A child receives a box of seven fortune cookies & each mysterious fortune comes true. Each cookie has a pull-out fortune (perhaps to be read aloudA child receives a box of seven fortune cookies & each mysterious fortune comes true. Each cookie has a pull-out fortune (perhaps to be read aloud by a parent) which provides some challenging contrast to the otherwise short, easy-to-read sentences with repetition on each page. While this tale of pet gain, loss and reunion is a sturdy one, it is Raschka's illustrations and the slide-out fortunes that make it sing. ...more
In preparation for a Mock-Geisel workshop (in which a clatter of librarians will read, fiercely compare and judge books for early readers), I read thiIn preparation for a Mock-Geisel workshop (in which a clatter of librarians will read, fiercely compare and judge books for early readers), I read this (among various other early reader titles) to my K-1s, the intended audience. Readaloud is not likely the intended means of delivery, but this title stood out to both me and the Primaries.
Penny is taking her doll, Rose, out for a stroll & comes upon a shiny blue marble at the edge of her elderly neighbor's lawn. Penny purloins said treasure and experiences the exact guilt and anxiety that I saw expressed on the 20 faces I read to today. Penny adores the marble; it is the exact color of the beautiful blue sky. The children empathized entirely with Penny's anxiety over her taking, keeping, and ultimately returning the marble.
For an adult reader, there are no surprises here. For a first-grader, though, this title hits the mark. Every child could envision him- or herself in Penny's conflicted position. Every easy-to-read, cadenced word rang true for the intended audience. Every page turn, chapter break and nuance (and there is nuance!) rang true. This easy reader--short, leveled, and potent--has chops....more
I loved this book, as I often do older titles that demand some sustained attention from the reader. First published (in French?) in 1978, "The MellopsI loved this book, as I often do older titles that demand some sustained attention from the reader. First published (in French?) in 1978, "The Mellops Go Diving for Treasure" has the excellent complexity of plot often lacking in modern picture books. Alas, it also lacks any role for female characters beyond dutiful mother and merpig, happily lacking in modern picture books. Perhaps the adult reader/English major/librarian could ask the child about how the characters (all pigs) might be different if they were written today.
Nonetheless, the story contains Mr. Mellops's long-lost ancestor's note & map, prompting Mr. Mellops & his four sons to take to the sea in search of lost treasure "at that place where to water is not too deep." Adventure ensues, including "a very dangerous octopus," a merpig, storms at sea, shipwreck, treasure-seeking, rescue and taxes, all met with resourcefulness and aplomb by the intrepid Mellops.
"'But one does such things for the adventure rather than the money....'"
A big fan of Shirley Hughes's picture books, I ordered "Hero On A Bicycle" as soon as I read the positive NY Times review.
In her introduction, HughesA big fan of Shirley Hughes's picture books, I ordered "Hero On A Bicycle" as soon as I read the positive NY Times review.
In her introduction, Hughes briefly recounts her own experience at 19 years old in war-torn Italy after WWII.
Despite Hughes's effort to delineate the complicated loyalties and predicaments that emerge in times of war, the plot was thin, the setting a mere sketch, and, while sympathetic, the characters seemed only partially realized. The whole book felt too restrained, as though the author wanted us to experience the brutality and complexity of WWII in Italy without shocking or scandalizing its young readers. Alas, the unfortunate result is often flat and didactic.
Near the conclusion, Rosemary, the long-suffering mother who helps the opposition to the occupying Nazis (also not unsympathetic), & tries to protect her children & household while her husband is gone fighting with the Partisans, thinks to herself: "When this war ends, it won't be a simple matter of defeat or victory. It will have spread its horrible, destructive tentacles out into all our lives long after the so-called peace has arrived."
I think that it is difficult for any writer to address such a huge topic, and that it is a worthy goal to elucidate history for children without psychic damage, but I think that it is best achieved when the writer limits his or her scope....more
I love Daniel Pinkwater and, since the Juniors are studying weather, I decided to read it along with Uma Krishnamswami's "Monsoon," and the Barrett'sI love Daniel Pinkwater and, since the Juniors are studying weather, I decided to read it along with Uma Krishnamswami's "Monsoon," and the Barrett's "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs," and Aardema's "Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain." I save Pinkwater for last because it is ridiculous and hilarious and I love to see the kids' expressions when Mr Submarine spots the United States Marine Band out in the rain. This is a silly book (like most of Pinkwater's) with rich illustrations and a warm heart--highly recommended....more
A fourth grade student and I agreed to each read a different volume of Scott O'Dell's and I chose "Black Star, Bright Dawn," and I am glad. It is theA fourth grade student and I agreed to each read a different volume of Scott O'Dell's and I chose "Black Star, Bright Dawn," and I am glad. It is the story of an Eskimo girl whose family moves from the coast inland after her father, Bartok, is stranded on an ice floe while seal hunting. While he survives physically, he leaves his profession & agrees to train for the Iditarod (a grueling dogsled race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska). Soon he is injured. His daughter, 18-year-old Bright Dawn, agrees to replace him at the behest of Bartok's backers. She loves the dogs, but Black Star, a husky-wolf mix is her favorite.
The story is one of adventure and quiet intensity. When she is to leave, she is told, "Be of good cheer." Later, she is advised by an older racer that "[t]he race is won by thinking." Sturdy Bright Dawn proves to be resourceful, compassionate and ingenious. O'Dell's descriptions of the environment--the sparkling darkness, the ubiquitous cold, the dogs buried in snow so that "[j]ust their noses showed"--and Bright Dawn's travails in the weather and wildlife (moose attack!) make for a splendid, snowy immersion in the far north.
This title will appeal to readers who enjoy adventure stories and/or animal tales....more
Reading "Z is for Moose" is like watching a skillful kindergarten teacher quell an overwrought kindergartener for the benefit of all.
Zebra, the coachReading "Z is for Moose" is like watching a skillful kindergarten teacher quell an overwrought kindergartener for the benefit of all.
Zebra, the coach who is orchestrating this alphabet show, remains calm as Moose anxiously awaits his appearance & is shortly undone by being upstaged by unprepossessing Mouse. Moose throws a tantrum, obliterating Owl and Queen, and Zebra has to protect the later players from Moose's temper. Finally, though, Zebra, good friend and mollifier, saves the alphabet.
This title was very well-received by the Primaries I tested it on. Pair it with Lester's very funny "A is for Salad" for readaloud alphahysterics....more
This is just what a children's novel should be--compact and compassionate. Set in rural West Virginia, this boy & dog story reveals the conflictinThis is just what a children's novel should be--compact and compassionate. Set in rural West Virginia, this boy & dog story reveals the conflicting tenderness and gravity that mark coming of age. Marty Preston does what he believes to be good for a dog he loves but does not own. Marty must reconcile his actions and his relationships and the reader of this spare novel must grow along with him in understanding the human heart. Highly recommended kid reading. ...more
While it contains an introduction of sorts for middle readers to censorship and the First Amendment to the Constitution, this story is only adequate.While it contains an introduction of sorts for middle readers to censorship and the First Amendment to the Constitution, this story is only adequate. Because of its brevity, there's not much room to develop characters, but the discussions on the First Amendment, especially as they apply to student writing, create more heft and momentum. The book does, like its titular newspaper, contain truth and mercy, but it also provides a primer as to why so many writers skirt technology. The passages about computer use will seem (not surprisingly given the 1999 copyright) primitive to today's 10-year-old digital natives.
As a teacher, I find it hard to believe the premise that the burnt-out teacher, who reads the newspaper during his classes, is allowed to continue for seven years before 5th grader Cara Landry revivifies his classroom & salvages his pride & his career. Might this premise might fly for its intended audience? Not likely. ...more
Ozzy, the keeper of The Fantora Family Files, provides a winning mixture of family story, magic, and cat narrator. While its brevity (123-page paperbaOzzy, the keeper of The Fantora Family Files, provides a winning mixture of family story, magic, and cat narrator. While its brevity (123-page paperback) will prove alluring to fans of the compact, the writing is literate and buoyant, and the family, each of whom possesses different magical powers, are both wacky and endearingly sensible.
"What were you doing," said Filomena, "if you weren't bathing?" "I was writing a poem." "But why the bathroom?" said Eddie. "Not to mention why the bath?" "It's easily the best place to be when there's moving [house] going on. No one comes in and out with bits of furniture. There's nothing to arrange once the towels and toothbrushes are out. And it's quite comfy lying in the bath. Even without water. I've had a very quiet day. Is supper ready?"...more
I had read this title a few years ago & refreshed it in my mind with the book on CD. It is an effective fable, set in a mythical Polynesia with thI had read this title a few years ago & refreshed it in my mind with the book on CD. It is an effective fable, set in a mythical Polynesia with the 10-year-old Mafatu at its center. The elevated language and the brief simplicity of this moral tale makes for an inspiring, old-fashioned good read for a variety of readers. Any reader might enjoy the excitement of this coming-of-age adventure wherein the young protagonist, frightened of the sea since it took his mother years ago, braves the elements, survives near starvation, thirst, solitude alleviated only by his beloved dog & a tame albatross. He learns to rely on the “womanly” skills he developed while ostracized, as well as patiently taking charge of his means of escape by whetting stone into knives & using them to build a canoe & make a mast and sail, and eventually returning home with a necklace of boar’s teeth emphasizing his apparent triumph.
Because of its age, the book employs outdated conventions like the simplistic portrayal of a complex cultures as Rousseauian noble savages or as bloodthirsty black savages.
Nonetheless, I was just thinking that I needed to start reading my way through the Newbery winners of the past and am pleased to see that this is the one from 1941. ...more
A good dog story tempered by a realistic immigration story. While the language felt banal, the story of Zitlally, the 11-year-old daughter of an illegA good dog story tempered by a realistic immigration story. While the language felt banal, the story of Zitlally, the 11-year-old daughter of an illegal immigrant who is deported leaving his wife & 3 daughters behind, feels plausible, as does the changing relationships between the protagonist & her friends. Ultimately, the story resolves happily, making it a draw for the dog-besotted or the relationship-savvy 3rd-grader. The endnotes about immigration from Mexico to the US are sensitive & valuable for all readers. Includes a Spanish glossary. ...more
I was already to dismiss this spare picture book as adult humor packaged for hip parents with ironic offspring. I read it myself. My 10- and 13-year-oI was already to dismiss this spare picture book as adult humor packaged for hip parents with ironic offspring. I read it myself. My 10- and 13-year-olds read it and laughed. I re-read it. Okay, this is pretty darn visually funny, but how will it go over with the Primaries?
A staring bear cannot find his hat and so politely surveys his woodland companions, even helping a turtle atop a rock he's been attempting to climb all day. When the bear despairs of ever seeing his hat, another creature asks the bear (now flat on his back) about his misery. In recounting his hat-finding journey, the bear recalls the hat's whereabouts & then races back to the culprit. The bear recovers the beloved hat & exacts revenge on the culprit. This is no Berenstain Bears "now we're all friends" conclusion. PETA members beware.
One class of K-1st-graders served as my test market last week and they thought it was hilarious. A few were dismayed at the lying rabbit's fate. A few remained mystified, but many laughed out loud at the wordless conclusion....more
Lyrical language & striking illustrations relate this terrific story of survival in the Arctic. The fact that the author features the 2 children oLyrical language & striking illustrations relate this terrific story of survival in the Arctic. The fact that the author features the 2 children on board makes this an engaging readaloud for Juniors, especially when they study natives of North America. ...more