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Archive for the category “Seven to Ten”

Blizzard by John Rocco

John Rocco’s Caldecott Honor winning picture book, Blackout, captured a moment in time when the lights literally went out in New York City and people were forced to interact with one another. Their phones didn’t work, TVs didn’t, and the computers, streetlights, and neon signs just stopped. We’ve lost those evenings on the front porch where people talked and told stories and connected with their neighbors. It took a blackout to have that happen in New York and Rocco’s book celebrated that moment. It’s a wonderful book.

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Rocco’s new one is just as wonderful and it again highlights a specific moment (well, actually a week) when the snow falls up to 4 feet and the town shuts down. The protagonist  moves from sheer bliss that school is closed to being sick of being stuck in the house day after day as the food supplies dwindles. Its such a great tale from a child’s viewpoint. The art is terrific complete with a double gatefold with a map of the trail the boy takes as he ventures out to get groceries wearing tennis rackets as snowshoes. It makes me want to see the snow start falling.

This is a great book to read in class when the first snowflakes fall and the children are looking out the school house windows thinking only of getting out of school early. Pair it with Kevin O’Malley’s Straight to the Pole and Susan Jeffers’ beautifully illustrated version of Robert Frost’s Stopping by Woods On A Snowy Evening to seize the moment and let the kids know you’re thinking of the days when you were the one looking out the window wistfully. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

 

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Mr. Ferris and His Wheel by Kathryn Gibbs Davis, ills. by Gilbert Ford

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I love picture books! Did you know it is Picture Book Month for all of November? It’s true and more info about that can be found at http://picturebookmonth.com. In the meantime, let’s celebrate all things picture book! Hooray!

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel will interest all children who have ever ridden, or even seen, a ferris wheel. Why is it called a “ferris” wheel? Ah, because the mechanical engineer who designed it was named George Ferris. He created this unusual attraction for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and it was the hit of the show. It was different in some ways and is more like a cross of what we know as a ferris wheel now and the London Eye. There were glassed-in compartments that held seats which is more like the London Eye that what we’re used to. No one thought Ferris could pull off this enormous feat of engineering. He showed them, didn’t he?

On the downside (and I still love the book) the wonderful illustrations would look so much better if the pages were a bit more substantial and a little glossy. They look kind of dull as it is now. As a reader, I also would have liked to know what happened to the ferris wheel when the World’s Fair closed. Did it remain or was it demolished? Did people continue to ride it?

Despite the limitations noted, it is definitely worth getting. Kids will be so intrigued by it and who knows, they might build one out of Legos. 🙂

Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell

One of my favorite books last year was Katherine Rundell’s novel, Rooftoppers. I have book talked it all over the place and when I do I have come to describe it as a cross between Mary Poppins and Roald Dahl. Roald Dahl because of the quirkiness of his characters and their eccentric lives in England. In Rooftoppers we find baby Sophie in the English Channel sailing in a cello case following the sinking of a ship. She is found by an eccentric professor, Charles, and he decides to raise Sophie himself since she is clearly an orphan. And their life together is wonderful to them – but to, say, a child welfare clerk, maybe not so much. It is just different but we all know what different can lead to! The welfare agency threatens to take her away from Charles and the two of them head for Paris. Sophie has always felt that her mother is still alive and is convinced she is living in Paris. Charles and Sophie make it their mission to find out. It is there in Paris that Sophie meets Matteo and joins him on the rooftops of Paris looking down at the city. It is this foray onto the rooftops that helps the three of them figure out what happened to Sophie’s mom. It is an adventure, it is a little wacky, and it’s a wonderful, wonderful read. I haven’t had anyone say they weren’t crazy about it – quite the contrary – it’s a huge hit. It would make a great classroom read aloud for kids ages 8 and up.

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I couldn’t figure out how Rundell could pull off such a distinctive book again but she did it in Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms which came out in August. Twelve year-old Will (short for Wilhelmina) is in heaven on her family’s farm in Zimbabwe. she loves the wide open spaces, all of the different animals, and the new adventures that pop up every day. Her dad loves her to pieces and leaves this idyllic farm to a friend of theirs to keep for Will until she is grown. Enter the wily woman who tricks him into marrying her and the farm is gone in no time. The wicked stepmother packs Will up and sends her off to an English boarding school where she will be out of her hair. Will hasn’t a clue how to act with all these girls wearing the same outfit and mocking her every chance they get. When she can take it no more, this n]brave and gutsy girl decides to strike off on her own and takes off into London. She has survived the wilds of Zimbabwe – can she survive London? This is such a great read and, like her first book, wonderfully imaginative and fun.

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You’ll enjoy every minute of this story!

Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything

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Teachers are always looking for new books to help with what they need to teach in their classrooms. In Virginia, Thomas Jefferson tops that list. Maira Kalman has created a terrific picture book biography of our third president that covers all facets of his life and does so in a measured, non-judgmental way. Jefferson was a remarkable man and this biography addresses all of his interests (music, books, farming, etc.), his political successes (the Constitution), and his personal life at Monticello. Sally Hemings is mentioned in a way that teachers will feel comfortable presenting. Scattered throughout are quotes from Jefferson and humorous asides from the author. Kalman’s art (think Fireboat, What Pete Ate) is so striking – I just love her palette. This is the most balanced and most interesting book for children on Jefferson and I would recommend it to all teachers and librarians. Check it out!

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh

This book has blown me away! I had not known that Mexican Americans were also victims of segregation until I read this book.

This is the extraordinary story of a Mexican American family in the Los Angeles area in 1944 whose children  were not able to enroll in their local school because of their ethnicity. Instead they were shunted over to a poorer, inferior  school that served the Mexican population. Sylvia Mendez was turned away from the “white” school but her parents decided not to accept this injustice. They gathered a group of other Mexican Americans in the same situation, hired a lawyer, and went up against the school district. They won! Of course, appeals were launched but in the end justice prevailed.

The story is well told and the art is fabulous. It definitely shows the heritage of this Mexican artist in the folk art appearance of the art. Yet it is contemporary and very appealing. This is a book that lives up to the standards of strong non-fiction. It has an author’s note, photos of Sylvia and her family, a glossary, a bibliography, an index. How thorough is that? Abrams, the publisher, always takes care with the books they publish. This is a must have for teachers. It needs to be included in all civil rights units and any time Brown vs. the Board of Education is mentioned. The Mendez case preceded that case and laid the groundwork for its success. This is an amazing book.

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Edward Hopper Paints His World by Robert Burleigh

Edward Hopper’s paintings are iconic and are American through and through. Burleigh’s text brings to life Hopper’s life with particular focus on his youth. Hopper always knew he wanted to be a painter and through hard work and determination he became was he was meant to be. Asking an illustrator to mimic a famous painter is always tricky but Wendell Minor was an inspired choice. In the back matter he refers to how he handled that task. A great way to introduce a great painter to children.

Pub date: This book will be published in August.

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Gravity by Jason Chin


Jason Chin has an uncanny ability to take HUGE concepts and make them understandable to young children. Here he tackles gravity and does an amazing job relating the concept to things children already know and understand. His illustrations turn the world upside down as we imagine a world without gravity. He rights the world by restoring gravity at the end of the book. The last page shows children at a lemonade stand just after gravity forced things to fall to earth. In one child’s hand is a rocket that appears throughout of the book. Young readers will love poring over the details and thinking about the amazing force that is gravity. Teachers will love this book.

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The Scraps Book: Notes From a Colorful Life by Lois Ehlert


Chicka Chicka Boom Boom raised the bar on joyous, vibrant illustrations and, not surprisingly, Ehlert has outdone herself again and again. In this wonderful autobiography children will see that creating art and making books is something they can do themselves. Ehlert’s tone is so inviting and her asides next to the pictures make it seem as though she wrote them just for you. She incorporates illustrations from her large body of work to explain different things she does with her painting. Children will put down this book and feel like they can make a book too. This is autobiography like nothing else and it is perfectly suited to young children.

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This is the Rope by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by James Ransome

An African-American family leaves the South for a better life in the North. They take with them a rope that was used for jump rope on the old place in South Carolina. It was used to tie their belongings atop the car as they headed north to NYC. It was used for drying flowers, a clothesline for diapers, a jump rope and many other things in their new life. When it finally wears out, Grandma keeps the rope as a memory of times in her past as her granddaughter skips rope with a brand new one. Woodson says in her introduction that the rope is hope and, sure enough, that hope weaves in and out of the lives of all of her family. Upon opening this book I feared it might be about lynching but took heart in the subtitle indicating it was set during the Great Migration. Still, the rope is initially found under a tree. Is Woodson subtly taking the rope – a symbol of pure evil – and turning it into hope? Ransome’s oil paintings, as always,Image complement the text just beautifully.

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo, ills. by K.G. Campbell (Candlewick)

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo, ills. by K.G. Campbell (Candlewick)

This may be Kate DiCamillo’s wildest book yet and it works like a charm. Every character is off-beat but still tethered sufficiently to reality. Mom is a romance writer, Dad is an oddball who is forever reintroducing himself to people, Tootie from next door accidentally vacuumed up a squirrel (Ulysses of the title), and that’s just the beginning. Flora is our protagonist and she is a misfit kid who lives in the world of comic books. When Tootie vacuums up Ulysses, she takes him in and realizes that there’s much more to Ulysses than being a squirrel. He writes poetry, he can fly, but most of all he can be a friend. Flora’s friend William Spiver is temporarily blind and is fascinated by Flora and Ulysses. It’s a very quirky story (which appeals) and the writing is lovely. In the end, I think that a poetry writing squirrel is just what the world of children’s books needs. I should also mention that bits of the book have comic-like illustrations that resonate well with Flora’s addiction to her comics. This comes out in September so we have to wait for the final art work but the sketches in the ARC were wonderful.

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