Friday, February 29, 2008
When Mark's brother Danny left to fight in the Vietnam War, Mark thought that everything would be different. He thought someone might actually pay attention to him and he was really looking forward to spending some time alone with his mom. Mark is surprised, then, when his mom almost immediately announces her intention to get a job. Mark is, once again, feeling ignored. When Danny mentions in a letter that the army is in need of dogs to help the war effort, Mark thinks that making a noble, selfless gesture like sending his dog Wolfie would be a great way to get people to notice him and to do his part. After he sends Wolfie, though, Mark has second thoughts and when he writes to find out when Wolfie might be coming home, he is put into contact with Wolfie's handler, a private from Kentucky named Tucker Smalley. Tucker and Mark begin exchanging letters about Wolfie and about the war.
Everyone asks Mark about Danny, which frustrates Mark because even though he's not around Danny's still getting all the attention. Mark doesn't have much news anyway because Danny writes hardly anything about the war. In school, Mark becomes friends with a cute girl named Claire, but he's dismayed to learn that her brother is a draft dodger and is "hiding out" in Canada to avoid fighting. Mark's always known that he would serve in the military when he was old enough, just like Danny is now. His father's always told him it's a great way to get a free college education and Mark has never thought to question it. But Claire and Mark's history teacher Mr. Casey have different ideas about the Vietnam War. For the first time, Mark is getting to know people unlike himself. As Mark gets to know them both better, he starts to rethink his own opinions about the war. When Mark finds out that Wolfie may not ever be coming home, that Wolfie is now considered "army equipment", he begins a campaign to bring Wolfie home. He organizes a protest that nearly tears his family apart. His dad firmly supports the war, while his mom seems to be wavering.
Mark can't help but wonder: if he doesn't support the war, does that mean he's not supporting Danny? Does it make him a traitor?
It's not much of a spoiler to warn you that the dog dies. Sensitive readers be aware. I cried for about the last 40 pages or so.
I really, really liked this book. One of the beauties of an award program like the Caudill is that you might pick up something you never would have picked up otherwise. This is one of those books. I love how Mark grows and changes, how he begins to talk with people about his ideas, and how he realizes for the first time that other people might have different opinions. And that they might be right. Mark's viewpoint also shifts as the book progresses. At the beginning of the novel, all he cares about is getting some attention from his mom and being popular at school. By the end, he's learned that some issues are bigger than just himself. He starts trying to look at the world as others might look at it. He's starting to get the bigger picture.
I also loved the vivid description in the book. Sherlock puts you right in the middle of the action and makes it so real that you feel like you're marching alongside the protesters or playing catch with Wolfie. I loved how she described Wolfie at the beginning of the book:
"Wolfie's head sagged on his neck. He could be sad with his body, though his face had a permanent smile." (pg 2)
There are also some passages that cut right the heart of the matter. Take this one from when Mark is discussing the war with his mom and wondering whether being against the war is being disloyal to Danny:
"'Don't you think that's a little disloyal to Danny?' I asked.
She turned and looked at me. 'Explain.'
'Danny put himself in danger for this country.'
'No,' she said. 'Danny's country put him in danger.'" (pg 194)
All in all, I thought it was a great book and a timely choice for the Caudill list. (And yes, Sherlock includes an author's note [woohoo!] explaining some of the issues about using dogs in war and the efforts to commemorate their service.)
Incidentally, you can see a picture of the dog whom Wolfie was modeled after on Patti Sherlock's website.
I... don't really have to review Hugo, do I? I mean... y'all have already read it, right? And if you haven't read it, you've at least read all about it, yes?
Well. Here's what we'll do. Since I resolved to read and review all the 2009 Caudill nominees, I will share with you what I wrote about this book when I read it in March. But then I'll also link to some better reviews. Deal? Deal.
"Hugo Cabret is an orphan living in a train station in Paris. He was living with his alcoholic uncle who took care of the clocks in the station, but his uncle seems to have disappeared and now Hugo is unsure what to do. He keeps on winding the clocks so that no one will notice and force him into an orphanage, and he keeps on working on his special project. It was a project that his father had left him before he died- a mechanical man that, Hugo suspects, when fixed will write a message. In fact, since his father's death, Hugo has become obsessed with the machine and his hopes that the automaton will give him a last message from his father. Unfortunately, to keep fixing the man Hugo needs parts, which he has to steal. And when he is caught by the shopkeeper, Hugo fears that his whole project is in jeopardy...
An innovative book with beautiful art. This book is not quite a graphic novel, nor is it complete without the pictures. I don't think I'd have been interested in the story on its own, but the drawings are more than worth cracking this puppy open."
And be sure to check out other reviews at: Becky's Book Reviews, Fuse #8, and Hypothetically Speaking. And then read Susan's post about why Hugo was going to break her heart (thank goodness it didn't!).
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Okay, I've got to give mad props to Mary Lee over at A Year of Reading for her post that bumped this book up on my to-read list. Her heartfelt recommendation resulted in me grabbing this book off our shelves, like, the next day. And it was such a good decision!
Why did I like it so much?
1. It's set in a time period (1909-1911) that fascinates me.
2. It's about spunky girls. Three of them, in fact.
3. It's about three spunky girls who are very different from each other (but also very much the same).
4. It's about three girls that I pretty quickly came to care about.
5. There is a 15-page author's note. *swoon*
In 1909, Bella is new to America. She came over from Italy where her family is starving. Since she's the oldest child, she made her way to the Land of Golden Opportunity in order to send money back to her small Italian village and save her family. Bella's got a lot going against her. She doesn't speak any English. The only person she knows in America is a distant cousin, Pietro. And she knows she's her family's only hope. When Pietro gets her a job working at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, she's grateful. All she wants to do is work hard, earn money, and save her family. Which is why it's so frustrating that the factory bosses treat them so abysmally, making them work without breaks, charging them for broken needles, searching them as they leave to make sure they're not stealing shirtwaists...
Yetta, for one, is not going to put up with the abuse any more. She's also a young girl working at Triangle. Yetta's from Russia and she moved to America to join her sister who fled Russia fearing persecution for her socialist tendencies. Yetta and Rahel are committed to fighting the factory bosses. They want a strike. They want a union. And Yetta will stop at nothing to make a difference.
Jane, on the other hand, isn't even aware of the strike or the poor condition of the factory workers. She's from a wealthy American family and the most that's expected of her is to marry well so she can put on pretty dresses and serve tea to a group of insipidly boring women. Jane feels trapped in her gilded cage until one day she meets Eleanor, a student at Vassar who tries to enlist Jane in the fight for women's rights. Jane begins to drive down to the factories to observe the strikers. Although her father doesn't approve, Jane feels like she's being called to help... if only she knew how.
These three very different young women come together and eventually form a strong friendship. And then all three are involved in the tragic fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.
It's a moving story that highlights an impassioned period in American history. I have to say that, although I knew about the Triangle fire, I really knew nothing about the strikes that happened beforehand. I found all the characters to be very believable and very accessible. Haddix really transported me back to the time and I couldn't put the book down. (Although I have to admit that I thought it dragged a little bit at the end... but then I'm rarely into the present-characters-looking-back-to-their-past angle...)
You can find more blog reviews at A Patchwork of Books and Sara's Holds Shelf.
If it's on your TBR list, I highly recommend bumping it up!
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
The students were to collect three recommendations from each location and write the titles and book locations (e.g. call number in the library) on their worksheet. Both a librarian and a bookseller had to sign their worksheet. Then the students have to choose one of the recommended books and do a book report on it.
I think it's such a neat assignment because it forces the kids to ask for reader's advisory, which is a service I think most people aren't aware of. A gaggle of kids came in for the assignment just before I was on desk and my coworkers alerted me about the assignment. I did help one girl with it when I was on desk. She explained that she needed book recommendations and I asked what type of book she would like to read. She told me that she liked chick lit, but not super fluffy chick lit. Something a little more serious.
I recommended the following books, taking care to let her know that if she didn't like these suggestions I would happily help her find others until we found something she thought she'd really like:
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
Dairy Queen by Catherine Murdock
A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life by Dana Reinhardt
What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones
Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy
I asked her whether she preferred long or short books. She said it didn't matter. I asked her what books she had read that she really, really liked and she said Nicholas Sparks books and Say Goodnight Gracie. (I recommended mostly teen books because she had come to me in the Young People's Department.) She had said she preferred realistic fiction over historical fiction or else I would have added Hattie Big Sky and possibly some others. She seemed happy with these recommendations and I believe I saw her taking at least four of them.
I wish I knew more about what the teacher intends the kids to learn. Is there a reason he's requiring that they visit and library and a bookstore instead of a library or a bookstore? I would love to see the kids' worksheets and see how the recommendations are different. I wonder if the teacher will ask the kids anything about their visits and what he would ask them (and what they would say!). For my part, I'm trying hard (as I do with any patron interaction) to make it a positive experience and show the kids that there is great stuff to be had at libraries.
The teacher probably doesn't realize this, but I think it's a great assignment for us librarians, too. For my part, I was very concerned that this girl get suggestions of books she thought she would really like. She's going to have to do a report on one of these books, after all. I don't want her to be stuck with a crummy book for her book report!
I'm looking forward to more of these 8th graders coming in to do this assignment. It's a challenge, but a fun challenge (hopefully for us and for them).
When Ruben and his best friend Jeddy find a dead body on the beach in 1929, their lives change forever. A weird reaction from the local law enforcement causes Ruben to give the body some thought and he eventually discovers that the dead man was an infamous rum runner. During this time of Prohibition, rum runners bought booze from Canada or the West Indies and smuggled it into the country. Because the ships had to anchor in international waters, rum runners would load up small boats with the liquor and sneak it onto shore in the dead of night. Police were paid off to look the other way. But things are changing. Gangs from big cities are starting to control all the business and trying to stamp out the smaller independent bootleggers... including the local team that mans a ship called the Black Duck. Although Ruben and Jeddy have always been best friends, Jeddy, son of the local policeman, feels conflicted about getting involved with the rum runners. Ruben begins to see how much the rum-runners are infiltrating his hometown even as he himself gets swept up in their operations.
I read most of this book in the airport and on the plane on my way back from Orlando. It starts off a bit slowly, but picks up once Ruben gets caught up in the rum smuggling business. There are two storylines here. The first is set in modern day. A middle school boy named David is working on an article that he hopes will be published in the paper. He finds the elderly Ruben and attempts to interview him about the Black Duck. At first Ruben holds back, but as the two get to know each other over several weeks' time, Ruben tells him more and more of the story. Ruben's story is the main part of the book.
I had two favorite things about this book. The first is that Ruben tells David that none of the horrible stuff would have happened, had he and Jeddy just let well enough alone, if they hadn't pressed the issue with the dead body. I love this because I so often can't get on board with mysteries and adventure stories where the kids get all wrapped up in things they should just let the grownups handle.
My other favorite thing about this book is how it looks at morality and how its view of morality changes as the book progresses. Ruben knew the rum smuggling was bad, that it was illegal. As he takes a harder look at his town, though, he sees so many people caught up in it. His dad's boss is heavily involved and Ruben comes to realize that his dad is forced to look the other way or risk losing his job. The crewmen of the Black Duck are actually regarded as local heroes because they help out people in the area. They're bringing in lots of money in the time right after the stock market crash, and they're sharing it with those that need it. If they're helping so many people, how can they be all bad?
Ruben's best friend Jeddy is the son of the local policeman and he thinks he knows what's right. But it's the things he doesn't know that will bring about his betrayal and bring down the Black Duck. This book takes the things we know are "bad" and turns them all about so that we can look at them a different way.
Also reviewed by bookshelves of doom, Becky's Book Reviews, and Fuse #8.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Wha what? I'm reviewing a grownup book? Um. Yes. And not just any book. A super awesome book. A book I've been waiting for for literally years. And it's a book I think y'all should all read.
Now, let me preface this by saying that I don't know Rob. I've never met him, never talked to him, never emailed him. I've just been reading his blog for the past few years. And we blog readers know better than anyone how following someone's blog can make you feel like you know him. And like you know his punky, adorably irresistible daughter.
This book is about one such punky, adorably irresistible daughter. And it's also about a father. And about a monster. The monster, in this case, is a congenital brain malformation called bilateral perisylvian polymicrogyria. It's an extremely rare disorder that results in Schuyler's inability to speak.
Hold up, I have to pause for a minute and tell you that Schuyler is pronouced "Sky-ler". It's Dutch. Good luck getting patrons to spell it right... :)
So. Schuyler's got this monster, this brain thing that's keeping her from speaking. And this is a kid who's got a lot to say. Rummel-Hudson chronicles his journey with his daughter from before she was born up until she's about seven. He describes the frustrating and devastating process of getting a correct diagnosis. At first doctors thought Schuyler might be deaf, then they thought she might have an autism spectrum disorder... It took years and endless evaluations to finally arrive at the correct diagnosis. And then it took years after that to finally get Schuyler the assistive technology and schooling that would help her do her best.
If it sounds like a bummer, you're right. But my favorite thing about this book is that Rummel-Hudson treats it with a mix of poignancy and sarcasm that brings just as many laughs as tears. His no-holds-barred humor made me laugh out loud. Like this passage from the beginning of the book:
"According to the pregnancy journal, the Grub was now entering a phase where she resembled an exercise in Mister Potatoheaded-ness... The ears started off near the bottom of her head, and the eyes weren't peering forward but were located on the sides of her head. ('Much like a rabbit,' said the journal cheerfully, as if the idea of having Rabbit Head Baby didn't make Daddy want to drive straight to one of Detroit's many drive-through liquor stores." (pg 14)
It's a moving story about an unconquerable little girl. I loved it. But here's the thing... Yeah, I loved it. But I've been following Rob's blog for a long time. I knew a lot of the story already. I knew how it would turn out and I knew the basic plot points. I wonder how it will be for people who don't know what's coming next. Will it be even better because everything will be a surprise? Or did I get more out of it because I am already somewhat emotionally invested in Schuyler?
You read it and then tell me.
After you're done reading the book, do check out Fighting Monsters with Rubber Swords (Rob's blog). I especially recommend a series of "promo" videos done by Rob and his wife Julie. Here's one with Rob telling us what the book is about.
Oh, and Happy Nonfiction Monday! (Which is, so far, the only good thing about today... Granted, I've only been up for about half an hour, but I've already had to clean up cat vomit twice... which is probably more than you needed to know...)
Sunday, February 24, 2008
I was absolutely delighted to see this book on the 2009 Caudill list because I love, love, love this series. You have to understand. I'm not a series person. I'm not even much of a sequel person. And yet... I love this series.
I read the first book during grad school and it was before I started writing little reviews of everything. So in lieu of a review, I'll share with you the booktalk I wrote when I presented this title to a 3rd-5th grade gifted reading class last spring:
Torak is alone. Before, he’d has his father, but now his father has been killed by a massive bear, the likes of which Torak had never seen. On his deathbed Torak’s father tells him that the bear has been possessed by an evil spirit, one that will continue to grow unless it is stopped. The fate of all the clans in the forest rest on stopping this evil spirit. And now it is Torak’s responsibility to stop it. Torak is to find the Mountain of the World Spirit, a mythical place that no one has ever found before. Torak’s father makes him swear that he will find it, he tells him that a guide will help him. Then Torak’s father dies and Torak is alone.
Wolf is also alone. He’s just a cub and his family has been killed by the Fast Wet. When Torak comes along, Wolf think he smells like one of his pack and the two have an instant bond. They stick together for company and safety. As they spend more time together, Torak begins to learn the wolf language and he starts to think that maybe this was the guide his father foretold.
Together, Torak and Wolf will try to find the Mountain of the World Spirit. They will try to stop the evil that is coming. But what Torak doesn’t stop to think about is how his father knew about the evil spirits. And why didn’t Torak and his father travel with a clan? Why did his father avoid other humans? Torak will have to find the answers to these questions- and manage to stay alive- in order to save the clans from the evil that is growing stronger every day. It’s more than a simple boy and his wolf can do… or is it?
An action-packed adventure story set in prehistoric times. If you like survival stories like My Side of the Mountain and Hatchet, with some fast-paced action thrown in, give this one a try.
Wolf Brother is the first book in the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series. The series goes as follows:
1. Wolf Brother
2. Spirit Walker
3. Soul Eater
4. Outcast (coming this May! I'm so excited!!!)
Thursday, February 21, 2008
"At the 4 ounce mark = Seuss
At the 6 ounce mark = Sendak
At the 8 ounce mark = Lobel
At the 10 ounce mark = Pilkey
At the 12 ounce mark = Cleary
At the 14 ounce mark = L'Engle
At the 16 ounce mark = Hinton"
Then she calls for our lists. What would be on YOUR water bottle? And it made me think. I think if I based my bottle on what's popular at my library, it would go a little something like this:
4 ounce = Numeroff
6 ounce = Wick (as in Walter, author of the I Spy books)
8 ounce = Gutman (My Weird School, specifically)
10 ounce = Horowitz
12 ounce = Harrison (as in Lisi)
14 ounce = Meyer (as in Stephenie)*
16 ounce = Westerfeld*
Now. If I based my list on the books I loved as a child, it would go a little something like this:
4 ounce = Harris (as in Joel Chandler... yes, I loved the Disney Uncle Remus stories!)
6 ounce = Van Allsburg (Polar Express and Two Bad Ants)
8 ounce = Cleary
10 ounce = Lowry
12 ounce = Pike (as in Christopher)
14 ounce = Mazer (Norma Fox)
16 ounce = Steinbeck (I read The Grapes of Wrath my junior year and I was hooked...)
Now. If I based my list on the children's/YA books I've read as an adult (say, since I started the process of library school), it would go a little something like this:
4 ounce = Willems
6 ounce = Lester
8 ounce = Pennypacker
10 ounce = Clements
12 ounce = Oppel
14 ounce = Dessen
16 ounce = McCafferty
(Oh my goodness, that was incredibly hard to keep it to one author per line... I could make many, many more lists with all different authors, I know...)
What would be on YOUR list?
*I don't actually work with kids this age, so I can't be certain, but here are my best guesses.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Well. Due to the terrible weather on the 6th, we had to cancel the teen volunteer part of the show. I would have loved the opportunity to work with the middle schoolers, but hopefully we can try something like this again with better results. However, the show must go on! So my coworker B and I did the puppet show ourselves.
We're lucky that our department already had a nice puppet stage made out of PVC pipes and a lot of black cloth. We also have a very healthy collection of puppets. B and I put on a mix of songs and stories for a total of about 20 minutes of puppetry.
We started with the song "5 Little Ducks". We played the song on our CD player while I worked the mama duck puppet and B had crafted 5 felt ducklings attached to craft sticks. He used clothespins to attach the ducks to a ruler so he could move them all together. As each duck failed to come back, he removed one duck from the row.
Then we did a rendition of The Big Wide-Mouthed Frog. We followed this with the song "Mahna Mahna" (which is one of my favorite things I've ever done in storytime). Again, we played the song on a CD and we used googly-eyed monster puppets. B's puppet danced around to the "do doo do do do" parts, while my monster popped in for each "mahna mahna". The fun part was choosing a different part of the stage to pop in on. I surprised them a couple of times and came out at the bottom of the stage. We've done this before standing behind the felt board in storytime and it's always funny for the kids.
Next we did another story, The Dog who Forgot. Very fun as this is one where you can really interact with the kids. Then we did a felt/puppet combo rendition of The Itsy Bitsy Spider. And we ended it all with Old MacDonald Had a Farm. B accompanied us on the banjo and we all sang along while I picked out a puppet for each new animal. We like to end with a weird one, so I brought out the Big Bad Wolf to a chorus of giggles.
After we were done with the show, we brought out all our puppets and the small toy puppet stage we usually keep in the back of the children's department. We reminded everyone to please be gentle with the puppets and gave them about 10 minutes of free play time. It was fun, fun, fun. I was a bit concerned with getting the kids to let go of the puppets at the end of the program, but they were actually really good. We simply brought out our baskets and told them it was bedtime for puppets.
As much as I would have loved to get some of the kids in the community involved, it was easier in some ways to just do the show ourselves. Whether with volunteers or by ourselves, it's definitely something we'll do again in the future. We had a pretty big crowd and got lots of positive comments. Bravo for Preschool Puppet Theatre!
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
- a) What issues/topic interests you most–non-fiction, i.e, cooking, knitting, stitching, there are infinite topics that has nothing to do with novels? I am partial to books about animals, medical science, cold places (Alaska, Antarctica, etc.), and memoirs of all sorts. I really enjoy any non-fiction book that has a great story.
- b) Would you like to review books concerning those? One of my New Year's resolutions was to read more non-fiction. I write small "reviews" on LibraryThing and Goodreads for every book I read. If it's a book I particularly liked, I'll review it on my blog.
- c) Would you like to be paid or do it as interest or hobby? Tell reasons for what ever you choose. At the moment, I review books as a hobby and as practice. Sure, I'd love to be paid for them someday, but I'm just starting out here, so I don't have solid aspirations at the moment.
- d) Would you recommend those to your friends and how? I share reviews on my blog, I post reviews on Goodreads (which many of my friends and coworkers are on).
- e) If you have already done something like this, link it to your post. Here's a link to the nonfiction reviews on my blog.
- f) Please don’t forget to link back here or whoever tags you.
Monday, February 18, 2008
My mission, should I choose to accept it: booktalks on the topic of Women's History Month for a small Montessori class (4th-6th grade) that's mostly boys. Books can be biographies, history books, even books written by women authors. I got an early start on this assignment (I've been reading books for this program since December) and I think I've culled some great books that will appeal to boys as well as girls. Here are my nonfiction picks for my upcoming booktalk...
Amelia Earhart by Tanya Lee Stone. Grades 4-7.
Amelia Earhart flew solo across the Atlantic and she disappeared while attempting to fly around the world. Y'all knew that, right? Well, did you also know that besides being a pilot, Earhart was also (at various times) a social worker, a truck driver, a nurse's assistant, and a writer for Cosmo? Did you know that today only 6% of licensed pilots are women? Did you know that some theories about Earhart's disappearance say she might have been a spy or that she might have been captured by the Japanese?
This DK biography is spiced up with colorful photos on every page. Having those visuals really made me feel like I was stepping into Amelia Earhart's life and times. The fact of Earhart's disappearance is enough to make the book appealing and lots of other information is presented in an accessible way.
A Whole New Ball Game by Sue Macy. Grades 4 and up.
You know the movie A League of Their Own? Want to get the real scoop on the All American Girls' Professional Baseball League? Look no further. This book tells the story of the league from its inception in 1943 to its disbandment in 1954. It tells the story of the young women who loved baseball so much that they played in skirts, rode buses all night to play double headers the next morning, and would NOT let themselves fade into the annals of history. Tons of photos break up the text nicely and there's a chronology, source notes, suggestions for further reading, and an index. Although I found this book to be readable and interesting enough for pleasure reading, it would make a great research tool as well.
Unfortunately, black women weren't allowed into the AAGPBL, but this next book shows you that some of them played baseball anyway.
A Strong Right Arm: The Story of Mamie "Peanut" Johnson by Michelle Y. Green. Grades 4-6.
This is an interesting and accessible biography that tells about the life of a black, female baseball player in the 1950s. Mamie Johnson loved baseball from a young age. Not softball. Hardball. But realizing her dream of playing baseball in a man's world (a white man's world, at that) was going to require some gumption. Mamie had it. The All American Girls' League shunned her for being African-American, but Mamie kept at it and eventually signed with the Indianapolis Clowns, a team in the Negro Leagues. Life wasn't all roses, even after she was on a team. When the team traveled, especially in the South, the players never knew how they were going to be treated (usually badly). But Mamie didn't let her fear or anger get the best of her. She let her right arm do the talking and it spoke for her very well. Green writes Mamie's biography in the first person, which was a little surprising to me, but it really works well. Mamie's story is an interesting, inspiring, and important one. (And it was a Rebecca Caudill nominee in 2006...!)
Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women by Catherine Thimmesh. Grades 4 and up.
What do chocolate chip cookies, windshield wipers, Liquid Paper, and flat-bottomed paper bags all have in common? They were all invented by women. Girls Think of Everything gives a glimpse at some of the many, many products invented by women. In some cases, women weren't allowed to patent their own inventions. In some cases, they had to fight to keep their ideas from being patented by men. In some cases, they weren't even allowed in the factories to oversee their own products being produced. But thank goodness women kept inventing things. Each entry in this book is 2-4 pages and accompanied by a colorful collage-ish illustration by Melissa Sweet. It's just enough information to give an overview, but not so much that the book gets bogged down by text. A list of source notes and suggestions for further reading are included in the back of the book.
Rosie the Riveter by Christine Petersen. Grades 4 and up.
When you think about Rosie the Riveter, what do you think of? I think of women working in the factories in World War II. And yes, Rosie the Riveter was a publicity scheme to attract housewives to work in ordnance factories during the war. But did you know that women had lots of other jobs during the war? They drove ambulances, pumped gas, ran shops, and fought fires (among many other things!). They were even recruited to join the Army, Marines, and Air Force where they performed such jobs as radio operating, typing, and even flying planes. This book gives a short overview of World War II and America's involvement. It examines different jobs women had during WWII and includes many photographs on every page. The photos really contribute to the book and show what it was like to live and work during this time period. Included at the end are a glossary, a timeline, an index, and a list of resources for more information. Interesting and informative, this is a great book about a significant period in women's history.
You Wouldn't Want to Be Cleopatra!: An Egyptian Ruler You'd Rather Not Be by Jim Pipe. (Grades 2-5)
This is one in a fun, fun series by Scholastic. It's filled with cartoon illustrations and gives an overview of Cleopatra's life from childhood to her death. Sidebars (side-cartoons?) give facts about Egyptian life and culture, the people in Cleopatra's life, etc. This isn't a research book, but it's lots of fun. The You Wouldn't Want... series has been pretty popular with 2nd and 3rd grade classes at the library, but I think it can have appeal for older kids who are interested in the topic.
And there you have it. These are the nonfiction Women's History Month titles I'll be taking with me on March 3... What would you add to this list? What other great books about women might be appealing to boys, too?
Do be sure to check out the Amelia Bloomer Project, which includes lists of great books that celebrate women for all ages. Also, there's a recent post over at INK that points out some interesting books about remarkable women.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Much like the Montana sky, my love for Hattie Big Sky knows no bounds. It's set in 1918 and features a very spunky girl who's determined to make it on her own because she has no other appealing choices. Here's what I wrote when I read it in December '06:
"Hattie is an orphan and has been shuffled around among relatives her whole life. She's tired of being Hattie Here-and-There. So when a letter comes from an uncle she never knew saying that he had left his claim in Montana to her, Hattie knows that it's fate calling and goes off to Montana to prove her claim. In order to prove the claim, she must finish the fencing and plow 40 acres of the land. It's a totally new kind of living for Hattie and much harder than she expects. Luckily, she makes some great friends... but tensions caused by the first World War are creating some problems for her German friends... Is Hattie strong enough to stand up for what she knows is right?"
It's (and I mean this in a good way) Little House on the Prairie for a slightly older set. Hattie's struggles to survive are engrossing. She must work her own land, she must brave the harsh Montana winters, and she must navigate a rocky social landscape as her best new friends are being discriminated against because of the war. That was another thing I loved about this book. It depicts discrimination against German immigrants when the US was involved in WWI, which was something I'd never really thought about before.
Big A little a, bookshelves of doom, and Little Willow have also reviewed it. Also, don't miss MotherReader's discussion on religion in the book.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
In this sequel to Year of the Dog, Pacy Lin is facing another new year. The year of the rat is a year for changes and Pacy is not at all sure that she wants anything to change. When Pacy's best friend Melody moves to California, Pacy feels lost. Her other friends at school don't understand her the way Melody did. Worse still, a new family from China is renting Melody's house and Pacy's parents expect her to befriend the social outcast Dun Wei. Pacy's questioning her friendships and her talents (after she learns that being an artist is considered a "cold door"... a career that won't bring much wealth), but if she can make it through the year of the rat, she might find that she herself has changed for the better.
This book is told in the same style as TYOTD with Pacy's relatives interjecting anecdotes about their own lives or Chinese legends. I read this book for the Expanding Horizons challenge. I love the character of Pacy and I think she's really accessible to kids. It's great to find another transitional chapter book that I can recommend to fans of Clementine and Ruby Lu.
Friday, February 15, 2008
8:30am - Arrive at work. Get materials ready for outreach storytime (get the lightweight felt board, find stickers to give out, pack up books and materials).
8:45am - Leave library and travel to local preschool for storytime.
9:00am - Arrive at local preschool and begin programs. This particular preschool contacted us to schedule visits on two days (they have a LOT of classes). They wanted a program about black history and/or multicultural diversity. Yesterday two of our librarians went and did storytimes for infants, toddlers, and 2's. Today we presented for 3's, 4's, a class of 4-5's, and a class of toddlers. We used the following books (not all of them for every class):
It's Okay to Be Different by Todd Parr (funny! And I love Todd Parr!)
We All Went on Safari: A Counting Journey Through Tanzania by Laurie Krebs and Julia Cairns
Kente Colors by Debbi Chocolate and John Ward (love this book and it worked with younger and older kids...)
My Nose, Your Nose by Melanie Walsh
Here Are My Hands by Bill Martin and John Archambault (we used a big book)
A Triangle for Adaora: An African Book of Shapes by Ifeoma Onyefulu (great book, but the text is too long for a readaloud, so I paraphrased it)
We also used a felt of the story Duckie's Rainbow and we sang the song "If You're Wearing Red Today", which don't really fit with multicultural diversity, but we worked the colors angle, tying them to Kente Colors.
We saw three classes of 3's (combined into one group), 2 classes of 4's (combined into one group), one class of 4-5's, and one class of toddlers for a total of 118 kids. Whew.
10:50am - We head back to the library.
11:00am - We arrive back at the library. I put away the storytime stuff (make sure the books are checked in, put away the felt board, stickers, and bags) and record the stats from our visit.
11:15am - I call another local preschool to attempt to reschedule last week's visit that was canceled due to snow storms of doom. The director isn't there, so I leave a message with some possible dates.
11:25am - I log the titles we used at our visit. We keep track of the stories we use for each in-house and outreach storytime so that we don't use the same ones all the time.
11:35am - I check my email and voicemail.
11:45am - I take down a preschool loan that needs to go out on the van on Monday. This teacher has requested a bag of books about presidents and about dental health. Sometimes a lot of the preschool teachers request the same topics at the same times (like right now dental health is very popular), so pickings can become slim... We do the best we can to please everybody!
12:00pm - Lunch time! I use the first half of my break to peruse the Friends of the Library book sale and come away with a stack of books for only $5.50. Score. Then I head to the staff room to eat my sandwich.
1:00pm - I'm on desk from 1-4. Since it's a no-school day, we were pretty busy, and in the down time I work on updating my booklists. Here's a sampling of the questions I was asked:
Where are the Barbie video games?
Can you help me find all the Clique books?
What are some good videos about shapes for preschool kids?
Do you have Hannah Montana DVDs in?
Where are the Calvin and Hobbes books?
How do I inter-library loan something?
These two computer mice are broken.
4:00pm - I'm back in the office. My boss stops by for a chat about the Summer Reading Club prizes. I'm not sure we really said anything helpful, but it was an interesting discussion anyway!
4:25pm - I fill out graphics requests for some programs I'm doing in April and talk with our graphic artist about them a bit. I'm requesting a poster for our Life-Sized Clue Game that we're hosting for teens and a sign for Mad Scientist Nitro Joe (both are programs I heard about at ILA).
4:50pm - I clean off my desk, put away my files, and...
5:00pm - I head home for the weekend! TGIF!
And there you have another day in the life of a children's librarian. Even though we sometimes get super busy, I love that we do our own outreach (as opposed to having an outreach department). It's so nice to get out of the library sometimes and visit local schools and preschools. There are some that we go to on a regular basis, but the one we visited today is one we haven't been to in a long time and I'm hoping they'll ask us back!
I think there must be some rule that at least one Caudill nominee must have an intriguing and unwieldy title. Of the 2008 nominees, I think The Misadventures of Maude March, or Trouble Rides a Fast Horse takes that honor. Of the 2009 nominees, I am happy to bestow that honor on Cornelia.
Unfortunately, Cornelia, despite its intriguing title, is not one of my favorite books. I read it in March and this is what I had to say:
"Cornelia is a lonely little girl whose famous pianist mother often leaves her alone while she goes on trips. Having a famous mother is a burden for Cornelia, who feels like most people she meets are more interested in her mother than they are in her. Until she meets her new next-door neighbor- Virginia Somerset. Virginia is the only grown-up that's ever treated Cornelia like she was her own person and Cornelia grows to relish hearing Virginia's stories of her travels with her sisters.
There's not a lot of plot in this book- the bulk of the book is made up of Virginia's stories. Even so, you get to know the Somerset sisters a bit and their escapades can be funny. The book seemed a bit too long to me and I'm not sure how I feel about the ending..."
I tend to like books that have a lot of character development and relationships between characters. From what I remember, Cornelia was more concentrated on the exotic settings of the adventures the Somerset sisters had. It just wasn't my kind of book... or perhaps I wasn't in the right frame of mind for it when I read it...
Thursday, February 14, 2008
and more importantly, Happy Cybils Announcement Day!!!
Yes, the 2007 Cybils winners have been announced. I think it's a great, great list. I'm especially happy to see A Crooked Kind of Perfect, Book of a Thousand Days, and Boy Toy on the list, as I loved all those books. I've got The True Meaning of Smekday and This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness on my TBR pile (and they just got bumped up).
Yay Cybils! And thanks to a great team of bloggers that brought them to us!
Monday, February 11, 2008
Oh, Rats!: The Story of Rats and People by Albert Marrin. (Grades 4-6)
Did you know that rats can be flushed down a toilet a live? Did you know that rats sometimes fish with their tails? Did you know that a pair of rats could have 359 million descendants in 3 years?
If you didn't know any of those superbly interesting facts, you'd better go out and obtain a copy of Oh, Rats! It's filled to the brim with interesting facts about rats. Now, I don't know about you, but when I think of rats, I tend to think about disease-infested vermin biting babies and eating all our food. (Remember Lady and the Tramp?? That rat that attacked the baby?!) Well, imagine my surprise to find out that rats are not all bad. Certainly, our author presents the unappealing facts along with the cute-and-cuddly-rats-as-pets angle. But, as Marrin experienced himself, once you learn about rats they become much less scary.
Illustrations in black, white, and crimson decorate the book and sidebars on nearly every page provide additional fun facts. Although I do like the illustrations, they were a bit distracting because the full-page pictures do not have labels and sometimes I couldn't figure out what they were supposed to be illustrating.
Mr. Marrin provides a bibliography at the end, as well as a short list of recommended reading. The neat thing is that he also includes a list of fictional books that feature rats as (good or evil) characters. I guess I was left wanting a little more from his bibliography and I wish he had included an author's note. But I will say that it's a greatly entertaining book and likely to appeal to kids.
Also reviewed by A Fuse #8 Production.
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Gossamer by Lois Lowry. (Grades 4-7)
I read this one a year ago and I must confess that I remember hardly anything about it. My booktalk for this one would go something like "Umm... it's about dreams... and a boy who goes into foster care and lives with an old lady and he'd been abused... And... yeah, you should read it!" Clearly, I need to reread. Here's what I wrote last January right after I finished it:
"Lois Lowry explores the nature of dreams in her latest book. Chapters alternate between Littlest One, a creature learning how to bestow dreams on sleeping humans and animals, and a pair of humans brought together by fate. The old woman is lonely and bored and decides to take in a sweet little foster child, never dreaming that they would send her the abused and angry John. John is an 8-year-old boy who's been taken away from an abusive home and lashes out at anyone who tries to get close. Now the nightmares are after John and Littlest will do whatever she can to protect him.
It's a very interesting idea, although the book is short and the action maybe goes too quickly. I found it a little unrealistic how quickly John came to accept his foster home. Still, it was an enjoyable story and could spark some interesting discussions in classrooms or book clubs."
Better reviews can be found at Fuse #8 and Blog from the Windowsill.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Hmmm. Laura Amy Schlitz. Where have I heard that name before? Hmmm. OH RIGHT, she won the 2008 Newbery! Well. Not only did she win the Newbery, but her historical novel, A Drowned Maiden's Hair, is nominated for a 2009 Caudill award. I was quite pleasantly surprised to see it on the Caudill list because I really enjoyed it. Here's what I wrote when I read it a year ago:
"Maud Mary Flynn is a scrappy little orphan living in an Asylum in the early 20th century. Maud knows that she's a bad girl, too rambunctious and stubborn to be of much interest to potential adoptive parents. And when Hyacinth Hawthorne overhears her singing and offers to adopt her, no one is more shocked than Maud herself. She's quite happy to leave the overcrowded, dirty asylum behind and start her new life with the glamorous Hawthorne sisters. But Maud discovers that her new life has some strange twists, like the fact that they all must keep Maud's existence a secret and the fact that her beloved Hyacinth leaves for weeks at a time without even writing to say she misses her new daughter. As time goes on, Maud unravels the truth and finds out why the Hawthorne sisters didn't want to adopt a little girl, they needed to. And Maud must determine whether she has the courage to stand up for what she knows is right.
I couldn't put this book down! Maud's a very likeable and spunky character. It reminded me a tiny bit of Flowers in the Attic, but much less gruesome. Great characters and though it was long, I didn't think that it dragged."
I must admit that I have a weakness for books set in the early 20th century. I love 'em. And I loved this one, too. And I'm not the only one who loved it... Check out rave reviews at bookshelves of doom, Fuse #8, and The Edge of the Forest, PLUS, it won the 2006 Cybil for Middle Grade Fiction! If that isn't enough recommendation, I don't know what to tell you.
(And this had nothing to do with the book, but I wanted to let you know that I'm escaping the Chicagoland winter storms of DOOM and heading down to sunny Florida for the next couple of days... yes, be jealous of me!! So, no posts for the next couple of days.)
Monday, February 4, 2008
I majored in psychology in undergrad. So I forget that not everyone knows about Phineas Gage. Phineas Gage is famous because of an accident. It was 1848 and Gage was working at putting down railroad tracks. The crew often had to blast some rock out of the way to put down the tracks and to do this they put down blasting powder, covered it with sand, put a fuse in it, and tamped it down with a tool called a tamping iron. A tamping iron is an iron pole that's pointy on one end and rounded on the other end. The pointy end is for poking a hole in the blasting powder to place the fuse and the rounded end is for tamping down the sand-covered powder. Well. On this particular day, someone forgot to put the sand over the blasting powder. When Gage went to tamp it down, his rod hit the rock, making a spark that ignited the blasting powder and shot the tamping iron up through Gage's head. It entered his left cheek above the jaw and came out the top of the left side of his head.
The thing about Phineas Gage, though... He didn't die. In fact, he was walking on his own and talking right after the accident happened. It was a medical marvel in this age before doctors know about bacteria or living cells. The other thing about Phineas Gage, though... His personality completely changed after the accident. Before, he was a kind, friendly person. After the accident, he was moody, yelling at people for nothing and unable to make logical decisions.
Students still study Phineas Gage today because his accident indicated that different parts of the brain are responsible for different aspects of human function and personality. Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science explains all this and more in a very readable way. Fleischman includes information about the development of medicine and the 19th century theories about brain function. He tells the story of Gage's accident and then his life after the accident and how doctors studied his case to learn more about the brain.
Along with interesting text, Fleischman includes pictures... photos and diagrams of the brain to help illustrate the medical information he provides. All photos and illustrations include source notes. The book ends with an extensive glossary, a list of resources, and an index.
Hand this one to kids interested in medicine or science or anyone who wants to know how a guy could survive an iron rod shooting through his brain.
And Happy Non-Fiction Monday!!
Saturday, February 2, 2008
I wandered down to Anderson's Bookshop today and when I saw this novel on the shelves, I had to have it. Ever since I heard the title, I've been wanting to read this one and my library seems to take forever to get new stuff (we're working on it). I just couldn't wait. And I'm glad I didn't.
"'Look around at the friends and the family
who loved Jackson Montgomery.
'You will keep the memory of him alive.'
There is one memory
that floods my brain
every five minutes.
It reminds me
and over again,
I'm the reason
Memories might keep him alive.
But they might
The book starts with a funeral. Ava was so in love with Jackson that she can't really believe that he's gone. The thing is... maybe he's not really gone... While Ava's trying to deal with her grief, her guilt over his death (which she thinks is her fault), her parents' and friends' concern for her... Jackson's coming back to see her... as a ghost. At first, Ava is thrilled that he's not really gone. She loves to feel him near her, she wishes he could say more to her. She wants to spend all her time at home in case he shows up... but eventually she starts wondering if that's really what she wants... if having a boyfriend who doesn't really exist is enough for her... And if it's not, does she has what it takes to let him go?
This book has definite fantasy elements, but it focuses on Ava's struggle to come to terms with her loss. At first, she can't move on, doesn't want to move on. Jackson's ghost is enough to satisfy her because she misses him so much. I think it's a spot-on portrayal of first love and the loss you feel when that first love is over. You'll hold onto anything, any little shard, to keep the illusion going, to believe that your love is not gone.
I loved this novel in verse. Ava's a very real character, dealing with very real feelings. Her friends and family support her, but they don't really know what to do. This is one road that Ava's got to navigate herself. I thought the ending was very satisfying and I was rooting for Ava all the way through.
(As an aside, my cat's name is Ava. Just sayin'.)
The subject matter and verse format are sure to appeal to teens. It's about a relationship, but it's strictly PG - physical intimacy is limited to kissing. And can I just say that it's got the perfect title? I wanted to pick it up based on the title alone, but I think the cover art is also perfect. My one teeny weeny complaint is that I found the scripted font for the poem titles a bit hard to read. The D's looked like W's, so I found myself wondering about the first poem title "What's 'A Way of Black' mean?" (It's actually "A Day of Black", which makes much more sense.)
Lisa Schroeder is a member of the Class of 2k8 and IHYYHM has also been reviewed by Teen Book Review (who's also posted an interview with the author) and The Page Flipper.
I am not lying when I say that Life as We Knew It is required reading in my department. Seriously, it's one of the first things we ask anyone new. "Have you read it?!" and if they haven't, we assure them that they must. Not only is Life as We Knew It a thrilling story of survival, it will stick with you for a long, long time.
I believe I originally picked up LAWKI because of its cover. I mean, take a look. That cover sells itself. You shouldn't need to know anything more.
But in case you do want to know something more...
LAWKI is told in diary format by Miranda. When the story begins, Miranda is just another anykid, going to school, coming home... and wondering why everyone is so freaked out by this moon thing that's happening. See, an asteroid is going to hit the moon. And everyone's talking about it. The science teachers are all atwitter and everyone's going to gather outside and watch the asteroid explode against the side of the moon or whatever it's going to do.
But when the asteroid hits, it hits with such force that it pushes the moon closer to the earth. And from there everything changes. Due to the moon's new position, the tides and weather is all out of whack. Tsunamis hit many major cities and eventually the world is thrust into a nuclear winter. There's no electricity, no gas for cars. The temperature drops and Miranda's city is covered in snow. There's no way of knowing if there is anyone else alive, so Miranda and her family must learn to survive on their own...
It's haunting and once you read it, you'll be checking the moon for days. Make sure you have a bag of chocolate chips stashed in the pantry and pick up Life as We Knew It. It's required reading of the best kind.
Need more convincing? Check out reviews at Three Good Rats and bookshelves of doom. Also note that the sequel is due out June 1. (Any ARCs floating around?? I (and my department) would love you forever...)
Friday, February 1, 2008
I was quite happy when Rules won a Newbery honor. In 2006, when this book was published, I worked as a library assistant at a special library with a collection of disability-related materials. Because of this job, I have a special interest in books about kids with disabilities. Still, I didn't manage to pick up this book until I was invited to a wedding this past August. The wedding was in Indiana, a five-hour car trip away, and I stocked up on plenty of listening material to pass the driving time. Due to circumstances beyond my control (massive flooding due to massive storms in the greater Chicago area), the five-hour car trip stretched into a nine-hour car trip. Thank goodness I had the audiobook of Rules to entertain me during four hours of that awful trip!
Here's what I wrote about the book right after I listened to it:
"This book was completely not like I thought it would be. It's about Katherine, a twelve year old girl trying to make a new friend and deal with her younger brother David who has autism. One day while she's at the clinic where David has occupational therapy, Katherine meets Jason. Jason is another patient at the clinic. Jason has cerebral palsy and he communicates using a book with pictures. Katherine creates some new pictures for him and begins a friendship that becomes very important to them both. Katherine learns a lot about communication and the importance of having words, even if they're negative words."
I knew before I started listening that the book was about a girl with an autistic brother. I did not, however, expect the character of Jason. I loved the friendship that develops between Katherine and Jason. It's not always an easy friendship, but it helps Katherine to grow in ways she didn't expect.
I think this book is an important book. It's a book that portrays a relationship not often portrayed in the middle-grade novel and it portrays it well. On top of all that, I think it has a down-to-earth protagonist that will actually appeal to kids.
As I mentioned, I listened to the audiobook and I thought the narrator was perfect for the book. Don't hesitate to pick this one up for a solid listen or read.