A Smart Girl’s Guide to Knowing What to Say: Finding the Words to Fit Any Situation By Patti Kelley Criswell

A Smart Girl’s Guide to Knowing What to Say: Finding the Words to Fit Any SituationKnowing what to say in any given situation can be tough. You may be in a difficult situation and need to speak with care so as to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. You may be dealing with a bully and you need to stand up for yourself. You may need to respectfully negotiate a compromise with a friend or parent. And sometimes you hurt someone and need to apologize. A Smart Girl’s Guide to Knowing What to Say covers all types of situations and offers real-life examples of healthy ways to express what you mean effectively and with respect for yourself and others. This is a great book for girls to explore on their own or with their parents or friends. It would make a great starting point for discussion or a guide to role playing between daughters and their parents, so as to practice handling different situations. The information in this book is well organized and the design is colorful and appealing. It is part of the American Girl series, which many girls may already be familiar with. The book was made for girls, but it is sound advice for boys as well!

A Smart Girl’s Guide to Knowing What to Say was first recommended to me by the organization A Mighty Girl – check out their website or follow them on Facebook for great book, toy, and movie recommendations for girls, as well as interesting information about women throughout history.

Posted by: Parry

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The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

The Invisible BoyEveryone knows a child or has been the child that doesn’t get noticed in school for one reason or another. This book perfectly illustrates the world of a child who feels invisible. The teacher is so busy dealing with the boy with the “volume control” or the girl who complains and whines too much that she too doesn’t really notice Brian. He doesn’t get chosen for teams at recess and doesn’t get invited to parties, and sadly the other kids don’t stop to notice that their actions may be hurtful to Brian. No one seems to notice all the good things about Brian – that he is a wonderful artist – that he has a great imagination – that he can write exciting stories . . . Then one morning a new boy arrives in class, and Brian shows him a little kindness when the kids tease the new boy about the strange food he is eating for lunch. When the new boy Justin finds Brian’s note telling him that he thought his lunch looked good, Justin thanks him, and the two become fast friends. AND once Justin takes a chance on Brian, other friends follow, and pretty soon Brian doesn’t feel so invisible. Thanks to Miss Judy for pointing out this beautiful story to me. It is a must read!

Posted by: Mary

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A Pet for Fly Guy by Ted Arnold

A Pet for Fly GuyWith the summer reading club in full swing, I have books about pets and animals on my mind. The latest Fly Guy book was the perfect summer find. We have always enjoyed the other easy readers from this series in our house. And now, Fly Guy is making his picture book debut. In this latest story, Fly Guy is disappointed to discover that almost everyone has a pet except him. His owner and best buddy, Buzz, take him to the pet store to find a suitable pet. Unfortunately, none of the animals are quite right. Especially the frog that tries to eat him! It turns out that his buddy Buzz makes the perfect pet. Buzz accepts the offer to be his pet as long as Fly Guy doesn’t feed him. This is a cute story with a fun ending, and even has a nice introduction to the basics of pet care thrown in.

Posted by: Liz

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Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Not Reading by Tommy Greenwald

Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not ReadingCharlie Joe Jackson is in middle school and he has never read an entire book cover to cover. In fact he does everything he can to avoid reading. Luckily, Charlie Joe’s friend Timmy has been a huge help to his non-reading habits. For the past two years, Charlie Joe buys Timmy an ice cream sandwich and in exchange Timmy explains what happens in the books they are required to read for school. This agreement is perfect for Charlie Joe, until Timmy decides he is no longer happy with their arrangement. To make matters worse, he has a huge position paper due at the end of the school year that involves a lot of research. A lot of research means reading a lot of books. Charlie Joe comes up with a creative scheme to keep his perfect record of non-reading. However, he knows this scheme could get him into a big trouble while also pushing away the girl he has had a crush on since kindergarten.

Tommy Greenwald has written a humorous story about a child who simply does not enjoy reading. I am someone who loves to read so this title immediately caught my attention. Charlie Joe is a likeable character who will appeal to many children. Throughout the book Greenwald includes twenty-five of Charlie Joe’s non-reading tips, though at times Charlie Joe doesn’t follow his own instructions. Comical illustrations are woven throughout the book to further enhance the story’s appeal. This book would be a great choice for any middle school child who is a reluctant reader. If you enjoy this book, you can read more about Charlie Joe’s antics in Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Extra Credit and Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Summer Vacation.

Posted by: Katie

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Common Core Review: Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly Journey by Loree Griffin Burns and Ellen Harasimowicz

Handle with Care: An Unusual Butterfly JourneyChildren and adults alike are fascinated by butterflies. Their beautiful delicate wings attract attention where ever they fly, and their seemingly magical metamorphosis has inspired countless stories. Handle with Care tells the story of El Bosque Nuevo, a butterfly farm in Costa Rica, where a variety of butterflies are raised and then sold to various museums around the world. The benefits of this arrangement are twofold: 1. people everywhere can have the opportunity to observe and learn from butterflies from distant parts of the world and 2. the profits from the sales of the butterflies go to help preserve the rain forest surrounding the farm.

Author Loree Griffin Burns meticulously researched this topic and even spent time living in Costa Rica and working at El Bosque Nuevo. Her hands on research and genuine passion for the subject matter are evident throughout this book. Burns chooses her words carefully so as to make the material accessible to a younger audience while still being interesting and informative enough for older, more independent learners. In addition, Ellen Harasimowicz’s vibrant and gorgeous photographs bring the reader into the butterfly farm and allow for a stunningly up close view of the butterflies as they make their remarkable transformations. However, this book is more than just an informational text about butterflies. It is about the journey these amazing creatures take in an effort to inform, enlighten, and educate people around the world about butterflies while also raising money and awareness to save the rainforests. Handle with Care takes the familiar (butterflies) and connects it to the exotic (Costa Rican rainforests) and, in doing so, readers can make a connection to the very real plight that is the deforestation of the rainforests.

Common Core Connections
Because Handle with Care has so many layers, it lends itself to a variety of educational opportunities. Younger students will benefit from a pairing with any number of traditional butterfly stories such as Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar or Lois Ehlert’s Waiting for Wings. In addition to studying the life cycle of a butterfly, older students can also go on to explore the environmental issues raised by the book. Students could be encouraged to communicate with the butterfly farmers at El Bosque Nuevo and perhaps even raise awareness and funds for the butterfly farm in their own communities. Field trips to butterfly gardens are a natural extension for any age as well.

For more information on the work of El Bosque Nuevo and more ideas on how to share this information with students, visit the following websites:
El Bosque Nuevo
Loree Griffin Burns’ Handle with Care page

Posted by: Staci

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Chip Wants a Dog by William Wegman

Chip Wants a DogChip wants a dog – it’s all he thinks and dreams about. He would just love to teach a dog tricks such as to roll over, fetch and sit. A dog would be his best friend.

The problem is Chip’s parents do not want a dog. They think dogs are too much hard work and his Mother is really more of a cat person. Chip doesn’t understand why he can’t have a dog. All the other kids have dogs.

One night Chip has a dream that he is a dog. When he wakes up in the morning he realizes something about himself that has to do with his intense desire to have a dog.

What a funny easy reader! The William Wegman photographs are classic!

Posted by: Wendy

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The Islands of Chaldea by Diana Wynne Jones and Ursula Jones

The Islands of ChaldeaThe books of Diana Wynne Jones were a constant throughout my childhood and teen years. Of the nearly 100 books by her listed in our library system’s catalog, there isn’t a single one that I haven’t read at least once, if not repeatedly.

After Jones passed away in 2011, I naturally thought that I would never again read a new book by her. But first there was the posthumously published Earwig and the Witch, a short, snappy book about an orphan and her curious adoptive ‘family.’ It was definitely appealing, but it had that abrupt, unpolished quality that posthumously published books often have. I would recommend it to a reader, but it didn’t capture my imagination the way so many of Jones’ books had. Yet again, I thought that was that.

Fully three years after her death, though, a full-length novel by Jones has appeared–it was discovered amongst her papers, and polished and completed by Jones’ sister, Ursula Jones, already an author in her own right. This was the final (?) Diana Wynne Jones novel that I had been waiting for–it has a story that sucks a reader in almost instantly, characters who are defined simply but indelibly, and a setting so well-described that one can see it.

Aileen is an apprentice Wise-Woman, cared for by her Aunt Beck, the Wise Woman of Skarr, one of the group of sovereign islands known collectively as the Islands of Chaldea. Aileen has only just attempted her first initiation when she and her aunt–and a prince, and a castle servant–are sent off on a whirlwind quest that requires them to visit every island.

As is typical for Jones, our heroine has more reserves than she believes (but is never a wet blanket about her insecurities), there are wonderful animal companions, and adult authority figures are often Very Cranky.

I hope that it is taken as a compliment when I say that I cannot tell at all where Ursula Jones’ contributions come in–the book hangs together perfectly as a whole, with no disjointed transitions or developments that ring false. I highly recommend the book, both on its own merits, and as a satisfying send-off to Diana Wynne Jones’ magical oeuvre.

Posted by: Sarah

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