Monday, October 22, 2018

Fall Reading 2018 The Secrets of Ninja School

The Secrets of Ninja School by [Pilutti, Deb]

Have young readers who just can't get enough ninja stories? Or perhaps you're looking for a story that shows a character with perseverance, one who hangs in there until she finds her own talents and strengths? Then add Deb Pilutti's tale to your shelves.

Ruby heads off to Master Willow's School for Ninjas, but has some trouble with the lessons. She is not invisible, or patient, or any of the things that all the other students seem to be. More than anything, she wants to discover her secret skill like all the other students. "If Ruby had a secret skill, she did not know how to find it." But Master Willow encourages her to keep trying. And he is right, everyone may despair of Ruby ever mastering how to be a ninja, but the resolution of the story is just right.

The extra special craft activity at the back of the book will be popular with library story-times (and it even has a sew and a no-sew option). Put this into the hands of those who have already finished off all the Mobi Shinobi books,  Wink : The Ninja Who Wanted to Be Noticed, and Nighttime Ninja

Fall Reading 2018 Fire Birds: Valuing Natural Wildfires and Burned Forests


When most people see news coverage of a wildfire they automatically assume that there is nothing but destruction and that all fires should be controlled and extinguished. For those living in interface areas where humans have homes and businesses along the edge of the wild areas, that is understandable. No one wants to lose their house or livelihood. But author Sneed Collard shows that wildfires can be good for some of the animals (and plants) within those areas that burn. There are plants that only grow if their seeds are exposed to high temperatures, or that need the access to sunlight that a burn-off creates. And there are creatures such as the birds featured in this book that flourish in those areas of regrowth after the fire has come through.

The photos are clear and captivating. The facts are sure to take many readers by surprise, especially if they have only heard that fire is bad. Back matter includes an "Additional Fire Bird Checklist" with birds not highlighted in the main text, a glossary, an index, and a list of places for "Digging Deeper" into the topic. 

This was also a Junior Library Guild selection.

Fall Reading 2018 The Big Idea Gang

Everybody Needs a Buddy (The Big Idea Gang Book 1) by [Preller, James]

The Worst Mascot Ever (The Big Idea Gang) by [Preller, James]

Worst Mascot Ever: Friends Deon, Kym, Lizzy, and Connor form the Big Idea Gang to work on getting a new school mascot. After all, why would a school in Connecticut have an armadillo for a mascot anyway? Some students push to simply have the raggedy costume replaced and use the argument that the armadillo is a school tradition, but the gang does their research and presents their case in a debate before the whole school. Will the student voting go their way, or does everyone really want to see their principal in another armadillo suit?

Everybody Needs a Buddy: The Big Idea Gang is hard at work again. The sales for spirit items featuring the school mascot have gone so well  that the PTA has extra money to spend. What should it be used for? The gang has several ideas, but Deon is worried about a new student at school who doesn't seem to have any friends. Is there something that can be done about that?

These two titles will be coming out in January 2019, with other books planned for the series. The kids have a mix of interests and abilities, as well as representing boys and girls and several racial/ethnic backgrounds. Author James Preller (of Jigsaw Jones fame, as well as other titles), has created a fun new series for readers in lower elementary.

Fall Reading 2018 The Secret of the Scuba Diving Spider...and More!

Perfect for young readers who enjoy learning cool facts about animals, this book explores five different creatures and amazing details about them. Did you know that some caterpillars have an emergency whistle? (I thought only lost hikers did that, but apparently not.) Along with the stories about each of the featured animals, there is also a hands-on activity to extend the learning. Back matter includes chapter notes, glossary, index, and suggestions for further reading.

Once you have kids hooked on this type of nonfiction, you can direct them to the rest of the series. (Which is always nice for readers who are asking "What else should I read?") This also would be a good title to recommend to those who have just finished Two Truths and a Lie: It's Alive and have become fascinated with strange but true animal abilities. They will definitely see the similarity between the zombie ants and the zombie beetles. 

Great for school library and classroom collections, because it can be used for lessons on adaptations - but also just for the fun of it!

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Fall Reading 2018 Women of the Blue & Gray: True Civil War Stories of Mothers, Medics, Soldiers, and Spies

If you have read Frontier Grit, then you already know that Marianne Monson is an author who enjoys digging into the overlooked stories of history and sharing them with readers. If this is your first encounter with Monson's work, then you will probably want to go back and find other titles by her. In Women of the Blue & Gray, she has gathered multiple female participants across class, race, and political affiliation to show how much women attempted and accomplished during the American Civil War. The book is split into sections featuring the various roles such as soldiers, spies, doctors, abolitionists, etc. Within each section there is general information and also more specific details about several of the women who fall within the category being discussed. 

One of the things I enjoyed about the book was that there was enough general discussion to give the big picture, but then I was able to learn more about some of the remarkable individuals within each chapter. Some names may be familiar to readers - Belle Boyd, Clara Barton, or Harriet Tubman, for example. But others are brought into the spotlight after the author's research uncovered records about them in collections such as the slave narratives housed in the Library of Congress, as well as collections at various museums around the country. Whenever possible, their own words are used to bring these women to life for us; quotes are pulled from diaries, letters, autobiographies and similar sources to flesh out the thoughts and feelings of daughters, mothers, wives, and sweethearts from both sides of the conflict.
The way this book is organized makes it easy to use in a variety of ways. It can be read straight through from beginning to end (as I did), or readers can choose a section that particularly interests them. It also would be a great resource for teachers to read a passage about just one of the characters to illustrate a point being discussed during a unit on the Civil War, or for students to flip through as they try to choose an historical figure about whom to do more in-depth research. All the images and quotations are carefully documented, making it easy to see where to look for more information if it is needed.
This would make a solid addition to school and classroom libraries for grade levels that are planning to cover the time period, or for those discussing women who did not always conform to societal expectations. I read an e-book provided by the publisher through edelweiss.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Fall Reading 2018 When Spring Comes to the DMZ


The beautiful paintings in this book show the variety of wildlife that has made the DMZ into a place of abundant animal life. Scenes from the changing seasons of the year include salmon swimming upstream to spawn, mountain goats clambering over rocks, and water deer and otters in the river. But readers can also see the fences and troops on each side of the zone, and the rusted pieces of equipment and weapons left behind from the Korean War. A grandfather climbs to the observatory and looks out over the land again and again, then dreams of throwing open the gates and going inside.

The juxtaposition of the animals and their families with the fact that the area is only safe for them because humans from both sides are forbidden to cross is very poignant. Some might see it as something positive coming from that military conflict, but others might sympathize with the grandfather in the story and wish that animals and humans could both exist peacefully in that area without the fences and guards.

This would be useful for comparing/contrasting the types of animals shown in the book with animals from other habitats, or as a followup to a unit on the Korean War. I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Fall Reading 2018 I Just Like You


Suzanne Bloom (author of books such as A Splendid Friend, Indeed), has created another wonderful story about the bonds of affection. Animals of all kinds notice the similarities and differences between them, but also know that friendship is something they all have in common. Even if they don't walk, talk, dress, or even read in the same way - they just like each other. 

The whimsical pencil and watercolor illustrations really bring the text to life. A pig and a llama both look up at the clouds, but each see different shapes. A hippo wearing a party hat on its nose shares a book with a rhino wearing a party hat on its head. And how can readers not smile when they see a pink flamingo in a pair of rain boots complimenting a rabbit on its flowery flip-flops? Whether they are short or tall, quick or slow, eat the same foods or enjoy the same hobbies - they can all still be friends.

Anyone looking for a book about getting along, making friends, or finding things in common rather than worrying about what makes us different from each other will be glad to have this book on hand. Perfect for guidance lessons with younger grades, or gently helping to teach that diversity doesn't mean we can't find common ground.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Fall Reading 2018 Answering the Cry for Freedom: Stories of African Americans and the American Revolution


Many students might be surprised to learn that African Americans played roles on both sides of the American Revolution, sometimes even playing the part of double-agent. This collection of stories shares the experiences of 13 such individuals during those early years of our nation's founding. While some readers may have heard of Phillis Wheatley or Sally Hemings, many of the others will be newly discovered characters in U.S. history.

This is a good introductory collection for social studies units on the time period, or for those who are looking for more information than the usual details covered in a textbook. I would also suggest pairing this with some of the picture book biographies available such as:
- Mumbet's Declaration of Independence by Gretchen Woelfle,
- A Spy Called James: The True Story of James Armistead Lafayette, Revolutionary War Double Agent by Anne F. Rockwell, or
- Phillis Sings Out Freedom: The Story of George Washington and Phillis Wheatley by Ann Malaspina and Susan Keeler.

I love the illustrations by R. Gregory Christie and the way Gretchen Woelfle incorporates quotes from the individuals whenever possible. As Agrippa Hull said, "It is not the cover of the book, but what the book contains [that] is the question. Many a good book has dark covers." Back matter in this particular book includes helpful timelines for the lives of each individual, a selected bibliography of books and websites, source notes, and an index.

A very helpful addition to elementary school library or classroom collections or grade levels studying the period of the American Revolution.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Fall Reading 2018 Garbage Island

Imagine "The Odd Couple" with one member an inventive shrew who just can't control himself when he gets an idea, and the other half of the pair a mouse who runs their community and longs for peace and order. Now, take those two tiny creatures (Archibald and Mr. Popli), and locate them with the rest of their neighbors in the middle of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. So we have a seagoing survival story, mixed in with the various personalities, the clever inventions that keep the community alive as it drifts in the ocean, and all the perils you can think of. I'm not kidding. All. The. Perils. There are sharks, snakes, spiders, starvation ... has anyone else noticed there are a lot of words that begin with "s" in that list? While we're at it we should probably add stubbornness as a danger factor. (Once you read it, you'll see what I mean.) Come along on this disaster at sea/buddy story and root for the survival and success (at last some positive "s" words) of Archibald and Mr. Popli.

This is a book that would be great for a class or family read-aloud, with plenty of cliffhangers to keep everyone anxious for the next reading session. It could also spawn some great STEAM/makerspace time as readers try to top the amazing inventions that Archibald cobbles together from bits of trash that float by. And looking at how the community cooperates rather than eating each other as some of the animals would do in their natural environment, as well as curiosity about the garbage patch itself, could lead to some independent research. Perfect for readers who enjoy animal based fantasy like The Tale of Despereaux or The Rats of NIMH, and other pint-sized heroes. 

Highly recommended for grades 3 - 7.

Giveaway - A Lady Has the Floor: Belva Lockwood Speaks Out for Women's Rights by Kate Hannigan

Please enter for a chance to win a hardback copy of this delightful nonfiction picture book. Good luck!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Fall Reading 2018 Super Gear: Nanotechnology and Sports Team Up


Jen Swanson has taken a look at how advances in the field of nanotechnology have affected sports in recent years, and how they will continue to influence the equipment, uniforms, and even surfaces used in various athletic events. She does a thorough job of explaining what nanotech is and how it is used - nanoparticles, nanowires, carbon nanotubes, and the tools used to work with them like nanotweezers and scanning tunneling microscopes are all defined and illustrated. Then she delves into the way these advances are used in various sports. From super suits that cut down on drag for swimmers and skaters; improvements in baseball bats, golf clubs, and tennis rackets; and even changes to shoes and track surfaces to assist sprinters - all are the results of these scientific breakthroughs.

There is more than just talk about how the technology is used and the ways in which it helps with drag, buoyancy, shock absorption, and other factors. The book also discusses specific athletes and competitions that have seen improved performance and even new records set due to nanotechnology. And the ethical and sportsmanship issues of whether it is fair to allow athletes to use these advances is covered. Back matter includes an author's note, glossary, resource list, source notes, selected bibliography, image credits, and an index.

For anyone interested in sports, the future of how nanotechnology will continue to impact athletics, or the field of nanotech in general - this is a fascinating read.

Fall Reading 2018 Hopping Ahead of Climate Change: Snowshoe Hares, Science, and Survival


This Junior Library Guild selection has many things to offer readers. Beautiful photos show the animals being studied and the scientists doing the work. There are also maps, graphs, and other information presented visually to support the text. The text itself does an excellent job of describing the studies, the findings, and their importance. Classes studying adaptations, man's impact on the environment, the results of climate change, and other related topics could use this as a jumping off point for discussions and further research.

Explanations of the difference between evolution and adaptation, where the various data sets come from, and how scientists around the world are cooperating in these studies are helpful in putting the big picture together. There is also humor, particularly in the warning sign on the door to the Phenotron - a sign which features the knights in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" running from the killer rabbit. And there is hope in the suggestions for ways humans can reduce the negative impact on global warming and for possibilities of finding ways to help species adjust to the changes in snowfall patterns.

For any intermediate grade readers interested in science and environmental studies, this is a well-written and engaging title.

Fall Reading 2018 Destination: Space: Living on Other Planets

Ever look up at the night sky and wonder what it would be like to live on another planet? Former astronaut Dr. Dave Williams takes readers on a tour of our solar system that points out the major drawbacks or good points for each planet and even a few of the moons. He also talks about how we learned what we know about them, and what the biggest tourist attractions would be for each spot. He even discusses what sort of shelters, transportation, and solutions for food are being created and tested. Photos from various missions and NASA projects, artists' renderings of what probes looked like as they reached various planets, and cartoon illustrations support the text. Back matter includes a list for further reading, image credits, and an index.

Dr. Dave makes sure to point out that space ships might not look like what we see in movies (with an image from Star Trek as an example). He points out that messages from Titan to Earth would take over an hour to arrive; "No hi-speed Wi-Fi here!" Equipment like the Bigelow Expandable Activity Module and various designs for surface rovers are shown, with explanations of where and how they have been/are being tested. A photo of astronauts on the ISS watching "The Last Jedi" proves that there will be a chance for relaxation in space now and then.

Whether young readers simply want to learn more facts about outer space and its exploration, or have a desire to someday join those who are venturing out beyond Earth's atmosphere, this introduction to possibilities of living on another planet is informative and fun. A recommended addition to school library collections for elementary grades.

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

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Fall Reading 2018 Catching a Storyfish


For fans of novels in verse like The Crossover or Out of the Dust, you need to take a look at this story of Katharen and her family as they move from Alabama to Illinois. Her nickname has always been Keet, short for parakeet because she is such a talker. But when the kids at her new school tease her about her Southern accent and call her "Bama Mouth," Keet becomes a very quiet girl. The poems show the changes she goes through as she tries to adjust and fit in, the first steps towards making a new friend, and her powerful relationship with her grandfather. Most of the verses are in Keet's voice, but some are also from the perspective of her neighbor and classmate, Allegra.

The tone of the poems ranges from the humorous to the heartbreaking. There is the 10-line list of "Things to Do with a Baby Brother" which has very funny suggestions. But there is also the fear that her grandfather will not recover from his illness and ever be the same again. In "Rainy Days," her mother tells her, "He told me once that his heart was an old tackle box and that you were the best thing in it." And in the poem that gives the books its title, Keet shares her dream of "catching my storyfish and telling a really good story that makes my grandpa smile again."

Author Janice N. Harrington captures so many of the authentic feelings that go with each scene - being the new kid, not fitting in because of an accent (or some other difference), the fear of losing a family member or never having the same relationship with them, the tentative moves of a blossoming friendship - they are all there. A poetry glossary explains the different types of poems used in the book and even names an example for readers to go back and look at again. This feature makes the book an excellent mentor text for a poetry unit.

Highly recommended for grades 3 - 7. I will warn that you may wind up teary-eyed at various points (I certainly did), but it is worth it to see this young storyteller working to rediscover her voice through all the changes she undergoes.

Fall Reading 2018 Something Rotten: A Fresh Look at Roadkill


Who would ever think that roadkill could be interesting, well - to anyone besides Granny Clampett? But the intrepid Heather L. Montgomery took the time to research, get her hands dirty (and sometimes more than her hands), and put together a fascinating look at what causes roadkill, how people are working to prevent it, how scientists are using data from it, and how some people are using the roadkill itself in various ways.

For instance, did you know that some people collect statistics on what types of roadkill are seen, how often, at what locations, even to the date and time it was seen? Then the numbers are used to help figure out what is causing the collisions between animals and vehicles. Is it low visibility? Are there food sources attracting the wildlife? Is the roadway cutting across a migration path or bisecting a habitat? Once the situation is better understood, sometime there are possible solutions put in place by helpful groups. Bridges or tunnels might give animals a safe path, fences can funnel them toward one of those paths, etc. 

But our daring author also visited museums and wildlife rehabilitation centers to see how rescued animals were cared for, or how scientists study those who were not so lucky. And she even did some study on her own - including getting covered in scent from a skunk. She also contacted individuals who donate roadkill to food banks and use it to help feed the hungry. And she visited with an artist who creates taxidermy pieces with some of the unfortunate animals.

What a weird and wonderfully informative book about a topic that is sure to lure in reluctant readers with its potential gross factor, but can also appeal to those interested in STEM topics in general. Back matter includes a list of books, videos, and Internet sites to find more information; suggestions on science projects to try; and an annotated bibliography.

Highly recommended for middle grade readers and up. I read an advance copy, but it will be released on October 16 - so everyone else doesn't have long to wait.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Fall Reading 2018 Bluecrowne: A Greenglass House Story


Lucy Bluecrowne has spent half her life on board her father's ship, the Left-Handed Fate, but now he has decided that Lucy, her half-brother, and stepmother must live on land where it is safe. But is it really safe? As soon as the family begins to explore the city of Nagspeake, they encounter all sorts of odd characters. There is Trigemine, who has come to look for an item his employer Morvengarde is determined to acquire. Blister, a master of pyrotechnics, is assisting Trigemine in locating another person with the gift for explosives (a service for one of Morvengarde's customers). There are sailors and craftsmen, taverns and barkeepers, and lots of decrepit alleyways and ramshackle buildings - just the perfect setting for suspicious deeds.

Lucy and her brother Liao manage to find a small boat for Lucy to sail along the river and Liao has a workshop to experiment with fireworks. But something keeps nagging at everyone's perceptions, giving them suspicious feelings and odd worries that they can't pin down. And when there is a kidnapping attempt, it seems that life on solid ground isn't any safer than life aboard a privateer's vessel. Lucy and Liao are full of life and hidden strengths which can see them through many difficulties and win the admiration of readers.

For those who have already read Greenglass House, this story introduces the first inhabitants and explains why the house was built. Those who have not visited Nagspeake before will be intrigued by the mix of cultures, naval traditions, and magical possibilities. Great for readers in middle grades who enjoy historical fiction/fantasy.

I read an advance copy provided by the publisher.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Fall Reading 2018 Wished (Fairy Tale Reform School #5)


Be careful what you wish for. Everyone has heard that saying, right? Well, evidently Maxine has not - or else she didn't believe it. When she gets the chance to make a magical wish, she wishes for everyone at FTRS to be happy. Suddenly classes are cancelled or postponed, Harlow and Jocelyn are wearing bright colors, the halls are filled with glitter and confetti, and there is a school musical in the works. What about Stiltskin? That's what Gilly wants to know, but none of her friends have time to worry about villains when they are busy practicing for their big performance.

Imagine mermaids doing synchronized dancing and toting waterproof scripts, pixies styling everyone's hair with color and glitter, and Maxine singing a solo! But there are still things happening in the kingdom of Enchantasia that should be causing the teachers to worry. Crops are disappearing or being covered with a strange goo. The weather has gone wild with rain and lightning occurring unexpectedly. And the chief of police suddenly decides to take a vacation. Will things ever get back to normal? Or will the school stay in an enchanted state of happiness forever?

This is a funny break in the action for most of Gilly's friends as they work on sets, costumes, and learning their lines rather than practicing spells and martial arts. Gilly still wants to find Alva and Stiltskin, and she also has a new desire to learn more about her family history after a letter from her mother mentions the grandmother that she has never seen. All the usual characters are present, even though they are not acting in their normal fashion (except Maxine's duck, Peaches, who is still eating all sorts of odd items).

Fairy Tale Reform School fans will laugh out loud at Gilly's growing frustration with everyone's musical preoccupation and the various ways the wish for happiness plays out at the school. I read an e-book provided by the publisher through edelweiss.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Fall Reading 2018 Spooked! How a Radio Broadcast and The War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America


It seems, looking back into the dim recesses of the past, that a language arts teacher played the recording of the Orson Welles radio broadcast for us in class at some point. If you haven't heard it yet, you can find it online in a variety of places from YouTube to Audible. But what Gail Jarrow does in this book is trace the path of Welles to the Mercury Theater's time on air and their performance of The War of the Worlds. An excellent timeline in the back matter covers all the major steps along the way.

The narrative gives details of the major players in the adaptation and performance, the social setting (the Great Depression, the American fascination with radio, and fears based on Hitler's rise in Europe), and the reaction and aftermath of the broadcast. Images show the performers, families listening to their radios, headlines, excerpts from letters and telegrams sent in by listeners, and even a photo of the commemorative plaque from Grovers Mill. Illustrations from a 1906 French version of the H.G. Wells book are used to great effect as the radio broadcast is described.

Back matter has a lot to offer for readers who have their interest piqued. There is a section offering websites, DVDs, and books on the broadcast, Welles, Mars, other famous hoaxes, and related fiction. An author's note explains the process Jarrow used to research and write this account. Source notes, a selected biography, picture credits, and an index round out the helpful material.

In this day of fake news and the need for information users to practice discernment and a healthy level of skepticism, this is an amazing example from American history on what happens when people blindly accept media at face value. This book would be a solid way to launch a unit on vetting information sources and hoaxes in general. It is also a great gift for sci-fi fans or anyone interested in broadcasting and media careers.

I read a review copy provided by the publisher.

Fall Reading 2018 Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968


I've been hearing about this book and couldn't wait to read it myself. The excitement was well-founded, because this is an age-appropriate description of the events in Memphis leading up to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination. Duncan uses a mix of prose and poetry and the point of view of a young girl whose father is one of the striking sanitation workers to take readers through that time. Lorraine's descriptions of the piles of trash, rolling pennies to pay the rent, and listening to the words of Dr. King make each scene come to life.

As if the brilliant word choices were not enough, R. Gregory Christie's illustrations show Lorraine in her patent leather shoes and hair-bows, the packed pews of the church as the men listen to union leaders, and the National Guard tanks patrolling the streets. The most heartbreaking scene is Coretta Scott King in her funeral clothes. Duncan writes, "Behind a veil of mourning, she buried her love in Georgia."

Additional features include a timeline of the sanitation strike, information about the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, a list of sources, and source notes. This is a must-have for lessons on the Civil Rights Movement, and especially the Memphis Sanitation Strike and the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. The balance of prose and poetry and the atmospheric layering of the illustrations make it adaptable to early elementary grades and up.

I read a review copy provided by the publisher.

Fall Reading 2018 The Secret Life of the Little Brown Bat


Laurence Pringle is a well recognized name in the genre of narrative nonfiction (see his previous titles on the red fox and owls for further examples). In this latest title he takes us through a year in the life of a little brown bat, beginning with a summer evening as several young males leave the abandoned barn where they roost and head out to hunt for food. The illustrations throughout the book support details in the text like the meticulous care that bats take of their wings, or the way they use echolocation to navigate and find food in the night. A lovely spread shows Otis as he "zigs and zags, flutter and dives, hovers and swoops, dips and swerves."

Don't get me wrong - this is not a book where the animal is named, prettied up, and humanized. The name Otis is actually "chosen for the bat because of the species' scientific name: Myotis lucifugus." Back matter explains that choice along with more details about the little brown bat, including the danger to their population from white-nose syndrome (WNS). There is also a glossary to help with terms like ultrasonic.

This is a great addition to any elementary school library collection, or a perfect gift for a young reader interested in wild life. For those like the students in my area where there are numbers of little brown bats trying to survive WNS, this is a good choice to use in lessons on threatened wildlife populations in local habitats.

I received a review copy from the publisher.

Fall Reading 2018 A Bunch of Punctuation


Anyone seeing "Poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins" on the cover of this book will know they have a good thing. (Just think back to My AmericaI Am the Book, or School People if you don't remember.) This latest anthology has poems by a baker's dozen of different writers, each taking on a different type of punctuation. Alice Schertle shares the colon's complaint. "I wish to complain of the following: neglect, disrespect, lack of use, abandonment, utter exclusion. I call it colon abuse." Jane Yolen points out that "Period is the point that halts you." And according to Betsy Franco, the semicolon claims that "On the page we're quite friendly; we look like a link." (They actually do look that way when you think about it.) Other authors include Charles Ghigna and J. Patrick Lewis, as well as Hopkins himself. Everything from commas to quotation marks are fair game for their verses, and each type of punctuation comes to unique life in their descriptions. 

The illustrations by Serge Bloch add a visual dimension to the rhymes. Apostrophe walks with an S on a leash to illustrate the possessive use, while below them are various characters balancing contractions and kicking around the letters that the apostrophe has replaced. The ellipsis appear as "three lunar eclipses" floating in space while space ships labeled "missing" and "words" fly past. There is a comic flair in the illustrations that will have readers paying close attention to the details.

Perfect for poetry lovers and for use along with grammar lessons on punctuation. Who wouldn't want to learn about how to use exclamation marks to bring superhero mayhem to life? I read a review copy provided by the publisher.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Fall Reading 2018 Monsters & Modules (Secret Coders #6)


Hopper, Eni, and Josh work with Professor Bee in their final showdown with the evil One-Zero. He has come up with another plan to release his dreadful Green Pop, only now he has an airborne variety! To defeat him they will have to travel to the professor's home dimension, Flatland, and retrieve another Turtle of Light to use in their battle with One-Zero. For those who have not heard of it before, the dimension that Professor Bee comes from is inspired by the satirical novel Flatland written by Edwin Abbott in 1884. In the country of Flatland the more sides a shape has, the higher its position in society, and women are only lines and not polygons at all. Professor Bee warns the kids that they will be converted into shapes and lines if they are successful in making the journey to Flatland. The problem with that is their lack of experience in being 2-dimensional beings, or in Hopper's case being a line!

And once they succeed, if they do, they will still have to return to the regular world and take on their nemesis. As if an arch villain isn't enough of a challenge, the kids have other problems. Hopper's father is still unresponsive in the hospital. Her mother is moving the whole family to another town. Eni's parents are sending him to a school that focuses on athletics, hoping to make him focus on basketball. Neither have told Josh about their parents' plans. And Hopper and Eni still haven't recovered from their awkwardness over Eni confessing his crush on Hopper. Things are never simple, are they?

This final book in the series brings all the forces to a head: parental expectations, friendship and crushes, an evil principal using the school to further his nefarious schemes, tyrants from another dimension... Along the way our heroes learn what real courage is all about, as well as coding skills like nesting commands and creating subprograms that can be used with more than one main program.

For those readers who have not tried coding before, Secret Coders is a fun introduction to the basic concepts used in creating computer programs. And for those who have, there are plenty of puzzles to solve as the Coders move from one challenge to the next. Everyone can visit the Secret Coders website to learn more.

Highly recommended for middle grade readers who enjoy graphic novels, school stories, and computers. I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Fall Reading 2018 Science Comics: The Brain: The Ultimate Thinking Machine


Wow - the brain is amazing and so is this tour of what it accomplishes for us. Our guides through all that information are two sisters, Nour and Fahama, and a couple of their neighbors, a mad scientist and his assistant. It turns out that these neighbors are brain experts since one is a disembodied brain named Dr. Cerebrum and his assistant is a zombie ("Braaains"). As Fahama tries to keep her own brain inside her skull, she stalls for time by getting Dr. Cerebrum to explain all the intricacies of the brain and everything connected to it or controlled by it.

Topics covered include the evolution of life from single-celled organisms to today's humans with their complex brains, the various types of cells that make up the brain and nervous system, the jobs of those cells, the five senses, memory, and everything else related. The discussion of sight and sound gets into the details of wavelengths and frequencies. The different types of memory are covered and there is even guidance on the best way to study for a test.

One of my favorite sections describes the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. They are illustrated as a Star Trek bridge crew with the reaction to a perceived danger and the fight or flight response embodied by the captain (complete with gold command shirt), and the "chilling system" that helps you calm down when the danger is over portrayed by an ultra-calm crewman in science officer blue. (You gotta love a classic reference like that.)

Although this topic is interesting, it is complex and full of difficult vocabulary - even with the illustrations for support. The several pages of glossary in the back are helpful, but this is not light reading. I would recommend it for middle grades and up.

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

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Giveaway The Friendship Experiment

About the book: Madeline Little is Harriet the Spy with a lab notebook in this debut novel full of heart, humor, and a dash of science. 

Everything has been going wrong for aspiring scientist Madeline Little, and she's dreading the start of sixth grade. Now that her best friend has moved to a private school, Maddie has no one to hang out with except a bunch of middle-school misfits. And if you add Maddie's blood disorder, which causes public humiliation at the very worst times, it's all a formula for disaster. At least she can rely on her standard operating procedures, the observations and step-by-step instructions she writes in her top-secret lab notebook. Procedures for how to escape a conversation with your mother, how to avoid the weirdos at school -- it's all in there. Fortunately, no one will ever read it.

But does science have all the answers? This future scientific genius might have to experiment with kindness, compromise, and new definitions of friendship before middle school starts to make sense.
(from back cover)

- - - I have an advance copy that needs a good home, so please enter.  :-)

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Fall Reading 2018 9 From the Nine Worlds

Anyone who has read the Magnus Chase novels will already have an appreciation for the kind of humor that Rick Riordan includes in writing them. For those who decided to try this collection of stories to see if they liked the Nine Worlds, here is a quick taste. Odin begins by sharing with us, "My Einherjar have a saying: Some days you are the ax, some days you are the decapitated head. I like it so much, I'm having T-shirts made for the Hotel Valhalla gift shop." So...yes...that's the All-Father, head of the Norse Pantheon, and ruler of Asgard.

The organization of this anthology includes one story set in each of the nine worlds that are interconnected through the World Tree (Asgard, Midgard, Nidavellir, Alfheim, Jotunheim, Helheim, Niflheim, Vanaheim, and Muspellheim), and each story is told by a different character from the Magnus Chase books. There are beserkers, giants, gods and goddesses (including Thor in leather shorts attempting to rack up enough steps on his fitness tracker to win an appearance on a TV show), and even an honorably dead Union soldier.  Their adventures range from shopping for clothing suitable for a 50th anniversary celebration to checking the condition of an egg containing "the future foul fowl of Helheim." Each story also gives us a little more about each of these characters, who all have followings among readers of the series and those fans will welcome some quality time with their favorite(s).

Whether you are a Magnus Chase aficionado or a newbie, there are plenty of thrills and laughs within these pages to keep you entertained. (I must warn newbies, however - these are not the Norse myths as you may know them from watching Thor movies. Just saying.) I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Fall Reading 2018 Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, I Know Exactly What You Are


Take a well known children's song and mix in astronomy facts and what do you have? A picture book tour of space with a rhyming text. The book begins with two children in their bedroom. The girl looks out at the night sky with a telescope while the boy looks through an astronomy book. Their room is decorated with a solar system mobile hanging from the ceiling and a poster of the solar system on the wall - obviously they like learning about space. Constellations, black holes, and the various types of stars are  introduced along with other stellar facts. The illustrations are a mix of watercolor, pencil, and collage that captures the twinkle caused by atmospheric turbulence as well as the beams of light from a pulsing neutron star. They also show those children as they finish their stargazing for the night; the girl snuggles down next to a star projector nightlight while her brother cuddles under the covers with his astronaut teddy bear.

Back matter gives a more detailed explanation of each of the stars mentioned in the book and also shows the image again, making it easy to flip back and forth through the book and connect the larger scale illustration with the extra information. This will be a great gift for any children interested in space and science, and a good addition to classrooms and school libraries for teachers to introduce astronomy.

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

Fall Reading 2018 Misfits (Royal Academy Rebels #1)


Jen Calonita has done it again in this series set in the same kingdom as Fairy Tale Reform School. Every prince and princess is required by law to attend the Royal Academy which is run by Fairy Godmother Olivina. Too bad for Devin, because she doesn't want to leave her home and the woodland animals that she cares for. As she tries to fit in and do what she thinks is right, she is reprimanded again and again by Olivina and warned to act like a true princess. But things at the academy are not what they seem. How do harpies manage to crash the first ball of the year? Why is there a dragon running amok and trying to barbecue students? Events just aren't adding up. Devin will need help from her roommates Sasha and Raina and her friends Heath and Logan to try and get to the bottom of the mystery.

Fans of FTRS will be delighted with this new look at Enchantasia from a young royal perspective. Those readers who haven't met Gilly and the others from Reform School will still be able to plunge right in and cheer for Devin and her classmates as they attend classes while surrounded by pixies, talking mirrors, and all the rules in the school manual.

Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys fairy tale retellings, feisty heroines, and lots of humor to go with the danger and mystery. The characters are all unique -  prince who is allergic to dragons, a princess who writes a tabloid column, etc. and the setting is magical (really). I read an e-book provided by the publisher through edelweiss.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Fall Reading 2018 The Stuff of Stars


"In the dark,
in the dark,
in the deep, deep dark,
a speck floated,"

and so begins an amazing story that spans from the beginning of the universe to the birth of a beloved child. The text is deeply descriptive and poetic as it describes the "BANG!" and everything that follows. First is the collision of matter within clouds of gas, then there are stars, explosions, and the gradual formation of planets. Then come the mitochondria (I feel the presence of Meg and Charles Wallace when I see that word), and daisies. And eventually there is another speck, "invisible as dreams, special as Love." A speck that grows and becomes a child that can take "a big breath of the same air once breathed by woolly mammoths." 

The illustrations by Ekua Holmes capture the beauty and power of the text in amazing hand-marbled paper and collage. The beginning shows the white speck in the vast emptiness of black, grey, and dark purple. The first instant of change fills the page with a violent splash of color in the midst of a yellowy orange like the summer sun. When Marion writes of stars "flinging stardust everywhere," Ekua fills the spread with a fireworks display of reds, oranges, and yellows fanning out. And when we read about - "the singing whales, the larks, the frogs" - we see those shapes circling around a greenish blue ball that seems to be the planet we all share. We are all of us "the stuff of stars."

This book is something that readers of all ages can enjoy. Youngsters may be captivated by the lyrical phrases and the amazing colors, reading and rereading as they look for images of lions and larks. Older students may use this as a mentor text in how to write descriptive phrases that capture the imagination and inspire the reader. Art classes can marvel at the complex arrangement of the elements and the color choices used to mirror the words so well. 

It will also become one of those books that are a go-to gift for baby showers, and perhaps graduation gifts. Who wouldn't be flattered to have their bundle of joy compared to the magnificence of that very first speck of possibility floating in the cosmos?  And what graduate wouldn't love to feel the power of knowing they are a being made of stardust?

I was fortunate enough to receive a copy of the book for review purposes and everyone I know will hear all about it. Highly recommended for all readers!

Monday, September 3, 2018

Summer Reading 2018 The Storm Runner

I have one question. Why aren't there any Mayan ancestors in my family tree? Seriously, they have a goddess of chocolate! Anyway, this latest from Rick Riordan Presents focuses on the story of Zane Obispo and the prophecy that is tied to his fate. It foretells that someone will release the imprisoned god of death. Actually, he is the "lord of three things...Death, disaster, and darkness." So what does one kid with a limp have to do with a conflict between ancient Mayan gods that could destroy the world? Zane himself has no clue, so readers learn about it as he does.

Along the way we meet various members of the Mayan pantheon, as well as demons, seers, giants, and shape-shifters. Zane's mother, his uncle (a huge fan of wrestling), his dog Rosie, and his neighbors Mr. Ortiz and Ms. Cab are the only ones Zane trusts. He has just started a new school and already clashed with bullies and the principal. There is a volcano in his backyard. He sees a plane crash. A mysterious girl shows up and warns him about the prophecy. What would a typical teenage guy do? You guessed it - the opposite of what everyone advises him to do.

So we have deadly chili peppers, magical chocolate drinks, enchanted party wear, giant serpents, jaguars, storms, owl attacks, killer basketball games, and all while our hero tries to survive long enough to either fulfill or fall victim to the prophecy. Which will it be?

For those who loved Percy Jackson and the Kane Chronicles, and have now found the joys of the new imprint with Aru Shah - this is your latest crush to be. Welcome to the incredible world of Mayan mythology. Highly recommended for middle grade readers and up.

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

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Summer Reading 2018 Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist


Anyone who has ever dreamed of accomplishing something important will empathize with Sylvia's life story. Her memoir covers her life from her time before she started school to her work at JPL. The growth of her skills in mathematics began at the same time as her first lessons in English, which her mother arranged for her before she started school. Details about her life (in school and out), show a girl who learned from every experience. She learned to excel in class, to balance the expectations of her parents with their traditional upbringing and what she wanted for herself, and to work toward her goals. Her participation in the Girl Scouts taught her important skills like budgeting, planning, and organization.

Changes over time in gender roles, treatment of minority groups, and other social standards show up in the vignettes from Sylvia's years in school and college. The modified basketball rules for female players is one example; the reluctance of the band director to let her play the timbales is another. Each time she met an obstacle, whether it was her father's demand that she save up $5 before getting a library card (in case she damaged a book), or building up the muscles to carry those drums, Sylvia found a way to succeed.

Personally, even though I am not from the same ethnic background as Sylvia, I identified with so many of the situations she described in this memoir. The drive to attend college, the interest in math and science (even though they were not considered girly subjects), even making new friends in the Brownies was very familiar. And when she talked about reading every biography in her school library and looking up to the famous women she discovered in those books, I nearly jumped out of my seat because I had done the same thing. During fourth grade I read every single book in that Childhoods of Famous Americans series!

This is a wonderful book for anyone interested in biographies/memoirs of successful women and LatinX individuals. Girl Scouts and STEM are also valuable topics that run throughout the story. Sylvia's math and organization skills helped her reach her goals of college, a career in industrial engineering, and the opportunity to work on the Solar Polar Solar Probe and the Voyager mission. Highly recommended for middle grades and up.

I read an advance copy provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Away We Go Land Awareness Tour


Enter For A Chance To Win A 3 Book Prize Pack, Including-Away-We-Go-Land!
One (1) grand prize winner receives:
  • An autographed copy of Away We Go Land
  • An autographed copy of The Day Gravity Goes Loco
  • An autographed copy of Pancake, Pennsylvania
Four (4) winners receive:
  • An autographed copy of Away We Go Land
Age Range: 2-8
Giveaway begins August 30, 2018, at 12:01 A.M. MT and ends September 30, 2018, at 11:59 P.M. MT.
Giveaway open to residents of Canada and the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 13 and older.
Prizes provided by Medialuv Creative



Away We Go Land
Written and Illustrated by Ryan Maloney
Publisher’s Synopsis: Away We Go Land is a picture book that launches kid’s imaginations to a carnival on the moon, where there are no tickets needed, and it’s fun for all.
Ages 2-8 | Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform | July 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1723211942 



The Fairview Review is participating in this blog tour in partnership with The Children’s Book Review and Medialuv Creative.