Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Book of Blood and Shadow

THE BOOK OF BLOOD AND SHADOW by Robin Wasserman. Knopf, 2012.

Nora has been taking a college class where she and some others are charged with translating a series of letters between a sister and her brother. Buried within these letters is a dark secret: the secret of the Lumen Dei. Now, Chris is dead and his girlfriend Adriane is catatonic. Worst still, Max is missing. All those who had an association to the letters and the Lumen Dei are affected. Nora follows the trail from the letters to Prague where she hopes to find max and some answers to her questions about the Lumen Dei. She has no idea what to expect, but danger does lurk around every corner. Wasserman combines ancient lore, murder, mystery and more in this daVinci Code type story for young adults. Nora is a compelling and complex character. The plot with its twists and turns will keep readers turning the pages (sometimes peering warily). <415>

Monday, July 30, 2012

Little Pig

LITTLE PIG JOINS THE BAND by David Hyde Costello. Charlesbridge, 2012.

Little Pig wants to play an instrument and join in the band with the rest of his family. However, he fails at the instruments that are left since they tend to be too big for him. Just when he thinks he will be left out of the musical adventure, Little Pig discovers his real talent: drum major! What a terrific book to show kids that even the youngest and smallest can make an important contribution. <414>

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Eagle Song

EAGLE SONG by Joseph Bruchac. Puffin, 1999.

Moving from the reservation to New York takes a lot of adjustment for Danny Bigtree. He is the target of taunts from his 4th grade classmates. However, when Danny's father comes for a classroom visit, slowly attitudes begin to change. Danny takes it upon himself to make peace with the school bully and try to model his behavior after the great peacemaker of his Iroquois ancestor. <413>

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Christmas Wombat

THE CHRISTMAS WOMBAT by Jackie French with illustrations by Bruce Whatley. Clarion Books, 2012.

Wombat loves carrots. One winter, his sensitive nose (and powerful hunger) leads him in search of carrots only to discover some other strange animal (reindeer, in this case) eating them. Wombat manages to get his fill of carrots and then curls up in the rungs of Santa's sleigh. He is delighted to discover that there are plenty of carrots to be had when he teams up with Santa and the reindeer. <412>

Friday, July 27, 2012

Making the Familiar Strange

Today, we take a look at two books that start with a familiar premise or story and then take off in a different direction. Bear in mind that kids will not see these as parodies or retellings unless they are familiar with the "original." Never assume (you know what you make when you assume, right?0


The GN format and humorous approach to the telling of the story about how the camel got his hump make this a standout. The story unfolds as a traditional por quois tale with diagrams and charts about the camel before and after getting his humps. The book ends with the poem by Kipling (who makes an appearance in the book as a scientific observer. Three other stories are available from Capstone. <410>

JACK AND THE BAKED BEANSTALK by Colin Stimpson. Templar Books, 2012.

Once upon a time, Jack and his mother ran a diner. For a while all was wonderful, and then the highway overpass was completed, and the diner had no customers. When Jack trades his last few pennies for a can of magic baked beans, the story takes off up the baked beanstalk and into the sky. Endpapers look like a flood of baked beans, and there are some funny twists on this old tale. <411>

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Shark Wars

SHARK WARS 3: INTO THE ABYSS. Razorbill 2011.

Billed as "Star Wars beneath the seas," this third installment in the series centers on an alliance of Shivers (clans of sharks) preparing to battle the crazed Finnivus, a leader who uses any means necessary to obliterate his enemies (including using "pups: to lure opposing armies of sharks to their deaths). Sly humor and lots of gory battle makes this a good choice for readers who enjoy adventure and survival stories. <409>

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Camp Secrets


Sofia and her best friend Nona are headed off, reluctantly, to summer camp. Once Sofia gets over her pique at having to attend a lame thing like summer camp, she is determined to make the best of things. After all, she can spend the summer reinventing herself: no one at the camp except for Nona knows the real Sofia anyway. Best laid plans go awry, of course, with sometimes funny and sometimes tragic (at least as far as Sofia is concerned) results. Romance, friendships, crafts, mean counselors: it is all here in this diary format novel sure to please middle grade girls to the core. <408>

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Narrative Nonfiction Gold

THE GIANT AND HOW HE HUMBUGGED AMERICA by Jim Murphy. Scholastic, October 2012.

New nonfiction by Jim Murphy is always welcome. Never more so than in the era of CCSS which calls for more and more nonfiction use in the classroom. And even in non-adopting Texas, there is a need for nonfiction and to demonstrate to kids who to approach nonfiction text. So open to the first few pages of THE GIANT and you will be drawn in immediately to the tale of an archaeological find on the grounds of William Newell's farm. A giant is unearthed and declared to be an ancient fossil of a perhaps undiscovered tribe of Native Americans. It is 1869, and faster than you can say SUCKER, Newell has erected a tent and is charging admission to see the giant resting in the ground (he was digging a well when this was discovered). Murphy pulls you in to the tale and then, bit by bot, lets you in on the scam. Absorbing narrative, era photos not just of the giant but of other parts of the social milieu of the time, and short chapters all combine to make this one kids will want to read. <407>

Monday, July 23, 2012

The drama of adolescence

DRAMA by Raina Telgemeier. Graphix, September 2012.

Telgemeier follows up SMILE with another GN that centers on the joys and angst of adolescence. Callie loves the theater. She learned early on, though, that her true talents lay behind the scenes as part of the crew. She has loads of ideas for this year's production including an onstage canon that will actually fire. Of course, there is more to life than the stage. Callie's love life keeps her occupied, too, with crushes seemingly always on the guys who are unattainable. Telgemeier absolutely nails what it is to be in middle school, to want to become "something," to find one's place in the world. Readers will certainly find aspects of themselves in this GN. <406>

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A movable feast

THE NUTCRACKER: A MAGIC THEATER BOOK by Geraldine McCaughrean with illustrations by Kristina Swarner. Chroncile Books, 2012.

Interactive pages
Show the dancers and much more
Glorious ballet. <404>

GANESHA'S SWEET TOOTH by Sanjay Patel with illustrations by Emily Haynes. Chronicle Books, 2012.

Ganesha loves sweets
But loses a tooth to them
The tooth writes stories. <405>

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Board books, never bored books

ALPHASAURUS by Megan Bryant with illustrations by Luciana Navarro Powell. Chroncile Books, 2012.

Learn the alphabet
With help from the dinosaurs
A right through to Z. <400>

COLORASAURUS by Megan Bryant with illustrations by Luciana Navarro Powell. Chroncile Books, 2012.

Learn all your colors
With help from the dinosaurs
How easy is that? <401>

P5RESIONA AQUI by Herve Tullet. Chroncile Books, 2012.

Follow directions
En Espanol. See what you
Are able to do. <402>

Friday, July 20, 2012


BEAR HAS A STORY TO TELL by Philip C. Stead with illustrations by Erin Stead. Roaring Brook, September 2012.

Bear must tell story
But everyone is busy
With winter on way. <397>


Genius Maurice drew
Wild things, opera settings
Making our hearts glad. <398>

DON'T SQUISH THE SASQUATCH by Kent Redeker with illustrations by Bob Staake. Disney/Hyperion, 2012.

Don't squish the Sasquatch
It makes him irritable
That is not good thing. <399>

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Playing catch up

Summer used to be play time for me. Now it seems that all I do is read, blog, teach, grade, lather, rinse, repeat. So, here are some books I read a while back that never made it to the blog for some reason (must have been lathering then).

A IS FOR MUSK OX by Erin Cabatingan with illustrations by Matthew Myers. Roaring Brook, October 2012.

A is for apple
Just will not work anymore
Since musk ox appeared. <395>

APPLE PIE ABC by Alison Murray. Disney/Hyperion, 2012.

Learn the alphabet
From A to Z and beyond
With the help of pie. <396>

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wild Things!

LOVABLE DRAGON by Barbara Joose with illustrations by Randy Cecil. Candlewick Press, 2012.

Lovable Dragon
Dreams of a girl for a friend
Will his dream come true? <393>

WILD ABOUT YOU by Judy Sierra with illustrations by Marc Brown. Knopf, 2012.

Babies at the zoo
Pandas want a baby too.
Can they adopt one? <394>

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

various and sundry picture books

PIGS IN PAJAMAS by Maggie Smith. Knopf, 2012.

Celebrate letter
"P" with lots of words where "P"
Makes that plosive sound. <389>

THE HELPFUL PUPPY by Kim Zarins with illustrations by Emily Arnold McCully. Holiday House, 2012.

How can puppy help
When he is so small and weak?
Puppy can give love. <390>

ELEPHANT JOE, BRAVE KNIGHT! by David Wojtowycz. Random House, 2012.

Brave Elephant Joe
Along with Zebra Pete head
Off to face danger. <391>

THE CHICKEN PROBLEM by Jennifer Oxley with illustrations by Billy Aronson. Random House, 2012.

What is the problem?
Chickens escaping and more.
How can Peg solve it? <392>

Monday, July 16, 2012

another take on traditional literature

WHO PUSHED HUMPTY DUMPTY AND OTHER NOTORIOUS NURSERY TALE MYSTERIES by David Levinthal with illustrations by John Nickle. Schwartz and Wade, 2012.

Binky, the cop,
Covers nursery rhyme crimes
And reveals the truth. <387>

MISS SALLY ANN AND THE PANTHER by Bobbi Miller with illustrations by Megan Lloyd. Holiday House, 2012.

Davy Crockett's gal
Can tame a panther and more
Approach with caution. <388>

Sunday, July 15, 2012

growing readers

FOX AND CROW ARE NOT FRIENDS by Melissa Wiley with illustrations by Sebastien Brain. Random House, Step Into Reading, 2012.

Fox and Crow fighting
Playing tricks, seeking revenge
All over the cheese. <385>

WEDGIEMAN: A HERO IS BORN by Charise Mericle Harper with illustrations by Bob Shea. Random House/Step Into Reading, 2012.

Veggie Baby wants
Everyone to eat veggies
A twig changes him. <386>

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Lubar Makes me Laugh


David Lubar has a perfect touch when it comes to combining humor and horror and, well, grossouts, in his series of Weenie books. Here are short stories about intelligent vegetables (brain food?), cheese of questionable origin, bedbugs (shudder), and much more. Each story begs to be shared aloud. This collection (and the other 5 for that matter) would be an ideal way to begin the new school year. Select 5-10 stories; read a new one each day. At the end of the week (or two weeks), talk about the essential characteristics of the stories and of Lubar's style. Two appendices to note: a teacher's guide to using the book and notes about where the ideas behind each story originated. <384>

Friday, July 13, 2012

Seasons come and go

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS UNDER THE SEA by Kathie Kelleher with illustrations by Dan Andreason. Holiday House, 2012.

How do seahorses,
Lobsters, and other creatures
Celebrate Christmas? <380>

READY FOR PUMPKINS by Kate Duke. Knopf, 2012.

Hercules plants seeds
And waits patiently to see
If a pumpkin grows. <381>

HALLOWEEN FOREST by Marion Dane Bauer with illustrations by John Shelley. Holiday House, 2012.

Halloween forest
Filled with bones of dead creatures.
Scary trick or treat. <382>

COWBOY CHRISTMAS by Rob Sanders with illustrations by John Manders. Golden Books, 2012.

Cowboy Christmas Eve
Seems kinda lonely without
Trees, presents, Santa. <383>

Thursday, July 12, 2012

More animals starring in picture books

PIG HAS A PLAN by Ethan Long. Holiday House, 2012.

Pig wants a nap now
But animals are noisy
Will his plan work out? <377>

MICE ON ICE by Rebecca and Ed Emberley. Holiday House, 2012.

Mice on ice are nice
Until a cat comes along
Will the mice escape? <378>

THE FLY FLEW IN by David Catrow. Holiday House, 2012.

When a fly flies in
Hilarity ensues
Until the fly flew out. <379>

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Math and Grammar, Oh My!

THE CASE OF THE INCAPACITATED CAPITALS by Robin Pulver with illustrations by Lynn Rowe Reed. Holiday House, 2012.

When you don't use them
Capital letters might flee
Causing a riot. <374>


Greater than, less than
operations with numbers
Are easy for them. <375>

HELP ME LEARN SUBTRACTION by Jean Marzollo with illustrations (photographs) by Chad Phillips. Holiday House, 2012.

Learning subtraction
Is easier than ever
With visual help. <376>

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

daydreaming about cooler weather

SNOW DAY FOR MOUSE by Judy Cox with illustrations by Jeffrey Ebbeler. Holiday House, 2012.

Hurray for snow day
Mom baking cookies, crumbs mine
Until swept outside. <371>

LEMONADE IN WINTER by Emily Jenkins with illustrations by G. Brian Karas. Schwartz and Wade, 2012.

Lemonade today?
But it is winter, snowing.
Who will buy the stuff? <372>

COLD SNAP by Eileen Spinelli with illustrations by Marjorie Priceman. Knopf, 2012.

Will this cold not stop?
Icicles are dangerous
Yet temps keep falling. <373>

Monday, July 9, 2012

Families and Books

ROOM FOR BABY by Michelle Edwards with illustrations by Jana Christy. Random House 2012.

New baby coming
Need to clear out the clutter
Making room for her. <368>

OLLIE'S SCHOOL DAY: A YES-AND-NO BOOK by Stephanie Calmenson with illustrations by Abby Carter. Holiday House, 2012.

How to get ready
For school through questions about
Food, clothes, and much more. <369>


Holiday customs
Merge and bring families close
Celebration fun. <370>

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Biography Bonanza

HARLEM'S LITTLE BLACKBIRD: THE STORY OF FLORENCE MILLS by Renee Watson with illustrations by Christian Robinson. Random House, 2012.

Voice that was a gift
She wanted only to sing
Racism blocked her. <365)

ANNIE AND HELEN by Deborah Hopkinson with illustrations by Raul Colon. Schwartz and Wade, 2012.

Annie's journal tells
Of work with Helen Keller
Teacher opens mind. <366>

ALEX THE PARROT: NO ORDINARY BIRD by Stephanie Spinner with illustrations by Meilo So. Knopf, 2012.

Alex the parrot
Learned language and could reason
Quite the smart parrot. <367>