Monday, March 28, 2011

How To Get Rich On A Texas Cattle Drive

Booklist (May 1, 2010 (Vol. 106, No. 17)) Grades 4-8. After doling out sage advice in How to Get Rich in the California Gold Rush (2008) and How to Get Rich on the Oregon Trail (2009), the series looks at one of the more iconic careers in the Old West, the cowboy. Now, you might think that herding cattle isn’t the shrewdest way to make a fortune, and you might just be right. But that doesn’t make it any less fun to read about, and this book provides one of the better true-to-life insider accounts of what happens on a cattle drive: why the cattle are being driven, where they’re being driven to and from, and the multitude of daily chores and unforeseen obstacles along the way. Period photos and artwork, as well as original drawings, make for a lively design, and an ongoing ledger keeps track of the main character’s mostly modest finances. Oh, and the way to get rich turns out to be getting hired as a showman by Buffalo Bill and selling a book about it, so this will probably keep little wranglers’ expectations in check.


Booklist (September 1, 2010 (Vol. 107, No. 1)) Grades 3-6. After his widowed mother falls in an icy parking lot, breaks her leg, and is hospitalized, 10-year-old Jake is scared, even though he gets a lot of support from his caring Baltimore neighbors and from his ex–U.S. Marine grandfather, who, along with his old dog, Max, visits for the first time from North Carolina to help out. True to Jake’s viewpoint, the spare, first-person narrative is filled with immediate dialogue and small details that eloquently reveal Jake’s worry about his mother (and his guilt when he forgets to worry), as well as his wariness of strange, tough-love Grandpa and his crabby pet. Jake confronts Grandpa: Why didn't you ever come visit us? By the end, though, he bonds with both Grandpa and Max, and the story’s warm climax is a cozy Christmas party in Mom’s hospital ward with caring friends and neighbors. Never message-heavy, the drama about the meaning of family will touch readers.

Inside Dinosaurs

Library Media Connection (January/February 2011) This new series provides solid information on different science topics. The magazine-style layout is appealing with large, easy to read fonts and labeled maps, charts, and graphs. All books include information about one or more experts in the field. Inside Tornadoes and Inside Hurricanes give information about the weather conditions that form these storms and provide detailed photographs. Inside Dinosaurs offers a combination of photographs of skeletons and fossils, and illustrations. Inside Human Body, illustrated with cartoon-like drawings, covers the main body systems and includes anatomically correct boy and girl figures. Each book contains fold-out pages which unfold either horizontally or vertically. Some fold-outs enhance the topic, such as a timeline illustrating the different historic periods in Inside Dinosaurs, but others do not. Repeated unfolding might shorten the life of this series for high circulating libraries, but the information and graphics contained in these titles will appeal to upper elementary students. Bibliography. Glossary. Websites. Table of Contents. Index. Recommended. Barbara S. Zinkovich, NBCT Library Media Specialist, Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Elementary, Scottsdale, Arizona

Seeds of Change

Booklist (June 1, 2010 (Vol. 106, No. 19)) Grades 2-4. Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai has become a popular subject for the elementary-school crowd: this title marks the fourth picture-book biography about the Kenyan environmentalist to be released in the last two years. More than the previous offerings, Johnson’s title discusses Maathai’s education, particularly the role that her brother played in advocating that his sister attend school, and later, at college in the U.S., the inspiration Maathai found in her female science professors: “From them she learned that a woman could do anything she wanted to.” Throughout the poetic text, Johnson includes direct quotes, sourced in appended notes, which will help young people feel a more immediate connection to the inspiring activist and her powerful message. Sadler’s bright mixed-media art, reminiscent of Ashley Bryan’s work with its white outlines and rainbow-hued shapes, reinforces the sense of a depleted land growing green again and the presence, even in bustling city scenes, of a vibrant natural world. An author’s note and resources conclude this title, which complements, rather than duplicates, other recent titles about Maathai.

Swim! Swim!

Booklist (May 15, 2010 (Vol. 106, No. 18)) Preschool. Lerch the goldfish wants a friend, which is difficult since he’s the only fish in his tank. Undaunted, he swims around his tank, talking to the gravel, the plastic undersea diver, and the bubbles, though sadly none of them answer him. Just when he thinks he’s as lonely as a fish can be (in a wonderfully empty two-page spread), a cat arrives outside the tank and talks to Lerch. But, uh-oh, he calls him Lunch. Fear not, though, as young readers and storytime audiences will be greatly relieved by the final, friendly twist to the story. Though Lerch gets the credit for this picture book, James Proimos is responsible for the art and story. He uses the comic-book format, with panels and word balloons, to great effect here; Lerch’s repeated “Swim! Swim!” can be a nice storytime chant. The bright colors and clear art match the simple story and will attract the youngest read-to-me set.

What Happened on Fox Street

Booklist starred (September 1, 2010 (Vol. 107, No. 1)) Grades 4-7. Fox Street is missing a few things. One of them is foxes. The other is Mo Wren’s mother, who died when Mo’s sister, Dottie, was little more than a toddler. Even though they’re not around, 10-year-old Mo never stops looking for a fox in the ravine where her street dead-ends. And she never stops missing her mother, even as she takes on the responsibility of being in charge of wild-child Dottie and helping her dad. Fox Street, however, is home to some wonderful things as well: good neighbors, a plum tree in the backyard, and in the summertime, a best friend, Mercedes, who comes to stay with her grandmother, Da. When Mercedes arrives, summer really begins, but this year it is full of conundrums and upsets for both girls as their lives change and truths are revealed. Mo especially sees that the harder she tries to hold on, the less she can control. Springstubb does a lovely job of mixing character, plot, and purpose in a story that contains both hardscrabble realities and moments of magic realism. Her fluency of language supports both scenes that are down and dirty and those that soar. But it is her ability to render Mo’s tangle of emotions as her hopes and dreams collide with worries and fears that makes this so memorable.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Just in Time, Abraham Lincoln

Kirkus Review (November 15, 2010)
The creator ofJanuary's Sparrow(2009) andPink and Say(1994) sends two modern lads back to the Civil War for an encounter with President Lincoln and a shocked gander at an Antietam battlefield. Forced to leave their beloved electronic games behind, Derek and Michael aren't expecting much from their tour of a private Harper's Ferry museum-but when the owner dresses them in blue uniforms and passes them through a certain door they find themselves in 1862, standing next to Matthew Brady's wagon and about to experience war's aftermath firsthand. Climaxed by two wordless spreads of fields covered with twisted, bloodstained victims, the illustrations convey the boys' emotional shifts from boredom to astonishment, excitement to horror. They meet and talk with the sad, weary Lincoln, witness the taking of some renowned photos, stand rooted above broad and terrible killing fields and then survive a Confederate ambush on the way back to town and their own era. Rounded off with an afterword noting where some historical details have been telescoped, the episode will take a strong grip on readers' hearts and minds both.(Picture book. 9-12)

A Balloon for Isabel

Booklist (April 15, 2010 (Vol. 106, No. 16))
Preschool-Grade 1. In a cheerful school of possums, raccoons, and other woodland creatures, porcupines are left out on graduation day. While everyone else gets a bright, buoyant balloon to hold, the porcupines get bookmarks. A porcupine named Isabel tries to get around this school rule with her friend Walter, but their teacher, Ms. Quill, stands firm; a popped balloon might scare someone. Rankin’s animal illustrations are wonderfully expressive and make the most of Isabel and Walter’s comically doomed efforts: wearing a quill-covering box (but then you can’t get through doorways), strapping pillows onto each other (but quills shred pillows), and wrapping Walter in packing bubbles (“But the other kids tried to pop him”). On the night before graduation, Isabel sees the solution in a bowl of gum drops. Isabel bursts through the classroom door, her face glowing and each of her quills topped with colorful beadlike objects. Her porcupine pals happily adopt her look, and the final page reveals Ms. Quill, a grown-up porcupine, in all her gumdrop glory. Underwood’s story is entertainingly told and sweetly satisfying.

Ivy and Bean Doomed To Dance

Booklist (November 15, 2009 (Online))
Grades 2-4. Friends Ivy and Bean are opposites, but in this installment of the series, they agree on one thing. They want to take ballet lessons. Their parents, having been through their enthusiasms before, insist the girls must not quit and must not complain. This is easier said than done when, after the girls realize ballet is not all spins and tutus, they are cast as friendly squid in the underwater-themed recital. Another pleasing adventure, engagingly illustrated and fun for new readers.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Dazzling Display of Dogs

Booklist (December 15, 2010 (Vol. 107, No. 8))
Grades K-3. The creators of A Curious Collection of Cats (2009) offer another volume of concrete poems filled with playful action. Elementary students will pick up the wry wordplay, but younger children will have trouble deciphering the words amid the packed, digitally touched artwork. The poems do capture familiar scenes with pets, such as a dog playing with a tennis ball (“sloppery slippery slimy”) and the pitfalls of car trips with a pooch: “The very worst part / without a doubt / is when Cassandra / makes a fart.” Both silly and on-target, the slapstick rhymes are good choices for family sharing.

Phileas's Fortune: a story about self-expression

School Library Journal (August 1, 2010)
K-Gr 4-A young boy lives in a strange land where people must buy and swallow the words they need in order to speak. Those who can't afford expensive words must resort to using dull, boring, discarded terms found in trash cans and gutters, and old-fashioned, useless words that go on sale. Occasionally, if they're lucky, they can catch a few good words floating in the air. Phileas desperately wants to wish his friend Cybele a happy birthday and profess his love, but unlike the bully Oscar, who has enough money to blurt out his feelings, He can't afford the right words. Instead, he smiles at her and, with all the love in his heart, utters "cherry!" "ruby!" "chimes!" Cybele doesn't have any words either, so she simply gives Phileas a kiss, to which he responds with a word he has been saving for just the right occasion: "again!" The exquisite and evocative sepia-tone paintings, highlighted with bold, vibrant reds, beautifully illustrate the poetic text and breathe life into the characters. Demonstrating that what we say is not nearly as important as how we say it, this import provides a wonderful springboard for discussing the power of words and the importance of honesty and sincerity. It will be a welcome addition to picture-book collections and useful to teachers engaged in values education.-Rachel Kamin, North Suburban Synagogue Beth El, Highland Park, IL Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.

Oscar and the Very Hungry Dragon

Kirkus Review starred (August 1, 2010)
A terrifying beast meets its match in a resourceful boy. When the earth trembles, the villagers at the bottom of the hill know it's time to send the dragon a princess to eat. One day, unfortunately, no princess is available; a child is the next best thing. Village elder Mr. Ballymore holds a lottery and young Oscar (in short pants and backwards baseball cap) is selected. Oscar convinces the dragon, who hasn't eaten in nearly a year, that he needs to be fattened up and turns his birdcage prison cell into a master kitchen. He teases the dragon with tantalizing smells while putting off the day of his eating with additional requests for savory ingredients, all designed to fatten him up, and the old Hansel-and-Gretel trick (he's a well-read boy, too). In the end, the dragon proves that, though he's indeed very hungry, he's also very nice. Packed with wit that never descends into camp and illustrated with verve and style in ink-and-watercolor cartoons, Krause's substantial, self-translated fractured fairy tale delights on every level. (Picture book. 5-8)