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Book Reviews

Picture Books

Title:

Snowflake Bentley

 

Author:

Jacqueline Briggs Martin

Illustrator:

Mary Azarian

Publisher:

Houghton Mifflin Company

Publication Date:

1998

Grade Level:

Ages 5-8

 

 

 

Genre:

Biography

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

32 pages

Theme:

If you can dream it, you can achieve it.

Summary:

The inspiring true story of photographer and self-made scientist Wilson "Snowflake" Bentley proves that anyone can achieve their dream. Born of humble means on a Vermont farm in 1865, Bentley was fascinated with weather and devoted his life to studying snow crystals. With the aid of his parents, who sacrificed their life's savings so he could buy the proper equipment, Bentley created photographs that provided the world with invaluable insight into snow crystals.

Evaluation:

Illustrated with warm, hand-colored woodcuts that create an appropriately old-fashioned feel. The simple main text of this 1999 Caldecott Medal winner flows well with the charming illustrations. Sidebars on each page add additional details that maintain interest for older readers and allow the main text to remain focused on the story.

Personal Responses:

Very inspirational and a joy to read. My only complaint is the dearth of actual photographs by Bentley. The entire book builds interest in the photographs, but only three tiny copies of the actual photographs are shown on the last page.

 

 

Picture Books

Title:

The Adventures of Sparrowboy

 

Author:

Brian Pinkney

Illustrator:

Brian Pinkney

Publisher:

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Publication Date:

1997

Grade Level:

Ages 4-8

 

 

 

Genre:

Fiction

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

40 pages

Theme:

Ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

Summary:

An ordinary paperboy named Henry has a very extraordinary day. It all begins when he wishes for the help of the comic superhero "Falconman." After an encounter with a mysterious sparrow his wish comes true, but with a twist. He finds himself in the center of the action.

Evaluation:

Scratchboard illustrations add an interesting textural element. This 1997 Boston Globe Horn Book Award winner uses a colorful comic-book style to engage the reader's interest. The text compliments the pictures well, although the pictures could tell the story by themselves.

Personal Responses:

This book really captured my attention, so much that I was disappointed when it ended. However, I felt that the book ended with the perfect open-ended conclusion.

 

 

 

Picture Books

Title:

Minty: A Story of Young Harriet Tubman

 

Author:

Alan Schroeder

Illustrator:

Jerry Pinkney

Publisher:

Dial Books for Young Readers

Publication Date:

1996

Grade Level:

Ages 5-9

 

 

 

Genre:

Historical fiction

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

40 pages

Theme:

Maintaining belief in your dream helps you cope, even in the worst situations.

Summary:

Eight-year-old "Minty," a fictionalized version of a young Harriet Tubman, suffers greatly while working as a slave on a Maryland plantation. Her rebellious nature adds an extra degree of conflict, and she has several traumatic experiences. With the guidance of her father, she starts planning to escape.

Evaluation:

Scenes of Minty with her family are very tenderly rendered in this 1997 Coretta Scott King Award winner. Illustrator Jerry Pinkney effectively combines pencils, colored pencils and watercolors to add an appropriately subdued, somewhat dreary cast even to bright, sunny scenes. The strong text describes the horrors of scenes too disturbing to show in the illustrations.

Personal Responses: The story really tugged at my heartstrings. It is a very moving story, well told, but still very sad. The Author's Note at the end helped the story the end on a happier note.

 

Picture Books

Title:

Snapshots from the Wedding

 

Author:

Gary Soto

Illustrator:

Stephanie Garcia

Publisher:

G.P. Putnam's Sons

Publication Date:

1997

Grade Level:

Ages 5-8

 

 

 

Genre:

Fiction

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

32 pages

Theme:

The joy of a family wedding.

Summary:

Flower girl Maya tells the story of her cousin's Latino wedding with vivid detail. She shares her often silly, but always observant tale of the event from a child's point of view. From the groom's broken arm to crying babies, she leaves little to the imagination.

Evaluation:

Stephanie Garcia, illustrator of this 1998 Pura BelprJ Award winner, uses a unique but effective approach by using photographs of three-dimensional picture boxes to convey the story. The boxes contain realistic clay figures and a collage of items from the wedding. The text and pictures are integrally tied, and the text often cleverly prompts the reader to look at something in the illustration.

Personal Responses:

This is such a fun book that it needs to be read several times to properly enjoy it. The writer is definitely in tune with a child's point of view.

 

 

Picture Books

Title:

When Jessie Came Across the Sea

 

Author:

Amy Hest

Illustrator:

P.J. Lynch

Publisher:

Candlewick Press

Publication Date:

1997

Grade Level:

Grades 2-4

 

 

 

Genre:

Historical Fiction

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

40 pages

Theme:

Not even the sea can separate the love of family members.

Summary:

Even though it breaks her heart to be separated from her beloved grandmother, Jessie leaves her small town when she is offered a trip to America. She vividly describes the wonder of living in the new world and finding a new love. She works hard and uses her sewing skills to save toward purchasing a ticket for her grandmother.

Evaluation:

P.J. Lynch, the illustrator of this 1998 Kate Greenaway award winner, uses lush paintings to portray a realistic setting of the story. The illustrations complement the story, but they are so beautiful that they almost overwhelm the story.

Personal Responses:

I enjoyed this beautiful story and its beautiful illustrations. Though at times heartbreaking, the story of Jessie and her trip across the sea to America is very inspirational.

 

Picture Books

Title:

The Whirlys and the West Wind

 

Author:

Christine Ross

Illustrator:

Christine Ross

Publisher:

Houghton Mifflin Company

Publication Date:

1993

Grade Level:

Ages 4-8

 

 

 

Genre:

Fiction

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

25 pages

Theme:

Working together helps deal with a difficult situation.

Summary:

Imagine the chaos of three rambunctious young children running a household by themselves. That is exactly what happens after Mr. And Mrs. Whirly are swept away by the west wind. Their children devise an outlandish plan to care for themselves until their parents return.

Evaluation:

Christine Ross, winner of the Russell Clark Award for Illustrations in 1993, uses soft pastel colors to illustrate this light-hearted book. No detail is left out, including the mess that ensues when three young children are left on their own.

Personal Responses:

Even though humorous and a delight to read, I was a little troubled by the subject matter of this book. Even though the intent seems to be showing siblings working together, it could also give the impression that children do not need parental guidance.

 

 

Picture Books

Title:

The Watertower

 

Author:

Gary Crew

Illustrator:

Steven Woolman

Publisher:

Crocodile Books

Publication Date:

1994

Grade Level:

Ages 9-12

 

 

 

Genre:

Science fiction

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

32 pages

Theme:

Things are not always as they seem.

Summary:

This eerie tale will keep the reader intrigued long after finishing the book. In the town of Preston, an old rusting water tower stands on the edge of a hill. Two boys decide to go inside for a swim on a sweltering summer day. What happens inside is a mystery, but one of the boys is forever changed.

Evaluation:

This 1995 Australian Picture Book of the Year winner uses the contrast between colorful illustrations and black background to great effect. In a twist on the usual picture book, the illustrations tell the real story, while the text provides the background information.

Personal Responses:

What a great puzzle. This is the kind of book that I could not stop thinking about, even long after I read it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture Books

Title:

Ghost Train

 

Author:

Paul Yee

Illustrator:

Harvey Chan

Publisher:

Groundwood Books

Publication Date:

1996

Grade Level:

Grades 3-5

 

 

 

Genre:

Fantasy

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

30 pages

Theme:

Everyone has a gift that they can use to help others.

Summary:

Could things get any worse for Choon-yi, born with only one arm in a poor peasant family in China? She makes the best of the situation by creating and selling paintings. She is rightfully concerned when her beloved father accepts a perilous job building railroads in America. When she travels to see him, she endures heartbreak before discovering that her magical talent can help her father and many others.

Evaluation:

The beautiful oil paintings have a gloomy dark brown tint that adds to the melancholy mood of the text. This winner of the 1997 Amelia Frances Howard-Gibbon Medal effectively uses the subdued pictures to compliment instead of distracting from the text.

Personal Responses:

I found this to be a powerful book, even though it is written and illustrated with a gentle touch.

 

 

Award-Winning Fiction

Title:

The Giver

 

Author:

Lois Lowry

Illustrator:

None

Publisher:

Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers

Publication Date:

1993

Grade Level:

Ages 10-12

 

 

 

Genre:

Science Fiction

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

180 pages

Theme:

Things are not always as they seem.

Summary:

Jonas lives in the ideal community, or so it seems. Everyone seems so content and safe. Doors are left unlocked, even during the night. However, Jonas soon finds out that there are sinister secrets lurking behind the pleasant veneer of his community. Can he save himself before it is too late?

Evaluation:

The winner of numerous awards, including the 1994 Newbery Medal, this book expertly draws in the reader. The reader can find hints throughout the story as more and more clues are doled out. It still leaves the reader speculating the outcome until the very end.

Personal Responses:

This is the kind of book that I could read again and again and never forget.

 

 

Realistic Fiction

Title:

Ramona Quimby, Age 8

 

Author:

Beverly Cleary

Illustrator:

Alan Tiegreen

Publisher:

Morrow Junior Books

Publication Date:

1981

Grade Level:

Ages 7-9

 

 

 

Genre:

Realistic Fiction

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

190 pages

Theme:

A family's love can overcome hardships.

Summary:

Ramona can not possibly be a "nuisance." Doesn't she try her best to keep out of trouble and to help out her family during difficult times? Even a change of school does not provide boisterous Ramona a break from her troubles, but in the end she discovers the true depth of her family's love.

Evaluation:

Even though it was written over twenty years ago, this hilarious tale of an eight-year old is still relevant today. This 1982 Newbery Honor Book humorously, but still sensitively, tells the timeless tale of a difficult time in a child's life. The simple line drawing illustrations add to the story without distracting from the text.

Personal Responses:

Is it possible that the author was really an eight-year-old and not the former librarian who claims to have written the book? Her insights into the life of an eight-year-old are uncanny.

 

 

Award-Winning Fiction

Title:

Agnes the Sheep

 

Author:

William Taylor

Illustrator:

None

Publisher:

Scholastic Inc.

Publication Date:

1990

Grade Level:

Ages 9-12

 

 

 

Genre:

Fiction

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

132 pages

Theme:

Be kind to others, because the kindness might be repaid to you.

Summary:

Belinda and Joe, two feuding classmates, become unlikely allies when they are named caretakers of a sheep. Not just any sheep, but a hulking, obstinate sheep named Agnes. It all begins when they are assigned to visit a local "pioneer." Bored at first with the assignment, they soon find that the life of Mrs. Carpenter was anything but ordinary. In the often- humorous episodes that follow, everyone learns a little about life.

Evaluation:

William Taylor, the author of this 1991 Esther Glen Award winner alternates between pleasant and disturbing events to keep the reader guessing. Just when the book is almost finished, she adds some surprises to the ending.

Personal Responses:

Even though the fate of Agnes the Sheep was unsettling to me, I still enjoyed reading the book.

 

 

 

Award-Winning Fiction

Title:

The Friends

 

Author:

Kazumi Yumoto

Translator:

Cathy Hirano

Publisher:

Farrar Strauss Giroux

Publication Date:

1992

Grade Level:

Ages 9-12

 

 

 

Genre:

Fiction

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

170 pages

Theme:

People from different generations have a lot to offer each other.

Summary:

Kiyama and his self-absorbed friends, Yamashita and Kawabe, share an obsession with death. They decide to spy on an old man in hopes of watching his death. However, the old man soon catches the boys and starts to play tricks on them. The boys eventually befriend the old man and they all learn important lessons about life from each other. When the boys are finally confronted with death, it is nothing like the experience that they imagined.

Evaluation:

Kazumi Yumoto fully develops the characters in this 1997 Boston Globe Horn Book Award winner for fiction. Portrayed in the beginning as rude, uncaring boys, she slowly delves deeper into each character until their true self is revealed. This 1997 Mildred A. Batchelder Award winning story is sprinkled with a few Japanese words, most of which are adequately explained for the English reader.

Personal Responses:

In the beginning, this story was very unsettling. The characters were not likeable, and I considered choosing a different book to read. However, I'm glad that I persevered because the story turned out to be a real treasure.

 

 

Traditional Tales

Title:

Author:

Paul Zelinsky

Illustrator:

Paul Zelinsky

Publisher:

Dutton Children's Books

Publication Date:

1997

Grade Level:

Ages 4-8

 

 

 

Genre:

Traditional fiction

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

38 pages

Theme:

Overcoming the challenges of life.

Summary:

This retelling of the classic Grimm fairy tale includes some elements from other variations of the story. In this version, the harsh but protective sorceress locks Rapunzel in the tower to protect her from the outside world. Rapunzel and the prince meet and marry in the tower before being caught by the sorceress. They endure great hardships before the book concludes with the requisite happy ending. Zelinsky includes an author's section at the end of the book with an interesting history of the tale.

Evaluation:

It is easy to see why this book won the 1998 Caldecott Medal. Paul Zelinsky fills the pages with lush golden-toned oil paintings in an Italian Renaissance style. No detail is left out, including the elaborate braids and coils of Rapunzel's gorgeous long hair. The text and pictures are integrally tied and flow well together.

Personal Responses:

The gorgeous pictures and captivating text make this book a joy to read. The author's notes at the end show how thoroughly Zelinsky researched the tale.

 

 

Award-Winning Non-Fiction

Title:

Appalachia: The Voices of Sleeping Birds

 

Author:

Cynthia Rylant

Illustrator:

Barry Moser

Publisher:

Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Publication Date:

1991

Grade Level:

Ages 4-8

 

 

 

Genre:

Non-fiction

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

23 pages

Theme:

Remembering your hometown.

Summary:

Cynthia Rylant fondly describes the area of Appalachia and the people, the "sleeping birds" who live there. The lifestyle of the people is described in detail, including their religion, eating habits, and home furnishings. The author and illustrator both grew up in the region, and several of the illustrations are based on actual photographs of the area.

Evaluation:

Cynthia Rylant effectively uses a storyteller's voice to narrate this 1991 Boston Globe Horn Book Award winner. Barry Moser's sun-dappled transparent watercolor illustrations add an appropriately tender feel. However, while the people of Appalachia are always portrayed in a positive light, they are over-generalized.

Personal Responses:

Even though the people and the area are portrayed in a tender, positive manner, I feel that the people in this book are over-generalized. For example, I am sure that not everyone in Appalachia eats bacon and fried chicken and owns a dog.

 

 

Award-Winning Non-Fiction

Title:

The Way Things Work

The New Way Things Work (not reviewed-newer version, same author)

 

Author:

David Macaulay

Illustrator:

David Macaulay

Publisher:

Houghton Mifflin

Publication Date:

1988

Grade Level:

Ages 9-12

 

 

 

Genre:

Non-fiction

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

384 pages

Theme:

Principles of how machines work.

Summary:

Ever wonder how a copy machine works, or how a vending machine determines if the correct change has been used? David Macaulay answers these questions and hundreds more, in this comprehensive guide to the workings of machines. Beginning with a short introduction to general physics principles, the majority of this large book is comprised of four sections of machines grouped by similar working principles. This creates some interesting pairings, such as the zipper and the plow. The book concludes with a history of machines and a glossary of technical terms. The pages are filled with technical drawings complimented by humorous cartoons and stories about a wooly mammoth.

Evaluation:

1989 Boston Globe Horn Book Award winner is written in easy language for children to understand. All technical terms are well explained or introduced in a previous section. Macaulay uses a variety of illustrations, from technical drawings to humorous cartoons, to maintain the reader's interest. The stories of the wooly mammoth are especially humorous, but they are sometimes satirical, such as the illustration of a nuclear power source.

Personal Responses:

This is the rare technical book that is also a joy to read. It would be a great resource for parents for the inevitable "how does it work" questions.

 

 

Award-Winning Fiction

Title:

Holes(soft cover)

 

Author:

Louis Sachar

Illustrator:

None

Publisher:

Dell Yearling

Publication Date:

1998

Grade Level:

Ages 10-13

 

 

 

Genre:

Realistic Fiction

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

233 pages

Theme:

Things are not always as they seem.

Summary:

Stanley and his family attribute their bad luck to a curse placed on their "pig-stealing" ancestor. Convicted of a crime he did not commit, Stanley is sent to Camp Green Lake as punishment. For a boy who never could afford to go to camp, it sounds like an easy alternative to time in jail. However, Stanley soon learns that there is nothing pleasant about Camp Green Lake. The lake dried up over a century ago, and every day each "camper" must endure scorching temperatures to dig a five-foot hole in the dry lakebed. The exhausting manual labor is meant to build character in the juvenile delinquents, but Stanley suspects that they are actually searching for something buried in the lakebed.

Evaluation:

It is easy to see why this mystery won so many awards, including the 1998 National Book Award, the 1999 Newbery Medal, and the 1999 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award. Throughout the intriguing main story of Stanley and his bad luck, author Louis Sachar splices in the parallel story of Stanley's "pig-stealing" ancestor. At first, the pig-stealing story seems like a humorous diversion. As the story builds, however, the secondary story gains in importance until both stories are integrally tied.

Personal Responses:

This very enjoyable book is the kind that causes the reader to keep flipping backward to see if they missed any clues.

 

 

 

Award-Winning Fiction

Title:

Chato's Kitchen

 

Author:

Gary Soto

Illustrator:

Susan Guevara

Publisher:

G.P. Putnam's Sons

Publication Date:

1995

Grade Level:

Ages 5-8

 

 

 

Genre:

Fiction

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

29 pages

Theme:

Friends come in all shapes and sizes.

Summary:

Chato the cat is overjoyed when a family of mice move in next door. He sends the mouse family an invitation to dinner without letting on that they will be the main course. When the mice ask to bring along a friend, Chato agrees thinking that he will have an extra mouse to devour. When the mice arrive for dinner, their surprise guest helps turn the tables on Chato.

Evaluation:

Scratchboard backgrounds add additional texture to Susan Guevara's bright paintings in this 1996 Pura BelprJ Award winner for illustrator. No detail is left out, including the realistic-looking fur of the personified mice. Humorous details not mentioned in the text are shown in the illustrations, including a bird wedding ceremony performed outside the window. The Spanish words, though a little distracting, add additional flavor to the lively text.

Personal Responses:

This very humorous story is enjoyable to read and to view.

 

 

Modern Fantasy

Title:

A Wrinkle in Time

 

Author:

Madeleine L'Engle

Illustrator:

None

Publisher:

Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers

Publication Date:

1962

Grade Level:

Ages 9-12

 

 

 

Genre:

Fantasy

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

198 pages

Theme:

Everyone has special talents.

Summary:

Meg's beloved father has been missing since he began working on a secret physics experiment. On "a dark and stormy night," a strange visitor knocks on the door. To the distress of Meg's mother, the visitor mentions something called a "tesseract." Could that have something to do with Meg's missing father? On the advice of the stranger, Meg later sets off on a perilous journey with her "baby brother" Charles Wallace and their new friend Calvin in hopes of reuniting with her father. Along the way, Meg battles the forces of evil and learns some surprising truths about herself and her family.

Evaluation:

Madeleine L'Engle won the Newbery Medal for this classic science fiction story in 1963. The deeper message of questioning time and space is enjoyably presented through an engaging plot. The main characters are very human and believable against the fantastic background of alien worlds.

Personal Responses:

This story is such a treasure. I enjoyed it from cover to cover.

 

 

Science Fiction

Title:

Alien Secrets

 

Author:

Annette Curtis Klause

Illustrator:

None

Publisher:

Delacorte Press

Publication Date:

1993

Grade Level:

Ages 10-13

 

 

 

Genre:

Science Fiction

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

227 pages

Theme:

Everyone has something to contribute.

Summary:

Robin Goodfellow, also known as Puck, is experiencing a difficult time in her life. Expelled from her hated all-girls boarding school, she travels on a space ship to meet with her disappointed parents. Aboard the ship, she meets a dejected alien nicknamed Hush. He has lost a precious item called the Soo that belongs to his people. Inquisitive Puck decides to help him recover the item although it involves much danger. Along the way, she discovers strengths in herself and others that she did not know existed.

Evaluation:

Annette Curtis Klause effectively combines mystery and science fiction to create an enjoyable, enthralling story. The unpredictable plot twists add to its intrigue. Unfortunately, after reading half of the book the reader can determine the ending of the story by the illustration on the hardcover edition's cover.

Personal Responses:

The character of Puck was so well developed that I was rooting for her throughout the entire book. Even though the places are extraordinary, Puck is very believable as a child experiencing a difficult time in her life.

 

 

 

Award-Winning Multicultural Fiction

Title:

Crutches

 

Author:

Peter Hartling

Translator:

Elizabeth D. Crawford

Publisher:

Lothrop, Lee & Shepard

Publication Date:

1988

Grade Level:

Ages 9-14

 

 

 

Genre:

Historical Fiction

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

163 pages

Theme:

Making do in difficult situations.

Summary:

World War II has caused much hardship for twelve-year-old Thomas Schramm. Comforts that most people take for granted, like sleeping in a bed or taking bath, are rare luxuries for Thomas. His father was killed in the war, and he and his mother were forced to leave their home. During their journey, Thomas was separated from his mother in a chaotic rush of people boarding a train heading west. With much difficulty, he travels alone to Vienna to locate his aunt. Instead of finding his aunt, he happens upon an eccentric character who calls himself "Crutches." Crutches lost one of his legs in the war, and he ekes out a living through bartering. Crutches agrees to help Thomas in the search for his mother. Along the way, and much to the dismay of Crutches, he and Thomas become close friends.

Evaluation:

This powerful book won the 1989 Mildred L. Batchelder Award. The details make the story seem very realistic. Perhaps this is because author Peter Hartling suffered through similar experiences after World War II. Hartling develops the characters expertly, especially with Crutches. Badly wounded both emotionally and physically from the war, the true character of Crutches is never clear until near the end of the book.

Personal Responses:

This moving book is very well written. It is one of those books that it is difficult to put down once you start reading.

 

 

Award-Winning Multicultural Fiction

Title:

Her Stories: African American Folktales, Fairy Tales, and True Tales (limited availability)

Author:

Virginia Hamilton

Illustrator:

Leo & Diane Dillon

Publisher:

The Blue Sky Press

Publication Date:

1995

Grade Level:

Ages 9-14

 

 

 

Genre:

Traditional fiction

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

109 pages

Theme:

Women are strong.

Summary:

Author Virginia Hamilton collected several types of tales to create this appealing book. She divided the book into five sections: "Her Animal Tales," "Her Fairy Tales," "Her Supernatural," "Her Folkways and Legends," and "Her True Tales." All feature an African American woman as the main character. They range from a variation of the classic Cinderella story named "Catskinella," to a dramatized story about a female keelboat operator named "Annie Christmas," to the true story of a woman who suffered under slavery in "Millie Evans: Plantation Times." At the end of each tale, Hamilton provides an overview of its history. Unlike many traditional tales, many have a heavyhearted ending.

Evaluation:

This incredible collection of tales won the Coretta Scott King Award in 1996. The large, detailed illustrations complement the text well. Acrylic paintings with a grayish cast add to the supernatural feel of the book. The tales are sprinkled with Gullah and Creole words, such as "daylean" and "dayclean." These are explained well in the summary following each tale, but sometimes the words are used in several tales before they are explained.

Personal Responses:

This is a very engaging book. The twist of unhappy endings helps to add an element of surprise.

 

 

Award-Winning Multicultural Fiction

Title:

The Tiny Kite of Eddie Wing(limited availability)

 

Author:

Maxine Trottier

Translator:

Al Van Mil

Publisher:

Kane/Miller Book Publishers

Publication Date:

1996

Grade Level:

Ages 4-9

 

 

 

Genre:

Realistic fiction

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

22 pages

Theme:

Never give up on your dreams.

Summary:

Young Eddie Wing dreams of flying a kite. Unfortunately, his family is so poor that he cannot even afford the materials to make a small paper kite. He decides to fly his own imaginary kite, and eventually other children join him to watch its imaginary flights. Eddie's dreams become more vivid after venerable businessman Old Chan announces that the smallest kite will win the Festival of Kites. Unknown to Eddie, Old Chan has an unfulfilled dream of his own, to create poetry. In the end, Eddie and Old Chan enable each other to fulfill their dreams.

Evaluation:

This engaging book won the 1996 Canadian Children's Book of the Year award. Illustrator Van Mil cleverly juxtaposes Eddie and Old Chan in two-page spreads. In one especially effective scene, their dreams intermingle. The paintings start with a dark tone but continue to brighten until the end, paralleling the journey to the happy ending.

Personal Responses:

This uplifting book is a joy to read.

 

 

Mysteries

Title:

The Night Flyers

 

Author:

Elizabeth McDavid Jones

Illustrator:

None

Publisher:

Pleasant Company Publications

Publication Date:

1999

Grade Level:

Ages 9-12

 

 

 

Genre:

Mystery

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

139 pages

Theme:

Everyone has something to contribute.

Summary:

The year is 1918, and it has been a difficult one for twelve-year-old Pam Lowder. She worries about her father, who is fighting "somewhere in France" in World War II. Pam and her mother struggle to keep their North Carolina farm running. Things get worse after a mysterious stranger attempts to buy Pam's beloved homing pigeons. Pam and her father trained them to carry messages during the night, which is rare for pigeons. Pam resists selling the birds because of their connection to her father. She is also suspicious of the stranger because of his German accent. When Pam's pigeons start disappearing one by one, she suspects the stranger. She decides to uncover the truth, even though it means facing danger. In the end, she finds that people are not always like they first seem. She also discovers that she might be able to aid her father and the other men fighting in the war.

Evaluation:

This historical mystery won the 2000 Edgar Allan Poe Award. The historical background of the story is presented well, both through the text and through the historical section at the end of the book. The text is complemented with small black and white illustrations in the beginning of every chapter, a color map of "Pam's World" at the beginning of the book, and photographs in the historical section at the end. Pam's character is well developed, but it difficult to believe that a child in 1918 would have a much leeway as Pam's mother gives her.

Personal Responses:

The story line and historical information combine to make this story seem very real.

 

 

Mysteries

Title:

The Clearing (limited availability)

 

Author:

Dorothy Reynolds Miller

Illustrator:

None

Publisher:

Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Publication Date:

1996

Grade Level:

Ages 9-12

 

 

 

Genre:

Mystery

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

119 pages

Theme:

Things are not always as they seem.

Summary:

Eleven-year old Amanda is shocked when her parents consider moving from the small town of Stump, Pennsylvania to Minneapolis. They decide to send Amanda to her cousin Elsinore's house while they spend the summer in Minneapolis. Elsinore lives in an area called "the clearing," a group of twelve homes surrounded by woods. At first, Amanda's time in the clearing is dominated by challenging her bossy cousin Elsinore. In the process, Amanda ends up befriending her cousin Nelson and an older girl named Cynthia Kennedy. Together, the three friends investigate the clearing's dark secret – the disappearance of five-year-old Bucky Mead ten years ago. All of the people in the clearing suspect reclusive "Spook" Wade. Together Amanda and her friends solve the mystery, but they find that there is an unfortunate price to pay for their efforts.

Evaluation:

This riveting story won the 1997 Edgar Allan Poe Award. Splices of humor permeate the serious story line of the book and maintain the reader's interest. The characters, especially Amanda, are very well developed and believable. Author Dorothy Reynolds Miller effectively tells the story using Amanda as the first-person narrator. This adds both humor and emotional depth to the story. The book has several plot twists, most of which the reader will probably not see coming.

Personal Responses:

This unpredictable nature of the story made this book a joy to read.

 

 

Mysteries

Title:

The Dollhouse Murders

 

Author:

Betty Ren Wright

Illustrator:

None

Publisher:

Scholastic, Inc.

Publication Date:

1983

Grade Level:

Ages 9-12

 

 

 

Genre:

Mystery

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

149 pages

Theme:

Things are not always as they seem.

Summary:

Twelve-year-old Amy is overwhelmed by caring for her mentally challenged eleven-year-old sister Louann. Amy's mother expects her to constantly watch and entertain Louann, which is difficult because Louann is strong willed and loud. After being scolded by her mother for her purported mistreatment of Louann, Amy runs away to visit her Aunt Clare. Clare persuades Amy's mother to give her a month-long break from her caretaker duties, and Amy temporarily moves in with Clare. Amy gratefully enjoys her time with Clare until she finds a beautiful old dollhouse in the attic. Any mention of the dollhouse upsets her aunt, and Amy soon finds that the dolls seem to have a creepy life of their own. Amy is horrified when she learns that there was once a mysterious double murder in her aunt's house. Could the dolls have anything to do with solving the murder mystery? Amy solves the mystery, and along the way she finds newfound love and appreciation for her sister.

Evaluation:

The dual story line of the mystery and Amy's attempts to deal with her mentally challenged sister make this a compelling read. The aunt at first seems too good to be true, but the author adds some elements, such as her emotional problems and her anger, that make her character more believable.

Personal Responses:

A very interesting story and good characterization combine to make this a fun mystery to read.

 

 

Historical Fiction

Title:

Beyond the Divide (limited availability)

 

Author:

Kathryn Lasky

Illustrator:

None

Publisher:

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Publication Date:

1983

Grade Level:

Ages 12-YA

 

 

 

Genre:

Historical Fiction

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

254 pages

Theme:

People can triumph over adversity.

Summary:

Fourteen-year-old Meribah Simon is devastated when the Amish community shuns her beloved father in 1849. As punishment for a minor infraction of the Amish rules, her father is not allowed to speak to others, even to his own family. When he decides to join a wagon train heading west in hopes of starting a new life, Meribah decides to accompany him. Along the way, she makes friends and documents her experiences through her drawings. Then, tragically, a terrible act is committed against her friend Serena. No one will tell Meribah what happened, just that "it" happened, and things will never be the same. As Meribah continues her journey, conditions in the wagon train deteriorate, and she is confronted with the true nature of her traveling companions. Her situation becomes dire after her father is injured. Will Meribah and her father survive to make a new life in the west?

Evaluation:

This candid chronicle of a wagon train journey is enhanced by the development of the characters. Author Kathryn Lasky drops hints throughout the book of the true nature of the minor characters, then reveals the truth when the time is right. She develops the main character of Meribah especially effectively by including her private thoughts as well as her general observations. This helps Meribah seem especially real. The plot twists add additional drama to story, and the details of daily life on the trail make the settings seem real. At the end of the book, Lasky adds the account of her research that led to the writing of the book.

Personal Responses:

This is a very powerful book, both for the fictional story of Meribah, and for the sad true story of the American Indians.

 

 

Historical Fiction

Title:

Sarah, Plain and Tall

 

Author:

Patricia MacLachlan

Illustrator:

None

Publisher:

Harper Trophy

Publication Date:

1985

Grade Level:

Ages 7-10

 

 

 

Genre:

Historical Fiction

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

58 pages

Theme:

Adapting to new situations.

Summary:

Life on the prairie has been difficult for Anna since her mother died after giving birth to her brother Caleb. Their loving father never seemed to get over the grief of losing his wife, which is evidenced by his lack of singing. Then, one day, their father announces that he has found a potential new bride. Her name is Sarah, and she is coming to stay with the family for a month as a trial of a potentially more permanent relationship. Anna and Caleb are thrilled, and they are delighted with strong-willed Sarah. They stay on their best behavior, hoping to win her over, but they are troubled by her sadness over missing the ocean. One day, Sara takes off with the wagon into town, which troubles Anna and Caleb. Will she return to marry their father, or will she be lost to them forever?

Evaluation:

It is easy to see why this delightful story won both the 1986 Newbery Medal and the 1986 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction. The brevity of this book is deceiving. Packed into a mere 58 pages is a very enjoyable story with a complete plot. The characters are believable and likeable. Author Patricia MacLachlan effectively adds humor, sometimes subtly, to enhance the story.

Personal Responses:

This is the kind of book that successfully tugs at the reader's heartstrings, but then leaves the reader feeling uplifted at the end.

 

 

Historical Fiction

Title:

Skylark

 

Author:

Patricia MacLachlan

Illustrator:

None

Publisher:

Harper Collins

Publication Date:

1994

Grade Level:

Ages 8-11

 

 

 

Genre:

Historical Fiction

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

87 pages

Theme:

Family love helps overcome hardship.

Summary:

This charming sequel to Sarah, Plain and Tall begins with Caleb's marriage to his mail-order bride Sarah. Told through the point of view of Caleb's daughter Anna, the story is both sweet and heartbreaking. It traces the new family through a dangerous time of drought on the prairie. When the drought becomes so severe that her family must separate, Anna worries that they might never reunite. However, Anna's beloved father saves the day, just as he always does, and the story ends on a happy note.

Evaluation:

Author Patricia MacLachlan effectively uses the first-person observations of Anna to reveal much about Sarah and Caleb. The plot, though quick, is easy to follow. It lacks a little of the gentle humor of Sarah, Plain and Tall, but is still enjoyable to read.

Personal Responses:

After reading and enjoying Sarah, Plain and Tall by the same author, I had to read the sequel. I was not disappointed.

 

 

Biography

Title:

Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution

 

Author:

Natalie S. Bober

Illustrator:

None

Publisher:

Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Publication Date:

1995

Grade Level:

Ages 11-YA

 

 

 

Genre:

Biography

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

248 pages

Theme:

The life of a strong woman.

Summary:

This complete biography fills in the lesser-known details of the life of Abigail Adams, who was the wife of president John Adams and the mother of president John Quincy Adams. Abigail Adams wrote a multitude of letters during her lifetime, and author Natalie S. Bober uses them as the background of her biography. Bober portrays Abigail Adams as a strong-willed woman who followed the traditional role for women of her day. Adams was very well read, and she wished that women had better access to education. She endured much in her life, from witnessing a battle of the American Revolution, to losing several children to death, to enduring long separations from her husband.

Evaluation:

This detailed biography, winner of the 1995 winner of the Boston Globe- Horn Book Award, never ceases to interest the reader. Author Natalie S. Bober includes general facts about historical events at the time that events are occurring in Abigail Adam's life. This helps the reader gain a better picture of Adams' situation. Bober includes sections at the beginning and end of that book that explain her extensive research and documentation into the life of Adams.

Personal Responses:

After reading this book, I have a much better understanding of the hardships that women faced just a few hundred years ago.

 

 

Biography

Title:

Anne Frank, Beyond the Diary: A Photographic Remembrance

Authors:

Ruud van der Rol and Rian Verhoeven

Translators:

Tony Langham and Plym Peters

Publisher:

Viking

Publication Date:

1993

Grade Level:

Ages 10-YA

 

 

 

Genre:

Biography

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

113 Pages

Theme:

The tragedy of Anne Frank's death.

Summary:

This complete biography of Anne Frank begins with pictures of her infancy and childhood. The pictures show Anne with her happy family who had no idea the horror that their later life would include. Anne received her cherished diary for her thirteenth birthday. At the time she received the diary, her family had already moved from their native Germany to Amsterdam in hopes of avoiding Nazi persecution of people who were Jewish. Unfortunately, the war caught up with them and forced them into hiding less than a month after Anne received her diary. After just over two years in hiding, the family was discovered and arrested. Friends of the family retrieved Anne's diary and family photo albums before their secret hiding space was emptied. This biography is full of actual family photos, excerpts from Anne's diary, and other family memorabilia and documentation.

Evaluation:

This haunting biography contains beautiful pictures of the Frank family, as well as detailed colored drawings and maps. It was originally published in Dutch, and was an Honor Book winner for the 1994 Mildred L. Batchelder Award. The authors splice in historic sections between sections to help the reader understand the larger historical context in which events in Anne's life were taking place.

Personal Responses:

This is a very moving book. It adds another personal element to the sad story of Anne Frank.

 

 

Biography

Title:

The Double Life of Pocahontas

 

Author:

Jean Fritz

Illustrator:

Ed Young

Publisher:

G. P. Putnam's Sons

Publication Date:

1983

Grade Level:

Ages 8-10

 

 

 

Genre:

Biography

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

96 pages

Theme:

A woman forced to live in two clashing cultures.

Summary:

This biography begins with the life of the Native American princess Pocahontas shortly before her famous meeting with Englishman John Smith. It continues with the traditional tale of Pocahontas saving John Smith's life. However, in this version, the author raises the possibility that Pocahontas was asked by her father to pretend to save Smith's life in a ceremony that would make him part of their family. The Native Americans enjoyed trading with the English, but they were disgruntled by their failure to trade them any guns. Pocahontas' father thought that by making him an honorary member of their tribe, John Smith would finally trade them some guns. The book goes on to describe the management problems at the Jamestown settlement that caused many people to die. It then goes on to describe Pocahontas' kidnapping by the English and her forced assimilation into their society in Jamestown. She later married an Englishman named John Rolfe, who she met and moved with to England. She died of natural causes at the age of only twenty-one, and left behind a two-year-old son, Thomas.

Evaluation:

This book attempts to dispel some of the stories associated with Pocahontas. Author Jean Fritz develops her character well, including some of the attributes that would have made her susceptible to the conniving of others. Illustrator Ed Young includes soft black and white illustrations with a charcoal feel and a map of the Jamestown area during Pocahontas' time.

Personal Responses:

This book gives another side to the legendary story of Pocahontas.

 

 

Biography

Title:

Joan of Arc

 

Author:

Diane Stanley

Illustrator:

Diane Stanley

Publisher:

Morrow Junior Books

Publication Date:

1998

Grade Level:

Ages 11-14

 

 

 

Genre:

Biography

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

44 pages

Theme:

The life of a heroine.

Summary:

Joan of Arc was born around 1412 to a poor peasant family in France. Her parents named her Jeanette, and she never learned how to read or write. During the time of her life, her country was involved in the Hundred Years' War with the English over the ownership of France. Word spread throughout the country about a young girl who was going to save France from the English. When she was thirteen years old, Joan of Arc started having visions that convinced her that she was the girl. Joan of Arc became an inspiration to the people of her country. She eventually won the trust of prince Charles, who later became the king of France. Unfortunately, she was caught by the British, tried in the Inquisition, and burned at the stake as a heretic. King Charles later had her retried and cleared, and five hundred years after her death, the Catholic church declared her a saint.

Evaluation:

The colorful, rich, full-page illustrations created with acrylics add an appropriately heroic feel to the story of Joan the Arc. Author Diane Stanley includes a helpful pronunciation guide to the French terms in the beginning, as well as a map of the disputed territory of the time. The text and illustrations flow well together and the author includes historical facts that help frame the time period of Joan of Arc's life.

Personal Responses:

This narrative of Joan of Arc's life is especially interesting because it includes lesser-known aspects of her life.

 

 

Biography

Title:

Lincoln: In His Own Words (limited availability)

 

Author:

Milton Meltzer

Illustrator:

Stephen Alcorn

Publisher:

Harcourt Brace & Company

Publication Date:

1993

Grade Level:

Ages 10-14

 

 

 

Genre:

Biography

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

226 pages

Theme:

The life of an incredible man.

Summary:

Author Milton Meltzer tells this complete, detailed biography using many of Lincoln's own words. It begins with Lincoln's humble birth in a log cabin in Kentucky in 1809 and ends with his death at Ford's theatre in Washington in 1865. Meltzer tells the story in between with a combination of the details of the events in the country and in Lincoln's own life. Meltzer uses copious amounts of Lincoln's writing, from a receipt from his law practice, to parts of his famous Emancipation Proclamation, to the entire Gettysburg Address.

Evaluation:

Illustrator Stephen Alcorn effectively uses black and white linocut illustrations in full page and two-page spreads which add texture and a feeling of strength. The illustrations show Lincoln and his contemporaries as well as some stylistic visions of the emotions of the time. Although the book is long, it never seems slow-paced. Author Milton Meltzer's text combines well with Lincoln's actual words to create a very full characterization of the former president.

Personal Responses:

Even though some of the documents used in the book are well known, the everyday documents tell much of the story of the life of Abraham Lincoln.

 

 

Award Winning Nonfiction

Title:

An Extraordinary Life: The Story of a Monarch Butterfly

Author:

Laurence Pringle

Illustrator:

Bob Marstall

Publisher:

Orchard Books

Publication Date:

1997

Grade Level:

Ages 9-12

 

 

 

 

Genre:

Informational

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

64 pages

Theme:

The life cycle of a monarch butterfly.

Summary:

Author Laurence Pringle follows the life of a monarch butterfly he names Danaus, after her species name, through her yearlong lifecycle. After her spring birth and metamorphosis on a Massachusetts hayfield, she travels thousands of miles, eventually reaching Mexico for the winter. She returns in the spring to the United States to hatch her own eggs and to reach the conclusion of her own life.

Evaluation:

Bob Marstall beautifully illustrates this 1998 Orbis Pictus award winner with colorful, detailed paintings. He adds additional illustrations such as maps and detailed close-ups of the butterfly's anatomy. Author Laurence Pringle describes the butterfly's life in great detail, but he manages to maintain the reader's interest though the personal story of Danaus. He adds helpful sidebars with additional information. The book concludes with sections on the danger to the monarch's winter refuge in Mexico and on how to raise monarch butterflies.

Personal Responses:

This book is both beautiful and informative.

 

 

Award Winning Nonfiction

Title:

Through My Eyes

Author:

Ruby Bridges

Illustrator:

None

Publisher:

Scholastic Press

Publication Date:

1999

Grade Level:

Ages 9-YA

 

Genre:

Biography

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

61 pages

Theme:

A little girl's brave triumph over adversity.

Summary:

This stirring autobiography describes the ordeals that Ruby Bridges suffered through as a child. After starting first grade at a segregated elementary school that was quite a long walk from her home, she was told she was going to start at a new school which was closer to home. She had no idea what was in store for her. She was one of four African American children who, under court order, were to begin the integration process in the New Orleans public schools.

Ruby was surprised when armed marshalls picked her up for her first day at the new school. She was even more surprised because she seemed to be the only student in the school. Ruby's teacher, Mrs. Henry, inspired her and lovingly taught her, though they were left all alone in a separate classroom. Mrs. Henry encouraged the few remaining white children in the school to play with Ruby, but they mostly kept to themselves. The daily protestors in front of her school, especially one who carried a black doll in a coffin and a woman who threatened to poison her, terrified Ruby. The book includes sidebars and full pages devoted to the history of the civil rights movement, and Ruby's role in it. The book concludes with Ruby's description of the remainder of her life, including her reunion with her beloved teacher Mrs. Henry.

Evaluation:

Sepia toned photographs effectively convey an historic tone to this 2000 Orbis Pictus award winner. The writing is poignant and effective, and Ruby's character seems very real. Just when the reader is wondering about the remainder of Ruby's life, she adds a heartwarming continuation to the end of the book.

Personal Responses:

This powerful book really moved me.

 

 

Award Winning Nonfiction

Title:

Leonardo da Vinci

Author:

Diane Stanley

Illustrator:

Diane Stanley

Publisher:

Orchard Books

Publication Date:

1996

Grade Level:

Ages 7-11

 

 

 

Genre:

Biography

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

45 pages

Theme:

The life of a brilliant man.

Summary:

This complete biography describes the life of Leonardo da Vinci, beginning with his illegitimate birth in Italy in 1452 and ending with his death in France in 1519. The biography includes details of both da Vinci's personal and professional life. Da Vinci was offered little educational opportunities because of his illegitimacy. Instead, he went to work as an artist's apprentice, which began his lifelong work. Throughout his life, he sought and received the support of wealthy patrons. Some wanted him purely for friendship, some for his engineering abilities, and some for his art. Each influenced him in a different way. Da Vinci was very curious about almost everything, and he constantly tried new scientific experiments. The book ends with a postscript about the unfortunate destruction of much of da Vinci's work over the years.

Evaluation:

This 1997 Orbis Pictus award winner uses rich, full-page paintings to illustrate the story of Leonardo da Vinci's life. Each page contains a copy of actual sketches from da Vinci's notebooks. The text flows well and is complemented by the illustrations.

Personal Responses:

This is a very interesting portrayal of Leonardo da Vinci's life.

 

 

Informational Nonfiction

Title:

Talking Peace: A Vision for the Next Generation (limited availability)

Author:

Jimmy Carter

Illustrator:

None

Publisher:

Dutton Children's Books

Publication Date:

1993

Grade Level:

Ages 10-14

 

 

Genre:

Informational

(Social Science)

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

192 pages

Theme:

The peace process and the effect of war on civilians.

Summary:

Former president Jimmy Carter wrote this book to inform young people about his views on peace and war. He includes a history of the Middle East, an account of the Camp David Accords, and a summary of the current wars being fought in the world at the time the book was published. He also includes reasons why he believes war occurs, including lack of basic human needs such as food and shelter, and environmental destruction. Carter discusses alternatives to war such as negotiation. He also explains his own organizations founded to help seek peace around the world, called the Carter Center and The International Negotiation Network. He ends the book with the plea to young people to do what they can to help.

Evaluation:

Carter bases this book on his personal opinions, and he is very up-front about it. He provides factual documentation to back up his arguments. He includes copies of actual historical documents and a small section of black and white photos from his presidency and peacekeeping missions.

Personal Responses:

This was a surprisingly interesting book to read. It is especially relevant because of the turmoil being experienced in the Middle East today.

 

 

 

Informational Nonfiction

Title:

Jack's Garden

Author:

Henry Cole

Illustrator:

Henry Cole

Publisher:

Greenwillow Books

Publication Date:

1995

Grade Level:

Ages 5-9

 

 

Genre:

Informational

(Biological Science)

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

25 pages

Theme:

The foundations of a garden.

Summary:

Jack's garden begins as a blank slate of freshly tilled soil. The book follows as the garden progresses. First, worms and bugs prepare the soil. Then, Jack plants seeds, rain falls, seedlings sprout, and finally, plants grow. Illustrations show the insects, birds and butterflies, individually labeled, that sustain their nourishment from the garden.

Evaluation:

Beautiful full-color illustrations created with colored pencils add just the right soft, sunny tone to this delightful book. The background color of every two-page spread begins as white and progresses toward brighter colors as the book progresses to the bright last scene. The book has little text, but it has all that is necessary, because the pictures tell the story.

Personal Responses:

This is a simple, but beautifully done book.

 

 

Informational Nonfiction

Title:

A Caldecott Celebration

Author:

Leonard S. Marcus

Illustrator:

None

Publisher:

Walker and Company

Publication Date:

1998

Grade Level:

Ages 8-YA

 

 

Genre:

Informational (Humanities)

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

49 pages

Theme:

Great illustrators of children's books.

Summary:

This collection celebrates six Caldecott Award-winning illustrators, one for each decade that the award has been given. Author Leonard S. Marcus begins with a section on the history of the Caldecott Award. He then takes the reader behind the scenes to see the creative processes employed by: Robert McCloskey, illustrator of Make Way for Ducklings; Marcia Brown, illustrator of Cinderella; or, The Little Glass Slipper; Maurice Sendak, illustrator of Where the Wild Things Are; William Steig, illustrator of Sylvester and the Magic Pebble; Chris Van Allsburg, illustrator of Jumanji; and David Wiesner, illustrator of Tuesday. Preliminary sketches, thumbnail drawings, dummies prepared for editors, and final illustrations from the books are included.

Evaluation:

Children's book historian and critic Leonard S. Marcus wrote this fascinating book. In it, each illustrator describes the influences that led to their award-winning book. All of the stories are inspirational, and some are humorous as well. Marcus engages the reader's curiosity of the individual authors' lives by including a brief biography on each of them. The illustrations came directly from the illustrators. Some are merely black and white sketches, but beautiful color illustrations of the final artwork are included, as well as some photographs.

Personal Responses:

This book shows how difficult the creative process can be, but at the same time, it is very inspirational.

 

 

Informational Nonfiction

Title:

Red-Eyed Tree Frog

Author:

Joy Cowley

Illustrator:

Nic Bishop

Publisher:

Scholastic Press

Publication Date:

1999

Grade Level:

Ages 6-9

 

 

Genre:

Informational (Biological Science)

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

32 pages

Theme:

A night in the life of a frog in the rain forest.

Summary:

The nocturnal red-eyed tree frog lives in the forest. When many of the other creatures in the rain forest are just going to sleep, the red-eyed tree frog wakes up. He searches for the right food to eat, and then he narrowly escapes becoming another creature's meal. Finally, he finds a good meal, and then he falls to sleep just as the sun rises. Author Joy Cowley includes a two-page section at the end of the book which gives additional information about the frog and its diet.

Evaluation:

Large close-up color photographs by Nic Bishop displayed on a lively green background illustrate this bright book. The photographs of the frog and the other rainforest creatures are incredibly detailed. The sparse, sometimes humorous text adds just the right compliment to the beautiful photographs.

Personal Responses:

This book will leave the reader wondering how the photographer was able to obtain such beautiful, close-up photographs.

 

 

Informational Nonfiction

Title:

Cathedral: The Story of It's Construction

Author:

David Macaulay

Illustrator:

David Macaulay

Publisher:

Houghton Mifflin Company

Publication Date:

1973

Grade Level:

Ages 10 - YA

 

 

Genre:

Informational

(Applied Science)

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

80 pages

Theme:

Construction of a gothic cathedral.

Summary:

Author David Macaulay uses the fictionalized town of Chutreaux to illustrate the building of a gothic style cathedral in the thirteenth century. He follows the cathedral through its planning to the final stages of its completion, which span a total of eighty-six years. He explains both the social reasons for the cathedral's construction, the difficulty financing it, and the technical skills used to build it. A glossary of technical terms is included on the last page.

Evaluation:

Incredibly detailed line drawings illustrate this fascinating book. Author and illustrator David Macaulay includes even the minutest details in his drawings, including every single brick in the cathedral's walls and the tiniest details of its stained glass windows. Several of the illustrations cover a page or more. The text flows well with the illustrations, and explains the incredible skill required to build the cathedral.

Personal Responses:

The illustrations in this book are incredible, and the story is fascinating.

 

 

Award Winning Fiction

Title:

What Can You Do With a Shoe?

Author:

Beatrice Schenk de Regniers

Illustrator:

Maurice Sendak

Publisher:

Margaret K. McElderry Books

Publication Date:

1955

(1997 reprint)

Grade Level:

Ages 4-8

 

 

Genre:

Fiction

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

32 pages

Theme:

Having fun with everyday objects.

Summary:

The dedication for this book reads "for fun." That statement well describes the overall fun, silly mood of this book. Throughout the book, a boy and a girl play with everyday objects. They first find silly ways to use them, such as wearing a shoe on their head, but they eventually find the correct usage for each item. Eventually, the book turns into a bedtime story.

Evaluation:

The playful text of this book uses repetition and occasional rhymes for optimal hilarity.

Hans Christian Anderson Award-winning illustrator Maurice Sendak uses colorful, imaginative watercolor paintings to portray the characters. (The paintings in the original book were displayed in black and white, but beginning with the 1997 reprint, they were shown in color.) In the last sequence, the words in the text are colored to match the word they describe.

Personal Responses:

This delightfully silly book will enchant children of all ages.

 

 

Award Winning Fiction

Title:

A Kiss for Little Bear

Author:

Else Holmelund Minarik

Illustrator:

Maurice Sendak

Publisher:

Harper & Row

Publication Date:

1968

Grade Level:

Ages 4-8

 

 

Genre:

Fiction

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

32 pages

Theme:

Sharing affection.

Summary:

Little Bear is very pleased with a picture he draws, so he asks his friend Hen to deliver it to his grandmother. Little Bear's grandmother is so pleased with the drawing that she sends back a kiss. The kiss gets passed through several of Little Bear's animal friends. The kiss is delayed when it reaches Little Skunk, because he keeps trading it back and forth with a pretty girl skunk. Eventually the kiss reaches Little Bear. The book concludes with the wedding of the skunks with Little Bear serving as their best man.

Evaluation:

Hans Christian Anderson Award-winning illustrator Maurice Sendak charmingly illustrates this book with soft drawings. The humorous exception is the expressive drawing sent by little bear to his grandmother, which looks suspiciously looks like a character from Where the Wild Things Are. Though the illustrations were printed in black and white with green accents, they have such texture and depth that the sparse color does not detract from the illustrations. Author Else Holmelund Minarik adds a few humorous touches to the text, which help add interest to the story.

Personal Responses:

This delightful book is made even more enjoyable by its light touch of humor.

 

 

Award Winning Fiction

Title:

Swine Lake

Author:

James Marshall

Illustrator:

Maurice Sendak

Publisher:

Harper Collins

Publication Date:

1999

Grade Level:

Ages 4-8

 

 

Genre:

Fiction

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

40 pages

Theme:

The arts can inspire anyone.

Summary:

When a hungry wolf finds himself in an unfamiliar part of town, he is delighted to smell the aroma of many pigs. He follows the scent to a ballet theatre where "Swine Lake" is being performed. Through a stroke of good luck, he obtains a free ticket and sneaks into the show. He soon notices that all of the attendees are pigs. He is delighted with the all-pig ballet cast, and waits until the right moment to snatch and devour one of the performers. However, the wolf soon finds himself caught up in the ballet, and he forgets to snatch a pig. He decides to return the next night to catch a meal, but he finds himself participating in the action instead.

Evaluation:

Award-winning illustrator Maurice Sendak illustrates this witty parody of the ballet Swan Lake with personified animals. He provides the colorful animals with human touches such as gaudy jewelry and tacky sweaters. The background details add additional touches of humor, such as the theatre that is named the "New Hamsterdam Theatre." The text and graphics are a perfect complement to each other. Author James Marshall begins the story with wry humor, then slowly evolves the story into a touching message about appreciating the arts.

Personal Responses:

This book successfully combines humor and an important message.

 

 

Award Winning Fiction

Title:

The Trumpet of the Swan
set of three stories

Author:

E.B. White

Illustrator:

Edward Frascino

Publisher:

Harper & Row

Publication Date:

1970

Grade Level:

Ages 8-11

 

 

Genre:

Fiction

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

210 pages

Theme:

Overcoming life's harships.

Summary:

Eleven-year-old Sam Beaver is fascinated by birds. He lives in Montana with his parents, but he often makes camping trips to Canada with his father. On one of the trips, Sam discovers a pair of trumpet swans and their nest. He saves their lives, then returns when the eggs hatch. One of the baby swans, also known as a cygnet, is born without a voice. His parents name him Louis. Sam befriends Louis and takes him to school so he can learn to read and write. Louis is happy with his life until he meets a beautiful swan named Serena. She ignores him because he cannot talk. Louis' father steals a trumpet, hoping it will serve as his son's voice. The trumpet brings fame and fortune to Louis, but he uses it to reclaim his father's honor. Louis and Serena fall in love and have their own cygnets, and Sam goes to work in a zoo.

Evaluation:

Famous author E.B. White, winner of the 1970 Laura Ingalls Wilder Award, wrote this touching story. In it, he effectively develops the characters of the young boy, Sam, and the swan, Louis. Both are rendered tenderly and with much detail. The soft drawings provided by illustrator Edward Frascino complement the text.

Personal Responses:

This is an enjoyable story to read. The author keeps the reader in suspense until the happy ending.

 

 

Award Winning Fiction

Title:

Charlotte's Web (box set)

Author:

E.B. White

Illustrator:

Garth Williams

Publisher:

Harper Trophy

Publication Date:

1952

Grade Level:

Ages 8-11

 

 

Genre:

Fiction

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

184 pages

Theme:

True friends in a time of crisis.

Summary:

Wilbur the pig was born the runt of his litter. When eight-year-old Fern learns that her father is going to kill Wilbur, she pleads for his life. Fern lovingly cares for Wilbur and feeds him with a bottle. When Wilbur becomes too big, he is sold to Fern's aunt and uncle who live nearby. In the beginning, Fern visits Wilbur often and he misses her when she is not there. Wilbur soon makes friends with some of the other animals, but he is lonely because no one will play with him. Then he meets Charlotte the spider. They quickly become best friends. Charlotte is concerned about Wilbur when he learns that he will be slaughtered soon. She devises a plan to save him. She creates webs with words describing Wilbur. This brings fame and fortune to the farm, and Charlotte succeeds in saving Wilbur's life. However, Wilbur is unaware that Charlotte's life will soon be coming to an end. He decides to save the sac of eggs that she lays in hopes of saving her children.

Evaluation:

This classic story has a timeless quality even though it was written fifty years ago. Award-winning author E.B. White turns the reader's attention to the plight of Wilbur, without giving away too early that Charlotte is facing the same struggle. Much is revealed about the character of the people, and the animals are charmingly personified.

Personal Responses:

This would make a great read for animal lovers of all ages.

 

 

Award Winning Fiction

Title:

Stuart Little (box set)

Author:

E.B. White

Illustrator:

Garth Williams

Publisher:

Harper Collins

Publication Date:

1945

(1999 reprint in collector's edition)

Grade Level:

Ages 8-11

 

 

Genre:

Fiction

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

131 pages

Theme:

Overcoming differences

Summary:

Mr. and Mrs. Little are surprised when their baby son Stuart is born. They are both people, but Stuart is a mouse. They love him anyway, and they try to accommodate his small size. Stuart is a dapper dresser and is very friendly. He makes friends wherever he goes, including the pond in New York's Central Park. One day, a wounded bird appears at his house. Stuart saves the bird, named Margalo, from the conniving family cat Snowball. Stuart cares deeply for his friend, and he is very concerned about her when she disappears. Stuart takes after her in a toy sports car and follows the roads to the country. The story ends with the beginning of his search.

Evaluation:

Award-winning author E.B. White effectively develops the character of Stuart. Even though Stuart accomplishes some amazing things, the feats seem believable in the setting of the book. Touches of humor add charm, such as when a police officer falls in the water while watching Stuart's boat race. Unfortunately, White leaves the story hanging with an open-ended conclusion. The charming drawings capture the soft but humorous feel of the book. The original illustrations were in black and white, but in the "Collector's Edition," they have been colorized by Rosemary Wells in a soft palate.

Personal Responses:

This is a charming, fun book.

 

 

 

Award Winning Fiction

Title:

Plain City

Author:

Virginia Hamilton

Illustrator:

None

Publisher:

The Blue Sky Press

Publication Date:

1993

Grade Level:

Ages 10-YA

 

 

Genre:

Fiction

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

194 pages

Theme:

A family's love helps to overcome hardships.

Summary:

Twelve-year-old Buhlaire Sims thinks to herself a lot. She thinks about her trouble fitting in at school, which she blames on her appearance. She also thinks a lot about her family, including her loving aunts, her often-absent mother, and her dead father. Since she was little, she was told that her father was killed in Vietnam. Buhlaire likes to wonder around outside in the woods and ponder her life. Unfortunately, a pesky boy from her school named Grady seems to follow her everywhere. Outside of school he is congenial, but when he is at school, he is often mean to Buhlaire. Everything changes one day after Buhlaire is caught in a snowstorm. Her former enemy Grady helps to rescue her, and she meets a man who says he is her father. Buhlaire befriends Grady and gets to know her father better. She considers running away to leave with her father, even though he is homeless. In the end, Buhlaire learns the true meaning of family.

Evaluation:

Hans Christian Anderson Award-winning author Virginia Hamilton wrote this powerful book. Hamilton delves into the character of Buhlaire in great detail. Hamilton uses italics to signify when Buhalire talks to herself, which is often. Her personal thoughts are sometimes humorous, and they always help the reader get to know her character better. Buhlaire is such a believable character that she seems real.

Personal Responses:

This stirring book is the kind that the reader cannot put down until they finish it.

 

 

Award Winning Fiction

Title:

The Bells of Christmas

Author:

Virginia Hamilton

Illustrator:

Lambert Davis

Publisher:

Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Publication Date:

1989

Grade Level:

Ages 9-12

 

 

Genre:

Fiction

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

64 pages

Theme:

Family love during the holidays.

Summary:

Award-winning author Virginia Hamilton tells the heartwarming story of a family's Christmas in 1890. She narrates the story through the eyes of twelve-year-old Jason, the youngest son in the family. Jason's family lives by the National Road in Ohio, a much-traveled route at the time. He impatiently waits for snow to fall. Without enough snow, his extended family of cousins cannot travel the route in their horse-drawn covered sleigh. Jason and his best friend Matthew are especially eager to see Jason's beautiful cousin Tissy. Jason describes the preparations leading up to the Christmas celebration, as well as the events of his day on Christmas. In the end, Jason is granted his wish for snow, and the family enjoys a warm and loving Christmas celebration.

Evaluation:

The beautiful acrylic paintings by illustrator Lambert Davis complement the tender text. He adds just the right touch of snow to the winter scenes to make them seem real. Author Virginia Hamilton lovingly describes the family's life and holiday preparations. She adds realistic hardships to the family, such as Jason's father's missing leg, that make the upbeat story sound more realistic.

Personal Responses:

This book is a treasure, both for reading and for viewing.

 

 

Award Winning Fiction

Title:

Jaguarundi

Author:

Virginia Hamilton

Illustrator:

Floyd Cooper

Publisher:

The Blue Sky Press

Publication Date:

1995

Grade Level:

Ages 4-8

 

 

Genre:

Fiction

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

40 pages

Theme:

The importance of preserving natural habitats.

Summary:

Rundi Jaguarundi lives in what was once a beautiful rain forest in South America. Unfortunately, the land was cleared and fenced into partitions by settlers. Many animals have disappeared, and Rundi finds that he is the last jaguarundi in the area. He decides to head north in search of a better life. He has many friends, but only one friend is brave enough to accompany him on his journey, Coati Coatimundi. They reach the other side of the river but find that it too, has been taken over by humans. Rundi meets a female jaguarundi, and together they make a den and start a family. He and his family dream of traveling further north to find unspoiled land.

Evaluation:

Subdued paintings with a brownish cast by illustrator Floyd Cooper add an appropriately somber feel. Cooper cleverly hides some of the animals in the paintings to draw the reader's attention. The text is lively and flows well with the illustrations. The humorous animal names add a light touch to such a serious story. The conclusion of the book includes a section about the real animals mentioned in the story.

Personal Responses:

This is a powerful book with an important message.

 

 

Award Winning Fiction

Title:

A Ring of Tricksters: Animal Tales from America, the West Indies, and Africa

Author:

Virginia Hamilton

Illustrator:

Barry Moser

Publisher:

The Blue Sky Press

Publication Date:

1997

Grade Level:

Ages 4-8

 

 

Genre:

Fiction

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

111 pages

Theme:

A larger animal can still be outsmarted.

Summary:

Award-winning author Virginia Hamilton brings together animal tales from the United States, the West Indies, and Africa in this collection. All of the stories are based on African-style folktales in which a personified animal outsmarts a larger animal. Many different creatures are represented, including alligators, rabbits, wolves, turtles, and even spiders. Hamilton includes a section at the end entitled "About These Tales" that gives detailed information of the origin of each tale.

Evaluation:

Illustrator Barry Moser used handmade paper to add a textural effect to the transparent watercolor illustrations. The illustrations are lively, and they complement the equally lively text. Each tale contains both an important message and a lot of humor.

Personal Responses:

This is the kind of book that makes you laugh but then makes you think more about the message.

 

Mystery

Title:

Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Slippery Salamander

 

Author:

Donald J. Sobol

Illustrator:

Warren Chang

Publisher:

Delacorte Press

Publication Date:

1999

Grade Level:

Ages 8-12

 

 

Genre:

Mystery

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

87 pages

Theme:

A boy using his brain to solve mysteries.

Summary:

People in the town of Idaville have no chance of getting away with committing a crime. Not as long as Leroy Brown, also known as "Encyclopedia," is around. This book, number twenty-two in Encyclopedia Brown series, follows Encyclopedia as he solves ten "cases." At the end of the book, the clues and logic behind Encyclopedia's conclusions are revealed.

Evaluation:

This clever book uses several different types of clues and puzzles to keep the reader guessing. For example, one of the cases is solved using historical facts, and another is solved by decoding a message. Each case is only a few pages long, which might be helpful for younger readers. Illustrator Warren Chang adds soft drawings which complement the text.

Personal Responses:

This is a clever and delightful book.

 

 

Mystery

Title:

Encyclopedia Brown Carries On (limited availability)

 

Author:

Donald J. Sobol

Illustrator:

Ib Ohlsson

Publisher:

Four Winds Press

Publication Date:

1980

Grade Level:

Ages 8-12

 

 

Genre:

Mystery

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

72 pages

Theme:

A boy using his brain to solve mysteries.

Summary:

Even though his father is the police chief, people in the town of Idaville know who really solves many of the local crimes – the chief's ten-year-old son Encyclopedia. In this book, Encyclopedia solves ten tricky cases with intriguing names such as "The Case of the Overfed Pigs" and "The Case of the Giant Mousetrap." At the end of the book, the clues and logic behind Encyclopedia's conclusions are revealed.

Evaluation:

Author Donald J. Sobol again cleverly relies on Encyclopedia's sharp observations. The solutions include coded numbers written as numbers, and people who forget that they are supposed to be left-handed. Illustrator Ib Ohlsson adds black and white illustrations with a humorous touch.

Personal Responses:

This clever book was a delight to read.

 

 

Poetry

Title:

Edward Lear's The Scroobious Pip (limited availability)

 

Author:

Written by Edward Lear, completed by Ogden Nash

Illustrator:

Nancy Ekholm Burkert

Publisher:

Harper & Row

Publication Date:

1968

Grade Level:

Ages 4- Adult

 

 

Genre:

Poetry

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

25 pages

Theme:

A mysterious creature.

Summary:

The other creatures of the world are puzzled when they encounter the Scroobious Pip. They cannot decide if he is a fish, and insect, a bird, or a beast. They elect their wisest members to question the Scroobious Pip, but he will only respond with a rhyme. The poem follows the Scroobious Pip through the habitats of the animals, the birds, the fish, and the insects.

Evaluation:

Illustrator Nancy Ekholm Burkert's colorful, detailed brush and ink drawings complement this lively rhyming poem. Burkert includes a foreword that explains the history of the poem. Famous author and illustrator Edward Lear wrote The Scroobious Pip in 1868 but he never completed it. He left one small drawing of the main character, which Burkert based her depiction on. Famous poet Ogden Nash completed the poem.

Personal Responses:

The words and pictures of this book combine for a delightful read.

 

 

Poetry

Title:

You Read to Me, I'll Read to You

 

Author:

John Ciardi

Illustrator:

Edward Gorey

Publisher:

Harper Trophy

Publication Date:

1962

Grade Level:

Ages 4-8

 

 

Genre:

Poetry

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

64 pages

Theme:

A collection of poems for children.

Summary:

This collection of thirty-five short poems was designed for shared reading. Author John Ciardi includes two categories of his poems, one for the adult to read to the child, and one with a first-grade vocabulary level for the child to read to the adult. The poems alternate on every other page.

Evaluation:

Author John Ciardi uses humor effectively to entertain the reader. Some of the humorous subjects he covers include a burnt breakfast and a boy who sings all the time. The ink drawings by famous author and illustrator Edward Gorey add an additional touch of humor. They are very appropriate and do not distract from the text. However, one picture of a shark eating a little boy might scare some children.

Personal Responses:

These poems were very fun to read, and the illustrations add just the right touch of additional humor.

 

 

Poetry

Title:

Climb Into My Lap: First Poems to Read Together (limited availability)

Author:

Various authors, selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Illustrator:

Kathryn Brown

Publisher:

Simon & Schuster

Publication Date:

1998

Grade Level:

Ages 2-7

 

 

Genre:

Poetry

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

79 pages

Theme:

A collection of poems to read to a young child.

Summary:

This compilation includes classic poems such as "Jabberwocky," "On Top of Spaghetti," and "Wynken, Blynken and Nod," as well as new poems that had never been published before. The book is divided into eight sections, including one devoted to fingers and toes. All are geared toward small children. The foreword includes a section on inspiring children to enjoy poetry.

Evaluation:

Even though each section is very different from the previous, all of these poems relate to a young child's life. Many are humorous, and all have a positive message. Beautiful watercolor illustrations by Kathryn Brown complement the poems. She uses appropriate coloring to enhance the mood of each poem. For example, poems about sleep are infused with dark blue. Lighter poems are enhanced with lighter, more humorous illustrations.

Personal Responses:

This is a wonderful book of poems to read to a child.

 

 

Frequently Challenged Book

Title:

In the Night Kitchen

Author:

Maurice Sendak

Illustrator:

Maurice Sendak

Publisher:

Harper Collins

Publication Date:

1970

Grade Level:

Ages 7-9

 

 

Genre:

Fantasy

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

40 pages

Theme:

The power of a dream.

Summary:

A young boy named Mickey is awakened in his sleep by loud sounds. At least, it seems like he was awakened – he might really be dreaming. He drifts out of bed and finds himself with the bakers in the "night kitchen." They bake cake while everyone else is sleeping. He finds himself in the action when he falls into the batter. He ends up saving the day by providing milk for the cake that the bakers are making.

Evaluation:

This 1971 Caldecott Medal Honor Book was number twenty-five on the ALA list of the one hundred most challenged books from 1990-2000. It is often challenged because of nudity. The main character is depicted fully naked, including his genitals, several times in the book. The nudity is sensitively done in the illustrations. The drawings are rich and imaginative. Sendak uses an almost cartoon-like drawing style to add humor, including a skyline made out of items from a kitchen cupboard.

Personal Responses:

It is difficult to imagine people objecting to this charming book.

 

 

Play

Title:

Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach: A Play

Author:

Adapted by Richard R. George

Illustrator:

None

Publisher:

Puffin Books

Publication Date:

1982

Grade Level:

Ages 4-8

 

 

Genre:

Play

Number of pages in book, or time required for multimedia item:

91 pages

Theme:

A young child's dream-like adventure.

Summary:

This play, an adaptation of the famous book by Roald Dahl, begins when James Trotter loses his parents to a hungry rhinoceros. He is forced to go live with his mean aunts, Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker. A mysterious old man gives James a bag full of magic creatures. The creatures take over an old peach tree, which then sprouts a giant peach. James' selfish aunts profit from the peach by selling tickets to view it. James finds himself with a few interesting new friends, and together they take an amazing journey with the peach.

Evaluation:

Author Richard R. George includes an introduction by author Roald Dahl to this eight-scene play. George includes detailed instructions on staging, costumes and scenery in the back of the book, including some simple illustrations. He also includes easy to follow, detailed instructions and hints at the beginning of every scene.

Personal Responses:

This very imaginative story would make an enjoyable play.

 

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