Showing posts with label cybils2009. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cybils2009. Show all posts

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Champion of Children

The Champion of Children: The Story of Janusz Korczak by Tomek Bogacki

Serving on a panel for the Cybils Award has been wonderful for me; I have visited many intriguing places, I’ve learned about many fascinating events in history, and I have met many exemplary people.

Janusz Korczak is one of those exemplary people. He ran an orphanage for poor children in Poland during the Nazi years. His orphanage was a model for others. He allowed the children to make their own laws which everyone, even the adults, were expected to follow. He started a newspaper to which children were asked to contribute. He spent time with the children and taught them gardening, sports, and, most importantly, love.

The author of this book of Korczak’s life tells his story in simple words, with simple pictures. There are historical notes, author’s notes, and a list of sources and acknowledgments to provide information about how the book came about.

River of Dreams

River of Dreams: The Story of the Hudson River by Hudson Talbott

I must be honest. I was not really interested in finding and reading this book. What did I care about the Hudson River?

I was wrong. This is a fascinating story of a river and the life it has supported over the years, Native Americans, the Dutch, those who used its link with the Erie Canal, the railroaders, writers, artists, and, now, environmentalists.
The pictures are beautiful paintings. The author also includes diagrams and maps and timelines to help the reader better understand the story.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Yellowstone Moran

Yellowstone Moran by Lita Judge

Tom Moran wanted to visit the West. He was a painter who longed for adventure. Unfortunately, he had never ridden a horse nor camped out. So when he decided to travel with a group bound for Yellowstone, he experienced many trials. It was all worth it to him when he finally arrived and was able to paint the wonders of the West for those back East who would never get to visit Yellowstone themselves.

The book is illustrated with pictures that imitate Moran’s style. The author includes both a bibliography and an author’s note that explain where she obtained her information.

A little:
“Tom Moran had dreams as big as the Montana sky.
He stood in a camp in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, waiting nervously. Though Tom knew the men in the camp were scientists, they looked more like bandits. They eyed him suspiciously. He worried he must look like a greenhorn, but he wasn’t about to admit that he had never ridden a horse, never shot a gun, and never slept in the open air. Tom had just traveled two thousand miles to join this expedition into the land called the Yellowstone. He had to convince the team’s leader, Dr. Hayden, to let him join them.”


The Twelve Days of Christmas in Minnesota

The Twelve Days of Christmas in Minnesota by Constance Van Hoven

This book sounds like the book is a silly parody. After all, what do you think of when you think of Minnesota? Well, perhaps snow. What else? The mind of this Texan draws a blank.

Using a twelve days of Christmas format, the author reveals there is much more to Minnesota than just snow. Like Norway pines. And hockey sticks. And lumberjacks. And walleyes. Lots more. Just so you know.

The pictures are bright and colorful. The text is written in the format of letters, making it very kid-friendly.

I can see that this is a book I’d love. If I lived in Minnesota.

And that's the point: It's a book written for those who live in Minnesota to bask in the wonders of the state. There are apparently plans for books for every state.

A sample:
“Hey, Mom and Dad,
We went up north to the lake! That’s what Minnesotans say when they head out to one of the more than 10,000 lakes in the state. The most common lake names? Mud and Long. There are hundreds of those. There are lots of Twin Lakes, too, but only one Lake Hannah and two Lake Sarahs….”

Beautiful Ballerina

Beautiful Ballerina by Marilyn Nelson

With beautiful pictures and beautiful words, Beautiful Ballerina presents the beautiful story of those who dance at the Dance Theatre of Harlem. The text is concise and the photographs used to illustrate the text eloquently depict the beautiful movement that is ballet.


A little:
“To the traditions of port de bras and
arabesque, of pirouettes,
jetes, and pas de deux,
you bring a tiny hint of Africanness,
juju and beautiful joy danced in your every move.
Beautiful ballerina,
you are the dance.”

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mind Your Manners, Alice Roosevelt!

Mind Your Manners, Alice Roosevelt
by Leslie Kimmelman

I love this book. In simple words, it tells the story of the eminently capable President Theodore Roosevelt, a man who fought in wars, dealt with business leaders, and ran America, but failed to rein in his daughter, Alice. The story neatly parallels Teddy’s successes with his failures to control Alice. The pictures show a mischievous Alice and a bewildered Teddy and include bubbles of their conversations.

I would have loved this book more if I hadn’t already read last year’s book about Alice Roosevelt, a remarkably similar story of Alice’s exploits.

A sample:
“Teddy knew how to handle the Russians and the Japanese
when they couldn’t stop fighting each other.
Teddy got them to shake hands and make up.
He got a Nobel Peace Prize for that.
Teddy knew how to handle the planet.
He helped create a system of national parks
so that the land and wildlife were protected.
But Teddy Roosevelt didn’t always know
how to handle his oldest daughter, Alice.
He told her that while she lived under his roof,
she had to obey his rules. What did Alice do?
She simply decided to spend her time over his roof!”

In Her Hands

In Her Hands: The Story of Sculptor Augusta Savage
by Alan Schroeder

Augusta Savage, even as a young girl, loved to play with clay, to shape figures from it. Her father, a preacher, disapproved and punished Augusta when he caught her.

When the family moved, she was happy to discover a potter who shared his clay with her and encouraged her work. A teacher at her school suggested she go to New York and there she was admitted to a prestigious school where she learned to sculpt.

In Her Hands tells Augusta’s story, in little scenes with her parents and teachers. An author’s note at the end tells more of Augusta’s story and provides photographs of two of her most famous sculptures.

From the book:
‘”Tell me, Miss Savage---what do you know?”

Augusta was confused. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“Oh, I think you do.” Mr. Borglum smiled. “What matters most to you? When you think about your life, what comes to mind?”

Augusta had never been asked that kind
of question before. She closed her eyes and
thought for a moment. Green Cove Springs---
that was what she cared about. The place where
she’d grown up, with its clay pits and its smelly
sulphur springs, and the school she’d gone to,
and all the kids she used to play with---Maisie and
Margaret and Pee-wee….’

Balarama: A Royal Elephant

Balarama: A Royal Elephant
by Ted and Betsy Lewin

Every year a special elephant is chosen to lead the parade in a big celebration in India. Balarama is the latest elephant to be so honored.

Both Ted and Betsy Lewin are children’s picture book illustrators. In this book, both draw parts of the story. They have very different styles, with Ted painting big beautiful and realistic illustrations, and Betsy doing cartoon-like drawings.

A little:
“Balarama moves majestically toward one of the palace gates, leading a mile-long procession. Band after band and unit after unit of guards and soldiers march smartly past the stage, following Balarama onto the packed streets of Mysore. Throngs of people push forward to see Balarama in his first ceremonial parade.
We are bursting with pride. He is doing great.”

A Young Dancer

A Young Dancer: The Life of an Ailey Student
by Valerie Gladstone

Iman Bright is a young dancer. She has been taking dance classes at the Ailey School in New York since she was four. The story is told from Iman’s point of view. She matter-of-factly describes the rigors of learning dance. But Iman comes across as a girl who enjoys many other activities---friends, the violin, her studies at school---a well-rounded girl.

The photographs reveal the astonishing moves Iman can make, with great beauty and joy. The text is easy to read. Who wouldn’t want to meet this young dancer?

A little:
“Ms. Jamison is considered one of the most famous members of the Ailey company. I’ve seen her dance in videos and she is amazing.

She’s very direct and funny when she gives corrections. In one part of the dance, she said I looked more like I was delivering groceries than proudly showing the way to God. A big difference.”

The East-West House

The East-West House: Noguchi’s Childhood in Japan by Christy Hale

Isamu Noguchi spent many years of his childhood in Japan as a biracial child. His experiences there led him to become a sculptor who combined the best of both worlds in his art.

Using a minimal amount of text with large illustrations, the author-illustrator tells the story of Noguchi’s childhood.

A sample:
“At school he tried to join in play
but others teased and turned from him.
Left out and alone, Isamu made
a different kind of joy.
He molded clay to form a wave,
then painted it blue like Mama’s eyes.
Holding soft earth in his hands
he almost forgot his loneliness.”

Sunday, November 8, 2009

59 Books in 6 Weeks!

It sounds like a National Enquirer headline. I've been reading. I've been reading a lot. Yes, fifty-nine books in the last 6 weeks!

Fantastic reads! Not a bad one in the lot. All nonfiction. All children's picture books. Penguins. First cross-country trip across America. John Brown. The first moon landing. Butterflies and moths. The American Revolution. The friendship of an elephant and a dog. Jacques Cousteau. Zero. Gertrude Stein. Darwin. And more Darwin. And even more Darwin. Even philosophy for kids.

Here, in one spot, I'm compiling my reviews to the Cybils nonfiction picture book nominees. Some are not yet read and reviewed. And, in the interest of full disclosure, I will say that I have received many publisher's review copies of these. However, only two arrived as a publisher's review copy before I received a copy from the library system (American Revolution and Q is for Question).

14 Cows for America
About Penguins
The American Revolution from A to Z
Balarama: A Royal Elephant
Beautiful Ballerina
Boo Boo Bear's Mission: The True Story of a Teddy Bear's Adventures in Iraq
Bring Me Some Apples and I'll Make You a Pie
Bubble Homes and Fish Farts
Building on Nature
Camping With the President
The Champion of Children: The Story of Janusz Korczak
Coretta Scott
Creature ABC
Cycle of Rice, Cycle of Life
Darwin: With Glimpses into his Private Journals and Letters
Day-Glo Brothers
Down Down Down
The East-West House: Noguchi's Childhood in Japan
Eleanor, Quiet No More
Faces of the Moon
The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau
Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude
Haunted Houses
If America Were a Village
In Her Hands: The Story of Sculptor Augusta Savage
In the Trees, Honey Bees!
It's a Snap!
Jackson and Bud's Bumpy Ride
John Brown: His Fight for Freedom
Just the Right Size
Keep On!
Let There Be Peace
Life in the Boreal Forest
Life-Size Zoo
A Lion's Mane
Listen to the Wind
Living Sunlight
Mermaid Queen
Mind Your Manners, Alice Roosevelt!
My Japan
Nasreen's Secret School: A True Story from Afghanistan
Nic Bishop: Butterflies and Moths
Nugget on the Flight Deck
One Beetle Too Many
One Giant Leap
Pharoah's Boat
Pippo the Fool
Pony Island
Q is for Question
River of Dreams: The Story of the Hudson River
S is for Story
Secret World of Walter Anderson
Shaping Up the Year
Shining Star
Sky High
Tarra and Bella
The Twelve Days of Christmas in Minnesota
Tyrannosaurus Math
Unite or Die
What Can You Do With an Old Red Shoe
What Darwin Saw
Where Else in the Wild?
Winter's Tail
Wrestling the ABCs
Yellowstone Moran: Painting the American West
You Are the First Kid on Mars
A Young Dancer
You've Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?
Zero is the Leaves on the Tree

*For convenience, I'm going to list all the nonfiction picture book nominees here and update here after I've read and reviewed all 73 titles.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Tyrannosaurus Math by Michelle Markel

Tyrannosaurus Math by Michelle Markel

A tyrannosaurus, T-Math, goes through his life and solves math problems. The pictures are bright and fun and the story is compelling and fun. The ending is wonderfully satisfying.

A bit:
“When a meteorite sped toward the earth, he asked himself, ‘sphere or cube?’ before dashing to safety.
And when a volcano launched colorful rocks onto the plain, he arranged them in rows to count them swiftly before lava caught up to him.”

Children’s thoughts:
The large group of first graders and kindergarteners who previewed this book loved it. The illustrations were a big plus for kids who looked at this book. They all said they loved math, so they thought they would like this book. One boy said that he liked how you could read and learn math at the same time.

You Are the First Kid on Mars

You Are the First Kid on Mars by Patrick O’Brien

With photograph-like paintings and detailed text, this book relates what might happen if a child were to visit Mars. I was taken by the pictures and the details of what a child might experience.

A little from the book:
“You can’t go out on the surface of Mars without a space suit. There’s not enough oxygen to breathe, and it is much too cold. You carry air in tanks on your back, and your suit keeps you warm. Gravity on Mars is less than half as strong as on Earth, so you take big, bouncing steps.”

Children’s reactions:
The children who looked at this book commented on how real the pictures looked. They were pretty evenly divided as to those who liked the book and those who did not.

Zero is the Leaves on the Tree by Betsy Franco

Zero is the Leaves on the Tree by Betsy Franco

The author uses metaphors from children’s lives to explain the concept of zero. I could see this book being used a lot with students to better understand zero or as a writing prompt.

A little from the book:
“Zero is…
the balls in the bin at recess time.”

Reactions from children:
Two unexpected problems with the book: We live in the southern part of the United States and many of the metaphors involved concepts our children never experience (the sound of snowfall, for example). The younger children liked it, but the older children said they got tired of zero.

My Japan by Etsuko Watanabe

My Japan by Etsuko Watanabe

This book is shows the life of a girl in Japan, told from her point of view. The pictures are as helpful as the text in telling the story. I was fascinated to read about the differences in the lives of a Japanese girl and an American girl.

A bit:
“In Japan, we sleep on futons. They are light and very easy to fold and carry. When you air them out in the sun, they feel warm and fluffy. Mmmm, very nice to sleep on!”

The children were mildly interested in this book. I was surprised to find they were not as interested in the book as I would have predicted. I avoided the page with naked people; a parent has leafed through the book just before I showed it to the children and she did not like that page. I would have trouble putting it into my library as that page would cause a lot of titters from kids.

Darwin: With Glimpses into His Private Journal & Letters

Darwin: With Glimpses into His Private Journal & Letters by Alice B. McGinty

The third Cybils nominee that takes on Darwin. Like the other two, this one tells of Darwin’s life. This book includes excerpts from Darwin’s journal and letters.

A bit:
“In 1831, Charles Darwin set sail on the HMS Beagle, beginning what would become a five-year trip around the world. Seasick, he got off at every stop. He explored islands and coasts. He followed rivers. He climbed mountains and hiked through tropical rainforests. What Charles saw filled him with awe and left him believing firmly in a God who had created these wonders.”

Children’s reactions:
I showed a group of eight first graders all three Darwin books. This was the least favorite, though they found the text in this book easy to understand. They liked the pictures better in the other two books.

Just the Right Size

Just the Right Size:
Why Big Animals are Big and Little Animals are Little
by Nicola Davies

I’m a person who has a great deal of trouble with scientific concepts. This book explained some principle in science, I think, and I believe I understand the principle better after reading this book, though I couldn’t tell you the name of the principle and I doubt if I could explain it very well. It has something to do with why animals cannot be enormous in size and it has something to do with volume and doubling height causing a big jump in volume. (Glad I am not being tested on the material in this book as I quite obviously am barely grasping any of this.)

The pictures are funny and helped me understand this concept better. If I really wanted to understand this concept, this book would be just the one to read, I think.

A bit:
“Here is a Little Thing. It could be anything---a car, a log, a bar of soap---but it just happens to be a creature (even if it looks a bit like a cube)….
Now let’s meet Big Thing. Big Thing is TWICE the size of Little Thing….
How many Little Things would it take to make one Big Thing?
If you look carefully, you can see that Big Thing’s surface area and cross section are FOUR times bigger than Little Thing’s. But Big Thing’s volume and weight are EIGHT times bigger.”

Children’s reactions:
The group of eight first graders who looked at this book had very little interest in this book. Perhaps this book is aiming at an older audience.

The American Revolution from A to Z

The American Revolution from A to Z by Laura Crawford

Boys at my school are very interested in war. There is very little out there for these boys. I noticed when I was reading all the old Newbery winners that many of the older titles dealt with fighting and war, subjects that appeal to boys. Why are these types of books no longer written about?

This is a simple alphabet book about the Revolutionary War.

A sample:
“J is for Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson, one of the founders of the United States, was the main author of the Declaration of Independence and the third president. He was a lawyer, architect, writer, inventor, and musician. Jefferson died on July 4, 1826, exactly fifty years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.”

Children’s reactions:
This was not a popular choice among the children who previewed the book. A few boys liked the book’s scenes of fighting, but, for the most part, there was a ho-hum reaction. It seems to need an older reader.

Cycle of Rice, Cycle of Life: A Story of Sustainable Farming

Cycle of Rice, Cycle of Life: A Story of Sustainable Farming by Jan Reynolds

This book relates the story of rice farming in Bali. For centuries, farming in Bali was done in the same way, with planting, harvesting, and allowing fields to lie fallow. Then modern methods were brought in. Rice production unexpectedly fell. Farmers went back to the old ways.

I had a hard time trying to stay with the story in the book. I have some interest in the subject, but not enough for a book of this length.

A little of the book:
“Kadek strikes harvested stalks against the side of a basket. This knocks off the kernels of rice which are collected in the basket below. The rice kernels will then be tossed in large, round sieves to separate out any small pieces of stalk or other materials. Finally, the rice will be laid in the sun to dry thoroughly, before it is packed into bags.”

Children’s comments:
No one liked this book. The children said this book had too many words. No one was interested in reading about growing rice.

Let There Be Peace: Prayers from Around the World

Let There Be Peace: Prayers from Around the World selected by Jeremy Brooks

The Reverend Jeremy Brooks searched all over the world for prayers asking for peace. He focused on finding prayers written by those in the midst of conflict. I was very moved by the words, some spoken by millions, some spoken for hundreds of years, some spoken by a few.

One prayer:
“O Lord,
remember not only the men and women of goodwill,
but also those of ill will.
But do not only remember the suffering they have inflicted on us,
remember the fruits we bore thanks to this suffering,
our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility,
the courage, the generosity,
the greatness of heart which has grown out of all this.
And when they come to judgement
let all the fruits which we have borne
be their forgiveness. Amen. Amen. Amen.

Found beside the body of a Jewish child
in a German concentration camp, 1945”

Comments of children:
This was a love it-hate it book; kids either really liked it or really hated. it. About half the group rated it a 5 and half gave it a 1. After I read the poems aloud, there was a great stillness in the room.