Friday, February 29, 2008

I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean
By Kevin Sherry
Most enjoyed by Preschoolers through 2nd grade

"I'm better than..." or 'I'm bigger than..." are comments all kids have either said or heard. Sometimes it's true, but most often the comment is said by someone who just wants to feel bigger than or better than someone else. In 'I'm the Biggest Thing in the Ocean', we meet a giant squid, who is delighted to point out to us just how big he is. He's bigger than shrimp and clams and even some fish, until he meets someone a tad bigger than he is. The reader is sure the giant squid has learned his lesson, but as we read, some lessons are harder to learn than others.

This is a fun story with bold illustrations that tells a timeless tale in a colorful way.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Good Reads

A few weeks ago, our 8th grade book club members started reading advance review copies of three books scheduled for release this spring. It's been fun getting the chance to read something before anyone else. So far, we've read three books, all from well-known authors. We've liked them all, although some appealled more than others. Here's an summary of what we've read.
'Seer of Shadows' is part historical fiction, part ghost story with the best part being the ghost story. Horace is a photographer's apprentice who gets involved in a plot to swindle a wealthy woman by creating a photograph with an image of the woman's dead daughter in the background. Set in the 1890's when photographs had to be developed by hand, Horace discovers that he can actually photograph the dead girl's ghost. With each photo he takes, the girl's ghost gets stronger and it soon becomes obvious that she hasn't come back for a friendly visit. This book, by favorite author Avi, was well-liked by everyone. It's a page-turner with a delicious ending that leaves you wondering.

'Bird Lake Moon', by Newbery-winner Kevin Henkes, is the story of a troubled young boy who finds friendship one summer while trying to piece his life back together. Mitch's dad has just left the family, turning Mitch's life upside down. His stay at Bird Lake Moon with his grandparents is not the remedy he needs. But when Spencer arrives with his family in the empty house next door, Mitch senses that the two can become friends and help each other through the losses that mar their lives. This is a quiet book, one about friendship and acceptance. It doesn't have the kind of plot action that 'Seer of Shadows' has, but we enjoyed the relationship that develops between the two boys.

Jerry Spinelli has written another winner with 'Smiles to Go', the story of Will who is convinced his world has ended the day he finds out the proton died. Full of science, first kisses, annoying little sisters, best friends, and star gazing, this is a great book for older readers. Those that liked 'Stargirl' will enjoy this one.

This month, we'll preview 'Well Witched', the story of three kids who find out what happens when you steal money from a wishing well. Let's see if this book is as well-liked as some of the titles we've previewed already!

Monday, February 18, 2008

We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball
By Kadir Nelson
Most enjoyed by baseball lovers in 5th through 8th grade

Spring training has started, Cubs and White Sox tickets go on sale in a few days, and the temperatures are in the single digits. What better time to talk about baseball! 'We are the Ship' is a book that celebrates the joy of baseball while at the same time providing a lesson in the history of race relations in our country.

For years, black and white baseball players could not play together on the same team. It wasn't a written rule; just one accepted and understood by white owners of professional baseball teams. Since they were not allowed to play professional baseball, African Americans formed their own teams. Most of these teams weren't very successful until Rube Foster came along and organized the Negro Baseball League. Rube knew that if blacks were one day to break into professional baseball, they needed to be as good as white baseball players. An African American league would give the players a chance to prove their ability.
Today, it's hard to look back on that time and imagine passing up the opportunity to see some of baseball's legends play just because of their skin color. The Negro League was home to the likes to Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige, and Cool Papa Bell. It was the starting place for Jackie Robinson and Hank Aaron. These players faced incredible hardships yet it never squashed their love of baseball. Teams traveled from town to town on buses, often going miles out of their way on backroads to avoid going through towns where blacks were not welcome. When white teams could stop at a restaurant to get someting to eat, African American teams had to pass up those same places because they were not welcome. Imagine playing a double header with only two hot dogs and a soda in your belly because that's all you could get. Wouldn't think of it today, would we?
Kadir Nelson has written a fascinating history of Negro League baseball. Easy to read, it makes you wish you could go back in time to see many of the players mentioned play. I loved reading about some of the players, especially their knicknames - 'Turkey" Stearns, "Biz" Mackey, and "Mules" Suttles. The artwork in the book is truly amazing. I suppose since it's a baseball book, it's not quite right to call the pcitures beautiful but that's just what they are. The paintings of the various players makes you want to reach out and touch them. Check out the picture of Rube Foster and his American Giants arriving in town by train. You'll wish you could step into the picture and get an autograph or two.
'We are the Ship' has my vote for a 2009 Caldecott Medal. Check it out and see if you don't agree.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Little Book About Finding Love
By Maria Van Lieshout
Most enjoyed by all ages

Happy Valentine's Day! 'Bloom!' is a new title in the library and one that is just perfect for today.

Bloom loves flowers. She loves the way they look and their smell. She loves them so much that even mud puddles lose their appeal. When a flying flower happens her way, she falls in love and chases after it, but it disappears, leaving her heartbroken. Bloom's love rekindles, though, when her best friend offers her the chance to play in a mud puddle made just for Bloom.

In pinks and whites, this adorable story is one to share with someone special!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Falling for Rapunzel
By Leah Wilcox
Illustrated by Lydia Monks
Most enjoyed by Preschoolers through 2nd grade

Here's a silly story for Valentine's Day. Poor Rapunzel's hearing isn't so great. Every time the Prince asks her to throw down her hair, she hears something different. Instead of letting down her tresses, down come Rapunzel's silky dresses, and a cantalope, and a pig, and even underwear! The poor Prince is beside himself, until Rapunzel throws down something to fix the problem!
Enjoy this fun twist on a classic fairy tale that's sure to make you laugh!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Story of Salt
By Mark Kurlansky and S.D. Schindler
Most enjoyed by 4th through 8th graders

Salt. Simple table salt. We take it for granted as we shake it on our fries or put a pinch of it in a cake. But once you’ve read ‘The Story of Salt’, you’ll never look at the stuff the same way again.

We all need salt to help our bodies function. Without salt, we can’t breathe or digest our food. Did you know that we humans have enough salt in our bodies to fill three salt shakers? Animals need salt even more that we do. Early man got the salt he needed by eating wild animals. But once man stayed in one place and started farming, salt became even more important as something that could be traded for. Trading meant traveling long distances. To make a long journey, one needs to take food but food spoils quickly. That problem was solved when man discovered that salt acts as a preservative, turning pork into ham and cucumbers into pickles. Now, man could travel great distances simply because he could take along food.

Salt soon became a source of power as countries realized its importance. It was kind of like king of the hill only this was king of the salt pile. Countries fought over salt, smuggled salt, and created whole new businesses mining salt. In time, scientists found new ways to preserve food such as canning and freezing which lowered the demand for salt.

Salt deposits are all over the world. Good thing, because we still need salt to live. Reading this fascinating history of salt will make you appreciate all those little white crystals can do.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building
by Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrated by James E. Ransome

by Lynn Curlee

Today, we have a double review. Consider it a two-for-one special. These books pair together so well, it would be silly to review them separately.

As a young boy trudges through the streets of downtown New York looking for scrap wood to heat the family home, he watches in amazement as one building is torn down to make way for another. This new building is not just any building; it will be the tallest building in the world. It's 1931 and the Despression is hitting America hard. Many are out of work. The future seems bleak. But enter John S. Raskob, a businessman with a dream to build the tallest building in the world. Slowly, steadily, his dream takes shape. Slowly the steel girders that give the building it's shape are riveted together. The young boy watches in amazement as workers scramble across the structure, open to the air and elements, as these 'sky boys' work quickly to complete the building in record time.

In 'Sky Boys:How They Build the Empire State Building', readers will marvel at the courage it took to build such an impressive building. The illustrations show the muscled arms of the workers and the distance they worked from the ground. Photos taken while the building was constructed are reproduced on the front and back inside covers. One can see that even though the Empire State Building is no longer the world's tallest, it was one of the most significant achievements of it's time.

While 'Sky Boys' does a nice job of giving a sense of how the Empire State Building was built, readers who'd like get into the nuts and bolts of skyscraper construction would do wise to check out 'Skyscraper' by Lynn Curlee. Here, the history of the skyscraper construction is covered as is the evolution of tower design. A number of past and current skyscrapers are included.

In 'Skyscraper' , author Lynn Curlee point out that the 'skyscraper is a uniquely American invention'. That invention has spread around the world as competition for 'tallest building in the world' continues. I wonder what the 'sky boys' of yesterday would think about today's towers?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Spiderwick Chronicles Have Arrived!
They're here - all of the books in the Spiderwick Chronicles series! Of course, as soon as they were put on the shelf, they were snatched up by eager readers. Read them before you see the movie which opens in theatres soon!

One note - While you can pick up any one of the five books in the series and enjoy it, you might want to try reading them all in order to get the most out of the series. Put your name on the waiting list to get the books you need!