Showing posts from July, 2010

Paper Towns by John Green, 305 pp RL: TEEN

Paper Towns is John Green's third book and the first I have read.  I am an instant admirer. As of this writing, Green has only three titles to his name - Looking for Alaska, his debut novel and winner of the Michael L Printz Award - the teen literature version of the Newbery Award,An Abundance of Katherines andPaper Towns.  His most recent book,Will Grayson, Will Grayson was cowritten with the amazing editor and author David Leavithan, who is also the coauthor with Rachel Cohn of one of my all-time favorite teen books, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist.  And, Green is part of the super-teen-triad, along with Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle, that created Let it Snow, a collection of three intertwined stories.  Despite the fact that he has only a handful of published works under his belt, Green has made a huge impression on the world of teen literature that will last for years to come.  His reputation is big enough that I found myself a bit skeptical when I opened Paper Town…

The Cool Crazy Crickets Club written by David Elliott, illustrated by Paul Meisel, 47pp RL 1.5

The Cool Crazy Crickets Club and The Cool Crazy Crickets to the Rescue are (hopefully) a new series of beginning reader chapter books from author David Elliott and illustrator Paul Meisel. Besides his many other chapter and picture books, you may recognize David Elliott from last year's superb picture book, Finn Throws a Fit, illustrated by the magnificent Timothy Basil Ering, illustrator of the Newbery winning Tale of Desperaux by Kate diCamillo. Finn Throws a Fit perfectly chronicles the the impossible to anticipate moods of a toddler that, in the best cases, are weathered with patience and love by mystified parents.
The Cool Crazy Crickets series, along with Jennifer Richard Jacobson's Andy Shane series, both of which are published by the always excellent Candlewick Press, really deserve a Reading Level label of their own, which I have now bestowed upon them! Reading Level 1.5! These books are shorter and a bit easier to read than the average second grade reading level bo…

Something New... I'm reading and reviewing TEEN books now!

This August, my book review blog will be two years old, but I think I've been feeling that 7 year itch about 5 years early. My eyes have been wandering and my attentions straying - to teen books.

Before I committed my attentions to reading kid's books for the purpose of reviewing them, I would read the occasional teen book, especially as my daughter approached that age and content level. Because I shelve in that section, as well as kid's, I have been a "blurb reader" for many many years and noticed the quality and selection of books improving immensely. JK Rowling's Harry Potter raised the bar and bumped adults' interest level for kid's books, and there are so many excellent fantasy novels that have come out for kids in the last ten years, perhaps because of this. Something similar, but not equal, has been happening in the teen section. I think that teen books, on their own, were gradually, steadily improving their content and quality of writing over t…

Daisy Dawson and the Secret Pond, written by Steve Voake, illustrated by Jessica Messerve, 87 pp RL 2

Daisy Dawson and the Secret Pond is book two in a series written by Steve Voake and illustrated by Jessica Messerve.  If you remember my review of  lat year Daisy Dawson is on Her Way, the first book in the series, you know how enchanted I am by this fabulous series of books for emerging readers.  
Animal lover and dawdler, Daisy is always late for school.  This is especially so after she encounters a magical yellow butterfly that gives her the gift of talking with the animals.  When Daisy is given a camera for her birthday (and some smelly Strawberry Surprise perfume) and a school assignment to study animals in their habitats, she sets of into the wilds behind her home.  Trixie McDixie, the barn car, tells Daisy that she thinks two otters have moved into the pond upstream and maybe they should go investigate.  The squirrels, Uncle Cyril and his water loving niece and nephew Hazel and Conker, join in the expedition.

The group makes it across the dangerous Darkwater Sump to the pond wh…

Mercy Watson Series by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen, RL

The Mercy Watson Series by Newbery Award Winner Kate Di Camillo with brilliantly crisp and colorful illustrations by Chris Van Dusen is a gem, a real treasure.  I'll be honest, up to this point, I had only read one book by Kate DiCamillo, beloved to many adults and children, and had not enjoyed the experience.  Because of this, and the fact that they were only published in hardcover, I avoided Mercy Watson for the last five years.  Now that the first three books in this six book series are in paperback, I am willing to admit the error of my ways!

The six books in the series are as follows:
Mercy Watson to the Rescue  Mercy Watson Goes for a Ride Mercy Watson Fights Crime Mercy Watson:  Princess in Disguise Mercy Watson Thinks Like a Pig  Mercy Watson:  Something Wonky This Way Comes

Although these books test out at a mid-second grade reading level, I think that they can happily be read by motivated first graders.   Technically, other books at this reading level include Junie B Jones an…

The Secrets of Cicada Summer by Andrea Beaty, 176 pp, RL 4

You don't always have to read a fantasy novel to visit another world.  Sometimes other worlds exist right here on Earth, next to us, in front of us, behind us.  And sometimes I think it is harder to create a real world like the one Andrea Beaty conjurs up in The Secrets of the Cicada Summer than it is to bring to life a realm filled with wizards and wands.  While in high school I developed a penchant for  Southern writers and books set in the South and I have had a soft spot for them ever since.  Born and raised in Southern California, the geography, culture and people of the South are almost as alien to me as Saturn or Hogwarts.  I realize that Illinois is not exactly the Deep South, but the setting for the novel,  Olena, IL,  population 117 sure does seem that way.
With The Secrets of the Cicada Summer, Beaty has written a book that reminds me of the kind I read when I was a kid, before kid's books also doubled as doorstops.  Books were short, characters were straightforwar…

PIcture Books That Entertain, Picture Books That Educate

I know that there are hundreds of fabulous picture books out there that educate and entertain and I have no idea why I have not grouped them in this context before now, but these two marvelous titles just happened into my life at he same time and that spark was struck!  Then, I stumbled upon this wonderful blog,Open Wide, Look Inside, which is dedicated to sharing ways to integrate children's across the curriculum, with an emphasis in math, science and social studies.  The mind behind the blog is Tricia Sthor-Hunt, a professor at the University of Richmond where, as she says, she has "the distinct honor and pleasure of preparing future teachers."  She also runs the blog with the BEST NAME EVER, The Miss Rumphius Effectwhere she writes about "children's literature, poetry, and issues related to teaching children and their future teachers."  Both of these blogs are great resources for ways to use literature to teach. if the ideas don't pop into your head …

The Once Upon a TIme Map Book by BG Hennessy with illustrations by Peter Joyce

The Once Upon a Time Map Book by BG Hennessy with illustrations by Peter Joyce caught my attention right away.  It has two of my favorite things - maps and fairy tales - all wrapped up in one!  As the opening page of the books says, "Come on a tour of six magical Once Upon a Time Lands.  You will have a map and directions for each land. Around each map are letters and numbers to help you find your way.  A compass shows the directions of  north, south, east and west.  A key identifies local routes and distances.  There are treasures hidden in each land. See if you can find all six."

Besides being a gorgeous, fun picture book, The Once Upon a Time Map Book actually teaches children how to read a map by giving coordinates for key sites on the maps.  In Neverland you can moor your boat in Mermaid Cove (E1) the take the path from Crocodile wap to Pirate River (E3)  If you head two Pirate miles west, you will find a waterfall (D3).  There is a key that shows you what length two Pir…