All posts for the month June, 2013

Women of Hope: African Americans who Made a Difference, by Joyce Hansen

Published June 30, 2013 by Dagmar

Women of HopeI love to read parts of this book aloud to my students during African-American history month.  This book features quotes, black and white photographs and a page about many notable African-American women, including: Ida B. Wells-Barnett, The Delany Sisters, Septima Poinsette Clark, Ella Josephine Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ruby Dee, Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Marian Wright Eledman, Alica Walker, Alexa Canady, Mae C. Jemison with a list of more notable women in the back of the book.

This book makes a great resource for teachers or a wonderfully inspiring book for young people.  Read a page here and there, or read the entire book.  Either way, don’t miss it.


Titanic: Voices from the Disaster, by Deborah Hopkinson

Published June 28, 2013 by Dagmar

TitanicThe story of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 on its maiden voyage has fascinated so many.  The Titanic’s story never really captured my attention, but that ended when I listened to the audio version of this book last year.  I decided to read the book myself when I saw the number of pictures and side bars the author included in the book.  Although I liked the audio edition, I think you lose something if you don’t actually read the book.  The additional content is really great.

Titanic: Voices from the Disaster was published in 2012 on the 100th anniversary of the loss of the Titanic at sea.  It tells the story of the Titanic from the time it was built to the day of the disaster and, finally, its discovery at the bottom of the ocean in September 1985.   The author weaves in an incredibly suspenseful story from the recollections and pictures of different survivors, passengers and crew alike, pictures of the Titanic’s incredibly luxurious accommodations and details about the construction of the boat.  I couldn’t put this book down.  It moved quickly, and the side bars and pictures were really interesting.

I’d recommend this book to middle school, high school and adult readers, especially those interested in the story of this great ship.  This book won a 2013 Silbert Medal honor.

Thanks to Junior Library Guild for introducing me to this great book.

The Z was Zapped, by Chris Van Allsburg

Published June 27, 2013 by Dagmar

the z was zappedI’m a fan of Chris Van Allsburg’s work, particularly of The Garden of Abdul Gasazi.  I save most of his books for my older students, so finding a book that my younger students can enjoy is great.  As always, there are incredible black and white illustrations and just a touch of dark humor in the book. This is definitely a different kind of alphabet book. 😉

In the Z was Zapped, the entire alphabet, presented in “a play in 26 acts”, meets its demise on stage.  “The A was in an avalanche.  The B was badly bitten.  The C was cut to ribbons…”  It’s fun watching my students guess at how each letter meets its end.  This was perfect for my 1st graders.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, by Mo Willems

Published June 26, 2013 by Dagmar

Pigeon busWhatever you do, DON’T let the pigeon drive the bus.  Mo Willems has a great sense of humor, and this book is simply hilarious.  There is not one class, pre-k through 5, that doesn’t laugh hysterically when I read this book.

Pigeon really wants to drive the bus.  But, the only thing the bus driver as asked you to do is NOT let pigeon drive the bus.  Sounds easy, right?  Well, pigeon really, really wants to drive this bus.  He’ll tell you just about anything to get to drive the bus.  Any adult that’s been around a child will recognize Pigeon’s ploys as he tries to cajole you into letting him drive the bus.

Enjoy!  You may just be laughing as loud as the children around you.

This book won a Caldecott Honor in 2004.

Holes, by Louis Sacher

Published June 25, 2013 by Dagmar

holesThis book has an effect on kids.  I’ve had countless kids tell me that it’s a great book.  I have one student that stood up and hugged me when I gave him a donated copy to keep.  I knew it was his favorite book in our library.  It’s also one of my son’s favorites, so I think I have a soft spot for this book.

Stanley Yelnats (read it backwards) is an unlucky child that comes from an unlucky family that is said to be cursed.  When a star basketball player’s pair of sneakers falls on Stanley’s head from above, Stanley  is accused of stealing the shoes.  Stanley goes to court, is found guilty and is sent to Camp Green Lake, a youth detention center in the middle of a dried up lake in Texas.  There Stanley and the other children are forced to dig holes every day for the warden, with little water and bad food.  You might think this book is too dark and might even want to give up on reading the book at this point. Don’t.  If you do, you’ll miss an amazing book.

Sacher cleverly weaves Stanley’s story with that of Stanley’s great, great grandfather, Elya, an old Egyptian woman named Madame Zeroni, a woman named Kate, a man named Sam, his donkey, Mary Lou, and Sam’s incredibly powerful onions. Woven together, Louis Sacher creates a powerful story of friendship and of good overcoming evil that you won’t forget.

Highly recommended for tweens and middle schoolers.  Holes is a Newbery and National Book Award winning book.

Hilda Must Be Dancing, by Karma Wilson

Published June 22, 2013 by Dagmar

hildaThis book is really fun.  I read it to my preschoolers and kindergartners, and they love it.  Full of onomatopoeias, you can have a blast reading this one aloud.

Hilda loves to dance, a LOT!  Unfortunately, for everyone else around her, Hilda’s dancing causes the jungle floor to shake.  “While Hilda danced flamenco in her favorite pair of heels, bananas fell in gooey heaps, shaken from their peels! Swisha-Swisha, Clap! Clap! Jump, Jump, Jump!  ‘Hilda must be dancing!’ cried the monkeys from the trees.  ‘Perhaps she’d take up knitting if we asked her, pretty please?’ ”

Enjoy the very colorful and bright illustrations by Suzanne Watts and definitely enjoy Hilda’s dancing!

Summer reading list update

Published June 20, 2013 by Dagmar

Here’s a partial update on my summer reading list. I found a couple of great books and one that I think better fits a high school library.

Witness, by Karen Hesse

witnessI really enjoyed this short but powerful historical novel and would recommend it to middle school readers.

A Ku Klux Klan comes to a small town in Vermont in 1924.  This story is told by different townspeople, including a young Jewish girl who comes to the town for the summer each year and an African-american girl who lives in the town.  Some townspeople are swayed by the message of the KKK and some are not.  The situation comes to a head when violence erupts and the townspeople have to take sides.

A Hero’s Guide to Saving the Kingdom, by Christopher Healy

a hero's guideThis is a laugh out loud book for tweens and middle schoolers who love strong female characters and rooting for the underdog.  Recommended to me by a student as her “favorite” book she read this year, this book was also a Junior Library Guild selection.

Well, it turns out that the bards got it wrong.  In their songs, they tell the story of one Prince Charming who saves Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty.  In fact there are four Prince Charmings (Liam, Gustav, Frederic and Duncan) who turn out to be quite a disappointment to their kingdoms and the fabulously smart, capable and adventurous princesses they supposedly save.  What will these misfit princes do when a wicked witch steals all the bards from each kingdom and keeps them hostage?  Will they be able pull together and fight dragons, giants, trolls, bandits and more in order to save the bards…and themselves? What a fun read!

Jasper Jones, by Craig Silvery

jasper jonesThis book won a Printz Honor for Young Adult literature.  Sometimes YA books work for middle school, and I wanted to give this one a try. This book has very graphic scenes and mature content, suited for a high school library and not a middle school library.  Despite the fact that it won’t work for my own library, if you like a good mystery, this is a great book about two high school boys who become involved in a brutal murder.  There is suspense and a good story – lots of elements of the mystery to uncover.  Despite the fact that my mission is to uncover books that work for my prek-middle school students, I couldn’t put this book down.

More results from my summer reading coming soon!  Please don’t forget to comment with books you’d recommend!

The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick

Published June 19, 2013 by Dagmar

hugo cabretThe Invention of Hugo Cabret is very special.  It is unlike any other children’s book I’ve read.  Selznick masterfully intertwines illustration with words to create a captivating story.  When I first opened this book with my son years ago, I was amazed by the illustrations.  As my son and I turned the pages, he was completely taken in by the story, as was I.

This year, I had a student who was reading easy chapter books.  As a very bright fifth grader, I knew he needed to challenge himself with more difficult books.  I suggested this book and watched as it opened up the world of literature for this child.  He devoured the book in two days, brought it back and checked out Wonderstruck, Brian Selznick’s next book.  These two books led him to explore many different books in my library.  I was amazed at this student’s transformation from a child who liked books to a child who became an insatiable reader.

Hugo is an orphan, living in a train station in Paris. Hugo’s father and his uncle had a talent for fixing mechanical things, particularly clocks and taught Hugo their trade.  After Hugo’s uncle passes away,  Hugo hides in the train station in his uncle’s old apartment, maintaining the station clocks in order to fool the station master into believing his uncle is still alive.  But, Hugo has an even bigger secret.  Before he died, Hugo’s father was trying to repair a mechanical man that he and Hugo believed would draw a picture or write a message once he was repaired and able to write again.  Hugo’s one wish is to complete his father’s work and read the mechanical man’s message.   This endeavor leads Hugo to meet new friends and unravel more than the mystery of the message, but the mystery of of the mechanical man and his inventor.

This book won the 2008 Caldecott Medal and is unique and memorable.  It’s perfect for tweens, middle school students and adults.  Don’t miss it.

Flight, edited by Kazu Kibuishi

Published June 18, 2013 by Dagmar

flightFinally, something to satisfy the many Amulet fans in my library.  As I mentioned in my blog article about Amulet, my students are so sad that the series only has five volumes.  Many of my students have read each book of Amulet multiple times.  Kibuishi’s Copper book also circulated like crazy until our copy was lost.

So, when I found out that Kazu Kibuishi created a collection of graphic short stories, I thought I’d give these books a try in my library.  I was not disappointed.  While the work is not entirely that of Kazu Kibuishi exclusively, it is a really nice collection.  It contains short stories from 21 authors, including one story from Kibuishi.  I ordered the first three books, and they immediately started circulating.  There are eight books in all, and I’ve already been asked by my students to add to our collection.  While most of these stories can be understood by younger students, I would recommend them for a tween and older audience.

Patrick’s Dinosaurs, by Carol Carrick

Published June 15, 2013 by Dagmar

Patricks DinosaursThis is a sweet book about a little boy with a vivid imagination.  Great for young dinosaur lovers.

Patrick and his big brother Hank go to the zoo.  When Patrick sees an elephant, he says, “I’ll bet that elephant is the biggest animal in the whole world.”  His brother tells him that “a brontasaurus was heavier than TEN elephants!”  As Hank tells Patrick about prehistoric animals, they all come alive in Patrick’s imagination.  Stegasaurus, Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus Rex.  Luckily, just before Patrick’s imaginary Tyrannosaurus Rex does anything too dangerous, Hank assures him that dinosaurs have long been extinct.  Phew.  Enjoy!