Thursday, June 30, 2016

Winter Reading 2016 Bera the One-Headed Troll


A remote island,  a pumpkin patch, a troll, and...a baby?  What does a troll know about human babies? As it turns out,  the answer is - not much. Bera is a simple troll; she doesn't have multiple heads or gigantic size. But she does grow very nice pumpkins, so nice that she is the king's pumpkin gardener. And while she is harvesting pumpkins one day with the help of her owl, Bera discovers a human baby floating in a cooking pot out in the cove. What follows is a courageous journey to return the baby to a human village where it can grow up among its own kind. (Remember the movie "Willow"? Well, it's a bit like that.) It seems that an evil witch wants the baby and Bera is determined to find a hero to protect it. Along the way she has to fend off vicious mermaids and goblins, consult a ghost, travel uncharted swamps, encounter hedgehog wizards, and always remember to find shelter so that daylight won't turn her to stone. Will Bera, Winslowe, and the baby reach a hero in time, or will the evil Cloote succeed in her plan to turn the baby into a monster?

The illustrations show a barren landscape with stretches of forest and swamp but not many inhabitants. A color palette reminiscent of sepia-tinted photographs adds to the dreariness of the setting. According to the hedgehogs, Cloote (the witch), steals magical items from anyone she come across on her quest to accumulate power and regain a position at the troll king's court. When she first appears, she is in what appears to be a Viking dragon boat, but it can walk on dry land as well as traveling on water. Later she is flying in something similar to Baba Yaga's mortar. One would think that if she has all these powerful artifacts, she wouldn't need a tiny human child still in diapers. But everyone knows that evil sorceresses are never satisfied, right?

Fans of fantasy stories, whether in graphic novel or chapter book format, will enjoy this tale of an individual determined to do the right thing. Readers who enjoyed Maddy Kettle will find this another satisfying tale from Eric Orchard.

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

Interview with the Creators of Professor Astro Cat's Atomic Adventure

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Dr. Dominic Walliman and Ben Newman, the author and illustrator of Professor Astro Cat's Atomic Adventure, were kind enough to let me interview them. Here are my questions and their amazing answers.

- First, let me say that I love the image of Astro Cat that looks like Vitruvian Man. And all the other illustrations are sure to capture the imagination and attention of young readers. Why did you decide to use a talking cat as your narrator for the books?

BEN: I drew a lot of cats as a child because everyone in my family had a cat when I was growing up. For some reason it has stuck with me throughout my time on Earth. About 10 years ago, a job came up to draw a cat in a space suit for a record logo. I’m not sure what happened but the client never used it and I never got paid for the work. Rather than let it go to waste, I sold the image as a print and once it had sold out I forgot about it until years later when I was stuck on a wrapping paper design for my publisher. I decide to re-work the character’s design and the wrapping paper design proved to be very popular. Around this time, Dominic suggested we should have a narrator for the 'Frontiers of Space' book we had just starting work on. I immediately suggested astro cat then we thought, how about a ‘professor astro cat’? Then we just ran with the idea and I’m so glad we did. 

- The area of physics is full of complex ideas, but you have managed to state them in easily understood ways and then have illustrations that are full of humor as well as demonstrating the concepts. How long did it take you to work out the wording for the text?

DOM: I do my writing in my evenings and weekends, and so it takes rather a long time. I think that it took about a year and a half for us to get from the start to the final manuscript. As physics is my specialist subject, I started off with the explanations being a bit too complex, and so we had a lot of back and forth to refine the writing down to these elegant explanations. Ben is fantastic at reining me in and I have got better at working out ways of explaining things well and picking good examples.

BEN: Despite the distance between us (I live in the UK and Dominic lives in Canada), we work very closely on the Professor Astro Cat books. The writing remains fluid throughout the whole process so that it can be reappropriate it when Im illustrating or the context changes. It is very important that we both remain open to new ideas and the way the project naturally evolves so although this might take some time, the results are well worth it.

- The examples you give use very familiar things like the number of atoms on the point of a pencil, or the molecules in a glass of water. Were these examples used when you studied these subjects in school, or did you have to think them all up yourselves? (I especially like the example of needing a push on the swings to demonstrate force and motion concepts. As an elementary school teacher I have given innumerable pushes at the swing-set.)

DOM: I think good examples are key to explaining things well because they are concrete and people can relate to them much better than the more abstract descriptions. This is especially true for children. So I always try and come up with examples that people can relate to and most of the examples are things that we came up with. However, I do have a stock of examples that I have picked up over the years that I think are great and I bring them out every so often.



- One of the most popular pages at my school would be the facts about flight. We study aerospace as part of our science program, and all my students have heard about the four forces of flight. Do either of you have a favorite practical application of physics?

DOM: The thing I love about physics is that it is so fundamental it literally underpins everything in the Universe. There is so much to choose from as just about all the technology we use today came from fundamental advances in our understanding of physics. But if I had to choose one thing, it would have to be the silicon transistor. This technology is the basis of all the computers, and smartphones and the whole internet - possibly the most revolutionary device ever created!

- Another point of interest would be the images of Astro Cat with Newton and Einstein. How did you decide which scientists/physicists to include in the illustrations?

BEN: I wish I had a clever answer for this but it is because we cover, in some detail, their areas of research so I thought it was fun to put them in. Having them interact with Prof Astro Cat is a nice way to get kids to connect with these scientists.

- You show and describe kinetic energy being delivered to villains by a super hero's judo chop. Who are your favorite super heroes? (Kids everywhere will want to know.)

DOM: I collected the Ultimate Spider-man comics when I was younger so I have a soft spot for the old web-slinger. I also really liked Judge Dredd when I was a teenager as the storylines are so brilliantly satirical.

BEN: Im a big fan of American superhero comics. Daredevil is one of my all time favourites but I was obsessed with Batman and Spiderman as a kid. The comics I read as a child definitely help inspire me and point my moral compass in the right direction. 

- Speaking of super heroes, quantum physics is actually mentioned in the movie "Ant Man." Do you think that the current interest in super heroes makes young readers more interested in scientific concepts, since they hear the characters using terms from the various fields of study?

DOM: Im in two minds about the representation of science in the mainstream media. On the one hand I think it is great when concepts like quantum physics get out to a wider audience and I think science in general is permeating into popular culture more and more these days. This is fantastic for getting youngsters interested in science. However, I also see a lot of negative stereotypes being perpetuated, like socially awkward geeky scientists, or the costume for a scientist being a lab coat. I think there is still room for image of a scientist to be more positive and nuanced.

- You've taken on a "big" subject in Frontiers of Space, and now something as "small" as neutrinos and quarks in Atomic Adventure. What subjects do you envision Professor Astro Cat tackling next? 

DOM: We are not quite ready to unveil our next ambitious project, however if I was to pick a single word to summarise it, it would be "complex".

- Your statement that a reader may be "the next person to help solve one of the great mysteries of the Universe" is a wonderful way to end the book. Is there anything else that you would like to share with readers? 


DOM: This is absolutely true, the youngsters of today will be solving the worlds biggest questions in the future. One thing I would add is, don't be put off science by test scores or how you do in school. The most important thing is following your interests, and if you are fascinated by a subject just keep digging into it. Knowledge for its own sake is immensely rewarding, and who knows where it might lead, one day you might be the world's biggest expert!

Thank you again to Dom and Ben for taking the time to answer all my questions and satisfy my curiosity about their creative process and how they present scientific concepts in a really fun way. We will all be looking forward to discovering what their next "complex" project will be. In the meantime, don't forget to check out Professor Astro Cat's Frontiers of Space and Professor Astro Cat's Intergalactic Activity Book.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Spring Reading 2016 Bedtime for Batman

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Have you ever seen the video updates that Michael Dahl makes for Capstone Books? If you have, then you won't be surprised at how well he captures the spirit of children and their imaginative abilities. In this story a boy is seen playing with his blocks in front of the TV in a suburban house as  night falls. Elsewhere, a square-shouldered man in a handsome suit looks at the city skyline from the windows of  his stately mansion. The scenes play out switching from one character to the other and back again, as they both prepare for the night. Normal bedtime routines take on new excitement as our young hero cleans things up, locks things away, and takes care of those who depend on him. Mirroring his actions, the man in his superhero suit rounds up criminals, helps out citizens, and takes care of his sidekicks. The last scenes of the boy asleep in bed and Batman swinging past his window tie it all neatly together.

Although Michael came up with the story line, we have to give props to illustrator Ethen Beavers. He creates so many points of similarity between the two characters that even the youngest readers will pick up on them. For example, the wall clock shows that it is bedtime just as the Bat Signal tells the hero it is time to head out into the city and the cartoon villains we see on the boy's TV just happen to be the same criminals that Batman faces that night. Little things will appeal to adult readers, like the phrase "And a dark night rises." It is obviously a play on the movie's title, but also an accurate description of the book's setting. Parents reading along with children may laugh out loud when the boy faces the open door of the bathroom and the text reads, "there is business to take care of."

Whether you are a fan of Batman, superheroes, or Michael Dahl's books, this heroic bedtime story is sure to please. Capstone's partnership with DC Comics sets the stage for many more little gems of this sort.

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

Spring Reading 2016 Do Not Bring Your Dragon to the Library

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It's a well known fact that dragons love treasure, and what could be more of a treasure trove than a library? So why does the librarian warn that you should never bring your dragon to the library? There actually seem to be a lot of reasons, including the fact they take up too much space at story time and they have the habit of breathing flames when they get overexcited (and books are very combustible). Each of the scenarios are shown with a different dragon causing the trouble, which makes us suspect that kids bringing pet dragons in has happened before. But, as usual, the helpful librarian comes up with an excellent solution to the problem.

This book shows all the thing that make libraries such amazing places - story times, concerts, movies, computers, comfortable places to read, and shelves and shelves of books. It also does a nice job of including a variety of characters with different skin tones, hair colors, and one is using a wheelchair. (There has been a lot of talk recently about the need for more diversity in children's books, so this was nice to see.) The illustrations do an excellent job of showing the fun that kids can have at the library and their frustration when a dragon messes things up.

Highly recommended as a read-aloud for school or public library story times - your patrons will love it.

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

Summer Reading 2016 Hilda and the Stone Forest

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Luke Pearson's illustrations capture the wide-eyed inquisitive nature of Hilda. The world Hilda lives in contains normal things like a home and a mother, but also odd creatures like trolls. She seems to take all her adventures in stride rather well. Her mother is not so happy that she skips meals, doesn't want to just relax and watch a movie together, and even lies about where she has been and what she has been doing. Like most mothers, when her warnings are not heeded, she lowers the boom and grounds Hilda for disobeying her. 

Hilda is a curious blue-haired girl who decides slip out of the house even though she is grounded. When her mother interrupts the transition through a magical portal, they are both thrown out a different opening than Hilda had planned on. They have to find their way home, along with Hilda's adorable pet, Twig. Their travels take them through a strange stone forest filled with trolls and grub-like creatures that can actually eat rocks. With no idea where they are, and no magic portal in sight to whisk them back, will they ever find their way home?

Readers will enjoy the results of Hilda's adventuresome ways. When she complains about being tired, her mother asks if she doesn't usually like this type of thing. Hilda replies, "It's nice to be in peril when I know you're waiting for me at home." Isn't that true of most of us? We enjoy having our hearts race as we read or watch thrilling scenes, but we want the comfort of home to come back to after the excitement.

I read a review copy supplied by the publisher through edelweiss.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Summer Reading 2016 The Thing About Leftovers

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C.C. Payne has captured exactly what it feels like to be a middle school kid trying to cope with the rearrangement that life goes through after a divorce. Her protagonist, Fizzy Russo, has been uprooted from her old home to live with her mother in a townhouse in a different school district, which means that she also has a new school. So she has lost the home she grew up in, her friends, her school, and only sees her father on their visitation weekends. To make matters worse, her father has remarried and now her mother is planning to remarry, too. Since cooking is Fizzy's favorite activity, she comes up with food metaphors to describe her feelings. She says, "ever since my parents' divorce, I felt like I'd lost a really important grocery bag, the one with all the important ingredients - for my life." 

Of course, the biggest metaphor is the one in the title, the concept of leftovers. Fizzy sees the new marriages of her parents as a way of starting fresh, like someone who doesn't like leftovers would start making a fresh dinner. "And if Mom was starting fresh, then that made me a kind of leftover, didn't it?" she ponders. And then she adds, "Here's the thing about leftovers: Nobody is ever excited about them; they're just something you have to deal with." Her way of trying to be the most attractive leftover she can be is to try and be perfect. In her mind, if she has perfect grades and helps around the house and never makes any mistakes, her parents and stepparents will find her easier to deal with. The problem is that she never talks to anyone about these feelings, even when people like the school guidance counselor reach out to her.

I don't want you to think that the story is depressing, because it isn't. There are great moments of humor scattered throughout the book, and they often give you glimpses of what Fizzy was like before she decided to run herself ragged trying to be perfect. For instance, she explains that the popular girls at school are very into fashion and the leader of the group seems to think anything with a ruffle is fashionable. Fizzy states that she isn't ever going to be one of the popular girls because, "I don't do ruffles, bows, flowers, or sequins - I am against the cruel treatment of clothes by way of bedazzling." 

I love the friends that Fizzy has at her new school. Miyoko and Zach help her find things to laugh about, even if it is Miyoko's mother losing her skirt and standing in the front yard in her granny panties. They stick up for her against the popular girls and even the math teacher. The three of them have fun and listen to each other. Her Aunt Liz is another great person in her life. Fizzy has a great time practicing her cooking and trying out recipes at Liz's house after school. Her mom and dad have their moments, but they are so busy getting on with their new lives that it is very easy to see why Fizzy feels like a leftover.

Kids who are in the post-divorce situation will enjoy seeing that they are not alone in these experiences. It may even open their eyes to the fact that adults don't have all the answers and they may not even realize how hard they make things for their kids. I hope it shows them that talking things over with a trusted adult can help gain some perspective about everything. As someone who went through the whole divorce thing with her own parents, I can say that adults reading it may feel like they have had a really good therapy session when they reach the end.

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

I joined in the Live Chat with C.C. Payne sponsored by the Penguin Young Readers Author Program. She shared a couple of photos with us; one is her dog, Peach, and the other is her writing desk.


For more information about the author, visit her wesbite.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Summer Reading 2016 Click Here to Start

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Mystery fans rejoice, there is a new book that you are going to love! If you enjoy the suspense and the characters in books like Chasing Vermeer or Under the Egg, then you must try Click Here to Start. I should also mention that it has a preteen Ready, Player One sort of vibe.

So, where to start...Ted Gerson and his best friend Caleb enjoy escape the room games, video games where you have to search through all the items in a room and discover the clues to help you escape from the room. Ted always finished the games very quickly and is a reigning high score champion on every game he plays. Caleb plays for the fun of it, but isn't as intuitive about the games as Ted. What Caleb is really good at is art, and he would make an excellent graphic novelist when he grows up. When Ted's great-uncle leaves the contents of his apartment to Ted, Caleb tags along to help sort through all the piles of stuff (think "Hoarders"), and also to see if there might be any old comic books around. They also get some unexpected help from the daughter of Mr. Gerson's boss. Since they have just moved into the area, the parents think it would be good to get the kids together and let Isabel make some friends before school starts.

Together these three kids get pulled into a dangerous situation involving WWII, the history of the Nisei Brigade, Nazi confiscation of artwork and valuables during the war, and the Monuments Men. With Ted's gaming expertise, Caleb's artistic talents, and Isabel's vast knowledge of history and literature, the friends must solve the puzzles left by Great-Uncle Ted and find the "treasure" he left behind. Everything from UV spy pens to lip gloss are used to find and access information that they need to complete their mission. Readers learn a lot about escape the room games, American history, and problem-solving long the way.

The author does a wonderful job of showing that the kids are just normal tweens, not super heroes. Ted's father is a typical absent-minded professor, his mom is a nurse, and they both worry that Ted spends to much time on his laptop playing games rather than focusing on school work. Caleb's parents are divorced (his father left his mother for a younger woman), and spends much of his time drawing super hero characters beating up a bad guy that looks remarkably like his dad. Isabel's mother passed away and her father took this new job at the college where Ted's father works so that they could make a fresh start in a new place without so many memories. There are no James Bond type spy gadgets, no psychic powers, just kids who have hobbies they enjoy and that just happen to come in handy during their adventure.

If you like the way the kids work together in Blue Balliett's books, the transfer of skills from video games to solving real life mysteries, or the mix of American history into a quest for valuable objects (a bit like "National Treasure"), then this is the perfect book for you. 

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

Friday, June 24, 2016

Summer Reading 2016 The Magician of Auschwitz

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Books that introduce children to the terrible story of the concentration camps during World War II have a difficult task. How can they be truthful without frightening young readers? Which facts should be included for realism, or left out because they are too horrifying? Stories such as The Magician of Auschwitz somehow walk that fine line and help explain a difficult subject in a sensitive way.

This is the true story of a boy name Werner Reich and his bunkmate Herr Levin. In their lives before Auschwitz, Werner was a teen living with his mother and sister, while Herr Levin was a magician performing in the theaters of Berlin. They had never met before their time in the camp, but Werner valued the older man who was kind to him and never forgot the magic tricks Herr Levin was forced to perform by the guards. Even though they never met again after their time at Auschwitz, Werner never forgot his friend and maintained an interest in magic.

The story is short and told without any gory details or graphic descriptions of the camp's conditions. Basic facts such as the small rations and hard physical labor are mentioned, as well as the fact that if the guards had not been pleased by the magic tricks, then Herr Levin could have been killed. The illustrations are done in dark shadowy colors, with only the red on the playing cards standing out. The pictures reinforce the idea that the magic was the only bright spot in the lives of the prisoners.

The back matter includes black & white photos of Herr Levin and his wife, dressed as the Nivellis (their stage name), as well as Werner and his sister before the war, and one of Werner after his liberation. There are also color photos of Werner and his wife, a couple that show him doing a card trick, and one of Werner with the author. The final page gives a brief summary of the treatment of Jews in Hitler's Germany and a photo of children behind the fence of a concentration camp. Seeing those young faces behind the barbed wire and reading that more than 6 million Jews perished in the Holocaust, readers will realize how lucky Werner and Herr Levin were to survive.

*  Update - 08/01/2016 We have added this title to the Fairview Library.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Summer Reading 2016 Elite: Hunter #2

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I already gushed about the first book in this series, Hunter, and the main character, Joyeaux Charmand. In this world there has been an event known as the Diseray, in which creatures from Otherside (imagine an alternate dimension, like the realm of faerie), have gained access to the human world. Civilization was almost wiped out. humans live in enclaves together for protection. Those in Apex city are more like we are in today's world with video channels and food network, etc. Those out in the countryside are in self-sufficient villages that work together to survive. And everywhere else are the creatures from Otherside - things like hellhounds and goblins and drakken and tommyknockers. Apex is the main city for the government and military that have reorganized and fortified the area following the cataclysmic breakthrough by magical beings and monsters into our world. Joy is a Hunter - she has "hounds" who are actually creatures from Otherside that help humans fight the creatures that like to eat people. She has been raised in a village in the Rockies, but is summoned to Apex by her uncle who is the chief of police. All of that was set up in the first book. If you haven't read it yet, stop now and do so. 

For those who have finished Hunter and been eagerly waiting to see what happens next, continue on. The first book ended with Joy's qualification trials to enter the Elite squad of Hunters. The title of this book is a bit of a spoiler, but we know she made it. The second installment in the series picks up with Joy running missions as part of the Elite and trying to figure out who within Apex is plotting against her uncle, worrying over Ace (the Hunter who went renegade during her trials), and continuing to date Josh (her uncle's personal Psimon). When her uncle asks her to run patrols in the sewer tunnels beneath Apex, she finds something alarming (not TMNTs), dead bodies in Psimon uniforms. Now the head of the PsiCorp is watching Joy's every move, things with Josh are strained, and on top of all that it seems like all of Otherside is breaking loose and bent on leveling Apex City. What if all the Hunters in town are not enough to stop the invasion they are afraid is coming?

Joy continues to be a great protagonist. She may have magical powers and supernatural hounds, but she is completely human. She has friends, gets frustrated, has moments of homesickness, and continues to grow and evolve just like any other teenager. The other characters also are still developing. Some are focused on their own selfish desires to the point of endangering everyone else. Others are altruistic and dedicated to the survival of the human race. Even the creatures from Otherside  have some surprises for us, so there is no way we can settle into complacency. And we are left wanting the third book to hurry up and arrive!

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

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Summer Reading 2016 When Friendship Followed Me Home

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Take the poignancy of the romance in A Walk to Remember, mix in some of the dog appeal of Because of Winn Dixie, and you will have an idea of the emotional weight of this story. Ben is a boy who was adopted by a wonderful speech therapist named Tess. Although his home life is now great, he is still at the mercy of bullies at school and the fear of losing the security he has found. And then, one day, a dog follows him home. It seems like such a small thing, perhaps, a boy finding a stray dog. But that one small dog changes everything.

There are so many themes worth discussing that are addressed in this book: the issue of babies born with drugs in their systems, or to mothers who are drug users; the foster care and adoption system; bullying in schools; pediatric cancer treatment; friendship; family; the importance of caring adults in the lives of students...I could go on, but you get the idea. Ben's relationship with his mother (Tess), with the librarian (Mrs. Lorentz), with his friend (Halley), all show what an awesome kid he is. It makes it even more painful to see him go through one difficulty after another, but keeps us reading in the hope that things will work out for him.

The two things I enjoyed the most about this book were the fact that one of the coolest adults in Ben's life is a librarian (hooray for media specialists), and his friendship with Halley. I love the support that the kids give each other, and the projects they take on together. They show how creative teens and preteens can be, and how altruistic.

Highly recommended for grades 5 and up. I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Summer Reading 2016 The Great Leopard Rescue: Saving the Amur Leopards

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Author Sandra Markle began her research into endangered big cats and discovered that there were only 30 Amur leopards left, making them the rarest big cats in the world. That was back in 2007, but she has researched, talked to experts, and watched as the protected preserves and reintroduction program have been developed. The Great Leopard Rescue does a wonderful job of explaining the causes of the shrinking numbers, the importance of the taiga habitat, and a history of conservation efforts. The photographs of the leopards capture breathtaking views of the cats in their habitat, views of young cubs that will have readers saying, "Awww," and examples of the efforts that are being made to safeguard the species.

Along with details about the decline of the species and the recent efforts to bring them back from the brink, there are also maps showing where the cats once had their hunting ranges and the locations of the wildlife preserves now set aside for them. Readers may be surprised by the wide range of experts needed to carry out this conservation and repopulation effort. Everything from using specially trained dogs that find scat which can be analyzed to determine the diet of leopards in the wild to reimbursing farmers for livestock killed by leopards must be coordinated and funded. I was particularly impressed with the plans to bring breeding pairs from zoos to have their cubs in the wild, so that they can practice hunting with their mother in the actual wildlife preserve before the mother is returned to the zoo (along with any of the cubs who cannot survive in the wild.

The back matter includes an author's note, a "Did you know?" section of more facts, timeline, glossary, source notes, index, and suggestions for websites and books to find out more. All of this supporting material, along with the facts shown in the photo captions, works with the main body of the book to present readers with a wealth of information and images. One site suggested for those who are interested in learning more is http://www.altaconservation.org .

Highly recommended for elementary age readers interested in big cats or doing research on endangered species - although anyone familiar with Sandra Markle's work won't need a further recommendation once they see her name. I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Summer Reading 2016 Star Trek: Starfleet Academy

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Fans of the Star Trek franchise will find new characters to love in Starfleet Academy. To provide continuity, the story toggles between 2258 when Uhura, Kirk, and McCoy were all at the academy, and 2261 when they are on the Enterprise and a new group of cadets are making their way through Starfleet courses. While she is still a cadet, Uhura discovers a distress call, but runs into trouble trying to access information about the system where the call originated.  A few years later, another group of cadets is competing in a series of competitions in honor of Starfleet Academy's Centennial Celebration. During one of the competitions they encounter the same distress call. Will they have any better luck finding its source and solving the mystery of the crew who sent it?

The new characters introduced for this series are a sampling of personalities and races from the member planets of the Federation.  T'Laan is a Vulcan. Lucia Gonzales and Grace Chen are human. Shev is Andorian and Vel K'Bentayr is Monchezkin. Each of them were chosen for the Academy's team due to their various skills in engineering, marksmanship, history, etc. Unlike the well-known characters, this team is still learning how to work together and appreciate each other's strengths. That gives readers new to the Star Trek universe the chance to start fresh with these characters and watch them develop .

For those who are established Trek fans, there is enough of the classic characters to make them feel at home. Spock and Uhura and the difficulties of their relationship, Chekov's prodigious skills, Kirk's reputation as a womanizer and rule breaker are all included. We also see Admiral Marcus and even hear a little of the reasons why the Academy was founded. And the two groups of characters eventually have a way to connect, wrapping up the story line of this first book and clearing the way for new adventures.

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

Monday, June 13, 2016

Summer Reading 2016 At the Beach and Shapes Are Fun!

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Katja Spitzer's First Words series has more installments coming out this fall. At the Beach is perfect for families planning a trip to the shore. Everything from shells to palm trees is shown in bright beachy colors. The page for sunglasses shows a woman in her shades, but also has a friendly Dalmatian wearing doggles. Snorkeling is shown with cool blue water that makes us want to join the girl in the illustration as she watches the fish, jellyfish, and seahorse swim by. It's remarkable how vibrant the pictures are with only 6 colors being used. The page on flip flops has such an array of stripes, polka dots, color combinations, bows or flowers, that it seems like a shoe store display. Whether it is smiling seals and crabs, a dog tugging playfully on the end of a beach towel, or a triple-scoop ice cream cone, all the fun of a day at the beach is captured on these pages. I enjoy how everything that has been shown is included in a final scene, with the sailboat and the surfer in the background, the dog carrying a flipflop in his mouth standing at the water's edge, and everything else somewhere on the page.

Katja's illustrations are fun and upbeat, but simple enough for very young readers. The books in this series are perfect for reading one-on-one with toddlers and preschoolers, or for emergent readers to try on their own. I read an e-book provided by the publisher through edelweiss.

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I love the pattern of colored shapes on the end papers - it looks like very funky wallpaper. Each shape is introduced individually. The left-hand page is a solid block of color with the name of the shape in white letters, then the right-hand page is the reverse with the colored shape on a white background. Once the six shapes have been shown and named, they are all shown with the question, "Can you name the shapes?" Then there are double-page spreads with simple sentences to name objects of each shape. Balls, pyramids (flanked by camels), a Rubik's cube, eggs, buildings, and stars all show 3-dimensional shapes that relate to the simple geometric shapes already presented. Once those examples are given, then another spread asks if you can spot the shapes and offers different objects to choose from.

From introducing basic 2-D and 3-D versions of the shapes, the book progresses to scenes where the readers can look for the different shapes. An ice cream stand has triangles (cones) and the circles (scoops of ice cream) are tasty. There are a bicycle, wagon, car, and other everyday things you might see on a neighborhood street that can be pointed at and the different shapes named. Another scene shows the father and daughter from the ice cream stand now in their front yard. The shapes can be seen in the plants, house, and rest of the environment. Then the view shifts to the girl inside on the rug in her room with building blocks, balls, and other belongings scattered around her.

Just as in the rest of the books in the series, I am amazed at how the simple colors and shapes can combine to make such lively illustrations. The progression from single labels to simple sentences mirrors the change from simple plane shapes to the 3-dimensional shapes and the more complex scenes. It all works together very well. What concepts will Katja add to the collection next?

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

Interview with author/illustrator Helen Borten

Q&A with Helen Borten
Helen Borten, creator of books such as Do You See What I See? and Do You Hear What I Hear? was kind enough to answer a few questions about her methods and inspirations. 

Did you set out to create concept books deliberately, or did you start with some observations and then develop the content from there?  I set out to write one book.  My training was in art and, at the time, my primary interest was in illustration.  As an illustrator I had already won acclaim and for my first children’s book as author I was searching for an idea that would give widest scope to what I liked to do.  Storybooks do not allow the kind of variety I was after, one must draw the same characters over and over.  I hit on a concept taught to me by an art teacher before I was in my teens.  Do You See What I See? was the result and an instant hit with buyers and critics – and my publishers wanted more!  So the idea of a series was born.
 
When you are working on a manuscript, do you work on the text separately from the illustrations, or both at the same time? (Obviously you would be doing rough sketches and then go back to do the finished artwork later. But do you sketch as you work on the rough draft of the text?)  The text always came first and not until it was completed did I even think of the illustrations.
 
What process did you use to make the printed part of the illustrations? (blocks, screen printing, etc.)  The first two in the series were done as monotypes – prints taken from painted glass – with acetate overlays for solids (as opposed to the texture of prints).  In later books I added collage to the mix.

Were you limited on the number of colors you could use?   Yes.  All of the books were limited to 4 colors (including black as one).
 
Did you conduct any research on the topics, or were the books written from within your own experience?  No research.  Just the mixture of logic, experience, invention and imagination we call thinking!
 
What sort of books did you enjoy when you were a child? What were your favorites - titles or authors?  Before I could read I was rarely read to and remember no titles from those years.  My reading life began with fairy tales.  I was passionate about fairy tales, mad about the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, I gobbled up the Red and Yellow and Blue and whatever-other-color Book of Fairy Tales until there were no more on the shelves of the library.
 
What advice do you have for young readers who are interested in being authors or illustrators when they grow up?  Alas, I have no advice – except keep on reading, writing and drawing and your own self will tell you what to do!

         

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Spring Reading 2016 Ogres Awake!

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Our favorite hero is back! The knight, along with the trusty steed Edward, are off to warn the king that giant ogres are in the kingdom. They are sleeping now, but everyone knows that when they awake they will destroy everything in their path. But when the warning is delivered (once the king stops reading his comic book and pays attention), the plan seems to involve vegetables rather than weapons. The knight is confused, "We're making war, not a salad!" How can a bunch of garden gnomes, a knight, and a horse protect the kingdom from being crushed?

With the signature style and humor we've come to expect from the Adventures in Cartooning team, this story shows that there are always options in how we deal with a situation - even if the situation has sleeping ogres in it. The drawing guides on the end papers encourage young readers to try creating their own versions of the knight, Edward (my favorite is Edward as space explorer), the gnomes, and even the ogres. These easy to follow examples can guide the art-challenged and budding Picassos alike.

Fans of Shrek and other fantasy stories will appreciate this latest amusing adventure of a knight who is willing to go "the distant shores of the unknown" for king and country.

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

*  Update - 08/01/2016 We have added this title to the Fairview Library.

Summer Reading 2016 Like a Bird: The Art of the American Slave Song

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Frederick Douglass wrote, "Slaves sing most when they are most unhappy. The songs of the slave represent the sorrows of his heart." This collection highlights 13 spirituals along with illustrations by Michele Wood and information about the Biblical and historical significance of each song. The cover shows Harriet Tubman flying over workers in a cotton field while a white dove joins her in the blue sky. The foreword explains that Tubman had a dream in which she was flying over the landscape "like a bird." And there is also the reference to Psalm 124:7 "We have escaped like a bird out of the fowler's snare," so it is no surprise that the repeated symbol of the white dove appears in every illustration.

Wood's artwork has the cozy feel of a patchwork quilt while still conveying the sense of each song. The dove might appear in the sky among the clouds, as in the illustration for "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child." At other times it seems to be lifting off from the outstretched hand of one of the characters, like the figures in "Jacob's Ladder." As the figures follow the advice in "Steal Away," the dove perches on the fence-post next to the open gate. Particular figures have the dove hovering over the shoulder - Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, Saint Peter. There are also beautiful jewel tones worked into the night sky, the water of a river, or the dappled greenery of a forest that add incredible richness to the images. The facial expressions convey emotion in each scene - the grief of the mother whose child has been sold, the fear of the couple fleeing during a thunderstorm, the solemn resolve Tubman's face all add layers of meaning.

This would be an excellent resource to use when teaching the Civil War period. The class could research the songs, discuss the themes in the lyrics, and analyze the symbols in the illustrations. The historical figures mentioned in the text are a great lead-in to the time period. And a cross-curricular project with the social studies, language arts, music and art teachers would be awesome. One of my favorite parts of the book is the double-page spread illustration for "Get on Board - the Gospel Train." The only part of the train that is mechanical are the wheels, but everything else is the people who are on board. Harriet Tubman's figure is at the front of the train (as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, her position at the front makes sense), and the skirt of her dress forms the cow-pusher. Another thing I enjoyed was the inclusion of information about the Jubilee Singers, and the vintage photo of the group.

A good read for history buffs (whether American history or musical history), teachers and students covering the Civil War, and fans of Michele Wood's intricate illustrative style.

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

Monday, June 6, 2016

Spring Reading 2016 Dara Palmer's Major Drama

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Since practice for school plays is often held in the library, I have seen my share of future actors. And let's face it, fifth grade is full of melodrama (gearing up for the soap opera years of middle school). But I don't think I have ever had a student as completely involved in drama as Dara Palmer. For instance, none of the kids at school seem to spend their time writing movie scenes in their heads. Dara does. She frequently tunes out of class or family dinners and imagines she is sharing a scene with her favorite actor, Bradley Porter, whom she plans to marry one day. And while I have seen students singing favorite songs or acting out a quick scene from a hit movie, they don't spend their entire recess practicing making faces. Dara and her friend Lacey have claimed a bench on the playground and spend every recess working on faces to express each emotion they might need to portray when they become megastars.

Dara certainly stands out, even at home. Her parents and older brother are British, her younger sister was adopted from an orphanage in Russia, and Dara was adopted from an orphanage in Cambodia. So she doesn't look like the rest of her family. There is also her fashion sense. She would much rather wear a tutu than boring trousers (thankfully she has to wear a uniform to school or there is no telling what sort of ensemble she might put together). Besides wearing lots of sparkly clothes when she gets the chance, Dara also sings, dances, and basically performs her way through life. It doesn't seem to slow her down when her family asks her to sing at the far end of the yard. She truly feels that she is a dramatic genius and is destined for fame and fortune as an actress. That's why it is such a shock when she doesn't get the coveted part in the school play. She tells the drama teacher, "You're cutting off my blood supply and denying me the right to live!"

There is plenty of other drama going on in her life. Her friend Vanna is returning to the orphanage they both came from in Cambodia to explore her roots. Her sister Georgia is in training for a fundraising run and Dara complains when she is made to go to the park with her mother and sister. One of the boys at school calls her "noodle head" all the time and even throws noodles in her hair during lunch. Her BFFAE (best friend forever and ever) Lacey scores a small part in the school play and there is growing tension between the two girls. Her brother Felix is studying for his exams and will be going off to college in the fall. Why does life have to be so hard?

Although the story is very entertaining and has plenty of moments to make you laugh and smile, there are also serious moments. The whole concept of adoption and having a different cultural background than the rest of your family is tough. Having students at school who call you names because of your ethnicity is horrible. Trying to learn how to put yourself in other people's shoes and empathize is hard to do (especially when you are a megastar in your own mind). And the topic of how it feels never to see characters in movies or TV shows that look like you is very current and a concern that many people share.

Readers will laugh at Dara's antics, sympathize with her disappointment, and watch to see where her journey of self-discovery takes her. They may also clamor for a sequel starring their favorite megastar.

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

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Spring Reading 2016 Too Many Moose!

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You have to love any story that starts off with some serious research. Martha wants to get a pet, so she consults books on all sorts of animals. After careful consideration, she chooses a moose and buys one through mail order. They have so much fun after her moose arrives, that Martha orders more and more and more. The wide range of activities Martha and her moose enjoy is mind-boggling. They swim, they go to the movies, they get manicures, they have a luau, and on and on. But there really can be too much of a good thing. What will Martha do when things reach that point?

The rhyming text of the story is fun and the action is imaginative. The illustrations capture all the whimsy and humor. The first time we see a moose in the story it is being wheeled on a dolly by a mailman. The moose is wrapped in brown paper and has a "Fragile" sticker on its nose. But the visual fun doesn't stop there. Seeing the moose in nail polish or tropical print shirts, baking cupcakes and stacking them into a giant pyramid, or dancing around a tiki statue will have readers laughing out loud.

This will be a new favorite for children and parents who enjoy rhyming stories, especially since it has the recurring sentences, "The mailman delivered her new moose midday. She signed with an M and they all marched away." Even children who are too young to read on their own will recognize that every time they see Martha holding the clipboard, it is time to chime in with those words. It could also be used as part of a unit on pets with elementary students, placed with humorous animal stories such as If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, or read aloud to open a discussion on irregular nouns. Why don't we say "mooses" or even "meese"? It will be a sure hit however it is shared.

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

Check out the Activity Kit and Educator Guide, or the Virtual Moose Mart.

Spring Reading 2016 The Ninja Librarians: Sword in the Stacks

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Those who have visited my library know that I am a fan of this series, I even have the "Is Your Librarian a Secret Ninja?" poster on display in the fiction section. For those who haven't encountered this series before, let's just point out that the title says it all. Ninja. Librarians.

This time around, Dorrie and Marcus return to Petrarch's Library to continue their training as apprentice Lybrarians. There is a little difficulty actually reaching the portal (something about being banned from their hometown library, breaking in, getting caught in the act...). Once they arrive, they are able to turn in their requests for mentors and practicum courses. Besides the hostility from Millie and her friend Izel that Dorrie has come to expect, there is also disagreement between the senior Lybrarians about the best course to take. Some want more missions sent out to find the Foundation's stronghold and prevent them from tampering with history. Others insist that the ends justify the means and that physical coercion should be used on the prisoner, Mr. Biggs, and force him to give them information on the Foundation.

Between planning with Ebba for their Principles of Lybrarianship training mission, doing the assigned readings, taking a field trip to Tyre in 327 BCE, practicing her sword work with Savi, and assisting the Archivist in organizing mission reports, Dorrie stays very busy. But that doesn't stop her from worrying about the page from the History of Histories that the Foundation has acquired, or their plans to disrupt key missions, or the rumor that one particular disruption would mean the death of someone in Petrarch's Library. Marcus has his own worries. His crush, Egeria, has a boyfriend that Marcus didn't know about. A drummer he met while he and Dorrie were in Athens is being charged with serious crimes and Marcus wants to save him. Even Ebba is distracted with an upcoming trip she and her Lybrarian parents are planning. Can a few apprentices with plenty on their plates actually solve the problems that their teachers can't? You'll have to read to find out.

Besides the mystery and adventure of the story, I also enjoy the humor. Some of my favorite moments from this book are times that Marcus quotes from "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." As he, Dorrie, and Ebba are traveling through a dark cave, he sings, "There's no earthly way of knowing, which direction we are going." When they hear the ceiling above them cracking, he quips, "The suspense is terrible. I hope it lasts." And when someone asks why anyone would ever help the Foundation, he suggests they are doing it for "a lifetime supply of chocolate?" When he's not riffing on Roald Dahl, he is also very amusing when he tries to drown his heartache in large amounts of baklava.

There are also serious themes worked into the book. The girls learn about how important it is to let both sides of a cause have their say, even when you disagree with what is being said. (That part actually reminded me of the scene in "The American President" when Michael Douglas addresses the media and talks about the Constitution and Bill of Rights giving everyone the right to freedom of speech.)  There is also the debate on whether the ends justify the means. If you do bad things for a good cause, can your cause remain good? And Dorrie learns a very good lesson about facing fear and not letting it take over.

Altogether a wonderful second adventure for the characters. Each of them learn and grow, even the adults. And there are still plenty of opportunities for future missions as their training and the series continue.

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

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Spring Reading 2016 Do You Hear What I Hear?

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Helen Borten's bright illustrations and descriptive text take the reader through a discussion of all sorts of sounds. Everything from the moods they can create to the things they remind us of are mentioned. The loud noises of the city, the quiet of pigeons cooing, and the constant sound of the sea in motion may all be compared by their location and their effect. The similes in the book would be excellent examples to use with students in lessons on descriptive writing. Phrases like "fierce as a lion" and "mysterious as a secret whispered in someone's ear" make a much stronger impression than just saying loud or soft. The poetic nature of Borten's writing also comes through in sentences like, "There are sounds as near and warm as a kiss - or as far off and gray as a fog horn." 

She also points out that sometimes it is not the sound, but its source that causes a specific reaction in us. For example - a hiss from a snake is scary, the hiss of air leaking from a balloon is not. Besides talking about whether sounds can be long or short, high or low, and loud or soft, Borten also talks about rhythm and pattern. Brass bands, horses' hooves, and drums can all create a rhythm. When many instruments combine their sounds and rhythms together, they become an orchestra. The variety of sounds that are mentioned range from those too soft to hear, like the wings of a butterfly beating, to those that are loud like the noise from a circus.

The illustrations are done in the same style as Do You See What I See? with a mix of bright colors, printed patterns, and lines. I love the endpapers with musical notations printed over the shapes of saws, birds, bells, and french horns. The title page images could lead into a great discussion before the book is even begun, because young readers will be curious about the sound waves that are pictured and why they differ from each other. 

Whether readers are drawn to the book due to its visual appeal, or because they are interested in the subject of sound, they will have an enjoyable experience. Classrooms and school libraries would be wise to add copies of this title since it can be used with so many subjects - science, music, writing, and art, just to name a few. It is to be hoped that more of Helen Borten's classic children's books will be published soon for a new generation of readers to treasure.

I received a copy from the publisher for review purposes.

*Update 08/01/2016 We have added this book to the Fairview library. 

Spring Reading 2016 Howard Wallace, P.I.

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Take your average middle school boy. He has a couple of close friends and they enjoy comics, hanging out together, and dressing up like super heroes on Halloween. But one friend's growth spurt lands him on all the sports teams and he becomes an uber-jock. The second friend moves away. And the last friend is left to survive middle school alone. What does he do? Well, if he happens to be Howard Wallace, he decides to become a detective. Howard loves film noir detective stories and studies them for technique and style. He creates the Rules of Private Investigation based on his film heroes. Since he doesn't own a trench coat, he wears a brown bathrobe (rule #1 -work with what you've got).  He's already solved a case of vandalism at the local pawn shop, so now he's building his reputation and his clientele. That's where we as readers enter the story.

Howard takes on several cases at the beginning of the book. There is the problem of a neighbor's missing cat. A girl wants to know who the secret admirer is that keeps leaving things in her locker. Another kid whose trumpet has gone missing and who doesn't want to spend the year stuck in the recorder section asks Howard for help. An elementary school student needs help finding the action figure he spent all his savings on. And then there is Meredith - the treasurer of the student council. Someone is blackmailing her and their threat is serious; if she doesn't resign, the blackmailer will tell everyone that she lost the council's checkbook. How can one P.I. solve all of these mysteries and still keep up with homework and chores?

As luck would have it, there is a new girl who is bored with everything in the small town of Grantleyville. Ivy is used to the big city and latches onto Howard as the only person doing anything interesting. So he now has a junior partner on a trial basis. They stake out lockers, interview suspects and potential witnesses, and generally get on everyone's nerves. After being taken to the principal's office, Howard is grounded by his parents and told he can never investigate again. But would Philip Marlowe let that stop him? He just has to be more stealthy than normal.

Despite drawbacks like an older sister who calls him "Howeird," a 30-year-old bicycle that has seen better days, and being the target of two hulking bullies, Howard still maintains client confidentiality and does his best to close very case. All the elements of middle school are there - the cliques, the clubs, the changing relationships between friends as they grow up, the teachers, and the bad cafeteria food. There is also the ambiance of the small town with the local "royalty" who own the majority of the businesses and expect their children to be the stars of the school, the gossip that lets everyone know when there is trouble, and the type of neighborhoods where kids still ride their bikes to school.

Howard is funny, smart, determined, and I really enjoy the way he talks as if he is in one of those movie he enjoys so much. A middle school kid saying things like his investigation "would be a lot easier if I didn't have an interfering lookie-loo horning in on the job," or asking his junior partner, "Are you gonna be shirty or work this case with me?" has got to tickle your funny bone. And if that's not enough, the way he calls all the other students "kid" like he's Humphrey Bogart will do the trick. And Ivy has her own quirks that add to the odd-couple charm of the story.

Highly recommended for fans of school mysteries and buddy stories (even the unlikely buddies of a loner who thinks he's a P.I. and a city girl looking for some excitement). Readers will have a new character to admire and the hope of new mysteries for Wallace Investigations to solve.

I received an advance copy from the publisher for review purposes.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Spring Reading 2016 Do You See What I See?

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The school where I first began teaching elementary-aged students did not have an art teacher. Some classes were lucky enough to have a parent volunteer come in a few times a month and do activities with the children, but there were not enough volunteers to go around. So I had to do my own art lessons. One of the first lessons I did was to read the students Harold and the Purple Crayon and talk with them about how such seemingly simple illustrations actually involved a lot of thought. That line from the purple crayon could be round like the apples on the trees or the pies for the picnic. But the line could also be the teeth of the wild animals or the rough waves that cause Harold to fall overboard. 

If only I had owned a copy of Do You See What I See? back then! Helen Borten's classic picture book covers everything I showed my class during those early art lessons. She discusses lines, shapes, colors, and how they can vary, what they remind us of, and the moods they evoke. And just like Crockett Johnson's drawings, her illustrations are deceptively simple at first glance. But her combination of a few bright colors, drawings, and some shapes that are printed (did she use screens or blocks, I wonder), creates a clean and attractive style. Some readers might see it as retro chic, but it was very fresh at the time of the original publication. Her text is poetic and evocative. It makes connections between art and design and everyday sights without being trite or didactic. For instance, "It seems to me that triangles push and pull in a stiff, hard way." Or how about this one - "Lines can be as ragged as a barbed wire fence, or as smooth as the thread in Mother's sewing box."

I cannot wait to add this book to our school library, and to introduce it to the art teacher (if he hasn't already seen it). Parents and teachers should make sure to share this with the young readers and artists in their lives, along with Borten's other books. It's so wonderful to know that these books will be available to a whole new generation due to their republication. Way to go, Flying Eye Books!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.

*Update 08/01/2016 We have added this book to the Fairview library. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Spring Reading 2016 Professor Astro Cat's Atomic Adventure


Enjoy science? Feel more comfortable when concepts are presented visually as well as in text? Professor Astro Cat could be your new favorite. He has already explored and explained the Frontiers of Space, but now he takes things to a whole different level - the quantum level (among other things). In his Atomic Adventure, Astro Cat covers the many facets of physics, everything from sound waves and refracted light to neutrinos and Newton's Laws. Each topic is illustrated with images of Astro Cat and his faithful mouse helper demonstrating the various concepts. The ideas are presented in simple language and use everyday examples such as talking about the number of atoms you might find on the point of a freshly sharpened pencil, or the idea that inertia is why you need someone to give you a push to get your swing started on the playground. 

There are pages on the periodic table, measurement, force and motion, energy sources, and even nano materials. Some of my favorite illustrations are those that show Astro Cat riding on Newton's shoulders, or copying Einstein and sticking out his tongue. The example of kinetic energy that shows Astro Cat using a judo chop on villains is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. And fans of Ant Man will appreciate the explanation of quantum physics. Other things included in the book are an explanation of how rainbows are formed, why paint turns muddy brown when you mix too many colors, and the forces of flight. It is a very readable introduction to physics concepts of all sorts.

Whether the book is used to help introduce a science lesson, or simply read for enjoyment by someone interested in science facts, it will be a pleasure for either audience. Astro Cat and all his colorful friends (and villains), demonstrate gravity, friction, and pressure while having a great time doing it. Readers can't help but have a great time, too. 

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

Spring Reading 2016 Bully!

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Washington D.C. is a busy place to live, or work, or go to school. Imagine being the child of a U.S. Senator and having your father bury himself in his work while you are both trying to deal with the death of your mother. That is the situation Jamie Douglas finds himself in and there is no one to turn to for help. To make matters worse, he is being bullied by to larger boys in his class and no one is doing anything about it. The only consolation Jamie has is the large teddy bear that his mother had purchased for his birthday shortly before she passed away. When Jamie holds Teddy and wishes that he had a real dad, he never imagines that Teddy will transform into Theodore Roosevelt and work to make Jamie's wish come true.

Young readers who enjoy learning about history and famous people will find themselves watching the Colonel (as Roosevelt prefers to be called), get to work on fixing the problems in Jamie's life. Whether it is visiting his exclusive school to do a show & tell presentation, offering advice on how to strengthen his muscles, wrestling practice, or a little water balloon fun, the Colonel assures him that he is "as big and strong as a Bull Moose. and you can use me to the limit!" Full of his trademark enthusiasm and sense of adventure, the Colonel shows both the Douglas men how to reconnect with each other and find a new way forward together.

Although this is not a biography, there are plenty of facts about the twenty-sixth president packed into the story. The Panama Canal, the Rough Riders and San Juan Hill, his daughter Alice, and even his love of nature all find a place in the action. The Colonel tells Jamie about having asthma as a child and working to overcome it. He shares his grief at the loss of his mother, wife, and son with Senator Douglas. Throughout the book he uses sayings and gestures that he is famous for. It really does seem as if he has come back to vivid life in modern day D.C.

Elementary and middle school students who are studying American history and the presidents, or prefer reading biographies and books that feature famous figures, would enjoy having this book in their school or classroom libraries. Teachers and parents who are looking for books that offer role models should check out the Children's American Heroes Series.

I received a copy of the book from the author for review purposes.