Sunday, January 15, 2017

Winter Reading 2017 El Deafo

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Author Cece Bell has written a wonderful memoir of her childhood. She uses the graphic novel format to share her memories of what it was like to lose her hearing due to a severe illness before she was even old enough to start school. As she explains, this is based on her own experiences, and is not meant to be a defining example of the lives of others with hearing loss of various degrees. Cece takes experiences and people from her past and uses them to show some of the situations that were difficult, funny, sad, or triumphant. Some events were exactly like what everyone deals with in elementary school such as learning how to make friends, being nervous about starting a new grade or getting a new teacher, and having a first sleepover with friends. Others revolved more specifically around her hearing - people exaggerating what they said and speaking extra slowly, kids assuming that she knew sign language because she had hearing aids, or being referred to as "my deaf friend." Cece's sense of humor helped her cope then and her imagination created a wonderful alter ego, a super hero named "El Deafo," which has now become the title character in this amazing story.

Although we do not have any students in our school who use a Phonic Ear like the one Cece depended on at school, this book is a great way to start a discussion about how one attribute does not define who a person is or what they can do. This is a very popular checkout in our library just because it is a graphic novel, but I think the students who read it are learning about tolerance and understanding (even if they don't realize it).

Winter Reading 2017 The Adventures of Bubba Jones: Time Traveling through Shenandoah National Park

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Author and family hiking expert, Jeff Alt, has created a book series that lets kids explore the history of national parks. Bubba Jones and his family visit Shenandoah National Park to hike and camp, and also to work on solving a family mystery. Bubba Jones and his family arrive with their grandparents with plans to meet up with their cousin Washington and his parents, since they live near the park. They find out that Washington is working for the government on a project within the park, but it is top secret and he can't tell them any details. Bubba and Hug-a-Bug (his sister), feel like they can be trusted with secrets, after all - they protect the family secret of their time traveling abilities. Yes, you read that correctly, travel through time! 

This special ability is passed to every other generation and is a carefully guarded secret. Using that power, Bubba and his family get to see incredible scenes from the park's past, and even times before the park was founded. They meet famous figures like Thomas Jefferson and Herbert Hoover, see Paleo Indians hunting a woolly mammoth, play in the Iapetus Ocean 500 million years ago, and even see a military camp of Stonewall Jackson's troops and meet Civilian Conservation Corps workers. 

Combining the present day adventures of hiking and camping with the historical trips gives the reader a wonderful introduction to the park. Places like Massanutten Lodge, Rapidan Camp, Skyline Drive, and the Appalachian Trail will sound very familiar to readers who have visited the park, and those that have not been there yet will want to go after hearing all about its attractions. The blend of present day locations with historical events and figures makes it sound irresistible - just like the blackberry milkshakes in the roadside restaurants in the park.

I would recommend this book to families planning a trip to the park, those who are interested in outdoor stories, or readers who enjoy family stories in general. It would also be easy to build a novel study around this book and combine it with research into the national parks or early American expansion. The author suggests topics of study in the curriculum guide, as well as providing discussion questions and a bibliography. There is also the added benefit of the title being part of a series; if readers enjoy this book, they can reach for the next one and continue on with Bubba to the next park he explores.

I received a copy of the book from the author for review purposes. (And I had to laugh at Bubba's father picking up one of the author's books from the park gift shop.) 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Fall Reading 2016 Secrets & Sequences (Secret Coders #3)

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Hopper, Eni, and Josh are still working on their coding skills with Mr., make that, Professor Bee. They have learned how to use verbal commands, enter commands with a keyboard and combine simple programs to make the robot do something new. This time round they learn about ifelse statements. In the previous book, the rugby team seemed to have it in for the Coders, and now we find out why. (Nope, I'm not telling.) The friends learn more about Bee's history at the school and even find out some connections between Bee and Hopper's missing father. But they need to find a way to defeat the evil Principal Dean and his mysterious evil ally. And we are left - again - with a cliff hanger to keep us anxiously waiting for the next book, Robots and Repeats. No spoilers, but I will leave you with this quote from Eni, "When your arch enemy becomes your principal, it's time for your last resort."
For kids (middle grades and up), who are interested in computers, robotics, and solving puzzles - this series is wonderful. It explains how each program works, then asks readers to think through what program is needed to solve the next problem. 
To try out your own coding skills, you may want to visit www.secret-coders.com.
I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Winter Reading 2017 Click, Clack, Surprise!

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Little Duck is turning one and every animal on the farm is getting ready for the big party. Even Farmer Brown is in on it, baking and decorating a cake for the occasion. But problems arise when Little Duck decides to imitate the methods that the other animals use to primp for the party. All the guests are in for a very big surprise indeed!

Cronin and Lewin have added another winner to the Click Clack oeuvre. All the familiar animals are present, and watching them clean up to attend the celebration is sure to induce giggles. The sheep "snippity-clip, snippity-clip, snippity-clip clean," so that they go from looking like small white Sasquatches to something more similar to prize poodles. The rollicking, repetitive language will pull readers in and have them chanting along. 

I dare any parent or teacher to read it with a straight face as they come across the image of Farmer Brown strapping on an apron, or the phrase "Mice are floating past the window." (Say what? Yes, they are flying along, hanging onto the ribbons of balloons.) Or the illustration of Little Duck scrubbing his back with a brush bigger than he is.And then there is the page that shows the various animals canceling each of the party games. Imagine the explanations and discussions with youngsters about why Donkey would want to cancel Pin the Tail on the Donkey. That will be a lively talk.

Fans of the creative duo and the previous books set on the farm will be very happy to see this new one. New readers who have not encountered Duck and Farmer Brown before will be introduced to a whole new set of characters that they will want to add to their favorites.

I won a copy of the book in a giveaway.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Winter Reading 2017 Dust Bowl Girls: A Team's Quest for Basketball Glory

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I'm not a big sports fan, but I do enjoy an occasional story about outstanding players or teams. I really liked "A League of Their Own," and this book seemed to be a similar type of story. If you have never heard of the OPC Cardinals, you are not alone. But they deserve to have their story shared, and for others to look at them as a source of inspiration. Just the idea that a bunch of farm girls attending a small, Christian college during the Dust Bowl years could actually win a national playoff is amazing! Then, when you take into account the fact that they were playing the reigning champions, who were led by the legendary Babe Didrikson, their success moves into the realm of unbelievable. But they did it, and this book clearly details their time working toward the championship. 

Author Lydia Reeder is actually the great niece of the Cardinals coach from that historic time, Mr. Sam Babb. She uses details pulled from family scrapbooks (her own and those of players), newspaper and magazine clippings, interviews, and the accounts maintained by the team's unofficial historian. She manages to do several things at once - paint a backdrop of the economic climate in Oklahoma during the early 1930s, show each of the girls with her own individuality, and build the interest and excitement of readers as the team approaches the playoff. Even those who do not normally read sports can still have a wonderful time reading about the "Cards" and their visionary coach.

Great for historical perspective, sports history and development of girls' basketball, and female role models. Highly recommended.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through Net Galley.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Winter Reading 2017 One to Ten: Squirrels' Bad Day

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Besides the "If You Were Me" series that introduces young readers to countries around the world, and the entertaining Captain No Beard stories, Carole P. Roman also writes books that help children learn important coping skills. In One to Ten, readers see Squirrel devastated because she drops all the acorns she has gathered. When she acts as if it is the end of the world, her friends help her to put things into perspective. They talk through examples of other situations and help each other rate them on a scale of one to ten. By doing this, Squirrel and the others demonstrate how it is done and give children a great tool to use when they are facing a negative situation.

Perfect for parents or teachers trying to help children deal with disappointments or worries. Along with the supportive friends in the story, the illustrations also create a comforting atmosphere with their warm colors and scenes of friendship. Highly recommended for preschool and up.

I received a copy from the author for review purposes.

Winter Reading 2017 If You Were Me and Lived in...Israel

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The "If You Were Me and Lived in... " series introduces young readers to countries around the world through the eyes of children. The book on Israel is the latest addition to the titles available. Descriptions of the shouk (market place), and visits to the Dead Sea are described, as are major cities such as Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Common names chosen for boys or girls, and the nicknames for mommy and daddy are also introduced. Favorite foods, sports, and games are described. There is also a description of the holiday Purim and its historical heroine, Queen Esther. In the back is a glossary/pronunciation guide for the Hebrew words such as biet safer, glida, and shekels. 

Along with the everyday details of home, school, and pastimes, there are other facts about the country and its history. Many readers may not be aware that Israel has its own martial art form called Krav Maga. And they may be surprised to learn that four different religions consider it their Holy Land. (Since this is meant for younger students, the conflicts that have arisen over the years are not included.) Books such as this are great as a first introduction for elementary school students to the various cultures around the world. Teachers and librarians will find it handy to have the entire set on their shelves. 

I received a copy from the author for review purposes.