Archive for September, 2007

The Avion My Uncle Flew by Cyrus Fisher

The Avion My Uncle FlewHow did Johnny Littlehorn from Wyoming end up spending the summer in a little village in France?  First he broke his leg so badly that no one could fix it, then his father came home from World War II and decided that European army surgeons should give it a try, and then his mother decided everyone should go visit her birthplace–that French town of St. Charmant.  Johnny thinks that France will be boring, but little does he know what’s in store for him.

A strange, sinister man follows Johnny around Paris, and then to St. Charmant.  Even worse, Johnny discovers that a Nazi spy is hiding in the mountains above the town, plotting against the villagers and Johnny’s own family. 

This book was originally published in 1946, but is just as exciting today as on it’s first day out.  Johnny is an engaging narrator and the story itself engrossing.  Will Johnny’s French uncle finish building his avion (airplane)?  Will Charles and Suzanne’s mother lose their vinyard?  Will le Maire get back at Johnny for the Pig Incident?  Will the Nazi in the hills get his way and ruin everything for the village? 

Truly interesting, and a great read, this book–a Newbery Honor for 1947–would be enjoyed by any child who likes adventure or spy stories.  (Plus, this book uses so much French that any reader will learn a lot of it just through context).

Posted by: Sarah

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The Police Cloud by Christopher Niemann

The Police CloudThe Police Cloud is satisfying story for any child who dreams of being a police officer.  The story starts with the swearing in of a cloud that is eager to help people and wear a big blue hat.  The cute, retro drawings illustrate the difficulties a cloud faces on the police force.  After a trying day on the job, the police cloud finds a better way to use his talents to serve the city.  Also, a great read for units on community helpers.

Posted by: Liz

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Odd Man Out by Sarah Ellis

Pay no attention to the cover in the mirror. I know the cover is yucky, but the story between the covers is wonderful! It is the story of a young boy named Kip who is off to stay with his grandmother and a whole host of girl cousins while his mom and new stepfather go on their honeymoon.  Unhappy at the thought of losing his mom, and in a place where he has never been before, Kip is a little unsettled until he finds a special notebook belonging to his dad.  Between reading it, building a yurt, and having quite a bit of fun with his cousins, Kip learns about his past, his present, and what the future might hold for him.  A heartwarming story, Ellis crafts the tale of a young boy on the cusp of a major change in his life and how he deals with it.  There are some zany characters that make this more than just a coming of age type of tale and some great scenes. (they get to write on the walls in his grandmother’s house in marker since it is to be sold and torn down at the end of the summer!)

Posted by: Kate

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An Inconvenient Truth: The Crisis of Global Warming by Al Gore

An Inconvenient TruthWe all need wake-up calls at some points in our lives and this could be yours concerning global warming.  This adaptation of Al Gore’s bestselling book is aimed at a very important audience — young people.  Although the crisis, the problem, is for each and every one of us, this book is aimed at today’s youth at a reading level that makes scientific explanations very understandable.  Young people may have heard the term global warming and that it is a threat to our planet, but a dire concept like that is often difficult to understand and something so scary to our future that it is uncomfortable to think about.  Hence, the title, “inconvenient truth”.

There may be 180 pages in this book, but a good portion of those are amazing color photos and easy-to-grasp charts comparing our planet life a few years back to how things are now — or projected to be, if matters continue as is.  You will see beautiful thriving coral, but also bleached, dead reefs, victims of rising ocean temperatures and pollution.  You will see photos of former majestic glaciers side-by-side with today’s snowless places and empty lakes.  Another startling spread shows an aerial shot of two countries who share a border on the same island.  You see dull brown, clear-cut land in Haiti where there is no forest protection, bordering the still-green forested Dominican Republic which protects its forests.  Much of the global harm being done is happening at an alarming speed and this wake-up call book shows us – the United States – to be one of the big perpetrators of the problem.

This book for youth, explaining a world crisis with understandable language and startling photos, is not meant to simply leave us in fear and shock.  It’s hoping to jolt us all into life changes and a mind set of thinking globally in our actions and laws rather than thinking selfishly.  Mr. Gore’s eye-opening important book does end with suggestions for change and ways in which we individuals can help the problem.  I feel he didn’t give enough suggestions for us to act upon so I plan to look into the climate crisis website and invite you to also.  The book affected me and I’m already making some changes in my home and life.  Please read this book (it’s VERY readable and recommended for about 5th grade and up) and let the amazing photos sink in.  You won’t be the same.

Posted by: Fran D.

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How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell

How to Eat Fried WormsI think that every family has food issues.  There is always a picky eater in the family or someone who just doesn’t like a particular recipe.  This book begins with friends discussing food.  Tom’s mother kept him in after dinner because he wouldn’t eat her  salmon casserole.  Billy thinks that most food is okay.  Alan asks him if he would eat mud.  “Sure.”  How about worms?  “Why not?”  This discussion turns into a  bet.  Alan bets him $50 from his savings account that Billy won’t eat 15 worms. 

What makes this story fun is the personalities of the boys.  They go to great lengths to establish the rules of the contest and these are not the worms you find in your yard but nightcrawlers, which can be a foot long!  Billy is supported by Tom and Alan is supported by Joe.  Each team goes to great lengths to win the bet, sometimes trying psychological war fare and sometimes getting extremely devious.  The worms are eaten one a day instead of all at once so there is lots of time for plotting and scheming.

The book is a lot of fun, the boys and their parents become involved and so do the neighbors to a degree and the ending is surprising in more ways than one.   Take a big bite out of this book!

Posted by: Fran W.

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Would You Rather John Burningham

Would You RatherThis picture book first caught my eye because of the picture on the cover of a red- headed girl on a scooter with a pig, and it is just as cute and clever inside.  Throughout the book, the question is asked “would you rather . . .” do one thing over the other, and the list of options are often silly and thought provoking at the same time.  One example is:  would you rather help . . . a fairy make magic, gnomes dig for treasure, an imp be naughty, a witch make stew, or Santa Claus deliver presents?  Also, would you rather live with . . .  a gerbil in a cage, a fish in a bowl, a parrot on a perch, a rabbit in a hutch, chickens in a coop, or a dog in a kennel?  Which would YOU rather?

Posted by: Mary

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Owen and Mzee: The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship by Isabella Hatkoff and others

Owen and MzeeThis is a true story that begins with a disaster and ends with the remarkable and unlikely friendship between a hippo and a tortoise.

Owen was just a baby hippo when he was separated from his mother after a deadly tsunami that occurred in Asia in December, 2004.  He ended up stranded in a river in a small town in Kenya where the local people worked for many days to remove him from the water.  Once he was rescued, he was transferred to an animal sanctuary where the poor little hippo was hungry, angry and lonely.  Then he met Mzee.

Mzee is an Aldabra tortoise who is about 130 years old, who is considered rather grumpy and unfriendly and who mostly keeps to himself.  When Owen arrived at the sanctuary, he scrambled right over to Mzee where he tried to hide by him, just as a baby hippo would with his own mother.  At first, Mzee was not at all happy with this attention, but over time he grew to accept Owen and to even follow him around!  Thus a friendship was formed!

This is simply a heartwarming story about the bond between a hippo and a tortoise!  There are many very wonderful pictures of Owen and Mzee throughout the book.

You can continue reading about these two friends in the sequel, “Owen and Mzee: the Language of Friendship.”

Posted by: Wendy

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