Uncategorized

All posts in the Uncategorized category

Marilyn’s Monster, by Michelle Knudsen

Published November 29, 2015 by Dagmar

Marilyn's MonsterI wrote about a wonderful book called Going Places a few weeks. ago.  It’s about a young girl who takes a go cart kit and builds something completely different.  I love creative thinkers, kids and characters who have the courage to follow their hearts, even if it means doing something completely different from what others are doing.

In this same spirit, I would like to introduce you to Marilyn, a young girl who is waiting and waiting for her monster to arrive.  All the other children have already met their monsters…at the library, or the playground, on the way home from school or while riding their bikes. Monsters are fun.  They become playmates and protectors. Monsters are great.  Marilyn starts to become upset, even a little angry that her monster hasn’t arrived.

Finally, Marilyn decides to break the rules.  Instead of continuing to wait for her monster, as she is told she must, Marilyn strikes out to find her monster. Like any worthy adventurer, she brings peanut butter and banana sandwiches and juice.  Marilyn looks everywhere.  She calls out to her monster.  Finally, she hears a faint sound.  It’s her monster.  He got lost and then stuck on his way to her.  He was waiting for her to find him.

Michelle Knudsen’s story makes you cheer for Marilyn and Matt Phelan’s illustrations will make you want a monster of your very own.

This is a wonderful story, perfect for younger students.  My students loved it.

Humphrey the Lost Whale, by Wendy Tokuda

Published November 3, 2015 by Dagmar

humphrey whaleI love to take my first graders on journeys around the world on library planes, boats and rocket ships.

Each year, I teach them about whales, and we read the fabulous book, The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson. I promised them last week that we would get on our boat again and visit Humphrey, the humpback whale.

This is the true story of Humphrey the Lost Whale, a humpback whale that swam under the Golden Gate Bridge one day in 1985, right into San Francisco Bay. As wonderful a sight as it was, having a humpback whale as big as a city bus right there in the Bay, there was trouble ahead. Instead of swimming back to the ocean, Humphrey went the wrong way, through the Delta and up the Sacramento River.  The Sacramento River is fresh water. Whales need salt water to live.  Even more troubling, Humphrey squeezed himself under a very small bridge to a place in the river where the water was shallow and narrow.

Everyone banded together, scientists, the Coast guard and citizens. They made loud noises underwater to scare Humphrey back down the river to the Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Humphrey, tired, lonely and hungry headed back down the river, only to stop in front of the small bridge.  He couldn’t get through it. So, once again, his rescuers worked to help him, digging a bigger space for him under the bridge. Humphrey saw the hole and started to swim through, only to get suck in the pilings under the bridge. With a twist of his body, he got through the bridge and moved back toward San Francisco Bay and finally the ocean.

Humphrey came back to the San Francisco Bay several times after his dramatic rescue, one time requiring another rescue. This book combines just the right amount of suspense for young students. My students were waiting with baited breath to see if Humphrey could be saved and all cheered when he made it to the ocean again.

 

Ninja Red Riding Hood, by Corey Rosen Schwartz

Published September 20, 2015 by Dagmar

Ninja Red Riding HoodI love fractured fairy tales. This one is one of my favorites. In Ninja Red Riding Hood, Corey Rosen Schwartz’s wolf is tired of struggling for his dinner. He’s decided that enough is enough. Time to go to the dojo for some martial arts lessons. He trains and he trains until one day, in the woods, he runs into Little Red Riding Hood. Perfect. Did someone say, dinner?

Wolf takes a short cut to Grandma’s house.  Grandma is not there, so Wolf slips into her nightgown and into her bed just in time to greet Red Riding Hood. Red Riding Hood, or Red for short, is suspicious. Why are Grandma’s eyes so big, ears so long, biceps to big, and teeth so sharp? Wolf leaps out of bed but is shocked to learn that Red went to Ninja school, too. Yikes. Evenly matched, wolf is still hopeful that he’ll have his dinner when in comes Grandma. She has been to Ninja school, too; and, Grandma looks fierce in her gi. In the blink of an eye, Red gets a grip on Wolf and flips him.

Wolf tries to give up and leave, but Grandma drives a hard bargain. If he wants to leave, he has to give up Red meat. (get it?) Wolf is stressed by this whole situation. He swears to give up red meat and decides to take up yoga. 🙂

Schwartz’s rhyming is great. Dan Santat’s illustrations are colorful and bold. The characters expressions are priceless. What a fun book. Lots of cheers from my second graders when I read this to them!

Dork Diaries, by Rachel Renee Russell

Published June 30, 2015 by Dagmar

This fiction series is always in demand in my school library.  I finally sat down to read the first book in the series this summer, right after I replaced all the missing copies from my library shelves and pre-ordered the 9th book in the series, due out on June 2, 2015dork diaries. Dork Diaries has that magic that began with Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Humor + drawings = appeal to just about every kind of reader.  I didn’t think I’d like it, but I loved it.

Dork Diaries is the story of Nikki Maxwell, eighth grader at Westchester Country Day.  She is the daughter of the school’s exterminator, there on scholarship. Nikki is having a tough time. New to the school, she is trying to fit in with the “CCP” (Cute, Cool & Popular) group at school.  The group, led by the impossibly mean and snobby Mackenzie Hollister, has all the best clothes, cell phones and get invited to the best parties.

At first, I worried that I wouldn’t like Dork Diaries.  In the beginning, as Russell sets the scene, the CCP’s mean girl talk is a little much for me.  It is actually really mean.  I didn’t want to read a book where the humor was all self-deprecating and the mean girl has all the power.  Russell seems to know just how far to go, because then Nikki’s humor kicks in.

There are lots of funny parts in the book.  I thought it was funny when Nikki’s parents try to cheer her up by putting positive messages around the house, saying things like “Be you OWN best friend.” and “Invite YOURSELF for a sleepover.”  Unfortunately, those two notes were put in the toaster slot and ended up starting a small kitchen fire. The best part of the book, I think, is when Nikki writes about her interactions with people in her diary. As she describes a scene, she’ll “say” something that makes you say to yourself…”OMG, she did NOT just say that out loud…”. Then, it’s followed immediately by “But I just said that inside my head, so no one else heard it but me.” Those moments totally cracked me up, because even though they happened throughout the book, they always surprised me.

Nikki goes through a lot of trials during her first year at Westchester, but ends up ending the year with grace and with Mackenzie jealous of her.  Go Nikki.

This book is most popular with my tweens and so could fit in an elementary school or middle school library.

Sisters, by Raina Telgemeier

Published June 28, 2015 by Dagmar

Sisters, Telegemeier’s third graphic novel in her autobiographic series that begins with Smile and Drama.  Fans of the graphic novels Smile (click the link to see my review) and Drama, won’t be surprised that Raina Telgemeier has another huge success on her hands.

I had the feeling this would be the case, after loving Smile and Drama, myself, and made sure I had no less than three copies on the shelves when I started the school year.   All three books were, in fact, checked out for the entire year (I replaced lost cosisterspies, twice), leaving me waiting with anticipation for my turn to read the book. When I closed the library on May 15th to finally retrieve all the missing books from my students and take inventory, I was able to check out all the books I’d been wanting to read all year. It was my chance to finally read Sisters.

So, here I sit, curled up on a couch in beautiful Lake Tahoe on summer vacation with a big stack of my students’ recommended books on my end table.  This moment encapsulates one of the best parts of being a school librarian – catching up on a big pile of books that your students have urged you to read.

I just finished Sisters.  What a great read.  Raina Telgemeier takes me right back to middle school, my own relationship with my sister, that middle school feeling of not fitting in – but wanting to – and feeling scared thinking that my parents were going to break up (they did).  Raina Telgemeier writes in an authentic voice that students (from 4th-middle school) can really hear and appreciate.  She touches on real issues, in just the right way.

So, if you’re looking for a sure fire hit, and you’ve managed to find a child that hasn’t already read this book, pick it up.  It’s a great summer read.  You won’t regret it.

The Case for Loving, by Selina Alko

Published March 16, 2015 by Dagmar

I love looking for new books to share with my students during African-American history month.  This year, I found quite a few that I really enjoyed for all ages.  This book really resonated with my the case for lovingfourth and fifth graders.

The Case for Loving is the story of the marriage of Richard Loving, a white man, and Mildred Jeter, an African-American woman.  The Lovings lived in Central Point, Virginia.  In 1959, interracial marriage was illegal in Virginia and 16 other states; so, the Lovings went to Washington, D.C. to get married.  Upon return to their home in Virginia, the Lovings were arrested for illegal cohabitation and sent to jail.  (I heard gasps from my students.  It does make you gasp, doesn’t it?)  They were told to move out of Virginia if they wanted to live together.  The Lovings moved to Washington, D.C. and had three children; but, they were not happy with their new urban life.  The Lovings wanted to return to Virginia where they could live in the countryside.  “By now it was 1966, and the times they were a changin’.”  The Lovings moved back to Central Point and filed a lawsuit, Loving v. Virginia.  The Loving case went all the way to the Supreme Court.  Richard and Mildred did not attend the Supreme Court hearings.  Their lawyers read Richard’s words to the justices, “Tell the Court I love my wife, and it is just unfair that I can’t live with her in Virginia.”  These words were so plain and so honest, they resonated with all my students.

The Lovings were victorious in their battle and nine years after marrying, they were able to legally move back to Virginia to live.

When I finished reading this book, my students all asked if this book was true.  I found the author’s note at the end of the book particularly poignant.  Selina Alko, a white, Jewish woman, married Sean Qualls, an African-American man and one of the illustrators of this book, in 2003,  having benefitted from the Lovings fight for justice so long ago.

The Land of Stories, by Chris Colfer

Published December 14, 2014 by Dagmar

My niece is a big reader.  One of my favorite things to do is to talk about books with her.  The Land of Stories might be the most enthusiastic recommendation she’s ever made to me.  She went on Land of Storiesabout how much she loved the book, and she was so excited that there were sequels to the story.  A few weeks later I was in a hotel in San Francisco, when I overheard a girl, about the same age as Emma, telling her grandmother about a great book she was reading.  She was so enthusiastic that I couldn’t help interrupting and asking her what book she was talking about.  You’ve got it. It was The Land of Stories.

I ordered the book for my kindle the next night and began reading the book.  I see what they saw in the book.  The Land of Stories falls in the fairy tale fantasy genre for middle readers.  There have been a lot of these books published lately.  Luckily, they are not cookie cutter.  Each is clever and has its own merits.  My particular favorites are this book, A Tale Dark and Grimm, A Hero’s Guide to Saving the Kingdom and Rump.  I’m terribly behind on reading the Sisters Grimm (incredibly behind, really, given that the series now has 9 books) but plan to read that book as well.  After reading it, I put it on my 4th and 5th Grade Fiction Book Club list.  My students raved about this book as well.

The Land of Stories is terrific.  Two great characters go on a quest – but not just any quest. This quest combines humor, mystery, adventure and lots of familiar fairy tale characters who are probably quite a bit different than you might remember.

The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell pulls you right in.  It  begins as Queen Snow White enters a dark dungeon to speak with her step-mother, the Evil Queen.  Snow White begs the former queen to tell her why she never loved Snow White.  The Evil Queen tells Snow White that “a villain is just a victim whose story hasn’t been told.”

The book then turns to two characters, Alex and Conner Bailey, 12 year old twins who live with their mother.  They live in a small house, having had to sell their old house after their father passes away in a car accident.  Life is difficult for the twins.  Their mother, trying to pay the bills, has to work double shifts as a nurse.  They rarely see their mother, and Conner is struggling in school.  Their grandmother is a light in their life.  When she arrives for the twins’ birthday, she leaves them with her most prized possession, an old story book called, The Land of Stories.

The old story book turns out to be more than just a book of stories.  It vibrates and hums.  It keeps Alex, normally a top student, up at night.  While not many people would think to try to drop a book into the pages of a humming storybook, Alex is just the kind of kid that does.  She drops in several books and a pencil and then, a little predictably, is sucked into the book herself.  Her twin, Conner, horrified as he watches her disappear, jumps right in after his sister.  What do you do when you fall into a book?  You meet a magical creature – not a faun, as might happen if you’ve fallen through the back of a wardrobe – but a big frog who offers you tea with flies (if you like).  The only way to leave the enchanted land?  Fulfill the requirements of the Wishing Spell.

I don’t want to give away too much, because this book is truly worth your time.  You’ll learn the truth about Goldilocks (a villain on the run), Little Red Riding Hood, Jack in the Beanstalk and that Evil Queen and whether she actually is a victim. You’ll also learn whether Alex and Conner ever find their way home.

Honestly, it would not surprise me if this book won an award.  Please don’t miss this wonderful book.  I’m launching a fantasy book club, and my students have already asked me to put book two of this series on the list.  Hmmm.  They might have to just borrow that book from my library shelves – so many more great fantasy books and series to explore!