All posts for the month December, 2012

Bomb! The Race to Build – and Steal – the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon

Published December 28, 2012 by Dagmar

BombMoving from the recruitment of Robert Oppenheimer to the building of Los Alamos to the testing of the bombs and Hiroshima and the eventual arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union, this excellent non-fiction book cleverly interweaves three story lines.  The first is the Americans’ attempt to build the atomic bomb.  The second is the Soviets’ attempt to steal the plans for the bomb.  The third is an attack on Germany’s heavy water plants in an attempt to prevent Hitler from building an atomic bomb.  Full of material that illuminates a period of history few middle school and high school students may be familiar with, this engaging read will keep them interested.  I’ve also recommended it to adults, because it provides real insight into the scientists that built the bomb, their motivations for building it and the motivations of some scientists to ensure that the United States wasn’t the only country in the world with this most powerful weapon.  Photographs are included.

Winner of YALSA Award for Excellence in Non-fiction for Young Adults, the Silbert Medal, a Newbery honor and a National Book Award finalist.


Press Here, by Herve Tullet

Published December 28, 2012 by Dagmar

presshereIf you’ve ever wanted to make a young audience scream with delight, read them this book.  You’ll need an audience volunteer.  Press Here is magical. Not only did my older students absolutely loved it, but my younger students are completely overjoyed by it.  I had to ask them to keep it down, or the fifth grade next door wouldn’t be able to work!  (My first graders even recognized a pattern in the book and started chanting it.) Highly recommended as a read aloud.

Synopsis: Follow the instructions in the book (involving pressing dots,  shaking the book or clapping) to see what happens.  Is it magic?  Maybe!

Smile, by Raina Telgemeier

Published December 28, 2012 by Dagmar

smileWonderful! What if you knocked out your two front teeth…in middle school? Smile takes me back to the times when I had braces and when I also had to figure out which friends were truly friends.  It’s a great book that just flies off my library shelves.  I can see why.  It’s great for fifth graders and middle schoolers.  For those of you who love this book, the same author wrote another book called Drama.

Synopsis: Raina knocks out her two front teeth when she trips and falls.  So begins an odyssey that includes false teeth, retainers, braces, headgear etc.  all during middle school when everyone is as self-conscious as humanly possible.  Following Raina through middle school to high school, this book takes her through her friends’ reactions to her appearance and her first crush on a boy.  Finding that her friends are not necessarily good friends, Raina finds a new group in of friends in high school who are supportive and don’t care about her appearance.

Kitten’s First Full Moon, by Kevin Henkes

Published December 12, 2012 by Dagmar

kittensfirstKevin Henkes is a well-loved author.  With very little text and simple black and white drawings, this book is perfect for read alouds with young students.  Kitten wants a glass of milk and mistakes the moon and then the moon’s reflection for a bowl of milk.  Poor kitten!  Luckily, kitten goes home and finds a nice glass of milk.

Clever Jack Takes the Cake, by Candace Fleming

Published December 12, 2012 by Dagmar

cleverjackJack is invited to the princess’ 10th birthday party and wonders what to bring. Trading away his few possessions, he makes an incredible cake to take to the princess.  But, all sorts of trouble lies ahead: crows, trolls and dancing bears, you name it.  By the time Jack gets to the castle he is left with one strawberry from the cake – only to find out that the princess is allergic to strawberries!  What to do?  Without knowing it, and with no present left, Jack gives the princess the best present of all.  My very, very wiggly third grade class sat so still you could hear a pin drop and then clapped at the end.  I loved this book before today, but seeing this class mesmerized made me love it even more.  The illustrations by G. Brian Karas are wonderful.

The Best Pet of All, by David LaRochelle

Published December 12, 2012 by Dagmar

bestpetHave you ever asked your mom for a dog and gotten the run around?  “Dogs are too loud.”  “Dogs are too messy.”  Well, what if you asked her for a dragon?  Thinking that she’s being clever, Mom says “yes” to the dragon. Big mistake.  It turns out that dragons are VERY bad pets and won’t leave when you ask them to leave. Luckily, they are terrified of dogs.  So, when it’s time to get rid of the dragon, what better choice than a dog?  This funny, clever book won applause from my second graders.  What a great read aloud!

Son, by Lois Lowry

Published December 11, 2012 by Dagmar

sonFor your kids that love dystopian novels.  Son, is the fourth novel in The Giver series.  The Giver is one of the original dystopian novels without all the violence.  Son can be read on its own, but definitely has more meaning if you’ve read the Giver and is better yet if you’ve read books two and three, Gathering Blue and Messenger.  I loved this book.  There was just the right amount of suspense, the characters were really beautifully drawn and there the element of “creepiness” that dystopian readers crave.  For those who have read the previous books, it’s fun to try to trace where this book intersects with the previous books in the Giver series.

Synopsis: Claire is assigned to be a birthmother at her 12 ceremony.  She and other girls are to give birth to “products”.  Once they’ve given birth to three products, they move on to another job in society.  Claire has difficulty with her first birth and is quickly reassigned to another job. So quickly, that those in charge forget to give her her daily pills.  Slowly her feelings for her son awaken.  Claire imagines running away with her son.  Her son, a difficult baby and toddler has been chosen for “release”.  That’s when Claire discovers that her son is missing, taken away by a boy from the community.  So begins Claire’s desperate search for her son.

“Stand Back, Said the Elephant, “I’m Going to Sneeze!” by Patricia Thomas

Published December 6, 2012 by Dagmar

stand backOh, oh.  The Elephant is going to sneeze.  The last time he sneezed, terrible things happened.  This was a very fun book that was applauded after I read it to our pre-k class today.

Synopsis: Elephant warns everyone that he’s about to sneeze.  Every animal begs him not to sneeze, because the last time he sneezed, the monkeys were blown out of the trees, feathers were blown off all the birds, the fur was blown off the bear, etc.  Luckily, a little mouse scares the elephant just enough that he forgets to sneeze.  Everything looks like it will end well, until the elephant falls to the ground laughing, because he didn’t sneeze.  Oh, oh!

Cat Up a Tree, by John and Ann Hassett

Published December 6, 2012 by Dagmar

catupatreeSuch a funny book! A great read aloud for K-2.

Synopsis: Nana Quimby sees cats up a tree and calls for help.  Every person she calls, including the fireshouse, the post office, the police station and city hall all say they can’t help.  Soon there are forty cats up a tree! Finally Nana lets the cats into her house.  When the mayor calls reporting mice everywhere in town, Nana Quimby gives him her own, very unhelpful response.

Pumpkin Soup, by Helen Cooper

Published December 6, 2012 by Dagmar

pumpkinsoupThis book was recommended to me by a friend, and I can see why.  The pleasant rhymes and great, colorful illustrations really hook students.  They loved this book!

Synopsis: Cat, Duck and Squirrel live together in an old white cabin.  They love to make pumpkin soup together.  Cat slices the pumpkin, squirrel stirs the soup, and Duck puts in the salt.  When Duck decides he would like to stir the soup, the friends fight.  Duck leaves the cabin.  When he doesn’t return by supper, Cat and Squirrel make pumpkin soup by themselves.  But, it’s too salty!  Worried about Duck out at night in the dark woods, Cat and Squirrel go outside to find him.  Thinking the Duck left them to find better friends who will let him help, they return to the cabin.  There is Duck!  The friends decide to make soup and kindly look the other way as Duck makes all sorts of mistakes stirring the soup by himself.