Saturday, November 7, 2009

Dinosaur by Stephanie Stansbie

Dinosaur by Stephanie Stansbie

Wow! I can see this will probably be very popular with the kids! The cover is a scary picture of a dinosaur with long, bloody teeth. The title is written in gold letters. Inside are pages that fold open, pockets with papers inside that pull out, windows, all containing little snippets of information about dinosaurs. It has a beautiful, fun look.

The text is actually quite high level, certainly beyond the readers at a primary school. But, like many books of this ilk, it is not really a book designed to be read, paragraph after paragraph, page after page; it’s designed to be read in little chunks, as one wishes.

A random snippet:
“As the biggest predator in its area, the Albertosaurus would not have needed camouflage to hide from attackers. But it could have crept up on speedier prey if it had blended into the trees like a brown bear. Perhaps it was speckled with spots like a hyena to blur its outline further.”

Children’s comments:
The cover was so inviting that everyone wanted to look at this book. But, when they opened it, and looked through it, the children realized it was too hard for them to read.

Tarra & Bella: The Elephant and Dog Who Became Best Friends

Tarra & Bella: The Elephant and Dog Who Became Best Friends by Carol Buckley

Tarra was a roller-skating elephant in the circus, in a movie, and on television.

Finally, she was retired and taken to live in a sanctuary for elephants in Tennessee. Usually, an elephant will befriend another elephant, but Tarra did not make a friend there for a long time. One day, however, she met Bella and, unexpectedly, the two became best friends.

The text is simple and easy to understand. The book is illustrated with photographs of Tarra and Bella.

A little:
“Bella was rushed to the animal hospital, where the vets said she had a spinal cord injury. No one knew if Bella would ever walk again, but they took Bella home and made her comfortable in the heated office above the elephant barn while they tried to nurse her back to help. Through a large window Bella watched longingly as the elephants played outside. Meanwhile, for two full days, Tarra remained standing at the exact spot where Bella had been found, waiting for Bella to return.”

Children’s comments:
One child said, "I like how a little bitty animal and a big animal are friends." Another child said she liked how loving the pictures are. Both boys and girls liked this book. Most gave it a five, but a few thought it was a three.

John Brown: His Fight for Freedom by John Hendrix

John Brown: His Fight for Freedom by John Hendrix

John Brown led an attack on Harper’s Ferry in an attempt to obtain weaponry for his army, an army he hoped to use to defeat slavery. The attack did not go off as planned and Brown was hung for his efforts.

I’ve always seen Brown as a terrorist, but he is not presented this way in the book; he comes across as a man who deplored slavery, loved God, and desperately wanted to stop slavery in America.

The pictures are fun and bright and add a lot to the book. The text is a bit long winded for younger readers, but it would be perfect for an older group of readers, such as junior high or high school students.

An author’s note explains why Hendrix came to write the book and shows where Hendrix obtained his information. The book also includes a list of sources.

A bite of the book:
“Like a great fuming tornado, John swept across the plains to fight for Kansas. He fought many battles on those windy plains, but it was a dark night along Pottawatomie Creek that made him notorious. John and his sons stormed the houses of five pro-slavery settlers who had been threatening his family and other abolitionists, took the men to the creek, and killed them with broadswords. John’s ruthless tactics spread fear into the hearts of the Border Ruffians and others, but also branded John a crazed madman….”

Children’s comments:
The children, eight first grade students, who previewed this book didn’t really know what to make of it. The story was unfamiliar to them and they really didn’t even know enough about the Civil War or slavery yet to be able to really understand what was going on. The ratings with this group were a mix of 3’s and 1’s, but I imagine that upper elementary students would enjoy it a lot more.

Faces of the Moon by Bob Crelin

Faces of the Moon by Bob Crelin

Rhyming text accompanied by the waxing and waning of the moon---this is Faces of the Moon. The pictures include cutaways of the moon. As the pages turn, the moon grows from a crescent to a full moon and then back to a crescent moon again. The pictures make a complicated event clear.

A sample:
“A few days pass, and Moon’s less shy;
her smile lights the twilight sky.
The more her sunlit surface shows,
the more Moon’s WAXING CRESCENT grows.
Waxing Cresent* Moon rises in the mid-morning
and sets in the mid-evening.”

*In the notes for both waxing crescent and waning crescent, the word is spelled incorrectly.

Children’s comments:
I tried this out with a group of sixteen students, half boys, half girls, and half kindergarteners and half first graders. They loved the cutouts that showed how the moon waxed and waned. They said they understood the text.

Building on Nature: The Life of Antoni Gaudi

Building on Nature: The Life of Antoni Gaudi by Rachel Rodriguez

This book is the story of Antoni Gaudi, an architect from Spain. It tells how Gaudi came to create buildings that imitated things he saw in nature.

I had never heard of Gaudi or any of his buildings, so the whole book was new information for me. I liked the simplicity of the text and way the author shows how Gaudi’s work evolves and grows, how he tries ideas no one has ever tried before.

An author’s note, a list of photos available online, and a bibliography in the back adds more information about Gaudi for those who are interested in learning more.

A bit:
“He designs a gate for his friend
Guell’s country home.
A dragon perches atop diamonds and squares,
baring his fangs and slithery tongue.
Gaudi’s creations get braver.”

Children’s comments:
Children always surprise me. The group of first graders who looked through this book loved it. They liked the buildings Gaudi made. They rated this book mostly 5’s and 3’s, with a couple of 1’s.

Haunted Houses: The Unsolved Mystery by Lisa Wade McCormick

Haunted Houses: The Unsolved Mystery by Lisa Wade McCormick

An absolutely perfect haunted house book for an elementary school library. The pictures are spooky without being horrifying and the text is mysterious and provocative but not nightmarish. The text is simple enough for even young readers to attempt it. It tells just the barest of facts about haunted houses, just right for elementary readers.

I got a quick look at this book last week when a book salesman visited my library. I liked it so much that I bought it for my school library.

A little of this book:
“What Are Haunted Houses?
Strange events happen in
haunted houses. Some people
hear screams. Others see lights
turn on and off by themselves.”

Children’s comments:

This book was a big hit with the group of children who looked at it. The group consisted of half kindergarteners and half first graders and they were equally divided between boys and girls. They all wanted to check it out, they said. They were very interested in haunted houses. The text and the pictures were scary, they said, but not so scary that they would not want to read it. They seemed to understand the words.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Texas Book Festival

What a way to spend my birthday!

A beautiful day in Austin, Texas!

I left a few BookCrossing books here and there,
including this one about the Alamo,
which I left near the Texas Capitol.

Judy Schachner, author of the Skippyjon Jones books...

New author Mac Barnett, author of Guess Again!

Jon Scieszka, author of the new Robot Zot book,
and best known for the Time Warp Trio books.

Barnett and Scieszka later announced the 2009-2010 Bluebonnet books.
They both sported manly chests.

There was an entertainment tent...

...and a cooking tent...

...lots of readers...

...and, because it was also Halloween, tons of people in costume... the wonderful Elizabeth Berg and Amanda Eyre Ward....

...and even Margaret Atwood!

What a wonderful day...and tomorrow I'll return to the festival for more authors and more book talk!