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.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County
By Janice Harrington
Illustrated by Shelley Jackson
Most enjoyed by Preschool through 3rd grade

There are three things our narrator likes to do to start her day - eat breakfast, tell her mama stories, and chase chickens. She has one favorite chicken who is tough to catch. No matter how the little girl tries to outsmart her, that chicken runs away fast. But one day, that ole chicken cannot be found. Where could she be hiding? As the little girl hunts for it, she discovers that the chicken has a very good reason for hiding. Can you guess what it might be?

This is one story you don't want to read silently. It begs to be read aloud. There's lots of squawking and prucking so don't save this one for bedtime. The illustrations in 'The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County' add to the fun. Part collage, part drawing, they give a helter-skelter feel to the pages, much like the chickens who run here and there when chased. The illustrations remind us that we don't have to draw every picture in the stories we write. Pictures from magazines and newspapers can be added to our drawings to help tell our stories.

'The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County' is a candidate for the 2009 Monarch award. Zion's Kindergarten through 3rd grade students will be reading the Monarch candidates and voting for their favorite in February. Each year when we read the Monarch candidates, we always find one or two stories that quickly become new favorites. This one is sure to be added to our list!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Welcome Back!

Today is the first day of school for students here at Zion. It's great to be back, to see so many familiar faces and to welcome new ones. I suppose today means that summer is over but the temperature is reminding us that it will be here for a while yet. So maybe that means I can still finish the books on my summer reading list!

This coming year is going to be a busy one in the Zion library. We're looking forward to celebrating the Lincoln bicentennial in grand style, welcoming two authors for visits, and using some new artwork to expand our learning. We'll have two book fairs this year, the first coming in late October with the second in March during Lutheran Schools Week. Family Reading Night will have a different twist to it. And.....we'll add more new books to the shelves to keep you reading all year long!

Now, back to summer - what did you read that was super? Did you read something you just had to tell someone about? If you did, tell us! Send us a description of the book in the comments below to share with your Zion friends. We're always looking for something great to read!