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!

Friday, February 20, 2009


Written and photographed by Nic Bishop
Most enjoyed by 1st through 4th Graders

Frogs. Gotta love 'em. And even if you don't, check out 'Frogs' by Nic Bishop. Did you know that there is a frog whose skin is see-through? Called a glass frog, it's skin is so thin you can see it's heart pumping! There's a great picture of one on page 10. Ever heard of the strawberry dart poison frog? It lives in the rain forest and lays it's eggs on the forest floor. When the tadpoles hatch, the mother frog lets the tadpole wriggle onto it's back before climbing up a tree to deposit the tadpole safely into the wet leaves of a bromeliad. There she will care for the tadpole until it turns into a frog. Take a look at how colorful it is on page 42.

The photography in 'Frogs' is spectacular. With close-ups galore and facts about all kinds of frogs, this book will fascinate you even if you don't like frogs. It might even turn you into a frog lover!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Jumpy Jack and Googly

Written by Meg Rosoff
Illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Most enjoyed by Preschoolers through 1st Graders

Jumpy Jack is a snail who is scared of monsters. He's sure there's a monster behind the tree or in the swimming pool or hiding in the shed. He's awfully lucky that his best friend Googly isn't afraid to check for monsters. Googly, who is blue, has sharp teeth and two fingers on each hand, has no fear of monsters but patiently helps his friend by checking for them. But will Jumpy Jack be brave when he discovers what Googly is afraid of?

Little listeners will delight in the humor here. They can see that Googly is most definitely a monster, especially when he matches Jumpy Jack's description of one. Yet Jumpy Jack can't see it; he only sees Googly as his friend. And what else does a friend do but stick by his buddy through scary and not-so-scary? There's a nice lesson about friendship and acceptance here, but young readers will enjoy the simple pleasure of Jumpy Jack and Googly being together.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ranger's Apprentice: The Sorcerer of the North

Book 5 in the series
Written by John Flanagan
Most enjoyed by 5th through 8th Graders

I haven't read this one yet, but it's the latest in the Ranger's Apprentice series which is so popular here at Zion. If you're a fan, be sure to stop up and check this one out.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Footprints in the Snow

Written and illustrated by Mei Matsuoka
Most enjoyed by mystery lovers in Kindergarten through 3rd Grade
Here's a who-dun-it guaranteed to keep you wondering. Wolf is tired of reading stories about mean, nasty wolves. Since he can't find any books about nice wolves, he decides to write his own. The story he creates is about a wolf who spies some footprints in the snow. Wondering who they belong to, he sets off to follow them. As he meets each animal in the forest, he politely asks if they know to whom the tracks belong. Each animal runs away in fear. Mr. Wolf is frustrated but doesn't give up until he meets a duck. And that's when the detective discovers that there's a reason all those wolves in the stories are mean and nasty.

Young readers will enjoy the suspense as they turn the pages of 'Footprints in the Snow'. They can solve the mystery themselves if they use the clues they've been given about the wolf to come to the right conclusion. But will it be the right conclusion after all, beyond a shadow of a doubt? Mei Matsouka's illustrations are a mix of painting and collage art, with many of the pictures full of little details to find. This mystery is a perfect one to read before heading outside to hunt for some animal tracks yourself!

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at Abraham and Mary

Written by Candace Fleming
Most enjoyed by 5th through 8th graders

We're so fortunate here at Zion to be welcoming author Candace Fleming for a school visit today. Ms. Fleming is the author of a new book about Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln called 'The Lincolns: A Scrapbook Look at at Abraham and Mary'. The book recently won an NCTE Orbus Pictus Honor Award for best non-fiction for younger readers. The award is well-deserved. If you take the time to browse through the book, I think you'll find it's a hard one to put down.

'The Lincolns' presents alternating looks at Abraham and Mary, beginning with their childhoods, then progressing to their marriage, Abraham's legal and political careers, his presidency, and assassination. It ends with Mary's story, how she struggled to continue with her life after tragically losing her husband and eventually, three of her four sons. Along the way, you meet the people that touched their lives - Abraham's step -mother who made sure he had books to read; Mary's boarding school teacher whose flamboyant behaviour influenced her young student; Lincoln's cabinet members and his earliest friends. We see how both were shaped by the events taking place around them, while influencing those events as well.

What makes this book so readable is that you don't have to read the whole thing from start to finish to learn about Abraham and Mary. Got 15 minutes before your favorite TV show starts? Open the book and read about Lincoln's first store in New Salem. Ten minutes to go until lights out for bedtime? Read about Mary's love of fine clothes and how she was an extravagant shopper. By using the scrapbook format, Ms. Fleming has made a book so readable, so fascinating, it's hard to put down. Loaded with pictures, newspaper clippings, and cartoons from the time period, each page draws you into the Lincolns' story.

This year, we're celebrating Lincoln's 200th birthday so Ms. Fleming's book couldn't come at a better time. Read a bit of 'The Lincolns' every day and learn more about this fascinating couple that played such a big role in our history!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Magic Hockey Stick

Written by Peter Maloney and Felicia Zekauskas
Most enjoyed by hockey fans in Kindergarten through 3rd grade
What would you do if you won Wayne Gretzky's hockey stick? Do you think it would make you a better player? For the narrator of 'The Magic Hockey Stick', that's exactly what happens when her parents come home with Wayne's stick. Won at a charity auction, her father tells her to keep the stick in a safe place, but she just can't resist sneaking it off to hockey practice. Pretty soon, she's scoring one or two goals each game and leading her team to a winning season. But when the great Gretzky himself goes into a slump, there's only one thing she can do.

It's pretty hard to keep your game up without your favorite hockey stick or baseball bat or running shoes. Young readers will identify with our narrator when she has to decide whether to give up her new stick, especially since it's improving her game. But she knows she can't stand by when her favorite hockey player needs help! With rhyming text and colorful illustrations, 'The Magic Hockey Stick' is just the book for hockey players and armchair hockey fans everywhere!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Mr. Lincoln's Boys

Written by Staton Rabin
Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
Most enjoyed by 3rd through 8th graders

Subtitled 'Being the MOSTLY True Adventures of Abraham Lincoln's Trouble-Making Sons, TAD and WILLIE', this book is a nice introduction to a side of Lincoln we don't always hear about - his life as a father.
Willie and Tad were the Lincolns' two youngest sons. Their oldest son, Robert, was away at college for most of Lincoln's presidency. This left the White House in the hands of two rambunctious boys who tried to have as much fun as possible. As you'll learn in 'Mr. Lincoln's Boys' , the two succeeded quite well. Willie and Tad were always pulling pranks, much to the aggravation of White House staff. During important meetings, the boys would barge in to greet their father, causing one visitor to ask, "Mr. President, can't you do something about those rascals?" Well, Mr. Lincoln could, but he usually chose not to.

The paintings that illustrate the book are beautiful and show the love Lincoln surely had for his boys. Many of the faces are painted so well they look like photographs. One of my favorites is of Lincoln holding young Tad in his lap while comforting him from a nightmare. The look on Lincoln's face is so full of warmth and affection, a far cry from the serious face we usually see of Lincoln. A resource list in the back offers suggestions for places and websites to visit to learn more about Lincoln and his family.

Add this to your list of Lincoln books to read as we celebrate his birthday this year.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Rabbit and Squirrel: A Tale of War and Peas

Written by Kara LaReau
Illustrated by Scott Magoon
Most enjoyed by everyone!

Rabbit and Squirrel have each worked hard in their gardens. Even though they have been neighbors for years, they have never spoken or shared their home-grown bounty. When some of their veggies go missing in the morning, they blame each other for being the bandit. You, the reader, know who stole the goods, but Rabbit and Squirrel keep at it, fighting even as the book ends.

As you can tell from the subtitle, this is a story about the senselessness of fighting. The conflict between Rabbit and Squirrel seems silly to us, but not to them. Their determination to keep up their quarrel goes beyond the garden. Isn't that like our fights, sometimes? What should end on the playground or in the sandbox often carries over and colors the rest of our day. Reading Rabbit and Squirrel' will remind us that misunderstandings can usually be overcome by talking and listening to others. A perfect reminder for any age!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Farmer George Plants a Nation

Written by Peggy Thomas
Illustrated by Layne Johnson
Most enjoyed by 3rd through 8th graders

When we think of George Washington, we usually remember him as a general and president, one of the Founding Fathers of America. But if you asked George himself, he quite possibly would have said he was a farmer first. A very clever and innovative farmer as well.
In 'Farmer George Plants a Nation', author Peggy Thomas gives us the farmer side of George. Inheriting Mount Vernon from his older brother, George improved estate, expanding it from 2,000 to 8,000 acres. He eventually owned 5 farms. Tobacco, which was a money-making crop for farmers at that time, was also very demanding of the soil it grew in. George slowly replaced his tobacco crops with wheat. He also practiced crop rotation, a novel idea at the time, experimented with different types of fertilizers, and created an early type of planter that saved the work of many slaves. George shared everything he learned as a farmer with others around him, hoping that with good stewardship of the land, America would become a world leader in farming.
Woven into the story of George as farmer are the aspects of his life we know so well: his time as a Revolutionary Army general and his presidency. Even during eight years as general and eight years as president, George thought about the farm he loved so much. The illustrations, created by Layne Johnson, portray the farming landscape beautifully.

As George's birthday approaches, take the time to read 'Farmer George Plants a Nation'. Then, instead of cake and ice cream to celebrate, plant some seeds in George's honor. He'd be proud!

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Penguin Story

Written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis
Most enjoyed by Preschoolers and Kindergartners

Edna Penguin is sure there is something more in the world than white, black, and blue. After all, her world is limited to those three colors, the ones she sees each night and day. She sets off to look for something and when she discovers it, that something opens up the world for Edna and the other penguins. But will Edna be content to stop at what she has found?

'A Penguin Story' isn't just about color. It's about looking at the world around us and enjoying all it has to offer. Little readers will watch with anticipation as Edna finds what she's looking for, then delight in trying to guess what it is. Edna's joy is contagious. Why not play a color guessing game with your reader? Hide something colorful but leave just a bit of it showing. Can your listener guess what that something is? Of course, if that fails to further the fun, there's always the opportunity to wear a headpiece like Edna's!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

2010 Rebecca Caudill List Available

The 2010 Rebecca Caudill list has been published. I know some of you like to get a jump on your reading so now is the time to start on next year's list! We have 9 of the 20 titles available already in the Zion library with the remainder on order. Stop in and check one out!

Special note: The 2010 titles are not on the Rebecca Caudill shelf yet. Once we've voted on the 2009's, I'll replace the current titles with those from the new list.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Highway Cats

Written by Janet Taylor Lisle
Most enjoyed by 3rd through 6th graders
One evening, three kittens are left in the median strip of a busy highway. As Shredder and Murray the Claw watch, the little ones struggle to cross the busy road. Shredder and Murray trade bets as to which kitten will make it all the way across, knowing full well that none will survive the cars racing by. Miraculously, the kittens manage to make their way across, making Shredder realize that there is something special about the three.

The life the kittens cross into, though, is not an easy one. Shredder is one of many stray cats who live in Potter's woods behind the shopping center. Life is one cat fight followed by another, a constant struggle to find food and shelter. While the cats hunt for food and claw their way through fights, the town mayor is convinced that the shopping center needs a new entry way, one that will draw people from the highway in to shop. Up for re-election, he hires a crew to bulldoze the woods, threatening the cats' world. But life has been different for the cats since the kittens arrived. They've banded together to care for the little ones. Will their new found friendships be enough to hold off the development?

'Highway Cats' is a delightful story about friendship, love and the importance of hope. Strong characters, a little mystery, and quick pacing make this a book that will appeal to young readers, especially cat lovers.