"Sally" is back, with a shelf full of reviews and book chat. But first - a holiday story.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Susanna Hill's 8th Annual Holiday Contest entry

Every December, for the past seven years, Susannah Hill has encouraged writers to stretch their imaginations and write a holiday story. All holidays (even sorta holiday-themed) are included. This year's theme: Holiday Heroes.

The rules are simple: 250 words or less, and for kids. Here's my entry. I hope you enjoy it. When you're finished, head over to Susannah's blog and read the other stories (here's the link).

Moose is a Hero!

Moose read the sign: Holiday Heroes Wanted! He pulled on his X-ray goggles and snapped his decoder ring onto his collar.

“Where are you going?” asked Raccoon.

“I’m going to be a Holiday Hero,” Moose said. He held his head high, puffed out his chest, and gave a mighty snort.

“I don’t think you’re the sort of hero they’re looking for,” said Raccoon. “They need someone to slice turkey and dice potatoes for the Solstice dinner.” Raccoon scowled at Moose’s muddy hooves.

Maybe Raccoon was right. Moose stepped high through the snow drifts.

“Where are you going?” chattered Jay.

“I’m going to be a Holiday Hero,” Moose said. He puffed out his chest and gave a snort.

“They are looking for helpers to deliver letters by air mail,” Jay cawed. “I don’t think you’re the sort of hero they’re looking for.”

Maybe Jay was right. Moose slipped and slid on the ice. He bumped to a stop next to a huge sled piled high with boxes and bags and a cluster of kids.

“Where are you going?” asked Moose.

“The Holiday Food Parade,” said the kids. “But our sled is too heavy.”

“Not for me,” said Moose. The kids tied a rope to his collar. They hung bells from his antlers.

“You are just the hero we need!” shouted the kids. Moose held his head high, puffed out his chest, and gave a mighty snort. With a jingle and a jangle he trotted into town.

Thanks for dropping by to share a story. I'll be back with book reviews and book talk after the holidays are over. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

Read! Read! Read! Poems by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater

Read! Read! Read!
by Amy Ludwig Vanderwater; illus. by Ryan O'Rourke
32 pages; ages 5-10
WordSong, 2017

Real readers will read anything: cereal boxes, maps, field guides, comic books, the sports pages.... So many things to read! So little time!

Poems focus on the ways readers connect to the word and their world. For example - reading road signs while driving to the beach. Or pulling out a paper map - I love maps - and locating yourself in space.

My favorite is "Field Guide" in which a reader, nestled on the couch with a field guide "perched upon my lap" is learning the names of hawks. "I study hawks trapped flat in books so I will know hawks in 3-d," she writes. "...hawk by hawk my field guide teaches me to see." A fun book filled with poems that are perfect for ... reading. 

There is no Perfect Picture Book Friday today. But there is a holiday story contest - so head on over to Susanna Leonard Hill's site where you can find a selection of story entries and links to more. Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Revolutionary Rogues

Revolutionary Rogues: John Andre and Benedict Arnold
by Selene Castrovilla; illus. by John O'Brien
48 pages; 9-11 years
Calkins Creek, 2017

Major John Andre was bright and well educated. He served in the British army and, in 1779 was put in charge of secret intelligence.

Major General Benedict Arnold was one of America's finest soldiers - even George Washington agreed. But reward and recognition passed him by, and after being shot in the leg at Saratoga, he knew he would not gain glory on the battlefield.

What drew these two men into collusion? Was it Arnold's wife, a British sympathizer? Was it that both men wanted to see an end to this war?

Author Selene Castrovilla takes readers through a fast-paced espionage adventure, highlighting the similarities and differences in these two Revolutionary rogues. The tragedy: that they brought about their own tragic ends. A great read for any young historian. Back matter includes timelines for each soldier and, for those who like to dive deeply into history, a list of places to visit in New York and London.

 Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Teddy Roosevelt

Teedie: the Story of Young Teddy Roosevelt
by Don Brown
32 pages; ages 4-7
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017 (reprinted)

themes: nonfiction, biography, presidents

Ten-year-old Teedie played with his sisters and brother in their fine house on Twentieth Street.

He loved being at home, but he also loved summers in the country when he and the other kids climbed trees, built wigwams, and hunted frogs (unsuccessfully). 

What I like about this book: President Teddy Roosevelt is one of my heroes, so I'm always keeping my eyes peeled for a fun book about his childhood. This one fits the bill. Author Dan Brown shows Teddy (called Teedie by his family) as a youngster plagued by asthma -  in the mid 1800s they didn't have inhalers - and so was tutored at home. He was insatiably curious, collecting skulls and sketching birds. He spent hours lifting weights and rowing to build up his body, and loved riding horses and hunting.

As an adult he did amazing things to make our country a better place to live. "America will not be a good place for any of us to live in if it is not a reasonably good place for all of us to live in," he said. So he fought big business, established national parks and wildlife preserves, built the Panama Canal, and won a Nobel Peace Prize. 

Beyond the Book:
Take a virtual tour of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the Badlands of North Dakota. Here's the NPS video.

Play a game of Tic-Track-Toe. Roosevelt was a hunter, so playing this game requires animal track tiles - you can download a template here. And you can visit this website for more National Park activities.

Biographical information (and short video) about TR over at the Ducksters.

Today is PPBF (perfect picture book Friday), an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Journey that Saved Curious George

The Journey that Saved Curious George
by Louise Borden; illus. by Allan Drummond
96 pages; ages 7 - 10
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016 (reprinted)

Eight-year-old Hans A. Reyerback loved to visit the zoo. He would imitate the sounds of animals, and loved to draw the animals. After serving in the German Army (WWI) he traveled to Brazil where he wore a broad hat and watched monkeys along the Amazon.

Margaret Waldstein loved art and studied photography. When Hitler came to power, life changed in Germany so she eventually traveled to Brazil. She was seeking new work and adventure and had heard that an old family friend (Hans) was living in Rio.

They teamed up as artists, eventually married, and traveled to Paris. They planned to visit for 2 weeks; they stayed for 4 years. In 1939 they began working on a story about a very curious monkey. That year war broke out. Paper was scarce and typesetters had joined the army. And war was marching closer! They had to flee Paris on bicycles, sleeping in barns, and narrowly escaping the bombing.

As refugees, waiting for visas, they were questioned by officials: what were the papers they were carrying? Were they spies? No, just writers.... Four months later they arrived in New York City and after another year they published the first book of many about Curious George.

What I like about this book: Adventure! Danger! Escape from Nazis! and Curious George! It's got history and mystery and biography all rolled into one exciting story. 

Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Two Wild Adventures, mostly true

themes: adventure, history

The Wildest Race Ever
by Meghan McCarthy
48 pages; ages 4-8
Simon & Schuster, 2016

The first Olympic marathon held in America happened on august 30, 1904, in Saint Louis, Missouri. It was part of the World's Fair exhibition.

Thirty-two runners started that day, representing the US, South Africa, Cuba, France, Greece, and Newfoundland (now part of Canada). The first American Indian to run in Olympic Games was there, from the Seneca Nation. It was hot, and the cars carrying judges, doctors, and reporters stirred up so much dust that racers had a hard time breathing!

What I like about this book: Meghan McCarty tells stories about individual runners - like the guy who stole peaches from a car, and the runner who was chased a mile off course by an angry dog. It's a true story, so there's a couple of pages of back matter - and you know how much I like back matter!

A Voyage in the Clouds
by Matther Olshan; illus. by Sophie Blackall
40 pages; ages 4-8
Farrar Straus Giroux, 2016

This book is subtitled: the (Mostly) true story of the first international flight by balloon in 1785. It tells the story of Dr. John Jeffries, an Englishman, and his pilot, Jean-Pierre Blanchard, a Frenchman, to be the first to fly from one country to another.

There's only one problem: they can't stand each other!
Okay, there are a lot of problems. They lose tools. They lose altitude. They lose their tempers.

What I like about this book: It's FUN! I like the dialog balloons that reveal their bickering. I like that they had to pee over the side to lighten the balloon so they wouldn't crash land. And I really like the notes in the back matter that clarify what's fact in this very imaginative story.

Beyond the Books: 

What would it be like to balloon across the English Channel? Here's a tale about two guys who recreated the trip of Jeffries and Blanchard.

Build a "hot air" balloon using helium party balloons, a plastic grocery bag, and a paper cup. Put two balloons into the plastic bag. Tie a ribbon from each handle of the plastic bag and attach the paper cup. Fill it up with pennies and send it on a journey around the house.

Run - or walk - a marathon. A marathon is a bit over 26 miles. Elite runners can finish in just over two hours; walkers take 8 hours or longer. Why not do your own marathon, but a couple miles a day? Plot out a two-mile loop (if you walk a mile to school, that's perfect). Then draw a race course on a sheet of paper and mark it off into 26 squares. Each day, color in a square for each mile you run or walk. When you finish your marathon, give yourself a gold medal.

Today is PPBF (perfect picture book Friday), an event in which bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's site. She keeps an ever-growing list of Perfect Picture Books. Review copies from publishers.