Monday, April 28, 2008

Reminder: See Mo Willems at Anderson's this Saturday!

Just a quick reminder for Mo Willems fans out there, big and small - Mo will be at Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville Saturday, May 3rd at 11AM giving a presentation and autographing copies of his newest pigion book, The Pigeon Wants a Puppy! (reviewed here). Numbers for a place in the book signing line are available if you purchase one of Mo's books. Check out the Anderson's website for more information. See you there!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Ghost of Spirit Bear
By Ben Mikaelsen
Review copy from the publisher

*Note* This book is NOT available in the Zion library. It will be published in June.

Fans of 'Touching Spirit Bear' will look forward to the continuation of Cole's story in 'Ghost of Spirit Bear'. Sent to an island to survive by himself for a year after viciously beating a classmate, Cole is now home and struggling to get back into everyday life in high school. He and Peter, the student Cole attacked and who spent part of the year rehabbing with Cole on the island, face ridicule and taunts from tough-guy Keith and his gang of bullies. Cole and Peter try to use the coping techniques they learned on the island to deal with Keith but it becomes increasingly difficult, especially in the hostile environment they find at school. Many of the teachers are indifferent to the drugs and gangs that abound. A symbol of this disregard is the bulldog statue in the front of the school. The statue of the school's mascot, once so proud, is now a regular target of graffiti. Cole realizes that if he is to survive in this environment, he is not the only one that has to change; the school has to change, too. He and Peter set out to bring the lessons they learned from their island life to a city school.

I enjoyed 'Ghost of Spirit Bear', although those looking for more of Cole's adventures in the wild will not find them here. Cole's world is now a city world but his need to control his anger and learn to work with others has not changed. Totems, carrying ancestor rocks, and chilling in the pond all have to be adapted to concrete and glass. 'Ghost of Spirit Bear' gives readers a sense that big things can be accomplished through small steps, even just from one person.
If you'd like to read this review copy of 'Ghost of Spirit Bear', let me know in the comments section. The book comes out in June so we won't have it on the Zion bookshelves until school resumes in the fall. If you can't wait until then, let me know and I'll share my copy with you!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

An Egg is Quiet
By Dianna Aston
Illustrated by Sylvia Long
Most enjoyed by Preschoolers through 2rd grade

Our kindergartners and sixth graders are sharing a science unit about baby chicks. While the sixth graders tend the eggs in their classroom, the kindergartners get to stop in occasionally and see how the eggs are coming along. Excitement builds until the day the chicks hatch, fluff up and are ready to be held. It's a highlight of the school year for both grades.

The kindergartners and I shared 'An Egg is Quiet' during story time the other day. An egg is quiet but it's a lot more than just quiet. Eggs come is all shapes and sizes, colors and textures. Different creatures lay their eggs in different places but the eggs themselves are designed to help their survival. Eggs stay quiet only so long until their residents hatch and announce their arrival to the world.

Lots of facts about eggs are included here. The first two-page spread shows bird eggs, each labeled with the name of its species. The last two-page spread in the back of the book shows the birds and animals that created the eggs so that readers can match the bird or animal with it's colorful egg.

The illustrations are what make this book so spectacular. Illustrator Sylvia Long has depicted the wide variety of eggs in such beautiful colors and with such incredible detail. The illustration showing an egg hidden among rocks is so effective at getting across the idea that eggs are often camouflaged to look like their surroundings. The eggs stand out on the pages in their beauty because of all the white space used as background. This is truly a beautiful book.

Grab this book when you find a bird's nest in the back yard and you want to identify the creator of the eggs inside. See if you can find it in 'An Egg is Quiet' before the egg gets noisy!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Dumpster Diver
By Janet S. Wong
Illustrated by David Roberts
Most enjoyed by Preschoolers through 3rd grade

Happy Earth Day! In honor of this special day set aside to take care of our earth home, we have a title called 'The Dumpster Diver'. Steve is the neighborhood dumpster diver. Once a month he dons a yellow scuba diver's jacket, a face mask and a snorkle to dive into the dumpster behind the appartment building. He finds interesting stuff but it's what he does with the stuff that's so cool. A pair of broken skis, some nuts, bolts, wheels and a torn umbrella become a paraskater. An old blender becomes a lamp, a lamp becomes a table and so on. Steve is an expert at turning junk into treasure and the kids learn fast. When Steve has an accident while diving one day, the kids put their learning to work and create something perfect just for Steve.
Recycling trash into treasure is one way to keep garbage out of a garbage dump. Since this week is TV Turn-Off week, you've got some time on your hands so why not raid the recyling bin and see what you can find? Can you turn what you were going to throw away into something useable? Dumpster Diver Steve would be proud!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Fever 1793
By Laurie Halse Anderson
Most enjoyed by 5th through 8th graders

Mattie is fourteen years old and convinced she is made for a life of business. Helping her mother run the family coffeehouse has given her a good eye for what sells and how to please a customer. Now if she could only get herself out of bed on time. Up early one day, she learns the startling news that her best friend Polly has died suddenly of some kind of fever. And Polly isn't the only one dead. More and more people each day are dying and word in the market place is to leave Philadelphia if you want to live. Mattie's mother wants her to leave, to head for the country to a friend's farm. But Mattie, backed by her grandfather, wants no part of it, until Mattie's mother falls victim to the fever. Mattie flees the city with her grandfather only to be dumped at the side of the road when the old man gets sick. Mattie grows up quickly as she tries to survive and get back home where nothing is the same. Will life ever get back to normal?

'Fever 1793' is a fictional account of the yellow fever epidemic that hit Philadelphia in 1793. It wasn't the only time fever struck the city, but one in which thousands died. The book is fast-paced and gripping, leaving you wondering as you turn each page if Mattie will survive. Would you, could you, scrape and scrabble like Mattie did, simply to live?

A good companion book that gives you more information about the yellow fever epidemic in 'An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793' by Jim Murphy. This non-fiction title adds facts and details about the epidemic that flesh out the story in 'Fever 1793'. It also tells how Philadelphia changed after the epidemic. Read all or part of 'An American Plague' to learn more about this fascinating event in history.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Trucks and Trains
By Ed Emberley
Great for all ages

Looking for something to do next week during TV Turn-Off week? Grab some paper, a pencil or two and your favorite markers. Then pick up this book and start drawing! Ed Emberley is well known for creating books that show us how to draw. Here, he focuses on how to draw trucks and trains of all sorts. The amazing thing about any of Ed's books, and we have two of them in the library, is that after following his directions for a few drawings, you begin to be able to draw things pretty well on your own. It may be that your eye gets trained to see things differently; what once was something that looked too hard to draw now becomes easier because we see it as shapes and angles and lines. Or perhaps Ed's easy-to-follow directions give us more confidence to tackle other pictures on our own. Whatever the reason, 'Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Trucks and Trains' is great for the motor vehicle lover in your household.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Wing Nuts: Screwy Haiku
By Paul B. Jaceczko and J. Patrick Lewis
Illustrated by Tricia Tusa
Most enjoyed by poets in 3rd through 8th grade
April is Poetry Month and we haven't reviewed any poetry here on the blog so today we'll fix that. Here's a fun book to read on your own or to inspire you to write your own poem. 'Wing Nuts: Screwy Haiku' is a book filled with senryu, a cousin of haiku. Senryu are poems 'of snickers and laughter. Short, punchy, and punny, they take every imaginable subject and make the reader look at life through a circus mirror' (quote from the inside dust jacket blurb). And funny they are. How about this one:

High school band minus
its tuba player - looking
for a substi-toot!

or this one:

My older sister
gets a complete makeover -
very mascary!

See what I mean? These are great read alouds as well as just plain fun to read. The illustrations add almost a comic book fun to the poems. 'Wing Nuts' is screwy in the best way!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

TV Turn-Off Week is April 21 - 27
What Will You Read?

Time to turn off the TV, at least for one week. Can you do it? Just think of all the other things you could do - take a walk, play ball, help mom and dad around the house. OK, realistically, that last item might not be at the top of your list but I hope that 'read a good book' is on the list. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that the library has lots of good books to read. Be sure to stop by this week to check something out so you have a good title or two ready on Monday when the TV goes off!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The True Meaning of Smekday
Written and illustrated by Adam Rex
Most enjoyed by 5th through 8th graders

What would you do if your mother got taken up in an alien space ship? What would you do if the very next day, Christmas day to be exact, those same aliens take over earth and rename Christmas 'Smekday' in honor of their captain? If you're Gratuity Tucci, you write an essay about it. It's been one year now since the Boov took over the earth. 8th grader Gratuity Tucci, or Tip, is supposed to write an essay called 'What Smekday Means to Me' for the National Time Capsule. The winning essay will be put in the capsule and not read for 100 years. As Tip writes her essay, she recalls the nightmare her life became when the Boov invaded.

Tip knew something was funny when she saw the mole on her mom's back. It seemed all brown and puffy, like a bubble on a pizza, but when Mom said the aliens put it there, Tip knew something wasn't right. Mom begins to speak words out loud at random. The worst occurs on Christmas Eve, when Mom leaves the apartment without explanation and heads to the park. There she is taken up in an alien space ship while Tip watches helplessly. The next day, the Boov come and invade the earth.

When the Boov annonce that all humans must move to Florida, Tip decides to make her escape. Loading what little she can in the car, she tries to drive to Florida, realizing that driving is a bit harder than she thought. The roads are blocked by the Boov but Tip manages to get to a small town when the car breaks down. Hoping to find some food in a grocery store, Tip enters to find a small Boov named JLo hiding inside. JLo offers to fix the car if Tip will let him accompany her to Florida. Hesitant to let him but desperate to find her mother, Tip reluctantly lets JLo come along, a choice she regrets when she arrives at Happy Mouse Kingdom in Florida. Hoping her mother is waiting for her, Tip discovers that JLo has a few secrets of his own, and that if they don't work together, they're sure to be caught by the Boov and any other aliens that might happen to show up.
'The True Meaning of Smekday' is a wicked crazy book. The story is much more involved and funny than I've described here. Author Adam Rex has included illustrations throughout the book. The best is a comic that JLo draws for Tip to explain how the Boov world was created. See any similarities to our world?
JLo is one of the best alien characters ever written, one you wouldn't mind meeting yourself. This is how he introduces himself to Tip when he offers to fix her car: "I am Chief Maintenance Officer Boov. I can to fix everything. I can surely fix primitive humanscar." JLo is small, blue, eats cough syrup and dental floss, and mangles the Enlish language in the most charming way. You'll find yourself reading his dialogue out loud just to see if he 'sounds' as funny as he 'reads' (he does - I tried it!).

'The True Meaning of Smekday' is a wonderfully original read. After finishing it, I can't help but wonder if it's the last we'll hear of JLo?

Monday, April 14, 2008

The End
Written by David LaRochelle
Illustrated by Richard Egielski
Most enjoyed by Preschoolers through 3rd grade

Most stories stop with 'The End'. Everyone lives happily ever after and the story is ready to tell or read again. But in 'The End', David LaRochelle gives that happily ever after a different twist. Everyone lives happily ever after in this tale because the knight fell in love with the princess. The knight fell in love with the princess because she poured a big bowl of lemonade on his head. She poured the bowl of lemonade on his head because...

If you're starting the get the idea that this is a tale told backward, you're right. The end is really the beginning, while the beginning is really the end. Got it? It's a fun story to read out loud. Listeners can try to guess why something happened the way it did. When they turn the page, they discover if they were correct and what really happened. For young writers, 'The End' is a neat writing model. Instead of trying to tell a story from the beginning, try writing it backwards from the end. Does that give you a different perspective on your story?

There are lots of ways to use 'The End' at home or in the classroom. Make sure to read it yourself and see if you can come up with a different beginning for why everyone lived happily ever after!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Soupy Saturdays with the Pain & the Great One
by Judy Blume
Illustrated by James Stevenson
Most enjoyed by 1st through 4th graders

'Soupy Saturdays with the Pain & the Great One' is a book of short stories about a brother and sister. Can you guess which one is the Great One and which is the Pain? Remember, this is about a brother and sister. If you guessed the sister is the Great One and the brother is the Pain, you're right!

The Great One (who's real name is Abigail) is always right and knows everything. The Pain (also known as Jacob) is just that, and boy, does he live up to the name! Their stories are about everyday things that happen between the two. When the Pain has to get his hair cut, he's terrified. He shows up wearing ear muffs in the hopes that the barber won't cut his ears off. It's the Great One that comes up with a clever solution to the problem. When the Great One gets to dog-sit, the two come up with clever ways to keep the dog amused.

Kids will enjoy the situations the Great One and the Pain get into. Anyone with siblings will be able to relate well to the characters. 'Soupy Saturdays with the Pain & the Great One' is a fun read-alone for 3rd and 4th graders and a good read-aloud for 1st and 2nd graders. Enjoy the fun with this brother and sister duo. I'm sure it won't be the last we hear of them!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Nate the Great and the Big Sniff
by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat and Mitchell Sharmat
Illustrated by Martha Weston
Most enjoyed by 1st through 3rd graders

Nate the Great, ace private detective, has lost his dog Sludge. The pair went to the department store so that Nate could buy Sludge a gift. Leaving Sludge waiting patiently by the front door, Nate found what he wanted but the line was so long, he decided to return later. As he walks out the door, Nate discovers that Sludge has disappeared! Time for the great detective to get to work!

'Nate the Great and the Big Sniff' is a fun mystery for young readers to solve. It's perfect for 2nd and 3rd grader looking for a chapter book they can read themselves. It also works as a read-aloud for younger listeners. If you enjoy 'Nate the Great and the Big Sniff', be sure to check out our other Nate the Great mysteries on the library shelves!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Willoughby's
By Lois Lowry
Most enjoyed by 4th through 8th graders

First off, let me say that this is not a Lois Lowry book. Yes, it by Lois Lowry but it is totally different from her other books. So if you're expecting something thought-provoking, don't pick up 'The Willoughby's'. But do pick it up if you're looking for a laugh-out-loud funny book.

The Willoughby's are an old-fashioned family. Mom, Dad, and four perfect kids. Well, not really. Mr. and Mrs. Willoughby despise their children and would do anything to get away from them. The four children aren't too fond of their parents, either, and would love to see them take a long journey and never return. One day, Mr. and Mrs. Willougby decide to take a long trip with the Reprehensible Travel agency. They hire a nanny and put the house up for sale before sailing merrily off. In the meantime, the children find they like the nanny and must do all they can to stop the house from being sold. With an abandoned baby left on the doorstep, a wealthy tycoon living down the street and a train car buried in an avalanche, the Willoughby children turn their old-fashioned story into lots of fun.
If you liked Lemony Snickett's Series of Unfortunate Event books, you'll love 'The Willoughby's'. Be sure to read the glossary at the end which defines some of the words you'll be reading. And don't miss the bibliography which is a list of the books that inspired Ms. Lowry's writing. You may find yourself going to the library to find some of these titles when you're done!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Zion to Receive 'Created Equal' Bookshelf

On Friday, I received an e-mail with the good new that Zion has been chosen to receive a 'Created Equal' bookshelf from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The bookshelf is made up of 21 books (4 in Spanish) that center around the theme of 'created equal'. The books have a particular emphasis on Abraham Lincoln in recognition of the 200 anniversary of Lincoln's birth. Check out the list here. Zion is one of 3,000 libraries nationwide to win the bookshelf so this is a huge honor for us. By using the books in our classes and in other activities, we will get a chance to talk about what it means to be equal in America. Watch for announcements about coming activities centered around the 'Created Equal' bookshelf!

Friday, April 4, 2008

New Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys Books!

Mystery fans rejoice! Zion is the lucky recipient of a donation of new Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books! With these donations, we will have a complete set of Hardy Boys books and more than half of the Nancy Drew books. Despite their age, these are still great mystery stories. Come check out one or two to test your sleuthing skills!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

In Praise of 'Stupid Reading'

Jon Scieszka, recently named U.S. National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, is speaking out about what kids should read. And kids should take heart - Jon says 'stupid reading' is OK. The reading he's talking about is the kind most parents and teachers don't always encourage kids to read - Junie B. Jones, Captain Underpants, etc. The books that will give us a laugh but may not get us into Harvard. But read Mr. Scieszka's thoughts on kids and reading in this article from yesterday's Chicago Tribune. He makes some good points about fitting books into a life full of video games, TV and other media. Don't give up on books - just make time for them. Good advice!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

It's Official!
The Pigeon Wants a Puppy!
Written and illustrated by Mo Willems
Most enjoyed by Preschoolers through 3rd grade

At long last, we finally know what the pigeon wants! Our Kindergartners through 3rd graders have been looking forward to the release of this book since January. Mo's pigeon books are some of the most popular here in the Zion library. Some of us even entered Mo's contest to see what kids thought the pigeon might like to have. And now we know! It's a puppy!

Zion's copy of the book arrived this morning gift-wrapped so no one, not even the librarian, could see what the book was. Many thanks to Read Between the Lynes bookstore in Woodstock for playing along with us and making sure the book was a surprise for everyone (they even checked the receipt to make sure the title didn't show up there - how's that for service!).

Now, if you're the parent of a Kindergartner through 3rd grader, you can skip the rest of this paragraph and go ask your child what 'The Pigeon Wants a Puppy' is about. We read it today as a whole group and loved it! What kid doesn't want a pet? And for many kids, the pet they wish for most is a puppy. The pigeon is no different. He's sure he'll take care of it, like watering it once a month and making sure it gets plenty of sunshine. But when the pigeon's dream comes true, he realizes he might have asked for a bit more than he can handle.

Mo Willems knows just how to create books that reach kids and tickle their funny bones. If you or your little one can't get enough of Mo and his books, be sure to head down to Anderson's Bookshop on Saturday, May 3rd at 11:00 AM. Mo will be there giving a presentation and signing books. Watch the Blue Notes for information about Mo's visit and don't be surprised if your little one starts begging you to please, pretty please take them to see Mo!