Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday Memes - The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Book Beginnings is hosted bRose City Reader and Friday 56 is hosted by Freda's Voice.


The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. 303 p.? (bound manuscript) Dial, January 8, 2015. 9780803740815.

Publisher synopsis: An exceptionally moving story of triumph against all odds set during World War 2, from the acclaimed author of Jefferson’s Sons and for fans of Number the Stars.
 
Nine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.
 
So begins a new adventure of Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?
 
This masterful work of historical fiction is equal parts adventure and a moving tale of family and identity—a classic in the making.

First Line: "Ada! Get back from that window! Mam's voice, shouting.

Page 56: "I found my crutches and got to my feet. I picked up the broken pieces of plate, and the food scattered across the floor. I wiped up the water I'd spilled when I knocked over my glass. I could hear Jamie screaming upstairs. Miss Smith was either bathing him or slaughtering him; either was fine with me."

I have already read this actually, but since I'm reviewing it for School Library Journal, I won't be posting a review here. I will say that I was immediately drawn in by Ada's voice and her story and that The War That Saved My Life is a favorite. Dilemma - 2014 favorite or 2015 favorite?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Non-Fiction Monday: Polar Animals by Susan Hayes and Tory Gordon-Harris


Polar Animals by Susan Hayes and Tory Gordon-Harris. Scholastic Discover More series. 80 p. Scholastic Inc., June, 2014. 9780545667777. (Finished copy courtesy of publisher for review.)

I love this series. It is consistently pleasing and informative. I think this one is my favorite so far. Polar Animals contains a spectacular collection of arresting, full-color photographs and is jam-packed with fun and interesting tidbits such as the fact that a walrus' skin is white while it is swimming in the sea. When on land, the blood flows to the skin, turning its color. It would've been kinda cool to see a photograph of that though. 

Some of the factoids made me wish for more, such as the fact that the wandering albatross travels 9,300 miles to bring food back to their young. I mean, what does the poor nestling do in the meantime? I suppose that it takes quite a while to travel those 9,300 miles. Enough time to starve to death? But there's really no room for full-stories in this series, which provides overviews of topics. Hopefully, young readers will do further research when questions like this pop up. I, for one, have jotted it down to find out later. And really, isn't that the fun of research?

Then again, the page about a polar bear cub's first year seemed to be a bit of a filler. Specifically, #2, entitled, leaving the den - mama bear digs her way out of the snow den in the spring and her cubs follow her. Well, of course. The caption ends with, "They have never been outside before." Well, duh! Surely there were more educative bits that could've been written here? Like, what are the dangers to the cubs during this time, or, what about the father polar bear, or, do they eat what the mama bear kills right away or does she chew the food up and regurgitate it for a while?

Still, that's just one page out of 80, so I do quibble. Our fifth graders do a unit on the Polar regions and this one will fit right in. While it won't provide everything they will need for report writing, it's an enticing introduction to the subject. Reluctant or struggling readers will be engaged. Browsers and fact-hounds will gobble it whole and ask for more. Keep 'em coming Scholastic.



Sunday, August 24, 2014

What's New? Stacking the Shelves


StS is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. Hop on over there to ogle what other bloggers got.

Quiet week this week and thank goodness! I'm drowning in books. I'm away this week and hoping to play catch up before school starts on September 2. Early Labor Day. My, how this summer flew by!

For review:

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Dial, January 8, 2015. 978080374815. 

Publisher synopsis: Nine-year-old Ada has never left her one-room apartment. Her mother is too humiliated by Ada’s twisted foot to let her outside. So when her little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the war, Ada doesn’t waste a minute—she sneaks out to join him.
 
So begins a new adventure of Ada, and for Susan Smith, the woman who is forced to take the two kids in. As Ada teaches herself to ride a pony, learns to read, and watches for German spies, she begins to trust Susan—and Susan begins to love Ada and Jamie. But in the end, will their bond be enough to hold them together through wartime? Or will Ada and her brother fall back into the cruel hands of their mother?
 
This masterful work of historical fiction is equal parts adventure and a moving tale of family and identity—a classic in the making.
Instead of an arc, I received a bound manuscript. This is the second time I've gotten a bound manuscript to review. Cool.

What's new with you? Leave a link in the comments. Happy reading!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Strike: the farm workers' fight for their rights by Larry Dane Brimner


Strike: the farm workers' fight for their rights by Larry Dane Brimner. 172 p. Calkins Creek/ Highlights, October 1, 2014. 9781590789971. (Finished copy courtesy of publisher for review.)

I'm sorry to say that I didn't know much about the migrant farmers. I always equated the United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez. I am also embarrassed to admit that I never heard of Larry Itliong, nor did I know that there was a sizable number of Filipino field workers - enough for the growers to play the groups off of each other when faced with any worker wanting more pay or better conditions. Mr. Brimner's cogent narrative begins on September 8, 1965 and details the plight of the California farm workers within the context of the tension of the Sixties and the Great Depression as well. This strike/ boycott lasted for five long years seeing early supporter, Robert F. Kennedy's assassination.  

Strike! is beautifully designed with colorful pages, large font size and plentiful black & white photos, maps and political cartoons to supplement the riveting text. I also liked that the captions and text boxes were in Spanish as well as English. Backmatter includes a timeline, source notes, bibliography and author note. 

I always learn something when I read anything by Larry Dane Brimner. My first experience with Mr. Brimner's work was reading We are One: the story of Baynard Rustin was back in 2007, before I started blogging. In 2011, I found his 2010 book, Birmingham Sunday, which I reviewed here. Black and White, published a year later was equally compelling. Each of these would be great sources for the hero project our seventh grade does.

This is a 2014 favorite of mine and highly recommended for middle, high school and public libraries. 


Monday, August 18, 2014

Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka


Frank Einstein and the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka. Frank Einstein series #1. Illustrated by Brian Biggs. 180 p. Amulet Books/ Abrams, August 19, 2014. 9781419712180. (Review from arc courtesy of the publisher.)

Young Frank Einstein is a science guy. His interest in science is nurtured by his Mr. Fixit grandpa, Al. He loves to hang out at grandpa's shop with his pal Watson. He's trying to invent a robot to enter into the annual science fair. After his attempt at assembly fails, Frank leaves the parts and a fortuitous bolt of lightning provides just enough juice for Klink and Klank to come to life. Klink is a bit of a stick-in-the-mud and Klank just wants a hug and some good beats to boogie to. 

Frank has an arch-nemesis who is not above performing some industrial espionage in order to make sure that Frank doesn't win the science competition. T. Edison and his simian sidekick, Mr. Chimp, who communicates using American Sign Language will stop at nothing in their quest to win the science fair and ultimately dominate the world. (Insert evil laugh here.)

Scieszka rolls up real science and riffs on pop culture in a fast-paced plot packed with humor. Brian Biggs' illustrations add to the fun. For Scieszka's legions of fans, young and old, this will be an automatic purchase even without the blurbs by Tom Angleberger and Jeff Kinney. This is definitely one to give to your fans of both Origami Yoda and Wimpy Kid. Heck, give it to any kind of reader.

Check out this video of the author talking about the book. TMS students should check out the dedication page because you know Bob and Mary Brown. They are the owners of Books, Bytes and Beyond. It is thanks to them that we've had some fantastic author visits. They brought us Tim Federle, Kenneth Oppel, and Scott Westerfeld, among others in the past. This October, George Hagen will visit fifth and six grades. I can't wait to get back to school and share this with you!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

What's New? Stacking the Shelves


Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews. Hop on over there to ogle what other bloggers got. Big week this week.

For review:



Into the Grey by Celine Kiernan. 290 p. Candlewick Press, August 26, 2014. 9780763670610.

Publisher synopsis: After their nan accidentally burns their home down, twin brothers Pat and Dom must move with their parents and baby sister to the seaside cottage they’ve summered in, now made desolate by the winter wind. It’s there that the ghost appears — a strange boy who cries black tears and fears a bad man, a soldier, who is chasing him. Soon Dom has become not-Dom, and Pat can sense that his brother is going to die — while their overwhelmed parents can’t even see what’s happening. Isolated and terrified, Pat needs to keep his brother’s cover while figuring out how to save him, drawing clues from his own dreams and Nan’s long-ago memories, confronting a mystery that lies between this world and the next — within the Grey. With white-knuckle pacing and a deft portrayal of family relationships, Celine Kiernan offers a taut psychological thriller.


Last-But-Not-Least Lola and the Wild Chicken by Christine Pakkala. Illustrated by Paul Hoppe. 194 p. Boyds Mills Press/ Highlights, September 1, 2014. 9781590789834. 

Publisher synopsis: Spirited, smart, and strong-willed Lola Zuckerman, who is always last but never least, returns for a second adventure. Still struggling with friendships, Lola doesn’t want to share her on-again, off-again best friend Amanda with Jessie (who seems to be around all the time) and new girl Savannah. But when the four girls embark on a school field trip to a local farm, a crazy encounter with a wild chicken may be just what’s needed to steer them all toward one another.
Hilarious and heartfelt, this latest caper starring loveable Lola will make young readers laugh out loud.

Friendship Over by Julie Sternberg. The Top-Secret Diary of Celie Valentine #1. Illustrated by Johanna Wright. 152 p. Boyds Mills Press/ Highlights, October 1, 2014. 9781590789933.

Publisher synopsis: Ten-year-old Celie has quite a few things on her mind—fights with her sister Jo, secrets at school, an increasingly forgetful grandmother, and worst of all, a best friend who won’t speak to her. How can a girl who hates change survive, when everything in her life is changing? By writing, of course. Celie’s often comical and always heartfelt diary entries include notes, e-mails, homework assignments, and pages from her top-secret spy notebook.


Voices from the March on Washington. Poems by J. Patrick Lewis & George Ella Lyon. 114 p. Wordsong/ Highlights, October 1, 2014. 9781620917855.

Publisher synopsis: The powerful poems in this poignant collection weave together multiple voices to tell the story of the March on Washington, DC, in 1963. From the woman singing through a terrifying bus ride to DC, to the teenager who came partly because his father told him, “Don’t you dare go to that march,” to the young child riding above the crowd on her father’s shoulders, each voice brings a unique perspective to this tale. As the characters tell their personal stories of this historic day, their chorus plunges readers into the experience of being at the march—walking shoulder-to-shoulder with strangers, hearing Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech, heading home inspired.


Rory's Promise by Michaela MacColl & Rosemary Nichols. Hidden Histories. 288 p. Calkins Creek/ Highlights, September 1, 2014. 9781620916230.

Publisher synopsis: Twelve-year-old orphan Rory Fitzpatrick lives with her younger sister Violet at New York City’s Foundling Hospital in the early 1900s. But when Rory discovers that Violet will be sent to the Arizona Territory to be adopted, her world is shattered. Although too old to be adopted herself, Rory—brave and smart—is determined to stay with her sister, even if it means hiding out on a train traveling west. When Rory and Violet arrive in Arizona, everything that could go wrong does go wrong. Will Rory give up? This uplifting novel about the power of faith and the true meaning of family launches the Hidden Histories series, spotlighting little-known tales from America’s past, and the children behind those stories. Includes authors’ note and further resources.


Strike! The Farm Workers' Fight for their Rights by Larry Dane Brimmer. 172 p. Calkins Creek/ Highlights, October 1, 2014. 9781590789971.

Publisher synopsis: In the 1960s, while the United States was at war and racial tensions were boiling over, Filipino American workers were demanding fair wages and decent living conditions in California’s vineyards. When the workers walked out of the fields in September 1965, the great Delano grape strike began. Did the signing of labor contracts with growers in 1970 mean an end to the problems of American field laborers, or was it a short-lived truce? Award-winning author Larry Dane Brimner follows the five-year-long strike through the rise of César Chávez and the United Farm Workers. Brimner’s riveting text, complemented by black-and-white archival photographs and the words of workers, organizers, and growers, tells the powerful story. Includes an author’s note, bibliography, and source notes.


Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose. 391 p. G.P. Putnam's Sons/ Penguin Young Readers Group, March 10, 2015. 9780399168109.

Publisher synopsis: It’s 1587 and twelve-year-old Alis has made the long journey with her parents from England to help settle the New World, the land christened Virginia in honor of the Queen. And Alis couldn’t be happier. While the streets of London were crowded and dirty, this new land, with its trees and birds and sky, calls to Alis. Here she feels free. But the land, the island Roanoke, is also inhabited by the Roanoke tribe and tensions between them and the English are running high, soon turning deadly.
 
Amid the strife, Alis meets and befriends Kimi, a Roanoke girl about her age. Though the two don’t even speak the same language, these girls form a special bond as close as sisters, willing to risk everything for the other. Finally, Alis must make an impossible choice when her family resolves to leave the island and bloodshed behind.
 
A beautiful, tender story of friendship and the meaning of family, Caroline Starr Rose delivers another historical gem.
 

The Less-Than-Hidden Secrets and Final Revelations of Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang. The Popularity Papers #7. by Amy Ignatow. 208 p. Amulet Books/ Abrams, September 9, 2014. 9781419712708.

Publisher synopsis: Lydia and Julie have been through many adventures as they navigated junior high, popularity, families, and friendship. In the final adventure in the series, the peaceful world of Hamlin Junior High is rocked when Lydia and Julie learn that they’re going to have to play host to new students whose school burned down. The outside threat bands the Hamlin kids together against a common enemy—for a while. When the enemy gets their hands on Lydia and Julie’s notebook, no one wants anything to do with the girls. It’s the biggest threat to their friendship (and a pretty definitive failure of their quest for popularity), and it can only be solved one way. Two words: dance battle.


Drones by Martin J. Dougherty. 96 p. Scholastic Inc., July, 2014. 9780545664769. 

Publisher synopsis: As small as a fly or as big as an aircraft, Drones are changing the face of military warfare. Drones will be the first title available for young readers on this topical subject.
Drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), have become an essential and controversial tool for the U.S. military. Capable of targeted killing, they can be as small as a fly or as large as an aircraft. They can be used to spy on a neighbor, to undergo long reconnaissance missions, or to bomb a military compound. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are changing the way wars are fought.
Using fact boxes, diagrams, photographs, and specially commissioned, computer-generated color illustrations, DRONES is an exciting, accessible work about the latest in aviation technology.

The Scarecrows' Wedding by Julia Donaldson. Illustrated by Axel Scheffler. 32 p. Scholastic Inc., July 2014. 9780545726061.


What's new with you? Leave a link in the comments.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Non-Fiction Monday: Magic School Bus Presents Series

This series is billed as a nonfiction companion to the original Magic School Bus series. I received five of them and review them all here.

Overall, the updated series is attractive, with eye-catching, large, full-color photographs, vintage illustrations of Ms. Frizzle, her bus and students superimposed upon the photographs, text boxes galore and one-page "reports" on each double-page spread. A final section devoted to those who work and study in the field giving budding young scientists ideas about careers is followed by a glossary of unfamiliar terms.


Magic School Bus Presents - Sea Creatures. Magic School Bus Presents series. 32 p. Scholastic Inc., June, 2014. 9780545683661.

Glorious photographs and lots of tidbits about life in the sea for young fact hounds to devour.



Magic School Bus Presents - Our Solar System. Magic School Bus Presents series. 32 p. Scholastic Inc., June, 2014. 9780545683654.

Nice introduction to the solar system. Most of the planets get a page and Pluto appears on the pages entitled, "Icy Dwarfs and Comets."



Magic School Bus Presents - Planet Earth. Magic School Bus Presents series. 32 p. Scholastic Inc., June, 2014. 9780545680127.

Very basic information covered here. While the photos continue to have that wow factor, I wasn't thrilled with the caption for an open-pit coal mine that did not identify where it was located. Additionally, no mention was made about mining and environmental concerns.



Magic School Bus Presents - Wild Weather. Magic School Bus Presents series. 32 p. Scholastic Inc., June, 2014. 9780545683678.

Very basic information about all sorts of weather from hot to cold and from wet to dry.


Magic School Bus Presents - The Human Body. Magic School Bus Presents series. 32 p. Scholastic Inc., June, 2014. 9780545683647.

There's a lot to cover inside the human body and this hits the highlights in an interesting and age-appropriate overview.


Although billed as a non-fiction companion, the series still features vintage illustrations of Ms. Frizzle, et al, which caused me to recall the discussion I had fifteen or sixteen years ago with my mentor about where the series ought to be shelved. My library cooperative libraries lean a bit towards non-fiction but not by much. I opted to shelve mine in the fiction section just to keep them all together for fans of the series. I won't have to catalog these as they are paperback and won't go into my collection but they will be put to excellent use in a fifth grade self-contained classroom.