In case you missed my review of The Year of the Book, I’m back with a review of its sequel, The Year of the Baby. In the first book, Anna discovered the joys (and tribulations) of authentic friendships. In The Year of the Baby, Anna gains new responsibility when her Chinese-American family adopts a baby girl from China. Anna loves her little sister Kaylee, and knows her role as big sister is important. So she feels helpless when the doctor announces that Kaylee isn’t gaining enough weight.
Everyone in the family is worried about Kaylee, and it seems they’ve tried everything to get her to eat, with no results. But Kaylee does finally begin to improve when Anna and her best friends decide to use Kaylee in their science fair project – knowing that Kaylee loves the songs Anna sings to her, the girls use the scientific method to study whether Kaylee will eat more when she’s being sung to. As it turns out, she will! She especially likes the Chinese songs that Anna, Camille, and Laura learned in Chinese language school, and the girls suspect that maybe it’s because they are songs that Kaylee heard before she was adopted by Anna’s family. Once Kaylee begins to eat more, it seems like everything comes together – she says her first words, and even attempts to sing her first song!
Author Andrea Cheng is remarkably good at capturing friendships, family dynamics, and the inner life of a sensitive child finding her place in these realms. As in the first book, The Year of the Baby is dotted with sweet illustrations by Patrice Barton. There’s also a guide to pronouncing some of the Chinese words that come up in the book, and a recipe for making steamed red bean bao zi (stuffed buns). This book, like the last, truly warmed my heart. I would recommend it to readers in 3rd grade and up looking for realistic fiction. The third book, The Year of the Fortune Cookies, will be coming in Spring 2014!
Posted by: Parry
With all the snow and cold weather, it is nice to dream of going somewhere warm. Penguin on Vacation provides just that escape. Penguin is tired of all the regular winter activities and wants to go someplace tropical. He heads north and finally makes it to the beach. At first the beach isn’t quite what he expected. But with the help of a friendly crab, he discovers just how much fun the beach can be. Unfortunately, his vacation must come to an end but on his way home he discovers that crab is a stowaway on his raft. They have a delightful time, and penguins shows him all the fun that can be had in the snow. Eventually, crab’s vacation comes to an end. But crab leaves behind a shell as a reminder of the beach and a promise to return. This is another sweet story about friendship.
Posted by: Liz
I have to get one last winter book in before the season ends; not that I am trying to prolong the magic that has been the winter of 2014, but there are so many great stories for children about winter that I am always a little sad to see it go. This winter, Megan McDonald and G. Brian Karas teamed up to release the second book in the Ant and Honey Bee Series, A Pair of Friends in Winter. In this early chapter book, Ant wanders out one last time before hibernating for the winter to see his friend Honey Bee. Truthfully, Ant does not want to be alone and misses his friend. He arrives just in time because Honey Bee is in a sour mood and in need of cheering up. The two get into a better mood by creating a giant sandwich and eventually snuggle in together to hibernate through the winter.
This is a perfect pick for an emerging reader looking for a story with a hearty plot and manageable text. Unlike many early readers, the story is engaging for both children and parents. The illustrations enhance the text and add details for parents to enjoy, like a funny newspaper heading on Honey Bee’s newspaper that reads “Killer Bee Attack.” G. Brian Karas is a prolific children’s book illustrator as the creator of the illustrations for books such as Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! by Candace Fleming and Big Bad Bunny by Franny Billingsley. His style varies slightly, but always includes intriguing details that leave readers pouring over pages long after they have finished reading the text. If you can stomach one last book about winter this year, I would pick up this title! Or, maybe, save it for next season.
Posted by: Kelly
Toulouse, a new kid in school, is from Canada, and though Woodrow doesn’t like it that his classmates say that he is odd, weird, and little, he does have to admit that Toulouse pretty strange (he wears a three-piece suit and bowler hat to school! He sings like a bird!) and REALLY short (“kindergartener short”). But when Woodrow thinks about it, he realizes that he doesn’t mind at all. After all, Woodrow himself is pretty odd himself–he loves ‘duck’ tape, fly fishing, and is prone to stammering. Woodrow doesn’t see anything wrong with his own behavior, and he thinks that Toulouse is pretty cool. The question is: what will Woodrow do about Garrett and Hubcap, the two class bullies who have switched their attention from him to a new sitting duck, Toulouse? And what IS it about Toulouse?–there’s something about him that Woodrow just can’t figure out.
Jennings has written a deceptively slight book that tells a great story, with what I hate to call a ‘lesson’ about bullying, because that makes this book seem prescriptive. It’s not ‘a story about bullying’, so much as it is a story about what it means to be a friend, and who doesn’t like reading about friends? This book is a delightful read for anyone who enjoys school stories.
Posted by: Sarah
This month, Kelly shares a great new book, Locomotive, by Brian Floca. We swear we made the video before it won all the awards!
Sir Isaac Newton gave us 3 of the most important laws of physics which have shaped our understanding of how our world works. Author Mark Weakland and illustrator Gervasio have now given a whole new generation of students an accessible way to understand Newton’s concepts using zombies. Yes, I said: “zombies.” We’ve all heard the apple falling on Newton’s head story and many of us can easily recall the phrase, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” but recall does not equal comprehension. Put together a graphic novel with zombies illustrating the principals of gravity, force, and motion, however, and the preverbal light bulbs will be clicking on above even your most struggling students’ heads.
Scientific concepts often benefit from the accompaniment of visual examples, and graphic novels provide wonderful vehicles by which to accomplish this union. Zombies and Forces and Motion uses humorous illustrations and popular culture to make Newtons’ laws accessible and relatable to students. In addition, one of the goals of the new Common Core State Standards is to build visual literacy skills. By the time students are in junior high, the CCSS require the inclusion of graphic novels in the range of text types, so not only does this book align with the standards for informational texts, but it also provides a great opportunity to begin developing the scaffolding for future visual literacy skills.
Correlated to Common Core State Standards:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.7 Interpret information presented visually, orally, or quantitatively (e.g., in charts, graphs, diagrams, time lines, animations, or interactive elements on Web pages) and explain how the information contributes to an understanding of the text in which it appears.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.8 Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RST.6-8.4 Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 6–8 texts and topics.
Posted by: Staci
Siena is not your typical 13-year-old. In fact, her differences are part of the reason that her family is moving from Brooklyn, New York, to a small coastal town in Maine. The other reason is that her three-year-old brother, Lucca, has not spoken in over a year. While Siena and Lucca’s parents are not sure what makes it so hard for Siena to make friends and Lucca to talk, they are hoping the new environment will help them both. Siena is eager to try to start over, but when the family arrives in Maine, the very thing that makes her odd kicks into overdrive. Sometimes, Siena can see the past. Generally, it only happens while she is dreaming, but increasingly she was getting glimpses of the past while awake in things like buildings that are no longer standing in New York or people in out of date clothing. The home the family purchased is right out of one of Siena’s dreams. She is familiar with the layout and can feel what has happened in this house before the family lived there. However, Siena decides this familiarity could be positive and decides to make a go of it in Maine even making some friends before school starts. Lucca loves the beach and the play group his mother found, but he still is not talking. When Siena finds a pen that belonged to one of the previous owners, the story of what happened in the house is reveled, complete with a young girl who also struggles with mutism and Siena begins to wonder if the family’s move really was the best thing for Lucca after all.
This title has historical elements as Siena becomes involved in the lives of the family that lived in the house prior to her family, including a brother entrenched in the World War II battle fields. It also blends modern day realism and supernatural elements in a thoughtful and suspenseful manner. Children who enjoy descriptive text, supernatural stories and historical fiction will enjoy this title.
Posted by: Kelly