Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Found:The Missing: Book 1

Written by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Most enjoyed by 5th through 8th Graders

Jonah is adopted. He knows it and is comfortable with it. His worries are about trying out for the basketball team and keeping his new neighbor Chip from developing much of a crush on Jonah's younger sister, Katherine. When Jonah receives a letter with the message 'You are one of the missing' quickly followed by another reading 'Beware, they are coming back to get you', he begins to wonder about his birth parents and the details surrounding his adoption. When Chip receives the same letters, the three decide to find the source of the letters. A visit with an FBI agent gives Jonah, Katherine, and Chip clues that point them to a disappearing plane, people who can appear and vanish at will, and a smuggling operation that involved 36 babies 13 years ago, two of which were Jonah and Chip. Who is after them and how far will they go to get Jonah and Chip within their grasp?

If you like mystery and suspense stories, 'Found' is the book for you. I started this one evening and thought I'd read a few pages then go to bed. Wrong! I couldn't put the book down. There's tons of action, believable characters, cliff-hanger chapter endings, and a plot that will make you scratch your head wondering 'Could that really happen?' Don't pass this book up! One warning though - 'Found' is the first in a new series and I can guarantee you will want to pick up the next book as soon as you finish. However, the second book, 'Sent', doesn't come out until August 2009 so you'll have to wait a while to find out what happens to Jonah, Katherine, and Chip. But if the next book is anything like the first one, it will be worth the wait!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bear Stays Up For Christmas

Written by Karma Wilson
Illustrated by Jane Chapman
Most enjoyed by Preschoolers through 2nd Graders

Normally, at this time of year, Bear would be sound asleep, just getting started on his long winter's nap. But his animal friends won't hear it; they want him to stay up to help them celebrate Christmas. He sleepily trundles out of his cave with them to get just the right tree and droops as he's stringing popcorn, but he still manages to stay awake. Just when his friends have fallen asleep, the Bear finds all kind of energy to make them gifts. But who else is awake on this special night?

This story is a great read-aloud because listeners can chime in with the refrain 'but the Bear stays up' at just the right time. The illustrations are perfect, making Bear so big and cuddly and the other animals so friendly. Keep cozy warm under a big quilt when you read this one, just like Bear does!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Thomas' Special Delivery

Based on The Railway Series by the Rev. W. Awdry
Illustrated by Tommy Stubs
Most enjoyed by train lovers in Preschool and Kindergarten

Thomas the Tank Engine, a Really Useful Engine, has three special deliveries to make before heading back to the engine shed to hang his Christmas stocking. With each delivery he makes, the snow falls faster and harder, making Thomas worry that he'll miss Father Christmas' visit. At the last stop, a children's hospital, Sir Topham Hatt asks Thomas to make one more stop on his way to the engine shed. Thomas is sure Father Christmas won't forget him for being so useful. When he finally arrives back to the shed, the stockings have been hung. But is it snowing too hard for Father Christmas to make it through?

If you have a Thomas the Tank Engine fan in your house, snuggle up and read this story together. Thomas is a good role model for little ones. He never gives up and always does his best, two messages worth repeating. And most likely it will be repeated because this is one holiday story you'll be asked to read over and over!

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Written by Ingrid Law
Most enjoyed by 5th through 8th Graders

Mibs Beaumont is looking forward to turning 13. In the Beaumont family, your 13th birthday is when you get your savvy, that special talent or skill that is unique to each family member. Mibs' brothers can already whip up hurricanes and create electrical storms so Mibs is eager to find out what she'll be able to do. Her excitement is put on hold, though, when her father is injured in a car accident the day before her birthday, leaving him in a coma at a nearby hospital. Now, Mibs wants nothing more than to have a savvy that will help bring her father home.

When the preacher's wife offers to host a birthday party for her, Mibs is less than excited. She downright dreads the affair. But when a pink school bus bearing the words Heartland Bible Supply Company appears in the church parking lot, Mibs is sure this is her chance to catch a ride to visit her father. Stowing away on the bus, Mibs finds herself in a bigger adventure than she had anticipated when the bus heads in the opposite direction of the hospital. Mibs is in for the bus ride of her life, one she'll never forget.

Savvy is one of the best books I've read this year. It won a 2008 Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor award and is sure to win many more. The story of a young girl searching for what makes her special and unique, it's a perfect read-aloud. It's also a wonderful choice for a parent and child to read together. There's lots to talk about and lots to laugh about. Savvy opens the door for a discussion of what makes each of us unique. Don't miss it!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Snowmen At Christmas

Written by Caralyn Buehner
Illustrated by Mark Buehner
Most enjoyed by snowmen lovers of all ages

We're lucky to have snow already this early in December. Yes, lucky indeed because it will allow the snowmen we've made in our front yards to celebrate Christmas. If you need to know just how they do that, check out 'Snowmen at Christmas' and you'll find out.
When you're sound asleep at night, you may be dreaming that your snowman is waiting patiently for you right where you left him. But if you could peek out your window, you'd find that he's left your yard and headed for some Christmas fun in town. Admiring the toys on display in store windows, munching on frosty treats, sledding down hills, and waiting for Santa are all pleasures your snowman enjoys. Capping off the evening is a celebtration of the birth of a King in song around the Christmas tree. Your tired snowman will head for home so check him in the morning. Is his carrot nose a little crooked? How about his hat - is it still there? Are you sure he stayed in one place all night?

I wish the snowmen in this book could come to life like Frosty does. Mark Buehner has created such joyful snowmen, I'd love to have the whole bunch decorating my front yard. 'Snowmen at Christmas' is another sure fire Christmas-spirit-lifter of a book!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Silver Packages:An Appalachian Christmas Story

Written by Cynthia Rylant
Illustrated by Chris K. Soentpiet
Most enjoyed by 3rd through 8th Graders

This may be considered a Christmas story, and it truly is, but it's also a story about quiet heroes, those unsung people who make lives around the world better because of the simple, selfless acts of kindness they perform.

In the mountains of Appalachia, the children of the small town anxiously wait for the Christmas train. Each year, from the back of the train, a rich man tosses gifts to the waiting children. For most, it will be the only gift they receive. The man's kindness is a way of thanking the townspeople for caring for him and nursing him back to health when he was injured in a car accident. The people who cared for him refused his offer of payment and so he has come back every year, just before Christmas, to bestow gifts on the town's children.

Frankie is hoping for a doctor kit this year. He waits anxiously by the train tracks, shivering with the other children as he tries to keep warm without socks, mittens, scarf or hat. When he opens his silver package on Christmas, he is disappointed to find a cowboy set and three pairs of warm socks. He plays with the set anyway while his feet stay warm. As Christmas comes again, he waits for the train and hopes for a doctor kit. But again he is disappointed, receiving a police car and two pairs of mittens.
The years pass and Frankie never receives the doctor kit. He grows up, moves away, and makes a life for himself. But he can't forget the kindness the rich man showed him when he was young. Frank, now a grown up Frankie, realizes that despite never receiving what he wanted, he always received what he needed - socks, mittens, hats and scarves. Moved to return home by his memories of the kindness of the rich man, Frank joins the children by the train tracks, watching their excitement and savoring his own warm memories. As they receive their silver packages, one child stumbles. That's when we realize how the kindness of one man can impact a young life.

If you can read this story without getting a tear in your eye, you're a much better reader than I am! Put this one on your table to read after making your list to Santa or before you head to the mall. I think you'll find yourself putting a little more love in all you do this season, and perhaps, making sure to reach out to others in small, quiet ways.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Skipppyjon Jones is Here!

Written and illustrated by Judy Schachner
Most enjoyed by readers in Kindergarten through 3rd Grade

One of this year's most popular Monarch Award books is 'Skippyjon Jones' by Judy Schachner. A Siamese kitty who can't sit still, Skippyjon Jones is always ready for adventure. The best thing about his adventures is that they come from his imagination. And let me tell you, his imagination is an active one! And readers will be happy to know that we have two more of Skippyjon's adventures in the library ready for checkout.

In the first book, 'Skipppyjon Jones', the little bundle of moving fur is not quite ready to settle down to being a good little kitty so Mama sends him to his room with the charge to stay out of his closet. But the little guy can't resist, especially when he dons his mask and hops onto his stick mouse. Off he goes to discover a band of Chihuahuas looking for someone to rescue them from the terrible Bumblebeeto. Is Skippyjon Jones just the kitty for the job?

Full of Spanish words and phrases, 'Skippyjon Jones' is one wild read full of laugh-out-loud fun. Readers who love the first book will be eager to gobble up the next two titles, 'Skippyjon Jones in Mummy Trouble' and 'Skippyjon Jones in the Dog-house'. Both continue Skippyjon's wild antics and come with CD's so the stories can be heard anytime and anywhere. Make your car ride a little more fun by bringing Skippyjon along!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Be sure to take time during the long Thanksgiving weekend to savor a good book. It's good to slow down and relish the relaxation reading brings. May you have a blessed and joyful Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach

Written and illustrated by Melanie Watt
Most enjoyed by squirrel lovers of all ages

I am so thankful for Scaredy Squirrel. He can make me laugh no matter how many times I've read his books. If you're not familiar with Scaredy, make sure you check one of the three Scaredy Squirrel titles out. In 'Scaredy Squirrel', we meet our hero of caution and clean living and find out that he is afraid of everything. Really. But he learns to make adjustments and finds life a little more fun with just a tiny bit of adventure. In 'Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend', making a 'safe' friend is all Scaredy wants. But he discovers that his checklist for the perfect friend needs a little adjusting when he meets a dog.

In his newest adventure, 'Scaredy Squirrel at the Beach', Scaredy Squirrel avoids the beach like he avoids door handles and bungee jumping. Beaches are too dangerous what with all the mobs of lobsters and herds of sea monsters. So he builds his own beach in the backyard. But that beach is missing something - the sound of the ocean. And that can only come from a seashell, which can only come from the beach, which means a trip to the beach, which requires an elaborate plan. Scaredy Squirrel arms himself with his best beachwear (you have got to see the picture of him suited up!) and heads to the beach, only to discover it full of people, which was not part of the plan!! Will Scaredy ever get his seashell?

In this week of giving thanks for the many blessings we have, Scaredy Squirrel is definitely on my list. As a matter of fact, he's pretty high on that list, awful close to chocolate. Once you read one of his books, you'll find yourself thankful for the little guy, too! Don't miss this one!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Give Thanks to the Lord

Written by Karma Wilson
Illustrated by Amy June Bates
Most enjoyed by all Preschoolers through 2nd graders

Our students are excited. Not only is that big feast called Thanksgiving a few days away, but so it a nice long weekend, starting with early dismissal on Wednesday. Time to be thankful! 'Give Thanks to the Lord' by Karma Wilson, based on Psalm 92, is filled with reminders of why we celebrate Thanksgiving.

The image of a travel trailer pulling in front of a young boy's house opens the story. His excitement is evident in his open-handed wave. Family and friends arrive and hugs are shared all around. Some chilly play time follows for the younger set as they smell the yummy smells being prepared by the older set. When the feast is ready, the family holds hands together to pray, creating a wonderful image in both words and pictures. The warmth of food and family end in a bedtime hug with the final declaration that it is 'so good to give thanks to the Lord'.

I love the illustrations created by Amy June Bates. They perfectly capture the excitement, the happiness, the joy of children being together and celebrating. I love the picture of the kids at the Thanksgiving table. See the little one with a black olive on each finger? What family doesn't have at least one child doing the same thing!

'Give Thanks to the Lord' is a perfect reminder of all the blessings we celebrate at this time of year and from whom those blessings flow! And, check out an awesome interview with illustrator Amy June Bates here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Secret of Saying Thanks

Written by Douglas Wood
Illustrated by Greg Shed
Most enjoyed by thankful readers of all ages

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. What are you thankful for? Sometimes, with the gloomy stories we hear on news reports or read in the paper, it's hard to remember that we have so much and are so blessed. 'The Secret of Saying Thanks' is a wonderful reminder of what we have to be thankful for. We don't always count a clear blue sky as a blessing, or the quiet of the woods. What about our reflection in a still pond or the sunset on a fall day? Reading this book will trigger more ideas of things to be thankful for. You'll realize that the things we have to be thankful for the most are the things that cost us the least or are free. The illustrations are beautiful, well worth savoring before turning the page. My favorite part of the whole book is the last two-page spread showing a family holding hands. The words sum up the book and Thanksgiving so well-

"We don't give thanks because we're happy.
We are happy because we give thanks.'

Very true words indeed.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mercy Watson Thinks Like a Pig

Written by Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by Chris Van Dusen
Most enjoyed by Kindergartners through 2nd Graders

Mercy Watson is sunning herself on the back yard patio when she smells something wonderful. Poking her head through the hedge, she spies some freshly planted pansies in the yard of Baby and Eugenia Lincoln. Taking one bite leads to another and another and pretty soon, the pansies that Eugenia has planted to spruce up the house have disappeared. And so has Mercy. A phone call to Animal Control starts a chain of hysterical events until Mercy ends up back home, along with everyone else, enjoying her favorite snack.

Kids love Mercy Watson. Her stories are read over and over and this newest title in the series is sure to delight. The illustrations are a big reason for the fun. Chris Van Dusen has captured the characters' personalities so well that the book has to be read more than once to catch all of the expressions on their faces. 'Mercy Watson Thinks Like a Pig' is a delight for readers young and old.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Rapunzel's Revenge

Written by Shannon and Dean Hale
Illustrated by Nathan Hale
Most enjoyed by 4th through 8th graders

Howdy pardner! Pull up a chair 'round the campfire and get ready for a rollikin' tale, 'cuz here's the real story 'bout that wild young lady with the really long hair named Rapunzel.

See, a long time ago, Rapunzel was taken away from her mother, all 'cuz her mama wanted some of that yummy green stuff called rapunzel. The little gal has lived in a fancy villa with Mother Gothel as long as she can remember, but she keeps havin' this dream 'bout people that loved her once. She cain't fer the life of her recall who these people are until one day, she scales the wall of the villa and see's just exactly what's beyond it. Turns out, Ma Gothel has been ruinin' the countryside by turnin' it into mines where's she's put everyone to work. Rapunzel gets thirsty as she's explorin' the outside and decides to get a drink of water and wouldn't ya know, she meets her real mama at the drinkin' well! When old Mother Gothel finds out, she locks Rapunzel up in a tower far, far away from everyone. But this young gal ain't down and out yet! No sir, pretty soon that pretty hair of hers is long enough to use as a lasso to escape from the tower. As if that ain't enough adventure for one lifetime, she ventures off with the help of a handsome wrangler to return home and find her mama again for one happy endin'.

As you can tell, this is the story of Rapunzel but told with a bit of a western twist. Loads of fun to read, this graphic novel version will entice any reluctant reader, both guy and gal. While it looks thick and long, don't be fooled; it's a humdinger of a book wrapped up in a hardcover jacket. If only all fairy tales could be this fun!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Baron Von Baddie and the Ice Ray Incident

Written and illustrated by George McClements
Most enjoyed by Kindergartners through 3rd Graders

Super heroes are awesome. They stop evil in it's tracks and keep bad guys safely locked up. That's the case with Captain Kapow and Baron von Baddie. No matter what the Baron does, the Captain catches him and locks him up to think about his actions. This works for a little bit, at least until the Baron escapes from jail, which he does every time. Their catch-and-escape routine goes on for quite some time until one day, Baron von Baddie is able to capture Captain Kapow. His dreams have come true! Now he can be as evil as he wants to be! But is being evil fun if there's no one to catch you?

That's some food for thought for the Baron and young readers will delight in the conclusion he comes to. I hope this isn't the last adventure of Baron von Baddie and Captain Kapow!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Got Geography?

The Scrambled States of America
The Scrambled States of America Talent Show
Written and illustrated by Laurie Keller
Most enjoyed by geography fans in 4th through 8th grade

If you've got a 4th grader in the house, by now you're well under way with memorizing the U.S. state names, capitals, locations, and spellings. Want to test it out? Check out Laurie Keller's two books about the states, 'The Scrambled States of America' and 'The Scrambled States of America Talent Show'. Both books will be a good test of your geography skills, if you can stop laughing long enough!

In 'The Scrambled States of America', the states are tired of their current positions on the map. Kansas starts it all, and one by one the states agree that it is time for a change. They meet and decide who will go where. All is fun as the states get to know their new neighbors but after a few days, the excitement of the change begins to wear off. Arizona, who had switched places with South Carolina, doesn't like the effect the ocean waves have on her hairdo. Kansas, who was used to being surrounded by company, is feeling all alone and blue after trading places with Hawaii. Is it possible that their original places are the best places to be after all?

After getting to know each other in 'The Scrambled States of America', the states realize they are so much more than just places on a map. They have depth, they have breadth, they have talent galore! And such amazing talent it is. 'The Scrambled States of America Talent Show' highlights the incredible skills these states have, like Michigan's ventriloquist act or Delaware's awe-inspiring attempt to name all 50 states while jumping on a pogo stick. Honestly, you'll be amazed at the talent we have in the states!
Both of these books are funny, goofy and full of little gags galore. Make sure to read everything on every page because they're loaded with silliness. Great tools for practicing your U.S. geography!

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Visitor For Bear

Written by Bonny Becker
Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton
Most enjoyed by Preschoolers through 2nd Graders

Bear does not want any visitors. He has a sign right on his front door that says 'NO Visitors Allowed'. He's a bit surprised one day as he's making breakfast when a small mouse shows up at the door asking to come in for tea. Bear tells him 'NO Visitors Allowed' is the rule but the Mouse is not so easily swayed. As a matter of fact, he keeps popping up in the most unlikely places, forcing Bear to take drastic measures to keep him out. When Bear reaches the end of his rope and finally lets Mouse stay, he discovers that having visitors isn't quite as terrible as he thought. When Mouse leaves as he promised, Bear does all he can to make him stay, forever changing his rule about visitors.
This is a great read-aloud because of the anticipation built into each step Bear takes in making his breakfast. Young readers never know around which corner the mouse will appear. The gentle, watercolor illustrations perfectly capture the expressions on both characters' faces. While 'A Visitor for Bear' is about friendship, it sure shows the benefits of perseverance!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hate That Cat

By Sharon Creech
Most enjoyed by 4th through 8th graders

Jack is back. Remember him from 'Love That Dog'? In that book, Jack was learning about poetry from his awesome teacher, Miss Stretchberry. Using classic poems, Miss Stretchberry taught Jack to love poetry and encouraged him to try writing it. Not only did Jack discover he was a pretty good poet, but the poems gave him an outlet for sharing the grief he felt over losing his dog, Sky.

In 'Hate That Cat', another year is here and Jack and Miss Stretchberry are back together. They have moved up a grade, but Miss Stretchberry is still teaching poetry using classic poems. Jack keeps a poetry journal again, but this year he has more to ponder. He's tormented by a cat on his way to school which is why he hates cats. At least he thinks he does until Miss Stretchberry brings her new kitten to class. Jack' s uncle has expressed his opinion of what poetry is and isn't, leaving Jack to ponder the question himself. As Jack listens to the poems Miss Stretchberry reads, he hears their rhythm and beat, feels their cadence and pulse. He plays with rhythm in his own poems, but he still wonders about rhythm for those who can't hear. Slowly, poem by poem, Jack reveals why he's concerned and once again, we learn something about someone very close to Jack that he can only share best through his poetry.

Even though 'Hate That Cat' continues where 'Love That Dog' left off, it can be read and enjoyed on its own. More classic poems are included and used as writing models, making 'Hate That Cat' an excellent book to use with poetry units. Jack's confidence in his writing has grown between the two books and it shows, both in what he writes and in his discussions about poetry with his uncle. The questions Jack asks about the hearing and non-hearing worlds are good for classroom discussions and will stay with readers long after the book is finished. Read what inspired Sharon Creech to continue Jack's story on her website here.

Sadly, there is no reference to Miss Stretchberry's brownies in 'Hate That Cat' . I hope she's still bringing them in once in a while for Jack's class to enjoy as she did in 'Love That Dog'. I wonder how many teacher she's inspired to do the same over the years!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Imagine a Place

By Sarah L. Thomson
Illustrated by Rob Gonsalves
Most enjoyed by readers of all ages

This book is hard to describe and yet it has incredible appeal for anyone looking for something thought provoking. 'Imagine a Place' invites readers to imagine places they have been or someday might be. It asks us to let our imaginations soar, from the night sky to the ocean to mountain tops. To help us, illustrator Rob Gonsalves has created illustrations that meld two images into one. Take a look at the cover image above. Your eye sees houses that appear to be floating in boats, a seemingly ridiculous idea. But as your eye follows the houses to the lower right corner, you discover they are anchored to the ground, surrounded by wooden fences, the same wooden fences that become the boats the houses float in. The image gives us the idea that our thoughts and dreams can soar while the accompanying text asks us to image our ships full of what we know but pointed to a horizon of promise.

You'll find more fantastic images like this one inside the pages of 'Imagine a Place'. It's the type of book you can come back to over and over, seeing or imagining something new each time.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


By Gary Schmidt
Most enjoyed by 6th through 8th Graders

'Trouble' is one of the best books I read this past summer, hands down. We've added it to the Zion library collection recently so I thought it would be a good time to reprint the review of 'Trouble' I wrote this summer.

This, I can say right now, is the best book I've read this summer. Yes, there's lots of summer left so I suppose some other book might come along to take it's place, but I doubt it. Early buzz on Trouble has it short-listed for an award, like a Newbery or Printz, but whether it wins an award or not, it's still a fantastic book. 7th and 8th grade book club members take note: 'Trouble' is a title we will want to put at the top of our reading list this year.

Henry Smith's father has always said that if you build your house far away from trouble, trouble will never find you. For years, this has been true for the Smith family. They are one of the oldest families in Blythbury-by-the-Sea, their home, wealth and position in town having been secured by generations of Smith's before them. Oldest brother Franklin is a star athlete in the local high school, a senior destined to carry on the Smith family tradition. He has promised Henry that together they will climb Mt Katahdin in Maine. Henry longs to go to prove to Franklin that he has the guts to do it, to earn the respect he seeks from Franklin. Trouble seems to keep it's distance from the family until one night, when Franklin is out running, he is hit by a car, loses an arm and suffers severe brain damage. Trouble has arrived.

The driver of the truck is Chay Chouan, a Cambodian immigrant from the neighboring town of Merton and a fellow student at Franklin's high school. With Chay's arrest, tensions between the two towns come to a head. But for Henry, watching his brother lie motionless in a hospital bed, the trouble he longs for most is to climb Katahdin himself, to accomplish the goal he and his brother set, the goal his brother will no longer be able to meet. As he prepares for the climb, trouble continues to dog his heels, until Henry and his family finally make peace with it.

I don't want to say too much more about the plot because if I do, I'll give quite a bit of the story away. Trust me - read this book. 'Trouble' will give you lots to think about.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Vowel Family

Written by Sally M. Walker
Illustrated by Kevin Luthardt
Most enjoyed by anyone!

Imagine a world without vowels? Hw wld w rd? Hw wld w talk? (Actually, I'll bet you were able to read those two questions!) That's the problem for Pam and Sam Vowel, a couple who have lots of love but a hard time communicating with each other. It seems something is missing from their conversations, but what? The problem begins to get better with the arrival of twins Alan and Ellen, and even better when another pair of twins, Iris and Otto arrive. At last, it seems like they all can understand one another, especially when baby Ursula joins the family.
As each child wants a pet of their own, the Vowel house feels a little tight. Not to worry because Pam is a master builder. One trip to the lumber store and their problems will be solved. The family arrives at the store ready to shop but where's Otto? The poor boy is lost until Aunt Cyndy arrives to save the day.

'The Vowel Family' is great for young readers who can read pretty well on their own, although it can make for a tricky read-aloud! Enjoy lots of laughs if you try it!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Brooklyn Bridge

By Karen Hesse
Most enjoyed by 5th through 8th graders

In 1903, within the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge, Joseph Michtom's parents have created the teddy bear. Inspired by a cartoon showing President Teddy Roosevelt sparing the life of a small bear cub, Joseph's parents begin making the stuffed bears, getting closer to their goal of living the American dream. Immigrants from Russia, they work constantly either in their failing candy store or on the stuffed bears. Joseph works for them, too, but longs to break away and make a trip to Coney Island, the new amusement park everyone is talking about. With Mama and Papa working such long hours, time off to spend on fun is out of the question.

Joseph fills his time with baseball, helping Mama and Papa, and visiting the Queen, one of his favorite aunts. When the Queen dies, Joseph finds himself without the one person he can confide in. He also discovers that she's been hiding a secret, living modestly so that she can use her money to bring Russian Jews to America to escape persecution. One of those immigrants becomes the help Joseph needs to realize his dream of a trip to Coney Island.

In the background stands the Brooklyn Bridge. Joseph and his family must cross it when they visit the Queen, but underneath the bridge is a world very different from theirs. It's a world of broken and abandoned children who have formed a loose family of sorts. Joseph's world and theirs come together in a way most unexpected.

'Brooklyn Bridge' is a wonderful slice of life in New York at the turn of the century. It is really two stories in one, with the focus alternating between Joseph and the children under the bridge. It may seem at first that the two stories have no connection, and for most of the book they don't. The lives and stories of the children under the bridge are in stark contrast to the love and relative success enjoyed by Joseph and his family. But the two stories eventually merge into a satisfying conclusion at the end.
Great for historical fiction fans, 'Brooklyn Bridge' is one to add to your must-read list.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein
Most enjoyed by Preschoolers through 2nd graders

This is a perfect story to read before you take a walk in the woods. A young bear enjoys the world around him until the first leaf falls. One by one, more leaves join the first, causing the bear to worry. He tries putting them back on the tree but it's just not the same. Feeling sleepy, he gathers the leaves and makes a den for himself. He sleeps on as the winter winds howl until spring arrives and the world welcomes him again.

Simple illustrations highlight the colors of the seasons. The short text makes 'Leaves' a great bedtime story, too. Highly recommended for the last days of fall.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Surprising Sharks

By Nicola Davies
Illustrated by James Croft
Most enjoyed by Kindergartners through 3rd graders

Sharks fascinate us, don't they? From predator killers to tiny critters that can fit in the palm of your hand, sharks thrill and terrify at the same time. 'Surprising Sharks', one of our Monarch award titles this year, is just the right book for sharing with the youngest shark lover in your house.

Sharks come in all shapes and sizes, from the littlest dwarf lantern shark (6 inches) to the whale shark (39 feet, 4 inches). Try measuring those lengths out on your living room floor to get a sense of just how big, or small, sharks can be. Bold, colorful illustrations show the variety of sharks and draw readers into a shark's world. Factual information is presented on two levels, with the simpler, more general information presented in bold letters while the more detailed information is given in paragraphs of smaller text. The two levels makes the book appealing to a wide range of readers.

Young readers will find that our copies of 'Surprising Sharks' have an extra bonus - a CD that includes music and additional facts. Pop the CD in the car stereo on a road trip and everyone can learn about sharks!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Madam President

Written and illustrated by Lane Smith
Most enjoyed by voters of all ages

Today's 3rd grade read-aloud was Madam President by Lane Smith and it couldn't have been a better choice for today. The kids had already cast their own ballots for president so they were in an election frame of mind to enjoy this fun take on the presidency.

Madam President gets up early and starts her day with an executive order for more waffles, please. Then it's on to press conferences, photo opportunities, kissing babies, negotiating peace treaties and countless other presidential duties. Madam President's duties are based on the real-life duties of a president, but with a wacky spin. Take a look at the cabinet of advisers she's chosen. Mr. Potato Head for Secretary of Agriculture? Silly, but it gets the point across. We had fun trying to decide which secretaries were real and which were made up, although we all agreed that a Secretary of Pizza is one position every cabinet should have!

Regardless of whether it's an election year or not, 'Madam President' is a fun read for all voters and a great addition to any civics collection!

Thursday, October 16, 2008


By Leslie Helakoski
Illustrated by Lee Harper
Most enjoyed by free spirits of all ages

Woolbur is different. When all of the other sheep are getting their wool sheared, Woolbur is creating a sculpture. When he's supposed to be spinning wool like the other sheep, Woolbur is riding the spinning wheel like an amusement park ride. Every time Maa and Paa Sheep point out the error of his ways, Woolbur only answers with a 'Isn't it great?'. Maa and Paa are at wit's end trying to figure Woolbur out. Grandpa is the only one that wisely says 'Don't worry'. And in the end, he's the one that's right, as you'll find out when you read this wonderful salute to free spirits every where.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Duck For President

By Doreen Cronin
Illustrated by Betsy Lewin
Most enjoyed by voters of all ages

It's presidential election time, that wonderful time that comes once every four years when we have a chance to choose a new leader for our country. So who are you voting for? Will it be John McCain? What about Barack Obama? Or how about Duck? Who? Read 'Duck for President' and you'll wish this story's maverick is one you really could vote for!

All of the animals on Farmer Brown's farm have to do chores. Duck, however, does not like doing chores. He decides to call an election to get someone new to run the farm. Much to his delight, the animals elect him, making him the new guy in charge. But Duck finds that running the farm is not as easy as he thought. What's a duck to do? Run for higher office!

Grown-ups will love the subtle humor found in the text and the pictures. And the humor aside, 'Duck for President' does give young readers a hint of what real candidates for public office have to do on the campaign trail, from kissing babies to giving speeches. Enjoy this one before you head off to your polling place in November!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Old Bear

Written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes
Most enjoyed by Preschoolers through 1st Graders

Kevin Henkes is the master of telling simple stories children love with illustrations that make the story unforgettable. In 'Old Bear', he's done it yet again with a story about the seasons for the youngest readers.

Old Bear goes to sleep just as it's beginning to snow. As he sleeps, he dreams of the different seasons, waking when it's spring only to wonder if it is real or just part of his dream.

The changing seasons are shown in corresponding color schemes; pastels for spring, variations of green for summer, and shades of golds, reds and browns for fall. My favorite is the illustration of winter, with its beautiful blues. Why not take a walk outside after reading 'Old Bear' and see what colors are around you. Can you tell what season it is just by the colors you see?

A wonderful story to share in any season with your favorite reader.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Pumpkin Town

(Or, Nothing is Better and Worse Than a Pumpkin)
By Katie Mcky
Illustrated by Pablo Bernasconi
Most enjoyed by Preschoolers through 3rd Graders

Pumpkin season is upon us. Their bright color is easy to spot while driving around town and through the surrounding countryside. Time to buy a few for decorating and carving. But before you carve your pumpkin this year, read 'Pumpkin Town' and be sure to save the seeds. You'll see why at the end of this post.

Jose and his brothers are pumpkin farmers. Each summer, they grow pumpkins of all sizes for making pies and jack-o-lanterns. Each fall, they bring the pumpkins to town to sell. But before they sell them, Jose's father tells the boys to take the seeds from some of the best pumpkins to sow in next year's garden. Jose and his brother carefully separate the brightest seeds and toss the smaller, dull seeds out the window. The wind snatches them up and sends them sailing over the town at the bottom of the hill. By spring, the town is covered in vines and come summer, there are enough pumpkins to break roofs and shatter fences.

As the brothers survey the town from their hill home, they realize the mistake they've made and sneak down during the night to make a mountain of pumpkins for the town to sell. With the money the townsfolk make, they build a statue in the brothers' honor, thanking them for righting a wrong. The brothers are sent home with five large watermelons and young readers will delight to see what happens to the watermelon seeds when the brothers are done.

Author Katie Mcky, a former school teacher, often watched her young students work extra hard to correct a mistake or right a wrong they had committed. She wanted to recognize their hard work and so wrote a story in their honor. But don't think 'Pumpkin Town' is a heavy-handed story with a moral. The story's message is subtle, wonderfully illustrated with collage art images. Readers will enjoy looking at the pictures just as much as they'll enjoy the idea of a town overrun with pumpkins.
Which brings us back to pumpkin seeds. What will you be doing with your seeds after you carve your pumpkin this year?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Birthday for Cow!

Written and illustrated by Jan Thomas
Most enjoyed by Preschoolers through 1st grade

It is Cow's birthday and Pig and Mouse are baking a cake for the occasion. But wait! Duck wants to add a turnip! Pig and Mouse are quite sure there is no room in this cake for a turnip, but Duck is not so easily convinced. He keeps insisting the turnip get included somehow. But what does Cow think? Wait 'til you see what happens at the end of this funny book.

Jan Thomas brings Cow, Mouse, Duck and Pig back for this story of good intentions gone astray. The bold colors and simple text make this a great choice for younger readers. It's also the right level if there is a beginner reader in the house. I love the expressions on the characters' faces; they cover a whole range of emotions and almost tell the story on their own. Read 'A Birthday for Cow' this then go stand in front of a mirror: how would your face look if someone wanted to put a turnip in your birthday cake?

Monday, October 6, 2008

New Elephant and Piggie Books!

Yeah! We have the newest Elephant and Piggie books!
Kids young and not so young can't get enough of these two characters. I've had 6th graders ask if there are more on the shelves because they've read all the titles we have. They'll be happy to see the latest additions.
A good friendship can go sour when one party's toy gets broken by the other. In 'I Love My New Toy', Piggie can't wait to show Gerald his new toy, but Gerald accidentally breaks it. Piggie is upset and angry. Will he give up being friends with Gerald? Kids can relate to both Piggie and Gerald's feelings because they've been in their spots before. How the problem is solved gives them ideas for resolving toy crises themselves.

Isn't it fun to surprise your friend once in a while? Hide behind a door and jump out with a loud 'Boo!'? In 'I Will Surprise My Friend!', Elephant and Piggie watch two squirrels do just that. It looks like so much fun, the best friends decide to surprise each other. Except it doesn't quite work out the way they had planned. Watch the expressions on Elephant and Piggie's faces as the tension builds for them to surprise each other. You just may find yourself looking through your house to find someone to surprise!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sea Queens: Women Pirates Around the World

By Jane Yolen
Illustrated by Christine Joy Pratt
Most enjoyed by 4th through 8th graders

Pirate fans rejoice! The gals get their due! As author Jane Yolen points out in 'Sea Queens: Women Pirates Around the World', pirates weren't just men. There were a few ladies throughout history that grabbed a cutlass and donned breeches in search of booty. This excellent book brings those ladies to life.

The opening chapter gives a brief history of pirating and pirates. The remaining 12 chapters offer the stories of 13 female pirates, beginning with Artemesia in 500 BC and ending with Madame Ching in 19th century China. From around the globe, these women committed acts of piracy as daring as the guys. But how much of these stories are true? Yolen does a nice job of sorting fact from fiction, and what remains is still pretty swashbuckling.
If pirate movies leave you wanting more, come in and check out 'Sea Queens'. It's just the right dose of salty sea story for free time reading!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Inkheart Movie Debuts in January

Think it's for real this time, Inkheart fans? We got all excited when the movie was scheduled to come out the first time then had our hopes dashed when the release was postponed. Now we can get excited again because, on January 9, 2009, the movie will finally make it to theaters.
Take a look at the trailer. What do you think? It appears to have a little more action than the book, but I'll reserve judgement until I see for myself. I still love the book, don't you?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Where's My Mummy?

By Carolyn Crimi
Illustrated by John Manders
Most enjoyed by Kindergartners through 4th graders

Only one week left until Ms. Crimi comes to Zion! We are so excited! This is the last of Ms. Crimi's books that we'll be reading to get ready for her visit. This is another title perfect for Halloween, especially for the younger set.

Baby Mummy is not ready for bed. He wants to play one more game of 'hide and shriek'. As Baby Mummy goes looking for Big Mama Mummy, he meets all sorts of characters who tell him that the woods are too scary for a little guy like him, but he assures them he isn't scared. At least, not until he meets up with the scariest creature of the forest!

Ms. Crimi has created a charming bedtime story that's not too scary. The creatures are all getting ready for bed and doing the things little ones do, like brushing their teeth and washing their face. When the 'scary' creature is revealed, little ones will laugh at Baby Mummy's fright. The ending is just right for one more bedtime kiss before turning out the lights. Illustrator John Manders has a knack for creating silly characters; just take a look at the pirates in 'Henry and the Buccaneer Bunnies' and you'll see what I mean.

Read this one with the littlest in the family and get ready to hear 'Read it again!'.


By Christopher Paolini

We've got a copy. Care to check it out? Perfect for weekend reading!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Boris and Bella

By Carolyn Crimi
Illustrated by Gris Grimley
Most enjoyed by Kindergartners through 4th graders

Boris and Bella are neighbors who don't get along. Bella Legrossi is a slob, plain and simple. Boris Kleanitoff, on the other hand, can't stand a speck of dust. Both go out of their way to make the other miserable. When Halloween rolls around, Bella plans a party and invites everyone but Boris. When Boris hears this, he plans a party, too, and invites everyone but Bella. Soon the RSVP's start coming in, leaving both mad. Seems everyone is going to Harry Beastie's party to avoid getting bitten by Bella's dust bunnies or nagging by Boris about scuff marks. Bella and Boris crash Harry's party ready to give him a piece of their minds only to find the party in full swing and no one paying attention to them. When the music starts, Bella and Boris can't resist the urge to take a turn on the dance floor, leading them to realize that a little dust and a clean punch cup aren't so bad after all.

Another title by Carolyn Crimi, this one is just right for a Halloween read-aloud. The illustrations are perfect, showing just what a mess Bella is (does her room look like yours?) and how ultra-clean Boris is. The monsters partying away are a hoot, too.

Enjoy this one just before you head out trick-or-treating and see if you can spot Boris or Bella!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Don't Need Friends

By Carolyn Crimi
Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger
Most enjoyed by Kindergarten through 4th graders

Rat's best friend has moved away from the junkyard and his heart is broken. He's sure he'll never have a friend again so he decides that he doesn't need any friends at all. No matter how nice the other animals in the junkyard are to him, Rat turns them away. One day, a big, grouchy dog moves in on the other side of the junkyard. The dog and Rat spend their days telling each other to stay on their own sides, which they do, until winter comes. As the temperature drops, Rat and Dog shiver alone in their own homes. But when a foot-long sub sandwich appears, the chance to step outside their own homes opens up a window to friendship.

This is a wonderful story about the highs and lows of friendship. Lynn Munsinger's illustrations show Rat and Dog's emotions so well. In fact, just when Rat's words on the page say 'Don't need friends, don't need 'em at all!', one look at Rat's face and the reader isn't fooled by Rat's words. A great reminder that friendships aren't always perfect but they're better than no friends at all!

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Louds Move In!

Written by Carolyn Crimi
Illustrated by Regan Dunnick
Most enjoyed by Kindergartners through 4th graders

This is NOT a bedtime story! As a matter of fact, it's not a quiet time story either. It is LOUD! Earmuffle Avenue is populated by Miss Shushermush, Mr. Pitterpatter, and Miss Meekerton who, as their names imply, are very quiet. But the neighborhood changes when the LOUDS move in. The LOUDS do everything loudly, from walking to eating. And no matter how friendly they are, the residents of Earmuffle Avenue want no part of them. Until the LOUDS go on vacation. Then things change, but is it for the better?

This is a fun read-aloud because it is so noisy! The size of the text changes when the Louds talk, reminding the reader to change the volume level, too. The illustrations are silly and make the Louds look as outrageous as they sound. Enjoy this one when it's time for a few laughs!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Henry and the Buccaneer Bunnies

By Carolyn Crimi
Illustrated by John Manders
Most enjoyed by pirates in Kindergarten through 4th grade

Two years ago, when our current 3rd graders were in first grade, Mrs. Jones, teacher extraordinaire, read 'Henry and the Buccaneer Bunnies' to her class. They had finished reading all of the Monarch Award books for that year and were still in the mode of evaluating good books. After reading this one, they asked Mrs. Jones if it could be an award book, too. So Mrs. Jones nominated it and here, two years later, the book is a candidate for the 2009 Monarch Award and is the reason we're going to meet the author in a few weeks! The power of a good book in a child's hand!

Henry is not like the other pirate bunnies on the ship. Instead of pillaging for treasure or making prisoners walk the plank, he'd rather read. His father, Captain Black Ear, orders the books thrown overboard but Henry saves them just in time, agreeing to swab the deck in the hopes that it will make him see reason and give up reading. But when the pirate ship is caught in a storm and wrecked, the crew is cast on a deserted island. Who will come to their rescue and save them? Might it be a little bunny who knows a thing or two from books?

Kids and pirates go together. A pirate is brave and fearless, just like a kid ready to devour a plate of peas. A pirate can swash buckle with the best, just like a kid trying to avoid homework. And pirates can learn lots from books, just like kids do with great teachers like Mrs. Jones who introduce them to awesome bunnies like Henry!

This is our favorite Carolyn Crimi book, although we're growing quite fond of a few others. Keep checking back here to find out about Ms. Crimi's other books!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Get Busy, Beaver!

Written by Carolyn Crimi
Illustrated by Janie Bynum
Most enjoyed by Kindergartners through 4th graders

On Friday, October 3rd, Zion will host a visit from Illinois author Carolyn Crimi. Ms. Crimi writes wonderfully fun books for young readers, including one of our favorites which I'll blog about tomorrow (sorry, you have to wait to find out what it is!). To prepare the kids for Ms. Crimi's visit, we're reading all of the books she's written. Today, we start with 'Get Busy, Beaver!', the perfect story for the dreamer in your house.

Pa, Ma and sister Babs Beaver are hard at work building a new house for the winter. Thelonious is supposed to be helping but he'd much rather spend the time looking at the clouds or watching a leaf spin on the water. Even the neighbors are hard at work on a den of their own, which worries Pa and Ma even more. If only they could get Thelonious to help out! But he does help, in a way no one expected and in a way they all enjoy.

Ms. Crimi has written a tribute to free thinkers everywhere. As one of our 3rd graders said today after listening to 'Get Busy, Beaver', since you 'can't judge a book by it's cover', we'd better not judge people by how they look!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Picturing America Artwork Received!

It felt like Christmas today here in the library. Back in May, we were awarded a Picturing America grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association. I've been anxiously awaiting it's arrival and today was the day!

Included in the set of 40 images are paintings, sculpture, architecture and decorative art that span several centuries of American history. You can make out a few of images in the picture above, but to get a better look, check out the Picturing America website. The collection, heavily laminated so it will last for years, will be used in our classrooms and in the library to expand our knowledge of art and to supplement our study of American history.

Many of the pictures included in the collection will be displayed throughout the halls of Zion this year. Take the time to stop and enjoy them. You may find that your child learned something about that picture today!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Nora's Ark
By Natalie Kinsey-Warnock
Illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully
Most enjoyed by Kindergartners through 3rd graders

Young Wren lives with Grandma and Grandpa on a farm in Vermont. Grandpa is building Grandma a new house high up on a hill but Grandma's not too thrilled. She thinks the house is 'just gravy'. But her mind is changed when rains begin to fall, causing the river by the farm to rise. Grandma and Wren move to the new house and it isn't long before they're joined by some neighbors and their animals, filling the house with chickens, children, and three horses! When Grandpa doesn't return after going out in the storm to help a neighbor, Wren and Grandma make the dangerous journey into the flood waters to try to find him.

Based on the disastrous 1927 flood that caused widespread damage and loss of life in Vermont, this is a warm, reassuring story of how love and friendship win out in tough times. Share this book with your family and talk about how you weather tough times as a family. Isn't it reassuring to know that, like Wren, Grandma, and Grandpa, you'll have each other to fall back on? Another in the 2009 Monarch award titles, this one is a winner.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Ashes of Roses
By Mary Jane Auch
Most enjoyed by 5th through 8th graders

As Margaret Rose's boat arrives at Ellis Island from Ireland, she feels ready for a new beginning and a new name. Calling herself Rose, she and her family arrive to make a new life in America, the land where the streets are paved in gold. But when officials discover her brother has a eye infection, Da must return to Ireland with him leaving Rose, her sisters and mother to fend for themselves. They hope to find a home with their Uncle Patrick but his new wife and her daughters are not welcoming. In frustration, Ma declares they will leave America and go back to Ireland. Rose and her sister Maureen escape at the last minute, determined to try to make a life of their own in this country of opportunity.

Life begins to show promise as Rose and Maureen accept jobs at the Triangle Waist Company, sewing shirts together for fashionable ladies. With Rose's paycheck, the girls go to their first movie, enjoy cheap novels about working girls, and dream of buying one of the shirts they make. But one Saturday, as work finishes, fire breaks out in the factory on the 8th floor. Trapped inside, Rose attempts to flee, forgetting about Maureen until it is too late. Will Maureen survive? Will Rose be able to rebuild her life after tragedy?

The horror of the fire at the Triangle Waist Factory that took place on Saturday, March 25, 1911 is the basis for this gripping novel. Readers will find that the action never stops, with one page-turning event after another. The characters are all believable; you'll come to love many, dislike a few, and find your heart breaking as some of your favorites face the fire. If you like historical fiction, try 'Ashes of Roses' by Mary Jane Auch. It will make you think about what's most important to you.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude
By Kevin O'Malley
Illustrated by Kevin O'Malley, Carol Heyer, and Scott Goto
Most enjoyed by Kindergartners through 3rd graders

Want to start off this short week with a laugh? Check out 'Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude'. The boy and the girl narrating the story have to tell their favorite fairy tale to you, the reader. But since they can't agree on which fairy tale they like best, they tell their own. At least, that's what they try to do. She has one idea that involves princesses, pretty ponies and spinning gold. He, on the other hand, favors rotten-toothed giants, volcanoes and one very cool motorcycle dude. These two very different views of a good fairy tale come to an ending that satisfies both. Sort of.

'Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude' is a great read aloud for two people, preferably one male and one female. Why don't mom and dad try reading it out loud to the kids after dinner, before everyone heads off to do homework? Talk about some dinner table fun! The three illustrators each take a point of view, making the artwork very distinct for each character. The princess and her ponies are so pretty done in pinks and purples. The motorcycle dude's coolness is reflected in dark, bold colors.

This is another title from the 2009 Monarch Award list and one that is sure to get lots of votes in the spring. Enjoy it now because it won't stay on the shelves once everyone has read it!

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Secret Science Project that Almost Ate the School
By Judy Sierra
Illustrated by Stephen Gammell
Most enjoyed by anyone who has ever done a science fair project

It's science fair time here at Zion. Our 5th through 8th graders are just starting to figure out what science topic they want to investigate over the next two-and-a-half months. Those that are desperate for an idea might want to stay away from 'The Secret Science Project that Almost Ate the School' by Judy Sierra.
Our narrator just can't think of a science fair project as cool as growing corn and peas with an ant farm or curing a disease. She resorts to the Internet and finds a wonderful product called Professor Swami's Super Slime. Guaranteed to win our narrator first prize, she opens the package but doesn't read the directions enclosed. The result is a project that takes a mind of it's own and doesn't quite follow the scientific method.
Anyone with fond (or not so fond) memories of a science fair project will enjoy 'The Secret Science Project that Almost Ate the School'. Stephen Gammell's illustrations lend just the right touch of outrageousness to the story. Be sure to be careful when looking for a project on the Internet. You may end up with a little more than you bargained for!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Abraham Lincoln for Kids:
His Life and Times with 21 Activities
by Janis Herbert
Most enjoyed by families with 3rd through 8th graders

Did you realize that Abraham Lincoln will be 200 years old when we celebrate his birthday on February 12, 2009? Things sure have changed since he was alive. Today, he'd write his famous Gettysburg Address on a computer instead of using a pen. He'd have a chain saw to split logs and would travel in an airplane as president instead of by train. With all those changes, I wonder if he'd still be Abe?
'Abraham Lincoln for Kids' brings Abe and his times to life. Not only does it provide interesting information about Lincoln the man, it's packed with lots of fun activities to recreate what his life was like. Try your hand at making a miniature Mississippi River flatboat or grab a flashlight and practice Morse code. Why not create a freedom quilt to remind you of the quilts slaves followed as they escaped to freedom? How about hosting a strawberry soiree (party) like Mary Todd Lincoln did in the 1850's? There's lots of ideas for fun things to do. When you're done, you just might feel like you know Lincoln a whole lot better!

Monday, August 25, 2008

There is a Flower at the Tip of My Nose Smelling Me
By Alice Walker
Illustrated by Stefano Vitale
Most enjoyed by Kindergartners through 3rd graders

The weather has been beautiful here over the last few days, hasn't it? It's cooling down in the evening, giving us just a hint of the fall weather that hides around the corner. It's a perfect time to get outside, savor the last of summer's flowers, admire the green trees and smell the fresh air. 'There is a Flower at the Tip of My Nose Smelling Me' is just the book to read before you head outside.

Author Alice Walker was out walking one day, marveling at the beauty of nature, when she began to sing. She went home and wrote the words down, turning them into a celebration poem for our role in the natural world. Stefano Vitale's vibrant, colorful illustrations are a perfect match for Walker's words of praise. Combined, the result is a book that joyfully reminds us of our role in the world.

Another of the 2009 Monarch Award nominees, 'There is a Flower at the Tip of My Nose Smelling Me' is a delight for the senses.

Friday, August 22, 2008

George Did It!
By Suzanne Tripp Jurmain
Illustrated by Larry Day
Most enjoyed by Kindergartners through 4th Graders

Heading off to school to start a new school year can be a bit scary no matter now old you are. Will your teacher be nice? Will there be a lot of homework? Will all the work be hard? These worries can nag us so much we really don't know if we want to go back to school.

Did you know that George Washington was scared to be our first president? Yep, he worried just like you do. After leading America's army in the war for independence, George wanted to go back to his farm and live a peaceful, quiet life with his family. But the nation wouldn't let him. America needed a strong leader for president, someone who could be trusted, admired and respected. Who else but George Washington?

But George didn't see it that way. What if George couldn't manage the government or make friends with the governments of other countries? Everyone was counting on him to do these things but what if he couldn't? What if he didn't know how? Despite his fears and misgivings, George did it. George took on the job of president of the United States and became the role model for presidents to follow, even to this day.

You'll learn a few interesting things about George 'George Did It'. Do you know what color suit George wore to his inauguration? Brown. It was plain brown because, well, George liked brown suits. And he wanted a plain suit so that Americans knew their president was as plain and ordinary as they were.

So, does school seem so scary now that you have had a few days under your belt? Now that you just did it? George would be proud of you!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Breaking Through
By Francisco Jimenez
Most enjoyed by 6th through 8th graders

Trying to fit in is hard. We want to be accepted so we try to be like everyone else, wearing the same clothes, styling our hair just so, and making sure we have the right stuff - i-pods, video games. Francisco feels the same way. He is entering 6th grade and wants to be like the other happy, carefree kids in his class. But he has a secret that hangs over his head. Francisco is here illegally.

One day, fear becomes reality. La migra, the immigration police, come for him at school, take him out of his class in front of the other students, and tell his family they have 48 hours to pack up their belongings and get on a bus to the border of Mexico. There, they will be sent back to Mexico, back to the extreme poverty they left in the first place.

Francisco's family returns to America legally shortly afterwards, but the stigma of being Mexican follows Francisco. He faces discrimination on many fronts, works long hours to help support his family, and longs for an education to carry him from the poverty that lurks around each corner. The fact that he is able to succeed and consider college is testament to the love and support of his family as well as the hard work and determination of a young man destined to rise beyond the harsh reality of discrimination.

'Breaking Through' is an excellent choice for older junior high readers. It opens up thoughts and discussions on illegal immigration and discrimination. Readers will find as they read that they are putting themselves in Francisco's shoes, imagining getting to work at 6AM before school, cleaning an office, going to school all day, going to the library to do homework until the next job then working until late in the evening. One closes the book thinking, could I do that?

One of the titles in the We the People bookshelf, 'Breaking Through' is a book that will stay with readers long past the final page.