Archive for March, 2014

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee

Ophelia and the Marvelous BoySome books are special. They have a plot description that sounds like many another book (girl finds herself in a fantastical situation and discovers that she must save the world), but are written in such a otherwordly, atmospheric way that even the adjectives that one might use to describe them aren’t magical enough.

Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard finds herself in a foreign city. Her father is an international expert on swords, and has been called upon to organize a gala Christmas Eve exhibition at the city’s museum. Miss Kaminski, the museum director, is very beautiful, but cold and strange, and Ophelia feels uneasy. She spends her days exploring the museum — from Culture of the Cossacks to Mesopotamian Mysteries and everything (everything) in between. In one room, though, she finds a door. That door hides a boy — a marvelous boy — who says that he has been imprisoned by the Snow Queen, and that he’s waiting for the One Other who will be able to use his sword to defeat her. He needs Ophelia to free him — an act much more complicated than just finding the key to the door.

Foxlee’s book is spellbinding; the world she creates is so compelling that I could see every detail, and what is more, believe every detail. I could see the frozen city, feel the cold in my bones, and believe in the uncanny museum, where wolves might roam the dollhouse exhibit.

Any reader would be enchanted to discover this wonderful book, and many of them might find themselves exploring the museum map on the endpapers. For all the eeriness of the museum, I would like to visit and wander its Gallery of Time, among others. Who knows what I might discover?

Posted by: Sarah

Leave a comment »

Common Core Review: No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart

It can be difficult to comprehend events that take place in other parts of the world, so when an opportunity comes along to make a connection between life as we know it and another culture or part of nature it can provide a great opportunity. No Monkeys, No Chocolate provides just such a connection. In this delightfully illustrated nonfiction book, authors Melissa Stewart and Allen Young explore where chocolate comes from on an ecological level. From pods to beans and back again, Stewart and Young explain the various stages of the lifecycle of the cocoa tree and the various organisms that help along the way. Readers will learn the importance of midges, maggots, lizards, fungi, and of course monkeys in the production of chocolate. Without all of those living organisms we would have no cocoa trees. Without cocoa trees we would have no chocolate. And where would we be without chocolate? The book concludes with a concise explanation of the connection between cocoa trees and rainforest preservation and some tips to teach young readers how they can do their parts to help the rainforests as well.
In addition to the wealth of information found within the pages of this book, Melissa Stewart offers more resources on her website including a timeline of her writing process for No Monkeys, No Chocolate as well a list of other great books about ecosystems and how living organisms work together. For teachers or librarians looking for book extension activities Stewart has also created a Reader’s Theater script for No Monkeys, No Chocolate and a few other fun activities on her website.
When it comes to Common Core State Standards, this book hits the jackpot. It is a great resource for teaching informational texts in a science setting, and provides a great opportunity to meet the third RI ELA-Literacy standard for Key Ideas & Details for grades 3 through 5. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.3.3, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.3, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.3) For even more ideas on teaching with this book, take a look at Melissa Stewart’s curriculum guide.

Just a Few of the Correlations to Common Core State Standards:
Describe the relationship between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text, using language that pertains to time, sequence, and cause/effect.
Compare and contrast the most important points and key details presented in two texts on the same topic.
Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.
Describe the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.
Explain how an author uses reasons and evidence to support particular points in a text.
Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.
Explain the relationships or interactions between two or more individuals, events, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text based on specific information in the text.
Analyze multiple accounts of the same event or topic, noting important similarities and differences in the point of view they represent.
Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.

Posted by: Staci

Leave a comment »

Get Real! A Non-Fiction Video Book Review

This month, Sarah shares the book 13 Art Illusions Children Should Know by Silke Vry: it’s a fun and fascinating look at classical–and modern!–art.

Leave a comment »

How to Catch a Bogle by Catherine Jinks

How to Catch a BogleHave you ever felt like something was lurking in the darkness just waiting for a chance to slurp you up into its slimy cavernous mouth? Certainly it was just your imagination…right? Not if you ask Birdie McAdam. She’s a bogler’s apprentice and she knows all-too-well that bogles (monsters to you and me) definitely do exist, and they are devouring children all over London. Working with her mentor Alfred Bunce, Birdie uses her lilting voice to lure the heinous creatures out of their hiding places so that Alfred can destroy them with the help of the legendary Finn McCool’s sword. Birdie is proud to be a bogler’s girl, but a series of curious events is pointing Birdie’s life in a new direction, no matter how hard she tries to fight the change.

How to Catch a Bogle is a delightfully fast paced and fantastical story filled with interesting characters sure to capture the attention of even the most reluctant of readers. The characters, even the bogles, are well-developed and readers will likely find themselves drawn into this surreal version of London in the late 19th century. Jinks does a great job of bringing the ubiquitous imaginary monster-in-the-closet to life without being overly terrifying. Each of the bogles that Birdie and Alfred encounters is unique and grotesque both while alive and in its death. This book would make for a great classroom read aloud for grades 4 through 6. Or, if you have a struggling or reluctant reader in your midst, grab the superbly done audio version, pair it with the text and set him or her off to discover how much fun a book can be.

Posted by: Staci

Leave a comment »

Dee Dee and Me by Amy Schwartz

Dee Dee and MeHaving a big sister is not always what it is cracked up to be, especially if that sister hogs your toys and your friends and shakes up your pet ladybug and cuts up your favorite apron to make into a purse! Little Hannah has decided that she has had enough from her big sister Dee Dee, and she decides that she will be too busy if her big sister wants to see her new apron or to have breakfast with her or to play with her. Not only that, Hannah is going to run away so she doesn’t ever have to see Dee Dee again! Unfortunately, she can’t leave until after she has a small snack and finds her teddy bear “Brown Bear”, who seems to be missing.

Much to her surprise, her sister Dee Dee has taken “Brown Bear” to sew on a new eye, which makes Hannah very happy. It is the small kindness that makes us believe that these sisters really do love each other, and they will find a way to be friends. This realistic story about sibling rivalry is so refreshing, because it is an honest look at being sisters and what that really means. These sisters are just like most sisters in that they antagonize each other and tease each other, and then they learn to take care of each other, and eventually grow together as true friends.

Posted by: Mary

Leave a comment »

I’m a Frog! By Mo Willems

I am a FrogI’m just going to put it right out here – I LOVE the Elephant and Piggie books!

Gerald, the elephant, and Piggie, the pig, are best friends. Piggie tends to be frivolous, while Gerald tends to be serious. They have a wonderful friendship.

Piggie pretends to be a frog, which just totally confuses Elephant. Piggie hops around like a frog, she ribbits like a frog and she announces out loud that she is a frog. Gerald, who is a very literal elephant, says, “I was sure you were a pig. You look like a pig. And your name is Piggie.” Then he begins to worry that he, too, will turn into a frog. Oh my, he might have to eat flies!

The problem is that Gerald doesn’t understand what it means to pretend. Piggie patiently explains about pretending and then she invites Gerald to be a frog with her.

Oh, would you like to know if Gerald joins Piggie in pretending to be a frog? You should know that I NEVER give away endings!  RIBBIT! RIBBIT!

Posted by: Wendy

Leave a comment »

The Year of the Baby by Andrea Cheng

Year of the BabyIn 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

Leave a comment »

Penguin on Vacation by Salina Yoon

Penguin on VacationWith 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

Leave a comment »

Ant and Honeybee: a Pair of Friends in Winter by Megan McDonald

Ant and Honeybee: a Pair of Friends in WinterI 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

Leave a comment »