Perfect book for dog lovers!!! Age appropriate, adorable in the ways only dogs are and full of the ridiculous humor and unconditional love dogs bring...morePerfect book for dog lovers!!! Age appropriate, adorable in the ways only dogs are and full of the ridiculous humor and unconditional love dogs bring with them into families--especially families with children.(less)
Cheetah Can't Lose is another winner from author Bob Shea. When Cheetah's friends celebrate the coming of Big Race Day Cheetah's response is:
...moreCheetah Can't Lose is another winner from author Bob Shea. When Cheetah's friends celebrate the coming of Big Race Day Cheetah's response is:
Which big race?
The one I always win because I am big and fast and you always lose because you are little and cats?
His friends (two little cats) tell Cheetah this year they are having a lot of races so that everyone can win. Cheetah is still confident HE will win ALL the races. The cats take him through the Flower Jumping Race, the Pie-Eating Race, the Ice Cream Sundae-Eating Race, the Yarn Pouncing Race and a Mind-Reading Guessing Race. As Cheetah competes against his two friends they award him special "winner" shoes (big boxes), victory balloons and a too-big crown that falls over his eyes as he brags about his victories and they giggle behind their hands.
By the time they arrive at the final Great Big Race, Cheetah is a disaster. The reader enjoys seeing Cheetah's bragging create his own downfall at the hands of the clever kittens. The big, bright illustrations help create the chaotic atmosphere for Cheetah that ultimately decides the winner of The Big Race. The added piece of this story for me was that after the clever kittens have triumphed over the braggart, Cheetah, they perform a touching act of kindness toward him that gives the story an entirely deeper dimension that speaks to revenge and true friendship. (less)
Wilson's text is simple and sweet without being patronizing. Jane Chapman's soft pastel illustrations are full of warmth and tenderness. This is grea...more Wilson's text is simple and sweet without being patronizing. Jane Chapman's soft pastel illustrations are full of warmth and tenderness. This is great selection for parents who want to both reassure older siblings and build a shared family excitement about a new child will be joining the family.(less)
Turkey Tot is a clever re-telling of the classic story The Little Red Hen. In this version the Little Red Hen is replaced by Turkey Tot and the three...moreTurkey Tot is a clever re-telling of the classic story The Little Red Hen. In this version the Little Red Hen is replaced by Turkey Tot and the three uncooperative friends are Chick, Pig and Hen. Instead of preparing and baking bread Turkey Tot wants the sweet, juicy blackberries in the tree high above their heads.
The other animals agree that the blackberries look delicious but they are too far out of reach and therefore impossible to pick. The animals began to walk away. Turkey Tot discovers a ball of string and concocts a plan to find balloons, tie them to the string and float up to the tree where they will then be able to pick the blackberries. The other three animals dismiss his idea:
"Not me," said Chick. "You're talking crazy talk."
"Not me," said Pig. "We can't reach the berries and that is that."
"Tsk, tsk," said Hen. "He's been different since the day he hatched."
Turkey Tot's response is always that he will do it himself followed by:
But he couldn't. So he didn't. But he found something else.
Turkey Tot's next discovery leads to another ingenious plan, and so on.
The structure of the original Little Red Hen story solidly underlies Turkey Tot but here the characters have a little more personality--other than lazy and selfish. In the end Chick, Pig and Hen come to appreciate Turkey Tot's creative and original thinking. The phrase "He's been different since the day he hatched." becomes an expression of admiration instead of a put-down, leaving all four characters better off than they were at the beginning of the story.
Jennifer Mann's illustrations are bright primary and secondary hues in bold panels. The characters are drawn simply yet completely and Turkey Tot has wonderfully quirky facial expressions that mirror his personality perfectly.
This is a great read-aloud for younger children in classrooms or at home. I will also be using it with older students when I study fairy tales for structure and examples of different versions based on a traditional form. (less)
B.U.G. is extraordinarily successful blending of contemporary realistic and fantasy fiction. In addition to the seamlessly interwoven genres the story...moreB.U.G. is extraordinarily successful blending of contemporary realistic and fantasy fiction. In addition to the seamlessly interwoven genres the story embodies the themes at the heart of every individual--particularly young people--trying to decide who we are when overwhelmed by feelings and circumstances.
Sammy is bullied mercilessly at school--both physically and emotionally. His only solace is his music--klezmer, a Jewish traditional music form. When Sammy begins studying for his bar mitzvah the rabbi tells him about a legendary defender of the Jewish people--a mythical creature called a golem. Heedless of the rabbi's warnings, when Sammy reaches his breaking point at school he creates his own golem and brings it to life.
Sammy discovers there are responsibilities and dangers involved with creating a life--any life--that he did not expect. He is forced to make decisions about retaliating in anger or simply protecting and standing up for himself. Doing the right thing when you have been repeatedly hurt by another is one of the most difficult decisions any of us face. I appreciated this aspect of the story.
Amid the fantastical existence of golems are the genuine themes of friendship, compassion and personal integrity. Having read many bully-themed novels this year, I enjoyed the fact that B.U.G. was different in the addition of the fantasy elements. Do kids get their heads stuffed in toilets by bullies? Truthfully, not really. Are they browbeaten and ostracized? Absolutely--far too frequently. Due to the universality of the story's theme and the obvious fantasy element of the golem I was willing to suspend reality for those of Sammy's circumstances that would not have been believable in a strictly contemporary fiction book. (less)
Tollins are not fairies. Though they both have wings, fairies are delicate creatures and much smaller....In addition, fairies cannot sing B-sharp....Tollins regard fairies as fluttery show-offs and occasionally use them to wipe out the insides of cups. Tollins are also a lot less fragile than fairies. In fact, the word "fragile" can't really be used about them at all. They are about as fragile as a housebrick.
So begins Tollins: Explosive Tales for Children. The book is divided into three stories: How to Blow Up Tollins, Sparkler and the Purple Death and Windbags and Dark Tollins. Each of these stories is in turn divided into chapters, making this an excellent read-aloud in classrooms or at home.
The main character is a Tollin named Sparkler who, due to being exploited by humans at a fireworks factory, becomes a scientist, determined to provide humans with an alternative to using Tollins as fireworks. Sparkler's stories are a unique mix of sweetness and tongue-in-cheek humor which will appeal to young children and adults alike.
Sparkler's ingenuity and determination are inspiring. Iggulden's ironic touches (particularly relating to the fairies, who are NOT treated well by the Tollins, who seem oblivious to this fact) and clever wordplay add a dimension to the stories that elevate them above a traditional children's story of fairy-like creatures. Lizzy Duncan's illustrations are quirky and an absolutely perfect complement to the theme and tone of the stories. The Tollins are depicted in purples and dark reds with a slightly old-fashioned quality and hysterically funny facial expressions.
There is much to be savored in Tollins. I thoroughly enjoyed my reading experience with these characters and their adventures and encourage anyone who enjoys a story for the sake of a good story and a good laugh to grab a copy! (less)
The Sandman and the War of Dreams is the fourth installment in William Joyce's Guardians series (the animated feature film Rise of the Guardians was b...moreThe Sandman and the War of Dreams is the fourth installment in William Joyce's Guardians series (the animated feature film Rise of the Guardians was based on the series). I have enjoyed each of the books and there is still one final installment left to be written, but The Sandman is my hands-down favorite so far.
The entire series appeals to me because it has the wonderful storyteller quality of the best fairytales and because the theme woven throughout is one of kindness and love, belief in miracles and the courage to make those miracles happen. The Sandman describes riding throughout the skies on shooting stars, listening to the wishes made to him as he passes saying:
If a wish was worthy, we were honor-bound to answer it. We would send a dream to whomever had made the wish. The dream would go to that person as they slept, and within this dream there would be a story...and it would help guide them in their quest to make the wish come true.
I really love the belief in magic coupled with individual initiative and cooperation to combat the evil of Lord Pitch (the Nightmare King). The Sandman is a uniquely gentle story that is nonetheless full of the adventure and good vs. evil battles that keep the story moving at a brisk--sometimes breathless--pace.
This is a perfect read-aloud (as are the others in the series) for a classroom or as a bedtime selection for the whole family. I highly recommend it for all ages, but it will be most enjoyed by 7-11 year olds and those--like me--who truly love the storyteller/fairytale genre. (less)
I laughed out loud at this one! In Lion, Shark and TimberWolf are finding it hurtful that other animals whisper behind their backs, call them "bad kit...moreI laughed out loud at this one! In Lion, Shark and TimberWolf are finding it hurtful that other animals whisper behind their backs, call them "bad kitty" and hold Little Red Riding Hood and "feeding frenzies" against them.
Coming together in a support group for Carnivores they decide the best way to avoid being treated this way by other animals is to become vegetarians. And they try. Without success.
Disguises are the next idea, allowing them to blend in and be included by the other animals. Predictably, this plan also fails as none are able to maintain their disguises for very long.
With advice from the Wise Old Owl they realize that they are CARNIVORES. That is what they were intended to be and they do not need to feel bad or ashamed of it. They are meant to exist in this world in this particular way and that's OK.
The text is perfectly proportioned for each page and Santat's illustrations showcase his genius in characterization. He brings a modern graphic novel quality to the story. The bunnies and the TimberWolf I find particularly hilarious.
I, personally, love the slight humorous twist at the end of the story. In my opinion it saves it from being too sappy and gives it the perfect 'edge.' That said, it may not be for everyone; my sense of humor tends to lean farther toward parody, absurdist (even sarcasm) than some others.
As it is I shared it with my children (ages 9 and 11) but I would still have read it with them if they were age 2 and above. I could definitely see this being used in an elementary science life cycle lesson or one clarifying vegetarian/carnivore terms and traits. (less)
Warp Speed is an interesting book. The main character is Marley Sandelski, a 7th grader who feels invisible--except when he's targeted by bullies. Mar...moreWarp Speed is an interesting book. The main character is Marley Sandelski, a 7th grader who feels invisible--except when he's targeted by bullies. Marley belongs to the AV Club and is a rabid Star Trek fan. Outwardly he fits the stereotypical profile of a "nerd."
Marley lives with his parents above the Rialto Theater, which they own and operate. The Rialto shows old movies on the old reel-to-reel projectors, including occasional silent movies for which Marley's mother plays the live music. Marley's mother is blind due to a degenerative retinal disease and her character is an important aspect of Marley's story, in that he sees modeled in his mother an example of strength and courage and determination. Marley's love for his parents also adds to his own distress in that--like SO many of us--he doesn't want to tell them about what he is suffering at the hands of other students. Part of that reluctance comes from wanting to protect his parents from the knowledge, and part of it comes from the unwarranted embarrassment and shame that comes with being treated cruelly by others.
When a new student arrives and joins the AV Club and eventually observes Marley being constantly harassed, hit, called names, etc., becomes angry and demands to know why no one is reporting the abuse we discover the reason Marley is the bullies' target: he stood up for another student (friend) who was receiving the same treatment. When Marley tried to stop the abuse of his friend, the bullies turned their venom on Marley--which is often the case for the individual with enough courage to stand up for another.
I liked Warp Speed because Marley's character is so genuine, his narration so heartfelt and achingly honest. Warp Speedallows the reader to see beyond Marley's outward appearance. The stereotypical "nerd" characteristics that his peers see (Star Trek uber-fan who sometimes lapses into Klingon, AV Club member, non-designer/trendy clothes, etc.) are true aspects of Marley's personality. The difference is that Marley continues to conduct himself--throughout the book--in accordance with his beliefs and values and without giving up the things he DOES truly enjoy (like Star Trek and AV Club) while continuing to search for ways to feel the sense of belonging and acceptance that every one of us needs. He never gives up who he is as a person and THAT is something worth reading! (less)
Sharon Creech's most recent work The Boy on the Porch is calm and sweet and incredibly moving.
John and Marta find a boy asleep on one of their porch c...moreSharon Creech's most recent work The Boy on the Porch is calm and sweet and incredibly moving.
John and Marta find a boy asleep on one of their porch chairs. There is no trace of how or why he arrived there--just a note that the little boy eventually takes from his pocket and hands to Marta:
Plees taik kair of Jacob He is a god good boy.
Wil be bak wen we can.
Unsure of what to do, John and Marta go about caring for the child hesitantly at first. They search for Jacob's family, for reports of missing children, but find nothing for months. Jacob is a unique child in that he is either unable or unwilling to speak so John and Marta must discover ways to communicate with him. As they observe Jacob and his remarkable gift for art and music/rhythm they marvel at and delight in him, growing closer together with each passing day.
In tone and style The Boy on the Porch is reminiscent of Patricia MacLachlan's Sarah, Plain and Tall and is closest in theme to Creech's previous work The Unfinished Angel (which I love). It is really the story of John and Marta and how this small boy on their porch shapes the rest of their lives. It is a story about the power of love and compassion and simple kindness. It is a story about the best in people healing what can be the wreckage inflicted by the worst.
It is about loving children and is one of the most truly beautiful stories I have read in a long time. Due to its tone and theme The Boy on the Porch may work better as a read-aloud for younger readers, who probably would not choose it independently. For Sharon Creech fans it's a must-read! And for those who are not familiar with Creech's work this is a delightful way to begin! (less)