Five-year-old Bo lives with Jack, an African American cook and Arvid, the mine blacksmith who adopted her when her mother rejected her. She loves the...moreFive-year-old Bo lives with Jack, an African American cook and Arvid, the mine blacksmith who adopted her when her mother rejected her. She loves the village she lives in and spends her time helping Jack in the kitchen and visiting the neighbors. Bo does have her share of challenges though, everything from sickness to bears and lost little boys, but with the help of her friends and adopted family she manages to make her way through.
Strengths: Bo is a darling little girl with lots of heart and people that care about her. The details about the time and place are vivid and interesting. Pham's illustrations provide a nice touch help show what Bo and her family and friends are like. I really enjoyed this one, just a cute story about growing up in a specific time and place and the challenges and changes associated with Alaska in the 1920s. I also appreciated how careful the author was about including certain details like the 'good-time' girls. No further information is provided other than their presence in helping the miners have a good time. The book is well-written and easy to read. I personally loved the book.
Weaknesses: I'm really not sure why the author made the main character only 5-years-old. It's an unusual age for the main character of a middle grade novel. Would be fun for a family read-a-loud, but I am not sure how many children will pick it up on their own, especially since it is historical fiction as well. Some of the mining details may not be appreciated by the target audience. Also, it doesn't have a really exciting plot like so many kids want to read these days.(less)
This book beautifully illustrates what I love about Christmas stories. It's a story of compassion, creativity, and courage from an American pilot, rea...moreThis book beautifully illustrates what I love about Christmas stories. It's a story of compassion, creativity, and courage from an American pilot, reaching out to German children at the end of World War II. The book includes not only the story as told by Tom Brokaw during the 2012 Mormon Tabernacle Choir's Christmas concert, but also illustrations and photographs that add the perfect compliment to the tender story. Also included with the book is a DVD presentation of the telling of the story at the Christmas concert. A powerful reminder of how one simple act can turn into something much greater. Highly recommended.(less)
I'm still thinking about this book and how it touched me in so many ways. Vanderpool seems to have gift for writing characters that I can really relat...moreI'm still thinking about this book and how it touched me in so many ways. Vanderpool seems to have gift for writing characters that I can really relate to even though my experiences are so different than those of her characters.
The main character, Jack, finds himself in a completely new environment without any family members to help him adjust to his new circumstances. The death of his mother and his father's seeming coldness have left Jack adrift with no idea where to turn for help. When he meets Early he isn't sure what to make of the boy who seems so sure of everything even when others disagree with him. He realizes very quickly that Early doesn't see the world the same way everyone else does and it confuses him, but at the same time it draws him in. When his father doesn't show up for a planned get together, Jack agrees to go with Early on a quest to find the Great Appalachian Bear. But what is Early really looking for? And can they find it before disaster strikes?
Strengths: The characters in this book feel so real that at times my heart ached for the sorrows that they are struggling with. And every character is struggling with a sorrow of some kind, even Early. And yet the way the story that Early tells of Pi and his and Jack's own journey have many parallels as they search for a way to 'right their boats' so to speak. The themes of this book are powerful ones. The themes include the power of belief, persistence, and compassion, the consequences of actions and the struggle to deal with them. But the most powerful theme is the theme of being lost and needing time to find oneself again amidst the sorrows of life. The writing is beautiful and suits the story perfectly. The setting is presented strongly but doesn't overwhelm the story, providing just the right backdrop for Jack's and Early's journey.
Weaknesses: The only weakness that I saw here was that the story wasn't completely believable, a lot of strange things happen to the two boys. But the story is compelling enough that I could overlook this.(less)
Will Sparrow flees from the inn where he lives after the innkeeper threatens to sell him as a chimney sweep. But Will doesn't know what to do or where...moreWill Sparrow flees from the inn where he lives after the innkeeper threatens to sell him as a chimney sweep. But Will doesn't know what to do or where to go, so he just follows the roads he comes across. Along the way he meets people, a couple who are kind, the rest who just want to use him. Unfortunately for Will, despite his attempts to convince himself that he is tough and is only interested in filling his belly, turns out to be rather gullible. He trusts people's promises only to find them worthless. When he joins with the troupe of 'oddities' he thinks he knows who is who and what's going on, only to find that maybe he's wrong.
Strengths: Will is an interesting character, determined to survive but not particularly aggressive about doing so. He kind of goes with the flow of things, which it turns out isn't the best way to handle things. He tries not to be too trusting but has a hard time seeing past appearances. The story shows Will's personal growth as he searches for a place to be safe, warm, and full. I found the characters quite believable and their behavior suitable for the time period. As always, Karen Cushman creates a beautifully told story with a vivid picture of time and place.
Weaknesses: Sigh. I have such a hard time getting children to read historical fiction. Especially if it doesn't involve war.(less)
This book is a beautiful example of the amazing things being done with books for children. Everything about the book from the design to the writing is...moreThis book is a beautiful example of the amazing things being done with books for children. Everything about the book from the design to the writing is intended to help children decipher a difficult topic. Slavery is not an easy topic to discuss, nor is the war that came about because of it. But this book does a great job of showing how and why freedom came to the slaves.
I found it fascinating the way the author referred to slaves as "we." It brings a feel of unity, common suffering among African Americans both slave and free. I loved how she used quotes from prominent people of the time, both white and black. I also liked how these quotes showed a variety of opinions, those who supported Lincoln and those who didn't, those who wanted slavery ended regardless of the fate of the union and those who put the union first. The book is wonderfully written and perfect for sharing, especially in a classroom setting. There is much here worthy of discussion. I also appreciated the inclusion of the actual document (Emancipation Proclamation) and the author's taking the time to explain things as she went, helping the reader but not talking down to them. The author's epilogue explains her own feelings about the controversy that still surrounds slavery and the issue of who really freed the slaves. This is a nice touch in that it illustrates that history like so many other things varies depending on the beholder.
The design of the book is fabulous. The outside and inside of the book are made to look old, like an ink-splattered document from the past. Many illustrations were of primary source documents from the 1860s, everything from auction posters to political cartoons, photographs, paintings, as well as speeches and letters. The captions were well-written and clearly explained each illustration. A beautifully put together book that I highly recommend.(less)
A fascinating account of some intriguing and intricate robberies and the thieves who pulled them off. I had no idea that such well-planned and difficu...moreA fascinating account of some intriguing and intricate robberies and the thieves who pulled them off. I had no idea that such well-planned and difficult thefts had occurred. The story about the airplane hijacker was especially incredible, and yet after so much work, the supposed thief got away with so little. Some of these thieves stole for decades without getting caught. It's kind of sad though that these men who had such talents used their talents in such unfortunate ways and they all ended up paying for it in one way or another.
First, there's the Italian who stole the Mona Lisa and kept it hidden for two years, only to avoid a long prison sentence because the Italian's thought he was a folk hero for 'rescuing' the painting from the French. And who would imagine that forgetting to wash the dishes would catch an extremely thorough and careful bunch of bank thieves. And what about the thief who never carried a gun because someone could get hurt. There is quite a collection of individual stories in this book.
The illustrations provide a comic feel to the book and quite appealing. The book should be perfect for reluctant readers who like unusual topics. I agree with the author that these stories do indeed make for great reading. Full of humor, irony, and even heartbreak, these stories provided me with a very entertaining read and reminded me why being a thief is so not a good idea.(less)
I am delighted to see more and more picture book biographies being published. This makes it so much easier to share biographies with younger children....moreI am delighted to see more and more picture book biographies being published. This makes it so much easier to share biographies with younger children. At the same time, picture book biographies have to be carefully done in order to provide enough information without going overboard. I mean how do you provide just enough information to help the reader get an idea of what the person was like, without getting bogged down in details? I firmly believe that it is an art form. Picture books are an art in and of themselves, but picture book biographies require an even more careful hand because the characters are real. Audrey Vernick does a fantastic job of this in Brothers at Bat.
Vernick provides enough information to give the reader a taste of what the people are like, without losing her focus on a baseball team made up of only brothers. Sixteen children, twelve of whom were boys, I can only admire their parents. I appreciated the small touches that made the family seem so real, things like the slam, slam, slam of the door as the boys raced out to play. The sharing of beds, the individual portraits that show the familial similarity but also individual differences, all added to the story.
The illustrations are gorgeous and appealing. I'm always amazed when illustrators can create faces from a few lines and shapes. Salerno does a great job of this.
If you are looking for more great picture book biographies, I highly recommend this one.(less)
Liberty Lee, a mouse, introduces the events leading up to and surrounding the American Revolution. The book provides a fun, fictionalized introduction...moreLiberty Lee, a mouse, introduces the events leading up to and surrounding the American Revolution. The book provides a fun, fictionalized introduction to the creation of the United States of America. The text is in rhyme that reads out-loud well. There is enough information included to give children a basic understanding of what lead to the American Revolution and the Declaration of Independence. The introduction of the mouse narrator makes the book more child-friendly. The author does include more information about all the events mentioned in the book. I wish they had included a bibliography or works cited page, as a librarian, I always look for that, but regardless the book provides a nice introduction to an important time in the history of the United States.
The illustrations contain a lot of symbolism. The maps are not geographically accurate, but they do add to the text and give the reader an inkling of how most people lived. In one illustration we see Thomas Jefferson writing the first draft of the Declaration of Independence. While we have no idea what conditions or even where Jefferson worked, the illustrator included pictures of some of the things that Jefferson was known to have invented. This would be a great conversation starter about Jefferson and his remarkable intellectual achievements beyond just the Declaration. The illustration also hid an eagle in each illustration, children will have fun looking for it. I especially appreciated the inclusion of realistic looking illustrations of the Declaration of Independence.
Overall, this book provides a nice introduction for children to some of the important events leading up to the creation of the United States of America. (less)
This is a fun book about specific buildings/structures from around the world. Not only does Laroche highlight the building but he asks a questions abo...moreThis is a fun book about specific buildings/structures from around the world. Not only does Laroche highlight the building but he asks a questions about each one, such as who's inside or what's inside. This gives the reader a chance to infer who would use or what the building would be used for. I enjoyed trying to figure each one out. Some of the structures are well known, such as the Parthenon or Independence Hall, but others were new to me, such as the Petrona Towers or the Buddha's Palace. I appreciated the map included at the end showing the location of each structure. The illustrations are primarily cut paper collage and they are incredible. I looked at each illustration and imagined the many hours spent on each the details of each page. I highly recommend this book for sharing, it would make for some great discussions about different places and buildings around the world.(less)
This book is also very well done. Hopkinson does a great job of merging the experiences of some of the survivors. The addition of historical photograp...moreThis book is also very well done. Hopkinson does a great job of merging the experiences of some of the survivors. The addition of historical photographs and documents adds to the reading experience, makes it seem more immediate. I appreciated how she blended explanations with actual quotes. The text is quite readable and would make a great nonfiction read-a-loud. Books like this help children see that history doesn't have to be dry and boring. The real stories of survivors are heartbreaking in their starkness. My heart ached for those who left loved ones behind. The thing I find fascinating about this kind of story is not the disaster itself, but the way people react to it. Hopkinson doesn't shy away from stories of cowardice as well of heroics, but she doesn't judge, she simply presents what is known about the different people and lets the reader make up his/her own mind. This is hard to accomplish since looking back it is so easy to judge people and their mistakes. I highly recommend this book for those looking to learn more about the people involved in the disaster.(less)