Thursday, July 30, 2009

Extra Credit by Andrew Clements, illustrated by Mark Ellio

This is the story of Abby Carson, a sixth grader from flat Illinois. She loves the outdoors, and her school recently put in a rock climbing wall that secured gym class as her favorite activity at school. She is a smart girl, but doesn't "apply" herself in her academic studies. Her actions (or lack thereof), lead her the the strong possibility of being held back next year and not going on to Jr. high with her friends.

This is also the story of Sadeed Bayat, a young boy who lives in hilly Afghanistan. Sadeed attends a small school where he is one of the brightest in his class, the best writer, and very fluent in English. Sadeed goes to school and also works at his father's booth in the town bazaar.

How in the world do these two kids' paths cross? When one of Abby's teachers offers her an extra credit project to help save her grades she begins writing to Sadeed's sister Amira as a pen pal project. Through letters, these kids see what it is like for someone else on the other side of the world, and make a new friend in the process.

What I Thought:

I think this book is a wonderful book, and one with a bit of a different twist of the school stories that Clement is so well-known for. I loved how he incorporated a student from another country. I especially appreciate how that student lives in Afghanistan, which I think is a country that we need to learn more about.

I feel that we sometimes think of this country and other Middle Eastern countries as "bad" or the "enemy" because all we hear about is the war and such. However, there are millions of innocent people who are simply trying to live their lives out to the best of their ability. I love how Clements included a character doing this in this book.

This may be one of my favorite Clements books yet...a great read aloud to a classroom. What a great resource for a social studies/geography project and how neat would it be to start a pen pal program to go along with the book?

Very highly Recommended.

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Extra Credit by Andrew Clements, illustrated by Mark Elliott.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Snow White by the Brothers Grimm, illustrated by Quentin Greban

Snow White is a beautiful little girl with a wicked stepmother, the new queen. The queen had a magic mirror that would tell her who the most "fairest one of all" was. When the mirror began naming Snow White as that person, the queen got very jealous.

She ordered Snow White be taken in the woods and killed, her heart returned as proof. A hunter shows mercy and leaves her in the woods where she finds shelter in the dwelling of seven dwarfs, who lets her stay with them.

But the queen knows the truth when her mirror tells her that Snow White is still the fairest of all. The queen devises plan after plan to kill Snow White once and for all.

What I Thought:
This is the classic Brothers Grimm Snow White accompanied with beautiful illustrations by Quentin Greban. I love the Brothers Grimm fairy tales, especially when many people are not familiar with these versions, but only with the Disney-fied version.

I loved the illustrations in this book. Sometimes the illustrations that accompany Brothers Grimm stories are dark and kind of creepy, I found Greban's illustrations inviting and pleasing.

Overall, a great version of this classic story that should be shared with children. This story would open a great discussion of the differences between the different versions kids may have seen. This book was originally published in Belgium.


Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Snow White by the Brothers Grimm, illustrated by Quentin Greban. Book releases October 1, 2009.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bad Boys Get Henpecked by Margie Palatini, illustrated by Henry Cole

The Bad Boys are back, and they are hungry for some chicken! They devise a plan to disguise themselves like roosters, visit the hen house and offer handyman service, after which they will leave with something yummy to eat.

Sometimes the best plans are foiled...

When they get there, the hen is so excited to see them as she is needing some extra help around the house. But much to the surprise of the wolves the hen takes off and leaves a hefty to-do list and lots of baby chicks to supervise!

Whew! Will the Bad Boys accomplish their goal or will the job be too much for them to handle?

What I Thought:
The "Bad Boys" book are some of my favorites out there! One of my college professors read this to us, and I still remember the way that she read it. "Those boys were bad!"

Anyway, enough of memory lane. This is a super fun book and kids will eat it up! I think I may read this one for school age storytime soon! I love the illustrations, they are fun to explore and the expressions of the different characters really add to the text.

Very highly recommended.

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Bad Boys Get Henpecked by Margie Palatini, illustrated by Henry Cole.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Rainbow Fish Discovers the Deep Sea by Marcus Pfister

Rainbow Fish and his friends play at the edge of an underwater canyon and wonders what is below. He is warned that the canyon is a dark and dangerous place. When his last sparkle fin falls off and into the canyon, Rainbow Fish follows it and meets a lot of new friends who helps him!

What I Thought:

This is the latest book featuring the popular character Rainbow Fish, and in this installment Rainbow Fish makes new friends that live in the deep, deep ocean.

As always, the illustrations are fun and Pfister adds an extra "sparkle" by incorporating holograms into the drawings.

Kids will learn seeing the different animals of the sea in the book. I do wish Pfister had added simple glossary of the new animals introduced in the book to give more information about these interesting creatures. (Many I have never heard of and quickly did a Google search to learn more!) I need to bulk up my collection of underwater life before this book hits the shelves!

Overall, a great book that kids will clamor after.

Highly Recommended.

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Rainbow Fish Discovers the Deep Sea by Marcus Pfister. Book releases August 1, 2009.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Gifts by Regina Fackelmayer, illustrated by Christa Unzner

It's Christmas Eve and Mia is picking up a few last minute supplies, including a Christmas tree. On her way home she sees a man slip and fall in the snow, so she stops to help then continues on her way. Once she is home, she realizes that her tree didn't make it home with her!

Mia and her dog Murphy head out in the snowstorm to find her tree and sees a young boy crying in the snow because he lost his hat. Mia gives him her hat and sends him on his way home and she goes home too, again without her tree.

Sad about her tree, Mia sits at home when someone knock on the door. Will this be the best Christmas ever?

What I Thought:
This is a great Christmas story. I love that Mia is so giving and thoughtful of others, and in the end she is rewarded for her good deeds. There is even a little magic!

The illustrations are good and create a sense of magic with the story. This book was originally published in Switzerland. This is a great Christmas read-aloud.

I particularly loved the dog's name --Murphy-- that was the name of my dog growing up!


Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: The Gifts by Regina Fackelmayer, illustrated by Christa Unzner. Releases October 1, 2009.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Emmaline and the Bunny by Katherine Hannigan

Emmaline loves bunnies. She has begged and begged for a bunny, but was always told that bunnies were "too untidy." You see, Emmaline lived in the town Neatasapin where the mayor has banned everything untidy: he's concreted over the grass, banned wild animals, even put alarms on babies to let parents know when they need a diaper change!

Emmaline is a rather untidy girl. She is full of life, a girl who shouts when she's excited, likes to dig in the dirt and splash in puddles. No one will play with her because she is untidy, and when the mayor demands that she change her ways her parents bribe her with a gift...a bunny!

Emmaline is tidy for one month and gets her wish, only to be disappointed that the bunnies in the pet shop are programmed to be tidy bunnies-they don't hop or do anything bunny-like.

Poor Emmaline is so disappointed. Will she ever get a bunny?

What I Thought:
This is simply a lovely book about a little girl and her love for bunnies. This is also a great lesson on why it is important to sometimes be a little untidy and to keep our world a safe place for wild animals, especially bunnies! The story is accompanied by beautiful watercolor illustrations.

This book would be a wonderful read-aloud and would spark some wonderful discussions! (Conservation, tidiness pros & cons, pets, wild animals, etc.)


Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Emmaline and the Bunny by Katherine Hannigan.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Lost and Found by Andrew Clements, illustrations by Mark Elliott

When twins Jay Ray and Ray Jay move to a new city they are excited about attending a new school. But Jay must attend by himself on the first day because his brother his sick. He was actually stoked to check out the new schools by himself, without having a look-alike by his side!

Then the most amazing thing happens: it ends up that the school has no record of his brother Ray. So Jay and Ray cook up a scheme that will not only let each twin have the school to themselves one day, but also have some days at home alone! What a perfect plan...right?

What I Thought:

Andrew Clements has quickly became one of my favorite kid's authors! This book is a great example of why I like him so much.

Lost and Found is a great story about a set of twins who get into a predicament when their plan to share a single alias at school blows up. Clements does a great job explaining the twins' feelings and how they get frustrated about looking the same and expectations to be the same, when they clearly have different interests and personalities. People cannot tell them apart, and even worse their parents named them Jay Ray and Ray Jay!

Overall, this a great story that I believe kids will love.

Very Highly Recommended.

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Lost and Found by Andrew Clements, illustrations by Mark Elliott.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Best Friend Emma by Sally Warner, illustrated by Jamie Harper

It's November, and Emma and her best friend Annie are working to stretch out their stomachs so they have room for pumpkin pie after Thanksgiving Dinner.

A new girl arrives at school, Krysten, and Emma wants "Kry" to be HER friend, instead of being in Cynthia's group of friends.

Emma begins to be extra friendly to Kry, but in the process manages to hurt her friend Annie.

What I Thought:
I think this is a cute story, and very appropriate for elementary kids, but I think girls will especially enjoy this book. This is a very important story about friendship, and what can happen when one is not very considerate of friends' feelings.

This is also just a fun story that kids will enjoy and relate to!

Best Friend Emma is the fourth book in the Emma series of books.


Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Best Friend Emma by Sally Warner, illustrated by Jamie Harper.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Best Birthday Party by Serena Romanelli & Hans deBeer

Sheep is having a birthday party, and each of the guests brings a special birthday gift. But sheep has a special gift for each of her guests too!

What I Thought:
A sweet book. This is a touch and feel board book, which is great for the itty-bitties as it allows them to interact with the story by touching various elements. In this story, they get to touch things like balloons (slick and shiny), the sheep (fuzzy), a straw hat (bumpy), an umbrella (slick, yet textured), and more.

This book is also a great introduction to the concept of birthday parties and the tradition of giving gifts to the birthday person. A cool feature is how the birthday person gave gifts to all the attendees, which would be a party favor!

Overall, a very sweet book. I typically stay away from purchasing touch and feel books for my public library (ew, germs!) but I am anxious to see how this one is received by my patrons as it was a gift from the publisher.


Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: The BEST Birthday Party by Serena Romanelli and Hans deBeer. Book releases September 1, 2009.

Elephants Cannot Dance by Mo Willems

Piggie wants to teach Gerald (the Elephant) how to dance. But doesn't Piggie know that elephants cannot dance?

What I thought:
Mo did it again! In this episode of Elephant and Piggie, Piggie so wants to teach Gerald to dance. He agrees to try, and they begin the lesson. Gerald, being the good sport does his best, but eventually gives up...only to find out that he's started a new dance craze!

This is a such a fun book and is bound to be another hit in this series of early/beginning readers (or as Mo calls them, "easy to read, hard to write!") by Mo Willems. I can't wait to read this one in storytime very soon!

Very highly recommended!

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: Elephants Cannot Dance by Mo Willems.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes, illustrated by Louis Slobodkin

This is the story of three little girls, Wanda, Peggy and Maddie. They attended school together and while Wanda was fairly quiet and kept to herself, and no one payed her any mind. One day, Wanda tells the other girls that she has one hundred dresses in her closet. Peggy and Maddie find this interesting as she wears the same blue dress to school everyday.

So the girls begin teasing Wanda about her one hundred dresses everyday.

One day, Wanda does not come to school. Maddy begins to think about how the whole "game" of teasing Wanda came about, and comes to realize that while Peggy started the teasing, Maddy went along with it because she didn't want to become a target of teasing.

When the results of a class-wide contest was revealed and it was made known that Wanda did have one hundred dresses, the girls felt especially bad for the teasing and attempt to make amends.

What I Thought:
A beautiful story with a timeless message! Even though this book was published in 1944 and some of the details in the story are apparent of this time period, the story as a whole and message conveyed will be relevant forever.

This book is a wonderful read-aloud and would create some great discussions. Should be a must read for all. This book is a 1945 Newbery Honor Book.

Very highly recommended.

Want to see more? Check it out on Amazon: The One Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes, illustrated by Louis Slobodkin.

Monday, July 06, 2009

New Book Day!

Today is a SPECIAL new book day!

When I got home from work today, I had a package waiting for me on the coffee table. (Hubs checked the mail today.) Inside the package was this book (an autographed copy even!) and a sweet note from my friend Laura who is currently on a cross-country adventure with her family moving from the deserts of California to Maine!

Thanks so much Laura! I love it!!!

Check back for a review soon!

Lily's Crossing by Patricia Reilly Giff

Lily is a young girl growing up on the East Coast in 1944...right during World War II. Her mother is dead, so she is being raised by her father and grandmother and they visit their beach house each summer in Rockaway. Lily loves these summer days as she visits the beach and plays with her good friend Margaret.

But this summer will be different. With the war in full swing, Margaret's family moves to Chicago and Lily's father is called to serve overseas.

Lily is dreading the summer with no friends her age to play with, until Albert moves to town to stay with family. He is a refugee from war torn Hungary, and holds a great secret. They become fast friends, brought together by a sweet kitten. Lily has a problem to "stretch" the truth, but Albert hasn't been completely honest either and this becomes a major that could be life or death.

What I Thought:
Wow, what a great story! I love reading anything about this time period this book provides a completely different view on most of the literature I've read about WWII. Instead of a book about the Holocaust, its a story of a child living in the states who befriends a refugee child from Hungary. Albert is taken from his home as a precaution as his parents publish anti-Nazi literature, and if found out they would be in great danger.

The story also shows the life of the family of a WW2 soldier who is left home and worries about their loved one. D-Day and Normandy Beach is mentioned often.

This book is a 1998 Newbery Honor Book, and I've noticed is on a couple of schools' summer reading lists in my area. A superb book.

Highly Recommended.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks

Logan Thiboult has never really seen himself as lucky, just a regular guy. After college, he followed his father's footsteps and joined the Marines serving three tours in Iraq where he watched many of his fellow Marines die during the call of duty.

While in Iraq, he comes across a picture of a beautiful girl and two guys while running. His friend called that picture a "lucky charm" and encourages him to seek out this girl if nothign else to thank her for being his lucky charm.

After a cross-country trek (on foot!) with his beloved dog Zeus, Logan finds her.

Beth is a single mom living with her grandmother who is recovering from a stroke. Together they run the family's kennel and dog training business when a man begins to help out and eventually becomes so much more...much to her ex-husband's dismay.

They all deserve to be happy, but will Beth understand why he came? Will her ex-husband leave them alone?

What I Thought:
Sparks is simply a wonderful author! I have enjoyed all of his books, this one is no exception.

This book seemed to be written with a movie in mind, because I think it would be a great one! Rumors are out on the internets about such a thing, but I couldn't fine a reliable source to say for sure.

While this isn't my favorite of Sparks' works, it is definitely a worthy read!


Saturday, July 04, 2009

I Believe Bunny by Tish Rabe, illustrated by Frank Endersby

"Once upon a time in a land hard to find lived the I Believe Bunny who was funny and kind."

Thus begins the story of a sweet little bunny who loved his little home, even when it rained! One day it rained all day long and the little bunny was getting a little tired of all the wetness, when he hears a small mouse struggling in a river crying out for help because she couldn't swim.

Would the Bunny save her?

What I Thought:

A lovely, uplifting story about when you believe in yourself, ask God for help, and have faith there is no end to what you can do.

This story is based on the verse Philippians 4:13: I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Rabe did a lovely job creating a sweet story told through a poem showing how faith can give anyone the strength to do the impossible. Endersby's illustrations provide a wonderful accompaniment using a soft color palette and a sense of movement.

Overall, a delightful book.