Life is full of changes for seven-year-old Ty, and he’s not happy about it. His mom is exhausted taking care of his new baby sister, his best friend i...moreLife is full of changes for seven-year-old Ty, and he’s not happy about it. His mom is exhausted taking care of his new baby sister, his best friend is in the hospital, and now his big sister Sandra is driving him to school. Sandra won’t even walk him into 2nd grade; in fact, she shoves him out of the car! In this series spinoff, Myracle returns again to this engaging Perry family from her Winnie Years series (Eleven, Penguin, 2004, etc.), bringing her ear for sibling relationships and family dynamics, this time for readers moving up to chapter books. Young readers will connect with Ty’s struggles at school navigating friendship troubles and at home getting enough attention from his mom. “Hug?” I say in a smallish way. Mom doesn’t want to. She doesn’t want to hug her own son. I can see it on her face.” (p. 40) Funny situations alternate with poignant moments in just the right balance, as Myracle writes perceptively from seven-year-old Ty’s perspective. On a field trip to the aquarium, Ty wanders away from his class and decides to give a baby penguin some special attention, bringing him home in his backpack. Early chapter-book readers may become confused that the penguin problems from the title don’t surface until the second half of the story. Henry’s occasional line drawings match the tone and humor well. A heartwarming start to a new series. (less)
Young Lara dreams of becoming the next kennel steward, following in her father’s footsteps raising prestigious borzoi dogs on Count Vorontsov’s countr...moreYoung Lara dreams of becoming the next kennel steward, following in her father’s footsteps raising prestigious borzoi dogs on Count Vorontsov’s countryside estate. When her mother has a newborn son, Lara is caught between honoring her family’s traditional values and her own dreams. Suddenly Lara’s father suggests that she should stop spending time with her beloved dogs and learn skills that would be more useful in finding a husband. Lara has a deep connection to the borzoi, especially her beloved Ryczar, and will go to great lengths to protect them - especially against ferocious wolves. Readers will be swept along by the challenges Lara faces as she struggles to convince her father that she should be able to become the next kennel steward, raising borzoi dogs worthy of the Tsar. In her debut novel, Bay Area author O’Brien takes readers into the world of a Russian noble estate in 1914. O’Brien weaves in many historical, cultural and linguistic details to create a fully realized setting, without overpowering the story. An author’s note provides interesting background on O’Brien’s interest in borzoi dogs, Count Vorontsov’s famous kennel, and other historical aspects of this story. (less)
Full review to come. Great voice. Gripping plot. Strong themes: what it means to be a friend, how you find your place, your talents in the world, the...moreFull review to come. Great voice. Gripping plot. Strong themes: what it means to be a friend, how you find your place, your talents in the world, the importance of trust and family and friends. Yes, it's about coping with Aspergers, but it's about so much more. The impact of drugs and alcohol make me hesitant to share with 5th graders. Definitely a middle school book, in my opinion. Great early reviews from students.
Kiara knows that she’s different, a mutant like her hero Rogue from the popular comic book series The X-Men. “It usually took the new kids two weeks to dump me, three weeks at the most.” (p. 1) In fact, Kiara has Aspberger’s Syndrome and cannot process the social cues around her or the emotions surging through her. Kiara feels intensely isolated now that her mom has left to pursue a singing career in Canada and her father has emotionally withdrawn. It often seems that Mr. Internet is Kiara’s only source of information and support. When Chad’s family moves next door, Kiara is desperate to make and keep a friend. Against her better judgment, she joins Chad on his trips to buy large quantities of Sudaphed. At first she believes that it’s just to help his little brother’s cold, but she soon realizes that Chad’s parents are running a meth lab out of their home. Chad certainly manipulates Kiara, but he does not completely reject her. As Kiara and Chad become closer through their shared love of BMX biking, they each discover a sense of accomplishment and pride. Miller-Lachman raises multiple questions through this gripping, gritty story: What does it mean to be a friend? How do you find your place and your talents in the world? The graphic climax creates a tense narrative in which there are no tidy answers. (less)
There's something truly special about the time a young child spends getting to know his or her grandparents. I remember soaking up my grandmother's st...moreThere's something truly special about the time a young child spends getting to know his or her grandparents. I remember soaking up my grandmother's stories, imagining her past and feeling connected to a history larger than myself. The Matchbox Diary captures this special moment, when a great-grandfather shares his stories with a young girl. It's a wonderful picture book to share with children as they start to get to know their own grandparents' stories.
Blue Balliett centers her most recent book around the rhythms and themes of Langston's Hughes poetry, but the story is firmly rooted in today's urban...moreBlue Balliett centers her most recent book around the rhythms and themes of Langston's Hughes poetry, but the story is firmly rooted in today's urban American landscape. Balliet's novel touched me - it's a powerful, emotional story of the way a young girl tenaciously holds fast to her dreams, in the face of terrible circumstances.
One bitterly cold winter afternoon, Early Pearl's father disappears. One minute Dash is riding his bike home from work, and the next he is gone, without a trace. As eleven-year old Early, her brother and mother reel from the news, their apartment is ransacked and they are suddenly on the run without any money.
With nowhere else to go, the Pearls seek refuge in one of Chicago's homeless shelters. Early is certain that her father is still alive and that if she pays attention to the clues, she will be able to find him. Through it all, she is steadfast in her certainty that she needs to hold fast to her father's dream that they are a family that will survive.
Balliett tells her story through Early's point of view, and I slipped into her perspective right away. I loved the way Early thought about situations, turning them over in her mind to look at them from all angles. I loved, loved the way she thought about words. Here's just one of my favorite examples:
"What happened at 4:44 on that grim January day was wrong. Wrong was the perfect sound for what the word meant: It was heavy, achingly slow, clearly impossible to erase. Wrong. The word had a cold, northern root as old as the Vikings.
Where was Dash? How could he have vanished into that icy, freezing moment?" (p. 23-24, ARC)
Balliett's writing is imbued with rhythm, description and meaning -- in a way that got right to my heart. Balliett shares with her readers her love of language, of words, of ideas. But she shares much more. She shares her hope and optimism that even in hard times, we can hold fast to our dreams. Through Early's story, she gives a face to homelessness, making sure that readers think about what it would be like to suddenly lose everything. It might seem cliched to talk about giving a face to a problem, but I was struck by how easy it was for the police to ignore the Pearl family.
There are certainly some flaws to this book. Part of me liked how names had significance (I chuckled when I figured out that Lyman Scrubs was a liar), but part of me found it too obvious. The international crime ring that Dash became innocently involved with seemed stereotyped, a bit out of a James Bond or Tom Cruise movie. And I never, ever figured out Skip Waive's roll (or name). But, I completely agree with the Booklist review:
"But what’s wonderful about this book, overshadowing the plot flaws, is the way Balliett so thoroughly gets inside the mind of a child accustomed to love and protection—and who now sees her life slipping away. Sadness and stoicism mingle freely in ways that will pierce all readers. Early is a clever heroine, and her smarts are enhanced by the poetry of Langston Hughes, which ripples beautifully through the story and infuses it with hope."
Hold Fast is getting positive early reviews, both from students I have shared it with and professional journals. It's gotten starred reviews from Booklist and Kirkus. The Chicago Tribune has a very interesting article on Hold Fast, interviewing Balliett as well as homelessness activists.
Share this with children who love books that get to the heart and make them think about bigger issues, like Rules by Cynthia Lord or Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. But also share it with children who love language, poetry and words.(less)
Roscoe Riley is a good-hearted first-grader who gets into all sorts of mishaps with his teachers and friends. When Roscoe is worried that his friends...moreRoscoe Riley is a good-hearted first-grader who gets into all sorts of mishaps with his teachers and friends. When Roscoe is worried that his friends can’t sit still for the upcoming open house performance, he thinks that Super-Mega-Gonzo Glue might be the perfect solution. This series is both funny and thought-provoking--a winning combination.(less)
In a story that draws on his own childhood memories, Bean creates a story from a young girl whose family buys a plot of land in the country and sets a...moreIn a story that draws on his own childhood memories, Bean creates a story from a young girl whose family buys a plot of land in the country and sets about building their home from the ground up. Children will be fascinated by each step of the building process, and yet this is ultimately a celebration of a family’s warmth and love.(less)
Kel Gilligan is a daredevil - brave enough to attempt awe-inspiring feats like eating broccoli, facing "the Potty of Doom," and taking a bath with onl...moreKel Gilligan is a daredevil - brave enough to attempt awe-inspiring feats like eating broccoli, facing "the Potty of Doom," and taking a bath with only ONE assistant. Santat's illustrations heighten both the drama and the humor in Buckley's story. You can tell just by the cover how much kids are going to love this.
Our kindergartners thought the Potty of Doom was hilarious. They are just the right age to remember those little potties and know just what an achievement it is to master them. As the review in Kirkus says, "Whether he is in underpants, in his caped stuntman outfit or bare-bottomed, young readers (and their grown-ups) cannot help but laugh out loud at the hilarious details of Kel's silly adventures because they tackle them daily and know them too well."
It's interesting that Kel appeals most to kids ages 5-8 who are able to laugh at Buckley's exaggeration and understand that he's really making fun of these small achievements. They know that Kel talks tough, but is really soft inside - especially when it comes to checking for monsters under his bed.
Santat's early sketches for Kel show that he had originally imagined him as a preschooler, but through editing changes it was decided that Kel should be older, perhaps around 5. Santat developed the flashback device using the parent's videocam to recall the potty and broccoli scenes from Kel's younger days. My kindergartners were a bit confused at these transitions, but it did not detract from the overall impact of the hilarious scenes.(less)
I really enjoyed the way Wells celebrates the relationship with her grandfather and the sense of tradition in this sweet story. It's written as a slim...moreI really enjoyed the way Wells celebrates the relationship with her grandfather and the sense of tradition in this sweet story. It's written as a slim chapter book for new readers, but would also work well as a read aloud for a kindergarten family.
My concern is whether my students will connect to the Boston setting. It draws very specifically on a sense of Boston for a new Italian immigrant. I'm concerned this will make it more difficult for new readers to understand it.(less)
Like many younger sisters, Lola is jealous of her older sister Clementina. Lola yearns to have something special that she can do -- something that mak...moreLike many younger sisters, Lola is jealous of her older sister Clementina. Lola yearns to have something special that she can do -- something that makes her stand out. When she learns that her mother used to dance the flamenco with special polka-dot high heels, she pleads with her Papi to teach her. Papi tells her that it takes duende - spirit or attitude - to learn the flamenco. “‘But I have that!’ Lola shouts and throws her arms in the air and makes a serious face.” Children will relate to Lola’s search for her own special talent and for her chance to shine for her family. Witte conveys the joy and rhythm of the flamenco, from the “Toca toca TICA!” of Lola’s heels to the “Snap! Snap!” of her fingers beating out the rhythm. And Archer’s collage-style artwork is full of bright colors, fabrics and patterns that match the liveliness of the text perfectly. I love sharing this celebration of Spanish dance! (less)
Tallulah loves ballet and dreams of having her moment in the spotlight. Now that she’s taking ballet classes, she knows that she is going to be a beau...moreTallulah loves ballet and dreams of having her moment in the spotlight. Now that she’s taking ballet classes, she knows that she is going to be a beautiful ballet dancer, certain that she will get the lead in the upcoming recital. Tallulah is happy that her younger brother Beckett is taking ballet classes too, but she is NOT patient with his zooming and jumping around. When Beckett is chosen for a big role in the recital, Tallulah is shocked and discouraged. Little children will be drawn to Boiger’s soft watercolor illustrations, but they will also appreciate her attention to the character’s emotions and movement. The resolution is touching and realistic, as Tallulah finally reaches out to help the crying, nervous Beckett. Singer creates a story that celebrates the sparkly sweetness of ballet and resonates at a deeper level of sibling relationships. (less)
I really enjoyed this story of a Chinese grandfather teaching his young Chinese American granddaughter how to write in Chinese. Huy Voun Lee's cut pap...moreI really enjoyed this story of a Chinese grandfather teaching his young Chinese American granddaughter how to write in Chinese. Huy Voun Lee's cut paper artwork incorporates the Chinese characters without having them dominate the illustrations. The information in the back of the book about the characters and the cut paper artwork was especially nice. This picture balances the family relations, the appealing fantasy and the cultural information nicely - no one element dominates, and they all work together well.(less)