Friday, December 4, 2009

Merry Un-Christmas

Written by Mike Reiss
Illustrated by David Catrow
Most enjoyed by those on Christmas overload

Most kids wish every day could be Christmas. And most parents try to convince those kids that they don't know what they're wishing for. Well, here's a book that will help with that argument.

Noelle gets another pony and a new bike for Christmas. Again. She adds them to the bikes and ponies she got for Christmas yesterday, and the day before and the day before that. You see, Noelle lives in Christmas City, Texmas, where it's Christmas 364 days of the year. But one day of the year is Un-Christmas and Noelle and her family look forward to it with glee. They get to un-decorate the tree, go to school, and anxiously wait for a visit from a chubby man with a sack. Can you guess who that might be?

'Merry Un-Christmas' is a funny look at what life might be like if it really was Christmas every day. And after reading it, I'm thankful that Christmas only comes once a year!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas

Written by Jane O'Connor
Illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser
Most enjoyed by Fancy Nancy fans in Preschool through 2nd grade

It's Christmas at Fancy Nancy's house. Her house looks fancy, her gifts are wrapped in a fancy way, and she's even saved her money for a fancy tree topper to crown the family Christmas tree. If only Grandpa would arrive so they could decorate the tree! Waiting is hard, especially when Fancy Nancy opens one of her puppy's gifts a little early. A playful puppy makes for a broken tree topper and one unhappy Fancy Nancy. But Grandpa's arrival comes with a solution, one even fancier than Fancy Nancy could expect.

I love the solution Grandpa comes up with to Nancy's situation. It's a down-to-earth solution that every family can relate to. Despite her fanciness, Nancy is one practical gal after all. Dress up in your best and enjoy this holiday treat with Fancy Nancy.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

All Kinds of Heinies at the Zoo

Written by Ayun Halliday
Illustrated by Dan Santat
Most enjoyed by zoo lovers of all ages!

Face it - when you go to the zoo, you can't miss them. As a matter of fact, some of them can be quite eye-catching. We cover ours but the animals don't. What am I talking about? Bottoms! Yep, this book is full of them. And if you need a laugh, check this book out. From the mandrill to the newt, there's a picture and name for every posterior in the zoo. But there's only one species that hides their back side and that's us! Ms. Halliday points out that our social customs require us to cover ours while the animals don't have to. What other customs do we have that animals don't? Probably none quite as funny as the one detailed in this book!

Monday, November 30, 2009

The True Gift: A Christmas Story

Written by Patricia MacLachlan
Illustrated by Brian Floca
Most enjoyed by 3rd through 8th graders

Lily and Liam are on their way to Grandma and Grandpa's house for Christmas vacation. They're loaded down with books and a little money with which to buy gifts for each other and family in the small town. As they pass the farm field to turn into the driveway, they spot White Cow standing alone in the field. At one time, Grandma and Grandpa had other cows but they are gone now, sold to people who wanted them for their own herds. Liam is bothered by this. Is White Cow lonely, he asks. Grandpa responds that we can't know what cows think. But Liam is pretty sure White Cow is lonely, and no one should be lonely for Christmas, even a cow.

This is a beautiful story just right for reading and savoring as we kick off the holiday season. With Black Friday behind us, and Cyber Monday upon us, it's easy to get caught up in the gift-giving frenzy of the holidays. Yes, 'The True Gift' is about a gift being given, but this gift is given with the greatest of care and love. And isn't that what the best gifts are sweetened with? Be sure to put 'The True Gift' at the top of your holiday reading list. It's a short reminder of the joy a simple kindness can bring.

Reviewed from library copy.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Written and illustrated by Ursula Vernon
Most enjoyed by 2nd through 4th graders

Babymouse, let me introduce you to Danny Dragonbreath. He's a little dragon who will be sharing some of your readership soon. Don't worry, kids will still love you and want to read you over and over. But I predict Danny will be finding a few new friends among our 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade boys.

Danny Dragonbreath has been assigned to write a paper about the ocean. Waiting until the last minute, he throws together something that his teacher doesn't like. When he has to go back to the drawing board and write a real report, he finally does some research. He calls on his cousin, Edward the sea serpent, to take him and his friend Wendell on a fantastic ocean journey. Thanks to special breath mints, Danny and Wendell are able to breath under water for a few hours, long enough to get the information Danny needs to rewrite his paper. Much to his surprise, Danny finds that research is pretty fun, not to mention a little life-threatening once in a while.

On land, Danny has another problem in addition to his paper. The problem is in the form of Big Eddy, a Komodo dragon who likes to bully Danny. Danny's ocean journey gives him ideas not only for his paper but for dealing with Big Eddy perhaps once and for all.
Despite the fact that Danny is not a full-fledged fire breathing dragon, at least not yet, his book will have readers hooked right from the start. There's plenty of action, humor, and likeable characters to keep readers turning the pages. It also encourages kids to stand up to bullies. Despite his fear of Big Eddy, Danny learns there are ways to turn the tables on bullies and he does, with a little help from Wendell. This won't be the last we see of Danny Dragonbreath which makes me happy. His next adventure is called 'Attack of the Ninja Frogs' and I can't wait to read that one!

The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Treasure Hunt

Written by Megan McDonald
Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds
Most enjoyed by 1st through 4th graders

Judy Moody and Stink are back in a new adventure that finds them playing pirate. The Moody family is off to Ocrakoke Island for a little fun in the sun. Stink is thrilled because it means he and Judy can fulfill their inner pirate and shiver their timbers all they want. When they find from Pirate Scurvy Sam that there is a real treasure hunt, the two can't resist and join forces to solve the clues and gather pieces of eight. But they get some stiff competition from two other kids who seem hot on the trail of the treasure. Will Judy and Stink find the treasure first? Get ready for a winning ending that proves the treasure of friendship is the best treasure of all!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Odd and the Frost Giants

Written by Neil Gaiman
Illustrated by Brett Helquist
Most enjoyed by 5th through 8th graders

Young Odd's father is a Viking who perished while on a raid. He didn't die gloriously in battle; he died trying to save one of the ponies the Vikings used in their raids. Odd never cries for his father, although he watches his mother's sad face every day. Shortly after his father's death, Odd takes his father's largest ax and tries to chop down the tallest tree he can find, but he's unable to get out of the way before the tree falls, crushing his leg. The leg never heals, leaving Odd to walk with a crutch. When his mother marries Fat Elfred, Odd gains both a stepfather and step siblings who think he lives up to his name. As winter lingers, Odd decides to leave home, heading for his father's hunting hut.

When a bright red fox appears at the hut's door, Odd follows it only to discover it leads him to a bear trapped between two trees. After freeing the bear, Odd waits for it to eat him, but much to his surprise, the bear takes him on his back and delivers him back to the but under the watchful eye of an eagle. Since the animals seem reluctant to leave him, Odd invites them into the hut and there discovers they are not who they appear to be. Instead, they are Norse gods who have been changed into animals by the Frost Giants. In order to be changed back into themselves, they must find a way to outsmart the Frost Giants and Odd seems the perfect boy up to the challenge.

'Odd and the Frost Giants' is a wonderful story that has the feel of a fairy tale. It would make an excellent read-aloud for 3rd or 4th graders and yet will be enjoyed by older readers, too. There is something endearing about Odd, a boy with a big heart willing to take risks out of sheer kindness. With the holidays approaching, it's the type of story one can read in an evening after a day spent with the crowds at the mall or after one too many sports practices. Savor the goodness of Odd.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Guess Again!

Written by Mac Barnett
Illustrated by Adam Rex
Most enjoyed by readers of all ages

Be sure to take the time to read this book with your whole family when it comes home. This is one you don't want to miss.

Each two-page spread is made up of a simple rhyme on one page accompanied by a picture on the other page. Within the picture is a silhouette or object of something described in the rhyme. Think you know what it is? Just turn the page and find out that you need to guess again!

I would imagine that 'Guess Again!' would make a fun writing model for older students. They could write a rhyme describing something, then create a picture with that something in it. The true test would be to share the picture and rhyme with a classmate to see if they could guess what the picture it. This might even be a fun activity to do as a family when Thanksgiving dinner is done.

I'm so glad this book was at the book fair last week. Everyone who's heard it agrees it's a winner!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Trips to the Library Expand Reading World

Yesterday, our 4th grade class took a walking field trip to the Marengo Union Public Library. The purpose of the trip was to get better acquainted with what the public library has to offer. While we have a great collection here at Zion, it doesn't have everything we might want to read or watch or listen to. By getting familiar with the public library, we'll never be at a loss for something to read.

Ms. Sondra Terry, Youth Services librarian, showed us examples of the fiction and non-fiction books as well as the movies and CD's to check out. We even got a behind-the-scenes tour of the back offices where book ordering and processing takes place. The most popular feature of the library was the monthly scavenger hunt in which we have to find different items around the library and answer related questions in order to win a prize. We found just enough of the hunt items to make us want to go back and finish it when we return for books!

The 4th graders were the last class to visit the library this fall. All of the 1st through 4th graders have made the trip over. It's been so much fun that we plan to do even more library visits with our 3rd grade classes in January. The public library is such a great resource for everyone that we're happy to take advantage of it!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Can YOU Make a Scary Face?

Written and illustrated by Jan Thomas
Most enjoyed by Preschoolers through 1st graders

Get ready to laugh 'til your sides hurt when you read this book aloud to little ones. It's a great one for getting the wiggles out because it will get them all wiggly!

Ladybug instructs listeners to pretend they have a bug on their noses and they need to wiggle it off. After a little nose wiggling, a little chicken-dancing, and lots of giggling, it's time for a scary face to scare away the big green frog. And wait 'til you see the scary faces that show up!

'Can YOU Make a Scary Face?' is tremendous fun. It was a huge hit during library storytime today. Why not try it out with your own family?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sea of the Dead

Written by Julia Durango
Most enjoyed by 4th through 8th graders

Take a close look at the cover of 'Sea of the Dead' before you begin reading. The clothes worn by the characters, the prow of the boat, and the large pyramid structure in the background will help set the time and place for this excellent book.

Kehl is the youngest son of the Warrior Prince. He lives in the shadow of his older brother who is much more skilled at the art of warfare than Kehl. Kehl's interest lies with maps and map making, but as the son of a great warrior, he is expected to follow in his father's footsteps. One evening, after a particularly difficult training session, Kehl is snatched from his bedroom, kidnapped by followers of the Fallen King. For years, Kehl has heard how the Fallen murdered his mother so his hatred of them runs deep. Sailing on the seas with them, though, Kehl learns that all his schooling may have been wrong. Kehl finds himself admiring the Fallen, and begins to question the damage done to the people by his Empire. His true loyalty is tested, though, when he has a chance to escape from his captors. Will he flee or will he stand up to his father and the Empire?
'Sea of the Dead' is a book you don't want to miss. Part historical fiction, part adventure story, it's one that will keep you on the edge of your seat as you follow Kehl during his kidnapping and rescue. The ending is a bit of a surprise as Kehl finds out the truth about his father, but I won't tell anymore because that will spoil it for you. You'll just have to read 'Sea of the Dead' yourself!


Written and illustrated by Loren Long
Most enjoyed by Preschoolers through 2nd graders

Here's a story about friendship that will warm your heart and make you smile. Find your favorite little someone and read this one together.

Otis is a friendly little red tractor who loves helping out around the farm. When a new baby calf arrives in his world, it's Otis's soft humming motor that comforts the little fellow. They become fast friends, spending evenings together watching over the farm. One day, a big yellow tractor arrives and Otis is moved to the back of the farm, back where the weeds grow and where he becomes a forgotten tractor. When the baby calf gets a little too curious and ends up stuck in the pond, everyone tries their best to get him out. But only the best of friends can do the job, proving that friendship wins out over all else.

Loren Long has perfectly captured Otis's personality and it really shines through in the illustrations. Young readers will be captivated by Otis's enthusiasm for life, shown in the way he moves and in his facial expressions. The affection he shows for the calf and the calf's devotion to him ring true, not overdone or unrealistic. I hope Mr. Long creates more books about Otis. He's a character young readers will love and want to read more about.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

He's Here!

The newest 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' book is now on Zion's library shelves. At least it was, until our two copies were checked out before the end of the day! Titled 'Dog Days', this newest diary from 6th grader Greg Heffley has Greg planning on a video- and TV-filled summer. But his mom has other plans. Will Greg have the summer he dreams of? Stop by the library to put your name on the waiting list for the latest installment from this wimpy kid's life!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Velma Gratch and the Way Cool Butterfly

Written by Alan Madison
Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
Most enjoyed by Kindergartners through 3rd Graders

Velma is starting first grade and she wants to make her mark. Everyone remembers her two big sisters for all of the special things they did, like singing beautifully and running very fast. Velma tries to draw attention to herself but her choices get her into a little trouble. Velma is thrilled when Mr. Plexipuss begins a science unit on butterflies. Could learning about butterflies be the very thing to make Velma special? When the class takes a field trip to the Butterfly Conservatory, Velma is able to put her butterfly knowledge to work in a way everyone is sure to remember.

I love Velma's spunk. Here's a first grader who has such enthusiasm it could be contagious. She plunges into learning about butterflies with gusto. You almost get the feeling that she'd have the same excitement even if she were studying slugs. Author Alan Madison has perfectly captured that single-mindedness many youngsters have about their favorite subjects.

Add 'Velma Gratch and the Way Cool Butterfly' to a science unit on butterflies or as a family read-aloud before going to a butterfly conservatory. The various caterpillars and butterflies depicted on the book's end papers will give you lots of species to watch for. How many of them can be found here where we live?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Libba Bray Coming to Woodstock!

Young adult author Libba Bray will be visiting Read Between the Lynes bookstore in Woodstock this Sunday, September 27th at 2PM to celebrate the release of her newest book, Going Bovine. Libba is the author of the popular Gemma Doyle trilogy which began with A Great and Terrible Beauty. If you have a teen in your life that loves Libba's books, don't miss this chance to see her!

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Magical Ms. Plum

Written by Bonny Becker
Illustrated by Amy Portnoy
Most enjoyed by 1st through 4th graders

There is something special about Ms. Plum. Students who have had her in years past smile in a secret way when the topic of Ms. Plum comes up. This year is no different. In fact, Ms. Plum can't wait for the year to start because she knows that this year's class will be the best one ever.
As the first day of school begins, Ms. Plum asks for a volunteer to get her a pencil. Ignoring the hands that are already raised, Ms. Plum chooses Tashala to go into the supply closet for a pencil. But that's not all Tashala returns with. At her heels is a small pony. Tashala would love nothing more than to be a cowgirl and what does every cowgirl need but a horse. The other kids in the class are jealous but when Ms. Plum tells Tashala to put the horse in her desk, Tashala discovers the hard way that keeping a horse is a bit more work than she anticipated.

And then there is quiet Jovi, a student from Africa trying to improve his English. When Jovi is sent into the supply closet for a roll of tape, he returns with tape and a falcon. At first, the class thinks the falcon is pretty cool, but the more it dives at students and makes a nuisance of itself, the more the kids feel it's time for the falcon to go. Just as Brad is about to throw an eraser at the falcon, a voice is heard from the back of the classroom, loudly and clearly. Despite his limited English, Jovi comes up with a solution for handling the falcon that impresses his classmates, both with his thinking and his speaking.

Each child in the class gets to go into the closet on a supply errand for Ms. Plum, but who gets chosen and when is always unexpected. The mystery keeps the students and the reader guessing! As Ms. Plum demonstrates, every student is special and unique and her closet has just what they each need to help build their self-confidence. You'll find yourself wishing you could be in Ms. Plum's class. What animal would follow you out of Ms. Plum's closet?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Written by Sarah Weeks
Illustrated by Jane Manning
Most enjoyed by Preschoolers through 2nd Graders

Allergy season is around the corner, if yours haven't flared up yet. When little ones get tired of the sneezing and runny noses, check out 'Baa-Choo!' to read aloud together.

Sam the lamb has to sneeze. He can get the 'Baa' out and the 'aaahh' but he just can't get to 'choo!'. It seems to get stuck. His farmyard friends try to help out by tickling his nose with a feather and blowing pepper in his direction. And when Sam finally get his sneeze out? Well, pick up this book and read it out loud. You'll need to read it twice, then once more, and even one more time after that. Why? Because who doesn't love a read aloud with lots of pretend sneezes!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Candace Fleming is Coming to Woodstock!

This past spring, Zion was fortunate to host the incredibly talented author Candace Fleming. Candace talked about her scrapbook biography of Abraham and Mary Lincoln, titled appropriately enough, The Lincoln's (read my review of the book here). Our junior high students were in awe of the amount of work Candace puts into her books, especially as she showed us the number of rewrites she accumulates as she works to make the book perfect.

At that time, Candace shared the title of her forthcoming book about P.T. Barnum. The book has been released recently, and now she's coming to Woodstock to talk about it! This Saturday, September 19th, you can visit with Candace again when she comes to Read Between the Lynes bookstore on the Square in Woodstock to promote The Great and Only Barnum: The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman P.T. Barnum. Candace will discuss both this book and her Lincoln book at 3PM at the store. This is a great opportunity to hear Candace speak again about how she brings these historic figures to life in such incredible detail. You can be sure I'll be there. Will you join me?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Extra Credit

Written by Andrew Clements
Illustrated by Mark Elliot
Most enjoyed by 4th through 8th Graders

Afghanistan is in the news a lot, and not always favorably. With war reports on the radio and TV almost daily, I suppose, from a young person's perspective, that the country and it's people don't make the best impression. But within Afghanistan are children, and many of those children have the same dreams and desires as our American children do. This can be forgotten among those daily war reports. 'Extra Credit' will change that and give young readers a new way to think of the people of Afghanistan.

Abby Carson is on the verge of being held back from sixth grade. Oh, she's plenty smart, it's just that homework isn't important to her. Spending time in the woods behind her farm house and climbing the rock wall in the gym mean much more that math problems or science worksheets. But ignoring all that work puts Abby behind, leading her teachers to suggest she repeat 6th grade. As an extra-credit assignment to help move her forward, Abby offers to become a pen-pal with a girl in Afghanistan and to share the letters with her classmates.
On the other side of the world, Abby's request is discussed among the elders of a small village outside Kabul. The best writer in the village is a young boy named Sadeed, but it is improper for a boy to write letters to a girl. So the elders decide the have Sadeed's younger sister Amira write the letters with Sadeed's help. But as the first letters are exchanged, both Sadeed's and Abby's eyes are opened to the world beyond their small towns. Soon, the project that seemed to only be more work, takes on special meaning and an importance of it's own.

At the heart of this book is the story of two young people getting to know each other over thousands of miles and discovering that they share many of the same dreams. Despite cultural differences, they are able to forge a friendship that lasts for a short while but stays with both forever.

There will be lots to talk about and think about when you finish 'Extra Credit' - Afghanistan, it's culture and history, as well as our role in shaping it today and in the future. I wouldn't be surprised if the book also results in an increase in readers wanting pen pals of their own. And wouldn't that be a great way to learn about another part of the world?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Announcing: Team RC20

Are you ready for a challenge? A reading challenge? Good, because we've got one for you!

There are 20 titles on the 2010 Rebecca Caudill list. All of them are great books just begging to be read. Can you read all 20 before the end of April? Yep, that's your challenge. We already have two 6th graders who are making an attempt and both have over half of the books completed already. Last year, we had one student who accomplished this feat. Will we have more this year?
Here's how it works:
1. Sign up to join the team in the Zion library. It doesn't cost anything to join. You are simply agreeing to try your best to read all 20 titles. Think of it as signing a contract with yourself!
2. Start reading. You may read the books in any order, in any way that you wish (listening to the books on audio tape or CD counts). When you have finished a book, take the book's AR test. A score of 70% or better will mean you successfully finished the book. If you receive a score of less than 70%, see Mrs. Sutera. Successful completion of the AR test will be 'proof' that you read the book.
3. You may have started reading the 2010 Rebecca Caudill's last spring and might have even finished a few this summer. They all still count towards your goal of reading all 20. In order to qualify for our challenge this year, the deadline for reading all 20 will be April 30th, 2010. Please note that in order to vote for your favorite, you will need to have three read by February. But because we're getting a late start this year, we're making the deadline for this year's 2010 challenge to be the end of April.
4. Are you interested in trying but the idea of reading 20 books scares you? That's OK, try anyway. Why not set a beginning goal to read 5 of the titles. Then once you've finished 5, set another goal to read an additional 5. That will give you 10 titles read, which means you're half-way there. Now the 20 doesn't sound so bad, right? If you take the list in small chunks, you can do it!
Sound interested? Are you up to it? Sign up in the library today!

The Perfect Nest

Written by Catherine Friend
Illustrated by John Manders
Most enjoyed by Preschoolers through 3rd Grade

Cat loves omelets. He loves them so much, he decides to build the perfect nest in order to attract a chicken. Once he has a chicken, he knows he'll have an endless supply of eggs for omelets. But his nest doesn't just attract a chicken. Along come a goose and duck who also think the nest is perfect. Cat gets his eggs all right, but he gets a bit of a surprise along with them.

'The Perfect Nest' is just right as a read-aloud for younger readers. There's lots of opportunity to change voices between the characters. In fact, there's even a chance to use your best French accent when reading the duck's part! While you're reading the text, the illustrations will give your listener lots to look at. The character's facial expressions are a hoot. And the perfect nest Cat creates? Well, take at look at the one in the book then try creating your own. What would your perfect nest look like?

Friday, September 4, 2009

Highway Robbery

Written by Kate Thompson
Illustrated by Jonny Duddle and Robert Dress
Most enjoyed by 4th through 8th graders

Our narrator is a young boy living on the streets of London at the turn of the 19th century. Hoping for a coin with which to buy something to eat, he is startled when a magnificent black horse comes charging down the street. As the rider dismounts, he asks the boy to hold the horse until he returns, offering a coin in exchange. The boy willingly agrees to the simple task and there begins the story. Throughout the day and into the evening, folks stop by to admire the horse, some even try to buy it. As the hours tick by, the boy wonders if the mysterious rider will ever return. Could the rider be Dick Turpin, the well-known thief who rides a black horse? When gentlemen come in the middle of the night to steal the horse, the boy must decide where his loyalty lies.

'Highway Robbery' would make an excellent read-aloud. We never find out the boy's name and it really doesn't matter. He's telling us his story as if he is speaking directly to us, the reader. This makes him an interesting character. Are we to believe what he's telling us or not? How reliable is he? His story has an interesting twist at the end that will have you puzzling those very questions. You may even find yourself reading the book over again to look for clues. But that's just fine, because 'Highway Robbery' is the kind of story that can be read over and over.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Slam Dunk

Written by Kate Jaimet
Most enjoyed by 5th through 8th graders

Slam really wants to be chosen for the Ontario Under 17 basketball team. He's the assistant coach of the high school girl's basketball team, not to check out the girls but in the hopes that it will help him make the Ontario team. He's got some great players to coach, including Inez, his star point guard, and Ifrah, the team's six-foot center. The girls' team is on the verge of going to the playoffs, making a sweet end to a great season. But when Inez shows up at a game with a black eye, the sweet end takes a sour turn. Inez won't say how she got the injury and Slam is sure it's the work of a nasty opponent. But when Inez and her mother begin receiving hate mail delivered to practices, Slam realizes he's up against an enemy a lot rougher than another basketball player.

If you're a fan of basketball, 'Slam Dunk' is a book you'll want to read. Part sports story, part mystery, it's a great look at how a team pulls together for a teammate. Slam, Inez, Ifrah, and the other players are likeable and believable. The action moves pretty quickly, both on and off the court. If you need to get psyched for basketball season already, here's the book for you!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Max's Words

Written by Kate Banks
Illustrated by Boris Kulikov
Most enjoyed by Kindergartners through 3rd graders

Max's big brothers both have collections. Benjamin collects stamps while Karl collects coins. Max would like to have a collection of his own, but what can he collect? How about words? Max's collection begins with small words like 'the', 'a', 'was', and 'in'. But pretty soon, he's collecting bigger words. Color words, food words, words that make him happy. When his piles of words become to big for his desk, he puts them on the floor and begins to make stories from them. Soon, Benjamin and Karl want to join him, taken in by the magic of Max's words.

Max cuts his words from newspapers and magazines. When he uncovers a new word in the dictionary, he writes it on a scrap of paper. Why not try doing the same with new words you discover? This could be a great daily activity if you're just learning to read or if you want to increase the number of words you already know. If you're a first or second grader, you'll meet new 'Words to Remember' each week in your reading book. Try writing each word on a piece of paper and see how many you have after one month of school, then two months of school and so on until the end of the year. I'll bet you'll soon be like Max and have mountains of words in your collection. Now, what kind of story can you tell with all those words?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Track Attack

Written by Betty Hicks
Illustrated by Simon Gane
Most enjoyed by 2nd through 4th graders
AR Reading Level 3.0
AR Points 1.0

Meet Jazz. She's a super-fast runner, ready for a super track season racing in the 100-meter dash. Her problem? Her dad! If only Dad weren't so embarrassing to have around. Dad used to be a track star and he's sure he's got all the perfect runner's moves for Jazz. But many of Dad's suggestions go against what Jazz's coach teaches the team. And his track-side antics leave Jazz wanting to hide with each race. Is there a nice way to ask Dad to cool his excitement? Will his behavior hurt Jazz's track season?

'Track Attack' is part of a series called 'Gym Shorts', each title focusing on one aspect of physical fitness. What I really liked about this book is the way it included fitness information into the story. Coach shares tips about proper running form with Jazz and her teammates, letting you, the reader, in on the tips too. There are a few race warm-up exercises to help you get ready for races. None of these tips and tricks takes away from Jazz's story, meaning you'll learn some great fitness stuff without realizing it!

Jazz figures out how to handle her dad with the help of her teammates. She also learns to be a better runner, something you'll want to start doing when you finish 'Track Attack'!

Monday, August 24, 2009

A New Year Begins!

Pencils are sharpened, folders labeled, and butterflies are flying. Not in the air, although you can still spot a few Monarch's hovering here and there. No, these butterflies are the kind that flutter in your stomach, the ones you feel just when something exciting is going to happen. I'll bet you can feel them yourself right now, or if you're reading this late in the day, you felt them before walking in to school this morning. They're the special first-day-of-school butterflies. The ones that bring the promise that this year will be better than last, filled with more friends, more fun, and of course, much better grades.

I'm feeling those butterflies, too, today, as I begin to plan this year's activities for the library. I hope to continue some of the great things we did last year, but also add some new activities to keep reading alive and fun for you. Can you think of anything you'd like us to do in the library this year? If you have some ideas, stop by the library and let me know. Together, we can make this a fantastic year, one full of great books and reading!

Friday, May 22, 2009

With an eye toward the future

Today is the last day of school for students and teachers here at Zion. It is also my last day as Zion's librarian. I've been so privileged to work with such fantastic teachers these last four years. They have willingly put up with my programming, making sure their classes participated in anything and everything we did. Most especially, it has been a treat to work with so many wonderful kids. Those kids have been the motivation behind everything that was done in the library, from the books that were purchased to the way they were displayed to the activities created to promote reading. As one chapter closes, another opens. Changes in the library next year will result in additional opportunities to bring great reading to Zion's kids. I know I'm leaving the library in good hands. Despite that, saying goodbye is hard but I look forward to seeing students around town and at the public library (where else?) and eagerly look forward to hearing about what they're reading. I can always use more good book suggestions for my never-ending reading list!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Duck! Rabbit!

Written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
Most enjoyed by everyone!

Look at that book cover. What animal do you see? You're right! Now go grab a friend, preferably one who can read, and open the book to the first two pages. You read one page, your friend reads the other. Are you laughing already? Good. Keep going until the end. Now try putting the book away. Bet you can't without reading it again. And again. And.....
Intrigued? Just ask a Zion student in Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, or 3rd grade what they thought of 'Duck! Rabbit!'. Not only will you get a big smile but you'll hear 'I wanna read that book again!'. The best praise any book can have.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Down Girl and Sit: Smarter Than Squirrels

Written by Lucy Nolan
Illustrated by Mike Reed
Most enjoyed by Kindergartners through 3rd graders

Meet Down Girl and Sit. Neighbors, friends, and dogs. Down Girl knows just how to treat her owner right - licking his face with a nose fresh from the water bowl, waking him an hour before the alarm clock might scare him. She is one thoughtful dog. And smart to boot. She and Sit know that their yards aren't safe with all the squirrels stealing things so they work hard to chase them up trees. When the dreadful Here Kitty Kitty moves in next door, the two friends work extra hard to keep Rruff's trash can safe so he can keep using it as a hiding place for lots of good stinky stuff.

'Smarter than Squirrels' is the first book in a series for young readers featuring Down Girl and Sit. The two friends do just what dogs do - eat everything in sight, watch for the paper boy, and keep their masters safe. But with Down Girl as the narrator, readers see the world through the dogs' eyes, making for a book full of laughs. For example, Down Girl and Sit know better than to climb trees like squirrels. It's just not safe because a dog could fall out of a tree! Which just goes to prove that they are so much smarter than squirrels.

There are three titles in the series but start with 'Smarter Than Squirrels' so that you can meet Down Girl and Sit properly. Once you know these two better, you'll wonder what's going on in your own dog's head!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Three Cups of Tea

Fans of 'Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School at a Time' will be happy to know that we now have copies of the editions created just for young readers. This is a marvelous opportunity for adults and kids to read about Greg Mortenson and his efforts to create schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

'Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Journey to Change the World...One Child at a Time' is perfect for 5th graders and up. Greg Mortenson's story is retold here but simplified for younger readers who are very comfortable with chapter books. Color photos supplement the text so readers can see the places and people referred to in the book. There is also a nice interview with Greg's daughter Amira, who is now involved in her father's work. A time line and glossary help readers keep track of what happened when and define foreign words they aren't familiar with. I particularly liked the 'Who's Who in Three Cups of Tea' which is a glossary of the people mentioned in the book. This is great for readers who have a hard time keeping some of the story participants straight as well as introducing them to historical figures mentioned in the book that they may be unfamiliar with. I think, although I haven't tried this out, that this might be a good read-aloud that could work in classrooms or as a family activity.

For a great read-aloud with pictures that will take your breath away, try the picture book version of Greg's story titled 'Listen to the Wind'. Again, Greg's story is simplified, this time for the youngest readers. But the pictures that illustrate the story are spectacular. Using fabric and paper scraps, collage artist Susan L. Roth has brought the story to life with illustrations that readers will pour over and marvel at how time-consuming they had to be to create. The intricate details are amazing. I can't think of how the story might have been better illustrated. 'Listen to the Wind' is beautiful enough to deserve a place on your family coffee table.

Now that three editions of Greg Mortenson's inspiring story are available for all levels of readers, this is a great time to consider doing a school-wide reading effort where everyone, students, teachers, and parents, read the same book. I'm sure there will be many schools and communities that unite to do just that. Keep watching to see who else these books inspire!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Written by Kevin Henkes
Illustrated by Laura Dronzek
Most enjoyed by Preschoolers and Kindergartners

One of the most loved aspects of spring is the return of birds. Many don't leave during the winter, giving us a reason to fill our bird feeders and toss out breadcrumbs. But the return of spring is heralded by a robin and bird song. Because we're so aware of birds now, it's a perfect time to savor 'Birds', the newest book from Kevin Henkes.

Birds come in many colors and sizes. They can be very beautiful in the winter when one red bird sits in a leafless tree. They can be fun to watch, like when they all fly away from a tree all at once. We enjoy birds for lots of reasons, but especially for their songs.

The bright, bold colors used throughout the book give it instant eye appeal. Thick black lines outline the simple pictures, making the colors used all the more vibrant. The strong simple drawings paired with the spare text make this a perfect read aloud for the youngest of listeners. Don't be surprised if the story is followed by a walk outside for some bird watching. The two go together perfectly!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Andy Shane and the Very Bossy Dolores Starbuckle

Written by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
Illustrated by Abby Carter
Most enjoyed by Kindergartners through 3rd graders

Andy Shane is a bit shy. When he starts school, he meets the loud, bossy Dolores Starbuckle and he quickly finds himself a little intimidated by her. Dolores must always be in charge and she knows everything, or so she thinks. But Dolores meets her match in Andy's Granny Web. When Andy doesn't want to go to school, Granny visits his class and shows Andy how to stand up to Dolores in a way that makes both of them friends.

'Andy Shane and the Very Bossy Dolores Starbuckle' is the first of a series of easy chapter books featuring quiet Andy and bossy Dolores. The books are just right for 2nd and 3rd grade readers who like chapter books but aren't ready for anything very long. Two additional titles in our library include 'Andy Shane and the Queen of Egypt' in which Andy and Dolores try to figure out who will study Egypt for their class project, and 'Andy Shane and the Pumpkin Trick', featuring Andy coming up with a clever way to trick the tricksters who keep smashing Dolores's Halloween pumpkins.

Andy and Dolores are complete opposites but they manage to find a way to work things out and become friends. With a gentle nudge now and then from Granny Web, the two learn to give and take, a subtle lesson young readers can take away from these books. Introduce Andy and Dolores to your young reader and watch them enjoy these two friends!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Recess at 20 Below

By Cindy Lou Aillaud
Most enjoyed by Kindergartners through 3rd graders

This is the perfect book for today! Why? Because the weather forcast is calling for a high of 80 degrees, a temperature we haven't seen in what seems like centuries (actually, several months but those months feel like centuries). And since the first days of the week were rainy and cold and reminiscent of winter, it's time to feature a book that will have us counting our blessings today!

'Recess at 20 Below' by Cindy Lou Aillaud.

Need I say more? You're right, but I will. Author Cindy Lou Aillaud lives and teaches in Alaska, where the winters are long and extremely cold. Even if the temperature gets down to 20 below zero, the kids are allowed to go outside for recess. And what fun they have! Playing football, building snow forts - all the regular recess activities are done with the same spirit as if it were 20 above zero. Ms. Aillaud uses photos she took of the children at play to show just how much fun they can have despite the bitter cold. I love the photos of the kids with frosty eyelashes, the result of their warm breathe rising above their mufflered mouths. When do the kids stay inside? When a moose comes to the playground for lunch!

I'll bet there will be a few readers who will wish they were up in Alaska playing in the snow with the book's kids. But perhaps they'll enjoy today's weather and wish for snow tomorrow!

Friday, April 17, 2009

A River of Words:

The Story of William Carlos Williams
Written by Jen Bryant
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Most enjoyed by poetry lovers of all ages

William Carlos Williams wrote poetry for most of his adult life. Listening to his English teacher read poems aloud reminded him of the river near his home and sparked his love of poetry. Despite becoming a doctor with a busy medical practice, Williams always found time to write poetry. We still enjoy his work today. In fact, his poem 'The Red Wheelbarrow', plays an integral part in the well-loved book 'Love That Dog' by Sharon Creech.

'A River of Words' is a nice introduction for young readers to William Carlos Williams and his poetry, especially for those new to his work. Some of his poems are reproduced on the end pages and worked into the illustrations. Readers will notice the influence of everyday, ordinary objects and experiences on Williams' writing as they read 'This is Just to Say' about eating plums or 'Metric Figure' about a bird in a tree.

While the story of Williams' life is good, it's the illustrations that really enhance the narrative and make the book spectacular. Flipping through the pages created by Melissa Sweet, it's easy to see why it won a 2009 Caldecott Honor award. Done in a collage style, each page features drawings set against a backdrop of papers from old books and notebooks. This makes the book feel as if it's Williams' notebook, crammed full of his notes and observations to be used later in his poems. The result is a book that can be looked at over and over, each time revealing something new to the reader.

A perfect title for poetry month, 'A River of Words' is a joy to read. If you're new to William Carlos Williams, choose this title to become familiar with him, but if you've enjoyed Williams' poetry in the past, enjoy it anew with this beautiful book.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Day With No Crayons

Written by Elizabeth Rusch
Illustrated by Chad Cameron
Most enjoyed by Kindergartners through 3rd graders

Liza loves her crayons. Her completed pictures are everywhere - the fridge, the bathroom, her bedroom. When Liza runs out of paper one day, what should she draw on but a blank white wall. Mom's not too happy with this and takes away Liza's crayons. But will this stop Liza from creating? Of course not! The world is full of color, as she soon discovers, and those colors aren't limited to a crayon box.

This is a wonderful story about creativity and how it can blossom when barriers and boundaries are removed. Liza is a free spirit that many young readers will identify with. The illustrations combine nicely with the story. For example, when Liza's crayons are taken away, the color illustrations switch to black and white, signifying how dark her world seems without color. Watch what happens, though, when Liza gets a grass stain on her jeans, then rubs in some yellow from a dandelion and orange from a tiger lily. Color reappears!

I'd pair this book with 'My Dog is as Smelly as Dirty Socks', reviewed here. The emphasis on art in both books makes them naturals to be used as an introduction to a collage art project.

Creating can be such fun, and you'll find 'A Day with No Crayons' to be a perfect source of artistic inspiration!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Chicks and Salsa

Written by Aaron Reynolds
Illustrated by Paulette Bogan
Most enjoyed by Kindergarten through 3rd graders

Dig out your sombrero and get ready to party with the animals at Nuthatcher farm! Tired of the same old feed, the chickens take to grumbling. Fortunately for them, the rooster has been watching cooking shows with Mrs. Nuthatcher and he has just the solution. Salsa! Of course, there must be chips with that, and once the pigs hear about it, they want something new, too. Pretty soon, everyone in the barnyard in getting ready for a fiesta, until someone discovers that all of the tomatoes and peppers, all of the yummy ingredients for the southwestern dishes they've come to love, have been stolen! It's back to the old feed again, until Rooster borrows a French cookbook and......

There is lots to laugh at in this book. The illustrations are bright and colorful and the expressions on the animals' faces are so funny! Be warned, though, that you'll want to head for the kitchen when you're done reading this and look for some chips and salsa. Not to worry since the back cover has a couple of recipes for the dishes the animals make. So have your chips and eat them too while you enjoy 'Chicks and Salsa'!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

For Warrior Fans - Look Who's Coming to Naperville!

Hey, Zion Warriors fans! I know there are a couple of you out there, so take note! Author Erin Hunter will be visiting Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville on Thursday, April 23rd at 7:00 PM. Check out the Anderson's website for more details.

Despite the fact that Naperville is quite a distance from Marengo, the drive is doable and well worth it when visiting a favorite author! This is a great opportunity to ask Ms. Hunter questions and perhaps get a book autographed. Don't miss it!

I Lost My Tooth in Africa

Written by Penda Diakite
Illustrated by Baba Wague Diakite
Most enjoyed by Kindergartners through 3rd graders

Losing a first tooth is so exciting. Under the pillow it goes and overnight, the tooth fairy comes and leaves something special - perhaps a small toy, some money, or a candy treat. But if you lived in Africa, you'd get something completely different yet unique to African culture.

Amina travels from her home in Portland, Oregon, to visit relatives in Mali, Africa. The trip is long, but she discovers during the journey that her tooth is loose. She hopes to lose it in Africa because if she does, she'll receive a chicken from the African tooth fairy! The big day arrives, and despite the long wait, Amina gets a chicken and a rooster. Within days, a couple of white eggs appear but will Amina be in Africa long enough to see the eggs hatch?

'I Lost My Tooth in Africa' was written by young Penda Diakite based on the real life experience of her sister, Amina. It's a great introduction to the way a favorite childhood tradition is celebrated in another culture. Since children all over the world lose their teeth, why not research how the tooth fairy visits them? This book gives you a start with Africa. What about India? Or Germany? A little research is a nifty way to learn some geography and to discover a common bond kids world-wide share.

While you're researching, try the recipe provided in the back for the onion sauce Amina shares with her extended family. There is also a glossary for the African words used in the text. Expand your world and extend the boundaries to Africa as you enjoy this story!

Friday, April 3, 2009

My Dog is as Smelly as Dirty Socks

And Other Funny Family Portraits
Written and illustrated by Hanoch Piven
Most enjoyed by all ages

Looking for something to do this weekend? Why not try a fun art project inspired by the book 'My Dog is as Smelly as Dirty Socks'?
Our narrator is a young girl who isn't satisfied with the pencil drawing of her family her teacher asked her to create. Instead, she makes her own portraits using objects she's found that describe her family members. Dad is as jumpy as a spring and as fun as a party favor. Guess what shows up in her portrait of Dad? His eyebrows are real springs and a party favor creates one of his eyes. The family dog referred to in the title is created by things that he smells like, such as a sock and a can of tuna. Everyone in the family has their own portrait, brought to life by the things that characterize that person in the narrator's mind.

The end pages of the book give examples of actual portraits created by children in the cancer ward of Schneider Children's Medical Center in Israel. They're fun to look at and provide lots of inspiration. Dig through the recycling bin and raid the cupboards to see what you can use to create your own family portrait!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Mozart Question

Written by Michael Morpurgo
Illustrated by Michael Foreman
Most enjoyed by 4th through 8th graders

'The Mozart Question' is one of the titles on the 2010 Rebecca Caudill list. It belongs there. Not only is it a great story, but it's one that should be read by everyone, not just those that participate in the Caudill program like we do at Zion.

Lesley is a new reporter for a newspaper when she gets the call reporters dream of. She is asked to make a trip to Italy to interview the great violinist Paolo Levi. A stern warning accompanies the invitation - do not ask the famous musician the Mozart question. As Lesley prepares for the trip, she keeps wondering about the Mozart question, realizing that the more she wonders, the harder it will be to avoid asking the question. When she finally meets the great man, she stumbles to get her words out and in the process, asks him how he began playing the violin. What follows is a story Paolo Levi has never shared with anyone, the story of the beginning of a musical career built on pain, suffering, and ultimately, the beauty of music.

I can't go much further in describing 'The Mozart Question' without giving the story away so I'll simply suggest that you read this book. It is beautifully illustrated and one that will stay with you long after you turn the last page.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

3 Willows

Written by Ann Brashares
Most enjoyed by girls in 5th through 8th grade

Ama, Polly, and Jo have been best friends since 3rd grade when they cemented their friendship by planting three willow trees together in the park. Now, they've graduated from 8th grade and high school is only a summer away. Ready for a change, the three begin to drift away from each other. Ama has applied for a summer camp in the hopes of getting a top grade that will look good on her school records. Polly discovers through a relative that her grandmother had once been a model. Jo, hoping to be accepted by the cool high schoolers, takes a job busing tables at the local restaurant. But despite their wishes, summer has plans of its own.
Ama gets accepted into a wilderness camp which was not the camp she wanted. She wants to quit but how can she when her sister never quit anything? Polly enrolls in modeling school without the support of her mother, who spends hours in her art studio. When Polly visits the studio, she makes a discovery that turns her life upside down. Jo's summer seems to get off to a rocky start until she meets handsome Zach on the bus ride home. It looks like a summer of romance for Jo until Zach's girlfriend from last summer shows up.

'3 Willows' is about friendship, dreams, families, and learning about yourself. I liked Ama, Polly, and Jo right from the start. All three are easy to like, so much so that I found myself wanting the book to continue so I could find out what happens to them next. Despite the troubles they run into, none of them give up. Instead, they discover that they each need to put their own stamp on the world instead of trying to conform. I highly recommend this book and look forward to the next one in the series.

Friday, March 13, 2009

How I Learned Geography

Written and illustrated by Uri Shulevitz
Most enjoyed by 3rd through 8th graders
2009 Caldecott Honor Book
This book appears deceptively simple. A young boy is flying over land covered with elements from many lands. A mosque, skyscraper, palm trees, a camel. It looks like it could be a story of a boy and his dreams. And it is, but this boy dreams to escape constant hunger and extreme poverty.

In 'How I Learned Geography', author Uri Shulevitz tells the story of how his family fled Poland in 1939, after the Warsaw blitz. They escaped to Turkestan where they shared a home with complete strangers and struggled to survive. One day, when his father returns from the market, Uri and his mother look forward to the bread he will bring for them. But instead of bread to feed their hungry bellies, he brings a map. A giant map, one that covers an entire wall of their house. At first, Uri is angry, but as he spends his days drawing pictures from the map, he begins to imagine life in all of the distant places the map shows. He climbs mountains, visits temples and desert sands, and makes little rhymes out of the names of places on the map. The world of war around him disappears as he draws and takes his imaginary journeys.

In time, Uri forgives his father for bringing home the map. He realizes it has given him hours of pleasure. Perhaps his book will inspire you to bring home a map of your own to dream over. It just might make the waning days of winter go faster!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Written by Carl Hiaasen
Most enjoyed by 5th through 8th graders

Bunny Starch is the most hated teacher at Truman School. Her expectations are high, she's demanding and intimidating. One day, during class, she's singles out Duane Scrod, Jr, for questioning. As her questioning becomes stronger, Duane bites off the end of the pencil she's pointing at him, chews it up, and swallows it. The next day, he doesn't show up for class. No matter; the class leaves on their scheduled field trip to Black Vine Swamp without him. There, Mrs. Starch tells the students to stay together in their groups, but the field trip is interrupted when the swamp begins to burn. The students gather at the bus and watch as Mrs. Starch goes back into the burning swamp to look for a student's inhaler. And doesn't return.

Then, or the next day, or the day afterwards.

It appears that something terrible has happened to Mrs. Starch. Nick and Marta, who've both braved Mrs. Starch's biology class and watched her disappear on the field trip, aren't so sure Mrs. Starch has met her end. When Mrs. Starch leaves a message for the headmaster that she's taking a leave of absence due to a family emergency, Nick and Marta are convinced that there's something funny going on. Mrs. Starch doesn't have any family, so why would she have a family emergency. Furthermore, could her disappearance has something to do with Duane's disappearance? Duane has a reputation for being a pyromaniac, but would he go so far as to set a fire that would hurt a teacher? And what was that scream Nick and Marta heard in the swamp? Could it be related somehow?

Carl Hiaasen has previously written two very popular eco-friendly books for young readers in 'Hoot' and 'Flush'. Fans will not be disappointed with his newest, 'Scat'. Combining concern for an endangered panther with the get-rich-quick schemes of an oil-seeking millionaire, 'Scat' is full of Hiaasen's trademark quirky characters and loads of mystery and adventure to keep you turning the pages turn quickly. You'll find 'Scat' a fun read that is hard to put down.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Wangari's Trees of Peace:A True Story from Africa

Written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter
Most enjoyed by peace lovers everywhere

Wangari lives in Kenya and grows up under the beautiful green trees. As a child, she helps her mother gather firewood from those same trees. When Wangari is older, she gets a scholarship to continue her schooling in America, but when she returns home, she finds the trees gone. Women who relied on them for firewood now must travel greater distances to find enough wood for their homes. The trees have been cut down to make way to more buildings. Enough, thinks Wangari. She begins to plant trees on her own, then soon begins a program paying women to plant even more trees. Often laughed at for her efforts, even arrested, Wangari persists until her world is restored to the green forests of her childhood.

This is the true story of Wangari Maathai, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts at restoring the ecology of Kenya. Through her persistence and dedication, she made her world a beautiful place again. How inspiring! So what are you doing to make your world a better place?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Lincoln Through the Lens

How Photography Revealed and Shaped an Extraordinary Life
Written by Martin W. Sandler
Most enjoyed by history lovers in 5th through 8th Grade

This excellent biography of Lincoln portrays him as a media savvy candidate and president who used the developing technology of photography to his advantage. It’s an interesting presentation in light of our recent election where many of the candidates took advantage of today’s technologies (i.e., test messaging, the Internet) in their campaigns much as Lincoln used photography. Young readers will find themselves engrossed by the pictures so much so that they will gravitate to the accompanying text to learn more. Some of the photographs are dramatic, such as the enlarged photo that shows Lincoln at the Gettysburg dedication and a long-lost photo of Lincoln lying in state.

Young readers who can’t get enough of Lincoln will enjoy ‘Lincoln Through the Lens’. A great addition to any Lincoln collection, find this on our shelves in the History section. Our review copy was provided by the publishers, Walker and Company, thanks to The Picnic Basket, a source of blog reviews for teachers and librarians. Find my review of this book on their website here.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Our Abe Lincoln

Written by Jim Aylesworth
Illustrated by Barbara McClintock
Most enjoyed by Preschoolers through 1st Graders

I love this book. This is a perfect picture book biography of Abraham Lincoln to share with preschoolers, Kindergartners and 1st graders. As the book begins, we see children getting ready to present a play called ‘Our Abe Lincoln’. Each two-page spread shows another act in the play, or episode in Lincoln’s life. Some of the episodes are familiar, such as his log cabin birth and his election to the presidency. But some may be new - his family’s early three-sided home in Indiana or Lincoln’s visit to a customer he had overcharged. The story can be sung to the tune of ‘The Old Grey Mare’ which is what makes it a hit with young listeners. Barbara McClintock’s illustrations of the costumed kids portraying the historical characters are charming. Some of the pictures are so detailed one could make an ‘I Spy’ game and have readers pouring over the book for hours.

The aspect I liked best about ‘Our Abe Lincoln’ is the way Lincoln’s death is handled. There is no mention of the assassination, which can be a tough topic to talk about with very young children. Instead, the words and accompanying illustration tell of Lincoln’s death in such a way that help kids realize how tragic it was without dwelling on specifics.

Highly recommended, ‘Our Abe Lincoln’ is a title perfect for the littlest Lincoln bicentennial birthday celebrators!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed

Written and illustrated by Mo Willems
Most enjoyed by everyone

This book is a testament to individuality. Wilbur is a naked mole rat who likes to get dressed. No can do, say the other naked mole rats. We don't wear clothes, because, well, we don't. But Wilbur likes to wear clothes. He likes them so much, he opens his own clothing store, which fails to win over the other naked mole rats. They become so frustrated with Wilbur's clothes, they take the problem to Grand-pah to solve. And solve it he does, much to Wilbur's, and the reader's, delight.

Sometime we need to be reminded that being a little different is just fine. Wilbur is perfectly happy wearing clothes and letting the other naked mole rats go without. It takes a wise elder to make everyone see the benefit of asking 'Why not?' before deciding whether something is right or wrong. Leave it to Mo Willems to remind us of the joys of being who we are in such a fun way. And can you find Mo's trademark pigeon in the pages of the book?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Who Made This Cake?

Written by Chihiro Nakagawa
Illustrated by Junji Koyose
Most enjoyed by Preschoolers and Kindergartners

Last week, when I read this story to our preschoolers, we were lucky to have a student celebrating a birthday that day. As we read 'Who Made This Cake', we imagined that the cake being made was for the student. How fun to see all of the little workers with their construction equipment breaking eggs, mixing flour and sugar, and pouring cake batter into a pan. And the end result? A birthday cake to be proud of!

Younger readers will love the pictures in 'Who Made This Cake'. Each two page spread is filled with little workers helping each other complete each task. Tons of details have been used in the illustration of the construction equipment, too. It's enough to make the birthday girl or boy miss their cake and ice cream! Add this to your bookshelf and make it a special read aloud whenever a family member celebrates a birthday.

Monday, February 23, 2009


Written by Cynthia Rylant
Illustrated by Lauren Stringer
Most enjoyed by snow lovers of all ages

Grrrrr! More snow! Haven't we had enough already? But wait - don't you remember the first snow of this winter season? You don't? Hmmmm, time for you to pick up 'Snow' by Cynthia Rylant and Lauren Stringer. Thumb through the pages and you'll soon see that new snow in a different light. Here is a book that will make you appreciate snow's beauty; it's reminder that it is time for quiet activities, for conversation and games and yummy hot drinks. 'Snow' is a reminder of everything we enjoy when we savor that first snow. And yes, the book will help you enjoy this new snow we've just received!