Friday, January 30, 2009

Peter and the Wolf based on the original work by Sergei Prokofiev, retold by Chris Raschka

This is the story of Peter, and a cast of animals-including a sneaky wolf! Each character is introduced and many argue among themselves. When the wolf arrives on the scene, he is hungry and has a little snack.

Peter, looking on from afar, sees the whole debacle and catches the wolf. He manages to talk down a group of hunters from killing the wolf into taking him to the zoo.

The text from this book is from Prokofiev's children's musical symphony.

What I Thought:
What a delightful story! As I was reading this book I had the tune of the symphony running through my head and I was putting the words to the melody.

Raschka's illustrations are superb. He created a stage setting out of heavy paper then added the characters into the stage as they entered the story to give most of the illustrations a three-dimensional effect.

A fun way to use this story would be to have a readers theater. The book is set up perfectly for this activity as each character's lines are prominently shown. I think the kids who participate would have a blast with the unusual text that are depicting what the animals are saying.

Finally, this book would be a great way to introduce symphonies and classical music with kids. You can read more about Peter and the Wolf, the symphonic work here via Wikipedia.

The only thing that I think would have made this book better would be to include a CD with the music of the symphony with it so the readers could read the text while listening to the symphony play.

Overall, highly recommended.

Want to find out more? Check it out on Amazon: Peter and the Wolf based on the original work by Sergei Prokofiev, retold by Chris Raschka.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

YALSA Releases Best Books of the Year for Young Adults

Happy Day!

YALSA (Young Adult Services Library Association) has released their yearly Best Books of Young Adults.

You can check out the entire list here, or the just the Top Ten List here.

Again, I have a lot of reading to do!

We The People: The Story of the Constitution by Lynne Cheney, paintings by Greg Harlin

Cheney tells the story of how the Constitution of the United States came to be when it looked like the young country was about to fail shortly after the victory over England in the Revolutionary War. The states simply cannot agree on a set of rules to abide by, so a set of delegates from each state meet together to figure out a better way for everyone to work together.

For over a year, the delegates debated and argued for what they thought the Constitution should look like. Several committees were formed to flesh out the main frame that was finally decided on. Finally, a final draft was signed and was ready to be ratified by the individual states and its citizens.

On July 4, 1788 enough states had ratified and accepted the document and the Constitution was made law, and much celebration followed.

The book also includes a foreword by Lynne Cheney and a list of sources.

What I Thought:
This story of our constitution is a solid historical lesson that I enjoyed very much and learned a lot from! Harlin did an amazing job with the illustrations for this book, the paintings are full of detail and add much to the story.

This is a long book, and probably not appropriate for a group read aloud with young children. However, this would be a wonderful read aloud to a class who are studying the Constitution in class, or reading aloud to an individual or small group. A definite must have for social studies/history teachers and those who are interested in the history of this time.

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: We The People: The Story of the Constitution by Lynne Cheney, paintings by Greg Harlin.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Do Ever Wonder...

Do you ever wonder how someone reacts when they get a phone call saying their book just won the Newbery Medal?

Wonder no more.

Head on over to Neil Gaiman's blog and he'll tell you all about it.

Also, check out the video from the Today show when Al Roker interviews the Newbery & Caldecot medal winners. (We learn here that The Graveyard Book will soon be a movie!)

I'm reading his book now, so far it's good!


Click here and you can watch Gaiman READ his book online. I haven't tried it, I want to read it for myself first, but I will totally be trying this out SOON!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Book Awards

These are JUST ANNOUNCED...and I am only going to quickly list as I need to get ready for work. (Please forgive any typos...I did this quicky!)

Printz Honors:
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Volume II, The Kingdom on the Waves, by M.T. Anderson
The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, by E. Lockhart
Printz Honor Book: “Tender Morsels,” by Margo Lanagan,
Printz Honor Book: “Nation,” by Terry Pratchett, published by

Printz Award:
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

Coretta Scott King Author Honors:
Keeping the Night Watch by Hope Anita Smith, illustrated by E.B. Lewis
The Blacker the Berry” by Joyce Carol Thomas, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Becoming Billie Holiday” by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honors
We Are the Ship: The Story of the Negro League Baseball,” written and illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Before John Was a Jazz Giant” by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Sean Qualls

Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award:
The Blacker the Berry, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, written by Joyce Carol Thomas

Caldecott Honors:
How I Learned Geography, written & illustrated by Uri Shulevitz
A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever written & illustrated by Marla Frazee
A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams written by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet

Caldecott Award
The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson, illustrated by Beth Krommes

Newbery Honors
Saavy by Ingrid Law
Tupac and D Foster by Jacqueline Woodson
The Underneath by Kathi Appelt
The Surrender Tree by Madeline L'Engle

Newbery Award:
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

I've got some reading to do!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Youth Book Awards Announced Tomorrow!

Tomorrow is one of my most favorite days of the year: the announcement of the Youth Media Awards. Tomorrow we learn what the American Library Association considers to be the best youth books of the year.

I am so excited!

I'll be posting the winners tomorrow along with my thoughts, but if you want to follow the excitement with me, follow ALAyma on twitter for real time updates.

See you tomorrow, with exciting news!!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Band Geek Love by Josie Bloss

Ellie Snow has been waiting for three years for this school year. This is the year that she is trumpet section leader and she plans on running a tight ship. She expects her section to be the best in the band, because this is her senior year and she wants this year's band to be the best ever.

Ellie is also juggling a strenuous academic schedule. She has set high goals for herself and allows for no distractions. She has a few close friends but has never had a boyfriend, or even been on a date. She had a horrible experience as a freshman that has plagued her for three years.

But one boy, Connor, arrives on the scene. He actually arrived late, and missed band camp-which Ellie was furious that he was still allowed to play in her trumpet section.

Will Ellie finally open her heart to another chance at love?

What I Thought:
I am almost to write this, but I will anyway.

I absolutely adored this book.

It is amazing how much Josie Bloss captured the workings and drama of a high school band organization. These groups have a persona of their own, and while each band has a different set of issues, in the end all band "geeks" can understand each other.

And as a band geek myself, I can totally relate. And that is why I devoured this book!

I think this book will be a hit with teens in a marching band, especially girls. I also think that people who marched in high school will also enjoy this book reminiscing about their own experiences and relating to all the drama. (And perhaps shudder at some of their own memories that are brought back to the surface from reading this book.)

Overall, a fun read.

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Band Geek Love by Josie Bloss.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw by Jeff Kinney

This journal picks up Greg Heffley's life in January and tracks him through the spring semester at school. Greg recaps his disappointing Christmas, where he received mostly books and clothes, because once you are in middle school no one thinks you want toys anymore.

The year goes downhill from there: his school bus changes routes without telling anyone, forcing him to walk the 1/4 mile to school; he has a crush on the fourth prettiest girl in school but can't work up the nerve to actually talk to her; his mom makes him do his own laundry; his best friend Rowley is still embarrassing sometimes; his mom hides the snacks; and his dad makes him sign up for a soccer team. But nothing can trump the worst thing: his dad wants to send him to a military academy that starts during summer vacation.

Whew! All this and more is accompanied by sketches of what Greg was going through. Will Greg survive and manage to wiggle his way out of military school?

What I Thought:
I LOVE these books, and have been anticipating the release of this book for some time now. I was not disappointed and tore this book, laughing all the way.

I adore how Kinney adds the cartoon drawings within the journal entries, they add so much personality to the story and helps make Greg and his family come to life.

The situations that Greg finds himself in are believable and I think many kids are able to relate. My favorite storyline in this book was when Greg's mom informs him that he must do his own laundry, and Greg wears all his clothes over and over, even the embarrassing items so he won't have to do actually wash his clothes.

This book is going to be a smash hit, just like the previous two books in the series. If you are, have, or know a middle school child this is a book that should be put in their hand...they will thank you!

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Last Straw by Jeff Kinney.

A couple of interesting tidbits:
*There is another installment coming! Book Four (Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Bummer Vacation) is slated to release sometime in Fall '09/Winter '10., with book five (Diary of a Wimpy Kid: My Last Year) scheduled for sometime early 2011. (source:

*Could Greg Heffley's story become a movie? According to, a Wimpy Kid movie could be coming soon!

*Check out for a youtube video on how this book was printed. (Note:this film is literally film of the book being printed, which is kind of neat but would be much better with some audio explaining what was happening or the processes that were taking place to take the book from blank paper to a finished product.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope by Nikki Grimes, illustrated by Bryan Collier

David and his mother are watching TV when he asks his mother who the man being shown is. It was Barack Obama, thus leading into the mother telling her son all about him.

As readers listen in on this conversation, they will learn about Obama's childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. We learn about his sadness felt when learning about his absent father, his want to help those left fortunate, and the hope that pushes him forward, day by day.

What I Thought:
This is a wonderful biography of Barack Obama for children. Grimes used Obama's book Dreams from My Father as her main resource. I think format that she uses to tell the story is excellent, it is a story within a story and this makes the story easier for children to grasp.

The illustrations are excellent, Bryan Collier uses a lot of collages within the illustrations.

The author and illustrator both include notes that give additional insight into the book.

While this book was published before Obama was elected to be president, it is a wonderful book that teaches children all about the man was sworn into office today, inauguration day.

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope by Nikki Grimes.

Monday, January 19, 2009

2009 Edgar Award Nominees

Check out this link to see what YA and Juvenile novels have been nominated for the Edgar Award.

The Edgar Award is the literature award awarded by the Mystery Writers of America. The award is named after Edgar Allen Poe and will be given in April 2009. There are a number of categories besides the youth divisions, adult books and even plays will be awarded with an Edgar Award. Click here to see the full list of nominees.

Sadly, I don't know much about many of the books listed, but I am pulling for John Green's Paper Towns to win the YA award! It looks like I need to start reading some good mysteries!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Movie Review: Bridge to Terabithia

Jess is the only brother amidst four sisters. He is picked on at school and is just a lonely guy. That is until Leslie moves in next door and shows up in his class. Together they come across a seemingly deserted piece of land with a uninhabited tree house. Leslie and her fantastic imagination declares the land their kingdom: Terabithia. As the duo rule the land and tackle the obstacles of their day to day life, a wonderful friendship blooms.

I finally had the opportunity to sit down and watch this movie. It had not been high on my "to see" list because I liked the book so much I was afraid the movie would not be able to do it justice!

However, I was wrong. The movie was quite good!

Considering that is has been years since I read this book, I was wary of remembering just how well the two would mesh. But to my memory, I think the movie stayed pretty well aligned with the novel. I loved how the movie brought out the imaginary world of Terabithia by making the various citizens of that land real and alive via movie magic.

Overall, I think this is a great movie. As with all movies that were books first, I always recommend that you read the novel before seeing the movie if at all possible. And this movie is no different!

So give it a shot! It is appropriate for older elementary kids. It's a movie full of imagination, friendship, and growing pains. (There are some very sad parts as well, FYI.)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Too Many Toys by David Shannon

Spencer has WAY too many toys. They are everywhere in his house. Big ones, little ones, electronic ones, stuffed ones....every type of toy imaginable.

When his mom can take it no longer, she declares that Spencer must choose some toys that he doesn't want or play with anymore so they can get rid of them.

Oh NO! To Spencer, this is catastrophe!

Finally, after some discussion and some bargaining, Mom and Spencer finally fill up a box. But Spencer finds a much better toy play with at the end!

What I Thought:
I love David Shannon. His books are always so "spot on" to kids and parents. This book is no different. You can just see the frustration in the parents of all the toys and Spencer reluctance to give them up, because they are ALL special to him.

I love Shannon's illustrations. He has a style all of his own, anyone can easily pick out a David Shannon illustrated work from a mile away. His style is bold, colorful, with a sense or rawness...they add personality and so much the story.

Besides being a great story, this is a perfect story to read and then proceed to pick out some toys to get rid of yourself!

I especially love the plug for books and such and zinger to video games: "He had puzzles, board games, and talking books that fueled his mind...and loud, jumpy, frenzied video games that didn't."

Touche, David Shannon! Nice jab there! (Which he is totally right, by the way)

Overall, a great story and wonderful read aloud with a good message.

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Too Many Toys by David Shannon.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Chester's Back! by Melanie Watt

Chester is back in his second book and is more difficult than ever! As Melanie Watt tries to write a nice story about her cat, he keeps interrupting her story and messing it up! Melanie finally gets so fed up that she holds auditions for a "new" Chester, but Chester will have none of that. When Melanie gives in to Chester's demands and writes the story just like HE wants it.

But it doesn't turn it out like Chester imagines....

What I Thought:
Chester is SO. FUN. This book will provoke giggles galore! I can totally see this book being done as a readers theater--the readers will have have a blast acting out Chester's determination and Melanie's frustration.

The illustrations are well done, and it is easy to decipher the separate voices. I want more Chester! Highly recommended.

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Chester's Back! by Melanie Watt.

And while you are there, check out the first book about Chester: Chester by Melanie Watt.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Ten Fingers and Ten Toes by Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury

All across the world, babies are being born. Whether they are born in the hills, in a tent, or even in town-they each have ten little fingers and ten little toes.

What I Thought:
Once again Fox and Oxenbury have teamed up and released a superb book. This book is a must have for parents of babies. It is a book full of the elements a picture book for the very young needs: rhyme, repetition, and illustrations of babies! What is especially great is that the babies pictured are from all over the world!

Highly recommended! An absolutely wonderful read-aloud, especially for very young children.

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Ten Fingers and Ten Toes by Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech

In this sequel to Love that Dog, Jack is a year older and happy to see his teacher from last year his teacher again this year. As he continues to explore poetry and its different forms, parts, and styles he writes in his journal. We, the readers have the privilege of reading his journal and see Jack's side of the conversation between him and his teacher.

A major portion of this story is Jack's love/hate relationship with cats. He also explores how deaf people can experience sound through descriptive words and plays with different types of poems and models other poet's work.

What I Thought:
Just like Love that Dog, this is a delightful novel written in verse. Jack is a lovable character and it is interesting to read his thought processes on various topics and he seems to mature right before our eyes!

This is a wonderful book to read aloud when kids are learning about poetry, or when you just want a good solid read.

Very highly recommended, but I suggest you read the first book before picking up this one.

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed by Mo Willems

Wilbur is a naked mole rat. He is part mole, part rat, and is naked...wait. No, Wilbur is different. He likes to wear clothes! Because of this oddity, he is teased by the other mole rat.

He tries to share his love of clothes with the others, but they would have no part of it. The others tried to reason with Wilbur by showing him a portrait of Grand-pah, the naked mole rat elder, who is regal while naked. Wilbur was not swayed.

The others decided that something had to be done so they go to Grand-pah and informed him of the situation. Grand-pah decides to address the colony and make a proclamation.

Will Wilbur have to stay naked after Grand-pah's proclamation or will he be able to continue wearing clothes if he wishes?

What I Thought:
Another hit for Mo!

Mo Willems is my most favorite children's book author and this book does not disappoint. Once again, he has published a book that all ages will enjoy; it is funny on many levels and teaches a great lesson: always be yourself and don't be scared to go against the grain.

The illustrations are great, Mo uses watercolors to show his naked mole rats. He is a master at expressions and that makes the books so intriguing to explore. I love all the different outfits and Wilbur wears too.

Overall, this is a great book, I very highly recommend it. I can't wait to read it aloud to my library kids!

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed by Mo Willems.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Breaking News...

Well not really.

Today Mo Willem's latest book Naked Mole Rats Gets Dressed is available for purchase.

The library got a copy in early, so of course I grabbed and have already enjoyed reading it! (Review coming soon!)

It's a cute one, so run out to your nearest bookstore and pick up a copy today!

I am hoping to snag a signed copy from my favorite independent bookstore (that is far way, sad!) later this week. Either way, you'll be seeing a new book day post very soon!

Now back to regular programming, a new book review went up today below!

The Dog Who Belonged to No One by Amy Hest, illustrated by Amy Bates

Once there was a dog who belonged to no one, and he was sad. He was a good dog who tried to do good things, but he was lonely and was desperate for a friend.

At the same time, just across town, there lived a little girl named Lia who was the daughter of two bakers. She spent many days on her bike making deliveries. She was lonely too, and filled the time by making up stories in her head.

On night, a big storm came and caught the dog and Lia outside. As Lia raced home, the little dog raced to stay ahead of the storm, and found himself at Lia's house! Will the dog who belonged to no one finally find a friend?

What I Thought:
What a sweet story. The illustrations of this story give a nostalgic feel and give a warm-fuzzy feeling. The dog is absolutely adorable!

This book is the perfect story for animal lovers and a great read aloud. It's a book so sweet that I'm sure many kids will be begging for this story over and over.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go talk my husband into letting us get a dog. (But we'll have to move first, we can't have one right now-it's against our lease. Sigh.)

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: The Dog Who Belonged to No One by Amy Hest, illustrated by Amy Bates.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Snoring Beauty by Bruce Hale, illustrated by Howard Fine

King Gluteus and Queen Esophagus were overjoyed when they had a baby girl, and named her Princess Drachmina Lofresca Malvolio Margarine. All the fairies in the land were invited for her christening, except for one-Beebo. That fairy came anyway, and out of spite gave a mean spirited gift that was made even more odd when another hearing impaired fairy messed it up while all the other fairies bestowed sweet gifts to the child.

On the Princess's sixteenth birthday, Beebo's gift came true, and the princess turned into a sleeping dragon that could only be awakened by a quince. (Yes, a quince-not a prince.)

So for years the Princess (dragon) slept. And SNORED. Very loudly. The queen and king tried everything they knew to do to wake her up, but to no avail. Will her quince ever come to wake the princess and give the kingdom a peaceful night's sleep?

What I Thought:
The amazing cover illustration caught my eye and enticed me to read this book. I'll admit, at first I wasn't super impressed by the story, but my mind was changed by the end.

This book is a twist on several fairy tales and other stories. This book is definitely a fractured fairy tale stemming from Sleeping Beauty, but I also saw other stories in here as well: Ella Enchanted, and the dragon reminded me a little of Shrek. (But I'm weird, so maybe that is just me.)

Overall, I think this is a delightful story! The illustrations are spot on and enhance the story greatly. This book would be great in any fairy tale unit, and any child who loves fantasy or just a solid story will enjoy this book. While it's long, it would be a great read aloud for older children. I think it would make a very fun reader's theater activity!!

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Snoring Beauty by Bruce Hale, illustrated by Howard Fine.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

Miranda lives in New York City in the 1970's. Miranda and her friend Sal walk back and forth to school everyday until one day Sal is punched by another kid on the way home. From that day forward he stays clear of Miranda, is not sure why.

Though Miranda is hurt, life goes on. Her mother is preparing to go on the game show "$10,000 Pyramid," she goes to school, works with some of her friends at a little deli during her school lunch hour, and curiously observes (from a distance) an odd man who lives on the street and sleeps with his head under the mailbox, and reading and rereading her most favorite books, A Wrinkle in Time.

Then some odd things begin happening. Miranda starts getting anonymous letters, and it kind of freaks her out...but slowly but surely time causes the pieces of the puzzle to fall together.

Could time travel really be possible?

What I Thought:
I wasn't so sure of this book, but decided to pick it up after reading positive review after positive review. And man, I'm so glad that I did!

This book keeps you on your toes and wondering what is going to happen next. Set in the 1970's, I found it to be a great flashback to that era. You might have to explain to your kids who Dick Clark is and maybe find an old episode of the $10,000 Pyramid game show!

This book is a perfect mix of science fiction and mystery. It's looking like it may be on the short list to win a Newbery and I would not object at all if the committee chose this book. It's well written and a great story!

I didn't think the cover is particularly catching, and that may be why this book did not move off my new shelf at all in the months my library has had it...but you can bet I'll be book talking this sucker to everyone who will listen!

Very highly recommended.

Want to see more: Check it out on Amazon: When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.

Reviewed from a library copy.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Hank Zipzer #15, A Tale of Two Tails by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver

In this episode of Hank's adventures, Hank is excited to enter his dog Cheerio in his school's mascot contest. The only thing is that Cheerio is not the most well behaved dog and it is difficult to make him listen and to learn new tricks!

Hank's friends, who make up Team Cheerio, even back out after realizing that Cheerio doesn't have much of a chance.

Cheerio even lands himself in jail after causing havoc at the park, which also lands Hank grounded and a stint of community service at the local senior citizen home. Cheerio didn't mean it though, he was just a bit to rambunctious and the police officer on duty felt it necessary to remove Cheerio from the situation to prevent further chaos.

So now it looks like there will be no contest for Cheerio. Or does it?

What I Thought?
As I've mentioned in a previous book review, I absolutely love this series. Hank is just so fun! This story is no different. Hank once again manages to find himself in a predicament. But as always, he manages to find a way to overcome, with the help of some friends and family.

A wonderful read. Recommended for reluctant readers and most independent readers, though this book and series would be a delightful family read aloud.

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Hank Zipzer #15, A Tale of Two Tails by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Pardon the Interruption...

I've been away a few days ringing in 2009 and am now back perusing the internets and ran across the 2008 Cybils finalists.

The Cybil Awards are "the children's and young adult blogger's literary awards." Basically, the way it works is that bloggers can nominate books they read and review and each year the group picks the "best of the best." So it's not ALA accredited or anything, but we all know the power of blogging!

It looks like I have some reading to do now! (As if I don't have a mile high stack of books already in line to read!)

Check out the list here, and enjoy! The 2008 Cybil Finalists.