Hi, I'm Mrs. F-B!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Weird! Dare! and Tough! Erin Frankel


The Weird! Series
These three books tell the story of an ongoing case of bullying from three third graders' perspectives. Luisa describes being targeted by bullying in Weird! Jayla shares her experience as a bystander to bullying in Dare! And in Tough!, Sam speaks from the point of view of someone initiating bullying. Kids will easily relate to Luisa, Jayla, and Sam, as each girl has her own unique experience, eventually learning how to face her challenges with the help of friends, peers, and caring adults.

Notes: Text and illustrations present bullying from the perspective of the bully, and address how to change that behavior. Includes related activities and notes for parents.

Pros: I was prepared to be underwhelmed by what seemed to be some sort of cheesy looking bullying books, but I was wrong.  These books have power as teaching tools, particularly when used all together, as each one takes a different point of view for basically the same content. The message is pretty overt, but not off-putting. The additional content, including activity ideas as well as discussion questions is well done and connected in all three books.

Cons: I think there's a little too much back matter in these book for them to be popular for checkout, but their best use is really as a teaching tool, anyway, so that probably doesn't matter. I would like to see (and perhaps these already exist and I just don't know about them) a similar series with boy main characters and another with boys and girls together.

Exclamation Mark, Amy Krouse Rosenthal & Tom Lichtenheld

From the Publisher:
From the bestselling creators of Duck! Rabbit!, an exciting tale of self-discovery!

He stood out here.
He stood out there.
He tried everything to be more like them.

It's not easy being seen. Especially when you're NOT like everyone else. Especially when what sets you apart is YOU.

Sometimes we squish ourselves to fit in. We shrink. Twist. Bend. Until -- ! -- a friend shows the way to endless possibilities. In this bold and highly visual book, an emphatic but misplaced exclamation point learns that being different can be very exciting! Period.

Pros: Oh, this little picture book sings to the nerdy grammar girl side of me! And it does it in an oh-so NOT nerdy way!  It's a miracle! Like most kids, Exclamation Mark doesn't want to stand out.  But that's kind of hard when you've got this giant line above you when non one else does, you know? See, he doesn't get that he has a purpose.  That is, until Question Mark comes along and will not stop asking him questions.  Go figure... Finally, when he cannot stand a minute more, he shouts Stop! and only then discovers his purpose.  After that, there's no stopping him.  This is a delightful story that's about so much more than grammar but it manages to sneak a bunch of that in along the way, too!  

Cons: Shouldn't this book really be called Exclamation Point?!

Dusk, Uri Shulevitz

From the Publisher:
One December afternoon, boy with dog and grandfather with beard take a walk to watch the sun begin to set over the river. When the sun drops low in the sky, they start home. Buildings grow dimmer. People are rushing. As nature's lights go out, one by one, city's lights turn on, revealing brilliant Hanukkah, Kwanza, and Christmas displays in streets, homes, and stores. A stunning picture book that's sure to be a winter holiday classic by Caldecott Medalist Uri Shulevitz.

Pros: I'm not sure how I came across this book by Uri Shulevitz, but it may have been the cover that drew me in. It's so bright! I love Shulevitz's use of color. He begins near sunset and moves through to darkness and then goes back to light, but with everything lit by electricity until it's again, "as light as day." Students can never get enough holiday books, and the fact that this one includes depictions of Christmas, Hannukah and Kwanza  - in a light-handed, not at all overdone way -  will give this book even broader appeal. Much of the text of this book is good for beginning readers (dialogue from the visitor from Zataplat notwithstanding), as it repeats, rhymes and uses short sentences.  

Cons: I felt that the sentence structure might be too simple in some places, leading to confusion for readers with better fluency. It doesn't sound like they might be expecting. It's a good opportunity to talk about style and word choice, though.

Locomotive, Brian Floca

From the Publisher: All aboard! From the creator of the stunning (BooklistMoonshot, a rich and detailed sensory exploration of America's early railroads.

It is the summer of 1869, and trains, crews, and family are traveling together, riding Americae(tm)s brand-new transcontinental railroad. These pages come alive with the details of the trip and the sounds, speed, and strength of the mighty locomotives; the work that keeps them moving; and the thrill of travel from plains to mountain to ocean.

Come hear the hiss of the steam, feel the heat of the engine, watch the landscape race by. Come ride the rails, come cross the young country!

Pros: There are so many things I like about this book, starting with the flyleaf pages and endpapers. These parts of the book usually don't have information on them, but in this case, they have tons of extra info, including text blocks, maps and illustrations. There is also good back matter in this book, but this is different because it's not all text-driven. It's really engaging, and it adds a lot to this book. Another think I really like is the use of different fonts and different font sizes to emphasize onomatopoeic words, like Clang-Clang, Hisssssss and Huff Huff Huff. I like that most of the pages have multiple vignette pictures on them instead of just one main picture on each page.  and then there are some full page drawings as well. I think that adds interest. I like how some of the pictures have "handwritten" labels on them. I love the muted colors of the watercolor paintings; it evokes the appropriate mood for this historical journey.

Cons: I didn't always love the flow of the text, although most other reviews I've seen actually commended the writing, and I saw some mentions of his particular style, so perhaps it's something I'm just unused to.

Overall, I found this to be a very, very strong picture book, perhaps the best I've seen all year.  I'll look forward to seeing if it's chosen as an award winner.  I can't imagine it won't get some accolades, it's got so much to offer.

2 books this week with plaid skirts on the cover

I thought it was kind of funny that both books I read this week were books with covers that had girls wearing plaid skirts on them.  Seems like that's kind of a thing. And both main characters go to boarding schools! 

Maybe Tonight? by Bridie Clark

From the Publisher:
Maybe Tonight? by Bridie Clark opens as the reader is getting ready for the most exciting party of the year—Midwinter's Night Dream, set in the frosty woods just off campus—with her roommates and best friends Annabel Snow, Spider Harris, and Libby Monroe. Choices unfold quickly and the reader must decide which risks to take in pursuit of social status, adventure, success, and love.

Pros: The "Choose Your Own Adventure" format will appeal to those who have read books of this style in the past and enjoyed them. Those looking for romance have myriad opportunities to find it, as it's part of every decision. If readers don't like the ending they choose the first time, they can go back and re-write the story. Fans of short stories will appreciate that they don't have to read the entire book to get closure (their teachers may not share this sentiment).

Cons: I myself am not a fan of short stories, and this felt like a series of short stories (I did go back and try every permutations of the story, by making different choices every time).  There was not enough development for me.  Due to the nature of the story, many issues were skimmed over instead of being dealt with. I thought the many of the endings were too pat and they often felt abrupt.

Mature content makes this a better choice for a high school collection, but I'm not sure high school readers are still interested in choose your own adventure style books.

United We Spy by Ally Carter is the 6th and final book (sigh) in the Gallagher Girls series about Cammie Morgan an her spy school friends.  

From the Publisher: Cammie Morgan has lost her father and her memory, but in the heart-pounding conclusion to the best-selling Gallagher Girls series, she finds her greatest mission yet. Cammie and her friends finally know why the terrorist organization called the Circle of Cavan has been hunting her. Now the spy girls and Zach must track down the Circle's elite members to stop them before they implement a master plan that will change Cammie—and her country—forever.

Get ready for the Gallagher Girls' most astounding adventure yet as Ally Carter's New York Times best-selling series comes to breathtaking conclusion that will have readers racing to the last page.

Pros: All the characters we've come to love are part of the non-stop, heart pounding action. There are some unexpected plot twists that were nice to find. I am really happy that even though the characters in Carter's books are seniors, the material in the books is still appropriate for middle school readers. It's not necessarily an easy thing to do, but  Carter pulls it off seamlessly!

Cons: I'll be sorry to see this series end, but I don't think this was Carter's strongest writing. I felt like some of the action was forced and while this series has always required suspension of disbelief, and I don't have a problem with that, this time it felt like it required too much, even for me. There were a few too many neatly tied together ends, too, which are sort of required at the end of a series, but I still didn't love them.

If you've read the rest of the series, you'll enjoy this climactic finish and will likely spend a few days mourning Cammie and the gang as you search for your next great adventure series! Appropriate for middle school and up..

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown

I'm usually not at the forefront of the picture book world.  I try to keep up, but I usually don't.  But when fall comes around and I know we're heading toward the ALA awardsI start following some blogs like Fuse#8 and Calling Caldecott more closely.  I really, really want to have read the winner when those awards come around.  One of the books I've ben hearing some buzz about this year is the  whimsical Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown. Interestingly, I was just in a Twitter Chat where Peter Brown was interviewed last week, and then the very next day I got this book from the library - I didn't even know it was the same person until I opened the book and then I knew immediately.  The universe was putting me on a path.

From the Publisher: Are you bored with being so proper? Do you want to have more fun? Mr. Tiger knows exactly how you feel. So he decides to go wild. But does he go too far? From Caldecott Honor artist Peter Brown comes a story that shows there's a time and place for everything...even going wild.

Pros: Like in Creepy Carrots, Brown uses color carefully and sparingly.  Children will pick up on this, and I will be interested to watch their faces as they move through this book from nearly monochromatic city pictures to the colorful jungle pictures.  I think it could be a fascinating scientific study. Children will no doubt relate to times when they would rather be wild but have to conform. 

Cons: I think the text could have been more developed. It isn't lacking, exactly, but I think it had the possibility to be stronger with a little bit more text. If you look at my previous entry about Journey, though, you'll know I'm kind of biased toward text, so maybe it's just me! That's a pretty teeny con, though.

This is Mr. Tiger made all of Legos by Jonathan Lopes, the Senior Production Manager at Little, Brown.  Thanks to Betsy Bird for the link.

Journey, Aaron Becker

 I recently saw this book mentioned on a blog in a Caldecott possibility discussion, and after checking it out from the library and looking through it, I can see why it was part of the discussion.

From the Publisher: Follow a girl on an elaborate flight of fancy in a wondrously illustrated, wordless picture book about self-determination — and unexpected friendship.

A lonely girl draws a magic door on her bedroom wall and through it escapes into a world where wonder, adventure, and danger abound. Red marker in hand, she creates a boat, a balloon, and a flying carpet that carry her on a spectacular journey toward an uncertain destiny. When she is captured by a sinister emperor, only an act of tremendous courage and kindness can set her free. Can it also lead her home and to her heart's desire? With supple line, luminous color, and nimble flights of fancy, author-illustrator Aaron Becker launches an ordinary child on an extraordinary journey toward her greatest and most exciting adventure of all.

Pros: It is a beautiful book with amazingly detailed illustrations.  The careful use of (and lack of) color create strong mood.  the main character has magical adventures. Children will be able to create amazing stories through the world that Aaron Becker has drawn, stories that will be all their own.

Cons: This book is decidedly lacking in words (it's a wordless picture book), and for this reason alone, as a school librarian, I hope it doesn't win. That's totally unfair of me, I know, because the Caldecott is the art award, but I can't help it.  I want a book with beautiful pictures AND words to win so that kids will be drawn into both the pictures and the text.  But I certainly won't be complaining if this wins because it is quite fabulous.

Journey is available at Multnomah County libraries.

A serious stack of Thanksgiving picture books

Well, I've been invited to read at an elementary school thanksgiving assembly, and I am really excited about it. I'm a little worried, though, because I went and read there last year for St. Patrick's Day (a serious holiday if your name is Erin Fitzpatrick) and I had a killer costume. I chalked my hair green and had a green tutu and fancy socks and shamrock antennae and everything. So now I'm thinking I've got to match that performance, and how in the world does one dress for Thanksgiving??!! It's a lot of pressure!
Well, perhaps the first thing I needed to do, I decided, was pick a book. Maybe my costume would just come to me...I hit up the Multnomah County Library's website to see what kinds of Thanksgiving picture books they had, and I was surprised to find so many! I checked out ten that looked good to see what was what.


Beauty and the Beaks - A Turkey's Cautionary Tale by Mary Jane and Herm Auch was well written and funny, but some of the humor would be too likely to go over the heads of half the audience.  I loved the turkey and chickens in the story, all of whom were sculpted from clay an then had their (outlandishly fancy) costumes created and sewn by author Mary Jane.  Herm photographed them.  Their outfits alone are worth a look (Jim Henson would be impressed), and if you love punny books and books that play with language, this might be for you. But it wasn't going to be the one for teh assembly.

How Many Days to America, by Eve Bunting is a beautiful story about refugees, but the themes are more appropriate for older students, and probably it's a better book for a small group where there can be some discussion. Since my audience will be 500 or so K-5th graders, this is not the one either.

Thanksgiving Rules by Laurie Friedman and Teresa Murfin is a rhyming book with a nice little list of rules to follow for a successful Thanksgiving.  The rhyming makes for a nice read-aloud, although I thought it was a tiny bit forced at some points. It had possibility for my event, but I think this would be a better book to share with a class where they could them come back and explore each page and each rule in more depth. Maybe they could make up additional rules or illustrate another of the rules.  I am all in favor of rule 9, by the way.  Life is sweeter when you eat sweets!

Clifford's Thanksgiving Visit by Norman Bridwell. I actually kind of had high hopes for this one because I know where I could get my hands on a Clifford suit, but it just didn't do it for me.  It really didn't say "Thanksgiving" to me. And I need a really great story, not just a great costume. Too bad.

Thanksgiving on Plymouth Plantation by Diane Stanley and Holly Berry. Not so often I come across a time traveling picture book (perhaps I don't get out enough, though), but here's one.  Time traveling twins go with their grandmother back to the Plymouth Plantation in Northern Virginia. They learn a lot of history, clarify some misinformation they've had about the pilgrims and find out the difference between a harvest festival and a Day of Thanksgiving. This book is good, but the format and length don't lend it to being a good assembly read-aloud.

'Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dave Pilkey I was a little worried the kids would only be wearing underwear in this book, but luckily they were fully clothed. He did this book before he had that little brainstorm, apparently.  This is a cute rendition of Clement C. Moore's poem, but with kids on a field trip, a turkey farmer, and 8 turkeys named Ollie, Stanley, Larry, Mo, Wally, Beaver, Shemp and Groucho. A nod to the parental units reading the book there. The unsuspecting kids go to the farm on a field trip and meet the adorable, fluffy turkeys. And then they spot the axe and find out the truth about Thanksgiving.  Lo and behold, after the kids board the bus to leave, albeit slightly fatter than when they arrived, Farmer Mack cant find his turkeys.  Hmmmmm.  Not a bad choice, but the rhymes don't roll off the tongue as easily as I'd like them to so I'm thinking no on this one.

Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende and Harry Devlin. did you kow that Oregon is one of the top cranberry producing states in the US?  Or that cranberries are one of the only fruits native to North America? Well I bet most of our students don't know those things either, even though we live right her in Oregon. For that matter, I doubt if many of them know what a fresh, not dried, cranberry looks like or tastes like. This is a great story for teaching children about the true meaning of holidays and giving and not judging people by their appearance.  It doesn't have quite the Thanksgiving oomph I was looking for, though.

Turkey for Thanksgiving by Eve Bunting.  This Thanksgiving story has a completely different feel from Eve Bunting's other Thanksgiving book.  This one is all bright colors and cartoony animals, where the other one is all somber colors and people. Mrs. Moose has decided that she wants a turkey for Thanksgiving, just like everyone else.  So Mr. Moose, being a good husband, goes off to find her one.  But turkey doesn't want to come for Thanksgiving, having some idea of what might be in store for him there.  If he only knew what Mrs. Moose really had in store, he could have saved himself a lot of stress.  A fun book that might just make the cut.

Thanksgiving in the White House by Gary Hines and Alexandra Waller. You know how the president pardons a turkey every year, right?  But do you know why?  Well after reading this picture book about Tad Lincoln and his pet turkey Jack, you'll know the background. This one's on my shortlist, but I think it might just deal with too many different things in addition to Thanksgiving to make the final cut.

Turkey Trouble by Wendi Silvano and Lee Harper.  Definitely my favorite cover of all the books I checked out, and the premise sounded like it held some possibility for a good story and some good costuming, but would it hold up beyond the summary?  It is a really cute story with great drawings, and a very clever turkey with some good imagination but my idea for the costuming seemed a little too involved.  I didn't think I could pull it off.  But I could just dress like a turkey and do a lot of gobbling...Hmmmm.  Still on the short list.

The last book I got a hold of was I Know and Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie,  by Alison Jackson.  I am a big fan of the There was an old Lady who Swallowed a Fly book by Simms Taback.  the one with the cutouts in the stomach.  Have you seen it?  If not, get thee to the library! I loved reading this book out loud with my nieces and nephews when they were all over visiting because THEY loved it. We'd all chime in on the final line, and they were 100% engaged. I hoped this book might be similar.  And it is!  I can invite audience participation on the last line, and I think the kids will love it.  I also have a pretty good idea for a costume which involves a stretchy, stretchy top that I can belt tightly at the waist and shove food items in until I'm full by the end, just like the old lady...We'll see.  I'm not 100% on it yet, but I'm thinking it's the front runner right now.

Do you have any other book suggestions? Costume ideas for me? If so, let me know in the comments.  and wish me luck!  Look for a picture next month.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Book Thief movie trailer

I am normally not a big fan of movies made from books, but I might have to relent and see this.  It could be amazing.  I hope so, because the book is so very special.  Take a look and see what you think.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

YALSA's Teens' Top Ten List out yesterday

Huzzah!  The new Teens' Top Ten list is out, and my favorite book of last year, Code Name Verity is Number ONE!  And when I went to link that review here, I discovered that somehow I didn't review that book.  What the what?  HOW did I miss it? I can't believe it.  Seriously my favorite for the Printz award, although it only got an honor. Well, I guess you will just have to be satisfied with the Goodreads page for this book, and me saying that if you are a strong high school reader or an adult who likes suspense, intrigue and mystery, go get this book.  RIGHT NOW!  It's amazing.

Also amazing is her companion novel that just recently came out, Rose Under Fire. I really did review that one HERE.  It's more accessible for middle school and up.  Excellent, excellent writing!

I also apparently failed to review Maggie Steifvater's Raven Boys, which was also on the list even though I read it and loved it - I have been slacking on the reviews I guess.  I thought I was doing better than this.  Anyway, Raven Boys has lots of suspense and intrigue as well, and lots of magical realism, and even though I wouldn't say that's usually my favorite, I really thought this book was fantastic.  Here's the Goodreads link.  I got to meet Maggie Stiefvater at Starbucks this summer when we were all at the Harry Potter convention.  Total fangirl moment.  Very exciting!

To see all of this year's list, please take a look at this short video from YALSA which doesn't want to embed, unfortunately. Happy reading!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Case of the Vanishing Honeybees, Sandra Markle

From the publisher:

Honeybees are a crucial part of our food chain. As they gather nectar from flowers to make sweet honey, these bees also play an important role in pollination, helping some plants produce fruit. But large numbers of honeybees are disappearing every year... and no one knows why. Is a fungus killing them? Could a poor diet be the cause? What about changes to bees' natural habitat? In this real-life science mystery, scientists and beekeepers are working to answer these questions... and save the world's honeybees before it's too late.

Strengths: The photographs in this book are incredible, the layout motif of a honeycomb ties everything together nicely and doesn't overpower either the photos or the text, and the information is clear and fascinating. The language and  less formal style make the book accessible and make the science graspable for even readers who might not have a strong science background.

Weaknesses: Picture captions are adequate to good, but I think more could have been done with those to enhance the text for stronger readers who wanted more in-depth information.

Reminds me of the excellent Scientists in the Field series but at a more basic level. 


I read an e-ARC of this book.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Infinite Moment of Us, Lauren Myracle

From the Publisher:
For as long as she can remember, Wren Gray's goal has been to please her parents. But as high school graduation nears, so does an uncomfortable realization: Pleasing her parents once overlapped with pleasing herself, but now . . . not so much. Wren needs to honor her own desires, but how can she if she doesn't even know what they are?
Charlie Parker, on the other hand, is painfully aware of his heart's desire. A gentle boy with a troubled past, Charlie has loved Wren since the day he first saw her. But a girl like Wren would never fall for a guy like Charlie—at least not the sort of guy Charlie believes himself to be.
And yet certain things are written in the stars. And in the summer after high school, Wren and Charlie's souls will collide. But souls are complicated, as are the bodies that house them . . .
Sexy, romantic, and oh-so-true to life, this is an unforgettable look at first love from one of young adult fiction's greatest writers.

Strengths: Realistic portrayal of (some) young people who are madly in love (and lust). Wren is really struggling with doing what she wants to do as opposed to what her parents want her to do, which I think is the case for a lot of young people.  The approval of our parents is something most of us wanted as adolescents.  Most of us didn't want to disappoint our parents, either.  But lots of young people have a different vision for their lives than their parents do, and figuring out how to handle that is difficult.
And both of these strengths lead me to weaknesses: I just didn't find Wren's handling of the whole situation with her parents to work for me. It never felt right. And while I am all for some teen romance, this book is definitely not middle school appropriate - too graphic - and I'm not sure it was really necessary to spell it out quite so much even for older teens. No doubt, many older teen readers are sure to disagree with me and call me a fuddy duddy, but there you have it.

While I wanted to really love this book, this one didn't quite work for me.

Read as an e-ARC.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

On a Beam of Light A Story of Albert Einstein

This is a book I discoverd by way of a website called Calling Caldecott. You can read their very thorough review of this book here.  This book is one of many they have up for discussion as a possible Caldecott winner. There have been quite a lot of mentions of non-fiction books as Caldecott hopefuls this year. I wonder how many nonfiction books have actually won the Caldecott in the past. That would be something to look up. I love that there are great picture books about nonfiction topics and that they're part of the conversation for award winners, too!

From the Publisher: A boy rides a bicycle down a dusty road. But in his mind, he envisions himself traveling at a speed beyond imagining, on a beam of light. This brilliant mind will one day offer up some of the most revolutionary ideas ever conceived. From a boy endlessly fascinated by the wonders around him, Albert Einstein ultimately grows into a man of genius recognized the world over for profoundly illuminating our understanding of the universe. Jennifer Berne and Vladimir Radunsky invite the reader to travel along with Einstein on a journey full of curiosity, laughter, and scientific discovery. Parents and children alike will appreciate this moving story of the powerful difference imagination can make in any life.

Strengths: Love that there's a picture book of Einstein. Love how the drawings of an older Einstein really capture his look. One of my favorites is him with the ice cream cone. There is interesting information in this book that I wasn't familiar with, like that he didn't talk until he was three. Wonder if he'd be diagnosed autistic now. Wonder if perhaps he was, in face, a person with high functioning Asperger's. Interesting idea.

Weaknesses: I like the drawings in this book myself, but I wonder if kids will like them. They seem a little far from mainstream, perhaps a little old-fashioned to have broad appeal. The text seems to jump around a bit, and may leave younger readers confused. Also, the discussion of atoms is perhaps too incomplete.

I don't actually think this will win the Caldecott, but I did enjoy the book. I think it would be a book best read aloud with an adult who could have conversation with a young reader about the text, at leat initially, as opposed to being a read alone book. Not the kind of nonfiction text students will use for beginning research, although as an additional text for young researchers, it could add some interesting tidbits. Does contain author notes at the end that might add to research.

I read an e-book version of this from Multnomah County Libraries