Thursday, May 25, 2017

Awkward

Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova

Five paw prints!

It’s the first day of school and Peppi is nervous because she is starting at a new school.  She is so nervous she accidently bumps into a boy named Jamie and she knocks all his paper onto the floor.  To be polite she tries to help him pick up the mess but all she does is make it worse.  After a while Peppi begins to find her way and she joins the Art Club.  The Art Club is forever at odds with the Science Club.  The kids in these clubs do NOT get along.  The only problem with Peppi’s new school is that she is horrible at science and her science teacher assigns a tutor to her to help improve her grades.  Unfortunately, her tutor is Jamie, the same boy she bumped into on the first day of school.  Not only is Jamie her tutor but Jamie is a member of the Science Club.  To make matters even worse...Peppi and Jamie become friends.  UGH!  Peppi has become friends with a member of the ENEMY!  This book is so much fun.  I don’t read many graphic novels but this is what a good graphic novel looks like.  It’s a good story, it’s well told, and the images are great.  More importantly it is a book that takes place in middle school and it really gives a good idea of what a typical middle school with typical kids looks like.  What’s not to love?  To learn more about books by Svetlana Chmakova visit http://www.svetlana.com.  

Diana’s White House Garden

Diana’s White House Garden by Elisa Carbone and illustrated by Jen Hill


Four paw prints

During World War II people (adults and children) were looking for ways to help our soldiers win the war against our enemies.  One of these children who wanted to help was Diana Hopkins.  Diana’s father worked as an advisor to President Roosevelt so Diana and her father lived at the White House along with the president and his wife Eleanor.  Diana did all kinds of things to try to help our country but she usually just got into trouble with the White House staff.  FINALLY, President Roosevelt had an idea that Diana knew she could do...with help from Fala the White House dog.  I really liked this book.  I grew up hearing about what families (including children) did on the homefront during World War II and it was interesting to learn how one of these programs started.  I really liked that the book showed that children are NOT perfect and sometimes a dog is needed to help make things work properly.  To learn more about President Roosevelt visit FRD Library at https://fdrlibrary.org/, the official White House entry on FDR at https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/presidents/franklindroosevelt, or the National Park Service at https://www.nps.gov/hofr/index.htm.  To learn more about Eleanor Roosevelt visit the Center at Val-Kill at http://ervk.org/ or the National Park Service at https://www.nps.gov/elro/index.htm.  To learn more about Diana Hopkins visit http://mallhistory.org/items/show/91.  Finally, for any families that would like to learn about gardening with their children visit https://www.kidsgardening.org/.  

Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness

Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World About Kindness by Donna Janell Bowman and illustrated by Daniel Minter

Four paw prints


There was a time when buildings, animals, AND certain people were considered property.  These items could be bought, sold, and sometimes moved to other locations without anyone being able to do anything about it.  This was the time period when William Key was born.  William Key was born before the American Civil War and he was an African American.  This meant that William Key was a slave who belonged to someone else as property.  But people noticed that William Key had a good way with animals.  William Key became known as “Doc” Key.  After the Civil War ended and slaves (like Doc Key) were freed, Doc became the veterinarian of choice for the town and the surrounding community.  Doc realized that the best way to treat animals and get them to respond to people was through kindness instead of harshness which was the traditional way of dealing with animals at the time.  Doc traveled the country helping animals and teaching people how to treat animals.  Along the way Doc became the owner of a sickly race horse that he named Jim.  What Doc didn’t realize was that Jim was an EXTREMELY smart animal and Jim could do amazing things.  But, I’m not going to tell you what those amazing things were...you have to read the book.  Now, I’m not an animal expert and I know very little about horses, but I’m fascinated by the thought they people have the potential to communicate with animals better than we do now.  This book was wonderful.  It had three things I love in a book...an interesting story, good pictures, and additional facts with photographs at the end.  If you are interested in having a pet (NOT neccessarily a horse) then visit http://pbskids.org/itsmylife/family/pets/article7.html to learn more about what you need to know to be a good pet owner.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Roller Girl

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Five paw prints

Let me first begin by saying...what an awesome and fun book.  It begins with two girls watching their first roller derby game. Nicole is unimpressed but Astrid is hooked and she insists that her mother sign her up for roller derby camp during summer vacation.  Astrid is allowed to sign up for camp if Nicole goes with her but Astrid is afraid to tell her mother that Nicole is going to Ballet Camp.  So what's a 12 year old supposed to do?  Lie (of course) and (of course) this leads to a long summer of trying to keep up the lies without getting caught, learning a new sport, making new friends, while trying not to loose the old friends.  Life can be very complicated when you're getting ready to start middle school.  On the surface this could be just another story about elementary school friends starting to go their separate ways with the start of middle school while using the graphic format to stand out in a crowd of “growing up” books but I LOVE the use of the roller derby to help show the differences growing between the best friends. I'll be honest, after reading about roller derbies I want to learn more!  If you want to learn more then visit https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roller_derby or even the team mentioned in the book http://www.rosecityrollers.com.  Better yet, visit the websites of teams in our area http://www.hellionsoftroyrollerderby.com and http://albanyallstars.com to learn about our own hometown teams.

Save Me A Seat

Save Me A Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan

Five paw prints

It's the first week of school and Joe and Ravi are both experiencing big changes.  Joe is starting without his best friend because his friend moved out of state. Joe is very smart but most of the kids in the class don’t know this and make fun of him because of his special needs.  Ravi just moved to the United States from India because of his father's new job.  Ravi was considered one of the smartest and most popular kids in his school in India and he wants this to continue in America.  Joe and Ravi don’t know it but they have something in common and his name is Dillon.  Dillon is in class with Joe and Ravi.  Joe knows all about Dillon and knows to avoid Dillon as much as possible.  Ravi is about to learn more than he wants about Dillon.  But is Ravi willing to listen to Joe to survive the new year?   I really like this book and the way it handled bullying at the elementary level.  I especially like that the book goes back and forth between the “voices” of Joe and Ravi throughout the book.  My elementary school usually uses The Bystander by James Preller to teach the older students about bullying but now that the middle schools are using it as part of their curriculum we need to find a new book.  Save Me A Seat is the perfect replacement and it will work so much better in my school.  To find more books by Sarah Weeks visit http://www.sarahweeks.com to learn more.  Unfortunately Gita Varadarajan doesn’t have a website yet (since this is her first book) but she does have a twitter site.  With a parent or guardian's permission you can visit https://twitter.com/gitavarad1.  To learn more about what to do if you are bullied or want to help someone who is being bullied visit http://cbs6albany.com/community/be-an-ally or http://newyork.adl.org/noplaceforhate/?_ga=1.221705818.319021253.1473263972 ( this is the program that our school district uses) or http://www.thebullyproject.com/.

Monday, November 7, 2016

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy and illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley

Five paw prints



Growing up I always understood and knew that I was going to college after high school just like my mother and grandmother. But this was not the understanding for most girls growing up during the 1930s.  Ruth Bader was a daughter of immigrants. Everyday her father went to work and her mother stayed home to raise her. But Ruth’s mother was very smart. She recognized that Ruth was smart too and made sure to take Ruth to the library to read as much as possible and she expected Ruth to have good grades in school.  After high school Ruth went to college unsure of what she wanted to do and study. After hearing in class that lawyers have the ability to defend people and protest against unjust laws she knew what she would study. She would become a lawyer and not let anyone tell her that she couldn't or shouldn't because she was a married Jewish woman with children. Not only did she become a lawyer but she became one of the most successful and respected lawyers in the country. This led her to one of the most important jobs in our country...the United States Supreme Court.  To learn more about Ruth Bader Ginsburg visit https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruth_Bader_Ginsburg. To learn more about the United States Supreme Court visit Brain POP to watch some very good videos or visit http://www.congressforkids.net/Judicialbranch_supremecourt.htm.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes


Five paw prints


Tuesday, September 11, 2001 was a beautiful day. I wasn't too hot or too cold. There was a slight breeze.  There was hardly a cloud in the sky.  But in New York City everything was about to change. Sadly, Deja doesn't know about any of this.  9/11 was 15 years ago and Deja is only 10 years old. The only things she knows is that she and her family are homeless, she has to start a new school, and her father is never well.  Her old friends won't talk to her because she is homeless and she doesn't know anyone at her new school.  But there seems to be something that the kids in her new school know that she doesn't and when she learns the history of her home town of New York City she begins to understand why her father is always so sick.  The author of Falling Towers is known for her wonderful writing and this book is no exception.  I can tell you exactly where I was when the events on 9/11 took place and how many of my students lost family members that day.  I know too many people who think by not talking about these events we are protecting our children, but I disagree.  Children need to be taught our history no matter how painful and this is a wonderful book to start a conversation.  If you are interested in learning more about 9/11 then I suggest visiting the following sites with permission from an adult.  The sites are The New York State Museum at http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/exhibitions/ongoing/world-trade-center-rescue-recovery-response or the 9/11 Memorial at http://www.nysm.nysed.gov/exhibitions/ongoing/world-trade-center-rescue-recovery-response. An excellent video to watch (again with permission from an adult) is about the boat lift to evacuate people from the lower tip of Manhattan.  This video can be found at https://www.youtube.com/embed/MDOrzF7B2Kg?rel=0.  To learn more about that author and her books visit http://jewellparkerrhodes.com/children/.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Flora & Ulysses

Flora & Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo and illustrated K. G. Campbell


Five paw prints

Flora is girl in need of a friend...she just doesn’t know it.  Her parents are divorced and her father lives on the other side of town.  An annoying boy has just moved into the house next door and he thinks he is blind.  Her mother is an author who writes romance novels and she wants Flora to read more books.  But her mother doesn’t want Flora to read comic books.  Unfortunately, Flora LOVES comic books, especially comic books with super heroes.  Flora would really like to meet a superhero.  Ulysses is a squirrel.  He was sucked into a vacuum cleaner.  Now he LOVES Flora.  And Flora...she thinks Ulysses IS a superhero.  Together they have some very interesting adventures.  This is such a sweet and wonderful book.  I never would have thought I would enjoy a book where one of the main characters is a squirrel, especially a squirrel with superpowers.  And while I believe this book can be read and enjoyed by oneself, I feel this book is best shared out loud with a little friend; a friend who loves a good animal book at bedtime.  To learn more about this book visit http://www.floraandulysses.com/home.html or http://www.katedicamillo.com/books/flora.html.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Tucky Jo and Little Heart

Tucky Jo and Little Heart by Patricia Polacco


Five paw prints

During World War II many young men from our country were sent to war after our country was attacked at Pearl Harbor.  Some young men were so determined to defend our country that they lied about their age saying they were older than they really were.  One of these young men was Johnnie Wallen from Kentucky.  When Johnnie heard about what was happening in the world he begged his parents to lie about his age.  He knew he was a sharpshooter (he had always been good with a gun) and he felt he could help his country.  Reluctantly, his parents agreed to lie about his age and soon after Johnnie found himself in the thick of fighting in the Pacific Islands.  It didn’t take long for Johnnie to realize that “there ain’t no glory in war” and he missed his home and family.  After over 200 hundred days of non-stop fighting Johnnie was on reconnaissance when he met a little girl from a nearby village.  She didn’t say anything, but she did help Johnnie calm down about where he was, and he decided he was going to do everything he could for her and her village.  Life for Johnnie, now called Tucky Jo by his young friend, was going as well as could be expected until the day the enemy came back to the island where he was stationed and where Little Heart, his name for his friend, lives.  The United States Army decided to relocate the soldiers from the island and fire bomb EVERYTHING!  What would Johnnie/Tucky Jo do...follow orders or save his friend?  This story, based on real people and events, is extremely moving.  I refuse to describe this book as “good” or “great” because I don’t like to use these words when describing war.  But it is definitely a book worth reading.  To learn more about the real Tucky Jo visit http://6thinfantry.com/6thinfantry/johnnie-wallen-wwii-veteran-6th-division-20th-infantry-lost-his-final-battle-jan-2010/.  To learn more about World War II visit http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii or http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/world-war-ii-history.  Please remember that war is not “glorious” and these websites should be visited only with permission from a parent or guardian.  A website that you can visit without an adult would be https://www.nps.gov/wwii/index.htm.  Finally, if you are related to a World War II veteran you can visit the National WWII Memorial website at https://www.wwiimemorial.com/Registry/Default.aspx to type in the name of a veteran and learn more about him or her.

Raymie Nightingale

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo


Four paw prints

Raymie is a girl on a mission.  Her father has left her and her mother to be with his new girlfriend.  Raymie is determined to encourage her father to come home.  She is convinced the only way to do this is to enter and win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition.  Raymie is also convinced that to win the competition she needs to learn how to twirl a baton.  While at baton twirling lessons Raymie meets two girl named Louisiana and Beverly.  Unfortunately they are also taking lessons in the hopes of winning the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition.  Though these girls are completely different from each other, through some unusual circumstances they become unlikely friends.  But can their friendship last through the competition and will Raymie be able to make her father come home?  Now I must say I did like this book; but I’ll admit it’s not my favorite book by Kate DiCamillio.  I liked the girl, I liked the “adventures” they did together, and I really felt for each of the girls and the problems they were experiencing in their lives.  I even read this book in one day because I did really enjoy it that much.  So, why isn’t it my favorite book by this author?  I really felt like the story ended too soon.  I want to know what happened to the girls after the competition.  But, I think the book was written this way to make you wonder.  And that’s OK too.  To learn more about Kate DiCamillo and her books (including my favorite The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane) visit http://www.katedicamillo.com/.

The Nutcracker Comes To America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created A Holiday Tradition

The Nutcracker Comes To America: How Three Ballet-Loving Brothers Created A Holiday Tradition by Chris Barton and illustrated by Cathy Gendron


Five Paw Prints

Shhh…  I have a secret to tell you.  You probably know that many girls and women love dancing especially ballet.  But did you know that many boys and men like ballet too?  It’s true and while you may not have heard of Christensen Brothers, they helped create yearly family traditions for our entire country.  So, who are the Christensen Brothers?  Willam, Harold, and Lew were three brothers who grew up in Utah in the early 1900s with a family that owned a dance school.  Whether they wanted to or not, dancing was in the family and they all became dancers.  One of their favorite types of dancing was ballet.  They ended up with the San Francisco Ballet during World War II, but due to the war, there wasn’t any money to maintain a proper ballet program.  The San Francisco Ballet Company was at risk of going out of business.  The brothers decided to have the dancers perform the full production of The Nutcracker.  Not only was the production successful, but it led to other dance companies doing their own productions every December.  Who would have thought that three boys from Utah could change the ballet world in the United States?  I really did love this book for a few reasons.  I love seeing a well done theater production, I love history books, and I especially love that this is a dance book that’s about BOYS!  I’ve read many books with dancing but very few with boys.  I especially like that these boys didn’t continue dancing as adults because they were forced to dance by their family, they danced because they truly enjoyed dancing and wanted to share that love and talent with others.  To learn more about the San Francisco Ballet visit https://www.sfballet.org/planyourvisit/learn/brief_history or https://www.sfballet.org/interact.  To learn more about the Christensen Brothers visit https://www.sfballet.org/planyourvisit/learn/christensen_brothers or http://www.danceheritage.org/treasures/christensenbros_essay_flatow.pdf.

Friday, September 18, 2015

ALLY-SAURUS & the First Day of School by Richard Torrey

ALLY-SAURUS & the First Day of School by Richard Torrey

Five paw prints.  Ally is a little girl who LOVES dinosaurs.  She has toy dinosaurs, wears clothes with dinosaurs, her bookbag has a dinosaur, and she loves to play as a dinosaur.  She is very excited to go to school on the first day to (hopefully) meet other dinosaurs like her.  There is just one problem, the other girls she meets all LOVE princesses.  Just when Ally starts to think she may never have a “dinosaur” friend she meets other children who are just as unique as she is and she realizes school might just be OK after all.  I really loved this book.  I’ll admit, I have my own Ally-saurus at home and not all little girls want to be princesses.  Throughout the book you see Ally as she imagines she would look as a dinosaur.  As Ally gets to know other kids in her class you start to see how those students imagine they look as dragons or aliens or anything else imaginable.  To learn more about author/illustrator Richard Torrey and to discover more of his books please visit http://www.richardtorrey.com/.  You will be glad you did.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Danger in the Darkest Hosue

Danger in the Darkest Hour by Mary Pope Osborn


Four paw prints.  The tree house is back and Jack and Annie are ready for a new adventure.  But, when they start their newest adventure they didn’t realize how much danger their lives would be in.  They land in England on June 5, 1944 and they are asked to enter France at night by an illegal parachute drop.  It’s World War II and Teddie has asked them to find and rescue Cathleen from inside Nazi occupied France.  This is an extremely dangerous job, probably their most dangerous job ever, and if they fail Cathleen could die.  Now, I usually enjoy all the Magic Treehouse Books, but I have always felt a little frustrated when the story ends.  The stories always feel too short to me and I want more.  Luckily, this is Magic Tree House Super Edition #1.  It is longer and more in depth and I’m sooo excited.  This has been by far my favorite Magic Tree House book in the series.  It probably helped that I love historical fiction, especially from World War II, but I already wanted “more” from this series and this book definitely didn’t disappoint.  To find more Magic Tree House fun, visit http://www.magictreehouse.com/#home.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Schools of Hope: How Julius Rosenwald Helped Change African American Education


Schools of Hope: How Julius Rosenwald Helped Change African American Education by Norman H. Finkelstein

Four paw prints.  In the early 1900s it was very difficult for an African American child to receive a good education in the southern United States.  Actually, it was difficult for African American children to receive any type of education. Booker T. Washington saw the lack of education as a huge problem since the lack of education meant a lack of opportunities.  Mr. Washington worked with older students in advance studies, but there was nothing in place for the youngest of children.  He tried to get people with money, power, and influence to help with this problem without much luck.  But his luck changed when he met Julius Rosenwald.  Julius Rosenwald was a very unlikely friend to the cause of educating African American children in the South.  Julius Rosenwald was a rich Jewish man from Chicago who happened to be the CEO of the Sears Roebuck Company. He was EXTREMELY wealthy, and he believed in the philosophy of "live to give".  He wanted to use his money to help as many people as possible. But he had one important requirement if you wanted his money and help; the person or group requesting help needed to help, too.  If a community wanted a new school, then the community had to help raise money and help build the school.  This became a huge opportunity for poor African American families to give their children the education that they never had.  These schools were built over decades. By the time the last school was built, over 5,000 schools had been built where there were once no opportunities, and ALL of Julius Rosenwald's money was gone.  And that's just what Mr. Rosenwald wanted to happen.  This is a fascinating story because when history is taught in school, teachers barely have enough time to teach basic historical facts like “who”, “what”, “where”, “when”, and “why”. It is extremely difficult to get to the “how” in history.  We need more authors and illustrators who take the time to teach us about these important events because if they don’t, we may lose the history that helps to make our history so interesting and wonderful.  To learn more about Julius Rosenwald and his schools visit, http://www.historysouth.org/schoolhistory.html, http://www.searsarchives.com/history/questions/rosenwald.htm, or http://www.savingplaces.org/treasures/rosenwald-schools#.VBh7AKTD-1s.

George


George by Alex Gino


Four paw prints.  George has a huge problem.  George looks like a boy to everyone around her.  But George KNOWS she is a girl.  She feels uncomfortable in boy clothes, she loves to read teen girl magazines, and she really wants the lead in the school play.  But the 4th graders are doing the play Charlotte’s Web, and the lead is Charlotte the spider...  Charlotte the FEMALE spider.  George doesn’t know what to do.  She doesn’t know who to talk to and tell her concerns.  Her teacher won’t let her try out for Charlotte, her mother doesn’t want her reading magazines for girls, her brother is “all boy”, the boys in her class make fun of her of being too “girly”, and she’s afraid to say anything to her best friend Kelly out of the fear of losing her.  It’s getting harder for George to be someone she isn’t, but it might just be too hard to be who she really is.  I didn’t know what to expect when I first started this book.  I had never read a book about a transgender student aimed for younger students.  I was very worried that it wouldn’t be very good and it would be too mature for younger students.  My only concern is that it may still be a little too mature for those Grade 3-7 students the book is intended for.  I would have prefered everything in the book remain the same but put George in 6th grade instead of 4th grade.  Then I would prefer to see the book aimed for students in grades 5-8.  This way the book is still aimed at upper elementary students, but not the younger students.  I think students reading this book need to have a little more maturity before tackling this subject matter.  I know MOST though NOT ALL of the students I work with wouldn’t be ready for this book unless they were a little older.  But I’m happy to admit...I really loved this book and I had a hard time putting it down.  To learn more about the author Alex Gino and to find resources related to transgender issues, please visit http://www.alexgino.com/.  (Please be aware, this review is based on an uncorrected proof copy of George.  George is not expected to be released to the public until August 2015.  There may be some changes to the final book at this time.)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Gingerbread for Liberty: How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution


Gingerbread for Liberty: How a German Baker Helped Win the American Revolution by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch


Five paw prints!  When the American colonists decided to rebel against British rule in the hopes of becoming an independent country, many men left their homes to join General Washington and the Continental Army.  Most of these volunteers were young men and older boys.  There was one important exception to this unwritten rule and his name was Christopher Ludwick.  He was born in Germany, learned to be a baker, spent time in the Austrian and Prussian armies, and eventually settled in Philadelphia and married.  In Philadelphia he became a successful and generous baker.  When the American Revolution began he wanted to help defend the new country he loved.  Some people thought he was too old to help the Continental Army, but George Washington had a special job that only Christopher could do.  Not only would Christopher become one of the main bakers for the entire Continental Army, but Christopher could speak in German to the soldiers who were hired by the British king to fight the colonists.  As a result, many of these Hessian soldiers decided to change sides and join the Continental Army.  Christopher Ludwick is a little known American hero who more people should learn about.  This book is now one of my all time favorite non-fiction picture books.  I had never heard of Christopher Ludwick and I’m so happy to know about him now.  He was such an interesting and generous man, and more students should and could learn so much from him.  And the illustrations...so wonderful.  Who knew gingerbread illustrations could be used to help tell such an important story?  To learn more about Christopher Ludwick visit http://articles.philly.com/2001-04-15/news/25329688_1_british-army-flour-bread (families...please be aware this is a Philadephia newspaper website, articles are always updated and you may want to review materials carefully with your child) or for students who like a challenege try http://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/Military_Law/Lieber_Collection/pdf/Life-and-Character-ofChristopherLudwick.pdf and finally you could visit http://www.immigrantentrepreneurship.org/entry.php?rec=175.  It will be well worth the visits.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan


Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan.

FIVE STARS!!!  The website dictionary.com defines music as an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and color.  This is the perfect description of the book Echo.  This story is about seven children who live in different parts of the world during different time periods.  The bulk of the story revolves around the lives of Friedrich, Mike, and Ivy.  Each of the children has a special musical gift, but each has a crisis within their families that risks these gifts.  The one thing they have in common is a harmonica that may or may not be magical.  This is by far one of the best fiction books I have read in a very long time.  I’ll admit that I love music and that may be one of the reasons why I was so drawn to this book, but I really believe anyone (musical or not) would truly love this book.  Between the music references and the World War II history, I had a very hard time putting this book down.  At almost 600 pages I still read this book in less than three days.  I know the size will look intimidating to some, but just give it a try...you won’t be sorry.  To learn more about harmonicas visit http://www.pbs.org/americanrootsmusic/pbs_arm_ii_harmonica.html or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmonica.  To learn more about Pam Munoz Ryan and her books visit http://www.pammunozryan.com/index.html.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

enormous SMALLNESS: A Story of E. E. Cummings



enormous SMALLNESS: A Story of E. E. Cummings by Matthew Burgess and illustrated by Kris DiGiacomo

Four paw prints.  In October of 1894 a baby was born to a family in Massachusetts.  He was named Edward Cummings after his father, but his family called him Estlin.  It was the dawn of a new century and there was new art and technology all around the world to fascinate a young boy. But, with everything around him, he was still interested in simpler things like birds and nature. Even at a young age he would describe what he saw and how he felt in such a beautiful way that his mother started writing his thoughts on paper when he was only three.  He graduated from college with a degree in literature, but before he could really concentrate on his future career he joined the military where he was sent to France as an ambulance driver during World War I.  After the war he remained in France for a few years, but when he was done experiencing Europe he moved back home.  He settled in New York City where he began writing.  He experimented with different forms of poetry.  Some people didn't know what to make of his style, but many people loved his new style of expression.  As time went on he went from being known as Estlin Cummings to e. e. cummings, one of the most famous and influential poets in 20th century America.  I'll admit, this book left me a little confused.  I loved the story and I loved the illustrations, but I had a hard time understanding the poems.  But, I enjoyed the book so much that I now want to learn more about e. e. cummings and isn't that what a good book should do?  If you are interested in learning more about e. e. cummings (like I am) then visit http://www.biography.com/people/ee-cummings-9263274 or http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/146466/E-E-Cummings.  These websites are not as "kid friendly" as I would like, but they are a good start.


Friday, January 16, 2015

Ball by Mary Sullivan

Five paw prints.  Balls are great fun, especially if you are a dog that has a special girl to play with every day.  But, what happens when the little girl is no longer available?  Who will play ball with the dog?  Will it be the mother, the baby, the cat, or worse yet...will he be forced to play by himself?  Oh no, what will the dog do?  IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD!!!  What a great book.  Told from the point of view of the dog, you need to "read" the pictures to understand the book.  There is only one word in the entire book and you might be wondering "why".  Well, the main character is a dog and he only knows one word.  I'll let you guess which word.  To learn more about Mary Sullivan visit, http://www.marysullivan.com.

Shared by Mrs. Manore from Orenda

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Queen Victoria's Bathing Machine by Gloria Whelan and illustrated by Nancy Carpenter

Three paw prints.  What would you do if you loved to swim, but no one was supposed to see you in a bathing suit?  Well, this was the problem for Queen Victoria.  During the 1800s women, especially the Queen of England, were expected to be very proper in their looks and their behaviors.  It would have been very inappropriate for any woman to be seen wearing a bathing suit.  But, Queen Victoria loved to swim.  Luckily for her she had her own knight (err, prince) in shining armor to help with this problem.  This book was very interesting.  I had no idea that a woman going for an afternoon swim could be such a challenge.  I only had one problem.  This book tries to tell the story through rhyme.  I usually love a good rhyming book, but unfortunately these rhymes weren't very good.  Most of the time the rhymes felt and sounded forced.  It was not comfortable to read this book.  To learn more about Queen Victoria's bathing machine visit, http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/osborne/beach/queen-victoria.
Lily Renee, Escape Artist: From Holocaust Survivor to Comic Book Pioneer by Trina Robbins and illustrated by Anne Timmons and Mo Oh


Five paw prints.  During the 1930s life in Vienna, Austria was wonderful for Lily Renee.  Days filled with family, friends, school, museums, the theater…a typical life for a girl from a wealthy family.  But in 1939, everything changed when Austria joined Germany under the leadership of the Nazi Party.  After that, Lily’s life was in danger.  She was in danger because she was Jewish and the Nazi Party did NOT like people of Jewish descent.  The only way for Lily to be safe was to leave Austria, but she would have to leave without her parents.  Would Lily be brave enough to save her life without her parents with her, would the Nazi Party let Lily and hundreds of other Jewish children leave Austria, and would her love be enough to save her own parents if she left Austria?  Only time would tell.  I have to say this was a very good book.  I've read other graphic novels about the Holocaust, but I had never seen any that would be considered suitable for older elementary students.  This graphic novel was a good balance of getting important information across without being so "graphic" that it wouldn't be appropriate for 4th and 5th graders.  To learn more about Lily Renee visit, http://www.nywici.org/features/blogs/aloud/womens-history-month-lily-renee-wilhelm---holocaust-survivor-comic-book-pioneer.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet

Four paw prints.  Have you ever watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?  Did you like the music, the floats, the balloons?  Did you ever wonder why this parade (and very few others) uses balloons?  Who came up with the idea of using balloons?  That person was Tony Sarg, a well know puppeteer from Europe who was encouraged by R. H. Macy.  Tony Sarg helped with the first Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in 1924.  But, there weren’t any giant balloons in this first parade.  Instead, there were real animals from the Central Park Zoo.  Soon after, Mr. Macy gave Tony Sarg a new challenge for the parade.  Replace the live animals!  We know that today’s parade has huge balloons, but how did a puppeteer go from marionettes hanging below strings to balloons floating above strings?  I thought this was a great book.  There are plenty of holiday books available to share with children, but this book and Thank You Sarah (see earlier post) are by far my two favorite Thanksgiving books.  I know there are other books that talk about the creation of the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade and the floats, but I don't feel any are as good as this book.  To learn more about Tony Sarg visit, http://www.michenermuseum.org/bucksartists/artist.php?artist=234.   Or, to find more interesting books by Melissa Sweet visit, http://melissasweet.net/.

The Princess in Black by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale and illustrated by LeUyen Pham


Four paw prints.  Somewhere in a land far away from here there lives a girl named Princess Magnolia.  Like all princesses, Princess Magnolia wears nothing but pink, knows how to make hot chocolate and sweet scones, and of course, she own a lovely unicorn.  But, Princess Magnolia has a secret.  She is really The Princess in Black and when no one is looking she defends her kingdom from danger, especially big blue monsters that like to eat goats.  Unfortunately, Duchess Wigtower is determined to discover ALL of Princess Magnolia’s secrets.  So, will Duchess Wigtower discover the secret, will the blue monster eat all the goats, will the goat boy trust his instincts about the Princess in Black, will Princess Magnolia be able to hide her black socks?  This is the first book in a new series by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale of Rapunzel’s Revenge fame.  This is an especially nice book because it shows that girls (princesses) can be smart, clever, strong, AND pretty and polite at the same time.  Girls don't need to choose to be one type of person or the other.  I realize there are more and more books showing that girls can be anything, but I feel this is one of the better examples for younger students.  To learn more about The Princess in Black visit, http://www.candlewick.com/book_files/076366510X.art.1.PDF.