Monday, March 31, 2008

What Did You Read?

Welcome back to school! Did you have a good spring break? It wasn't too springy weather-wise, was it? But it was a week off of school which allowed you to do something other than homework!

So what did you do? Did you read anything great? I spent my break reading four advance review copies of books that will be published in May and June. Two of the books were great, one was good, and one was just OK. I've included the covers of three of the titles here. One was a great read, one a good read, and the other just OK. Can you guess which is which?
But what about you? Read anything you couldn't put down? Share the title in the comments section and let's see what everyone read!

Friday, March 21, 2008

It's a Blog-test!
(That's a contest designed just for blogs!)
I just picked up the newest Maximum Ride novel by James Patterson for the Zion library. Called 'The Final Warning', it's the latest installment in the best-selling series about genetically altered kids. In this one, Max and the gang are in Antarctica helping scientists do research on global warming. But no matter how much she tries, Max can't get away from the forces bent on controlling her and her flying powers.

This title will be extremely popular; I'm sure the waiting list will be long. Of course, someone has to be the first to read 'The Final Warning' but I'm wondering who that might be? So let's have some fun. The first Zion student to respond to this post with a comment will be the first person to read 'The Final Warning' once it's processed on the 31st (processing doesn't take long). So if you're anxious to find out what Max is up to, respond now!

Waking Beauty
By Leah Wilcox
llustrated by Lydia Monks
Most enjoyed by Preschoolers through 3rd GradersI

Fractured fairy tales are so much fun. 'Waking Beauty' is another twisted fairy tale by the dynamic duo of Leah Wilcox and Lydia Monks. Their first venture 'Falling for Rapuzel' gave us a long haired lass who was a little bit hard of hearing. When asked to let her hair down, she tosses just about everything else but her hair out of the window. In 'Waking Beauty', it's the prince's turn to get things mixed up.

Sleepting Beauty has been asleep for a long time when along comes the prince who is told to wake the lass with a..... But the prince never listens to how exactly he's supposed to wake the lady because he's too busy guessing different methods. Shooting her out of a cannon? How about hollering or jumping on the bed? None of these ideas work and when the prince finally finds out how to wake the fair girl, he is shocked. All those years of morning breath? Hmmm...

Laugh-out-loud fun is what's in store here. Kids will enjoy trying to guess what new wake=up method the prince will come up with next. And guess what happens when he finally wakes the beauty! Pick this one up for a fun family read-aloud.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Monkey with a Tool Belt
Written and illustrated by Chris Monroe
Most enjoyed by Kindergartners through 3rd Graders

Fix-it shows are popular on TV. Whether improving houses or building sheds, these shows make it look easy to create just about anything with a hammer and a few nails. But none of these shows tell you how to save yourself when a nasty organ grinder captures you and takes you to the circus.
Meet Chico Bon Bon, a friendly monkey who loves to build and fix things. He goes nowhere without his tool belt, laden with tools of all sorts, including a drill, bungee hammer, nut driver, snozzer and snozz remover. As he relaxes in the park one day, he notices a large banana split on a table nearby. Thinking that it's not every day that one sees banana splits laying around, Chico Bon Bon investigates, only to be captured by an organ grinder looking for a new monkey (his own had run away). He thinks he's found the answer in Chico Bon Bon but little does he realize that he's captured a monkey with a tool belt. And it will be a lesson he won't soon forget.

After reading 'Monkey with a Tool Belt' aloud to 1st graders, they gave the book the highest praise by asking 'Is there another 'Monkey' book? If there isn't there should be!'. We'll have to pass that suggestion along to the author!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Kitten Tale
By Eric Rohmann
Most enjoyed by Preschoolers through 2nd Grade

Who can resist a story with four adorable kittens on the cover? These kittens scamper across each page as they pass the seasons waiting for snow. Three of the kittens are fearful of snow; it will be cold and wet and they'll get chilled to the bone. But the fourth kitten can't wait. When snow finally falls, he heads outside to play, leaving his three fellow kittens inside to watch him. Will they change their minds and venture out in the cold?

Eric Rohmann's illustrations bring these kittens to life. The colors are soft pastels with bold black outlines. The kittens appear ready to hop off the page into your lap. Enjoy this book to help learn about the seasons or when you're anticipating the first snow flake!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Mind Your Manners, B.B. Wolf
By Judy Sierra
Illustrated by J. Otto Seibold
Most enjoyed by Kindergartners through 3rd Grade

Good manners never go out of style, so when someone puts a different twist on learning manners, it's worth picking that book up. Especially when the main character is none other than well-known storybook bad guy, Mr. B. B. Wolf.

Mr. Wolf is quite old, living a quiet life at the Villain Villa. One day, he receives an invitation to a storybook tea to be held at the library. Wanting to go but unsure of how to act, B.B. consults a friend who gives him some simple rules to remember about good manners, like not slurping his tea. B.B. heads off the to library confident he'll fit in. He arrives and has a wonderful time, only to forget one important rule at a very important time!

The illustrations add to the fun of the story. Check out of all the storybook characters at the tea. Do you recognize them all? Mr. Wolf's little song about which manners to remember is a handy one, a little something you can take away from this book (as well as a few laughs!).

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Knock, Knock!
Jokes by Fourteen Wacky & Talented Artists Inside
Most enjoyed by anyone needing a laugh

Two weeks ago, as part of Read Across America week, we had a humor day, a day devoted to laughing. Everyone was invited to come to school with a joke to share. Anyone that forgot a joke at home could have used this book. 'Knock, Knock' contains fourteen jokes illustrated by well-known children's book illustrators. Kids will recognize many of the artists - Laurie Keller, Chris Raschka, Brett Helquist. Their pictures add to the humor of the jokes. Even though spring is officially over a week a way, grab this book to make the rest of winter fly by. With fourteen jokes inside, you can almost read one a day until spring!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?
By Bill Martin, Jr.
Illustrated by Eric Carle
Most enjoyed by Preschoolers through 2nd Grade

This is another in Bill Martin and Eric Carle's series of books for young readers that follows a call and response format. The series has focused on colors, zoo animals, and endangered animals. The team's newest, 'Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?' focuses on North American wildlife. Filled with the familiar bold graphics and colors of Eric Carle's illustrations, young readers will delight in turning the pages to see what animal comes next. Many of the animals featured in the book are animals that can be found in our area of northern Illinois. Read this with your favorite youngster then see if you can spy some of these critters in your backyard! Many thanks for Jordyn for donating this book to the library!

Monday, March 10, 2008

The London Eye Mystery
By Siobhan Dowd
Most enjoyed by 5th through 8th graders

Let me start by telling you that 'The London Eye Mystery' is one of the best mysteries I've read in a long time. It's one of those mysteries where you the reader are given all of the clues to solve the puzzle yourself. But as hard as I tried, I couldn't figure it out. Of course, once everything was laid out for me, I did a forehead slap 'duh' when I realized I should have seen it coming. Guess I don't make much of a detective so maybe you'll do better!

Ted and Kat are excited when their cousin Salim comes to London for a visit. They suggest the three take a ride on the London Eye, a Ferris-wheel-like ride in the heart of London. As they wait in line to buy tickets, a man offers them his ticket, saying he's changed his mind about the ride. Since Ted and Kat have ridden the Eye before, they let Salim take the ticket and watch as he hurries into line. He waves as he boards the pod, leaving Ted and Kat on the ground watching his pod go around the wheel. After the half hour ride, Ted and Kat eagerly scan the riders as they exit the pod but there is no Salim. They wait for another pod, then another, but as each empties, there is still no Salim. He has disappeared. While the family searches and contacts the police, Ted is sure he and Kat can figure out Salim's disappearance if they only look at all of the clues.
Ted is our narrator. He's the first to admit that he's a bit different. As he puts it, his brain is wired with a different operating system than everyone else's. He's able to think things through logically and carefully, catching small details that everyone else skips over. But he has a hard time reading facial expressions and will take whatever is said to him literally. When his cousin tells him a book is 'right up your street', Ted thinks he means that the book is really right up at the end of his street rather than his cousin's intended meaning, that the book is one Ted would be intersted in. Ted also has a habit of flapping his hand when he gets nervous. These aspects of Ted's personality make him very likeable and quite believable as the story's sleuth.
'The London Eye Mystery' is delightfully British. The characters wear trainers instead of sneakers, eat crisps instead of chips, and get around town on the tube instead of the subway. These little details help define the story's setting. And tea is plentiful when things look grim. Which reminds sure to brew a pot before you begin 'The London Eye Mystery'!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

When Dinosaurs Came With Everything
By Elise Broach
Illustrated by David Small
Most enjoyed by Preschoolers through 3rd grade

The title of this book is a play on words. It sounds like dinosaurs came with everything they (or their owners) could possible want - food, swimming pools, toys to play with. But as the reader finds out quickly, that's not quite what 'came with everything' means.

Friday is errand day and our narrator is not thrilled about helping mom with these boring chores. But the trip becomes more interesting with a stop at the bakery. After buying a dozen doughnuts, the baker is happy to let Mom know that a dinosaur comes free with every purchase. Mom thinks the baker means a toy dinosaur but the boy is delighted when the baker brings out a real triceratops! Now this is the toy-with-meal concept taken to it's highest level. Not only do the doughnuts come with a dinosaur, a visit to the doctor and a trip to the barber result in two more new pets. Walking down the street is a fun experience thanks to all the kids walking with their free dinosaurs (trailing not-so-happy moms behind them). Our narrator pleads with Mom to let him bring his dinosaur home and Mom soon finds out that dinosaurs as pets come in handy.

Every kid who reads this book is going to wish they could live in this boy's shoes!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Bearskinner: A Tale of the Brothers Grimm
By Laura Amy Schlitz
Illustrated by Max Grafe
Most enjoyed by 3rd through 8th graders

Don't be fooled by the size of this book. It looks like a picture book and, in fact, is a picture book. But the story is much more serious and thoughtful than it's size makes you think which makes it perfect for older readers.

A soldier on his way through the woods encounters the devil. The soldier has lost everything he loves and is hungry and penniless. The devil, easily identified by his one goat foot, offer the soldier a lifetime of riches if he will only wear a bear skin for seven years. If, during the seven years, the soldier takes the bear skin off or prays to God for help, the devil will take his soul. The soldier reluctantly agrees then struggles to keep up his end of the bargain.

'The Bearskinner' is a story of keeping hope alive despite incredible circumstances. It's a fairy tale that is not very familiar to most readers but one worth reading. The illustrations are beautiful and their color hints at the darkness of the story. You'll be thinking of this story long after you finish it.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Shooting the Moon
By Frances O'Roark Dowell
Most enjoyed by 5th through 8th graders

Twelve-year-old Jamie Dexter and her 17-year-old brother T.J. live and breathe army life. Taught that the army way is the best way by their father, the Colonel, they grow up playing endless war games with their toy soldiers, planning elaborate mock battles. 'The army way is the right way', says the Colonel and Jamie and T.J. answer with a ready hooah. So it seems only natural that when T.J. turns 18, he enlists in the army, ready to serve his time in Vietnam. Jamie is as proud of her brother as she can be and she can't wait for his letters telling her all about the war and combat. But it's the reaction of the Colonel that confuses the two. He seems less than excited about T.J.'s enlistment and tries to convince him to postpone army life for college life. T.J. won't hear of it and leaves for Vietnam sure that this will be the noble role he's dreamed of.

To pass the time, Jamie helps out at the rec center, cleaning and playing cards with Private Hollister. When T.J.'s first letter arrives, Jamie tears into it only to find that T.J. has not send her a letter but a roll of film with a short note asking her to develop it herself. Jamie is puzzled; where is the description of battle she was convinced he'd send? She's further puzzled by the pictures she develops - most of them are of the moon in various stages. But among those pictures are some that are more graphic - a wounded soldier, bloody bandages on his chest, being carried to a medical helicopter; a soldier staring off in the distance, the stump of his leg obvious. These photos shock Jamie - is this what T.J. is seeing every day? Where are the medals, the glory? How can this army life be so different from what they had grown up believing? When Private Hollister announces that he will soon be sent overseas, Jamie realizes that this is her opportunity to put into action the message she understands T.J. is sending about war.

'Shooting the Moon' is a thoughtful and timely story of war that is especially good to read as we continue to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. While it doesn't make army life grand and glorious, it also doesn't bash it. Instead, it offers readers a chance to consider for themselves what courage is and how worthy war, any war, is for those fighting and those at home.