Archive for September, 2013

Get Real! A Non-Fiction Video Book Review

This month, Kelly shares the First Big Book of Space by Catherine D. Hughes, a great choice for school projects or learning on your own.

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Binny for Short by Hilary McKay

Binny for ShortAs you might have guessed, if you recall the sorts of books that I usually review, I tend to prefer fantasy, or at least fantastical, novels. More often than I expect, however, I read a realistic fiction novel and am overwhelmed by how much I love it. That’s what happened when I read Hilary McKay’s newest book, Binny for Short.

To be fair, I wasn’t completely surprised by the fact that I liked it—I’ve read almost all of McKay’s middle-grade fiction books, from the Exiles series to the Casson family books, and enjoyed them all—but I always forget how completely sucked into her works I get. (And I always forget how indelible the characters she creates are. I think that Binny’s younger brother James might be the most appallingly—and realistically!—riveting 6-year-old in existence).

Binny and her family have had their share of hard luck. First her father died, leaving them both utterly sad and in debt. Then, to pile heartbreak on heartbreak, Binny’s beloved puppy Max is given away without her knowledge. More than two years later she still hasn’t gotten over it, and is still trying to find him.

When Binny’s (NOT beloved) Aunty Violet dies and leaves the family her old house in a seaside town, things begin to look up for the family—or at least for Binny’s mother, older sister and younger brother. Binny is still so incensed at Aunty Violet (the instigator of Max’s kidnapping) that she can’t be happy in the house. But the town, with Kate in the café, Liam on the seal boats, and a best ‘enemy’ just next door, might change the way Binny feels about the house and herself. And sometimes, when you never give up hoping, the world turns out to be a nicer—and fairer—place than you thought it was.

Posted by: Sarah

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Pete the Cat: Pete’s Big Lunch by James Dean

Pete the Cat: Pete’s Big LunchPete the Cat has taken the picture book world by storm. The sleek, blue cat with expressive eyes finds himself juxtaposed with human situations and works his way through them with his wry, laid back cat attitude. The Pete the Cat picture books contain large text that is great for children just learning to read and even those getting ready to read and just starting to recognize print. This year, the illustrator brought his easy to read text style and amusing illustrations to the easy reader format. Moving Pete into Easy Readers was a seamless transition.

In Pete’s Big Lunch, the alarm rings at 12 p.m. and Pete knows it is time for lunch by his growling stomach. The ravenous cat starts with a loaf of bread, tomatoes and fish but thinks that will not be enough. So, Pete starts to add more and more to the sandwich, packaging and all. When the towering meal is complete, Pete realizes that is way too much for one cat and whips out his cell phone and calls his friends to help him eat his big lunch. Kids who love Pete the Cat will love getting to read more about his adventures in books that are just perfect for beginning readers.

Posted by: Kelly

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Little Owl’s Orange Scarf by Tatyana Feeney

Little Owl’s Orange ScarfLittle Owl loved soooo . . . many things — he loved numbers and ice cream and riding his scooter to name a few. He also usually loved surprises, BUT there was one thing he did not love – he did not love his new scarf! It was just too itchy; it was just too long; it was just too orange. He tried everything he could think of to “lose” his scarf, but Mommy just kept finding it, until he took a trip to the zoo one day. Now who do you suppose could use a very, very long scarf, and who do you suppose came home without his scarf? Luckily Mommy was willing to make another scarf that turned out to be just perfect for Little Owl. This sweet and funny story will be a favorite read aloud for kids of all ages! Just right.

Posted by: Mary

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Splat and the Cool School Trip by Rob Scotton

Splat and the Cool School Trip by ScottonJust in time for the new school year, Splat the Cat is back. This time he is excited about a trip to the zoo, and he can’t wait to see the penguins. His friend Seymour, the mouse, is looking forward to joining him. However, Seymour is disappointed to learn that he must stay home because he might scare the elephants. He is determined to join the class though. When he does disaster ensues, and the penguin house must be closed. A brokenhearted Splat returns home alone from the zoo. His disappointment doesn’t last long. That night he discovers a surprise in the bathtub…it’s penguin day after all! Read this title along with Penguins by Liz Pichon for a waddling good time!

Posted by: Liz

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What’s Chemistry All About? by Alex Frith

What’s Chemistry All About?School is back in session, and with the emphasis on Common Core it feels like a good time to recommend some non-fiction. I’ve never been particularly gifted in the sciences. Chemistry is one area that I find to be particularly intimidating, but also quite interesting which is what makes What’s Chemistry All About? so great. This book is a very straightforward and engaging overview of what chemistry is, why we study it, and how we use it both on a daily basis as well as in specialized circumstances.

Topics such as the periodic table, phases of matter, atomic structure, and why chocolate makes us happy as well are just some of the various other aspects of chemistry that are presented in this book. Adam Larkum’s illustrations complement and enhance the text, and provide more in depth learning opportunities for readers who benefit from a visual learning style. Experiments that can easily be done at home are interspersed throughout the book providing hands on activities to assist young readers with grasping the material presented.

The casual, accessible tone and engaging illustrations make this very approachable for budding young scientists in grades 4 and up. If you enjoy this book or are looking for information on a different area of science, check out one of the other titles in the series including What’s Science All About, What’s Biology All About, and What’s Physics All About?.

Posted by Staci

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The Hunt for the Seventh by Christine Morton-Shaw

The Hunt for the SeventhWhat would you do if you heard voices that no one else hears and saw ghosts? I’d be leaving immediately but it isn’t that easy for Jim.

Jim, his younger sister, Sal, and his father have come to live in a great manor where his father will be the head gardener. Some areas of the manor are open to the public for touring but Jim’s family will live in a small turret and the children are warned by the mean owner, Lord Louis Minerva III, not to roam the grounds. There are security cameras everywhere and Lord Minerva will see them if they are trespassing.

From the beginning Jim hears voices and starts to see ghosts who talk to him, demand that he solve a mystery they have given him, and leave him clues. He gets no help from his father who doesn’t believe him and is still exhausted and depressed because his wife died recently. Jim decides he will have to solve the mystery himself. The manor is large with gardens, woods, bogs, a lake, various types of buildings and many frightening statues including memorial statues of the children who have died on the estate since 1826. His sister soon gets involved and also the autistic son of the Lord of the manor who is supposed to be away at school but skulks about the property unseen by the adults and guides Tom in gathering information.

This is a scary ghost story set in a very atmospheric location and is also an intriguing mystery. Recommended for children in grades 5 through 7.

Posted by: Fran W.

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One World, Many Religions: The Ways We Worship by Mary Pope Osborne

One World, Many Religions: The Ways We WorshipOne World, Many Religions: The Ways We Worship, by Mary Pope Osborne (author of the popular Magic Tree House series), is a clear, concise, and thoughtful overview of the world’s major religions for young readers. Covering Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism and Taoism, Osborne tells of each religion’s origin and history, worship practices and beliefs, and holidays and celebrations. This well-designed and attractive book is illustrated with color photographs, many of young people practicing the faiths.

Young readers will be interested in the various stories that led to the evolvement of the most widely practiced religions today, and the way that young people of different religions engage in their faith communities. Reading about each religion side by side encourages the reader to see what unifies the practice of religion around the world, and also what makes each faith unique.

In a world in which worshipers of different faiths are increasingly living side by side, it is important for people of all ages to have knowledge of and a respect for others’ faiths. One World Many Religions is a wonderful place to begin. Recommended for independent readers in grades 4 and up.

Posted by Parry

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Panda Kindergarten by Joanne Ryder

Boys Without NamesLate August or early September marks the beginning of school for most students. With that in mind, I thought it would be especially fun to blog a school book, although Panda Kindergarten isn’t really the type of school that human students attend. It’s a panda school! This kindergarten class is at the Wolong Nature Reserve in China, where the young pandas are protected and taught skills that they might use for future life in the wild.

The photographs that accompany each page are simply adorable. The reader will enjoy learning about the care the pandas receive from birth through their year in kindergarten. The last page offers some interesting Fast Facts about giant pandas. For instance, did you know that a newborn giant panda is about 4 ounces at birth, but will grow to weigh over 200 pounds?

Anyone who likes animals will be sure to delight watching these cuddly little bears as they play and learn!

Posted by: Wendy

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