Archive for September 2009

New Biographies!

September 28, 2009

anthonywaynecoverWhen I was in elementary school, one of my favorite things to read was the “Childhood of Famous Americans” series of biographies. I loved reading about Abigail Adams, Dolly Madison, Betsy Ross…sadly, back then (yes, I am very old) biographies were mostly about presidents and their wives, with maybe a few inventors or frontiersmen thrown in.  And these books, as I recall, did not have any illustrations at all ( certainly not in color).

053122208X.01._SX140_SY225_SCLZZZZZZZ_What a different world for our kids today! There are so many interesting series that make reading about real people lots of fun. I recently bought many biographies by Mike Venezia, whose biographies all have clear text and a blend of photographs and humorous cartoon-like drawings, all in full color. They are suitable for 2nd through 5th graders.  New titles include artists Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, Salvador Dali, Roy Lichtenstein, and Paul Gauguin; inventors Alexander Graham Bell, Albert Einstein, and Marie Curie, and many American presidents, such as George Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ronald Reagan.

urlFor older readers, I have many new books in the “Who was” series. These are longer than the previous biographies, about a hundred pages each, with lots of black and white illustrations. They, too, are written in a very kid-friendly way, and would be suitable for middle grade readers.

New additions: Claude Monet, Daniel Boone, Harry Houdini, Ronald Reagan, Walt Disney, Ferdinand Magellan and Elvis Presley. I already have biographies in this series of Maria Tallchief, Sacagawea, Annie Oakley, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Rosa Parks.

Check out a biography and find out that these famous people were little boys and girls, just like you, once upon a time!


September 23, 2009

September 21 was World Peace Day, a special day created in 2002 by the United Nations. On this day of global cease-fire and nonviolence, even young children can think about how they can make the world a more peaceful place. I have been reading these books in various classes to get our CPS students to think about the idea of peace:

imagesPeace One Day: The making of World Peace Day by Karen Blessen is about Jeremy Gilley’s desire to have a day dedicated to peace, and how he traveled the globe, meeting with world leaders and the United Nations, witnessing the reality of war in different parts of the world, making speeches, writing letters, and raising money until he finally achieved his dream. One person CAN make a difference!

images-1NO! by David McPhail. A little boy in a country at war mails a letter to the president, with profound results. This inspiring, worldless fable (except for the world NO!) makes a huge impact through its expressive pictures. The author explains at the end of the book that this is his “expression of hope – hope that playgrounds of the world will soon become safer, and friendlier, for all.”

images-4Wangari’s Trees of Peace: a true story from Africa by Jeannette Winter. The true story of environmentalist Wangari Maathai, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is a great example of how one woman’s passion and determination can inspire great change. When Wangari saw the forests of her native Kenya destroyed, causing many problems for the local people, she started planting trees. Twenty-five years later thirty million trees had been planted, eighty thousand people had better incomes, and thirty African countries were part of her Green Belt Movement. In Wangari’s words, “we are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds and in the process heal our own…”

images-2The Peace Book by Todd Parker. In bold colors and happy childlike drawings, the author/illustrator explains the many ideas of peace, such as “peace is watching it snow”, “peace is helping your neighbor”, and “peace is being who you are.”

images-3 Can you say Peace? by Karen Katz. Learn how children all around the globe say “peace” in their own language.

It’s the first day of fall!

September 21, 2009

Take a bite of a new apple, enjoy the crisp air, and dive into these picture books about fall.

Also known as Harper by Ann Haywood Leal

September 21, 2009

n309818This book was inspired by the author’s work in a soup kitchen. Watching the homeless people come in, she wondered about their lives and wrote this story of a family struggling to keep things together. Harper’s father is gone, and at the beginning of the book her mother loses her job and can’t pay the rent. They move to a motel and Harper must miss school to care for her 6-year-old brother. That’s a lot for a fifth grade girl to deal with! Luckily she has her poetry writing to keep her focused and optimistic, and there are a number of interesting characters living around the motel who offer hope and inspiration. While it sounds pretty heavy, the author brings Harper, a fifth grade girl with a love of writing poetry and a strong sense of family, to life in a way that is realistic and touching.

Snake and Lizard by Joy Cowley

September 16, 2009

url-2I have lots of nature lovers in the library, and plenty of fiction books starring animals, but not so many that feature reptiles. I finally found a chapter book about snakes! Snake and Lizard by Joy Cowley, a New Zealand author who has written more than 600 books, is made up of 15 short, humorous chapters with beautiful color illustrations. There are some realistic details, as the characters hunt for their food and stay safe from their enemies, which will make the book popular with budding zoologists. There is also a little flavor of the Frog and Toad books, as Snake and Lizard learn about friendship and the give and take of life, encounter bad moods, start a business helping other animals, and share stories, wishes and fears.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears by Lauren Child

September 15, 2009

urlHere’s one of the most beautiful, interesting picture books I’ve seen in a long time. Everyone knows the story of Goldilocks, but Lauren Child, the author of the Charlie and Lola and Clarice Bean books, tells the story in a totally fresh new way. And the illustrations!! Goldilocks is a real doll, the three bears are clothed antique teddy bears, and a famous photographer has photographed the doll and the bears in beautiful stage sets. The bears’ cottage has grass growing on the roof, just like a centuries-old cottage in Europe. Inside the cottage is a miniature world full of realistic details like apples spilling out on the floor, little twig-framed pictures on the walls, and even a tiny pot of red shoe polish for Goldilocks’ red shoes. I have read this book aloud in many of my classes, and we all “oooohed” and “aaaaahed” over every page. It’s truly a stunning book for all ages.

Long-awaited sequel to Sticky Burr now available!

September 10, 2009

urlI am a huge fan of John Lechner’s graphic novel Sticky Burr: Adventures in Burrwood Forest, and I have been waiting a year for the sequel! Yeah!

Do you know what a burr is? If you’ve ever walked in an overgrown field and gotten little spiky round things stuck to your pant legs, those are burrs. They’re parts of a plant; seedcases that are rough and prickly. Now imagine a little village full of burrs that have different personalities: some are nice, some not so nice. Sticky Burr is one of the nice ones. He likes to paint and play his ukulele and he just wants everyone to get along.

In the first book, Adventures in Burrwood Forest, he saves the village from the wild dogs, with the help of his best friend Draffle, a dragonfly. In the brand new sequel, The Prickly Peril, the spotlight is on Burrwood Forest’s bad guy, Scurvy Burr. Sticky Burr has decided to have a fall Harvest Fair, which Scurvy Burr and his sidekick Spiny Burr think is not a very “prickly”, burr-like thing to do. To stop the fair, they must travel to Spooky Glen to get some help from the evil Burweena. Can they stop the Harvest Fair? Can Sticky Burr triumph again over the bad guys? I think you will really enjoy this slightly spooky, humorous adventure about a very loveable burr.

Surprise in the mail

September 8, 2009

What’s the best thing a book lover could get in the mail? An AUTOGRAPHED book from a favorite relative!

I shared a fun reading experience with my nephew, Devin,  this summer. He was about to start college at North Carolina State University, and his summer reading book was Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson because the author was going to be the honored speaker at his college’s opening ceremonies.


When Devin came to visit, I decided to read the “young reader’s edition” (see my review on September 3). We discussed the book often, and it was humorous that I was reading the “kids” version and he, many years my junior, was reading the “adult” version. Today Devin sent me an autographed copy, with this inscription by Greg Mortenson: “When your heart speaks, take good notes!” I was thrilled to get this and touched that my nephew went to the trouble to get it for me.

Labor Day Fun

September 7, 2009

What did you do on your Labor Day weekend?  Most people try to grab a little more summer fun:  that’s exactly what I did.  Here I am at the beach in Friendship, Maine, reading with my husband and my daughter:


Tomorrow it’s back to school, and library classes will be starting.  It’s sad to see summer end, but I’m sure it will be a great year at Crescent Park School!  I’m looking forward to it.

Lots of new picture books!

September 4, 2009

51nffd3N19L._SL160_AA115_A walk in New York by Salvatore Rubbino is a wonderful introduction to the sights of America’s biggest city. A boy and his dad spend the day walking around Manhattan, taking in all the famous landmarks from the Empire State Building to the Statue of Liberty. There are fun facts on each page; for instance, there are 88 miles of bookshelves inside the New York Public Library! The artwork has a nice “retro 60’s” feel. Check this out and then plan a trip; or just have fun reading about a different place.

219gzkscdFL._SL500_AA180_The girl in the Castle inside the Museum by Kate Bernheimer is a dreamy, other-worldly story about a little girl who lives in a castle on display in a museum. The artwork is breathtaking and unique, taking you inside this magical world.

url-2The North Star by Peter H. Reynolds is labeled “a story for all ages.” It is a fable about the journey of life, and the author encourages readers to consider slowing down and pondering, reflecting, and ultimately choosing their OWN path. A nice book for parent and child to read together and have a little philosophical chat about individuality.


The Missing Chick by Valeri Gorbachev

An amusing, adorably illustrated tale of Mother Hen on laundry day and the search all over the neighborhood for her missing chick. Where do you suppose he’ll be found?