Friday, August 2, 2019

A Break to Indulge in Summer Reading



Sally’s Bookshelf is taking a break from book reviews to indulge in summer reading. While Sally's gone ...


  • Check out your library's summer reading program. 
  • Grab some books for the next road trip.  
  • Build a fort (and read in it).
  • Read a good bug book - and then go find some bugs.
  • Write haiku in sidewalk chalk.
  • Learn to identify trees - then tie a hammock between a couple of them and read.


Friday, July 26, 2019

Operation Frog Effect

Operation Frog Effect
by Sarah Scheerger
320 pages; ages 8-12
Random House Books for Young Readers, 2019

Some books have a prologue. This book starts its story on the jacket cover with a letter to the reader from some kids:

Hi--
It's us, Ms. Graham's class. We didn't mean to mess things up. But we did. We took things too far, and now Ms. Graham is in trouble--for something we did. We made a mistake. The question is, can we fix it? Ms. Graham taught us that we get to choose the kind of people we want to be and that a single act can create ripples. So get ready, world--we're about to make some ripples.
Sincerely,
Kayley, Kai, Henry, Aviva, Cecilia, Blake, Sharon, Emily (and Kermit, class frog)

The thing is – everyone makes mistakes. This book explores what happens when your mistakes hurt someone else. It begins with a rescued frog who becomes a resident in Ms. Graham’s fifth grade classroom. And is told through the perspectives of eight students through the pages of their journals:

  • Blake ~ who would rather draw than write words (and makes excellent frog noises)
  • Emily ~ who is feeling hopeful about her first day of school, but heartbroken when she thinks her two best buddies are leaving her out
  • Kayley ~ who seems to have her nose in a snit most of the time
  • Sharon ~ who writes in verse
  • Henry ~ who sees the world through the eyes of a film director (or screenwriter)
  • Kai ~ who writes his journal entries to the frog
  • Cecelia ~ who misses her abuelita tremendously and writes letters to her, including “words to practice” that are translated to Spanish; besos y abrazos!
  • Aviva ~ BFF of Kayley but wants to include Emily but then what will Kayley think?

It’s fifth grade and for some kids, the academic pressure is on - which leads to stealing (or borrowing) ideas for the egg drop challenge. There are lunch table exclusions (and inclusions), making new friends (and worrying whether that means you have to leave old friends behind), and desk-top letter boxes. There are group projects that sometimes go sideways – which is how the gang of eight end up in hot water.

Mostly, fifth grade is about learning who you are – and the kids in Ms. Graham’s class get an A for effort. This book came out near the beginning of the year, but makes a perfect summer read.

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Reviewed a copy from my library system

Friday, July 19, 2019

Taking Cover

Taking Cover, One Girl’s Story Of Growing Up During The Iranian Revolution
By Nioucha Homayoonfar
160 pages, ages 12 &  up
National Geographic Children’s Books, 2019

“I knew I was in trouble when the white jeep made a U-turn. Driven by the Zeinab Sisters (or the Black Crows, as I called them), it raced toward me and screeched to a stop.”

This book opens like an action movie: a young girl is snatched off the street, pushed into the back of a car, and taken to an apartment building that’s under construction. There she’s locked in a room.

For what? Showing the tiniest bit of skin. A sliver of her wrist. A crime, in the eyes of the “Moral Police” and the religious leaders who, after the revolution, control Iran. Post-revolution, the country has become a place where women and girls have lost the rights to work, attend school, have an opinion.

Though it sounds like a dystopian novel, this is a true story of one girl’s life – Nioucha – and what happened to her country after the fall of the Shah.

But Nioucha didn’t always live in Iran. She spent her early life in Pittsburgh, PA until she was five years old. That was when her father wanted to move back to his home country, back to relatives and a vibrant civilization that he missed.

Things were fine, at first. But when Nioucha was eight years old the Shah went into exile and the country moved in a different direction. Where she was once free to run and play and go to school, now her world is circumscribed by rules. Her loss of rights begins simply: she must wear a scarf. Girls must attend a separate school from boys. There is mandated religion class. She can’t be seen in public with a boy who is not related.

This is a book about how easy it is to lose your freedom. Lose your voice. So Nioucha uses her words and stories to give voice to those who are still taking cover. And maybe to warn us about just how easily we could lose the rights we take for granted.

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading.  Review copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, July 12, 2019

A Possibility of Whales

A Possibility of Whales
by Karen Rivers 
288 pages; ages 8 - 12
Algonquin Young Readers, 2019 (paperback)

On her fourth day at the new place, Natalia Rose Baleine Gallagher walked down the long, lumpy trail to the beach that lay at the bottom of the slope.

We learn a lot about Natalie, or Nat (as she’s called):

  • Nat is 12 years old
  • she’s moved a lot – dad’s job
  • the Baleine in her name is silent – a secret between her and her mom
  • her dad is famous – he’s an actor
  • Nat loves possibilities – and there are many

Life as the daughter of a famous actor is challenging, and Nat wants just to be Nat. Not XAN Gallagher’s daughter. She also wants to know what kind of mom abandons her baby? “Even in nature, when animals were faced with actual danger, mother animals stuck by their babies,” she once told a friend. The friend who she left behind. The friend who, we learn, did One Terrible Thing.

Nat has found other friends. Harry, who she meets in the girl’s bathroom at her new school in Canada. Harry who is a boy on the inside regardless of the fact their birth certificate says they are a girl. Harry, who plans to write a book to help other kids feel OK in their own skin.

There is Bird, a woman she knows only on the phone. A secret friend, and maybe her mom…

What I like about this book: I like the chapter titles. For example: “The things you find when you aren’t looking.” I like the postcards that Nat writes to Solly – or at least attempts to write. I like that Nat collects words from a diversity of languages to help her understand how she feels about things, and how to describe things. And I like the adventure to Baja with Harry’s family, where Nat discovers that she is definitely not ready to grow up.

Because of her middle name, Nat loves whales. I think she’d be a whale if she could. She loves to watch them, listen to their calls.

Want to learn more about baleen whales? Check out this NOAA website.

You can listen to a recording of a humpback whale here.

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review copy provided by the publisher.


Friday, July 5, 2019

Celebrate Independence Day & Weekend





Drop by for a book next week. 
But this weekend head out to celebrate the Fourth of July!

Friday, June 28, 2019

Pack your duffle for "Camp Average"

Camp Average 
by Craig Battle
240 pages; ages 8 - 12
Owlkids, 2019

I spent many memorable weeks at summer camp – hiking, doing arts and crafts, canoeing, and learning archery – and later as a camp counselor. Author Craig Battle has spent his share of weeks coaching rambunctious boys at a sports camp. Years later he began wondering, what if a camp director pushed kids to become more competitive?

The first chapter sets the tone for this fun summer romp. We see yellow buses bumping their way over a potholed dirt road into camp [I’m pretty sure all roads into camps are required to have a minimum number of potholes]. From inside the buses comes a loud chant: “We’re number two!” as the buses roll to a stop at Camp Avalon – or Camp Average, as the kids call it. There’s a mess hall, the baseball diamond, the lake, and counselors wearing bright orange camp T-shirts. There are pranks, the annual telling of the camp legend, and camp food.

As the kids settle in to their cabins, readers settle in for some fun summer reading.  Except all is not well at Camp Average! Because in the morning, when Mack and his buddies head to the main field, they discover it has been transformed. As Craig writes, “…it looked less like their old camp and more like something straight out of the NFL Scouting Combine, the event where college football players showcase their skills for professional coaches.”

And Mack and his friends do not like this one bit. They were looking forward to a summer of fun on the waterfront, and friendly ball games against the other camps. Now they are pushed to show athletic aptitude. The guys decide they need to nip this competitiveness in the bud – but how?

Over the summer the kids deal with interpersonal challenges as well as challenges on the field. I don’t want to give away the fun, but let’s just say that it’s harder to intentionally lose games than you’d think. This is definitely one book you’ll want to pack in your duffel for summer reading!

Thanks for dropping by today. On Monday we'll be hanging out at Marvelous Middle Grade Monday with other  bloggers. It's over at Greg Pattridge's blog, Always in the Middle, so hop over to see what other people are reading. Review ARC provided by the publisher.



Friday, June 21, 2019

Shelter dogs and midnight mischief

It’s Summer Solstice... a night of mischief and fun. Also the shortest night of the year. So why not spend part of it reading some fun picture books!

themes: family, friends, imagination

Madeline Finn and the Shelter Dog
by Lisa Papp
32 pages,  ages 4 - 8
Peachtree publishers, 2019

I ask Mom every single day.
In the morning.
In the evening.
Even when we’re out…

Madeline Finn wants a dog – and finally Mom says yes! Now Madeline has to feed her new puppy, take him on walks, and make sure he has a safe home. Later, when she visits the animal shelter she notices that all the animals seem a little sad. What can she do to make them feel loved? “Mom,” she asks, “does anyone read to the shelter dogs?”

What I like about the book: This is a sweet story about how one small person can make a difference in the world – at least in the doggy world. I also like how that one act has a ripple effect, engaging even more people. I like that the story is grounded in compassion. And I love the warm and soft feeling that Lisa Papp’s illustrations generate.

In the Middle of the Night: Poems From A Wide-Awake House
by Laura Purdie Salas; illus. by Angela Matteson
32 pages; ages 4-8
WordSong, 2019

Sun and moon have traded places – 
Time for games! Time for races!

Did you know that when you fall fast asleep the things in your house wake up and play? I’ve always suspected this, and now Laurie Purdie Salas has collected the data – er, I mean she’s written a slew of poems imagining the shenanigans that go on while you sleep. Stuffed animals flip and skate, scraps of paper fold into planes and dive into the air… even the lunchbox is on a midnight mission.

What I like about this book: Pure imagination! Fun poems that will have you looking at the objects in your home in a new way – and may even have you documenting where and how you left them before nodding off for the night. I am sure my coffee cup goes on adventures as it is never where I thought I left it!

Beyond the Books:

Read to a dog – or two. Find out if your local shelter has a reading program, and how else you can help out. Here’s how one Shelter Buddies reading program works.

What do the things in your house do at night? Find out – and then share your discoveries by writing a poem or short story, or drawing a picture to show what goes on when the lights go out.

 Today we're joining Perfect Picture Book Friday, an event where bloggers share great picture books at Susanna Leonard Hill's website. Review copies provided by the publishers.