Sunday, October 25, 2009

TSS: Readathon: Hour 24: Final Hour Wrapup

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
The one just before I caved and went to sleep.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
Children's nonfiction picture books worked great for me this year.

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
I should be awarded more prizes. Like at least one.

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

5. How many books did you read?
26. Hey, that's pretty good, right?

6. What were the names of the books you read?
Okay, here goes:
Jackson and Bud's Bumpy Ride
Eleanor, Quiet No More
Creature ABC
Bring Me Some Apples and I'll Make You a Pie
Camping With the President
Secret World of Walter Anderson
If America Were a Village
Unite or Die
Pony Island
Winter's Tail
What Can You Do With an Old Red Shoe
Sky High
Wrestling the ABCs
Mermaid Queen
One Beetle Too Many
Day-Glo Brothers
Pippo the Fool
Shining Star
Keep On!
Pharoah's Boat
What Darwin Saw
Bubble Homes and Fish Farts
Nic Bishop: Butterflies and Moths
Life-Size Zoo

7. Which book did you enjoy most?
Hmmm...maybe, Jackson and Bud's Bumpy Ride?

8. Which did you enjoy least?
I liked them all!

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
I wasn't, but I'd like to try it one readathon. Thank you, cheerleaders! Thank you, Diane! Thank you, Louise! Thank you, softdrink!

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
It's almost assured I will participate next time. I loved it. And I will probably be a reader again.

A final readathon challenge...A desperately competitive nature drives me to want more followers....I'm extending this challenge to the end of the month to anyone who becomes a follower....

Readathon: Hour 23: Awake and Racing to the Finish

I fell asleep at midnight, but I woke up at five this morning, so I'm back for the final two hours of the readathon. Happy day!

For a first time in the Readathon, I'm heading into a grownup book, Margaret Atwood's Year of the Flood. End times. Dystopia. The world is not a pretty place in this future possible world. I'm up to page 201 and it concludes on 431, so I thought I'd give it a whirl.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Readathon: Hour 18: Life-Size Zoo

Exhausted. This will be my last read, my last review. Must get some sleep. Seventeen, almost eighteen straight hours of reading. Too many Hershey's Kisses and too much coffee. Lots of entries into contests, but, as usual, nothing won. Had a great time reading and writing and visiting blogs and playing games. 'Night all.

Life-Size Zoo by Teruyuki Komiya

I like this book so much. I pushed it off on several parents seeking books for their kids. How could someone go wrong with this book?

Here are things I liked about it: An information sheet about the animals on the front endpapers. A table of contents created to be like a zoo map (oh so clever). A part of the animal presented in full life-size. Things to look for on the drawing, up close. Cool facts about the animal.

And what great choices for animals: a panda, zebra, tiger (those scary teeth), gorilla, rhino (with a horn made of hair?), anteater (what a nose!), koala (much smaller than I would have expected), and more.

Readathon: Hour 18: Nic Bishop: Butterflies and Moths

Nic Bishop: Butterflies and Moths by Nic Bishop
The photographs are incredible. The text is pretty darn good, too.

Nic Bishop: Frogs won last year's Cybil nonfiction picture book award. Does that hurt this year's Nic Bishop entry? Or does it help it?

Just a dollop:

"There is no mistaking a butterfly. Its colorful wings skip in the air like petals blown by the wind. Blues, reds, and yellows dance in the sunlight. Some shimmer like tinsel."

Comments from children:
Only one of the kindergarten boys said he would like to check out this book over and over. One boy said he would check it out for his mother!
A lot of kids said they would check it out a lot. But one boy said he thought some of the pictures were too creepy.
They liked the pictures a lot and seemed to understand the text.
5, 5, 5, 5, 0

Readathon: Hour 18: Bubble Homes and Fish Farts

Bubble Homes and Fish Farts by Fiona Bayrock

"Bubbles are soft and squishy and full of air. They shimmer. They float. And they are very handy. Animals make bubbles, ride bubbles, breathe bubbles, and even live in bubbles. Animals use bubbles in amazing ways."

Each two page spread tells about another way an animal uses bubbles. There is a paragraph full of fascinating text and an overblown picture to help explain the difficult parts, with a speech bubble (of course!) to add a little more information.

The back of the book has additional facts about bubble makers along with a glossary and a list of acknowledgments to those who helped the author in writing the book.

Readathon: Hour 18: Pharaoh's Boat

Pharoah's Boat by David Weitzman

In 1954, a crew of men found a secret wall. As they began to dig at the wall, they were amazed to discover a boat built almost 4,600 years ago.

This book is the story of the unearthing of that boat, the process the men went through to rebuild it, and the amazing patience of the leader of the men.

I don't know why, but books like these go right over my head. Lots and lots of things were unclear to me, but it may just be my own lack of understanding.

An example:
"The rope lashing did more than just hold the hull together. When sewn ships like this were launched, the wood soaked up water like a sponge and expanded. At the same time, the rope shrank as it got wet, pulling the planks together and closing any little spaces between them to make the ship watertight."

Comments from children:
“I liked the pictures but there were too many words.”
“I liked the whole idea of how they made the boat. I liked the ropes, the ax, and how it was put together.”
0, 1, 1, 1, 0, 0, 5, 5, 1, 3, 1, 1

Readathon: Hour 18: Give Me Five MiniChallenge

"Name five of your favorite children's books."

Now this is an EASY one for me:

(1) A Wrinkle in Time
(2) Where the Sidewalk Ends
(3) Where the Red Fern Grows
(4) How the Grinch Stole Christmas
(5) Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

Readathon: Hour 17: Keep On!

Whew. Getting very, very sleepy. Five books left to read and review. Can I finish them all and then take a short nap? Can I take the advice of Henson and keep on going?

Keep On! The Story of Matthew Henson, Co-Discoverer of the North Pole by Deborah Hopkinson

An exerpt:

"Matthew Henson
was born in a Maryland cabin,
at a time when boys dreamed of finding glory,
of planting flags at the ends of the Earth,
making the unknown known,
and recording their names into history books.

Young Matt had that same hunger to explore,
but most folks would have laughed at his dreams.
For Matt was born in 1866, just after the Civil War,
a time when poor black boys like him
had few chance to roam the next county,
to say nothing of another country, the seven seas,
or the top of the world."

The line breaks in this book make the worlds read like poetry. Each double page has a quote that emphasizes the ideas on the pages.

The story tells the most important events of Henson's trip with Peary to the North Pole. The book concludes with an author's note telling more about Henson, a time line, and a list of resources.

Readathon: Hour 16: Shining Star

Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story by Paula Woo

Paula Yoo! How well I remember her previous book, Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds. What a fantastic story.

So I could not wait to read this one, another biography of an Asian American. This time Woo tells the story of Anna May Wong, an actress in Hollywood in the 1930's through the 1950's. Wong did not like the stereotypical roles of an Asian American woman she often had to play, but it was not until near the end of her career that she decided to stop playing those roles.

The story of Wong is well told, with clear words and expressive pictures.

A little, from the very beginning of the book:

'Anna May Wong struggled to free herself. Tight ropes bound her to the railroad tracks. A plume of smoke puffed into the sky as a train rumbled toward her.

"Stop daydreaming!"

Startled, Anna May opened her eyes. The train vanished. Steam, not smoke, hissed from a nearby boiler filled with dirty clothes.

"Get back to work," snapped her father. "We have a full day's worth of laundry to clean and press."'

Readathon: Hour 15: What Darwin Saw

What Darwin Saw: The Journey That Changed the World by Rosalyn Schanzer

I know, I know. It looks like a comic book. It sounds like a comic book.

It's not a comic book.

Or, at least, it's not your grandfather's comic book. So to speak.

What Darwin Saw is the story of Darwin's voyage on the Beagle, a trip that changed the way people saw the world. It looks like a comic book. It sounds like a comic book.

But this is no Superman here. The text enclosed in little speech balloons comes from primary sources, often. This is the textbook comic book. Or a comic book textbook. Something like that.

A sample: A view of the Amazon, with monkeys and parrots and frogs hanging from trees, alligators swimming close to Darwin's rowboat, and in the speech balloons coming from Darwin's mouth: "Among the scenes which are deeply impressed on my mind, none exceed in sublimity the primeval forests, undefaced by the hand of man." Huh? I am imagining the reaction of a fifth grader.

The pictures tell the story, or help tell the story. All the complex ideas are made clearer with the pictures in this book.

The book concludes with an author's note explaining the making of the book and a bibliography.

Readathon: Hour 14: The Day-Glo Brothers

The Day-Glo Brothers: The True Story of Bob and Joe Switzer's Bright Ideas and Brand-New Colors by Chris Barton

So how would you illustrate a book about the two brothers who invented day-glo paint? But of course. And, boy, are day-glo colors effective in the telling of this story and its illustration.

Bob and Joe Switzer never set out to be inventors. Joe wanted to be a magician. Bob wanted to be a doctor. They did not realize their dreams, but a greater future lay ahead of them; they gained fame as the inventors of day-glo paint.

The story of the two brothers is a serendipitous tale of how inventors invent, of how one thing unexpectedly leads to another, of how dreams are realized even when one thinks they have been traveling down the wrong path.

I love how the illustrator used just a bit of day-glo here and there to make a point. Beautiful and fun.

Just a bit:

"After Joe got married in 1938, he and his wife, Elise, moved into a run-down old farmhouse so he would have room for his own laboratory. It wasn't the best place for a young family, as their baby boy liked to chew on chemical-splattered shoes."

Comments from children:
“I liked the paint.”
“I liked the story.”
Four kindergarteners, two boys and two girls rated the book.
5, 5, 5, 5, 5

Readathon: Hour 14: Pippo the Fool

Pippo the Fool by Tracey E. Fern

The people of Florence wanted their cathedral to be complete, to be crowned with a beautiful dome. They initiated a contest. Many tried to design a dome, but all were failures until Pippo the Fool appeared. Pippo was the object of derision to many, but his design was flawless. It took Pippo many years to complete his work, but it was spectacular when finished.

This is the kind of story that we adult nonfiction readers crave these days, what we call a piece of nonfiction that reads like a story. Children crave it, too, I think.

Pippo the Fool is a lovely story, with excellent complementary illustrations.

A bit:

'Finally the judges turned to Pippo's plans. They could not believe their eyes. Surely this was the craziest idea yet! Pippo's dome seemed to float over the cathedral like a great balloon. It had no columns, no earth, no scaffolding to support it.

"How do you plan to build such a dome?" the judges asked. "What will hold it up?"

Pippo would not tell. He was worried that Lorenzo would steal his idea.'

Comments from children:
Half were seven and half were eight, with five girls and three boys.
“I didn’t like the pictures and the words were too long.”
“I liked the building he made.”
One person liked the pictures.
Not many were interested in a builder.

Readathon: Hour 13: One Beetle Too Many

One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin by Kathryn Lasky

Charles Darwin was a child who was allowed to explore and he grew up, despite his terrible conflicts with schools, to be a man who explored the world of nature.

Lasky, as she has done in every book, writes the story of Darwin's life brilliantly. Darwin feels as round and human as any fictional character. He comes across as both a student easily bored and a thoughtful observer.

The pictures make Darwin feel even more real, smart yet bumbling.

I loved the richness of the writing and the fun of the pictures. A bibliography is included at the end.

A sample:

“He was told it was something no clergyman should do. That it was a wild scheme. That the boat was unsafe. That the voyage would be useless. That this was a most unsuitable occupation and would ruin his character. And if all that were not enough, he would surely get horribly seasick and furthermore the natives would probably eat him. In spite of all these objections from his father and sisters and aunts and uncles, Charles still wanted to go.”

Readathon: Mid-Event Survey

Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now?
Yet another Cybil nonfiction picture book nominee.

2. How many books have you read so far?

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon? Life-Size Zoo

4. Did you have to make any special arrangements to free up your whole day? Refused to attend regional library convention. Skipped Halloween carnival.

5. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
I've oddly been interruption-free.

6. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?
How many opportunities there have been to win prizes!

7. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? May try to update using single blog post.

8. What would you do differently, as a Reader or a Cheerleader, if you were to do this again next year? Nothing. I like reading short picture books.

9. Are you getting tired yet? Not yet.

10. Do you have any tips for other Readers or Cheerleaders, something you think is working well for you that others may not have discovered? Short picture books. I like short picture books.

Readathon: Hour 12: Mermaid Queen by Shana Corey

Onwards and upwards to book number sixteen of the Readathon!

Mermaid Queen by Shana Corey

Loved this author and this illustrator's work together on a previous book about Alice Roosevelt. This one was even better. The wonderful text, printed in big and small fonts, with curls and swirls, combined with the fun illustrations makes for a great book.

I'm happy to learn about the life of Annette Kellerman, who began to swim to strengthen her legs weakened by debilitating disease. She loved dancing and was the first to create what came to be known as water ballet. She later revolutionized bathing apparel.

Here's a sample:

"When they arrived in London, they went to Soho and the Strand, Picadilly and the Palace, hoping to put on a show. But everywhere they went, people just scoffed.

A girl swimmer?

Too plain. Too plump. Too weird.

Too wet. Too bad!"

Comments from children:
The four kindergarten boys liked the splashing water, but they were not interested in the swimming.

Readathon: Hour 12: Wrestling the ABCs

Could this be book #15? Yes, it is! With eleven hours of reading and eating M&Ms and Hershey's Kisses behind me, I'm ready to review Wrestling the ABCs.

Wrestling the ABCs: Creating Character and Fostering Fitness by Tom and Veronica Davids

Kids are always begging me for books about wrestling at my library, but I have the strong feeling that this is not the kind of wrestling book they are seeking.

I know nothing about wrestling, so this book was honestly the first time I have learned anything about it, other than what I've heard about it through the grapevine.

It looks like something kids would like to do. A lot of tossing and flipping down and pinning. Definitely not a sport for the reading crowd I hang out with.

The illustrations were for me the best part of the book. They are little cartoons and are very clever and funny. I'm not sure what the kids would think of it, but the little rhymes on each page were a little too ta-da-da-da ta-da-da-dee for me. The information about famous wrestlers did not light up a single bulb in my mind; surely, there is one wrestler in the world I have heard of? But perhaps not.

A few things I questioned:

"A wrestler's uniform consists of a singlet, headgear, and wrestling shoes. Knee pads, mouth guards, and tights are optional." Hey, what about the feather boas and the hip boots?

"Wrestling teams travel all over the world, bringing their different styles and cultures to share with others. Wrestling makes the world a wonderful place." Wrestling makes the world a wonderful place? Hmmm. Is that so?

"C is for your coach,
Who trains and teaches you.
With conditioning and calisthenics,
He'll make a champion out of you!"

Conditioning and calisthenics? Isn't there an extra syllable in there somewhere, Dr. Bill?

For me, as with all the nominees, the final test is with the kids. Let's see what they think about this book.

Readathon: Hour 11: Redwoods by Jason Chin

I'm at book number fourteen. Yippee!

Redwoods by Jason Chin

I can see myself picking this as my favorite nonfiction picture book. I love the text and the pictures perfectly complement the text. Redwoods serve as a fascinating subject yet have not been overdone as a subject.

The text information is supplemented with an author's note explaining his interest in the subject and a note about the danger to redwoods. No bibliography which is disappointing but not absolutely necessary.

There really is only one obstacle to adding this to my shortlist: What do kids think? I must try this book out on my primary students.

A bit from the book:

Redwoods by Jason Chin
“The coast redwoods are among
the oldest trees in the world.
Their ancestors lived about 165 million
years ago, during the Jurassic period.”
(Illustrations show a boy reading a book about redwoods, getting on a subway, and sitting and reading the book on the subway while in the windows behind him lurk three green dinosaurs.”

Comments from children:
“I thought it was pretty nice seeing the pictures and what he was imagining.”
“I think the pictures are pretty.”
“I liked the words because they talked about the real forest.”
“I got a good idea of how tall the trees were.”
“The trees were cool.”
“I liked how the girl picked up the book at the end.”
“I liked the words because I could understand what they were saying.”
5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5,

Readathon: Hour 10: Sky High by Marissa Moss

Book numero thirteen:

Sky High: The True Story of Maggie Gee by Marissa Moss

Maggie Gee was one of only two Chinese Americans to serve as a WASP in World War II. This book tells her story.

The text is clear and the pictures are bright and colorful. I liked the way the book talked about family stories both true and not-yet-to-be-true. The difficulties Gee faced as a minority and as a woman during that time were mentioned, but were not the entire focus of the book.

The author's note adds more to Gee's story. The last page of the book shows photographs of those mentioned in the book.

A bit of the book:

'The day that I earned my wings and was made a WASP, I was so proud that I felt as if I could fly without an airplane. I sent my mother a postcard. All I wrote was: "Some stories are true, some are not. This is a true story." My family's stories flew with me, but now I was living out my own true stories.'

Readathon: Hour 10: Faith by Maya Ajmera

My twelfth book of the Readathon!

Faith by Maya Ajmera

With simple text and lots of photographs, Faith shows ways that people of many religions around the world practice their faith. The photographs have short captions that explain the common practices of religions. The common practices include helping others, visiting holy places, reading holy books, singing, celebrating with festivals, and caring for others.

These practices are examined in more detail in the back of the book. The book also includes a glossary.

A taste of Faith:

Main text: "We listen to and learn from others."
Captions: "Listening attentively at a madrassa, or Islamic religious school. Indonesia"
"Children focus on the words of a priest. United States"
"A father teaches his son to sound the shofar at solemn Jewish feasts. United States"

Readathon: Hour 9: Feed Me, Rocky! MiniChallenge

Mmmm. What food passages have appeared in the eleven books I've read since the start of the Readathon?

From Eleanor, Quiet No More:"Franklin (her husband) made Eleanor (Roosevelt) happy, but his mother, Sara, didn't. Sara told Eleanor what clothes to buy and what food to serve."

"From early morning to midnight, Eleanor organized women to knit warm clothes for sailors and make coffee and sandwiches for men going off to war (World War I)."

From Creature ABC:"Gg Giraffes have long necks so they can scan the African grasslands for predators while they munch on treetops."

"Oo They (screech owls) hunt for insects, reptiles, and small mammals and will even dive into shallow waters to catch crayfish."

"Yy In the wild, they (yellow canaries) eat weeds, grasses, and figs."

"Zz A zebra's teeth keep growing for its entire life because constant eating wears them down."

From Bring Me Some Apples and I'll Make You a Pie:Too many to write down. There are entries about strawberries and strawberry shortcake, wild greens, sassafras tea, honey, cherries and cherry pie, blackberry cobbler, peaches and peach ice cream, tomatoes and tomato sandwiches, watermelon pickles, corn on the cob and cornbread, speckled butter beans, grape jam, apple butter and apple cider and applesauce and apple crisp, nut-butter cookies and walnut bread, along with recipes for many of these.

From Jackson and Bud's Bumpy Ride:"It (Winton Company) holds a bamquet in Jackson's honor. Tables piled high with food stretch before the hungry and tired travelers. After the meager pickings on their journey, they've gone to feasting heaven."

From Camping with the President:"The President was starving! He wrestled the fry pan from Charlie. Before long, bacon-scented smoke drifted into the forest. Then the President scrambled six eggs beside the slab of bacon."

"While the President chewed his way through a platter of steak and fried potatoes, Muir spoke of the need to...(protect Yosemite)."

From The Secret World of Walter Anderson:"While the sun was still sleeping, Walter Anderson would get ready for a trip to his favorite place to paint....He packed apples and raisins and peanut butter and rice."

"When Walter was hungry, he often had a mystery feast, because the cans of food he brought would get wet and the labels would slide off."

"He cooked over a fire. Sometimes he would eat whatever washed up. A jar of pickles, an orange---there was always something on the beach."

"Once there were seven or eight miles of bananas! Food was scarse on the island and the animals seemed to dance around all those bananas on the sand. And Walter painted them."

From If America Were a Village:"But 13 people in the village (out of 100) are considered food insecure, which means they have trouble finding resources to put food on the table. Eighty-seven people do have access to adequate food. Sixty-five people are overweight."

From Pony Island:
"Meager forage.
Frozen oats.
Winter blizzard.
Shaggy coats."

From Winter's Tail:
"In the wild, baby dolphins drink their mother's milk until they are about two years old. Winter was so young that she would not know how to eat a fish if they offered it to her."

From What Can You Do With an Old Red Shoe?
"Use a lunchbox instead of a paper bag to carry your lunch to school."

From Unite or Die (and this is a stretch!):
A picture of a bake sale as the people enter the auditorium to see the presentation of Unite or Die.

Readathon: Hour 9: What Can You Do With an Old Red Shoe?

What Can You Do With an Old Red Shoe? A Green Activity Book About Reuse by Anna Alter

Recycling is big. As it should be. This is a book filled with ideas of how to reuse items that are generally thrown away, including a flip-flop, tin cans, old crayons, wrapping paper, toys, and, from the title, old red shoes.

The directions are clear and easy to follow. The end products are good choices for children, including stamps, new crayons, planters, and candles.

One bit from the book:

"What Can You Do With a Flip-Flop?

1. First, Sarah cleans the sand and dirt off her flip-flop and cuts the foot straps halfway down.
2. Then, she turns it over, centers the cookie cutter where the top strap intersects the bottom of the shoe, and traces the shape using the marker.
3. Next, her mom uses scissors to help her cut out the shape she traced.
4. When they are finished cutting, Sarah paints the bottom of her flip-flop and presses it onto a piece of paper.
Now Sarah has a new stamp for making art!"

There are additional tips for reusing and recycling items in the back of the book.

Each suggestion is featured with a short poem that leads into the project. All the pages are heavily illustrated to make clear the steps of the process.

This book would be great as a lead into a lesson about how to recycle.

Comments from children:
About half were seven and half were eight. There were nine girls and three boys.
The pictures looked cool, one girl told us.
One girl said, “I liked on every page how it told you to make things.”
One boy liked the ideas.
“People might check it out a lot so they could keep making things.”
“I would check it out a lot.”
“I liked it, but some of the pictures did not have enough details.”
5, 5, 5, 2, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 0, 5, 5

Readathon: Hour 8: Winter's Tail

My tenth book of the readathon! Hurray!

And I've gone outside to write up this review. It's incredibly beautiful. In the low 70's. Sunny. Brilliant blue sky. Perfect.

Winter's Tail: How One Little Dolphin Learned to Swim Again by Juliana Hatkoff

Children love animal stories. And I mean LOVE.

It may be a universal thing. I heard the other day that putting a picture of a cat or a dog on your blog creates a tremendous increase in your blog traffic.

So there is a built-in love-it factor in this book. Add a little more for the love-dolphins crowd (and they are numerous). Then add a little more for the fact that the dolphin has had to overcome a disability. You end up with lots of appeal for this book.

The illustrations are photographs of the dolphin. The text is heavier than is usual for a picture book, but it would still make for a good readaloud for the youngest of children.

Odd side note: This is the only book that has come back (so far) from my ILL requests with a cannot fill note. And then what happened? I found the book at my book fair this week. Happy day!

A little of this book:

"Nonetheless, by the end of the week, Abby and the other trainers no longer felt they had to support Winter in the water. They encouraged her to swim on her own. And then, just as everyone feared, Winter lost her tail. What was left was a fleshy stump that would heal over time.

Would Winter be able to swim without her tail?"

Readathon: Hour 7: Pony Island

Ninth book of the Readathon:

Pony Island by Candice F. Ransom

I knew the story of the horses on Chincoteague from my childhood as my teacher read all the books by Marguerite Henry aloud to us when I was in fourth grade. This book tells about the stories of the wild horses on the island, from how they arrived to today, in short spurts of verse.

The pictures are brilliant with color. The text is simple, perhaps sacrificing simplicity for clarity.

Here’s a taste:
“Big ship wrecks.
Stormy sea.
Cargo horses
Swimming free….
Empty island.
Room to roam.
Birds and beaches.
Brand-new home.”

Comments from children:
Sydney, 6, said, “I liked the part with the fire.”
Jayme and Vanessa and Leyah, 6, said, “I liked the part where the horses swam across the water.”
Robin, 6, said, “I liked the pictures.”
Tucker, 6, said, “I liked the part where the horses go through the water.”
Israel said, “I liked the rainbow pictures.”
All of the kids liked the words. They liked how the words rhymed.
5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5

Readathon: Hour 7: What I'm Eating

I swear I never eat like this.

Candy corn, M&Ms, Hershey's Kisses, and Hot & Spicy Cheez-Its. And coffee.

I have read eight books.

But I don't feel so good. Like the day after Halloween when I was little.

Readathon: Hour 7: Unite or Die

My eighth book of the Readathon.

Unite or Die: How Thirteen States Became a Nation by Jacqueline Jules

Fun, fun fun. Sure we have heard of the Articles of Confederation and the Virginia Compromise and the New Jersey Plan, but who really remembers much about them? This book could help lots of kids (and adults, on occasion) better understand how our system of government came about.

After the war for independence, there really wasn’t much of a United States of America. There were just thirteen separate states. Problems. One big problem was money. Each state printed its own. States wouldn’t accept the money of other states. And who would fight for these thirteen separate states?

Finally, fifty-five men came together from twelve states (no Rhode Island) to figure things out and the result was the amazing Constitution of the United States. It still works today because of the brilliance and cooperation of those who met together to create this document.

Cold hard facts are the text of this book, but it is the fun illustrations that really explain and expound upon the the subject. It is the illustrations that kept me reading along. Very kid friendly. And for a subject that can be way over the heads of many ten year olds.

An afterword explains the process of the Constitution in detail as does a notes section that expands upon the most complicated parts of the book in a clever question-answer format. The book also includes a web link to the Constitution with an invitation to read the document for oneself and a lengthy bibliography.

Here’s a sample:

‘(text) This wasn’t an easy idea to accept, especially for the small states like New Jersey and Delaware, who were afraid the big states would outvote them in Congress.

(from the cartoon balloons) Pennsylvania: “Sure, the number of delegates will be based on population. What’s wrong with that?”

Delaware: “Everything! If you have more delegates, you’ll have more votes than I do.”

North Carolina: “But you’re not even half my size. Why should you have the same number of votes?”’

Follow my blog to win prizes!

Readathon: Hour 6: Secret World of Walter Anderson

The Secret World of Walter Anderson by Hester Bass

The first page of the book:

“There once was a man whose love of nature was as wide as the world.

There once was an artist who needed to paint as much as he needed to breathe.

There once was an islander who lived in a cottage at the edge of Mississippi, where the sea meets the earth and sky.

His name was Walter Anderson.

He may be the most famous American artist you’ve never heard of.”

This book is two books; it’s a close-up of Anderson’s daily trip to Horn Island, adventuring and painting, and it’s a complete biography of Anderson’s life. Together, they make for an excellent book.

Anderson has been called the American Van Gogh. He painted extensively and kept voluminous journals. He, like Van Gogh, used brilliant color, and he, like Van Gogh, suffered from mental illness.

The illustrations in this book are beautifully painted and the story of Anderson’s life is told with love and respect and admiration.

The author’s note is a biography of Anderson’s life and an explanation of how she came to write the book. She came to live in Anderson’s town and her husband worked as director of the Walter Anderson Museum of Art there. She includes a bibliography at the back of the book as well.

Comments from children:
Sydney, 6, said, “I liked the part where he painted the room and the horse.”
Leyah, 7, said, “I liked the first part.”
Jayme, 7, said, “I liked his painting.”
Destany, 6, said, “I liked when he painted the horse.”
Vanessa, 6, said, “I liked when the boat dropped the bananas and he let the raccoon eat it.”
Robin, 6, said, “I liked when he painted the room.”
Israel, 6, said, “I liked when he dropped the bananas.”
5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5,

Readathon: Hour 6: Camping with the President

Camping with the President by Ginger Wadsworth

I don’t think I would have ever run across this book if I had not been a Cybil judge and it had not been nominated for best nonfiction picture book. The publisher is a small one and the topic is a small story.

I’m glad I did. It’s a lovely book, with a well-told story and engaging pictures. Camping with the President is the story of a camping trip taken by President Theodore Roosevelt and naturalist John Muir to Yosemite in 1903. They slept on the ground and ate from food prepared over an open fire. They hiked through the mountains and stood next to sequoias and looked at waterfalls.

The book strikes me as exceptionally authoritative. In an author’s note, Wadsworth spends two pages telling how she obtained the information for the book. She has an additional page of source notes. In addition to the story of the camping expedition, she also provides additional information about Roosevelt, Muir, and Yosemite at the end of the book.

My husband and I visited Yosemite two summers ago. It gives me a happy feeling to think that we walked where Roosevelt and Muir once walked, that we saw sites these two men saw. And I am thankful that because of these two men and others like them we had the privilege of doing so.

From the book:

‘While the President chewed his way through a platter of steak and fried potatoes, Muir spoke of the need to provide “government protection…around every wild grove and forest on the mountains.” He urged Roosevelt to set aside land, including the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees and the state-run Yosemite Valley, which they would visit the next day.

The President had never met anyone who talked as much, or as fast, about the importance of nature. In fact, Muir seemed to live on words, not food! As Roosevelt listened, he heard a noise in the trees above him. Was it a dreaded Secret Service man, guarding him in a tree? He listened again. Then he chuckled. In his notebook, the President wrote “owl.”’

Comments from children:

Israel, 6, said, “I liked how they went hunting.”
Destany, 6, said, “I liked the pictures.”
Sydney, 6, said, “I liked it when they went fishing.”
Jamye, 7, said, “I liked the cover.”
Vanessa, 6, said, “I liked when he cooked.”
Tucker, 7, said, “I liked the part where the men were by the big tree.”
Robyn, 6, said, “I liked it when they were at the top.”
Leyah, 7, said, “I liked the part where they are camping.”
1, 5, 5, 5, 1, 0, 5, 5

Readathon: Hour 5: Bring Me Some Apples and I'll Make You a Pie

Bring Me Some Apples and I’ll Make You a Pie: A Story About Edna Lewis by Robbin Gourley

This book falls right on the line between fiction and nonfiction. It consists of little excerpts from the childhood of Edna Lewis, a girl who grew into one of the best chefs in the world. Each scene depicts Edna and her family picking fresh fruits and vegetables on the farm where Edna grew up. Each scene includes conversations that might have taken place between Edna and her family members and concludes with a song or a snippet of folklore or a short poem about the fruits and vegetables.

The story resonates with rhythm and the joy of country living and country cooking. The pictures are bright and busy. The author’s note at the end tells of Edna’s life and outlines the research the author did to write the book. There is a short list of Edna’s cookbooks and, best of all, the author includes a few of Edna’s recipes.

A bit from the book:
'A warm breeze is blowing, and it's cherry-picking time. Everyone races to the trees and up the ladders to fill buckets and bellies with the ripe fruit.

Edna says, "A deep-dish cherry pie---that'll be the reward for all our hard work."

Brother says: "Look at that bird in the cherry tree.
He's eating them one by one.
He's shaking his bill, he's getting his fill
as down his throat they run."'

Follow my blog to win prizes!

Readathon: A MiniChallenge (Unexpected and Ongoing)

I'm a competitive person. I don't mean to be. But I am.

I'm always visiting other blogs and noticing that everyone has more followers than I do.

I want more followers.

So here is my unauthorized and unexpected and ongoing challenge for the Readathon:

Click to become my follower at the right hand side of my blog. Leave a comment here telling me you became my follower. I will choose five new followers to receive one of my many lovely available BookCrossing books.

Readathon: Hour 4: Creature ABC by Andrew Zuckerman

Creature ABC by Andrew Zuckerman

If Zuckerman were only the author of this book, he would have little call for pride in his accomplishment; the entire text of the book consists of less than fifty words, all of which are simply labels to the photographs (though I suppose, if you count the glossary at the end, we might up that to about four hundred.) But it's not the text that draws you to the book. It's the photographs. They are, in a word, brilliant. Alive. Vivid. A surprise here and there. (What does he use for "u", you might ask. A surprise.)

So a good review of this book might simply be a series of photographs, with an accompanying label. Perhaps it might start like this:

Aa astonishing

Bb breathtaking...

Okay, you get the idea. Marvelous work.

Readathon: Hour 4: MiniChallenge

My sentence is a cheer for Readathon-ers:
"Keep On, Sky High Shining Star, Wrestling With the ABCs!"

Readathon: Hour Three: Eleanor, Quiet No More

Eleanor, Quiet No More by Doreen Rappaport

How many people have been encouraged to be better human beings because of Eleanor Roosevelt? This is the story of her life. The author uses quotes from Eleanor Roosevelt to add strength to her story. The story is a powerful one and this is well told, with simple words that should be clear to young children. The line breaks the author uses make the text seem like poetry. The pictures show the feelings Eleanor had as she grew bolder and braver.

Here’s a little bit from the book:

‘Eleanor’s parents died before she was ten.
She and her brother went to live
with their grandmother Hall
and two aunts and two uncles
in a big, dreary house.
Her grandmother did everything
she thought was right for a little girl,
except hug and kiss her.
“I never smiled.”’

The enormous picture of Eleanor's face on the front cover is very appealing. I also love how the author highlights Eleanor's words by writing them in large type. The author also includes a timeline and a list of selected research sources.

My favorite quote: "Do something every day that scares you." Great advice.

This hour I also added my spot on the Google map for readathon participants. I have never done this before and it took me a half hour to figure out how to do it. Sigh. I have so much to learn.

Readathon: Hour 2: MiniChallenge: Screen Capture

I did it! I did it! I did it! I've had that little sun on my computer screen for months and this is the first time I've used it. I feel very proud.

Readathon: Hour 2: Jackson and Bud's Bumpy Ride

Jackson and Bud’s Bumpy Ride: America’s First Cross-Country Automobile Trip by Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff
Love this story!

In 1903, Dr. Horatio Jackson made a bet that he could drive all the way across the United States in a horseless buggy in less than three months. Jackson hires a mechanic to go along on the ride with him and they set off.

Remember what things were like then? No paved roads. No maps. No gas stations. Maximum speed of 30 mph. Not even a windshield to keep the bugs out of your mouth.

The author chooses to zoom in on the events of several days during the sixty-three day trip. The pictures and the text are hilarious. Here’s a sample:

'May 23 – San Francisco, California

“Good-bye! Good luck! Be careful!” shouts Jackson’s wife, Bertha, who will be returning to Vermont by train.

“Don’t worry, my dear,” Jackson pats the car. “This trusty machine will get us there with no troubles at all!” (Picture shows the two men setting off in the tiny car.)

(Turn the page and we see the two men standing next to the car. The wheel is off and the mechanic, Crocker, looks a little bewildered.) About fifteen miles later…Bump, bump, bump, Ka-plooey!

The pictures are a definite plus here. Love this book!

Comments from children:
“I really liked the pictures.”
“I liked how the dog followed them.”
5, 5,5, 5, 5, 5,5,5,5,5,1,0

Readathon: Hour 2: If America Were a Village

If America Were a Village: A Book about the People of the United States by David J. Smith

If the World Were a Village is one of my favorite all-time books. I’ve always wanted to use that book at school to talk to kids about what people are like all over the world.

So I was very happy to see this new book, a sequel of sorts. And it is satisfying for someone such as me who loves statistics and who is always trying to figure out what makes people the way they are.

Smith reduces the 306 million people in the United States down to a village of 100 people. He does this to make it clearer to children (and grownup readers) what the people of the US are like.

A few random facts that interested me from the book:

“In 1900, 96 percent (of American immigrants) came from Europe….In 2000, 15 percent came from Europe, 49 percent came from Latin America, 31 percent from Asia and 5 percent from other places.”

“…Americans are not the top users of cell phones…the highest number, 158 per 100 people, in Luxembourg.” Why? I wonder.

“Americans are also the world’s top users of water….You’d need an Olympic-sized swimming pool to hold the water each American uses, on average, each year – about 456,000 gallons….” Whew! That’s a half million gallons of water for each person!

And in one day, Americans use 4 million plastic cups. Scary!

Another scary fact: “Sixty-five people (out of our 100) are overweight.” Oh dear.

I wish the pictures had helped tell the story a little more. For me, I would have liked pictures that enhanced the difficult concepts a bit more. A great place for thinking maps.

Readathon: Hour 1 (Checking In)

Where are you reading from today?
I'm at home in Alvin, Texas.

3 facts about me …
I'm married, with two grown sons. (That's one.)
I am a librarian at a wonderful primary school. (Two.)
I love to read and write. (Three.)

How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?
I hope to read and review 26 nonfiction picture books, all Cybil nominees.

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?
Two goals: Read and review 26 Cybil nominees.
Visit a few blogs and leave comments.

If you’re a veteran read-a-thoner, Any advice for people doing this for the first time?
Read, read, read!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Readathon Lite

It's next weekend! The Read-a-Thon is next weekend!

I'm not the organizer and I'm just a baby Readathoner, but I loved it so much the three times I participated that I wanted to encourage you to try it, even if it's just to put your toe into the water.

Want to do that? To take a quick dip? Here's the way to do a Readathon Lite:

Readathon: The challenge is to try to read and blog for twenty-four straight hours.
Readathon Lite: Read and blog until you are tired. Go to sleep. Wake up. Read some more.

Readathon: Read continually. Eschew all invitations, including those of your loved ones for meals. Take a book with you into the bathtub. Avoid all human contact, including the cries of your offspring and pleads of your spouse. Be strong. Read.
Readathon Lite: Read. Take a break. Walk. Go eat with your family. Read some more. Take another break. Eat a few Hershey Kisses. Play with your dog. Read a little more.

Readathon: Read War and Peace. Have Moby Dick as backup. In case you finish W&P.
Readathon Lite: Have a nice stack of funny books, chick lit, ya fiction, a book of poetry, graphic novels, some magazines, even some children's picture books. Read in little bursts. Read whatever strikes your fancy. Stop when you want. Read something else.

Readathon: Visit every blogger that signed up for the readathon. Write long blog posts about the readathon. Enter every hourly competition. Spend so much time blogging that you do not actually read anything.
Readathon Lite: Update your blog. Visit a blog or two every hour and leave a comment. Enter a few competitions. JMHO, but these are the most fun part of the readathon.

Readathon: Stay up all twenty-four hours. Go to bed as soon as the readathon is over. Sleep all the next day and find you can't go to sleep that night. Wake for work on Monday cranky and irritable. Explain to everyone that you spent all weekend in a twenty-four hour readathon. Wait for appropriate responses of admiration and envy. Instead, hear comments like, "Why would anyone try to read for twenty-four hours? Who would do that?" accompanied by hoots of laughter.
Readathon Lite: Sleep when you need to. Wake up on Monday refreshed and happy. Tell your best reading buddy about the readathon and share your favorite reads with her.

So how do you signup for Readathon Lite? Same place as Readathon. Hope to see you there!

I'm ready!
My wonderful reading room is waiting.

I've read the tips for readers. Helpful.

I'm signed up.

I'm planning to read and review an enormous stack of nominees for the Cybil nonfiction picture book award. Here's what I've got ready: Redwoods; Bring Me Some Apples and I'll Make You a Pie; One Beetle Too Many; Faith; Pippo the Fool; Pharoah's Boat; Eleanor: Quiet No More; Unite or Die; Nic Bishop: Butterflies and Moths; Bubble Homes and Fish Farts; Keep On: The Story of Matthew Henson; The Day-Glo Brothers; Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story; Mermaid Queen; What Darwin Saw; Jackson and Bud's Bumpy Ride. I have waiting for me: Wrestling ABCs; The Secret Life of Walter Anderson; You Are the First Kid on Mars; What Can You Do With an Old Red Shoe; and Camping With the President.

Whew! That should do it!

Ready to go!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

In the Trees, Honey Bees by Lori Mortensen

In the Trees, Honey Bees by Lori Mortensen

My Thoughts:

Here’s the truth: I’m prejudiced against small presses. Why? I’ve been given a lot of freebies from small publishers. For the most part, there is a reason why a book is only published by a small press; big presses aren’t impressed and the book is passed on.

So I anticipated that this book would be a bust. Not so. This one is a keeper. Brilliant illustrations. Terse yet action filled text. Additional information provided for those who want to know more. A nice bibliography.

And the children loved it. Ten, they shouted, when I asked for ratings, and I had to remind them that five was a top score.

I can’t wait to share this with teachers and other kids. It will be checked out. A lot.

A Sample:

“Lots of food.
Hungry brood.
(bottom of page) Three days after the queen lays an egg, it hatches into a hungry larva. Nurse bees feed it a rich supply of food from glands in their heads. During its egg and larva stages, nurse bees will feed it more than 100,000 times.”

Children’s Comments:

Aryn, 6, said, "I liked the rhyme. I liked the pictures. I liked how the story went with the pictures."
Kaylin, 6, said, "I liked the color of the pictures."
Joaquin, 6, said, "I liked the part where the bees were in the hive."
Stevie, 6, said, "I liked how everything was so close."

Children’s Ratings: 5, 5, 5, 5

Living Sunlight: How Plants Bring the Earth to Life

Living Sunlight: How Plants Bring the Earth to Life by Molly Bang & Penny Chisholm

My Thoughts:

The bright pictures in this book reminded me on every page of the power of the sun. I felt a glow radiating out of the illustrations. And that's what this book is about; the text focuses on the connections between people and plants and light and energy.

An unusual feature of this book was a note that explains the simplifications the authors made for the sake of their young audience. Interesting. I’ve never seen a note explaining what was omitted from a book.

The children liked the bright pictures and the interactive way the text began. Some of the more complicated connections between energy and plants seemed to elude them.

A Sample:

“Without plants,
you would have no oxygen.
Without plants,
you would have no food.
Without plants,
you could not live.
Without plants,
there would be no life on Earth.”

Children’s Comments:

Jesse, 5, said, "I liked the pictures."
Ethan, 6, said, "I loved how bright the pictures are."
Ramsey, 6, said, "I liked when the sun was talking to us."
Elizabeth, 6, said, "I liked the sentences that tell what is happening in the story."
Rodrigo, 6, said, "I liked how it exploded."
Aria, 7, said, "I liked the dedication page."
Cailyn, 5, "I liked the title of the book."

Children's Ratings: 3, 5, 3, 5, 5, 5, 5, 3, 5, 5, 5, 3, 5, 5, 5, 1, 3, 5, 1

Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11

Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca

My Thoughts:

I felt like I was the fourth passenger on Apollo 11 when I read this book. I saw what the crewmen saw; I felt what the crewmen felt.

The pictures are fun, like cartoons. The pictures, together with the text, carry you right into the story. Both the pictures and the text are simple, but there is more detailed information for those who want to know more in the back.

The children who listened to the story liked the pictures and the text a lot. They especially liked the way the words were written on the page.

A Sample:

“In the dust and stone
beneath their feet,
no seed has ever grown,
no root has ever reached.
Still secrets wait there,
the story of the Moon:
Where did it come from?
How old is it?
What is it made of?
(Not green cheese.)”

Children’s Comments:

Stevie, 6, said, "I liked the book because it was awesome. The words looked like they were coming out at you."
Kaylin, 6, said, "It looked cool to be floating in space."
Joaquin, 6, said, "I liked it when the rocket blasted off and the dirt went up in the air."

Children’s Ratings: 5, 5, 5, 5

Listen to the Wind by Greg Mortenson

Listen to the Wind: The Story of Dr. Greg and Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and Susan L. Roth

My Thoughts:

I read the adult version of this book, Three Cups of Tea. I loved the story, but thought the book was poorly written. Perhaps it should have been a magazine article rather than a story. Or perhaps a stronger writer should have taken it on. But the grownup version was a disappointment to me.

Like Three Cups of Tea, I really wanted to like this book. The story is the same powerful tale. An American climber is unable to carry on and comes upon a village where the people nurse him back to health. He wants to find a way to repay the village. One of the village wise men suggests that he listen to the wind. The climber hears children’s voices, studying outdoors, with no school, no pencils or books, and only the occasional teacher. The climber commits to returning to the village and building a school for the children.

Once I read the artist’s note, I came to love the fabric collages used for illustration.

The children I read the story to liked the story and admired the man who came to help the children who had no schools. They had mixed feelings about the illustrations.

A Sample:

‘When Dr. Greg was well enough to go

Home, he asked Haji Ali, our wisest man,

To help him think of something special

He could do for Korphe.

Haji Ali answered Dr. Greg with a puzzle.

“LISTEN TO THE WIND,” he said.’

Children’s Comments:

Lily, 7, said, "I liked the part when they built the bridge."
Ashlyn, 6, said, "I liked the pictures."
David, 6, said, "I liked it when they built the school."
Trenton, 5, said, "The pictures were good where the man was climbing the mountain."
Kylea, 6, said, "I liked the illustrations."

Children’s Ratings: 5, 1, 3, 3, 5, 5, 3

Coretta Scott by Ntozake Shange

Coretta Scott by Ntozake Shange

My Thoughts:

Pictures by award-winning illustrator Kadir Nelson.

Text by poet Ntozake Shange.

Excellence. I anticipated excellence.

But perhaps poets are not the best authors of picture books. I had trouble following the text and I’m a grownup. I had to think too much about the words on the page and it wasn’t because they were so rich but because the writing wandered around so much. I’d hoped for powerful words, but I found them to be wobbly.

The children thought the pictures were very realistic. They were moved by the story of Coretta walking to school. The writing was a little too abstract for many of them and they weren’t clear in places about what the writer was trying to say.
The poetic writing, with its whimsical sentence structure, was unclear to them.

Nevertheless, they loved the sounds of the words and the beautiful pictures. They liked the pictures so much that they forgave the text for not serving them well and gave the book a high rating.

A Sample:

“white school bus
left a
funnel of dust
on their faces
songs and birds of all colors
and rich soil
where slaves fought freedom
steadied them
in the face of danger”

Children’s Comments:

Jayla, 5, said, "I liked the pictures."
Silvana, 6, said, "I liked how she changed the laws."
Abby, 5, said, "I liked them praying."
Gage, 6, said, "I liked the part where they had to walk five miles to school."
Jimmy, 6, said, "I liked the people gathering together in the book."

Children's Ratings: 5, 1, 5, 5, 1, 5, 5, 5, 5

One Giant Leap by Robert Burleigh

One Giant Leap by Robert Burleigh

My Thoughts:

One Giant Leap is the story of the first man to step on the moon. The text is written as if it is actually happening, in present tense, and adds a sense of immediacy to the story. Or it did for me.

The paintings were rich and as realistic as a photograph. I loved the beauty of the words and the pictures in this book.

The children liked the cover of the book a lot. They didn’t really like a lot of the other pictures. The story seemed to move too slowly for them.

A Sample:

“Armstrong knows that back on Earth,
Hundreds of millions of people are watching.
He jumps to the landing leg’s round footpad.
He holds on. He pauses. He points his foot and steps off.
The surface is as fine as powdered charcoal.
The treads of his boot leave a perfectly crisp print in the dust.
On the weatherless moon, it will last for millions of years.”

Children’s Comments:

Colt, 6, said, "I liked when they put the flag in the moon."
Sammy, 6, said, "I liked when the rocket was floating down into the water."
Juan Pablo, 7, said, "I liked where they were worried if the rocket ship wouldn't work."

Children’s Ratings: 5, 1, 5, 5, 5, 1, 1, 5, 3, 3, 5, 3, 5, 4, 1, 5

The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau

The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino

My Thoughts:

The text of this book wowed me. I could not stop reading to see what would happen to Cousteau. I liked its simplicity and its clearness. I liked how accessible the text was, even for the youngest of readers.

The illustrations were fun and cartoonish. I didn’t like the colors the Yaccarino used for the water at first, every color except ocean blue, I think, but the colors grew on me, and I grew to love them. I was very surprised how much the children liked this book and how much they were interested in this man’s life.

The book also included a table of Cousteau’s life and sources for further study.

A Sample:

“The fish off the coast of Africa were friendly and curious and did not swim away. Cousteau was the first human being they had ever seen.”

Children’s Comments:

Alexis, 6, said, "I liked how he went down in the ocean."
Vanessa, 6, said, "I liked how he made a camera all by himself."
Jony, 6, said, "I liked how he saw the seahorse."
Melanie, 6, said, "I liked when he went down in the ocean."
Tabitha, 7, said, "I liked how he was on tv."
Joey, 6, said, "I liked how he got sick and had to go under the water."

Children’s Ratings: 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5

Down Down Down by Steve Jenkins

Down Down Down by Steve Jenkins

My Thoughts:

Jenkins starts at the surface of the ocean. He goes deeper and deeper, telling about the animals and plants that live at every level.

I liked the book, but I thought the text would be too challenging for the primary students at my school.

I was wrong. This was an unequivocal favorite among the young children to whom I read this book. We had a large group of children of both kindergarteners and first graders and they all unanimously loved it. The pictures kept them enthralled. I read bits of the text here and there, and, though I’d anticipated that the text would be daunting for the children, I was wrong. They seemed to follow it well. I can only surmise that the vivid pictures and the movement of the book, going deeper and deeper down into the ocean with every page, kept them going.

A Sample:

“Near the surface the water is warm and brightly lit by the sun. Light-loving plants, algae, and bacteria---most single-celled and too small to see with the naked eye---are found here in uncountable numbers. Almost all life in the sea depends on these microscopic organisms, which use the sun’s energy to help them manufacture their own food. They themselves are food for billions of animals….”

Children’s Comments:

Sheridan, 6, said, "I liked the last page."
Shelby, 7, said, "I liked the part where it got darker and darker."
Jacobe, 6, said, "I liked the very end."
Edwin, 6, said, "I liked the sharks."
Ariana, 7, said, "I liked the dolphin jumping in the water."
Kali, 5, said, "I liked all the neat creatures."

Children’s Ratings: 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5, 5

14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy

14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy

My Thoughts:

Whew! What a life-affirming story! It gives you hope for the world.

The pictures are up close and personal. The text is vivid and rings with compassion for the world.

Here’s the story, if you don’t know it: A Kenyan wins a scholarship to go to America and become a doctor. While he is there, he experiences 9/11. He returns to his people, a tribe once renowned as warriors but who are now known as master cow herders. The tribe feels great sorrow when the young man tells them of the tragedy in New York City and the members of the tribe want to do something to help America. Thus, fourteen cows for America.

The young children I read the book to were very moved by the story. They were happy when the tribe gave the cows to America and danced for America. Some of the story was over their heads, but they got the gist of it.

A Sample:

“Because there is no nation so powerful it cannot be wounded, nor a people so small they cannot offer mighty comfort.”

Children’s Comments:

Aryn, 6, said, "I did not like how their heads look red."
Stevie, 6, said, "I liked the pictures."
Joaquin, 6, said, "I liked the picture of the tribe."
Kaylin, 6, said, "I liked the picture of the cows."

Children’s Ratings: 5, 5, 5, 1

You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?!

You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?!
by Jonah Winter and Andre Carrilho

My Thoughts:

I loved this book and couldn’t wait to share it with the children at my school. As I’d expected, they loved the cover, a wonderful lenticular picture of Koufax pitching.. They also loved the way the illustrator used gold on the pictures here and there.

The story was a little too hard for them. They were confused with the author’s use of first person plural. They did not get the way the author used the vernacular voice to tell the story. They needed more background information about Koufax.

But they loved that it was about a baseball player. They liked the voice of the author and thought it was fun. When it came down to voting, the room was clearly divided: Children who loved baseball rated it a 5 and those who did not like baseball rated the book a 1.

It is a book with wonderful facts about a fascinating man. I would suspect that ten and eleven year olds would enjoy the book a bit more than my young students, but I bet that a lot of the cleverness and fun of the book would elude even them.

Maybe we need to create a new category of books: Picture Books for Grownups. I loved this book and would definitely recommend it to parents or teachers to read with their kids who love baseball. Not sure many children would really hang in there with the book on his own. Not even a big baseball fan. Not even a big baseball fan living in NY.

A Sample:

‘One day one of our scouts, Al Campanis, invites Sandy to Ebbets Field---home of our team, the Brooklyn Dodgers---so’s he can see the hotshot pitch. After battin’ just one time against him, Campanis has seen enough. He says to Sandy, “Kid, how’d you like to play for us. Don’t think too hard.” Quick as you can say “Jackie Robinson,” this nineteen-year-old squirt was wearin’ Dodgers blue and earnin’ more dough than some of us old-timers.’

Children’s Comments:

Elyssa, 6, said, "I liked how the words were written."
Chloe, 6, said, "I liked how he did the glove."
Sylvia, 5, said, "I liked the front cover.
Jase, 5, said, "I liked the pictures."
Children’s Ratings: 5, 1, 5, 5, 5, 5, 1, 5, 1

Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude

Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude by Jonah Winter


Go ahead and call it a children’s picture book, but I think you are wrong; the children I read this book to looked at me in bewilderment. It looks like a picture book. It reads like a picture book. But reading it to young children is like asking junior high students to read Great Expectations; it can be read, but it should be saved for those old enough to really appreciate it.

I loved it. It would probably be among my top picks for best nonfiction picture book. It’s bright and colorful. The text mimics the style of the subject, poet Gertrude Stein. It’s funny.

As Gertrude Stein might say, A picture book is a picture book is a picture book is a picture book. But sometimes it’s not.

A Sample:

“Talk talk talk talk. Laugh laugh. More talk.

Laugh. Okay. Enough.

And now it’s time for tea.

Teatime is teatime.

And look who’s here,

in time for tea.

It’s Pablo Picasso the Spanish artist.

Pablo Picasso looks so angry but no.

Pablo Picasso is Pablo


He just invented Modern art

which is not the same thing as being angry

but then again maybe it is.

Maybe it is

and maybe it isn’t.

Then again maybe it is.

It’s so hard to invent

Modern art.

Maybe it is


maybe it isn’t.


Children’s Comments:

Sydney, 6, said, "Never want to read. It's wacky."

Vanessa, 6, said, "It's weird because they have a dog named Basket."

Joey, 6, said, "The title was weird."

Jony, 6, said, "The bear was in a chair!"

Children’s Ratings: 3, 1, 4, 1, 3, 4, 5, 2

Monday, October 12, 2009

You Say You Don't Like Pumpkin? Try One of These Breads

A to Z Bread
Debbie Nance :-)

3 cups flour (white or whole wheat)
1 teaspoon each: salt and baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon or allspice
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 eggs
1 cup oil
2 cups sugar (can use part brown sugar)
2 cups A to Z ingredients (see note)
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Sift flour, salt,
soda, cinnamon, and baking powder; set aside.
Beat eggs in large bowl. Add oil and sugar;
cream well. Add A to Z ingredients and vanilla;
mix well. Add dry ingredients; mix well.
Add nuts. Spoon into 2 well-greased 9 by 5 by 3
inch loaf pans. Bake 1 hour or until bread
tests done. Makes 2 large loaves; freezes well.

Note: A to Z ingredients include, but need
not be limited to, the following: apples (grated),
applesauce, apricots (chopped), bananas (mashed),
carrots (grated), cherries (pitted and chopped),
coconut (grated), dates (finely chopped),
eggplant (ground), figs (finely chopped), grapes
(seedless), honey (omit sugar), lemons (use only
1/2 cup juice) marmalade or jam (omit 1 cup of
sugar), mincemeat, oranges (chopped), peaches
(fresh or canned, chopped), peppermint candy
(use only 1/2 cup, chopped), pears (chopped),
pineapple (crushed, drained), prunes (chopped,
use only 1 cup), pumpkin (canned), raisins,
raspberries, rhubarb (finely chopped), strawberries
(fresh or frozen, drained), sweet potato (grated),
tapioca (cooked), tomatoes (reduce sugar to 1/2
cup), yams (cooked and mashed), yogurt (plain
or flavored), zucchini (ground or grated,

Challenge: Can anyone come up with an
ingredient for "i", "j", "k", "n",
"q", "u", "v", and "w"?

Join in to the Fall Recipe Exchange!