Monday, August 25, 2014

Summer Reading 2014 Jet Plane: How It Works


I love David Macaulay's books. They always amaze me with the way he can break complex things down into their components and make them understandable. His book, The Way Things Work, is a favorite in our library. So when I discovered David Macaulay's My Readers books, I was extremely pleased. They are just 32 pages long, but still filled with all his intricately labeled and diagrammed illustrations and compelling explanations of different nonfiction topics. To help with learning more about each topic, the books have a glossary, an index, and a list of suggested books and other media to explore.

Since I love planes and flying, I read Jet Plane: How It Works and thought about how much my fellow aerospace educator buddies would love to have copies of this book to use with their students. How in the world does he fit so much into such a small book? There are diagrams of how planes pull away from the terminal and the interior of a jet engine; explanations of lift, thrust, and how to steer a plane; and the glossary is built around a diagram of the plane with all the parts nicely labeled. There is much more than that, but you need to see it for yourself.

I recommend this to any reader who enjoys books about planes or transportation in general, and the parents and teachers of those readers. We have added a copy of this book to our library.

Summer Reading 2014 Lunch Lady and the Picture Day Peril


Lunch Lady and her sidekick Betty are back for another adventure. This time around there is something fishy going on with the school picture day. Nearly every student shows up with major acne the day of pictures and the photographer is charging $15 each to airbrush the photos. She seems convinced that everyone is a natural in front of the camera and encourages many of the kids to bring in some money so that she can make up modeling portfolios for them. Betty and Lunch Lady have to use all their detective skills to find out what is really going on. At the final showdown, our heroes have to use the art of disguise to blend in as fashionistas - which is a very funny look for them.

Some of my favorite gadgets from this book include the fancy ketchup-packet laser, the mustard grappling hook, serving spoon crowbar, and chicken nugget bomb. It certainly makes you look at school lunches in a whole new way. You can always count on Lunch Lady to serve up lunch...and justice.

In his TED talk, author Jarrett Krosoczka explains what inspired him to begin the Lunch Lady graphic novels and how he went on to start School Lunch Hero Day. We have added a copy of this book to our library.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Summer Reading 2014 The Case of the Vanishing Little Brown Bats: A Scientific Mystery


Sandra Markle has the knack for writing about scientific concepts in an enjoyable narrative. Similar to her book on the vanishing honey bees, this book tells about the little brown bats and how scientists are trying to save them. It traces the story from the first realization that something was happening to the bat populations in northeastern caves, through the investigations and testing to identify the problem, and then goes into what scientists are doing now to combat the White-Nose Syndrome. 

Each 2-page spread has either a full page illustration, or large illustrations on both pages. The photos bring the story to life and capture the reader's interest, as well as keeping the reader from being overwhelmed by nonstop text. I particularly like the map that shows where and when the WNS has been identified. It is easy to see how the problem has spread over time and readers can see if it has reached their area of the country. Other nice elements include captions for all photos, definitions of words within the text (as well as in a glossary at the back of the book), a listing of books and websites for further information, and even a list of ways to help in your area and bat conservation groups to contact.

This would be a great book for anyone interested in wildlife - either studying the animals, conservation efforts, or related scientific fields. It would also be great to use in a classroom as an example of nonfiction/informational text and all the useful text features that help readers find the facts they need (table of contents, index, etc.). It could also be used with a unit on maps and how they serve as infographics to convey various types of information. However it is used for learning or recreational reading, it will be a winner.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It will be released in stores on September 1, 2014.  In the meantime, you can check out the author's blog.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Summer Reading 2014 Always, Abigail


May I just say that Nancy Cavanaugh is a genius when it comes to making realistic middle school characters? Because she is...she's a genius. Her novel is written, not as a diary or journal (although readers who enjoy Dork Diaries or Dear Dumb Diary will enjoy it), but as a series of lists. As Abigail explains, - Lists are much cooler than, "Dear Diary, Blah, blah, blah..." - The headings for the lists are as much a part of the story as the lists themselves. We see things like, "Three reasons I hate being in a different homeroom than Allicam," "Three reasons I'm going to have to get a new life," and "Five things I thought after reading the note." 

In the story, Abigail and her two best friends are beginning 6th grade and their life's ambition is to make the pom-pom squad. Sadly, Alli and Cami (a.k.a. Allicam), are in homeroom together and Abigail is in a different homeroom without them. They can't even practice their pom-pom routines together at lunch because their rooms have different lunch periods. Other reasons Abigail is unhappy with middle school so far (I'm starting to write lists like she does): her homeroom teacher is the strictest teacher in the school, her mother was a star student and the teacher expects the same thing from Abigail, and the teacher assigns them partners to write letters to and Abigail is stuck with Gabby Marco (a.k.a. the biggest outcast in the school). Could things get any worse?

Actually, things do get worse. Things involving a mud puddle on the way to the bus, overhearing Allicam talking about her, mean pranks by other girls, and some teasing by a boy in her class. At one point her mother asks if she has made some new friends and Abigail thinks to herself, "New friends, Mom? Really, do you remember at all what middle school was like?"

I remember middle school. For me it was 8th grade year that was so hard. My best friend was in another homeroom and we didn't have any classes or lunch together. Then, in the middle of the year, we moved and I had to change schools. Does anyone else recall how awful it is to be the new kid? Especially if you move in after everyone has already formed their groups of friends for the year? It was awful - so I totally sympathize with Abigail about being depressed over her situation.

Luckily, in books and IRL (in real life), Abigail's mother is right and you can always make new friends. Along the way Abigail learns what being a real friend is all about and finds out that pom-poms are not the center of the universe.

This is a great book for anyone who is feeling discouraged about their homeroom assignment, their chances at team tryouts, or school in general. I really appreciated all the great books that were mentioned throughout the story - everything from Green Eggs and Ham to Hatchet

I received an advance copy of the book from the publisher so that I could give my honest review. The book is now in our library.

There is an awesome author interview available. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Summer Reading 2014 The Zoo Box


Like a kinder, gentler version of Jumanji, Erika and Patrick open a box clearly labeled "Do Not Open." By doing so, they let the cat out of the bag, They also let out a kangaroo, a penguin, a giraffe - you get the picture. But then, what did their parents expect when they left the kids alone in the house where they could get the key to the attic and find the box? In a zany reversal of roles, the kids follow all these creatures to the zoo and find that the animals are buying tickets to watch humans that are on display. Will they be able to escape or wind up a permanent exhibit?

Readers will have fun predicting what will happen next. The illustrations are in comic strip style boxes on most pages, with the occasional full-page or even double-page spread to really capture your attention. I can imagine a class project where each student creates their own illustration of a human exhibit for the animals to visit in the zoo. Will they choose to show a dining room, a classroom, piano lessons? There are endless possibilities.

Don't read this at bedtime, because everyone will be too amused to settle down and sleep when the story is over!

I received an advance copy in exchange for an honest review. The book was published July 15, 2014.

Summer Reading 2014 Julia's House for Lost Creatures


Ben Hatke, creator of the popular Zita the Space Girl graphic novels, has now completed his first picture book. This debut in the picture book genre is just as full of whimsy and humor as Zita's adventures. Julia, our main character, has a house that is quite out of the ordinary. When it comes to town (yes, the house comes to town), and settles in a cozy seaside spot, Julia discovers that her home is too quiet. Being a very proactive girl, she makes a sign that reads "Julia's House for Lost Creatures" and hangs it near the front door. Before long the house is full of all sorts of odd creatures and it isn't quiet any longer. Now there are noises and messes and Julia comes up with a brilliant solution to the problem.

This is a perfect story to illustrate problem solving and cooperation. And, although the text is sparse, there is plenty of detail to talk about from the illustrations that support those brief phrases. Fans of Hatke's style of illustration will feel right at home with this book and it can also be an introduction to his work for those that have not encountered his graphic novels yet. Julia and her house of creatures remind me of Pippi Longstocking and her house full of pets and critters. It's comforting to see someone who is willing to open their home to the lost and displaced.

I received an advance reader copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review of the book. It will be published on September 2, 2014.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Summer Reading 2014 Sisters


Readers who enjoyed Smile will be happy to have another Telgemeier story in the same autobiographical style. This time around Raina, her sister Amara, brother Will, and her mother are driving from their home in San Francisco to Colorado Springs for a family reunion. Raina's father is staying at home to go to work all week, then flying out to meet them. The events of the trip are interspersed with flashbacks to other family memories like Raina begging her parents for a sister (something she seems to be regretting during this trip). There are plenty of laughs, many of them revolving around a pet snake. And there are also some tense moments when the sisters discuss the possibility of their parents splitting up.

Anyone who has ever done a long-distance car trip with siblings will be nodding and thinking, "Oh yeah, I went through the same thing." The appeal of the story is that it deals with real life and we can identify with it, but the events are at enough of a personal distance from us that we can see the humor much more easily than we could if we were actually living it. This is another success by Telgemeier and I am looking forward to what will come next.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It will be published August 26, 2014.

Update (9/19/2014) - We just added this title to the library through our Scholastic Book Fair.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Summer Reading 2014 The Fourteenth Goldfish

Jennifer Holm (of Babymouse fame) has written a wonderful story of laughter, growing pains, and an exploration of whether growing up and aging is actually a good thing or not. Ellie and her mom live in San Francisco. Her parents are divorced, although they get along pretty well. Mom is nervous about taking the big step and marrying her boyfriend, because she doesn't want to make another mistake. Ellie is an only child, but has a great best friend named Brianna. Rather, she HAD a best friend, until Brianna joined the volley ball team and started spending all her time with her teammates. So Ellie is already sad about growing up and growing apart from friends at the beginning of the book, and then her babysitter quits to go work at the "ear-piercing place at the mall."

On her babysitter's last night on the job, Ellie's mom gets a phone call to come down to the police station and pick up Ellie's grandfather, Melvin. It seems that Melvin has discovered a cure for old age and tried it out on himself. He now looks like a thirteen-year-old and was arrested for trespassing in his own research lab. (Go ahead and laugh, you know you want to.) Melvin has to move in with them and go to school with Ellie so he won't wind up in foster care or a group home somewhere. You can imagine the problems that follow - mom telling Melvin what to do, Melvin telling Ellie and her mom what to do, trying to keep the secret of his identity from everyone, Melvin trying to survive middle school when he's been a research scientist for over 40 years and doesn't want to listen to the teachers...It's a good thing her mom is a drama teacher, because their lives are suddenly full of drama.

Readers who enjoy stories about growing up and finding new interests and friends, or families learning how to get along and when to let go, or humorous stories about scientists and the unexpected results of their experiments - you need to read this.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It will be published August 26, 2014.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Summer Reading 2014 Captain Underpants and the Tyrannical Retaliation of the Turbo Toilet 2000


Who knew that a red, rubber kickball could cause so much trouble? But when that ball has been kicked into outer space and races toward Uranus for five and a half books before smashing into Robo-Plunger, terrible things happen. Our heroes, George and Harold, have to face many scary situations in this latest adventure. There is the return of the Turbo Toilet 2000, Melvin and his glow-in-the-dark, time-traveling Robo-Squid suit, Super-Secret Test Day, and the threat of being placed in separate grades and never being in the same class again! (Hey, the threat of separation was enough to motivate Bill and Ted into having their Excellent Adventure, so we know it could work.)

By the end of the book we've had one guest artist and his nana, 2 Georges and 2 Harolds, three hamsterdactyls, and an awesomely violent smack-down between Captain Underpants and the Turbo Toilet 2000. Add in several sections of flip-o-rama, and what more could you want? Fans of Geroge, Harold and the Captain will be delighted at their return home from time-travel and eagerly awaiting the sequel.

One of my favorite parts is something young readers may not catch. The boys name their pet hamsterdactyls - Dawn, Orlando, and Tony. There are plenty of little bits like that keep the tradition of bedtime read-alouds alive and well.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It will be published August 26, 2014.

Update (9/19/2014) - We just added this title to the library through our Scholastic Book Fair.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Summer Reading 2014 Amulet, Volume 6: Escape from Lucien


We return for the 6th installment in the Amulet series and find our intrepid heroes facing just as much danger and difficulty as ever. The city of Lucien has been abandoned, its people forced to shelter underground. Navin manages to get himself banned from operating any vehicles. Emily and Vigo are still trying to stop Max from siding with the Elf King. Trellis is still with the humans, rather than claiming the throne of the elves. There are giant robots, ghostly beings, battles between airships, and the mysterious voice that still wants to control the stonekeepers. In the midst of all the danger and excitement there is still time to touch on subjects like friendship, trust, regrets, revenge, and forgiveness.

Fans of Kibuishi's series and readers who enjoy graphic novels and manga will not want to miss this book. This is a complex story with lots of characters, so if you haven't read the earlier books, you may want to read them in order to understand and enjoy them to the fullest extent.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It will be published August 26, 2014.

Summer Reading 2014 Loot

Fans of The 39 Clues and Star Wars will recognize Jude Watson's name from books covers. In this exciting crime caper, she starts what could be the beginning of an exciting and entertaining series about young jewel thieves. You can't really blame Jules and March McQuinn, both of their parents were jewel thieves - so it runs in the family. Jules was sent to live with their aunt when she was only two, so she and March don't remember they are twins until they are reunited ten years later. While March has traveled around the world with their father and learned to plan and pull off heists, Jules has been performing in the street circus her aunt runs. Through a series of events, March and Jules both wind up in police custody in Amsterdam and learn they are twins. They are shipped back to the states and meet Darius and Izzy in the group foster home where they are placed by authorities. The four kids have to decide if they want to stay and be miserable in the home or strike out with their skills and try to make a future for themselves. Well really, which would you choose? There are double-crosses, clever disguises, relatives that have done jail time, crooks with soft hearts, an eccentric rich lady and an investigative reporter with an axe to grind. Things definitely aren't dull around the McQuinn kids and their gang.

Readers who enjoy kids pulling capers and getting even, like the Swindle or 39 Clues books, will be glad to find this book.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. The book was published on June 24, 2014.

Update (9/19/2014) - We just added this title to the library through our Scholastic Book Fair.

Summer Reading 2014 Don't Judge a Lizard by his Scales

Danny the Wizard Lizard and Bli the Fly want to be friends, but Bli's mother is worried because she knows lizards often eat flies. Danny says that Mrs. Fly is judging him on appearances and that she should meet him and find out what he is really like. When they all go out to the movies, they are hassled by a group of bullies and Danny stands up to them.

This was an easy way to introduce the concept of judging people by appearances, but it was also a bit simplistic in its storyline. It would probably work with very young children who would enjoy the brightly colored illustrations. Adults could point out that although Danny is a lizard and the bullies are lizards, he doesn't act the way they do. You could work on the fact that bullies look just like everyone else, it is their behavior that makes them bullies. The fact that Danny only has to stand up to them once to make them leave would not be believable to older kids. They might also question Mrs. Fly being nice and giving the bullies clean shirts to wear after Danny slimes them. She is setting a good example of forgiveness, but older readers would not accept that a mother who has just had her child bullied will be so kind to the perpetrators.

I would stick to preschool through maybe 1st grade as a suggested audience. There are questions from the characters at the end of the story to ask kids and get them thinking about what they read. There are also suggestions for parents. To learn more about Danny and the other characters visit The Principle Gang's website.

I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley. It will be published on August 5, 2014.