960s Oakland at the height of the Black  Panthers.  The reader also experiences the disappointment of a mother who seemingly has no feelings for her own children.  Williams-Garcia’s beautifully written story not only allows us experience Delphine’s growth over the summer, but also experience her beginning understanding of her mother.  Cecile is not a lovable character at all, but (slight spoiler here) does show the potential for redeeming herself.
This is a perfect read for 5th graders and up.
Mrs. Archer’s rating 5 of 5.