Monday, April 28, 2014

Wind Dancer ~ Blog Tour

Wind Dancer
by Chris Platt
176 pages; ages 8-12
Peachtree, 2014

Ali worries about the two horses living in the dilapidated barn behind a house her school bus passes. They're none of her business, she knows, but "they'd left hoofprints in her memory."

For starters, how can you pass up the delicious intrigue of neglected horses that leave hoofprints in a girl's memory? A girl who, just a couple years earlier lost her much loved pony in an accident? An accident that was caused by her own foolishness? An accident that - maybe - precipitated her brother's enlistment in the military. That same brother who now, minus a leg, is holed up in his bedroom just a couple doors down the hallway.

 Ali knows she shouldn't be sneaking out of her house at midnight to meet her best friend Cara. She knows she shouldn't be breaking into the horse barn. But when she sees the horses she knows she has to do more, and the next day she calls Animal Control.

What seemed like a straightforward rescue operation goes all skilly-wonkers when the horses end up at Ali's house and she ends up hand-feeding them. Is this punishment? she wonders.... because as far as Ali is concerned, she is finished with horses.

Running beneath the story of the horses is Ali's relationship with her brother, who has been detached from the family since returning home a wounded warrior. Though not a horse person, he develops a relationship with the gelding Ali calls "Wind Dancer" - a relationship that just might save them both.

This is a horse story that will definitely nuzzle its way into your heart.  Join the Blog Tour and check out what Lee and JJ have to say about Wind Dancer over at Blue Owl Reviews. Tomorrow's Tour Stop is at Chat with Vera and remember to drop by The World of Peachtree Publishing . Today is also Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday round-up. Drop by to see what other bloggers are reviewing. Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Words With Wings

Words with Wings
by Nikki Grimes
96 pages; ages 8 - 12
Wordsong, 2013

Can't leave April without reviewing at least one book of poetry. Words with Wings is more than a collection of great poems by Nikki Grimes - it's a novel in verse.

Gabby - Gabriella, named after the archangel Gabriel - is a daydreamer. She uses her daydreams to take her away from the screaming between her unhappy parents, and also to remember the good times they shared as a family.

Her daydreams take flights from words that don't sit on the page. Instead they wiggle and tickle her imagination and carry her thoughts away. And all Gabby can do is hang on for the ride.

She finds a friend whose imagination takes flight in drawing, and another friend in the teacher who appreciates her imagination, daydreams and all. When he comes up with "daydream time" it helps Gabby tame her flights of imagination and find a way to focus on learning without giving up her delicious daydreams.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Another Great Earth Day Book: The Great Big Green

Ready for some Earth Day riddles? And a different take on "going green"?
The Great Big Green
by Peggy Gifford; illus. by Lisa Desimini
32 pages; ages 4-7
Boyds Mills Press, 2014

What's really big and green? Not sure? Then follow the clues in this lyrical, poetic, perfect-for-Earth-Day book which begins:

The thing is,
the thing is green.
And the green is,
the green is green.

Confession: green is was not my favorite color. Until I opened the pages and discovered "dragon green", and "anaconda green", "turtle green" and "tornado green". I'm a gardener, and while I appreciate the subtle differences between "grass green" and "kale green" and "ears-not-quite-ripe-corn green" I never really thought about them belonging to the same family as the crayon-box green. They don't - and neither do the other amazing greens captured in this puzzle-poem book. The pages are full of details that will keep you looking - and bring you back to look some more.

But there's more than natural greens captured in these pages. There's a green door, socks, traffic lights and a snippet of a familiar folk song (with a title containing "green" in it).  And at the very end, when you have all the clues, you might possibly guess what this very green thing is. I won't give it away, but I will say that the last page is a wonderful surprise.

Click over to Archimedes Notebook for an Earth Day scavenger hunt - and other activities and resources this week. Review copy provided by the publisher.

Monday, April 21, 2014

A Great Book for Earth Day: Last-But-Not-Least Lola Going Green

Today and tomorrow Sally's Bookshelf is celebrating Earth Day with two new "green" books.

Last-But-Not-Least Lola Going Green
by Christine Pakkala; illus by Paul Hoppe
192 pages; ages 7 - 10
Boyds Mills Press, 2013

Lola Zuckerman has a problem… she’s always last. At least in Mrs. D’s class where roll call is done by alphabetical order. Why can’t her name be Albertson, wonders Lola.

What Lola would like to do is be first. If she can’t be first on the roll call list, maybe she can be first in the Going Green contest. Lola covets the Going Green captain’s vest and the chance to eat lunch in the teacher’s lounge where (whispers her older brother) all they serve is candy.

But there’s a problem. When the teacher starts asking her classmates for “going green” ideas she begins at the top of the list, with A. And that means Lola has to wait for last to tell her idea….and all the good ones will be taken! But she does come up with something different – something that can be done right in the classroom, and something that will make a difference. I don’t want to ruin the surprise for you, but it has to do with slimy spinach. And runaway worms.

Come back tomorrow for a review of Another Great Book for Earth Day! And check out Archimedes Notebook all week for Earth Day resources and activities.
Today is Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday round-up. Drop by to see what other bloggers are reviewing.  Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Beneath the Sun - blog tour!

Beneath the Sun
by Melissa Stewart; illustrated by Constance R. Bergum
32 pages; ages 4-8
Peachtree Publishers, 2014

When it gets hot outside, what do you do? Go inside? Sit in the shade? Turn on a fan? Drink cold lemonade? We have lots of different ways of beating the heat – but what do animals do?

In Beneath the Sun, author Melissa Stewart takes readers into four different habitats for a look at how different animals cool off on hot days. We learn about earthworm loops and horned toad hangouts, cool rocky dens and tide pools. The text is full of vivid verbs, and Constance Bergum’s illustrations beg for closer inspection.

Melissa has written tons of books for kids – more than 150 – and she’s busy on her next project. But she had time to answer Three Questions about Beneath the Sun.

Sally: What inspired this book? Being outside in July?

Melissa: I have my editor, Vicky Holifield at Peachtree Publishers, to thank for the idea behind this book. When it was clear that my previous book Under the Snow was very popular, Vicky suggested that we present “the other side of the story.” She was right. Surviving in summer isn’t easy for some animals, so they’ve come up with all kinds of amazing adaptations for enduring hot, dry weather.

Sally: I like the way you move from animals that could be in your neighborhood to more distant locations, like the desert. How did you decide what habitats – and animals – to focus on?

Melissa: Because Beneath the Sun is meant to be a companion to Under the Snow and When Rain Falls, I initially intended to focus on the same habitats as those books. In When Rain Falls, which came first, the four habitats I wrote about were a field, a forest, a desert, and a wetland. Since it doesn’t snow in deserts, for Under the Snow, I focused on animals living in fields, forests, ponds, and wetlands.

For Beneath the Sun, I could include the desert, but not forests. Because forests are dark and shady, the animals there don’t have too much trouble surviving in summer. That meant I had to search for a new habitat. Seashores were the perfect choice because they really heat up under the sizzling sun.

For all three books, I tried to include a wide variety of animals—some familiar and some that might be new to young children. I searched high and low for interesting adaptations, such as vultures that keep cool by spraying their legs with urine. I knew children would find that fascinating.

Sally: Do you have any learning activities that teachers and parents can use with Beneath the Sun ?

Melissa: I created a video mini-lesson that explains how I changed the text, adding vivid verbs to the manuscript during the revision process. It also offers tips to help students strengthen the verbs in their own writing. (Sally: and there’s a cool worksheet you can download). I also have a
Teacher’s Guide, Readers Theater script, and some activity sheets that go with the book.

Thanks Melissa! Today is the last day of the blog tour. If you missed any stops, here’s the tour schedule for earlier in the week:

Monday, April 14- Jean Little Library and Blue Owl
Tuesday, April 15  Geo Librarian
Wednesday, April 16 - Kid Lit Reviews
Thursday, April 17- Tolivers to Texas and Chat with Vera 

Remember to drop by STEM Friday to see what other science books and resources bloggers are sharing.Review copy provided by publisher.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Prisoner 88

Prisoner 88
by Leah Pileggi
144 pages; ages 10 -14
Charlesbridge, 2013

“Back before I shot Mr. Bennett, most every day was ‘bout the same.” How can you resist a first line like that? Jake Oliver Evans, at the age of ten, is sentenced to five years for shooting a man who threatened to kill his father.

The year is 1885 and Jake, now an inmate at the Idaho Territorial Penitentiary, is faced with being on his own and figuring out how to survive amongst the company of older, hardened criminals. Being put on bread and water – that’s something Jake can handle. But when the warden determines that Jake needs to learn how to read, well that’s real punishment. Fortunately, he’s had some experience working with hogs, so when a local hog farmer needs a ranch hand, Jake is sent over.

There’s plenty of adventure, an attempted prison-break, and more than you ever want to know about hogs. Best of all… this story is based on an actual incident reported in The Idaho Register, a newspaper out of Eagle Rock, Idaho. You can check out photos of the old prison at Leah Pileggi’swebsite.

 Today is also Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday round-up. Drop by to see what other bloggers are reviewing. Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Celebrating Swamps

Two fun books arrived in my mailbox recently - both about swamps and gators. And food chains.
Theme: animals, nonfiction

Swamp Chomp
by Lola M. Schaefer; illus by Paul Meisel
32 pages; ages 4-8
Holiday House, 2014

Opening: "In the swamp... water ripples. Mosquitoes flit. Sit. Dragonflies swoop. Dip..." Animals flit, glide, and swim through the swamp in search of their next meal. But look out - because the alligator is always ready to chomp. The language in this book offers a full-course meal of active verbs that will have children gulping, chomping, and swallowing their next meal at the dining room table.

The Swamp Where Gator Hides
by Marianne Berkes; illus by Roberta Baird
32 pages; ages 3 - 8
Dawn Publications, 2014

Opening: "This is the algae that carpets the swamp where Gator hides.
This is the duck who paddles in ooze under the algae that carpets the swamp...." This is the book that shows you the food chain made up of the animals in and around the swam where Gator hides. Why is Gator hiding? Because he's camouflaged, lying in wait for prey - and when his dinner shows up he'll attack!

What I like about both books: What a FUN way to learn about food chains. In Swamp Chomp it's the active language that breathes life into the predator/prey relationship. The Swamp where Gator Hides builds cumulatively like "the house that Jack built" - until the surprise at the end. Both books have end-notes to help parents (and older siblings) answer the endless stream of questions that always comes when reading about alligators.

Beyond the books: Act out the verbs in Swamp Chomp. Pull a sock over your hand and turn it into an alligator - then have fun gulping and munching your way through a swampy food chain.

Make a Snake out of the letter S. This is a fun way to explore the alphabet - and might lead to some discussion about what other animals start with "S".

Make a paper plate tortoise - you can find instructions here.

 Drop by STEM Friday to see what other science books and resources bloggers are sharing. Today's review is 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 copies provided by publishers.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Elan, Son of Two Peoples

Elan, Son of Two Peoples
by Heidi Smith Hyde; illus by Mikela Prevost
32 pages; ages 8-10
Kar-Ben publishing, 2014

The year is 1898 and Elan has just turned 13. In his home of San Francisco he has chanted from the Torah as a Bar Mitzvah. Now he is on the train with his family, heading to Albuquerque. There, in his mother's ancestral home, Elan will take part in the Pueblo ceremony celebrating his coming of age. 

On the mesa Elan reads the Torah again. He wears the prayer shawl that his mother has woven, with symbols from both cultures: a Star of David, the Ten Commandments, a stalk of corn, an oak tree. Later, dressed in a tunic and leggings, he and his father follow the elders into the ceremonial kiva. He emerges later, with his face painted yellow and covered with eagle feathers. With others, Elan flaps his wings and pivots in the Eagle Dance.

What I love about this book - besides the soft sandstone colors of the paintings -  are the words Elan's mother says when she gives him the prayer shawl: "Remember, you are the son of two proud nations whose roots are as sturdy and deep as this oak tree." I also love the historical notes at the back of the book. While many East European Jewish immigrants settled in New York, some headed west. One of those adventurers, says the author, settled in New Mexico, opened a trading post, and married an Acoma woman. They celebrated their son's coming of age in both cultures.

Many cultures celebrate coming of age for young women as well as their young men. Here is a video of the Mescalero Apache coming-of-age ritual.  

I realize this book is fiction, but it's so nicely grounded in history and culture that it would be a great book to pair up with an informational text on different cultures or coming of age celebrations. For some more traditional nonfiction head over to the Nonfiction Monday blog. Review copy provided by publisher.

Friday, April 4, 2014

How to Wash a Woolly Mammoth

How to Wash a Woolly Mammoth
by Michelle Robinson; illus by Kate Hindley
32 pages; ages 3-8
Henry Holt & Co, 2014 

It's the first day of spring - so it's probably time to wash your mammoth.

Theme: tackling a big project

"Does your woolly mammoth need a bath? You'll need to prepare!" This book offers a cheeky step-by-step guide to washing a woolly mammoth:
Step 1. Fill the bathtub.
Step 2. Add bubble bath.
Step 3. Add your mammoth.... and this is where the fun begins. Because, really, how does one get one's mammoth into the tub?

Never fear - by step 7 we're washing its hair. And then in step 8 we - wait a minute! How did your mammoth get into that tree? Never mind... to get a wet woolly mammoth down from a tree all you need is a trampoline. A really strong trampoline.

What I like about this book: It's fun! It's imaginative. And it offers very good minimally useful tips on washing your average household pet. I like the illustrations, too. They are whimsical and mud-splattered and tickle the imagination.

Activities beyond the book:

Make a mammoth puppet out of a paper bag. All you need are scissors, some paper, markers and glue... and a bit of imagination. Glue on fur or yarn for hair if you want - there are some cool hair styles in the book.

Listen to what a mammoth may have sounded like - as an artist tries to resurrect extinct sound.

Write step-by-step directions for how to do something  - wash a car, build a fort, create a map of your universe - or just make a s'more.

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.