Saturday, July 31, 2010

In My Mailbox

In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by The Story Siren and was inspired by Alea of Pop Culture Junkie! We share the books we've received this past week for review, borrowed from friends or the library, received as a gift and/or bought for both Mundie Moms and Mundie Kids.

For Review:
* Welcome To My Neighborhood by Quiara Alegria Hudes/Illustrated by Shin Arihara
* Guardians of Ga'Hoole by Kathryn Lasky
* Melting Stones by Tamora Pearce
* Bob Books, Sight Words for Kindergarten, Text by Lynn Maslen Kertell/ Illustrated by Sue Hendra
* Bob Books, Sight Words for First Grade, Text by Lynn Maslen Kertell/ Illustrated by Sue Hendra

Thank you to Scholastic and Big Hancho Media for this weeks amazing reads.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Awesome Adventures Sweepstakes with Harper Collins Childrens

Harper Collins started the summer with Awesome Adventures ( which included awesome new middle grade books, exciting online games, and huge weekly prizes! As the summer comes to and end and the Awesome Adventures Sweepstakes wraps up, don't miss the end of the adventure with these great links!!

Discover great summer reads and book quizzes on The Adventures page:

Watch your favorite books come to life in the expanded game Arcade:

Check out the huge prizes (including an iPad!) available each week on the Sweepstakes page:

Meet the Awesome Adventure authors and watch the latest book trailers on the new Awesome Adventure playlist on YouTube:

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Book Review- The Shadow Project

By Herbie Brennan
Published by Harper Collins Childrens
Released January 1st, 2010
Source: Publisher
4 stars- It was a good read.

Something powerful reached deep inside to pull Danny out of his body. It seemed as though he was gripped by invisible hands, then extracted, like a cork from a bottle. And when he came out, he could see the doorway. It hung in space directly in front of him., an unearthly luminous green triangle like nothing he had ever seen before. When you looked into it, strange shapes pulsed and writhed.

Danny felt twisted, as if something had taken him and turned him inside out, and he was now facing in a direction no mortal human was supposed to face. It was a hideous sensation, but while he wanted to desperately to turn away, something held him firm. His fear ramped toward downright terror. There was a pounding in his ears,. The writhing shapes swam closer to the surface of reality and reached for him....

Despite himself, Danny stepped into the doorway.

Normally I try to keep posts separate on both Mundie Moms and Mundie Kids, but this is one book that I think both pre-teens and teens would like. If you like a little thriller, mixed in with paranormal activity and a CIA and MI-6 match up, then The Shadow Project is a must read for you. The Shadow Project has the CIA and MI-6 teamed up together to not only track terror suspects, but paranormal activity that has been going on with a particular terror cell. This activity has it's terror coming from the astral plane and the likely candidates to reach it are three teenagers.

I liked that it's fiction mixed with a little bit of fact. While I was a little lost when I first started the book, I quickly realized there a few character voices who tell story. I like that each chapter is titled with the character's name, so you know who's telling the story. I didn't mourn the fact that I didn't feel a connection to the characters, as the story is non stop action and quickly flew by.

I did like Danny, the main character. He's a bit of a broken boy who's grown up with his Nan, who's just suffered a major stroke. I do love her character, as you get to know more about her in the book. Danny has taken to being a thief, which is how he stumbles upon the hide out of the project. Danny isn't just some street smart kid who's had his fair share of fights, he's also very intelligent and was recently accepted to Cambridge University. He also has a gift which is needed in aiding MI-6 and the CIA. He has no idea what he's gotten himself into when MI-6 offers him a deal he can't refuse.

I don't know if I'd classify this book as sci-fi, action, paranormal, or mystery. Having this mix made for a quick, easy read that I enjoyed more than I had anticipated. With the very mild language and the fast pace action, I think this a book those 12 and older would enjoy.

You can visit Harper Collins Children's site for more information about The Shadow Projectand Herbie Brennan

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Book Review - Birdie's Big Girl Shoes

Author: Sujean Rim
Illustrator: Libby Koponen
Publisher: Little, Brown for Young Readers (February 1, 2010)
Reading Level:4 to 8 year olds
Source: Library
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Description from GoodReads:

Birdie carefully slipped her little toes into one shoe,
then slid into the other.

She looked at herself in the mirror...
and gasped.

Birdie can't wait to be just like her mom. She loves wearing jewelry, spritzing perfume bottles, and dressing up in front of the mirror. But more than anything, Birdie fantasizes about her mother's fancy high-heels. She can't wait to try them on and do all the things she likes to do wearing beautiful "big-girl shoes."

Little girls will love walking with Birdie as she spends a day in her mother's shoes, but in the end they may find that, like Birdie, they like their "barefoot shoes" best of all.

With playful watercolors and clever textured cut-paper designs, this precious picture book will speak to every little girl who longs to be a "big-girl".

I know...this is a "girl book". I have been trying to find some more books for boys but happened upon this one and wanted to share it. Most girls remember a time when they put on their mothers' jewelry, clothes, lipstick, perfume, and of course, her high heels. This book does a great job in capturing exactly what it felt like being little and wanting to wear your mom's stuff.

The text to this book is actually very simple and straight forward. Catchy in some ways. However, it was the illustrations that really caught my attention. Bright and colorful against the white backdrop. Birdie's smaller, rounder shape is in contrast with her mother's more angular almost Hepburn-esque style. Birdie's bare feet with painted toenails offer another contrast to the angular stylized shoes. Additionally, the pictures display Birdie's struggle to play and romp in her mother's stilettos in contrast with her enthusiasm when she kicks off her heels and discovers that bare feet are just perfect for dancing, twirling, and jumping all around.

Though this may not be a book I add to my personal collection, it is one that would make a great gift to that special little girl in your life.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Book Review - Alfred Zector, Book Collector

Author: Kelly DiPucchio
Illustrator: Macky Pamintuan
Publisher: HarperCollins (May 4, 2010)
Reading Level: Ages 4 to 8
Source: Library
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Description from Amazon:
In his warm, weathered house, stuffed in crannies and nooks, were heaps, rows, and stacks of beloved bound books.

The only thing that brings Alfred Zector joy is collecting books. And so he sets out on a mission to collect every last one, until his home on the hill is stretched at the seams with books big and small. But what happens when the rest of the townspeople have nothing left to read? In this clever rhyming story, Alfred Zector discovers what it means to find true joy in a good book.

As a child, Alfred begins to either barter for or buy up every book in town. He stuffs him home with books and then sets about the task of reading each and every one of the books. The reader watches as time passes and Alfred grows older until as an old man he had read all of the books in his home. However, rather than being a satisfactory experience that he anticipated, it became almost like a prison. Until one day, Alfred discovers that maybe sharing books are more fun than collecting books.

I really hoped to enjoy this book more. However, it seemed to be missing something. It was a fun but not in the way that made me want to read it over and over again. The illustrations had a nineteen-fifties quality to them. Though they represented the story well, the pictures don't necessarily take the story to a new level.

This is an enjoyable read but not one that I must have for my personal collection.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Book Review - The Curious Garden

Author: Peter Brown
Publisher: Little Brown
Published: April 2009
Read Aloud: Ages 4-8
Source: Library
Rating: 4 Stars

One boy's quest for a greener world... one garden at a time.

While out exploring one day, a little boy named Liam discovers a struggling garden and decides to take care of it. As time passes, the garden spreads throughout the dark, gray city, transforming it into a lush, green world.

This is an enchanting tale with environmental themes and breathtaking illustrations that become more vibrant as the garden blooms. Red-headed Liam can also be spotted on every page, adding a clever seek-and-find element to this captivating picture book.

A delightful picture book about a boy who creates a garden on abandoned railroad tracks. Inspired by Highline Park in Manhattan this book is filled with beautiful illustrations and a great message.

This book was a hit with my kids. We loved comparing the picture of the drab city at the beginning of the book with the beautiful city at the end of the book.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Book Review-Selling Hope

By Kristin O'Donnell Tubb
Published by Feiwel and Friends
To Be Released November 9, 2010
Source: Author/Publisher
4 Stars- great book to read both at home and in the class room

It’s May 1910, and Halley’s Comet is due to pass thru the Earth’s atmosphere. And thirteen-year-old Hope McDaniels and her father are due to pass through their hometown of Chicago with their ragtag vaudeville troupe. Hope wants out of vaudeville, and longs for a "normal” life—or as normal as life can be without her mother, who died five years before. Hope sees an opportunity: She invents "anti-comet” pills to sell to the working-class customers desperate for protection. Soon, she’s joined by a fellow troupe member, young Buster Keaton, and the two of them start to make good money. And just when Hope thinks she has all the answers, she has to decide: What is family? Where is home?

I love this cover and I really enjoyed reading Selling Hope. Kristin did a fantastic job at weaving together a wonderful story with historical fiction. Selling Hope is a book that I would recommend for classroom reading as well as at home. Not only does Kristin take the reader back to Chicago in the year 1910, she enchants you with a beloved strong willed, says how it is, young female character, Hope.

Hope and her father Nick, are part of the circuit, who travel from city to city with a large group of other performers, putting on shows for the locals. It's not a pretty job by any means, but it's one that provides Hope and her father a roof over their head. Wanting to provide more for her father and herself, Hope decides to sell anti-comet pills.

Selling Hope starts 17 days before Halley's comet passes the earth. With mass hysteria over the comet's approach to earth, many people fear it's the end of the world. Hope's idea of giving the people some sort of comfort resorts in her teaming up with an other performer, Buster. Together Hope and Buster offer the people a little bit of Hope with the comets approach, when everyone around of them fears the world will end.
There's a sweet relationship between Buster and Hope that I really liked and wanted to read more about after I had finished the book.

What I liked about Hope, is she became a true source for Hope to those whom she sells her pills (mints) to. Many people are looking for some sort of answer and will pay anything to be "saved" from the comet's fury when it strikes earth. Through the course of the days leading up to the comets approach and even the night the comet appears, Hope reflects back on a few things she's learned about herself. What starts out as a way to earn more money for her and her father, turns out to be a mission in giving people a real sense of Hope.

Hope is a character that I think young readers will really adore. I think Selling Hope will captivate young readers, as Kristin gives her book a real 1910's feeling with the language and the setting. With a wonderful cast of both fictional and non fiction characters, this a book I would definitely recommend for readers 10 years and older.

Book Review - If America Were a Village

Author: David J. Smith
Illustrator: Shelagh Armstrong
Publisher: Kids Can Press (August 1, 2009)
Age Level: Grades 4 to 6 (but can extend down to 2nd grade)
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 Stars

Description from GoodReads:
America, with all its diversity, is not easily defined. David J. Smith's If America Were a Village takes a snapshot - past, present and future - to help define America for children. Using the same successful metaphor of the international bestseller If the World Were a Village, the book shrinks down America to a village of 100. The metaphor helps children easily understand American ethnic origins, religions, family profiles, occupations, wealth, belongings and more. Shelagh Armstrong's expansive illustrations imagine America as a classic, vibrant small town. Who are the people living in this vast and varied nation? Where did they come from? What are they like today? How do they compare with people in other countries? The book's simple statistical analysis provides a new way of learning about where people live in America, the state of their health, the shapes and sizes of families, what they use and more - forming a concise picture of a country. If America Were a Village is part of CitizenKid: A collection of books that inform children about the world and inspire them to be better global citizens.

It seems it is much easier to find great fiction stories than non-fiction. Hence my passion for locating fun, creative, and well developed non-fiction. As I was cleaning up my office bookcase, I re-discovered David J. Smith's If America Were A Village. I was introduced to this book and it's predecessor If the World Were A Village at a teacher book event last September at a local indie bookstore. Smith took a difficult concept for kids - imagining 306 million Americans - and made it tangible and real. Sheer brilliance.

Smith equates the United States as a village of 100 people. Here is an example from the inside jacketflap:

In this village:
75 people are white, 12 are black, 1 is Native American, and 4 are Asian. The remaining 8 consider themselves members of some other race or mixed race.

Children have a much better chance of understanding a breakdown of 100 people than trying to explain that in terms of millions of people.

Each two page spread answers a question such as Where do we come from? What religions do we practice? How wealthy are we? or What are our families like? Once again, the percentages are broken down to the number of people who practice a particular religion or who is rich. Additionally, Smith includes a paragraph telling the reader how America compares to other countries in the world.

Now there are some questions about Smith's breakdowns. Some critics would questions Smith's inclusion of Hispanic individuals within the White people count. Others may question his statistics. Though this may keep the book from being a 5 Star for me, I do feel that there is incredible information here which can facilitate some deep discussion with children and be integrated into various curriculum standards. For this reason, and that there are several pages at the end that provide additional facts and resources for a teacher to use with his/her students, I still place it on my recommended book list.

In addition to Smith's text, Armstrong's acrylic paintings are beautiful and provide almost a dreamy back-drop to the book.

This book may be hard to locate at your local bookstore but it is readily available on various on-line book vendors. I would encourage teachers to seek out If America Were a Village and it's companion If The World Were A Village as part of their classroom collection.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Book Review - Waiting on Winter

Author: Sebastian Meschenmoser
Publisher: Kane Miller 2009
Originally published in Germany 2007
Source: Library
Rating: 4.5 Stars

Deer has told squirrel how wonderful snow is, so Squirrel sits outside and waits for winter. He waits, and he waits, and he waits. It’s boring.

All his not-so-patient waiting has woken Hedgehog, who decides he’d like to see it snow too. They wait, and they wait, and they wait. And it’s still boring, even when there are two of you. Maybe singing will help to pass the time?

All the not-so-patient waiting and the not-so-quiet singing has woken Bear. He’ll have to help Squirrel and Hedgehog find the snow if he wants to get any sleep this winter. Deer said it was white and wet and cold and soft. How hard could it be to find something like that?

Well, maybe harder than he thinks.

While reading the first few pages of this book I wondered if it had been illustrated by a child. The scribbly looking pencil drawings didn't appeal to me. However as the story went on I started to notice all the detail in the drawings and realized this was not a child's scribblings but rather a charming book full of wonderful intricate sketches.

This story of squirrel waiting for winter was a hit with my kids. Next time you are at the library pick up this whimsical book and share it with your children.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Book Review- Bobo The Race Car & Bobo Races On The Tricky Triangle

By Concetta M Payne
Illustrated by Marianna Dragomirova
Published by Mirror Publishing
Source- from the author
4 stars- great reads for kids

Bobo The Race Car:

Bobo is an awesome race car. His dream is to win a big race and be in the winner's circle. So you can just imagine how excited he was when he read that the Poco Race Track was having their first big racing event. He eagerly picked up the phone and called all his friends. He was thrilled when his friends Gator, Big Foot and Saber wanted to join him in the race. During their practice laps, Bobo noticed that his friend Big Foot was having serious problems on the track. Bobo and all his friends knew that Big Foot needed their help, but trying to convince Big Foot was not going to be easy. Just imagine these competing race cars jeopardizing their chances to be in the winner's circle in order to help their friend! Their confidence, determination and unselfish efforts to help their friend compete in the race are inspirational.

Bobo Races On The Tricky Triangle:
BoBo the Race Car was a little disappointed that for all his efforts to prepare for last year's race were not enough to put him in the Victory Circle. But this year was going to be different! He called all his friends asking them if they were going to compete in the Pocono 500 Race. His friends Big Foot and Saber were getting very excited about racing on the "Tricky Triangle" and were all ready to sign-up! The race cars heard many stories about how "tricky" the Pocono Raceway really was. It was a most challenging race track compared to the other tracks on which they had competed. They practiced everyday doing lap after lap, making those "very tricky" turns as fast as they could. All the race cars were ready for the big event. As the Pace Car left the track they all sped off gaining more speed. Bobo was entering his final lap when all of sudden he was faced with a VERY SERIOUS PROBLEM!!

These are such great stories, especially for little readers. The illustrations are cute and the stories themselves are great for young readers. They will learn about friendship, following their dreams and that it's okay if you don't win a race. Like Bobo, they can cheer their friends who win and not be upset if they don't win.

The stories also teach about friendship and not being upset when things don't go the way we want them to. Bobo is a great example t0 kids about never giving up and to keep trying. Bobo will also teach kids the importance of being a good sport and being happy for your friends when you don't win.

Book Review - Hot Diggity Dog: The History of the Hot Dog

Author: Adrienne Sylver
Illustrator: Elwood H. Smith
Publisher: Penguin Young Readers/Dutton (May 13, 2010)
Reading Level: Grades 3 to 6
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 Stars

Description from GoodReads:
We ate them on the way to the moon and served them to the king of England. We name a Hot Dog– Eating Champ! Garnished with hilarious illustrations and amazing “foodie” facts, this kid-friendly, globespanning history of our favorite fast-food meal offers unique insight into America’s multicultural heritage. From a hobo’s franks-and-beans to astronaut food, there’s more to the wiener—and what’s for dinner—than you think.

My new favorite thing is to look for non-fiction picture books that are informative and witty or humorous. It started at the beginning of the year and I seem to be on a quest to find the latest fun non-fiction picture book. Hot Diggity Dog: The History of the Hot Dog by Adrienne Sylver is my newest addition to my personal collection.

Did you know that Hot Dogs have been around for thousands of years? Or that they were referred to in the Odyssey? Or that July is National Hot Dog Month because Americans eat the most hot dogs in July?! These are just a few of the facts and tidbits of information located on the pages of Sylver's books. Actually, there is a lot on each of the pages. In addition to the text that tells about the history of the Hot Dog, the side bars/margins have trivia, riddles, fun facts about Hot Dogs. It really requires a couple of readings of the book in order to sufficiently catch all of the information stored on the pages.

Elwood H. Smith's retro-style cartoon-like illustrations are as energetic as the text and just as engaging. I also loved the randomly interspersed photographs of hot dogs throughout the book.

For teachers who are looking for ways to engage upper elementary students in non-fiction or trying to find a book for a reluctant reader who may have a penchant for non-fiction, I would suggest giving Hot Diggity Dog a chance. The only negative thing I might have to say about this book, which is why it didn't get a 5 star from me, is that the font-size on the side facts is very tiny which makes this a difficult book to read aloud with the pictures facing outward. Aside from that concern this is definitely a "keeper".

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Book Review - Mirror, Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse

Author: Marilyn Singer
Illustrator: Josee Masse
Publisher: Dutton Children's Books/Penguin Young Reader (March 4, 2010)
Reading Level: Grades 3 to 6
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 stars

Description from the inside flap:
There are two sides to every story, from the princess and the frog, to the beauty and the beast, to Sleeping Beauty and that charming prince.

Now, in a unique collection of reversible verse, classic fairy tales are turned on their heads. Literally. Read these clever poems from top to bottom. Then reverse the lines and read from bottom to top to give these well-loved stories a delicious new spin.

Witty, irreverent, and exquisitely illustrated, this unique collection holds a cheeky mirror up to language and fairy tales, and renews the magic of both.

I love really well done picture books that are unique or very creative. I am also jealous of anyone who is able to write verse. I fully lack that skill. Mirror, Mirror by Marilyn Singer is not only a picture book done in verse. It is written in reversible verse. This kind of blew my mind as I was reading it. Imagine a poem that can be read down a page as well as up the page?! The rules - you can only change punctuation and capitalization but the word order must remain the same. If you haven't grasped the complexity of the task let me share a short sample that the author has at the end of her book:

A cat
a chair:

A chair
a cat.

Now take this concept pair it with fairy tales as the focus of the verse and amazing dual-themed illustrations and you have an extraordinary book. As soon as I saw this book, I knew I had to purchase it. The verse provides two views to each fairy tale. Masse's illustrations provide their own two views.

The recommended age for this book is Grades 3 to 6. Children within this age level will be able to read it independently and likely begin to understand the complexity of the style. However, I would also argue that children ages 4 to 8 will also enjoy listening to the verse be read aloud, as well as, looking at the pictures even if some of the intricacy is lost on them.

I would recommend this book as either a gift or to be included in your personal library or classroom library. Definitely gets 5 stars from me.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Book Review - Shoo, Fly Guy!

Author: Tedd Arnold
Publisher: Scholastic (Sept. 2006)
Source: Personal Copy
Ages: 3-7
Rating: 4 Stars

Description from Goodreads:
Fly Guy returns home to discover that Buzz has gone on a picnic without him! Sad and hungry, Fly Guy takes off in search of his favorite food. He gets shooed away from a hamburger, a pizza, a dog's bones, and even roadkill--leaving readers to guess what Fly Guy's favorite oozy, lumpy, smelly, and brown food could possibly be! Why, it's shoo-fly pie, of course!

Using hyperbole, puns, slapstick, and silly drawings, bestselling author/illustrator Tedd Arnold creates an easy reader that is full of fun.

The Fly Guy books by Tedd Arnold are a series of easy to read picture books that all my kids enjoy.

Shoo, Fly Guy! is a fun book to read despite being quite gross! Little boys will love it. There is lots of repetition and it's a quick easy read my kids ask me to read over and over.

Book Review - Shooting The Moon

Author: Frances O'Roark Dowell
Publisher: Atheneum (January 29, 2008)
Reading Level: Grades 4 to 8
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 Stars

Description from GoodReads:
When twelve-year-old Jamie Dexter's brother joins the Army and is sent to Vietnam, Jamie is plum thrilled. She can't wait to get letters from the front lines describing the excitement of real-life combat: the sound of helicopters, the smell of gunpowder, the exhilaration of being right in the thick of it. After all, they've both dreamed of following in the footstepsof their father, the Colonel.
But TJ's first letter isn't a letter at all. It's a roll of undeveloped film, the first of many. What Jamie sees when she develops TJ's photographs reveals a whole new side of the war. Slowly the shine begins to fade off of Army life - and the Colonel. How can someone she's worshipped her entire life be just as helpless to save her brother as she is?

From the author of the Edgar Award-winning Dovey Coe comes a novel,both timely and timeless, about the sacrifices we make for what we believe and the people we love.

I have just been stumbling on to some wonderful Middle Grade books lately and SHOOTING THE MOON is no exception. I am not sure if this is officially considered "historical fiction" (I may need to check with some librarian friends) but since the book takes place in 1969 during the Vietnam War I have chosen to categorize it as historical fiction. One of the things that I love about this story is that though is takes place 41 years ago, there is something timeless and true about the book.

Jamie Dexter is an almost 13 year old (she keeps reminding us of this important fact) and the daughter of an Army Colonel. She was born in Germany at an Army base, and has lived her whole life on Army bases and amongst soldiers. Jamie and her older brother TJ have played war games, and accepted what their father says about the Army without any questions. This pro-Army sentiment has caused her brother TJ to enlist even before attending college and medical school. Jamie is puzzled at her father's, an Army Colonel, attempts to persuade TJ to change his mind and go to college instead. However, TJ is determined to help now and is being sent as a medic to Vietnam.

A significant portion of the story is revealed as Jamie's brother sends home letters to her parents but only rolls of film for her to develop. With the assistant of another solider on base, Jamie learns to develop the pictures. Through the letters, Jamie begins to learn that the war may not be exactly what she thought it was. At the same time, Jamie learns about her father's real reasons for not wanting TJ to enlist.

This coming of age story looks at what happens when a child learns that her parents can not do everything. Despite the seriousness of the topic, and the reality of the war, the book has a message of hope and a very appropriate ending. I believe my students will really like this one, and I can't wait to share it with them in the fall. This is one book that I would also highly recommend the audiobook as well as the written format. Both are equally wonderful.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Book Review- Bob Books First

By Bobby Lynn Maslen
Illustrated by John R Maslen
Published by Scholastic
Released April 2000
Ages 4-8
Source: bought
5 stars- I HIGHLY recommend as this series has been huge help in teaching my son to read.

Twelve books for beginning readers with consistent sounds. Introduces all letters except "Q." Bob Books was developed as a step-by-step, book-by-book program to guide your child gently through the early stages of reading. Each level addresses a stage in a child's reading development.

I was recommended this series by my sister in law who raved about how it helped her to teach my nephew to read. With my son being so eager to start reading, I had bought other beginning readers that didn't capture his attention like this series. Within a day of starting this series, he was already recognizing words and reading. This box set comes with 12 easy to read books. There is a series of 5 box sets. I plan on purchasing the other 4 sets shortly. I can't rave enough about the Bob Books. They are simple, easy to read with simplistic illustrations and are a valuable reading tool for both parents and children.

Book Review - Every Cowgirl Needs a Horse

Author: Rebecca Janni
Illustrator: Lynne Avril
Publisher: Penguin Group (February 23, 2010)
Reading Level: Ages 4 to 8
Source: Library
Rating: 3.5 stars

Description from GoodReads:
Nellie Sue does everything with a western flair. Whether it is cleaning up the animal sty (picking up her stuffed animals) or rounding up cattle (getting the neighborhood kids together for her birthday party), she does it like a true cowgirl. All she really needs is a horse. So when Dad announces at her birthday party, “I got a horse right here for you,” Nellie Sue is excited. But when her horse turns out to be her first bicycle, it will take an imagination as big as Texas to help save the day.

Author Rebecca Janni has a nice twist on the classic "I want a pony" story. Many little girls (and boys) have been known to ask for a pony for Christmas or their birthday. The main character, Nellie Sue, is dressed up in cowgirl attire and goes about her daily chores equating them to the chores she would be responsible for if she were to actually have a horse of her own. Each time she does another chore, she reminds her parents of her desire to have a pony. When her birthday party actually happens, she is given a pink two wheel bicycle. Nellie Sue doesn't hesitate. She jumps on her "horse" and heads out for a ride. Her first trip out isn't as successful as she had hoped for but with the help of her father the "horse" is back up and running with Nellie Sue back in the saddle.

Some books I believe fill a niche. The very pink color tones and female main character lends this book to a female audience. Though I think many young children will enjoy the language style of the book and the great illustrations, this doesn't appear to be one of those books that would likely end up in a general classroom library so much as in a personal library of a little girl who will personally relate to the story. It would make a great gift for that horse-lovin' little girl.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

In My Mailbox

This is our first official In My Mailbox post for Mundie Kids. We've normally combined what we've received for Mundie Moms and Mundie Kids (back when it had a different name) on MM's. In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by The Story Siren and was inspired by Alea of Pop Culture Junkie! We are posting the list of books we've received this past week for review, borrowed from friends or the library, received as a gift and/or bought.

For Review:
* Blue Fire (the Healing Wars, book 2), by Janice Hardy
Published by Harper Collins Children Books, to be released October, 2010
* Mackenzie Blue (released May 2009), The Secret Crush (released December 2009),
Friends Forever (released June 2010) Books 1-3 By Tina Wells
Published by Harper Collins Childrens
* How To Survive Middle School (without getting your head flushed) and Deal with an Ex-Best Friend,, Girls, and a Heartbreaking Hampster by Donna Gephart
Published by Random House Kids, released April 2010

Thank you to Harper Collins Children's and Random House Kids for our wonderful reads this week.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Book Review-If You Give A Moose A Muffin

By Laura Numeroff
Illustrated by Felicia Bond
Published by Harper Collins Childrens
Released on August 30, 1991
Source: Personal Copy
5 Stars- One we read over and over again

If a big hungry moose comes to visit, you might give him a muffin to make him feel at home. If you give him a muffin, he'll want some jam to go with it. When he's eaten all your muffins, he'll want to go to the store to get some more muffin mix.

This is a cute addition to the If You Give A Mouse A Cookie book series. With delightful illustrations and a cute story about a moose who wants a muffin, young readers will fall in love the story of a boy who gives a moose a muffin.

This has become a bedtime favorite for my kids. The story is cute and the illustrations are adorable. Who wouldn't have to spend the day playing with a big moose?!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Book Review - Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day

Author: Judith Viorst
Publisher: Scholastic
Originally Released: 1972
Source: Peronal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

"I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there's gum in my hair and when I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell it was going to be a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day."

So begin the trials and tribulations of the irascible Alexander, who has been earning the sympathy of readers since 1972. People of all ages have terrible, horrible days, and Alexander offers us the cranky commiseration we crave as well as a reminder that things may not be all that bad. As Alexander's day progresses, he faces a barrage of bummers worthy of a country- western song: getting smushed in the middle seat of the car, a dessertless lunch sack, a cavity at the dentist's office, stripeless sneakers, witnessing kissing on television, and being forced to sleep in railroad-train pajamas. He resolves several times to move to Australia.
I'm sure everyone has their favorite childhood books. Those ones that we can vividly remember having read to us. Books that were read over and over until we could "read" them without even looking at the words on the page.
If I had to pick one book from my childhood that fit this description it would be "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" by Judith Viorst.
This is a timeless book. A gem that I will always treasure reading. I can read this book over and over and never get tired of it. I wish I could say that about some of the books my kids ask me to read!
Once in a while we all have terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. Those days when we wake up on the wrong side of the bed and things just don't go our way. This book is the perfect reminder that some days are just like that, even in Australia.
Is there a book you treasure from your childhood? Have you shared it with your kids, students, or nieces and nephews?

Book - The Stonekeeper (Amulet, Book 1)

Author: Kazu Kibuishi
Publisher: Graphix (January 1, 2008)
Reading Level: Grades 4 to 8
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Description from GoodReads:
After a family tragedy, Emily, Navin, and their mother move to an old ancestral home to start a new life. On the family's very first night in the mysterious house, a strange noise lures them into the basement, where Em and Navin's mom is kidnapped by a humongous, tentacled creature and dragged down behind the basement door.
The kids give chase down a twisty spiral stairway and find themselves in a strange and magical world below. Most surprising of all, it seems that their great-grandfather, who was an inventor and puzzle maker, was there before them – and he's left some unfinished business.

Now it's up to Em and Navin to figure out how to set things right and save their mother's life!

Personally, I am not a huge fan of graphic novels. I actually think the pictures distract me. (I know that is silly.) However, in working with elementary age students, I am always on the prowl for books that might appeal to reluctant readers. And to be honest, graphic novels and manga appeal to many children and teens. When I saw this at Borders, I decided to pick it up.

Sometimes it is hard to find graphic novels that are specifically geared to fourth and fifth graders, but this is really the audience for this book. The story focuses on Emily who finds a necklace/amulet on her first day in their new home. Emily isn't certain what the amulet can do but she does know it can do something. That evening as her family is camping in the living room (electricity hasn't come on yet)her mother goes in search of the source of a strange sound. Before you know it, an octopus/squid like creature has swallowed her mother. The creature and the amulet lead Emily and her brother Navin to an alternate university and an adventure to rescue her mother commences.

Though I thought the book was fun, I felt some parts were a little underdeveloped and confusing, and scene transitions could have been stronger. I like to believe that this may be due to Amulet being the first graphic novel geared towards children by this author. However, I do believe that 9 & 10 year olds will love the story and will be clamoring to read the rest of the series. As a result, I gave this a 3.5. It was a good read and I will go on to book two to see if the series improves.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Book Review - LadyBug Girl Goes to the Beach

Author: Jacky Davis
Illustrator: David Soman
Publisher: Dial (May 18, 2010)
Reading Level: Ages 4 to 8
Source: Library
Rating: 4 Stars

Description from GoodReads:
Lulu loves the beach. Well, she’s never been there before, but she knows she will love it. And then she sees the ocean and it is big and loud and rough. That’s okay—Lulu wanted to build sand castles and fly her kite with Bingo anyway. But while they are building their sand castle, the sneaky ocean comes in and tries to steal Lulu’s favorite pail. This is a job for Ladybug Girl!
Lulu conquers her fear of the ocean when she remembers that Ladybug Girl can do anything, in this gorgeously illustrated companion to the popular series.

This is the fourth book in the Ladybug Girl series and this time Lulu and Bingo are off to the beach with her family. Lulu tells her brother that she loves the beach. He is a bit skeptical since she has never been to the beach before. When Lulu encounters the waves and force of the ocean, she begins to have second thoughts. After a day of trying to find ways to avoid going into the water, Lulu's favorite purple pail begins to float out to sea. Lulu's alter ego Ladybug Girl must come to the rescue.

This is a delightful story that helps children look at their fears and find a way to overcome them. David Soman's beautiful illustrations compliment the text. This is a fun summer read and will especially delight little girls.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Book Review I Need My Monster

Author: Amanda Noll
Illustrator: Howard McWilliam
Publisher: Flashlight Press (April 1, 2009)
Reading Level: Ages 4 to 8
Source: Library
Rating: 5 Star

Description from GoodReads:
A unique monster-under-the-bed story with the perfect balance of giggles and shivers, this picture book relies on the power of humor over fear, appeals to a child’s love for creatures both alarming and absurd, and glorifies the scope of a child’s imagination. One night, when Ethan checks under his bed for his monster, Gabe, he finds a note from him instead: "Gone fishing. Back in a week." Ethan knows that without Gabe’s familiar nightly scares he doesn't stand a chance of getting to sleep, so Ethan interviews potential substitutes to see if they've got the right equipment for the job—pointy teeth, sharp claws, and a long tail—but none of them proves scary enough for Ethan. When Gabe returns sooner than expected from his fishing trip, Ethan is thrilled. It turns out that Gabe didn't enjoy fishing because the fish scared too easily.

Every parent with a small child knows that at one point their child is going to ask about a monster under their bed or in the closet. There have been several well-known books that have dealt wonderfully with this topic. Amanda Noll's picture book I NEED MY MONSTER is a great addition to "monsters at bedtime" themed books.

Ethan's monster Gabe - you know the one that lives under his bed - has gone on vacation. What is a boy to do? With a thump on the floor, a series of substitute monsters arrive. With each new monster, there is something not quite right. One monster doesn't have claws, another no real tail, and geez, one is a girl with painted nails/claws. Ethan makes it clear to Cynthia that no boy has a girl monster. After awhile, Ethan is told that he is just too picky. As he tries to figure out how he is going to make it through the night, Gabe returns and all has become right with the world.

Howard McWilliam's dark, bold illustrations nearly pop from the book and add a nice balance to Noll's story. This is a great book to read with children and can be used to look at the issue of monsters at bed time with humor and sensitivity.

Book Review - The Shadows (The Books of Elsewhere #1)

Author: Jacqueline West
Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers (Release June 15, 2010)
Source: Personal Copy
Rating:5 Stars

Description from GoodReads:
Old Ms. McMartin is definitely dead. Now her crumbling Victorian mansion lies vacant. When eleven-year-old Olive and her dippy mathematician parents move in, she knows there’s something odd about the place—not least the walls covered in strange antique paintings. But when Olive finds a pair of old spectacles in a dusty drawer, she discovers the most peculiar thing yet: She can travel inside these paintings to a world that’s strangely quiet . . . and eerily like her own Yet Elsewhere harbors dark secrets—and Morton, an undersized boy with an outsize temper.

As she and Morton form an uneasy alliance, Olive finds herself ensnared in a plan darker and more dangerous than she could have imagined, confronting a power that wants to be rid of her by any means necessary. It’s up to Olive to save the house from the dark shadows, before the lights go out for good.

One of my reading goals this year is to read 25 books by Debut Authors as part of the Debut Authors Challenge being hosted by The Story Siren (Kristi) over here. Part of the thing I love with the Debut Challenge is it introduces you to some great new books and authors. And this is no exception.

This book has one of my favorite first lines. "Old Ms. McMartin is definitely dead." I can imagine being 10 and loving that line and wanting to read more which of course I did. The story is about Olive who is a little different from her family. Her parents are genius mathematicians but instead of a knack for math, Olive is the creative one in the family. After moving into her new home, an old home filled with interesting furniture and paintings that seem to be permanently attached to the walls, Olive discovers some unusal things about the house. First, something seems odd about paintings, then there are the talking cats, and finally Olive discovers old glasses that allow her to enter and exit the pictures. There are things that don’t just seem right and Olive is going to find out the answers to her questions.

I loved this book. It was well thought out, and the story was well developed. The first few chapters may move a little slowly as West sets up the background for her book, but it is definitely worth it. The author does a fabulous job of revealing just enough of the story to keep the reader moving along but wondering exactly who should be trusted and who shouldn’t. Olive is a likeable protagonist and I enjoyed her curiosity and how she went about trying to put all the pieces together. There were some scary moments in the story which are just scary enough without being too frightening but I would say that if you have a child who scares easily you may not want to have him/her read this. And though the main character is a girl, I think boys should like the book equally well.

Author West provides the reader with a satisfying ending to her story which allows it to be a stand-alone novel but leaves things open just enough so that the reader can hope for future adventures from Olive, Morton, and Horatio. This is one book that I plan to get into the hands of as many Middle Grade students as I can.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Book Review - No, David

By: David Shannon
Published by: Blue Sky Press
Released: September 1998
Source: Personal Copy
Ages: 2+
Rating: 5 Stars

When author and artist David Shannon was five years old, he wrote a semi-autobiographical story of a little kid who broke all his mother's rules. He chewed with his mouth open (and full of food), he jumped on the furniture, and he broke his mother's vase! As a result, all David ever heard his mother say was "No, David!" Here is his story.

This is one of those books that you will either absolutely love or you will hate it.

Here at our house we LOVE it!

My copy of this book is literally falling apart because it has been read so many times. My kids love all the David books by David Shannon. From my 2 year old to my teenagers they all like the silly pictures and short text. This is one book I don't mind reading over and over again. It is also one of the first books my children "read" on their own.

Big headed, skinny legged, pointy toothed David is always getting into something. No, David! has minimal text but combined with the crazy drawings this book is hilarious. Perhaps I can just relate to this book since at one time or another one of my children has done everything David does in this book.

Have you read any of the David books? Which camp do you fall into? Love them or hate them?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Book Review - Oh No! Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World

Written by Mac Barnett
Illustrations by Dan Santat
Publisher - Hyperion Books
Released Date - June 1, 2010
Ages: 4 to 8
Source: Personal copy
Rating: 5 Stars

Some kids are too smart for their own good . . . and maybe for everybody else’s good. When an overambitious little girl builds a humongous robot for the science fair, she fully expects to win first place. What she doesn’t expect is the chaos that follows. Mac Barnett, a picture-book author on the rise, and Dan Santat, illustrator of Rhea Perlman’s Otto Undercover series, combine forces to create a hilarious kid’s-eye account of the kind of destruction that can come only from a child’s good intentions. This book is sure to appeal to kids and parents familiar with the ordeal of science fairs. (description taken from GoodReads)

This year my school hosted our first science fair. Let's just say I have a new appreciation for science fairs and science projects. Another thing that I discovered this year was Dan Santat's illustrations. Consequently, a book about a science fair project with illustrations by Santat was something I was certainly going to check out. What I discovered was Oh No! Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World was a hybrid between a Japanese Monster movie merged with a picture book.

Imagine being a child who has created a robot for his/her science project and now the robot has gotten out of hand and is about to destroy the city? This is the perspective that Barnett takes with the story. The girl who's project is on the loose is trying to figure out how to stop the robot. At one point, she even mumbles that she should have given it "ears". At last, she utilizes a genetically altered toad to stop the robot. The text is simple and straightforward, and humorous. However, it really is Santat's illustrations that make the story go to the next level for me. The illustrator has selected an urban setting for the book reminiscent of a modern Japantown and the perspective of the robot towering through the streets feels vaguely like Godzilla on the loose. Even the end flaps have details for the robot and the genetically modified toad, and not to be left out, there are even some Japanese subtitles.

I can already see myself reading this with students before out next year's Science Fair or during our Dr. Seuss Read Across America Day. Another fun book to have in your personal or classroom library especially for fans of Japanese Monster Movies or Science Fair enthusiasts.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Book Review - Pickle-Ciffon Pie

By: Jolly Roger Bradfield
Published By: Purple House Press
Originally Released: 1967
Source: Library
Age: 4-8
Rating: 4.5 Stars

2 cups imagination
2 teaspoons humor
Exciting illustrations, one per page
At least one dragon
2 tablespoons silliness
Combine: 1 beautiful princess with 1 hero, well seasoned
A pinch of moral value
Mix together in a lively plot

Pickle-Chiffon Pie is a story without a villain. No fighting, no bloodshed, but still exciting and fast-moving. It is a tale that stretches the imagination: the reader must accept a juggling lion (six cans of root beer at once!) and a sixteen-foot Gazoo. Not a hard assignment for a child, but perhaps a bit more difficult for a wordly grown-up.

Take heart, you staid elders. The story has elements running throughout that should appeal to adults as well as children (how 'bout mice that paint in the fashion of Picasso, Matisse, Grant Wood and even Toulouse Lautrec?) because the author knew that if a story IS A REALLY GOOD ONE, parents everywhere would be commanded by their children to read it aloud again and again. And maybe even once more...

How could I have missed reading this enchanting book? Filled with unique colorful illustrations and a delightful tale this book is sure to please young children and their parents.

Originally released in 1967, by the end of the 1990s copies of this out of print book were selling for $80 to $100 on ebay. Purple House Press re-released this book in 2004.

Pickle-Chiffon Pie was a little longer than many of the read-alouds I read to my 4 year old but she sat, listened to and enjoyed this book. If you've never read this classic book do yourself a favor and go pick up a copy.

Book Review - Pop!: The Invention of Bubble Gum

By Meghan McCarthy
Publisher - Simon and Schuster
Released May 4, 2010
Ages 4 to 8 (classroom use Grades 2nd to 4th)
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Stars

Gum has been around for centuries. The ancient Greeks chewed sap from mastic trees. The American Indians chewed spruce resin. Men in top hats and women in puffy dresses chewed gum to cure things like stomachaches. Gum wasn't that exciting. But what if gum chewers could blow bubbles while chewing it?
In the late 1920s a factory in Philadelphia was working on a top secret project. Month after month the workers experimented with different ingredients and formulas. And month after month all they had to show for their hard work was a big sticky mess. Would there be no bubble gum? Sometimes the best inventions come from the most unexpected places...

Full of fun historical facts, Pop! is the true story of how bubble gum was invented. (taken from GoodReads)

Over the past year, I have been working to expand my knowledge of non-fiction picture books and I have been excited about what I have discovered. Non-fiction picture books with engaging text, outstanding illustrations, and solid facts. Pop! The Invention of Bubble Gum by Meghan McCarthy fulfills all my requirements for a top-notch book and one that I can't wait to share with my students.

McCarthy starts off with a brief history of chewing gum but quickly moves into how bubble gum was invented. She shares with her readers about Walter Diemer's repeated attempts to create a gum that not only you could chew but also create bubbles. McCarthy shares about Diemer's mistakes and near misses leading up to when he finally discovered just the right formula that would make the perfect bubble. The illustrations are bright, colorful and with just enough animation to keep the book fun but not go over the top. The two pages of detailed facts provided at the end of the book allow teachers to supplement the story.

This is a book that is not only fun to read, but great to have in both your personal collection and in your classroom collection.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Book Review - The Prometheus Project: Captured

By: Douglas E. Richards
Published By: Paragon Press
Released: September 2007
Source: For Review from Author
Ages: 8-12
Rating: 4 Stars
Included in The California Department of Education’s Recommended Literature for Science and Math and in Missouri State University’s Best New Books to Engage Students in Math and Science This fast-paced, science fiction adventure is a stand-alone sequel to The Prometheus Project: Trapped. Along with their scientist parents, the brother-sister duo of Ryan and Regan continue their exploration of a fantastic alien city built deep underground. When the city is captured by a ruthless alien—with unknown capabilities and diabolical plans—and his band of mercenaries, the adult members of the team are taken hostage, and the siblings remain the team’s only hope. To save the adults, Ryan and Regan must outwit the brilliant alien and his well-trained force, free the prisoners, and thwart a seemingly unstoppable invasion. Crammed with cliffhangers, nonstop action, and unexpected twists and turns, this novel introduces scientific topics—sound and hearing, ultrasonic sound, experimental methodologies, flashpowder, human memory, and superconductivity—to children while engaging their imaginations.

Although Captured is the second book of The Prometheus Project series by Douglas E. Richards it can easily be read as a stand alone. Aimed at middle aged reader from the ages 8-12, this is the perfect book for children who are interested in Science and like Science Fiction. The children in this book use their brain instead of their brawn. They analyze, ask questions, make connections and reason things out to solve the problems they face.

Captured held my interest throughout. It is a faced paced read that was both entertaining and fun to read. Filled with action and adventure this book is sure to delight readers whether young or old.

Book Review - Young Zeus

By G. Brian Karas
Publisher by Scholastic Press
First Relased on February 1, 2010
Age Level: Picture Book - Kinder to 2nd grade+
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5 Star

Description from GoodReads:
This is the story of how young Zeus, with a little help from six monsters, five Greek gods, an enchanted she-goat, and his mother, became god of gods, master of lightning and thunder, and ruler over all. in doing so, he learned a lot about family. Who knew that having relatives could be so complicated, even for a god?
Brian Karas says about his inspiration for this book, "I've been interested in working with myths, but I felt as though I needed a personal connection. I am of Italian and Greek descent so I started to think of my Greek heritage. But the world of Greek mythology was unknown to me and in a way felt inaccessible, until I learned more. The Greek believed their gods and goddesses to be, among other things, very human-like in their emotions and behavior. They had complicated family relations. They were flawed on many levels - they could be petty, impulsive and unreasonable. I started to recognize them. Then I travelled to Greece, I knew this place! This personal connection gave me what I felt I needed to work with a Greek myth. But which?

"I am also interested in the beginnings of things. When I started researching I kept looking for the ultimate source, the very first account, and largely drew from Hesiod's Thegony. Being interested in origins, I was also drawn to the Greek's version of the very beginning of things and it was here that I settled on the story of Zeus. There is much written about his reign as ruler of heaven and earth but very little about his youth and rise to power. The story of how his mother hid him on the island of Crete is a familiar one but there was a big gap in everything I read of what happened in between his life as an infant and his glory days. Young Zeus is my account of how things might have gone for young Zeus and what led him to become the omnipotent almighty god that he was believed to be."

When I came upon this book, I wasn't sure what I was expecting but I wasn't expecting it to make me laugh. I was also curious to see how Karas would create a picture book about Zeus that young children could connect with. After reading this story, I can honestly say that Karas both made me laugh and did a wonderful job developing a story about Zeus' early years in a way that younger children will be able to understand.

As noted in Karas's explanation of how he created the story, there is little known of Zeus' early life other than his mother hid him as an infant. However, the author works to provide a plausible account of those early years, as well as, to introduce children to various characters (gods & goddesses) in Greek Mythology. There is a cast of characters in the beginning of the book for reference purposes which I skipped initially but found myself going back to at the end.

Children will enjoy the various antics that Zeus gets into but more importantly how he rescues his brothers and sisters and then declares himself in charge. Young children who live with older siblings will especially enjoy this part of the book.

One of my favorite scenes in the book is when Zeus rescues his siblings:

"Then out came Zeus's brothers and sisters - looking surprisingly good - five god and goddesses of radiant beauty".

The illustrations show them all walking around after having been spewed out of Cronus's stomach. Maybe it was the mood I was in but it just seemed to capture the humor of the story.

When considering picture books, I truly appreciate when the text can stand alone or the illustrations can stand alone but together they are complimentary and bring the story to a new level. I felt that Karas's illustrations did a nice job highlighting the text and bringing it to a new level.

I gave this a 5 star rating because as an educator I feel it would make a nice addition to both a personal library and a classroom library. Additionally, I love that this can be used from Kindergarten to Grade 5.
I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves. ~ Anna Quindlen

Good children's literature appeals not only to
the child in the adult, but to the adult in the child.
~ Anonymous ~