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Draw Me A Star by Eric Carle

6 May

Draw Me a Star Cover

Draw Me A Star is a picture book about an artist that is requested to draw a star. Throughout the story the artist is told to draw flowers, a house, night and a woman and man. This is a beautiful story as all of Eric Carle’s stories are. It piques imagination in young readers and is sure to capture their attention.

Insight:

This book is moving. Eric Carle never ceases to amaze with his beautiful illustrations and accessible narrative for young readers. I love the rhythm of this story—mesmerizing and calming. My two-year old daughter loves to listen to this story before bedtime.

Suggested Library Activity:

For younger readers (age 4-7) have students make a booklet of their own drawings. Include elements from Draw Me a Star such as flowers, stars, night, day, etc. Have students color their book and make a cover. Collect the student-made books and place in a basket.  Place the basket in an accessible location in the library. For older students, be sure to include describing words in the book under the pictures—possibly even a segway in to poetry. Use colors, numbers and other emotive and moving descriptions.

Bibliographic Citation:

Carle, E. (1992). Draw me a star. New York: Philomel Books.


Additional Book Review:

From School Library Journal

Kindergarten-Grade 4– A young boy is told (readers are not sure by whom) to “Draw me a star.” The star then requests that the boy draw it a sun; the sun asks for a “lovely tree,” and throughout his life the boy/man/artist continues to create images that fill the world with beauty. The moon bids the now-elderly artist to draw another star, and as the story ends, the artist travels “across the night sky” hand-in-hand with the star. This book will appeal to readers of all ages; its stunning illustrations, spare text, and simple story line make it a good choice for story hour; but older children will also find it uplifting and meaningful. Especially pleasing is a diagram within the story, accompanied by rhyming instructions on how to draw a star: “Down/ over/ left/ and right/ draw/ a star/ oh so/ bright.” An inspired book in every sense of the word.
– Eve Larkin, Middleton Public Library , WI


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Geektastic: Stories From the Nerd Herd by Holly Black and Cecil Castelucci

6 May

Cover of the book Geektastic

Geektastic is a compilation of short stories of all things geek and nerd inspired. This is a quick and creative read edited by Black and Castelluci. This is My Audition Monologue by Sarah Zarr  was a personal favorite. The beauty of this anthology is their is certainly something for everyone. Whether or not the reader will be enthralled from page 1 to the end is left for the reader to decide.

Insight:

I enjoyed the variety of authors this book offers, but to be honest I was not all that smitten with most of the stories. A select few held my interest and others I just skimmed.

Suggested Library Activity:

Use this book for a book club. The variety of stories and topics discussed will get students talking.

Bibliographic Citation:

Black, H., & Castellucci, C. (2009). Geektastic: Stories from the nerd herd. New York: Little, Brown and Co.


Additional Book Review:

From Trekkers to science geeks, Buffy fanatics to Dungeon Masters, nerds of all persuasions are sure to find themselves in the pages of this anthology. It contains fun reads such as Black and Castellucci’s “Once You’re a Jedi, You’re a Jedi All the Way” in which a Klingon wakes with a Jedi in her hotel room while at a sci-fi convention, and Tracy Lynn’s “One of Us,” in which a cheerleader enlists the school nerds to teach her the basics of geekdom so she can impress her Trekker boyfriend. The collection also includes more profound fare such as Kelly Link’s moving and masterful “Secret Identity” about a 15-year-old girl who has pretended to be her 32-year-old sister on an online RPG. She must face the consequences of her lies when she arranges to meet the man with whom she has developed a relationship. Also included are stories by YA lit greats such as John Green, Libba Bray, Scott Westerfeld, and M. T. Anderson. Each story is followed by a comic-book-style illustration offering information or advice such as “What Your Instrument Says About You” and “How to Look Cool and Not Drool in Front of Your Favorite Author.” Simultaneously addressing the isolation and loneliness that geeks can feel as well as the sense of camaraderie and community that can be found when one embraces a world or ideology in which he or she can completely invest, Geektastic is a completely dorky and utterly worthwhile read.—Heather M. Campbell, formerly at Philip S. Miller Library, Castle Rock, CO


Campbell, H. (2009, August 1). Grades 5 and Up [ Book Review of Geektastic: Stories from the nerd] Retrieved from http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6674059.html

Tales From Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan

27 Apr

Tales From Outer Suburbia Cover

Tan’s Tales From Suburbia is sure to heighten children’s imagination and make adults remember what it was like to be a child. This book is a compiling of short stories set in suburbia. Tan captures the essence of surburbia with childlike eyes and in a narrative format using images that call upon the common American landscape.

On rare occasions, some especially insistent piece of writing will escape into a backyard or laneway- Be blown along a roadside embankment and finally come to rest in a shopping center parking lot-as so many things do-It is here that something quite remarkable takes place-

The book’s illustrations portray mundane communities that can be found across the United States; their identical houses, green lawns, alongside car laden highways. What is interesting and noteworthy about this book, is that Tan manages to create whimsical  tales amidst a backdrop that lacks any real luster or uniqueness. This book is sure to entertain any adult or child and will call to mind the wonder of  imagination and the creativity that lies within the human spirit.

Insight:

These short stories are imaginative and whimsical. They remind me of being a child and making fortresses using the dining room table and chairs. Kids live in such a different reality from grown ups. As a grown up now, this book lets me catch a glimpse of of how I use to see the world. You must read this one!

Suggested Library Activity:  

In a school library setting, this book could be used as a segway to an imaginative writing lesson. This book will encourage students to find the extraordinary in the ordinary every day details. Read this story first and then brainstorm creative writing ideas taking ideas from students’ everyday life.

Bibliographic Citation: Shaun, T. (2008). Tales from outer suburbia. New York: Author A. Levine Books.

Additional Book Review:

“Tales From Outer Suburbia” is a collection of illustrated stories about, among other things, a water buffalo who hangs out in a vacant lot and gives directions to local kids; stick figures who get beaten up by neighborhood bullies; a giant du gong that appears on someone’s lawn; and the lonely fate of all the unread poetry that people write — it joins a vast “river of waste that flows out of suburbia.” This last story, by the way, is presented as a flotilla of random scraps that “through a strange force of attraction” come together, the word “naturally” meeting the phrase “many poems are” and then “immediately destroyed…”

Lindgren, H. (2009, November 5). Everyday weirdness. Message posted to http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/08/books/review/Lindgren-t.html

Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science by Jon Fleischman

27 Apr

Phineas Gage is a biographical account  of  a man that accidentally lodges an iron rod into his head from an ill-fated dynamite accident. What is most remarkable about this story is that moments after this life altering event happens Phineas Gage is recounted as telling the story of what happened to himself with the iron rod still lodged in his head! Bystanders were quite perplexed. Fleischman does an effective job in narrative style revealing the events surrounding Gage’s accident using diagrams, charts and photographs chronicling his Gage’s accounts and the scientific community’s explanations. Additionally, Fleischman relates Phineas Gage’s story to the history of brain science and the amazing insight that Phineas Gage’s happening was able to provide to the scientific community and further the understanding of the brain and its processes.

This story is not for students that are squeamish. Fleischman provides vivid descriptions of this horrific event as well as accurate descriptions of the brain and its processes. This book comes highly recommended, especially for those students interested in how the brain works. This book should be considered for any middle school or high school library and is sure to be of great interest to students by making the impossible seem possible.

Insight:

Holy cow! This guy got an iron rod lodged in his head and was still standing and talking after. Weird. Do I really need to say more? The human brain is an amazing thing and well…brains in general are just pretty awesome. Bird brains, fish brains…you name the brain and it is pure awesomeness! My husband had an uncle in Colombia that had a room full of preserved biological items. Yes, he was a doctor, but that is kind of creepy in a Dr. Jekyll and Hyde kind of way.

Suggested Library Activity:

School librarians can use this book to impress upon students the true joys of nonfiction. This book is an excellent book to use as a way of introducing nonfiction and nonfiction features to students. Using multiple copies of the book have students break out in to groups and with stickies identify and label nonfiction features such as captions, charts, sources, etc.

Bibliographic Citation:

Fleischman, J. (2002). Phineas Gage: A gruesome but true story about brain science. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Additional Book Review:

Gr 5-8 –Beginning with a medical miracle, and ending in mystery, this case study of a railroad worker who not only survived having an iron rod blast through his head, but also went on to lead a (more or less) normal life, serves as a rousing reminder that there is much about the brain that we do not know. The photos and computer-generated reconstructions are as striking (so to speak) as the story.

Peter, J. (2003, May 1). What’s the go of that? Message posted to

http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA294389.html

What the World Eats by Faith D’Aluisio

8 Apr

A book that is sure to inform

Let’s face it, nonfiction is often just not that appealing for young readers. D’Aluisio’s book begins to break this outdated prejudice by writing a book that is informative, interesting and fun. The layout of the book has a logical progression with photographs of families from around the world. Included in the photographs are each family’s weekly food items. Readers learn about the different diets from around the world, different cultures and facts about food.

One notable feature is the Area in Square Miles chart (p. 31) comparing size of countries around the world to the United States. Children often have difficulty with understanding size of countries, but by comparing the countries with known states, readers gain insight in to the true size of countries throughout the world. The author touches upon the obesity epidemic in the United States by comparing the number of obese people in the United States with Chad. The visual aid is  quite shocking showing the degree to which Americans living in the United States are obese. Young readers are sure to love this book and it will certainly elicit more questions from readers. This is an essential addition to any library’s nonfiction collection.

Insight:

After borrowing this book from the public library, I sat mesmerized eating up every page (pun intended). The design of the book beckons readers and the layout is exceptional.  It saddens me that the United States has such an “issue” with food. I say “issue” because I think we are taught from a young age to relate food to emotion. I am generalizing, but in other countries where food is scarce, people eat to live, not eat to fill a void. I especially loved how the charts emphasized the obesity epidemic in the United States. This book wants to be taken home, read and discussed. Who knows, maybe it will even be a good family discussion starter about all kinds of topics like nutrition, culture and money.

Suggested Library Activity:

This book is an excellent resource and can be used in a number of ways. This book can be used as a bridge to world geography and can also be used to introduce the nonfiction and nonfiction features such as captions, headings, charts, etc. Students can use this book to create an informational report using the myriad of Web 2.o tools available.

Bibliographic Citation:

D’Aluisio, F. (2008). What the world eats. Tricycle Press. Berkeley.

Additional Book Review:

Gr 6 Up–This adaptation of the adult book Hungry Planet takes readers on an intimate, cross-cultural journey that focuses on the typical food choices of families in 21 countries. Splendidly illustrated with crisp color photographs of proudly displayed fare and filled with thought-provoking facts, this work is an eye-opener to savor.

Jones, T. (2008, December 1).School Library Journal’s Best Books 2008. What the world eats [Review of the book What the World Eats]. School Library Journal online. Message posted to http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/article/CA6617203.html#Nonfiction

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

8 Apr
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

This is the story about a young girl named Lyra Belacqua.  Lyra, an orphan grows up in a collegiate environment under the infrequent  care of Lord Asriel. Lyra and her daemon, Patalaimon run amok among the campus buildings at Jordan college. During one of Lyra’s escapades she finds someone trying to poison Lord Asriel and saves his life. Shortly after, her closest friend Roger is snatched by the Gobblers and Lyra sets out to save him. She traverses other  lands and battles witches. Pullman’s story is full of symbolism and imagery and contains mystery and suspense. This book is an adventure and readers will find it challenging to put the book down. Students that love fantasy are sure to love this book and students not quite sure of the fantasy genre may actually find they enjoy this story. This book is a must for any school library collection or the children’s section of a public library.

Insight:

This is one of those books that you read and immediately you see the setting and characters. Pullman’s imagery calls to mind Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. The writing is rich and descriptive. The battles are intense and full of suspense. There is quite a bit of hoopla surrounding this book’s symbolism. I’m still at a loss when trying to understand how so many people wanted to ban this book. This book is well written and I will read it to my daughter when she is older.

Suggested Library Activity:

Use this book in a book club. Draft discussion starters beforehand to get them share their thoughts on the story. This book can also be used as an introduction to map reading. Read an excerpt from the book relating to Lyra’s travels. Have students create their own maps creating their own world.  Introduce features such as legend, compass and scale.

Bibliographic Citation:

Pullman. P. (1995). The Golden Compass. New York: Yearling.

Additional Book Review:

“Admittedly, it took me a little while to get used to Lyra’s world… there was definitely a learning curve for me; trying to figure out what this dæmon thing is all about, who are all these other creatures, and what is the point of this story in the first place.  But once things started falling into place, the story really took off for me and I lost myself in it…”
Lo, H. (2008, July 5). Review: The Golden Compass. Message posted to

http://heatherlo.wordpress.com/2008/07/05/review-the-golden-compass/

Booklist starred (Vol. 92, No. 13 (March 1, 1996))

“Gr. 7-12. In the first of a planned trilogy, Pullman has created a wholly developed universe, which is, as he states, much like our own but different in many ways–a world in which humans are paired with animal “daemons” that seem like alter egos, only with personalities of their own. The story begins at Jordan College in Oxford, where young Lyra Belacqua and her daemon, Pantalaimon, are being reared and educated by the Scholars. Although a lackluster student, Lyra possesses an inordinate curiosity and sense of adventure, which lead her into forbidden territory on the night her uncle, Lord Asriel, visits. He’s there to solicit funds for a return journey to the distant arctic wastes, where he has observed and photographed strange goings-on, including a mysterious phenomenon called Dust that streams from the sky and a dim outline of a city suspended in the Aurora, or Northern Lights, that he suspects is part of an alternate universe. After he leaves, Lyra finds herself placed in the charge of the mysterious Mrs. Coulter and in possession of a rare compasslike device that can answer questions if she learns how to read it…”

Tomas and the Library Lady by Pat Mora

8 Apr

Tomas and the Library Lady by Pat Mora

 This is a story about Tomas, a son of Mexican immigrant workers that travel seasonally from Texas to Iowa for work. Tomas describes the hot and arduous conditions his family works under and also describes the many things he does to entertain himself, namely reading. Tomas discovers the library and makes friends with the librarian. The two share books and language and Tomas uses the library to read about dinosaurs. At night, Tomas reads to his family in English. The day comes when Tomas’ family must leave and the librarian gives Tomas a beautiful book. This book is illustrated by Raul Colon. The illustrations show Tomas lost in the world of books from dinosaurs to snakebirds. The illustrations tend to be a bit too stylistic and cartoony, but they still effectively portray the characters in a somewhat realistic manner giving each character their own unique qualities. The illustrations also assist  the narrative of the story. For young readers, this is an enjoyable story describing realistic aspects of migrant workers while also demonstrating that kindness, generosity and love really do make a difference.

Insight:

Upon first reading this book, I liked it. It would have been nice to have more background and context about  migrant workers, but I also don’t think this was the author’s intended purpose. In my opinion this book is ok, it leaves something to be desired.  However the illustrations by Raul Colon are simply beautiful. He effectively captures the mood of the story and quietly moves the narrative along.

Suggested Library Activity:

Have students create a Spanish/English dictionary using everyday expressions and words such as “hello” and “hola”. Have them illustrate the dictionary and act out the expressions and words with their peers.

Bibliographic Citation:

Mora, P. (2000). Tomas and the library lady. Albuquerque [New Mexico]: Dragonfly Books.

Additional Book Review:

Booklist (Vol. 93, No. 22 (August 1997))

“Ages 4-8. From the immigrant slums of New York City to the fields of California, it’s an elemental American experience: the uprooted child who finds a home in the library. Mora’s story is based on a true incident in the life of the famous writer Tomas Rivera, the son of migrant workers who became an education leader and university president. Far from his home in Texas, the small boy is working with his family picking corn in Iowa. Inspired by the Spanish stories his grandfather (Papa Grande) tells, Tomas goes to the library to find more stories. The librarian welcomes him into the cool, quiet reading room and gives him books in English that he reads to himself and to his family. He teaches her some Spanish words. Then, as in so many migrant stories, the boy must leave the home he has found. He has a new, sad word for her, “adios. It means goodbye.” Colon’s beautiful scratchboard illustrations, in his textured, glowingly colored, rhythmic style, capture the warmth and the dreams that the boy finds in the world of books. The pictures are upbeat; little stress is shown; even in the fields, the kids could be playing kick ball or listening to stories. Perhaps the most moving picture is that of the child outside the library door, his face pressed against the pane. In contrast is the peaceful space he finds inside, where he is free to imagine dinosaurs and wild adventure.”