As with The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs (Millbrook, 2011), Markle conveys the troubling mystery confronting American beekeepers, farmers and sc...moreAs with The Case of the Vanishing Golden Frogs (Millbrook, 2011), Markle conveys the troubling mystery confronting American beekeepers, farmers and scientists. In 2007, beekeepers in the United States first met to discuss Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). “Beekeepers everywhere were losing about 30 percent of their hives. In some places, the reported losses were as high as 50 percent.” CCD not only affects local farmers and beekeepers; it has significant implications for the larger ecosystem. Markle sets out the issues in a clear way for middle grade readers, providing insight for a slightly younger audience than Loree Griffin Burns' The Hive Detectives (Houghton Mifflin, 2010). Markle clearly explains how bees pollinate flowers, bring pollen and nectar back to the hive, and care for their young, making honey in the process. She then proceeds to discuss possible causes of CCD, asking the basic question: What is killing the honeybees? Various possibilities are considered in turn, from monoculture and urban development, to overwork and transportation of hives, and also infections from mites, fungus and viruses. Readers come away with an understanding of the way scientists consider the different possibilities. Interesting experiments are explained, providing a glimpse into the scientific process. Full-color photographs, maps, captions and headings provide good support for middle grade readers moving into more in-depth scientific reading. An author’s note, further facts, suggestions for action, and resources for further reading are included in the rich, accessible backmatter. (glossary, index, bibliography)(less)
Reactions so far: funny, snarky, pointed, exciting blend of absolutely absurd and spot-on real, just like Tweens and teens operate in their everyday l...moreReactions so far: funny, snarky, pointed, exciting blend of absolutely absurd and spot-on real, just like Tweens and teens operate in their everyday lives
Full review to come
Take this quote - what a great way to teach figurative language.
"The zombies came down on us like a tsunami. When we hit, I thought we were going down. A tidal wave of hungry monsters poured over us. I didn’t think we’d hold. Miguel and Otis and Eddie were screaming and swinging like crazy, smashing and slamming zombies aside." p. 269 (less)
Infographics convey complex information using visual representations and small chunks of text. This title, part of a new series using infographics to...moreInfographics convey complex information using visual representations and small chunks of text. This title, part of a new series using infographics to explore high-interest science topics, focuses on the causes and consequences of volcanoes, earthquakes and tsunamis. Beginning with a brief explanation of plate tectonics, Higgins shows how the movement of the Earth’s crust triggers each of these natural disasters. Higgins breaks the text into brief chunks, effectively using section headings to direct the reader’s attention. The bright, bold graphics help readers understand the geological concepts discussed. For example, the four types of volcanoes are clearly illustrated to show the different ways magma and lava flow to the Earth’s surface. The concepts build as the book progresses, providing a fuller picture than just a collection of infographics. Higgins draws readers in speaking directly to them: “You could have a front-row seat for some of Earth’s most exciting and terrifying events. As much as they scare us, natural disasters also mesmerize us.” (p. 5) While the text is too wordy in places, trying to convey more concepts than simple infographics can handle, the high interest topic and bright graphics will entice readers.(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)
If you like word puzzles, you'll love Agee's collection of palindromes - words and sentences that read the same forwards as backwards. Just try it wit...moreIf you like word puzzles, you'll love Agee's collection of palindromes - words and sentences that read the same forwards as backwards. Just try it with the title - go on, I'll wait. Now try these easier palindromes: "Star rats." "Wonton? Not now." With each, Agee pairs a simple, comical drawing that amplifies the humor perfectly. Plenty of white space gives young readers the time and ability to figure out these puzzles. Perfect for making flexible thinkers who have fun with words!
I also love, love the out of print Who Ordered the Jumbo Shrimp? and Other Oxymorons. Brilliantly funny, and perfect for kids.(less)
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)
Hmmm, lovely ending - just the sort that pulls me back to wanting to reread it all again to savor the development. Are there "supposed to"s in life? De...moreHmmm, lovely ending - just the sort that pulls me back to wanting to reread it all again to savor the development. Are there "supposed to"s in life? Destiny? Or do we choose to do each thing we do? When we're lost in the vortex of figuring something out, how can we turn to our friends for help? Listen. That's what Gigi said. And that's what I want to take away from this lovely book. It won't appeal to everyone as it tells its story in a winding, reflective way. But it's a story that will sink deep for some. One that I'm definitely looking forward to sharing.(less)