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Hooray for Baby Monkey!!!

26 Apr

At book club on Monday night, we couldn’t say enough good things about Baby Monkey, Private Eye by Brian Selznick and David Serlin.

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Publisher’s Summary:

Who is Baby Monkey?

He is a baby.

He is a monkey.

He has a job.

He is Baby Monkey, Private Eye!

Lost jewels?

Missing pizza?

Stolen spaceship?

Baby Monkey can help…

if he can put on his pants!

Baby Monkey’s adventures come to life in an exciting blend of picture book, beginning reader, and graphic novel. With pithy text and over 120 black and white drawings accented with red, it is ideal for sharing aloud and for emerging readers.

Hooray for Baby Monkey!

OK, the whole pants thing is just too cute, and just saying the word “pants” made all the book clubbers gush.

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Here is the lowdown.  The book is divided into five chapters, each a case that Baby Monkey has to solve. Each case follows the same pattern, making it an exciting and easy to read beginning chapter book.

The authors have included a hilarious bibliography and index, sure to keep adults just as intrigued.

And, just because it is too good not to include, here are the creators, talking about Baby Monkey:

 

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A Magical Place

25 May

Recently, tired and ready for summer break, a student asked me the point of learning, school and the whole pursuit of academics. I answered his question the best that I could.

In Elise Primavera’s Ms. Rapscott’s Girls, the eponymous students at Great Rapscott School for the Daughters of Busy Parents often wonder the point of her lessons in Getting Lost on Purpose.

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Publisher’s Summary:  Fans of Mary Poppins will love this whimsical tale of a boarding school for children of very busy parents, where an extraordinary headmistress teaches them life lessons about courage, adventure, friendship . . . and the importance of birthday cake.

This is a quirky story is an excellent book for 2nd & 3rd graders ready for chapter books, Delightful and ridiculous, it might be too sweet for adults, but it is just right for girls with a sense of whimsy.

The Power of Story

29 Aug

ARGH. I have to go to work today and I am close to finishing All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor.

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I LOVE this book.

Here’s the summary:

Eleven-year-old Perry was born and raised by his mom at the Blue River Co-ed Correctional Facility in tiny Surprise, Nebraska. His mom is a resident on Cell Block C, and so far Warden Daugherty has made it possible for them to be together. That is, until a new district attorney discovers the truth—and Perry is removed from the facility and forced into a foster home.

When Perry moves to the “outside” world, he feels trapped. Desperate to be reunited with his mom, Perry goes on a quest for answers about her past crime. As he gets closer to the truth, he will discover that love makes people resilient no matter where they come from . . . but can he find a way to tell everyone what home truly means?

All book summaries leave out significant details. Sometimes that’s to keep surprise elements a surprise. Sometimes it is to lure a reader in.

What this summary doesn’t tell you is that Perry’s teacher assigns an assignment in which he has to write about how his family came to Surprise. Instead, considering the inmates his family, he embarks on an interview project of many inmates. As you read the stories, each inmate is humanized. I have to say, at this point in the story I really dislike the DA, Thomas VanLeer, and I hope I get to learn his story. He needs some humanizing.

Shipped off

10 Jul

I’ve encountered them in at least three novels this summer: kids shipped off to distant relatives for the summer. I mean the word distant in two ways. The relatives  live far away and they are relatives essentially unknown to the protagonist. There is usually a time of awkwardness, then a crisis that further distances our protagonist that is followed by a reconciliation and a feeling of connection with the family.

The one I want to talk about today is Sea Change by Frank Viva.

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This short novel tells the story of Eliot, whose parents ship him off to a tiny town in Nova Scotia for the summer.

Publisher’s Summary:One summer can change your whole life. As soon as school lets out, Eliot’s parents send him to the very edge of the world: a fishing village in a remote part of Nova Scotia. And what does the small town of Point Aconi have to offer? Maggots, bullies, and grumpy old men. But along the way, Eliot discovers much more – a hidden library, starry nights, and a mysterious girl named Mary Beth. Critically acclaimed author and artist Frank Viva (Along a Long Road) brings us this warm, funny, and innovatively designed coming-of-age story. See Point Aconi through Eliot’s eyes, as he finds that this place he never wanted to visit is becoming a home he doesn’t want to leave.

This is a short novel that would be suitable for kids ready for a more challenging chapter book, but aren’t quite ready for Harry Potter. The book is published by Toon Books, producers of high quality comics for kids, and is part of their Toon Graphics series. Viva’s art is woven into the fabric of the story, making this more like an illustrated novel than a traditional graphic novel.

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Although fiction, the story is based on Viva’s own experiences being shipped off to Nova Scotia for the summer, making the story rig true. I am thinking that I could use a chapter or two when we do our narrative writing unit in September.

 

 

Going Wild

3 Jun

In 2014, Peter Brown’s Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, saw a tiger shedding his civilized clothing and dainty manners to GO WILD!

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In his first novel for middle readers, The Wild Robot, the opposite occurs.

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A robot is washed ashore on an island, after a cargo ship is wrecked. Accidentally activated by sea otters, Roz, the robot, begins exploring her environment where she is seen as a monster.  After an accident in which she kills a mother goose, she adopts the  gosling she has orphaned. In her efforts to be a good caregiver to the gosling she names Brightbill, she begins to make inroads into the animal community. Roz learns skills from the animals she encounters: care of goslings from a mother goose, house building from a beaver. In turn, she learns to love and becomes a vital member of the island community that she considers her home.

The book seems simple, but it really speaks to the heart of what it means to be human. Roz doesn’t fit in at first. She begins as “other”  but becomes an integral member of society because of the connections she makes with the island’s inhabitants. It reminds me of the fox from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince who wants to be tamed.

“No,” said the little prince. “I am looking for friends. What does that mean–‘tame’?”

“It is an act too often neglected,” said the fox. It means to establish ties.”

And later the fox says,

“One only understands the things that one tames,” said the fox.

So it is with Roz and the animals on the island. Ties are established and the “monster” is tamed.

Alas, the idyll is violently disrupted when robots come to the island, seeking the cargo that was lost at sea. The ending is more realistic than happily ever after, but I think it makes this story more powerful. As Mr. Spock once philosophized

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Live long and prosper, Roz!

 

 

Eggstraordinary!

24 Jan

Growing up, we had a number of interesting events in New Hamburg, Ontario, most notably the Fall Fair and  the Mennonite Relief Sale. One year, maybe it  was two years, the town held an Eggstravaganza, celebrating all things poultry. We had an egg factory in town and a turkey farm just outside town. No one I knew raised backyard chickens, though.

I have several friends here in Portland that have chickens in their backyards. Occasionally, I am the recipient of their eggstraordinary bounty. They usually have white schools, but I’ve received gifts of fresh chicken eggs in a variety of hues.

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The difference between fresh and store-bought eggs in flavor and yolk color cannot be overstated. Fresh eggs are more infinitely more flavorful. Their yolks are a vibrant orange, compared to the pale yellow of a store-bought egg.

Budding chicken farmers and elementary aged readers will love Kelly Jones’  Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer.

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Publisher’s Summary: Twelve-year-old Sophie Brown feels like a fish out of water when she and her parents move from Los Angeles to the farm they’ve inherited from a great-uncle. But farm life gets more interesting when a cranky chicken appears and Sophie discovers the hen can move objects with the power of her little chicken brain: jam jars, the latch to her henhouse, the entire henhouse….

And then more of her great-uncle’s unusual chickens come home to roost. Determined, resourceful Sophie learns to care for her flock, earning money for chicken feed, collecting eggs. But when a respected local farmer tries to steal them, Sophie must find a way to keep them (and their superpowers) safe.

Told in letters to Sophie’s abuela, quizzes, a chicken-care correspondence course, to-do lists, and more, Unusual Chickens is a quirky, clucky classic in the making.

I loved this book! It reminded me a little of The Worm Whisperer  by Betty Hicks,which was one of my favorite 4th grade read alouds,  and The Adventures of a South Pole Pig by Chris Kurtz.

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If you have a 3rd, 4th or 5th grade reader, you might encourage them to pick up any of these three books.

On my radar

30 Sep

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My “to be read” pile is an every changing collection.

These days, my Morris pile of “to be reads” is very small. The Morris “to discuss” piles is shrinking and the “nominations” pile has become two piles.

The other shelves in my house also shift continually, but there are a couple I am currently keeping near the top. I hope to get to them soon. Here are my top three at the moment.

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Publisher’s Summary:Firefly. Cricket. Vole. Peter. Can four creatures from four very different Nations help one another find their ways in the world that can feel oh-so-big? Delve into this lush, unforgettable tale in the tradition of Charlotte’s Web and The Rats of NIMH, from the author of the New York Times bestselling Someday.

Firefly doesn’t merely want to fly, she wants to touch the moon. Cricket doesn’t merely want to sing about baseball, he wants to catch. When these two little creatures with big dreams wander out of Firefly Hollow, refusing to listen to their elders, they find themselves face-to-face with the one creature they were always told to stay away from…a giant.

But Peter is a Miniature Giant. They’ve always been told that a Miniature Giant is nothing but a Future Giant, but this one just isn’t quite as big or as scary as the other Giants. Peter has a dream of his own, as well as memories to escape. He is overwhelmed with sadness, and a summer with his new unlikely friends Firefly and Cricket might be just what he needs. Can these friends’ dreams help them overcome the past?

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Publisher’s Summary: The author of OPENLY STRAIGHT returns with an epic road trip involving family history, gay history, the girlfriend our hero can’t have, the grandfather he never knew, and the Porcupine of Truth.

Carson Smith is resigned to spending his summer in Billings, Montana, helping his mom take care of his father, a dying alcoholic he doesn’t really know. Then he meets Aisha Stinson, a beautiful girl who has run away from her difficult family, and Pastor John Logan, who’s long held a secret regarding Carson’s grandfather, who disappeared without warning or explanation thirty years before. Together, Carson and Aisha embark on an epic road trip to find the answers that might save Carson’s dad, restore his fragmented family, and discover the “Porcupine of Truth” in all of their lives.

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Publisher’s Summary:In September 1941, Adolf Hitler’s Wehrmacht surrounded Leningrad in what was to become one of the longest and most destructive sieges in Western history—almost three years of bombardment and starvation that culminated in the harsh winter of 1943–1944. More than a million citizens perished. Survivors recall corpses littering the frozen streets, their relatives having neither the means nor the strength to bury them. Residents burned books, furniture, and floorboards to keep warm; they ate family pets and—eventually—one another to stay alive. Trapped between the Nazi invading force and the Soviet government itself was composer Dmitri Shostakovich, who would write a symphony that roused, rallied, eulogized, and commemorated his fellow citizens—the LeningradSymphony, which came to occupy a surprising place of prominence in the eventual Allied victory.

This is the true story of a city under siege: the triumph of bravery and defiance in the face of terrifying odds. It is also a look at the power—and layered meaning—of music in beleaguered lives. Symphony for the City of the Dead is a masterwork thrillingly told and impeccably researched by National Book Award–winning author M. T. Anderson.

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