Monday, April 29, 2013

Return of the Library Dragon

Return of the Library Dragon
by Carmen Agra Deedy; illustrated by Michael P. White
32 pages; ages 4-8 (and, really, anyone who loves libraries and/or dragons)
Peachtree, 2012

After guarding the books of the Sunrise Elementary school library for the last 557 years, Miss Lotty is retiring. "If you leave, who will read to the little kids?" ask Milo. "The new librarian," says Miss  Lotty.

Then, disaster strikes. The books go missing, the card catalog is abandoned in the hallway and, it looks like Mike Krochip - the new tech-loving library fixer-upper is banishing print from the library. Miss Lotty is smoking mad over the booknapping, and Mike tries to sooth her ruffled scales by assuring her that children using flashy MePods will forget what books look like.

Wrong Thing to Say to Lotty.... who makes Mike hot under the collar, threatening to melt motherboards and more unless her books are returned. But all's well that ends well, as some famous scribe wrote.

This is a fun book for kids of all ages from those who read pictures to those who read the endpapers, which include such nuggets of wisdom as:
 "Google can bring you back 100,000 answers; a librarian can bring you back the right one." ~Neil Gaiman
 Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, April 26, 2013

On the Move - Animal Migrations

On the Move: Mass   Migrations
by Scotti Cohn; illustrated by Susan Detwiler
32 pages; ages 4-8
Sylvan Dell, 2013

Spring is migration time. In our area thousands of salamanders move from their winter homes in the woods to the ponds and pools where they'll mate and lay eggs. The air is filled with vees of geese honking their way north, while on the coast thousands of horseshoe crabs scuttle out of the bay and onto sandy beaches.

Scotti Cohn shares migration secrets from across the animal kingdom, through different habitats and over a year of seasons. Chimney swifts and monarch butterflies are more visible during fall migrations; come winter, elephant seals are on the move. There's information galore for earthkeepers and animal lovers who want to know more about the creatures who share our planet.

This post is part of STEM Friday round-up. Review copy provided by publisher.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Privateer's Apprentice ~ blog tour & author interview

Privateer's Apprentice
by Susan Verrico
224 pages; ages 9-12 & beyond
Peachtree, 2012

It is the Year of Our Lord 1713 in Charles Towne, the Carolina Territory, and Jameson Cooper is in jail. He thought, when he grew up, he'd take on his father's job as recorder of deeds and printer. But when his mother dies of smallpox, followed three weeks later by his father, Jameson is left homeless. He is accused of stealing and sentenced to be auctioned off to the highest bidder.

While running an errand for his new master, Jameson is knocked unconscious, kidnapped, and pressed into service aboard the "Destiny", serving Queen Anne. His new master is the fearsome Captain Attack Jack who, in addition to liberating gold and jewels from Spanish galleons, seeks to claim new territories for England. Jameson not only proves his worth as a sailor, but also finds new uses for his artistic skills in mapping the New World.

Susan Verrico, who penned this whopping good adventure on the high seas, is passionate about history. She graciously answered Three Questions (and a half) about her book.

Sally's Bookshelf: What inspired this story?

Susan: History was my favorite subject in school. Privateer's Apprentice grew out of an interest in the pirate era, combined with growing up in Florida and hearing stories about pirates and buried treasure.

SB: What sort of research did you do to give your book such authenticity - and how long did it take?

Susan: When I sat down to write Privateer's Apprentice I remember thinking: so, what do I know about pirates? I quickly realized that most of my knowledge came from Hollywood. I thought all pirates had peg legs and had parrots perched on their shoulders. In order to write the book I wanted to write, research wasn't an option - it was a necessity. It wasn't too difficult because I'm so interested in that time period. It took a while, though, because I took lots of breaks along the way, raised my kids, went back to college... all in all, the research and writing took several years.

SB: What did you learn that surprised you as you worked on your book?

Susan: That many pirates were mostly decent men who were just trying to earn a living after Queen Anne's War ended. That was the mind-set in developing the captain's character.

SB: question 3 1/2 - Will we be seeing more of the young lad, Jameson?

Susan: I hope so! 

Hop on the Book Tour~
Tuesday (tomorrow) the tour stops at Book & Movie Dimension
Wednesday it's dropping by Boys to Books
Thursday check out Word Spelunking
and Friday the tour winds up at There's a Book

Have Fun! This is part of the Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday round-up. Check out more great reading here. Review copy from publisher.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Face Bug ~ poems featuring bugly mugs

 Face Bug
by J. Patrick Lewis
Illustrated by Kelly Murphy
Photographs by Fred Suskind
36 pages; ages 6-10
WordSong (Boyds Mills Press) 2013

April is a great month for poetry - and a great month for bugs. So why not combine the two? Children's Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis invites us into the world of insects, where we visit a museum built by bugs, for bugs, of bugs... and where we get to meet them eye-to-bug eye.

Lewis has a poem for everyone: the porcupine-ish Hickory Horned Devil; the Carpenter Bee - seeking a neighborhood where the wood's so good; spiders, butterflies, stink bugs, dragonflies, caterpillars... even the annoying and very noisy cicada.

Fred Suskind accompanies each poem with a close up face-shot. We get to see the jaws that bite, the claws that catch... From cute and fuzzy to "don't touch" spiky, we get a close-up view of faces only a bug mother could love.

Then there's the story. Kelly Murphy's drawings show the antics of two beetle buddies visiting the museum. They drill holes in the walls, tease the cicada, create a stink in the "guess that smell" gallery, and share a snack in the gift shop.

Fortunately, the bugs get to speak for themselves. Each featured insect gets its own bio at the back, complete with a photo - this one of the whole bug. The insects tell where they live, how they grow up, what they eat and what eats them.

This post is part of STEM Friday round-up. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Monday, April 15, 2013

It's Our Garden

It's Our Garden: From Seeds To Harvest in a School Garden
by George Ancona
48 pages; ages 5 - 8
Candlewick Press, 2013

Acequia Madre Elementary School, in Santa Fe NM is home to tomatoes and cucumbers, beans and corn. It's also - part of the time - home to the students who rake and weed and tend the plants. In early spring children flip through seed catalogs and figure out where to plant the flowers and fruits. They start seedlings in the greenhouse and, when the soil warms, plant things outside.

But the garden is more than vegetables. It's a home for butterflies, pill bugs and garter snakes. It inspires art - both visual and culinary - and provides a place for community gatherings. Families share music, hold harvest festivals and make compost in the garden.

What I love about this book is the artwork. Yes, the photos are wonderful, but even more wonderful are the illustrations by the children: drawings of bumblebees and cucumbers, flowers and how-to-make-a-pizza. This book might just inspire kids to turn off the screen and go play in the dirt - er, garden soil.

Check out more nifty nonfiction at NC Teacher Stuff.  Review copy provided by the publisher.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Forest Has a Song

Forest Has a Song
By Amy Ludwig VanDerwater; illus by Robbin Gourley
32 pages, ages 6 & up
Clarion Books, 2013

It’s April, which is poetry month. And it’s Friday – which means STEM Friday and “perfect picture books”. And I’ve got an interview with poet Amy Ludwig VanDerwater – which means what would have (on any other day) been a “two-fer” is actually a “two-fer-squared”. You do the math….

So, about two weeks ago I got this awesome book in my mailbox: Forest Has a Song. The minute I saw the cover, I fell in love with it… what’s not to love about red boots? Endpapers filled with leaves of all sorts? A girl and her dog off on wild adventures?

The book opens with an invitation from the forest: “I’m here. Come visit.”

Themes: nature, discovery, seasons

What I like love: These poems are accessible even to those of us who shy away from poetry. Both words and illustrations invites us – no, pull us – into the forest. Words on the page turn into chickadee calls; tracks in snow or mud become the Forest News… “articles printed  by animals on the go.”  As a journalist I appreciate news, no matter the format. But here, let Amy’s poetry speak for itself:

Young raccoons / drink sips of creek.

Mouse and hawk /  play hide and seek.

There are ferns and fossils, bones and birds… and somewhere in it all, Forest has a song. When I reach the end I’m not sure whether I want to flip back to the beginning and read it again – or grab my colored pencils and notebook and run outside – quick! – before the last notes of song drift away.

So I asked Amy: What inspired a book featuring poetry about foresty things?

Amy: We moved to the country nine years ago.  Our old farmhouse sits on a large parcel of mostly wooded land, and so we are surrounded by the plants and creatures and mysteries that show up in these poems.  Too, I loved playing in the woods when I was a little girl, and my childhood family and grownup family are both camping souls.  I breathe differently outside, and writing these poems gave me time to breathe and write and live in that rich space.

SB: How did "forest" become a character?

Amy: I think it just evolved.  During the revision process, that forest voice spoke up.  Now I see that it weaves through many of the poems; the book feels like one long conversation between child and forest.  The book started with a handful of poems.  When I realized that forest imagery was appearing again and again in my writing, I made a long list of poem possibilities and just started writing, tossing, revising, and playing with the ideas.

SB: I love that the poems arc through the seasons.

Amy: I didn’t plan it that way, but since I’ve spent time in forests throughout the year, my different memories called up different pictures.  Editor Marcia Leonard wisely ordered the poems in this narrative through-the-seasons way – she saw them as verses in a larger song, a ballad that would tell the story of a year in the life of a young girl and of the woods that she loved.  So I drew on the details of the poems to arrange them in an order that followed the seasons.  It was very satisfying!  I could almost hear the poems click into place.  And this, in essence, is what an editor does: help a manuscript become the book it wants to be.”

SB: How did "Forest News" grow from seed to "adult"?
: This poem went through many, many revisions.  Like a few other poems in the book, (“Song”, “Dusk”, “Home”) it is simply a list with a few words at the beginning and end.  Much of my revision was focused on the internal sounds: whiskery-wild, sips of creek, scribbled hints/in footprints…

Amy’s poetry is not only lyrical, but grounded in science. Her husband, Mark, is a passionate biology teacher and, says Amy, “science advisor”. For example, she says, “when I’m writing along and wonder something, I simply call from the next room: ‘Do tree frogs really live around here?’ Usually he knows, but if not…we find it out!”

Beyond the Book

Try your hand at writing poetry about the world around you. Everything has a song – so if you don’t live near a forest, listen for the music in a vacant lot, or neighborhood park.

Listen to the songs of the birds – or insects or frogs – that live nearby. If you can, write them down… maybe their notes will inspire a song, the rhythm of their call a poem.

Go outside and draw one small thing in nature – a flower, grass… and color it in with pencil or paint or crayon. Then write words around it: what you see, action words, how it smells, its texture.

More Stuff:  Amy's book trailer is here.  Amy grows poems and writes stuff about poetry at her Poem Farm, and shares really cool writing notebooks here

 This post is part of STEM Friday round-up. It's also part of 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 Blue Slip Media.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers

Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers
by Kathy Appelt; illustrated by Joy Fisher Hein
40 pages; ages 4 and up
Harper Collins, 2005

One year I got a packet of seeds in the mail - seeds of native wildflowers that came from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. I remember Lady Bird as a First Lady who loved bluebonnets, who encouraged people to plant poppies and black-eyed Susans along roadsides, who thought every child should know the beauty of our native wildflowers.

What I didn't know about Lady Bird is enough to fill a book - which, it turns out, Katthy Appelt wrote and Joy Fisher Hein filled with color. Miss Lady Bird's Wildflowers is a biography of Claudia Alta Taylor - who was just as purty as a lady bird ... a colorful beetle. So that's how she was known, from the time she was knee-high to a grasshopper and through all her time as First Lady living in the White House. I never knew Lady Bird sang spring songs to daffodils and paddled a canoe through the cypress swamps. While I knew she was educated, I never gave much thought about how, back in 1930, it was unusual for a young southern woman to pack up her car and head to college.

Appelt writes a heartwarming story about a down-to-earth First Lady. At the back she includes information about the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - where you can find a list of native flowers for your region and more information about planting than you can shake a trowel at. She also includes a key to common wildflowers along with a challenge to find them in the book.

This is a perfect book for spring because now's the time to head to the garden center and buy a packet or two of wildflower seeds for your region. Surely there's room somewhere around your home or neighborhood to plant some beauty.

This is part of the Nonfiction Monday round-up. You can find more reviews of kid's nonfiction over at a wrung sponge. Review copy provided by Blue Slip Media.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Are the Dinosaurs Dead, Dad?

Are the Dinosaurs Dead, Dad?
by Julie Middleton; illustrated by Russell Ayto
32 pages; ages 4-8
Peachtree Publishers, 2013

When Dad takes Dave to the museum, Dave wants to know absolutely and for-surely whether the dinosaurs are dead. Because the armor-plated Ankylosaurus is winking at him, and the Deinocheirus is trying to tickle him with its long, long arms. And there's an Allosaurus with very sharp teeth.... "It's just your imagination," Dad says. These dinosaurs are dead. Really dead. So why is that one following them?

Theme: father and son; visiting a museum; dinosaur diversity

Why I love this book: because, really, when I was a kid visiting the museum, I always wondered what would happen if those huge dinosaur skeletons weren't really dead. And what they would look like with skin on. And whether I could run fast enough if one wanted my PB&J sandwich...

Things to do: Imagine dinosaurs! Draw, paint - oh the ways they could look if we use our imagination.

Head to the  Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History where you can take a virtual tour of their dino exhibit, go on a dig, or find out just about anything you'd want to know about dinosaurs.

See how scientists view their work:

This review is part of 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 the publisher.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Lenny Cyrus, School Virus

Lenny Cyrus, School Virus
By Joe Schreiber; illus. by Matt Smith
288 pages, ages 9 – 12
Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2013

Lenny Cyrus is 13. He’s also a genius. So when he decides that the way to a girl’s heart is to know what she’s thinking, he takes action. Nano-tech action. It may not be ethical, safe, or sane, but Lenny’s chosen course is to shrink himself to the size of an amoeba and get inside Zooey. His goal: her brain.

Turns out, girls are just as hard to understand from the inside as they are from the outside. Not only that, there are so many obstacles – like the semitransparent jelly-bean-looking thing with a flagella whipping back and forth who challenges Lenny for his digestive system pass.

Lenny hooks up with an astrovirus who serves as a guide, figures out how to cross the blood-brain barrier, and basically wreaks havoc and near destruction on his one true love all in the name of science…. or at least middle-school romance.

This book is funny – and I love the way Schreiber (he’s the author) tosses in caffeine molecular chemistry, osmoreceptors, limbic systems and Planck’s Constant.  A perfect April Fool’s read but for one thing: it isn’t released until tomorrow. No fooling.
 This is part of the Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday round-up. Check out more great reading here. Review copy from publisher.