Thursday, January 31, 2008

Extreme Aircraft! Q & A
by Smithsonian
Most enjoyed by 2nd through 6th graders

Man, I wish I could fly. Not with wings, of course, but flying as in airplane flying. As in at the controls, speeding through the air, faster than the speed of sound kind of flying. Take a look at the airplane on the cover of 'Extreme Aircraft! Q & A'. That's the SR-71 Blackbird, America's first stealth plane. It flies at three times the speed of sound! Guess that would get you to school fast, woudn't it?

The SR-71 is just one of many planes featured in this way-cool book. Beginning with a short history of flight, 'Extreme Aircraft' answers lots of questions about airplanes. Answers to questions like 'What's a supersonic aircraft?' and 'What's a stealth plane?' will make you want to sign up for flying lessons. There are internet links throughout the book, too, so you can learn even more about planes shown.

Which airplane do you want to fly? You know, after reading 'Extreme Aircraft! Q & A' I've changed my mind - I want to fly SpaceShipOne!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Winter is the Warmest Season
by Lauren Stringer
Most enjoyed by Preschoolers through 2nd grade

Does that title make sense? Is winter really the warmest season? Let's take a look inside 'Winter is the Warmest Season' and see what we can find.....
..warm mittens chocolate
..hats with earflaps
..cats on laps

Hmmm...those things sound pretty warm, don't you think? Read 'Winter is the Warmest Season' then see if you can make your own list of all the things that make your winter warm!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Many Rides of Paul Revere
By James Cross Giblin
Most enjoyed by history lovers in 5th through 8th Grade

Many of us are familiar with Paul Revere thanks to the well-known poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that begins, "Listen, my children, and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere'. Prior to the publication of Longfellow's poem, most folks didn't know much about Paul Revere. Fortunately, Paul gained quite a bit of fame from the poem (even though he had been dead for about fifty years by the time it was published) and thanks to James Cross Giblin, we can learn a lot more about Paul in his excellent new book 'The Many Rides of Paul Revere'.

Paul Revere can be considered a master of high-speed communication, 18th century style. The son of a French silversmith, Paul learned the trade from his father. Early on, he established his artistic skill with silver and eventually took over the business when his father passed away. But Paul wasn't content to limit his work to silversmithing. In time, he built a metal foundry and the country's first copper sheeting factory. When times got tough for Paul financially, he learned how to be a dentist and make false teeth. But it was Paul's skill at horse riding that made him invaluable for early America.

America was still ruled by England when Paul was crafting with silver in the 1760's. Tensions between England and America were beginning to boil during the years following the French and Indian war as England began to put a series of taxes on the American colonists. Paul joined a group called the Sons of Liberty who met regularly to discuss ways America could stand up to England. Communication in those days was done by mail or messenger so when the Sons of Liberty needed to communicate with leaders in New York or Philadelphia, they sent Paul Revere racing off on the fastest horse he could find. Paul was able to travel great distances in short amounts of time, taking little time to rest. This skill made him the logical person to choose when word reached Boston that the British were planning a military move on the nearby towns of Lexington and Concord. It was Paul's idea to ask the caretaker of Old North Church in Boston to hang one lamp in the steeple if the British were traveling by land, two lamps if by sea. The steeple could be seen by everyone in Boston, allowing the other Sons of Liberty to arm themselves. Paul rowed across the Charles River in the dark, reaching the other side in time to mount a horse and ride off to warn the towns of Lexington and Concord that the British were coming. As you'll read in 'The Many Rides of Paul Revere', this ride didn't go quite as Paul had planned. And it certainly wasn't his last.

History lovers, make sure you read 'The Many Rides of Paul Revere'. It's a fascinating look at a man who is perhaps best known for his silver and one famous horse ride, but who was really so much more. The book isn't long, it's pace is fast (like Paul and his horse) and will keep you turning the pages to find out if and when Paul ever gets caught by the British (I won't tell!) What I liked best about the book is the section in the back that lists the places and buildings from Paul's time that still stand today and are open for tours. Part of the rode the Americans used to follow the retreating British from Concord to Lexington in 1775 has been turned into a walking path. Wouldn't it be cool to hike the path and imagine yourself as a patriot hiding in the brush, trying to capture a British soldier as he flees toward Boston? Make your travel plans now, but in the meantime, get familiar with Paul Revere by reading 'The Many Rides of Paul Revere'.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Easy Non-Fiction Readers Arrive!

If you've got a beginner reader in the family, send them up to the library to check out the new easy, non-fiction readers that have arrived. With titles like 'Snowplows', 'Tractors', 'Ships', and 'Helicopters', there is a topic to spark everyone's interest.

There are ten titles in this eye-catching set. The text is written at a first grade level with new, unfamiliar words bolded in black. A glossary defines each new word. There is a short bibliography at the end of each book offering suggestions for additional books on that topic. There is also a web connection that provides more information for kids.

All of these books are Accelerated Reader (AR) titles. Tests are on order and will be arriving in February. In the meantime, practice those reading skills with these picture-filled books!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy
by Jane O'Connor
Illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser
Most enjoyed by little girls in Preschool through 2nd Grade

Get your feather boa, your sparkly sunglasses and your tiara. It's time for Fancy Nancy!

We first met Fancy Nancy in the book that bears her name 'Fancy Nancy'. Fancy Nancy taught us how to lift our pinkie fingers when sipping tea and how no cupcake is complete without lots of sprinkles. Now she's back with a new wish for fanciness and this time, it includes a puppy!

Fancy Nancy wants a dog, but not just any dog. It must be just like the neighbor's dog, a little bundle of fluff that requires just a bit too much of Nancy's attention. After a stint dog-sitting, Fancy Nancy finds that perhaps she's ready for a dog that's not quite fancy, but simply unique, just like her!

Share this book with the little pink sweetheart in your life and watch her eyes sparkle!

Tacky and the Winter Games
by Helen Lester
Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger
Most enjoyed by Kindergarten through 3rd Grade

Have you thawed out from last weekend's frigid temperatures? Not yet? Good! Strap some frozen fish on your feet and join Tacky and his friends for some winter fun in 'Tacky and the Winter Games'!

Tacky is an odd bird. While his teammates are jumping rope or eating special training meals to get ready for the Winter Games, Tacky is napping through sit-ups and scarfing pizza. When the big day arrives, the team just can't seem to win any medals. Until Tacky comes to the rescue and saves the day (through his stomach, of course).

Sit in front of a toasty fire as you enjoy a laugh with this silly book. You'll agree, Tacky is an odd bird but a nice bird to have around!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Dragons and Mice, Oh My!

Here's the latest on Christopher Paolini's upcoming title in the 'Inheritance' trilogy. The title of the book is 'Brisingr', an Old Norse word for fire. Originally scheduled to release on September 23rd, the publishers have pushed up the date to 12:01 a.m. on September 20th. Seems quite a few bookstores asked for the new date so they could do release parties. So keep your eyes open for Eragon parties as the date gets closer! And start re-reading the first two books!

Wanta go to the movies? How about on December 19th? Plan ahead because that's the current scheduled release date for the movie version of 'The Tale of Despereaux'. This well-loved Newbery winner by Kate DiCamillo should be a great movie, as long as Hollywood doesn't change the story so many know and love. This will most likely be 'the' holiday movie of the season!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Elijah of Buxton
by Christopher Paul Curtis
2008 Newbery Honor Award Winner
2008 Coretta Scott King Winner
2008 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction
Most enjoyed by 5th through 8th graders

Take a look at that list of awards under the title of this book. Yep, that's three awards all given out in one week. How they'll all fit on the cover will remain to be seen. But take those awards as a sign that this is one good book.

When Christopher Paul Curtis was interviewed about 'Elijah of Buxton', he said that he wanted to write about slavery but found it too personal and difficult to write about. So he created the character of Elijah to tell the story. And what a character Elijah is.

Elijah is the first free child born in the town of Buxton in Canada. His claim to fame, at least as the townspeople see it, is the fact that he threw up on Frederick Douglas when he was a baby. Since that time, Elijah has gone about his life chunking fish, cleaning stables and trying to play down his fame. The town of Buxton is a cherished destination for runaway slaves and Elijah helps welcome many to the town. When newly arrived runaways enter the freedom of Buxton, the town rings its liberty bell in welcome.

The citizens of Buxton are all escaped slaves who carry the scars of their slavery, both on their bodies and in their memories. Mr. Leroy, one of Elijah's grown friends, cuts trees in order to make money to buy his family out of captivity. Just when he has enough money, the town preacher steals it and runs away. Mr. Leroy and Elijah take off after the preacher. As they travel across the border, Elijah sees for himself the horrors of slavery that he's heard about all of this life. When faced with an important choice, it takes all the growing up Elijah can muster to stand up to evil and make a difference.
'Elijah of Buxton' is a tremendous work of historical fiction, but it's also a really funny book to read. There are lots of scenes where Elijah gets himself into a bit of trouble then gets out of that trouble with hilarious results. For example, when Elijah goes fishing with his special chunking technique, he manages to catch ten fish Along comes the preacher who convinces Elijah to give ten percent of his catch to the minister. That means Elijah should be going home with nine fish. But as Elijah heads home with only seven fish, he knows he's been swindled but can't quite figure out how. Christopher Paul Curtis uses this kind of humor throughout the book to temper the misery of slavery that Elijah encounters through the stories of the town residents and when he finally crosses the border into America.

Pick up 'Elijah of Buxton' and prepare to laugh, cry, get angry and cheer as you turn the pages. You'll agree that this book is a winner.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Henry's Freedom Box
by Ellen Levine
Illustrated by Kadir Nelson
2008 Caldecott Honor Book
Most appreciated by all ages
Look at the eyes of the boy on the cover. Do you see any happiness there? Any of the joy we see would expect to see in a kid's eyes? No, the eyes of the boy are full of anger, hurt, and fear. Those are Henry's eyes and he's a slave.

Young Henry is lucky. He lives with his slave family on master's plantation where they are treated well. But his mother warns him that things can change just like the leaves on the tree. When master falls ill for the last time, he gives Henry to his son, forcing Henry to leave his loving family. While working for a new master, Henry meets Nancy, also a slave, and the two marry and begin a family. But Nancy works for a different master than Henry. One day, as Henry is at work, Nancy and their three children are sold at a slave auction to pay the master's debts. Henry arrives in time to see his family, all that he loves, carted away forever.

In his despair, Henry takes a desperate step. With the help of a white doctor, Henry packs himself into a crate and ships himself to Philadelphia and freedom at last.

Henry's story is true. It is based on the real life of Henry 'Box' Brown, who became famous around the world for having mailed himself to freedom in 1849. While the story is riveting, it's the pictures that bring home the horrors and cruelty of slavery. The bleak, somber faces on many of the pages reflect the hopelessness many of the slaves felt. Their lives were not their own; freedom only a dream. Illustrator Kadir Nelson does a wonderful job of portraying Henry and his emotions. Many of the pictures will remain with you long after you close the book.

This is an excellent story to read over the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend or to share during African American history month. It emphasizes the importance of liberty, freedom and hope for all people.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Mysterious Benedict Society
by Trenton Lee Stewart
Illustrated by Carson Ellis
Most enjoyed by 4th through 8th graders

"Are you a gifted child looking for special opportunities?" the advertisement asked. Reynie Muldoon is definitely gifted and more than ready for an opportunity to leave the orphanage, where he is made fun of for his smarts. As he sips his morning tea with his teacher, he decides to take the tests required for these special opportunities. But the tests prove to be a challenge; Reynie is sure he'll never pass them. Much to his surprise he does, as well as three other children. Each child has a special talent - Sticky is a genius with languages and can remember everything he reads; Kate carries a bucket with her at all times so she's never without her rope, flashlight and other tools; and Constance Contraire is tiny, stubborn and cranky but perhaps the most gifted of them all.

All four have been chosen by Mr. Benedict for a special mission only children can complete. They are to become students at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened to try to stop The Emergency. No one knows for sure just what The Emergency is, but Mr. Benedict is certain it must be evil since his twin brother, Mr. Curtain, is behind it. The children quickly form The Mysterious Benedict Society and set off for Nomansan Island and life at the Institute.

While the food is good, the lessons are very confusing. They appear to be total nonsense and yet have some truth to them. One of the first lessons the children learn is this one on avoiding the germs that lurk in every corner: "Because it was impossible, in the end, to protect yourself from anything - no matter how hard you tried - it was important to try as hard as you could to protect yourself from everything. There was some kind of truth hidden in there, Reynie though, but it was camouflaged with nonsense."

Doing well on lessons is important because top students get to become Messengers which gives them special privileges. But not everyone on Nomansan Island is happy, as the Mysterious Benedict Society soon finds out. And not everything is as it seems at the Institute. The grounds and buildings are so well guarded, it will take all the cleverness the four can manage to discover the secret behind Mr. Curtains plans.

If you like mysteries with a few puzzles thrown in to keep you on your toes, this book is for you. It doesn't move very fast, but each chapter is a cliff hanger making you want to turn another page. You'll wish you could join the Mysterious Benedict Society!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Children's Literature Awards Announced
Winners of the Newbery, Caldecott, and Coretta Scott King awards were announced this morning. We have most of the winners and honor books on our shelves ready for checkout. Three of the books were reviewed here already. Click on the links next to each title to read the original review. Watch for more reviews of the wining books in the coming days.

Caldecott Award (for illustration)
Winner - The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick reviewed here
Honors - Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine
First the Egg by Laura Vaccaro Seeger
The Wall:Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Peter Sis
Knuffle Bunny, Too! by Mo Willems reviewed here

Newbery Award (for excellence in literature)
Winner - Good Masters! Sweet Ladies! by Laura Amy Schlitz (reviewed here)
Honors - The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt
Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson
Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis

Coretta Scott King Award
Author - Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
Illustration - Let it Shine by Ashley Bryan

Many more awards were given for many more deserving books. For a full listing, check out this ALA webite.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Fun in the Library

Last Monday, our 4-year-old preschoolers read a story called "Snowmen at Night". It tells about the wonderful fun snowmen have when we're sleeping. After the story, we made our own snowmen. They are proudly displayed on the library bulletin board for all to see. Enjoy!

Friday, January 11, 2008

The Three Snow Bears
By Jan Brett
Most enjoyed by Pre-K through 2nd graders

Here is the story of Goldilocks and the three bears but isntead of being in the woods, this version takes place in the Arctic. While the polar bears are out for a stroll to let their breakfast cool, a curious little Inuit girl named Aloo-ki wanders into their house, the biggest igloo she's ever seen. Youngsters will enjoy this familiar tale told with polar bears and sled dogs and lots of snow.

Jan Brett uses her traditional illustration style of including side panels on each page to give a hint of what's to come or what action is going on elsewhere. It makes a fun guessing game to see if you, the reader, can predict what will happen next. Enjoy this frosty tale!

2008 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction

The 2008 book award season got off to a great start with the announcement of the Scott O'Dell award for best historical fiction. The winner this year is "Elijah of Buxton", the incredible story of one young boy's efforts to track down a thief while discovering for himself the horrors of slavery. The book is available in the library. Watch for a review coming to the blog soon.

This coming Monday, January 14th, the Newbery and Caldecott awards will be announced. Check back here for an announcement of the winners!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ranger's Apprentice on the Big Screen!

Hey, all you Ranger's Apprentice fans! Good news - the first book is going to be made into a movie! Check out the news bulletin below:
"The feature film rights to Australian author John Flanagan's young adult action/fantasy book series Ranger's Apprentice has been optioned by United Artists according to the LA Times . Published in the US by Philomel , a unit of Penguin Young Readers Group, the Ranger's Apprentice series (seven books so far, with an eighth in the works and a ninth promised) follows the adventures of 15-year-old Will, an orphan living in medieval times, who joins a group called the Ranger Corps, where he trains to be the King's eyes and ears."

The script hasn't even been written yet, so don't look for this one in 2008. But how exciting can this be?

And who's up for a trip to Australia? They already have seven books in the series?! We in the US have to wait until March to get the fourth book, called "The Battle for Skandia" and shown here. But you can bet it will be here on the Zion library shelves just as soon as it comes out!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Castle Corona
By Sharon Creech
Illustrated by David Diaz
Most enjoyed by 4th through 8th graders

"Once there was a castle, high on a hill,
and a King who longed for a nap
and a Queen who yearned for solitude
and a Prince who loved poetry
and a Princess who loved herself
and a Spare Prince who loved his sword
and a Hermit who was wise."

So begins this tale by Sharon Creech. Does it sound a little like 'The Tale of Despereaux'? It does, and in the first few chapters, they seem very similar. But the stories are actually quite different. While 'The Tale of Despereaux' is a fairy tale, 'The Castle Corona' feels almost like reading a legend.

Pia and Enzio are fetching water at the edge of the river when they hear the King's guard rushing by shouting 'Thief! Thief!' They hurry to hide in the trees only to discover a brown leather bag bearing the King's seal hanging from a tree branch. Could this be what the thief stole? Meanwhile, in the Castle Corona, life continues in it's slow way. King Guido longs for a nap whenever trouble arises, Queen Gabriella longs for quiet to ponder the world, Prince Gianni can't trouble himself to learn his lessons, Prince Vito wishes only to use his sword in fighting an enemy, and Princess Fabrizia worries about her looks and her dresses. When word of the thief reaches the castle, it's residents are shaken from their quiet, dull lives. As the King tries to find the thief, Pia and Enzio try to decide what to do with the stolen pouch. What it contains, and the mystery of the thief's identity keep the characters in pursuit until the end.

If you like stories from long ago, tales of princes and princesses, royalty and peasant, rags to riches, you'll enjoy 'The Castle Corona'. It is unlike Sharon Creech's other books which tend to include more life-like characters and situations. But the tale is still enjoyable, so enter the castle gates and see what lies within.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Snow Day!
By Lester L. Laminack
Illustrated by Adam Gustavson
Most enjoyed by anyone wishing for a snow day!

Okay, the day after a January tornado passes through our area is probably not the right time to post about a book that celebrates snow days. But if I don't do this one now, you'll miss this it when a snow day looms. And if a winter rain storm and flooding can be in our forecast, surely a snow day won't be too far away?
What makes snow days so special? Is it the change of routine, the piles of snow, the chance to stay in our jammies all day? Maybe it's a little bit of all those things! 'Snow Day' does a great job at catching all the excitement and anticipation a snow day brings. From the weather reports the night before to the dreams of sipping hot chocolate and building snow forts, it's all here. But what makes the book really fun to read is finding out at the very end who the narrator is! Can you guess who is telling the story as you read?

Teachers, enjoy this as a last minute read-aloud the day your class starts hoping for a snow day. Kids, read this anytime and start making of list of all you'll do on your next snow day. You never know, one could be around the corner!

8th Grade Book Group Ready for Opportunity!

Excitement is brewing for some of our 8th grade book group members. I have recently received three advance reader copies of titles that will be arriving in book stores this spring (a fourth is on it's way). My job is to read them and write book reviews for the publisher. But since the books are geared for kids, why not let the kids read them and let me know what they think?

That's exactly what a few of our 8th grade book club members will be doing over the next few weeks. As I read the books, I'll pass them along to interested club members who will read them and let me know what they think. I'll incorporate their feedback into my reviews, giving them a say and passing along their comments to the publisher.
This will be a fun chance for us to read books that no one knows about yet. Ours just may be the voice that makes those titles bestsellers or shelf sitters!

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Incredible Book-Eating Boy
Written and Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers
Most Enjoyed by Preschoolers through 2nd Grade

OK, this is not what you should do with the books you got for Christmas. Henry loves books. He loves them so much he eats them! Yes, eats them, word for word, page by page. Soon Henry is gobbling up whole stacks of books. And the more books he eats, the smarter he gets! Smarter than his teacher and winning game shows, to boot. But when one book does not agree with Henry's stomach, he learns that there's another way to enjoy a book, one that's not so hard on his digestive system.

Celebrate the joy of reading with 'The Incredible Book-Eating Boy'. And be sure to check out the back cover. Is Henry really done eating books?

Friday, January 4, 2008

If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period
By Gennifer Choldenko
Most enjoyed by readers in 5th through 8th grade

Kirsten is really looking forward to the start of 7th grade. She's had a terrible summer. Her best friend Rory was off to camp or on vacation. Her other close friend moved away. Her parents are fighting all the time and barely even know she and her sister exist. Kirsten starts the first day of 7th grade glad to be out of the house and with hopes of having lots of classes with Rory. But the first day takes an odd turn from the start. As she's being dropped off, Kirsten's mom asks her if she knows the African-American boy just getting out of a red sports car. Kirsten doesn't know him; he's new. But as the red car pulls away from the school, Kirsten's mom screeches after it, leaving Kirsten to wonder what it's all about.

Walk, the African-American boy, watches and wonders, too. He's hoping his first day at this private white high school is good, because he misses his old school in the city. Walk's mom has put him in the school in hopes that he won't turn out like his troubled cousin.
When Kirsten discovers that her best friend Rory is now friends with the snotty queen of the school, Brianna, her friendship with Walk begins to grow. Kirsten is pressured to join Rory and Brianna but she has a hard time fitting in. She leans toward Walk because he's willing to accept her the way she is. Their growing friendship takes a difficult turn when both find out a secret that's been hidden for years.

You'll find that the characters are what makes 'If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period' great. Kirsten is believable as a young girl who struggles with problems at home, her weight, and the fact that her best friend has turned on her. Walk is a nice kid who tries hard to fit into an all-white school. But wait 'til you meet Briana, the rich 'queen' of the school, who sets Kirsten up as the thief of a teacher's wallet. Brianna is one character you'll find yourself really disliking. The relationship between all of the characters drives the story. Pick it up if you like novels with people you won't soon forget.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

First National Ambassador for Young People's Literature Named!

Jon Scieszka, author of the wildly funny Time Warp Trio books as well as "Cowboy and Octopus" (a favorite here in the library) has been named the first National Ambassador for Young People's Literature for the United States. Jon's job will be to encourage kids to read and to promote good children's books. He'll still keep writing, although now he'll be busy traveling the country talking to kids about reading. His theme is 'Reaching Reluctant Readers' and he sure is one perfect author for that theme. His stories are wacky, funny and loved by anyone that picks them up. Congratulations to Jon!

Knuffle Bunny, Too: A Case of Mistaken Identity
by Mo Willems
Most enjoyed by Pre-K through 1st Graders

Little ones who know the joy of bringing something special to school for show-and-tell will be able to relate to this story. Trixie is so excited to go to preshool. It's show-and-tell day and she's bringing her beloved Knuffle Bunny to share. But horrors! Someone else has a Knuffle Bunny, too! The dueling bunnies are taken away by the teacher until school is over, when the bunnies are given back to their rightful owners. But wait! It's 2 AM and Trixie wakes up to realize that Knuffle Bunny isn't the right Knuffle! The right one is with someone else! And now comes the part every parent can relate to - solving the problem of a sleepless child in the middle of the night who won't be consoled until the right bunny is found.
For some of the littlest readers, this story will hit too close to home to be funny. But most kids will get a smile from Trixie's dilemma. Parents reading the story aloud will enjoy the illustrations, especially the drawings of Trixie's dad at at 2 AM! Black-and-white photos form the background and do a great job of setting where the story takes place. And they make the actual illustrations stand out more on the page.
Read this one at bedtime, before going to bed, but check one last time - do you know where your teddy bear is?