Friday, September 4, 2009

Censored Books

The Earth, My Butt, and Other BIG Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
Bibliographic Information:
Mackler, C. (2003). The Earth, my butt, and other big round things. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.


Summary:
Virginia is a bit over weight, but no one else in her family is. Her mom used to be heavy, but she slimmed down and has kept it off, so she pressures Virginia to do this, too. Virginia likes messing around with Froggy the 4th, but thinks it can never be made public that they are hang out, according to her list: The Fat Girl Code of Conduct. Making other people proud of her has been Virginia's problem for years. After an ugly incident turns the family upside down, Virginia finally decides to do something rebellious and selfish. Taking the first step to being happy leads Virginia to discover that she can live with herself because she likes who she is.

Lead Comments:
This controversial book touches on many issues teens face everyday such as weight problems, parental pressures, self-mutalization, date rape, sexuality, lying, eating disorders, and self-acceptance. Virginia is like a lot of teens who just accept things the way they are, but secretly would love to do something about it. I loved how empowering this book is once Virginia figures out that she can take charge of her life and learns to love herself. Very good book about learning to create your own positive self image.

Reviews:
From School Library Journal: (Excerpt)
Strong points in the novel are the issue of date rape and its consequences and, however glossed over, eating disorders. Told through first-person narrative, journal entries and email , Virginia's story will interest readers who are looking for one more book with teen angst, a bit of romance, and a kid who is a bit like them or their friends. Gail Richmond, San Diego Unified Schools, CA. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. (Retrieved December 8, 2009, from Amazon.com)
From Booklist: (Excerpt)
...Mackler writes with such insight and humor (sometimes using strong language to make her point) that many readers will immediately identify with Virginia's longings as well as her fear and loathing. Her gradually evolving ability to stand up to her family is hard won and not always believable, but it provides a hopeful ending for those trying to stand on their own two feet. Ilene Cooper. Copyright American Library Association. All rights reserved. (Retrieved December 8, 2009, from Amazon.com)

Teacher Tools & Library Leads:
This is a great book to be used duing Banned Book Week in the library. Many other banned books discuss the same issues as are brought to light here, however The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things covers these issues in a lighter tone. Have students read other books on these topics such as Wintergirls, and write an essay comparing the two books.

Virginia was big into writing lists and eventually published one on her school webzine. Read a few of Virginia's lists from the book, then have the students write a list that tells a little about themselves. If they feel like sharing, have a few students read their lists.

Poetry, Story Collections

Poetry, Novel in Verse
Grow: A Novel in Verse by Juanita Havill, illustrated by Stanislawa Kodman


Bibliographic Information:
Havill, J. (2008). Grow: A novel in verse. Atlanta, GA: Peachtree.


Summary:
An eccentric woman befriends a couple misfit kids who help create a garden in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. The garden helps bring together the community, but is threatened when the owner dies and his son wants to sell the plot to build a parking garage.


Lead Comments:
The format of the book, verse, makes for easy reading that seems to flow so easily. A quick read, but one that covers many topics familiar with young readers such as weight issues, fitting in, abusive parents, neglect, first love, and acceptance. The characters are easy to relate to and I found myself falling in love with the different and sometimes strange Berneetha. The community comes together to do more than create a beautiful garden, they become friends.



Reviews:
VOYA: (Excerpt)
Twelve-year-old Kate Sibley tells her what-I-did-last-summer story in a series of charming poems that capture the spirit of Berneetha, a larger-than-life adult friend and laid-off special education teacher, who decides to plant a community garden on a vacant urban lot. Kate learns a lot about social action, friendship, self-acceptance, and tolerance, ... Berneetha uses their garden to grow neighborhood unity, cooperation, and kindness among people of various ages, mental abilities, professions, economic means, and attitudes. Reviewer: Lucy Schall April 2008 (Vol. 31, No. 1). (Retrieved December 5, 2009, from BarnesandNoble.com)
Kirkus Reviews: (Excerpt)
With school out and time on her hands, Berneetha, a generous and colorful special-needs educator whose job was just cut, decides to take an unused plot of land and turn it into a community garden. Her enormous and enormously inviting spirit draws people together, including narrator Kate, a 12-year-old who appears to enjoy chocolate cake more than her mother likes, and Harlan, a stray-cat kind of boy. Kodman's pencil illustrations add touches of whimsy and charm to the story, and designate it a work for a young audience. (Retrieved December 5, 2009, from BarnesandNoble.com)

Teacher Tools & Library Leads:
Books in verse seem to resemble free writing where the writer doesn't always need to worry about punctuation and capitalization. Read a few of the "chapters", some that contain good feelings and some that contain sadder feelings, then have the students write freely for 5 minutes about a sad day/event/feeling and for 5 minutes about a happier experience. If they feel comfortable, have a few share their writing. Later the students can modify and edit their writings to create a more formal poem or short story.

Graphic Novels, Series Books

Graphic Novels
The Dodgeball Chronicles (Knights of the Lunch Table Series #1) written and illustrated by Frank Cammuso


Bibliographic Information:
Cammuso, F. (2008). Knights of the lunch table: The dodgeball chronicles. New York: Scholastic, Inc.


Summary:
New to Camelot Middle School, all Artie wants to do is blend in, but instead he angers Principal Dagger, makes trouble with the school's biggest bullies, and opens a locker that no one else can open, all on the first day of school. The names are familiar Arthur, Morgan, Gwendolyn, Percival, even Merlyn, but the story of King Arthur has taken a twist in this graphic novel (comic book style). Artie and his friends must beat the group of bullies known as "The Horde" at their best game, dodgeball, or be suspended from school and lose their favorite teacher, Mr. Merlyn. What are Artie and his buddies going to do?


Lead Comments:
I thought reading a graphic novel would be difficult, but this flows easily and the pictures really enhance this fun twist on a tale of Camelot and King Arthur. The protagonists are likable and the antagonists are detestable! Instead of the sword, Excalibur, their is #001-XCL, a mysterious locker that no one in the whole school can open. Principal Dagger gives it to Artie thinking to cause him trouble, but its mysteries work for Artie not against him. I really enjoyed this comic book style novel and found myself wanting to read the second book in the series!


Reviews:
From School Library Journal: (Excerpt)
Arthurian legend gets an update for young readers in this outstanding graphic novel. During his first day of school at Camelot Middle school, Artie King opens a locker that no one has ever been able to open; gets a pop quiz from his science teacher, Mr. Merlyn; and offends both Principal Dagger and bully Joe Roman. The appealing illustrations are full of color, action, and life.-Beth Gallego, Los Angeles Public Library, North Hollywood. Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Esevier Inc. All rights reserved. (Retrieved November 29, 2009, from Amazon.com)
From Booklist: (Excerpt)
Kids familiar with King Arthur legends will like the idea of a mysterious locker, seemingly rusted shut, that opens for Artie and the helpful stranger named Merlyn...But kids unfamiliar with Arthur will still like this tongue-in-cheek take of the school rules and games that can dominate a kid's life. ...Cammuso's text is witty and his cartoons energetic; his pictures speak as clearly as his words. --Francisca Goldsmith (Retrieved November 29, 2009, from Amazon.com)
Teacher Tools & Library Leads:
Meant for young readers, this book could be used by teachers of even older students to introduce the legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. Great for discussing political rulers and their various styles of ruling. Arthur and his unique style can be researched more fully and other Arthurian books, poems, and even movies can be introduced when teaching this time period.

Biographies

Picture Book
One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin by Kathryn Lasky and Illustrated by Matthew Trueman


Bibliographic Information:
Lasky, K. (2009). One beetle too many: The extraordinary adventures of Charles Darwin. Sommerville, MA: Candlewick Press.


Summary:

From a young age, Charles Darwin was interested in collecting specimens of plants, insects, and observing all types of animals. He and his brother enjoyed experimenting with chemicals and caused lots of trouble in doing so. Charles' father, disappointed in Charles' grades at school, forced him to attend college to become a cleric. Charles did not enjoy his studies, but while there he meet a botany professor, John Henslow, who encouraged Charles to continue collecting his specimens. Later, John wrote to Charles to tell him that he had recommended Charles to participate in the British exploratory trip to the southern coasts of South America as their naturalist. It is during this time that Charles would observe, document, and save numerous samples of new and different species of animals and plants that would later become his life's work involving evolution.


Lead Comments:

One Beetle Too Many is a great book to introduce students to the study of evolution without the controversy that usually surrounds such lessons. Even Charles Darwin himself was conflicted by the evidence he collected and his religious beliefs. He was very reluctant to publish his extensive research and findings, knowing they would rock the world as it was perceived to be. Darwin eventually did publish his work under the title, The Origin of Species, as other scientists were coming to the same conclusions as himself. In his book, Darwin discusses natural selection and "survival of the fittest."
I found Darwin's discoveries regarding finches in the Galapagos Islands and their ability to adapt to their specific environments exciting. I also found the discovery of shells on a mountaintop to be interesting. Why these things occurred are what Darwin discusses in his book.


Reviews:

School Library Journal: (Excerpt)

Large and humorous mixed-media illustrations will draw children to this large-format biography. ...Trueman captures Darwin's world and adventures. Throughout, the naturalist appears to be both curious and hapless, a description he might have given himself in his own modest journals. Lasky's text balances the exuberant artwork with well-organized information, gracefully sprinkling in quotes from Darwin's own writing... Although the text is brief, it creates a clear view of a man who was troubled by the implications of his observations and who, at the end of his life, was more interested in experimenting with earthworms and carnivorous plants than in promoting his theory.-Ellen Heath, Easton Area Public Library, Easton, PA. (Retrieved November 20, 2009, from BarnesandNoble.com)

Publishers Weekly:(Excerpt)
Distilling tough concepts into light, conversational prose, Lasky...gives middle-graders a just-right introduction to Charles Darwin. In colorful, cut-to-the-chase language, she highlights Darwin's insatiable curiosity, his failures at school and his voyage aboard the Beagle. The author invites readers to follow Darwin's reasoning and the questions that led up to his theory of evolution. Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. (Retrieved November 20, 2009, from BarnesandNoble.com)

Teacher Tools & Library Leads:

Biology teachers at any level can use this book to discuss a very controversial topic in a very nonthreatening way. For elementary students, One Beetle Too Many is a fun, historic look back at how science itself was studied and how important the powers of observation can be. For middle and high school students, the book can be used as an introductory lesson to the evolution of species, natural selection and survival of the fittest.

Take students outside on a nice day to observe bugs in the grass, birds in the trees, and the different types of plants. What do they notice? How does the ant survive even though it is so tiny? Why are some birds different colors? Why do some plants survive in this environment and others do not?

Informational Books

An American Plague: The True and Terrifying Story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 by Jim Murphy

Bibliographic Information:
Murphy, J. (2003). An American plague: The true and terrifying story of the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793. New York: Clarion Books.

Summary:
This is an account of the disease that spread through Philadelphia in the summer of 1793 nearly destroying the city and killing about 5000 people. Scattered throughout Murphy's disturbing narration are sketches, news clippings, paintings, and engravings that help to illustrate the destruction and devastation caused by the Yellow Fever. Actual journal writings and book excerpts are included to give the reader a sense of the horrific mess that was Philadelphia during this time.


Lead Comments:
The arguments, debates, and disagreements about the correct way to treat and the cause of the yellow fever are very interesting. I really enjoyed the various ideas of how the doctors went around tyring to treat yellow fever. The true devastation of what it must have been like in the late summer, early fall days in Philadelphia are expressed here by the letters, journals, and book excerpts that are included. I felt like I was experiencing the horror first hand. I could almost smell the fetid and decaying odors of the rotten coffee, the garbage and waste, the stagnant rain water, and the dead bodies. I could almost feel the oppressive, relentless heat. A truly great informational book.

Reviews:
School Library Journal:
This book tells the story of the yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia and its effect on the young nation. Students will become immersed in the dramatic narrative as they read how fear and panic spread throughout the country's capital. The author masterfully weaves facts and fascinating stories in describing the course of the disease and the heroic roles played by a few doctors and the free African-American citizens of the city. Black-and-white reproductions of period paintings, maps, and news articles enhance this absorbing title. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. (Retrieved November 10, 2009, from BarnesandNoble.com)

From Booklist: (Excerpt)
History, science, politics, and public health come together in this dramatic account of the disastrous yellow fever epidemic that hit the nation's capital more than 200 years ago. Drawing on firsthand accounts, medical and non-medical, Murphy re-creates the fear and panic in the infected city, the social conditions that caused the disease to spread, and the arguments about causes and cures. With archival prints, photos, contemporary newspaper facsimiles that include lists of the dead, and full, chatty source notes, he tells of those who fled and those who stayed--among them, the heroic group of free blacks who nursed the ill and were later vilified for their work. Hazel RochmanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved (Retrieved November 19, 2009, from Amazon.com)


Teacher Tools & Library Leads:

Discuss with students the role of African Americans had in the survival of the city of Philadelphia. What would have happened if they had not come to the aid of the sick and poor? Imagine a time when filth and death were unrelated. Why does something so obvious to us seem so hard for them to comprehend?
Have students write an essay where they lived in Philadelphia in 1793. What did they feel, how could they help?

Historical Fiction

Picture Book

Wingwalkers by Rosemary Wells, Illustrated by Brian Selznick

Bibliographic Information:
Wells, R. (2002). Wingwalkers. New York: Hyperion Books For Children.

Summary:
Set in the Great Depression, Reuben and his family are living a good life in Ambler, Oklahoma until one day the winds begin to blow dust into the farming community. Soon after, the town is desolate, Reuben's parents are out of work, and Reuben's future seems uncertain. Desperate for work, Reuben's father applies for a job as an airplane wingwalker. They sell all their furniture and move to Minnesota where Dixie and her plane are waiting. Reuben's life has turned upside down and where he was frightened before, he is now brave and experiencing life in a new and different way.




Lead Comments:This book shows the devastation of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression without being harsh and scary. There are funny moments, but you still get a feel for how difficult life was in the 1930's. This book demonstrates tolerance of people's differences and how people are just the same inside. I like how the ending leaves you wondering what Reuben's family will do next, but with the feeling that things will be okay.


Reviews:
School Library Journal: (Excerpt)


Reuben is a carefree second grader living in rural Oklahoma with his mother, a caf cook, and his father, a dance instructor, when the Depression and Dust Bowl end the family's stable, quiet way of life. ...the boy's father takes a job as an airplane wingwalker in a Minnesota traveling carnival. Reuben's retelling of the dramatic events is subtle and matter-of-fact, filled with the small, everyday details that color memories and help readers to see life through his eyes. Filled with muted earth tones and hinting of folk art, Selznick's striking, bordered paintings create an evocative portrait of the era, and aptly complement the quality text. An engaging story, and a well-crafted, thoroughly enjoyable book.-Heide Piehler, Shorewood Public Library, WI Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information. (Retrieved November 6, 2009 from BarnesandNoble.com)


Kirkus Reviews: (Excerpt)
This big-hearted, Depression-era, American fairy tale seems to come alive out of a former generation like a well-worn family yarn. Reuben's perfect childhood in Oklahoma disintegrates with the arrival of the Dust Bowl that deprives his parents of their jobs. This presents his father, a teacher of ballroom dance, with a thrilling opportunity to become a "wingwalker" with a traveling county fair, an opportunity that his wife strongly opposes. Physically small, Reuben himself has a reputation for being a bit of a sissy whose nickname is "shrimp-boats." He can barely stand to watch his father execute his ballroom steps on the plane wing, let alone think of accompanying him. But the folks of the fair take Reuben to their hearts and give him encouragement. Wells's prose is spare but has both richness and freshness of simile and image, e.g., "a drilling rig pumping away like a big iron grasshopper." ...[Selznick's] paintings are full of sky, airplanes, and upward-looking faces. (Retrieved November 6, 2009, from BarnesandNoble.com)

Teacher Tools & Library Leads:

With the use of nonfiction books, give the students a background about the Depression and the Dust Bowl so they understand the kind of desperation one felt during that era for work, food, and fun. Then when reading Wingwalker, the students will have a better understanding and will enjoy Reuben's experiences along with him. As a writing assignment, have the students give the book another ending where they predict where Reuben and his family will go next and what jobs his mom and dad will find.

Mystery

Middle School

CHASING VERMEER by Blue Balliett, illustrated by Brett Helquist




Bibliographic Information:
Balliett, B. (2004). Chasing Vermeer. New York: Scholastic Press.


Summary:

Petra and Calder find themselves wrapped up in mystery upon mystery after a famous Vermeer painting is stolen and their 6th grade teacher starts acting suspicious. With the use of Petra's dreams and Calder's pentominoes, the two friends piece together clue after clue as they search for Vermeer's painting and help their teacher, as well as a few other people, too!
Reviews:
The New York Times: (Excerpt)
Balliett... has taken the literary craze for intellectual sleuthing..., and combined it with a fidelity to old-fashioned trail-of-clues children's books, resulting in a novel about a stolen Vermeer painting that is suspenseful, exciting, charming and even unexpectedly moving.—Meg Wolitzer (Retrieved October 29, 2009, from BarnesandNoble.com)
Kirkus Reviews: (Excerpt)
Art, intrigue, and plenty of twists and turns make this art mystery a great read. Balliett intersperses fascinating information about Johannes Vermeer and his paintings throughout the two friends' quest to solve the mystery-a mystery layered with pentominoes (a mathematical tool consisting of 12 pieces), puzzling clues, and suspicious strangers. Helquist's detailed black-and-white chapter illustrations hold hidden messages, clues related to the pentominoes, and more puzzles. Fans of E.L. Konigsburg's From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler or Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game will find equal pleasure in this debut by a talented writer. (Retrieved October 29, 2009, from BarnesandNoble.com)


Lead Comments:
I love how Balliett creates the story by building mystery on mystery, but yet allows the reader a chance to solve them along the way. To a math person, the pentominoes make for an interesting twist that is compounded in the illustrations. The reader can find clues in the illustrations to help solve the mysteries and this adds a visual element to the book that many mysteries don't have. Rich, funny and interesting characters are developed in the book and the reader roots for them to be safe and be right!



Teacher Tools & Library Leads:

Pentominoes! What a great twist to the mystery. Find some plastic, cardboard, wood, or just paper pentominoes and have the kids recreate some of the rectangles, words, and patterns that Calder, Petra and Mrs. Sharpe find in the book. Also, use the illustrations to look for pentominoe patterns that help solve the mystery.

Research Verneer and look for the painting that was stolen in the book. Is Veneer a real artist and does the painting really exist?

Fantasy and Science Fiction

Middle School

GREGOR THE OVERLANDER by Suzanne Collins

Bibliographic Information:
Collins, S. (2003). Gregor the Overlander. New York: Scholastic Press


Summary:
Eleven year old Gregor is the man of the house after his father disappeared two years ago. This summer he has to stay home for the summer and babysit his two year old sister, Boots. But when they are in the basement of their apartment building doing laundry, Boots begins to fall into a vent in the wall. Before Gregor can catch her, they are both sucked down the hole. So starts the beginning of an adventure that seems to have been prophesied hundreds of years earlier. Is Gregor the Warrior written about all those years ago? Why does Boots seem to fit in so well down in the Underland? A Battle where all the creatures of the Underland must choose a side, may just be the answer to where Gregor's Dad has been all this time.


Lead Comments:

Scary and dark, but funny, too, this book seems to have it all. An adventure that leads to war, where being friends with the enemy helps find the enemy among friends. Gregor is brave beyond his years and Boots is the Ambassador of Love. The creatures are overgrown, intelligent, and some are even kind, but the Rats are dangerous. The war against the Rats leads Gregor and Boots into the dark, damp tunnels and to their dad, but at what cost? I fell in love with the Underland and its people, and I can't wait until I have time to read more of the Underland series!

Reviews:
School Library Journal: (Excerpt)
This fantasy by Suzanne Collins (Scholastic, 2003) is skillfully written with well-developed characters and enough action to keep listeners' attention. With the hint of a sequel, this would be an excellent selection for libraries to add to their fantasy collections.–Lisa D. Williams, Chocowinity Middle School, NC Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. (Retrieved October 23, 2009 from Amazon.com)

Booklist: (Excerpt)
What if Alice fell down an air vent in a New York City apartment building instead of down a rabbit hole? Collins considers a similar possibility in her exceptional debut novel, a well-written, fast-moving, action-packed fantasy. Collins creates a fascinating, vivid, highly original world and a superb story to go along with it, and Gregor is endearing as a caring, responsible big brother who rises triumphantly to every challenge. This is sure to be a solid hit with young fantasy fans. Ed SullivanCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved. (Retrieved October 23, 2009 from Amazon.com)


Teacher Tools & Library Leads:
Much discussion on bravery and courage versus treachery and deceit can be made. Why did Gregor choose to do what was right even though it was so difficult? Why did the traitor choose the wrong path? How did this effect the royal family? Have students write an essay on the quote: "Courage doesn't count until you can count." What does this mean? How did the meaning of this as it relates to Boots effect the outcome of the quest?



High School

Impossible by Nancy Werlin

Bibliographic Information:Werlin, N. (2008). Impossible. New York: Dial Books.


Summary:

Seventeen year old Lucy Scarborough loves her foster parents, has a best friend who needs looking after, and a real mom who is a mentally disturbed bag lady. Working hard to live a normal life, Lucy makes plans to go to her junior prom with Gray, a boy she thinks she could really like. But prom night changes everything. Lucy's world becomes wrapped up in the supernatural as she tries to deal with the very really issues resulting from prom night. After reading her mother's journal, Lucy has a choice: believe in the curse and try to stop it, or not. It all seems so impossible.


Lead Comments:

Real teen issues such as dealing with a mentally ill parent, date rape, and teen pregnancy are intricately intertwined with a family curse that has continued for generations. A strange version of the song "Scarborough Fair" by Simon and Garfunkel, is the only thing Lucy's mother has given her and it takes on a whole new meaning after she reads her mothers journal. Nancy Werlin is able to tell a story of elves and fairies that is believable and real because of the realistic background of Lucy's life. Werlin keeps the reader believing and supporting Lucy until the very end. A great fantasy book for readers who may not be fans of fantasy, and for those who are.
Reviews:
Publishers Weekly: (Excerpt)
Werlin...melds fantasy and suspense in a contemporary setting for a romance with plenty of teen appeal. Werlin disguises the retro elements..., and...she builds nail-biting tension. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. (Retrieved October 24, 2009, from BarnesandNoble.com)

Booklist:
Werlin earns high marks for the tale's graceful interplay between wild magic and contemporary reality. Starred review (Retrieved October 24, 2009, from BarnesandNoble.com)


Teacher Tools & Library Leads:

Rethinking the ballad "Scarborough Fair" by Simon and Garfunkel was how Nancy Werlin began the book, Impossible. Later, after researching and finding many versions of the same song, Nancy writes her own version that becomes the one Lucy's mom hands down to Lucy. Have students research the ballad all the way back to the 1670 version. Compare and contrast the many different versions to the one in the book. What makes Lucy's version different? Then have students rewrite the lyrics of a favorite song to fit something in their life or to begin a story.

Realistic Fiction—Young Adults

Middle School

Tangerine by Edward Bloor


Bibliographic Information:
Bloor, E. (1997). Tangerine. Orlando, FL: Harcort, Inc.


Summary:
Seventh grader, Paul, and his family move from Houston to Tangerine, Florida. Their new neighborhood and house seem very nice and fancy, but things are not always as they appear to be. Nor is Paul's older brother, Erik. Paul is scared of Erik, but he can't remember why. Throughout the book, Paul slowly remembers incidents with Erik, until he finally remembers the most important one. By making friends along the way, Paul finds a complete and happy life for himself in the strange community in Tangerine County, Florida.


Lead Comments:

I love this book because there are so many twists and so much more than that which appears on the surface. There is more to Paul's neighborhood, Lake Windsor Downs. More to Lake Windsor Middle School. More to Erik Fisher. More to Tangerine Middle School. More to Luis' head wound. And much more to Paul. Underneath the surface of each one of these is something bad or something good. This book is like a tangerine, you have to peel off the outside layer to find what is in the inside.

Reviews:
Publishers Weekly: (Excerpt)
Living in surreal Tangerine County, Fla., a legally blind boy begins to uncover the ugly truth about his football-hero brother... (Retrieved October 16, 2009 from BarnesandNoble.com)


The ALAN Review: (Excerpt)
Tangerine is a town in Florida with problematic new housing developments, frequent lightning strikes, sinkholes, and muck fires... Paul, a soccer goalie, is in competition for his parents' attention with his older brother who is a football star... Paul makes friends at the new school and learns some valuable lessons by working in the tangerine groves with his peers from the town school. Paul's brother's involvement in the death of his friends' uncle brings back memories of how he lost his vision... Recommend this novel to students with an interest in soccer or students who move often. (Retrieved October 16, 2009 from BarnesandNoble.com)

Teacher Tools & Library Leads:

There are many discussion/essay opportunities that arise from the book by using the angle that things are not always as they appear on the surface. Are things really much better in the nice neighborhoods? Are things really bad in the old run-down school? Are all tough kids really bad? Are all football heros really good?

Then there are the environmental issues in the book. Very similar neighborhoods are built here in the Rio Grande Valley where orange and grapefruit groves were plowed under. How is this similar to Paul's neighborhood, how is it different? Students can research the lightening storms in Tangerine to see if it is really the Lightening Capitol of the Country, or research muck fires and what causes them.



High School
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson

Bibliographic Information:
Anderson, L.H. (2009). Wintergirls. New York: Viking.


Summary:Lia is anorexic. She has already been admitted twice, but has not recovered. Then her best friend, Cassie, dies. How? Why? Lia, haunted by Cassie's ghost, continues to spiral downward. Lying, cheating, doing drugs, running; all for the sake of skinny. Will Lia be the next to die or can she find a reason to keep living?


Lead Comments:

A very difficult book to read. You get wrapped up in Lia's world, feel her pain and hunger, feel her body falling apart as dehydration and starvation work their effects on it. Anderson does a great job of expressing the anguish Lia feels and gets you into the head of an anorexic figure. At times you want to put down the book to escape the pain, other times you need to keep reading so you can help Lia escape.
Reviews:
Booklist:
Anderson illuminates a dark but utterly realistic world . . . this is necessary reading. Starred review (Retrieved October 16, 2009 from BarnesandNoble.com)

School Library Journal: (Excerpt)
...After the death of her former best friend Cassie, 18-year-old Lia slowly spirals toward her own death, drowning in guilt while starving, cutting, and running on a treadmill in the middle of the night in this emotional novel..., winner of the 2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award... Lyrically visual, this starkly truthful and chilling first-person tale...of a teen girl's struggle with anorexia. Terry Ann Lawler, Phoenix Public Library, AZ (Retrieved October 16, 2009 from BarnesandNoble.com)


Teacher Tools & Library Leads:

Many teen issues are covered in Wintergirls, such are eating disorders, depression, cutting, death of a close friend, and lack of parental understanding. Many teen girls, and boys, too, will be able to relate to at least one of these issues, which can be used as springboards for discussion or journal writing.
Lia finally decides to get better. What caused her to finally decide? Why didn't she want to get better before? Lia writes some poetry while getting treatment. Have students write poems that would be similar to what Lia might write.

Realistic Fiction—Younger Readers


HATCHET by Gary Paulsen


Bibliographic Information:
Paulsen, G. (1987). Hatchet. New York: Aladdin Paperbacks. ISBN: 1442403322


Summary:
Thirteen year old Brian Robeson has a lot on his mind with his parent's Divorce and knowing his mom's Secret, but when the pilot to the bush plane he's flying in has a heart attack, Brian must think only of survival. After crash landing in the middle of a Canadian forest, Brian must use only his wits and his hatchet to survive the wilderness, the insects and the hunger.


Lead Comments:
This is a fast paced survival book loaded with danger and compassion. The reader keeps reading to keep Brian company, to make sure he eats, and to see if he will be rescued. With issues such as divorce and secret keeping, Hatchet makes a great discussion book, but the suspence makes this a wonderful read aloud book.


Reviews:
Kirkus Reviews: (Excerpt)
A prototypical survival story... This is a spellbinding account... A winner. (pointered review) (Retrieved October 8, 2009 from the back cover of Hatchet, Aladdin Paperbacks)
Publishers Weekly: (Excerpt)
A heart-stopping story... Poetic texture and realistic events are combined to creat something beyond adventure. (Retrieved October 8, 2009 from the back cover of Hatchet, Aladdin Paperbacks)


Teacher Tools & Library Leads:
One of the most interesting problems facing Brian is that he doesn't know where he is. Using a map to show where Brian and the pilot take off from and looking for a possible flight path would be an interesting Geography lesson. Discussing the types of animals and birds Brian encounters as well as the plants he finds could be an extention of that Geography lesson.

Divorce and the consequences to children of divorce is an important theme in the book. Allowing children to discuss their experiences or write about their experiences with divorce is a great lesson. If divorce is not a comfortable topic, secret keeping could be used in the same way. Do you have a secret, do you know one about someone else, how does having this secret affect you?

Picture Books


STREGA NONA an original tale written and illustrated by Tomie dePaola



Bibliographic Information:

dePaola, T. (1975). Strega Nona. New York: Aladdin Paperbacks. ISBN 0-671-66606-1



Summary:


When Strega Nona, Grandma Witch, leaves to visit Strega Amelia, her assisstant, Big Anthony, uses her magic pasta pot. Without having paid attention to the rules on how to use the pot and with specific instructions not to use the pot, Big Anthony makes a bit mess in the town as the pot overflows. Upon Stega Nona's return, Big Anthony is taught a lesson he is sure to never forget.



Lead Comments:


This is a favorite in our house because Big Anthony doesn't pay close enough attention to Strega Nona when she uses the pasta pot and he misses the most important rule for shutting it off! Big Anthony's only concern is showing off to the town members and proving he is a "Big" deal! My daughters love the idea of all that pasta all over town and think that it would be fun to play in it, but not have to eat it all! The healing spells Strega Nona uses on the town's people are funny, and the moral of the story is taught in such a funny way that this book appeals to all ages.


Reviews:
From the Publishe: (Excerpt)

Strega Nona — "Grandma Witch" — is the source for potions, cures, magic, and comfort in her Calabrian town. Her magical everfull pasta pot is especially intriguing to hungry Big Anthony. He is supposed to look after her house and tend her garden but one day, when she goes over the mountain to visit Strega Amelia, Big Anthony recites the magic verse over the pasta pot, with disastrous results.
...[A]uthor-illustrator Tomie dePaola (whose middle name is Anthony) combines humor in the writing and warmth in the paintings as he builds the story to its hilarious climax. (Retrieved September 27, 2009 from BarnesandNoble.com)



School Library Journal:(Excerpt)

...dePaola takes readers once again to the quaint hills of old Italy. All the familiar dePaola elements are here: the homey Italian phrases; appreciation of the old ways; and the characteristically charming, square-bordered scenes with their pink-tiled roofs, noble doves, and goofy goats. Children will find many of the paintings hilarious. Karen MacDonald, East Falmouth Branch Library, MA (Retrieved September 27, 2009 from BarnesandNoble.com)

Recorded Books (Recorded Books, LLC.): (Excerpt)


Mix together an old witch, her magic pasta pot, and a greedy boy. What do you get? Mischief, wild adventure, and a big helping of fun! All the people in the little town of Calabria go to old Strega Nona for solutions to their troubles. From aching heads to broken hearts--Strega Nona can cure them all. But when she hires a lumbering boy named Big Anthony to help her, Strega Nona’s own troubles begin. (Retrieved September 27, 2009 from UNT Electronic Resources-Children's Literature Comprehensive Database)

Teacher Tools & Library Leads:



This book offers the obvious lessons of the importance of paying attention and not doing something that is forbidden. Big Anthony, even though he wants to show off, does at least share the pasta with the town's people. All of these can lead to a great discussion of when the children have done something they shouldn't, what lesson they learned, and that just because they did this bad thing it doesn't make them a bad person.


A fun project to do with younger kids is to let them taste and feel cold cooked pasta. Then use uncooked pasta to make an art project by gluing the different types of pasta to tag board to make a picture. Even noise makers are fun to make using uncooked pasta.


For older students, a little research about the healing remedies used in the old days may show that Strega Nona wasn't really a witch, but that she just knew how to take care of people using herbs and such.

Newbery Winners, Printz Winners

Newbery Winner 1922-1950

Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry


Bibliographic Information:
Sperry, A. (1940). Call it courage. New York: Scholastic Book Services.


Summary:
A young man, Mafatu, from a Polynesian tropical island, is terrified of the sea. Living on an island and always being surrounded by the sea makes for a very difficult life when you are afraid of it. Mafatu, after being made fun of for years, decides to set off on his own to conquer his fear of the sea. A hurricane sends him to a deserted island after destroying his canoe. Mafatu must use all his skills to survive and find a way back home while still trying to get past his fear for the only way he can return there, the sea.

Lead Comments:
This is a very fast paced book that had me reading it from cover-to-cover in one sitting. The universal themes of self-actualization, adventure and survival are what make this a classic book. Mafatu finds danger in many facets of the island, but uses his strength, skills and intelligence to survive. Overcoming his fear of the sea happens on its own, as he builds a relationship with the sea that helps Mafatu survive. I loved all the action, tribal lore, and history that is a part of this exciting book.


Reviews:
Children's Literature: (Excerpt)
When [Mafatu] was only three years old he desperately clung to his mother's neck as she struggled to survive in raging sea waters. She managed to carry Mafatu to shore, but she died immediately after. Ever since, Mafatu has feared the sea. His friends and family scorn him, and Mafatu is ashamed. In a desperate attempt to overcome his fears and to prove that he is not a coward, Mafatu boldly hops into a canoe. The ensuing events prove that Mafatu is more than brave... he is truly a hero. His courage is remembered for generations to come. It is easy to understand why this fast moving and exciting story is so deserving of the Newbery award that it won. Reviewer: Denise Daley (Retrieved September 25, 2009 from BarnesandNoble.com)
The New York Times: (Excerpt)
Whether this author is telling of clipper ships, of the days of the covered wagon, of the South Sea Islands, he writes always with imagination and integrity. Like all hero legends Mafatu's story has a strength and simplicity that appeals to a wide range in age and it is beautifully told. Mr. Sperry's fine drawings have the same spirit of adventure as the story and enhance the feeling of tropical seas and jungle given in the text. (Retrieved September 26, 2009 from Amazon.com)


Teacher Tools & Library Leads:
A great commercial/trailer for Call It Courage is played on a radio station I often listen to and is sponsored by the Ad Council and the Library of Congress. A great activity would be to make a book trailer for this wonderful Newbery winner using graphics, video and audio. Students can write a script and a plan for their trailers and if time permits, have the class vote on the best one or two to actually produce. The library can use it as promotion for the book and literacy and reading in general.




Newbery Winner 1976-2009

THE WESTING GAME by Ellen Raskin


Bibliographic Information:
Raskin, E. (1978). The Westing game. New York: E. P. Dutton.


Summary:
An eccentric millionaire dies and unexpectedly gathers an odd group of 16 people for the reading of the will. Before handing out the inheritance, the people are teamed up into pairs to find the true answer behind Samuel W. Westing's death. An apartment building full of the potential heirs is the site of this crazy, fun and entertaining mystery. Thefts, bombings and self-discovery are all part of the intrigue.


Lead Comments:
I loved this book! The whole "who dunnit" mystery and the fun of uncovering the clues makes this a quick and easy read. The characters are seemingly random and unrelated, but as the story progresses, you learn how their lives are intertwined. The female characters, especially, evolve throughout the book as they discover who they are and who they want to be. An unlikely hero emerges to solve the mystery while keeping the solution secret. The ending is fun and fair!

Reviews:

CCBC (Cooperative Children's Book Center Choices, 2004): (Excerpt)
Turtle Wexler isn't the kind of child who turns down a dare. A chance to earn two dollars a minute for venturing into the deserted Westing house appeals to her mercenary instincts...The corpse that Turtle discovers mid-dare marks her entry into The Westing Game, in which sixteen unlikely individuals vie for the opportunity to inherit the deceased man's fortune. ...Ellen Raskin's timeless mystery is an intricate construction of clues, wordplay, dead ends, and last minute surprises. More than a clever puzzle, the interactions of the potential heirs offer insight into relationships, love, differences, and tolerance. (Retrieved September 27, 2009 from UNT Electronic Resources-Children's Literature Comprehensive Database)

Teacher Tools & Library Leads:
Mysteries are great to try to solve as are codes. Using the words from the song "America the Beautiful," Sam Westing sent his potential heirs a message about one of the group. Have students take the lyrics from a song and send their classmates a message by removing parts of words or words from the lyric.
Discuss Sam Westing's four identities and how they were figured out by the unlikely hero of the book. Why didn't she tell the others about her discovery? Why does she lie to Sam at the end of the book? When have you ever lied for a good reason? Great discussion and essay topics for students of any age.
From the Publisher: (Excerpt)
This highly inventive mystery involves sixteen people who are invited to the reading of Samuel W. Westing's will. They could become millionaires, depending on how they play the tricky and dangerous Westing game, which involves blizzards, burglaries, and bombings. Ellen Raskin has entangled a remarkable cast of characters in a puzzle-knotted, word-twisting plot filled with humor, intrigue, and suspense. (Retrieved September 26, 2009 from BarnesandNoble.com)

Classic Children's and Young Adult Literature


Classic Children's Literature
LITTLE BEAR by Else Holmelund Minarik, pictures by Maurice Sendak

Bibliographic Information:
Minarik, E. H. (1957). Little bear. New York: Harper Collins Publisher.


Summary:

Little Bear and Mother Bear are the main characters in the book. The book is broken down into four stories. Little Bear is like a typical child with a wild imagination and seeks his mother's attention a great deal. Little Bear has several adventures throughout the book, including making himself a birthday soup for his friends when he thinks Mother Bear has forgotten to get him a birthday cake. The overwhelming theme in the book is the love Mother Bear has for her Little Bear that she demonstrates through her patience, indulgences, and time. A very loving book.


Lead Comments:

Little Bear and Mother Bear have a special relationship. She is very patient with his many requests and is willing to give him most of what he requests, but there's always this air of her being all knowing. She understands Little Bear better than he does himself, but eventually, Little Bear figures out what Mother Bear knew all along! There is love in all that Mother Bear does for Little Bear, and even though she at times seems a bit over indulgent, she is a fantastic mother. My favorite story in the book was Little Bear's Wish, where he continually wishes for things that will never come true, Mother Bear honestly tells him that he can't have those wishes, until Little Bear finally wishes for something Mother Bear can give him, a story. In her story, Mother Bear revisits all the previous stories and Little Bear adventures in the book, kind of like a review of the whole book. Very cute.
Reviews:
Language Arts: (Excerpt)
These tender and eloquent stories about Little Bear (the first Harper I Can Read Book) are told with a forthright simplicity that is never forced or artificially repetitious. (Retrieved September 13, 2009 from Amazon.com)
Harper Collins Publishers: (Excerpt)
In 1957, Harper published its first I Can Read title, Little Bear, written by Else Holmelund Minarik and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Large type, simple vocabulary, chapter-like divisions, and decorative pictures made Little Bear perfect for emerging readers—they could read the story comfortably and not feel overwhelmed by the text...(Retrieved September 13, 2009 from BarnesandNoble.com)


Teacher Tools & Library Leads:

In the first story, What Will Little Bear Where?, Little Bear is cold outside in the snow and keeps asking for more and more clothes. This can lead to the discussion about the differences between people and bears, why Little Bear was finally warmer without the clothes, and what bears really do in the winter. Kids love to talk about their birthdays. Let each child tell about a favorite birthday memory. Would any of their families or friends forget their birthdays? A great discussion of gravity could be started after reading the story, Little Bear Goes to the Moon. Little Bear thinks, if he climbs high enough, he will fall up to the moon. Demonstrate gravity by dropping something. Do things fall up or down?



Classic Young Adult Literature
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton


Bibliographic Information:

Hinton, S. E. (1967). The outsiders. New York: Penguin Group. ISBN-10: 0-14-038572-X.


Summary:


A group of young men considered "Greasers" form a kind of family on the streets as they look out for each other and fight against their rivals the "Socials". The universal themes of the struggle between the classes, genders and relationships gives this novel a heart wrenching tone that goes across the generations with ease. Written in the early sixties by a female high school student, S.E. Hinton captures the love some young men form for each other as they struggle to identify with themselves and those around them. Be prepared to hurt as these young men fight to stay alive in a tough neighborhood, in a tough city.


Lead Comments:


I had never read The Outsiders, so when I found it on my reading list for my SLIS 5420 class I decided now was my chance. I had purchased a used copy a couple years ago, but always found something else to read. When I finally began to read it, I had a hard time setting the book down. The storyline was compelling; the violence so well described I at times felt sick to my stomach; and the relationships were realistic and complicated. The characters reminded me of some of my 9th grade students I used to teach who were also struggling between the roles they played in their families, their gangs, and in school.


Reviews:
Penguin Group Publishers: (Excerpt)
The ruthlessly realistic and violent story of the Greasers and the Socs, rival gangs from very different sides of the railroad tracks, is narrated by Ponyboy Curtis, a smart, sensitive kid who has grown to become one of the most recognizable figures in the history of young adult literature. Any teen who has ever felt isolated or different can identify with Ponyboy, a kid forced to be tough on the outside, but who underneath is just as scared and needy as anyone...Young Adult fiction was shaped and defined by Susan Eloise Hinton, and the realism she attached to the genre became the norm, enabling later writers like Robert Cormier and Judy Blume to find characters and voices that actually spoke to adolescents. (Retrieved on September 8, 2009, from BarnesandNoble.com)
Viking Publishers: (Excerpt)
First published by Viking in 1967, The Outsiders immediately resonated with young adults. This groundbreaking novel was like nothing else out there—it was honest and gritty, and was a deeply sympathetic portrayal of Ponyboy, a young man who finds himself on the outside of regular society. (Retrieved September 13, 2009 from Amazon.com)

Teacher Tools & Library Leads:
This book leads to many discussions of what expectations young adults carry for themselves and what expectations others have for them. Thinking about the future is difficult for young adults to do, they seem to live day to day. The Outsiders can act as a springboard for discussions about Ponyboy and what he will do with his live now, what his brothers will do, and even what some of the Socials will do. Several essays could be written using Ponyboy's future, your students' futures, and the idea of crossing over the social gap and societies expectations.

Caldecott Winners, Coretta Scott King Winners, Pura Belpre Winners

Caldecott Winner 1938-1989

1962 Winner:


ONCE A MOUSE... A Fable Cut in Wood by Marcia Brown



Bibliographic Information:
Brown, M. (1961). Once a mouse. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. ISBN 10: 0684126621


Summary:The fable tells the story of a hermit who rescues a mouse from sure death at the hands of a crow. But the many dangers of the jungle lead the hermit, who is also magic, to continue changing the mouse into larger and larger animals until he turns him into a huge royal tiger. The mouse, is very proud of his large cat stature and begins strutting around the jungle putting on airs for all the other creatures. The hermit, after observing this behavior, puts the tiger in his place reminding him that he was once a mouse and can be again. Thinking he would never stand being a mouse again, the tiger plans to kill the hermit. However, the hermit reads his mind, changes the tiger back to a mouse and they both go back to how there lives were before.


Lead Comments:


I really enjoyed the woodcut illustrations in this book. They remind me of a book I had as a child about the Three Billy Goat's Gruff. At the time I didn't understand that the illustrations came from wood carvings, but now I have a better apprceciation for them. The story itself is very common for the time period; a moral is taught through the use of animals. My 6 year old daughter enjoyed the part where the mouse turned royal tiger is strutting around the jungle, lording over the other animals. But she mostly liked it so much because I played it up when I read it so she could understand that what he was doing was wrong.


Reviews:
Good Media, Good Kids-University of Notre Dame: (Excerpt)
The genre of the story is Mythology/folktale, the setting is Historical, and the heritage is Asian.
Moral reasoning in the story focuses on self concern, self concern, and concern for fair process.
The theme of the story is Be grateful for what others have given to you. Copyright ©2005 University of Notre Dame - Center for Ethical Education (Retrieved September 19, 2009 from Goodmedia.nd.edu/reviews)
From the Publisher: (Excerpt)
A hermit knows the magic to change a small mouse into a cat, a dog, and a majestic tiger -and Marcia Brown's magical woodcuts bring this Indian fable to life with the mastery that won her her second Caldecott Medal. (Retrieved September 19, 2009 from BarnesandNoble.com)


Teacher Tools & Library Leads:

This book best leads into a discussion of moral behavior about vanity and knowing your place in respect to elders. Other stories of similar moral teachings can be used to stress the lesson if you see the children are not comprehending the reason for the tiger being turned back into a mouse. The other idea that can be discussed it the one of remembering your roots. You hear many successful people discussing how they often go back to their neighborhood or schools to thank and reward those people who helped them become the success they are. It is important to teach to young children about being humble and thankful even if/when they move away and lead successful lives.

An art project can be done using potatoes and carving them to make stamp pictures not unlike the wood carvings in the book. Caution must be used here when doing these, but potatoes are a lot softer than wood and can be carved using plastic knives or even spoons. Then paint can be applied to the raised picture and stamped on a paper over and over.






Coretta Scott King Award Winner

BUD, NOT BUDDY by Christopher Paul Curtis


Bibliographic Information:
Curtis, C. P. (1999). Bud, not Buddy. New York: Delacorte Press. ISBN-10: 0-385-32306-9


Summary:

Bud is a 10 year old orphan whose mom died when he was six, never telling Bud who his father was, but she left clues behind. For 4 years Bud lived in an orphanage or in and out of various foster homes, but when enough finally is enough, he heads out on his own. After several adventures, Bud decides to follow his mom's clues and confront who he thinks is his father. Set in Michigan during the Depression, the reader catches a good glimpse of how life was for African Americans and many other Americans during this difficult time.


Lead Comments:

I fell in love with Bud and his Rules and Things for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar Out of Yourself! I loved how he was scared of things he shouldn't be, and not scared of things he should be terrified by. I loved how he always said his "eyes don't cry no more", but when he finally finished his long journey and felt like he was home, that he cried and cried. But, as a future librarian, I truly loved his thoughts on librarians.

Christopher Paul Curtis made me laugh out loud while reading this book, and cry, and feel outraged, and happy. All the emotions blend together with the beautiful, "through the eyes of a 10 year old" descriptions to make a wonderful story that tells a little bit of what the Depression was like, not just for African Americans, but for many Americans. So many history lessons to be taught and discussed here, I just wished that I had heard about the Depression from this book when I was in History class!


Reviews:From School Library Journal: (Excerpt)

When 10-year-old Bud Caldwell runs away from his new foster home, he realizes he has nowhere to go but to search for the father he has never known: a legendary jazz musician advertised on some old posters his deceased mother had kept. A friendly stranger picks him up on the road in the middle of the night and deposits him in Grand Rapids, MI, with Herman E. Calloway and his jazz band... The lively humor contrasts with the grim details of the Depression-era setting and the particular difficulties faced by African Americans at that time. Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. (Retrieved September 19, 2009, from Amazon.com)



From Booklist: (Excerpt)
Bud, 10, is on the run from the orphanage and from yet another mean foster family. His mother died when he was 6, and he wants to find his father. Set in Michigan during the Great Depression, this is an Oliver Twist kind of foundling story, but it's told with affectionate comedy... On his journey, Bud finds danger and violence (most of it treated as farce), but more often, he finds kindness--in the food line, in the library, in the Hooverville squatter camp, on the road--until he discovers who he is and where he belongs. Told in the boy's naive, desperate voice, with lots of examples of his survival tactics ("Rules and Things for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar out of Yourself"), this will make a great read-aloud. Hazel Rochman (Retrieved September 19, 2009, from Amazon.com)



Teacher Tools & Library Leads:

This book lends itself to many lessons including the treatment of children in orphanages and foster homes; the Depression and what it was and how it affected people of all ages; and of course the treatment of African Americans in the early and mid-1900's that led to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's.

For older children who will be working soon, the discussion of early Labor Unions and present day Unions is an important conversation worth having.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Children's Literature



Bats at the Library written and illustrated by Brian Lies

Bibliographic Information:

Lies, B. (2008). Bats at the library. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. ISBN-10: 061899923X


Summary:

Ever wonder what bats do when they are bored? I mean, every night flying around eating bugs; it can get a bit monotonous. So, when the bats hear that a window has been left open at their favorite nighttime hang out, they all head over to the library. After swooping in, they each find their niche and "hang out" reading, discussing, playing... Shadow figures using an overhead projector, computer games, and copy machine antics are just a few activities the bats get involved in, but most of them love the books. Groups are scattered around listening to stories or discussing books. But the illustrations in the book are really what makes it so magnificent. Each bat envisions him/herself in the role of the main character of one of many books. Guessing what those books are, is great fun!


Lead Comments:

I read this to my 6 and 9 year old daughters and we all loved it! We had so much fun trying to figure out the books that the bats were imagining in the illustrations. I think we were able to figure out most of them, but some left us stumped. The story itself is fun and lively and the feeling of love for libraries is felt throughout the book. Bats at the Library inspires the reader to read more!


Reviews:

Kirkus Reviews: (Excerpt)
In this latest from Lies, it's all-deservingly-about the artwork. He brings a sure, expressive and transporting hand to this story of a colony of bats paying a nighttime visit to a small-town library. There is a lovely image of a group of bats hanging around the rim of a reading lamp listening to a story; the peach-colored light illuminates the immediate vicinity while the rest of the library is shadowed and mysterious. The rhymed text, on the other hand, feels unmulled, leaving the artwork to do the heavy lifting. Buy it for the pictures. (Picture book. 4-8) (Retrieved September 1, 2009 from BarnesandNoble.com )


From Booklist: (Excerpt)
An open library window is an invitation for a colony of bats in this sequel to Bats at the Beach (2006). Once inside, older bats look for favorite books, while younger ones explore and play. Storytime settles everyone down and transports them into the tales, filled with bat characters playing new roles. The rhymed narrative serves primarily as the vehicle for the appealing acrylic illustrations that teem with bats so charming they will even win over chiroptophobes. Preschool-Grade 3. --Linda Perkins (Retrieved September 2, 2009 from Amazon.com)

Teacher Tools & Librarian Leads:
This book provides plenty of teachable moments leading the teacher into discussions about trespassing, appropriate library behavior, but mostly about other books. Having the students guess what books are illustrated and then having some of those books available for the children to look at and maybe even check out is a great idea. Bats at the Library inspires reading and shows how books are loved and cherished. This idea of loving reading can also be discussed.

There are at least two different types of bats in the illustrations, so that can lead into a science lesson on bats and their habits as well as the different kinds of bats. An art lesson on making bats can also be done using black or brown construction paper and a simple patten. Fun to read this around Halloween and then hang all the children's bats from the ceiling!