Monday, September 30, 2013

Darling, Mercy Dog of WWI ~ Blog Tour!

Welcome to Day 1 of the Blog Tour. Check out the other stops ~ schedule below.

Darling, Mercy Dog of World War I
by Alison Hart; illustrated by Michael G. Montgomery
160 pages; ages 7-10
Peachtree Publishers, 2013

“Darling is going to be a nurse,” Mistress Katherine said. I felt a tug on my collar as she pulled me toward her.
“Darling is going to be a soldier!” Master Robert declared. A harder tug yanked me toward him.

Escaping from the tug-of-war between her doting humans, Darling squeezes under the fence and into the freedom of the village of Cosham, England. She meets up with her street-wise pal, a terrier named Rags, for a day of running across meadows and chasing sheep.

But 1917 is a tough year for Darling’s family. Father has gone off to war, and the dog tax keeps rising. When the British military put out a call for service dogs, Darling is volunteered. She is trained as a messenger dog, but when one of the soldiers is injured during a training mission, Darling’s real talents come to the fore: she gets help.

Soon Darling is sent to the front as a Mercy Dog, to lead rescue teams to soldiers wounded on the battlefield. She is skilled at her job – but will she ever make it back home, to her loving family?

Alison Hart has created a heartwarming adventure that brings the reader onto the battlefields of World War I and into the life of a military dog. At the back, she’s included lots of resources for the history buff: maps, battles, and facts about dogs serving in today’s military.

But the cool thing: one gets introduced to the history of Mercy Dogs through the eyes – and nose – of Darling. I wanted to know more … and Alison was gracious enough to answer three questions:

Sally’s Bookshelf: You’ve written many horse stories. What inspired you to write a story about a WWI military dog?

Alison with assistant, Fang
Alison: I am a dog lover, so dog books have always been part of my repertoire. I wrote several books for Steck-Vaughn about dogs, but Darling is the first historical fiction. Dogs were almost as important as horses in shaping our history… but there are already a lot of dog books and series, so I needed to come up with a unique idea.  There are no books on Mercy dogs in WW1 for young readers, and I hope I was able to capture an exciting and fresh story with Darling.

SB: What sort of research did you do for this book?

Alison: I'd love to say I flew to England and Belgium and spent weeks traveling, but alas most of my research involves reading, reading and more reading. I did visit a 'trench' and WWI museum exhibits, and used online photos, newsreels, blogs and websites – all crucial for ferreting out tiny details.

SB: So how does one get inside a dog's head to tell a story from the animal’s point of view?

Alison: Getting into the 'head' of any character is easy for me. I have written over sixty books and have “been” a police officer, a detective, a cat, dogs, horses, slaves, and children of different ages, sexes and in different eras. That's what being an author is about!

Darling, Mercy Dog of World War I is the first book in a new series called “Dog Chronicles”. Alison is busy writing book two, Murphy, Gold Rush Dog, which is set in Nome, Alaska. She struck gold when she dug up a book about the Alaskan Gold Rush that contained letters and photos from Nome. As she says – a “real treasure” for a writer.
 This is part of the Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday round-up. Check out more great reading here. Review copy from publisher.

Drop by the other stops on the Blog Tour & a chance to win a copy of the book!

Today you can drop by Blue Owl Reviews.

On Tuesday, stops are at Gidgets Bookworms and Maestra Amanda's Bookshelf

Wednesday stop by the Peachtree blog for the giveaway contest!

Thursday's stop is Kid Lit Reviews

and Friday  the bus stops at Good Reads with Ronna.

Friday, September 27, 2013

In the Trees, Honey Bees

In the Trees, Honey Bees
by Lori Mortensen; illustrated by Chris Arbo
32 pages; ages 3-8
Dawn Publications, 2009

Theme: insects; animal families and social relationships; ecological value of bees

Opening:  "Morning light. Warm and bright. In the trees, honey bees."

With simple, clear language, Lori Mortensen leads children into the daily lives of honey bees. Rhyming text in large fonts tells the bones of the story: when the sun comes out, the bees head out to collect nectar and pollen. Back at the nest - and it is a nest built inside a tree hollow - other bees are busy with housekeeping chores. Then there's the bear to contend with, and a thunderstorm.

Supplemental text at the bottom of the pages give more details about honey bee lives. There are cool facts, too. Did you know that the average colony can have as many as 50,000 worker bees but only a single queen? And did you know that, in addition to collecting nectar and pollen, bees gather sticky sap from trees? They use it as glue in their nests.

Why I like love this book: It's fun to read! The language is lively, and gets the facts across in short, accurate statements. It sings! Also, there's lots of good info at the back for parents and teachers - and kids who want to read further: details about the bee life cycle, how bees pollinate flowers, how honey is gathered, and lots of resources for further study. I'm not the only one who loves this book - it has won at least ten awards.

Beyond the Book: Head outside on a bee hike. Right now, the bees are busy stocking up on winter stores. We find lots of honey bees and native bees on the goldenrod and asters. How many bees do you find?

Do a Bee Dance. In the book, the returning scout bees do a waggle dance to let the other bees know where the flowers are. By the way they orient, and the number of waggles, they communicate direction, distance and quality of nectar and pollen. You can do a "traditional" bee dance, or make up your own to communicate where the "good stuff" is in your house.

Make a candle. Here's some simple directions. All you need is a sheet of beeswax and some wick.

Today's review is part of the STEM Friday round-up. Check out the other science books and resources reviewed this week. We're also joining 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 borrowed from a library.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Best Foot Forward - Nonfiction Monday

Best Foot Forward: Exploring Feet, Flippers, and Claws
by Ingo Arndt
36 pages; ages 3 - 8
Holiday House, 2013

Got feet? So do tigers and beetles and ostriches and monkeys. Feet made for walking. Feet made for climbing. Feet made for swimming, and digging, and leaping.

Photographer Ingo Arndt takes us on a tour of feet around the animal kingdom, starting with a photo of a furry foot with claws.

"Whose foot is this?" he asks. Turn the page and you learn that it's a Tiger's foot. Those soft, cushioned pads allow the tiger to creep up ve-e-ery quietly on its prey.

"Animals have very different feet depending on whether they are big or small, go fast or slow, or travel on the ground, in water, or high in the tops of trees," writes Arndt. He fills the pages with stunning close-ups of ostrich toes and gecko toes, kangaroo feet, lobster claes, starfish tube feet and even caterpillar feet.

Arndt ends with a photo of his foot, bringing the world foot tour back home where kids can take off their shoes and socks and take a closer look at their marvelous feet. From the endpages to the index, this is a fun book to browse and share with a curious young naturalist.

Today is Nonfiction Monday.  That means that bloggers who love children's nonfiction will share the cool books they are reading. It also means that teachers, parents, librarians and even older brothers and sisters can check out what cool nonfiction books are out there. Leave your links in the comments and I'll post 'em here as I get time.
Review copy provided by publisher. 

What others are reading for Nonfiction Monday:

Over at Archimedes Notebook, a review of Dawn Cusick's Get the Scoop on Animal Poop.

Jeff's got a review of  Ultimate Bugopedia by Darlyne Murawski and Nancy Honovich on his NC Teacher Stuff blog.

Check out Alice McGinty's newest book, Gahndi: A March to the Sea at Ms Mac's blog, Check It Out.

True Tales & a Cherry on Top is featuring a new writing book: Little Red Writing, by Joan Holub (and yeah, I wish I had a book like this when I was in 5th grade...)

Ms. Yingling Reads has posted a short review of David Macaulay's short book, Toilet: How it works.

Roberta's posted a review of Robots, Robots Everywhere by Sue Fleiss over at Wrapped in Foil. It may look like fiction, but it's not.

Carmen's posted a review of The Cart that Carried Martin by Eve Bunting over at  One Word at a Time.

Check out the review of Tapir Scientist by Sy Montgomery over at Jean Little Library.

If you're looking for the "truth of the matter", then hop over to Apples with Many Seeds for a thought-provoking review of Jemmy Button by Jennifer Uman and Valerio Vidali.

Anastasia Suen's posted a review of Meat-Eating Plants, Toothless Wonders by Ellen Lawrence over at Booktalking.

Janet reviews The Elephant Scientist by Caitlin O'Connell over at All About the Books.

Lynn and Cindy have posted a couple of reviews - along with how the books fit into common core standards - over at Bookends: Frog Song, by Brenda Z. Guiberson, and Best Foot Forward.

And lest we forget, Laura Purdee Salas has posted a reminder for people to nominate their favorite nonfiction books for the Cybils Awards.

Enjoy these, and other nonfiction books while reading to children... or to yourself!

Friday, September 20, 2013

One Word Pearl

One Word Pearl
by Nicole Groeneweg; illustrated by Hazel Mitchell
32 pages; for word-loving kids of all ages     
Mackinac Island/Charlesbridge Publishing, 2013

Pearl loved words. Some kids collect stamps or stones or skate keys. But Pearl collected words. She “…strung words together like beads on a necklace and stored them in a treasure chest.”

One day something horrible happens, and the words whirl and swirl and get lost in a big wind. Pearl manages to slam her treasure chest closed and capture a few. But there are not many left – not even enough to make a story. So Peal rations them out, one word at a time.

I love how author Nichole Groeneweg plays with the words Pearl manages to save. There are twirly, whirly, swirly words, and hoppity, floppity words. There are skippity words, and flippity words, frilly words and silly words. I love how Hazel Mitchell incorporates snippets of words into her illustrations. There are fancy words and block-letter words and words that spiral around or hop up and down.

And then one day the treasure chest is empty. There are No Words Left. How will Pearl make it through a day without speaking a single word? Or an hour?

There’s only one hope left for Pearl – she has to face the mussed up mess of the word tornado. And when she does, her words flow.

If you are the sort of person who cuts words out and glues them into art, or makes poetry out of magnetic word tiles, or harbors a secret can of words scribbled on bits of neon index cards in the back of your closet – then you will identify with Pearl, the “word girl”.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Fort that Jack Built

The Fort That Jack Built
by Boni Ashburn; illustrated by Brett Helquist
32 pages; ages 4 - 8
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2013

I love the way Boni Ashburn begins her story:
This is a table.
And two comfy chairs.
A big stack of pillows that came from upstairs.
If you remember building a fort under the kitchen table, or on the couch, or between your mom’s sewing table and the bookcase… then this book is for you.

If you have never built a fort…this book is for you, too. And if you are a young-child-sitter, this book is especially for you.

Jack builds a wonderfully creative fort, improvising with all sorts of materials to defend his realm. Until people start taking the things he’s borrowed from them back. Sister wants her chair, and brother his books. Even grandma wants her quilt.

Then Jack figures out the secret of building a fort in the living room.

What I love about this book is the rhythm of the text, and the imaginative illustrations. It’s rich with detail and expressions and the sort of play that any kid anywhere can be part of. And it’s a great antidote to a battery-powered screen-filled world.

Friday, September 13, 2013

When Edgar Met Cecil

When Edgar Met Cecil
by Kevin Luthardt
32 pages; ages 4-8
Peachtree Publishers, 2013

Theme: friendship, diversity, being the new kid in school/town

Opening: "Edgar had a nice life. He loved to play ball with his best pal Quincy. On the weekends, they watched scary movies. And after school, they liked to build stuff."

Then one day Edgar's parents tell him they're moving. They go far, far away from everything Edgar has known to a strange, new town. And a strange, new school. Any kid who has moved to a new school will identify with Edgar, who observes:

"The kids looked weird. They dressed funny. They listened to bizarre music. They ate strange food." Then there's that big kid in the back, who keeps staring at Edgar. The scary kid. The one who comes up to Edgar during recess and, it turns out, is just as scared of Edgar as Edgar is of him.

Why I like this Book: This is a great book about friendship and first impressions. We've all been there: the new place - do we fit in, and those kids... they are so different from me. It's about letting go of preconceived notions and, in a subtle way, diversity. And the illustrations are so fun.

Beyond the Book: If you're moving - or just moved - to a new school/town, take time to get to know your new surroundings. Take a walk through your new neighborhood (or school) and draw a map.

Visit an ethnic restaurant you've never tried. The goal: eat something you have never tried before, like fried squid or momos or... you get the idea.

If your child feels like an "outsider", this book might open up some room to talk about ways of meeting friends. If your child is a leader of the crowd, this might be an opportunity to raise awareness of kids who want to be included in the games but are too shy to ask.

Today's 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 publisher.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Summer on the Moon

Summer on the Moon
by Adrian Fogelin
256 pages; ages 9-12
Peachtree publishers. 2012

Socko and Damien are as different as two kids can be. But they go to school together, live in the same apartment, and are best buds. Now, during the summer before eighth grade, they have to figure out how to keep away from the gangs and keep each other out of trouble. After Damien stands up to the local gang leader, Socko says, “Next time I’ll have your back. I promise.”

Then his mom says they’re moving. Away from their dilapidated apartment to a real house. Somewhere safe, where people don’t end up dead on the ground. A house with a lawn, and maybe a hedge, says mom.

 But that means leaving Damien behind, without a buddy for protection.

Then there’s the new house. It’s in the Moon Ridge Estates – a fancy housing development that never quite got off the ground. Or finished. And there’s the General- Socko’s great-grandfather who will be living with them. Who, Socko decides, might let Damien move in if he can figure out how to get on the crotchety old guy’s good side.

Socko runs reconnaissance for the old man. By skateboard, he explores and maps out the territory. But who is the girl who keeps following him? And what’s with the black SUV’s? And where are the neighbors? Most of all, is Damien OK?

This is a story of friendship, family, and finding community. It doesn’t gloss over the realities of urban poverty, but doesn’t dwell on them either. Instead, there’s an underlying hope for the future.

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