Posts tagged ‘100-149 pages’

SPF 40

Will Eisner Week 2014Did you know it’s Will Eisner Week this week, from March 1st through March 7th? Neither did I until I stumbled upon the announcement of the celebration in January. Will Eisner Week “is an annual celebration honoring the legacy of Will Eisner and promoting sequential art, graphic novel literacy, and free speech.” Looking for more information? Visit the website. In honor of Will Eisner Week, I’m going to take this opportunity to review graphic novels, which I’ll readily admit I don’t read enough of. My second featured book will be last year’s SPF 40 by Sharon Emerson and Renee Kurilla.

SPF 40
Title: SPF 40
Series: Zebrafish
Author: Sharon Emerson
Illustrator: Renee Kurilla
with help from Didi Hatcher and the team at Fablevision
ISBN: 978141697085
Pages: 117 pages
Publisher/Date: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, c2013.

I didn’t realize initially that this was a sequel, but it is a continuation of a story. The other slightly confusing part is who wrote this. I originally thought that picture book author Peter Reynolds, since the cover proclaims “Peter H. Reynolds and FableVision present” but then the title page specifies the true author and illustrator, which I have always thought was a little unfair to authors when they don’t get cover recognition.

Regardless of who is responsible for putting together this story, it’s a sweet simple story with a lot of players. Gummy bear loving Plinko and fuscia haired Tanya (who’s in remission from leukemia) are off to be camp counselors, where they make friends with a diabetic named Scott and a red-haired Coley, who strikes me as overly enthusiastic about everything. Walt and Jay are teeming up not only to drive the library’s book mobile around, but also distribute Jay’s comic book. Purple haired Vita is the only one left behind, and while her first year in Southside High was huge, her first summer is turning out to be a bust. What will she do to occupy her time, instead of sitting in front of the television?

You might have noticed that I stressed hair color with a lot of the characters. That doesn’t just emphasize the colorful and varied cast, but it also signifies that you’d better be paying attention to names, because they are mentioned very infrequently and I found myself relying on their faces instead of their names to distinguish everyone. Maybe if I had read the first book first I wouldn’t have been so clueless with names. The hair color isn’t the only thing that is colorful, with all the pictures are bright and bold and eyecatching.

The book covers a lot of ground not only with characters, but also with topics. While they seem young, they are obviously also older then they first appear. Walt and Jay drive the library bookmobile, Vita has a dog friend Pepper who’s owner takes him to be read to hospital children, turtle hatching, and medical research involving glow in the dark fish and wireless insulin distribution. While I wish some of these topics were covered a little more, the limited exposure definitely keeps the story lines moving, making it a fast read.

Truce

0-545-13049-2Title: Truce: The Day the Soldiers Stopped Fighting
Author: Jim Murphy
ISBN: 9780545130493
Pages: 116 pages
Publisher/Date: Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc.

In a matter of days, six million soldiers would find themselves facing weapons of unimaginable destructive power. Many of them would be blasted from the face of the earth, while others would be left permanently wounded in horrible ways. None of these young men realized that their leaders had lied to get them to fight in a war that did not have to happen. Nor could they know that on December 25, 1914, they would openly defy their commanding officers and meet on the battlefield in what can only be described as a Christmas miracle. (x)

Since I’ve read Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan I know that World War I started when the Austrian Archduke was assassinated while visiting Bosnia-Herzegovina. I’d also previously heard about the impromptu truce that was called between troops in order to celebrate Christmas, which when the war started was when everyone thought the war would be over. Little did they know at that point it was just starting. But Jim Murphy glosses over the causes of the war and strives to put the focus on the soldiers involved in the conflict. There are copious photos of soldiers in the trenches, close-ups of the no-mans land that they could not cross, and the aftermath of the futile charges when they did attempt an attack. Soldiers from both sides are quoted extensively, with first-hand accounts taken from journals, letters home, and official correspondence. Even if you’d previously heard about the impromptu and imperfect truce, there’s new insight to be gained.

For instance, did you know that the truce was previously coordinated? Mini-truces had been organized between the troops, as they exchanged songs and sometimes supplies over the crumbling walls. Murphy relates that one area even had a shooting competition, where a target was placed in the middle and each sides shot until it was hit. But arranging the truce depended upon the individual platoons, battalions, and soldiers.

The most surprising thing was that it was frowned upon by the superior officers!

Back at headquarters, [English] General Horace Smith-Dorrien had been disturbing reports all day about strange goings-on at the front. [...] The commander of all British troops, Field Marshall John French, was just as angry. “When this [fraternization] was reported to me I issued immediate orders to prevent any recurrence of such conduct, and called the local commanders to strict account, which resulted in a good deal of trouble.
The German High Command took much the same view and issued a terse order: “Commander Second Army directs that informal understandings with enemy are to cease. Officers . . . allowing them are to be brought before a court-martial.” (82-83)

As a result, some of the opposing officers in the field met to warn their enemies that they’d be resuming their hostilities. Some soldiers initially refused to resume firing, and others warned their counterparts each time they were forced to give the impression that they were still fighting, such as when they were being inspected by higher ranking members. While most places continued to fight by the new year, soldiers stationed on both sides at Ploegsteert Wood kept the friendship until March. I laughed at some of the comments, as I’m sure the commanding generals did not, such as when one captain declared that the men waved at each other and made tea and acted “most gentlemanly” and that “this useless and annoying sniping can have no real effect on the progress of the campaign.” (88)

A truly intriguing idea that begs the perpetual and never solved “What if” question that is probably hanging over the heads of every soldier involved. “What if the fighting had stopped there?” How different would history and the world be? Especially how reluctantly some of the parties were to even get involved in the conflict, I wish the practice of listening to the troops and the people would have enacted some change. As the holidays approach and we hear about “Peace on Earth and goodwill towards men,” consider reading this book and learning about how this idea was practiced in the worst of circumstances.

This was posted in conjunction with Nonfiction Mondays, a drive around the internet to encourage reading and reviewing nonfiction titles.

Moonbird

MoonbirdTitle: Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95
Author: Phillip Hoose
ISBN: 9780374304683
Pages: 148 pages
Publisher/Date: Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, c2012.
Awards: Robert F. Sibert Informational Honor Book (2013), CYBILS Top 5 Finalist (2012), Finalist for YALSA’s Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults

Meet B95, one of the world’s premier athletes. Weighing a mere four ounces, he’s flown more than 325,000 miles in his life—the distance to the moon and nearly halfway back. He flies at mountaintop height along ancient routes that lead him to his breeding grounds and back. But changes throughout his migratory circuit are challenging this Superbird and threatening to wipe out his entire subspecies of rufa red knot. Places that are critical for B95 and his flock to rest and refuel—stepping-stones along a vast annual migration network—have been altered by human activity. Can these places and the food they contain be preserved?
Or will B95’s and rufa’s days of flight soon come to an end. (3)

That quote summarizes the entire book very adeptly and succinctly. By focusing on B95, Phillip Hoose presents the migratory patterns of the rufa red knot, along with other similar shore birds, as they fly from South America to the Arctic Circle and back again. The migration happens each year, with the birds spending no more than a few months at any location as they follow a path that is ingrained in them. Hoose thoroughly outlines the challenges that the birds face, including changing climates, natural predators, human influences, and stock up on food that needs to last their non-stop flight patterns. Several scientists that study these birds are featured throughout the book and highlight how discoveries about these birds continue to be made. Photos are also interspersed with side bars, and the notes at the end really detail Hoose’s first-hand pursuit of knowledge about these birds.

Hoose did a good job at presenting the facts without overly personifying the bird or his flock. While the facts can be dry to people (like me) who don’t read a lot of nonfiction, taking the book in bite sized snippets and focusing on what I call the “fast facts” can keep you interested. For instance, “Studies show that fat birds fly faster than thin birds, and can stay in the air longer. [Over the course of several weeks a] red knot can consume fourteen times its own weight. To do that, a human weighing 110 pounds would need to eat 2,300 hamburgers at two thirds of a pound per hamburger, with cheese and tomato.” (30-31)

Overall, it’s a unique spin on a little known animal. The amount of interest there will be for this book remains to be seen. However, it’s very in-depth, focused, and factual account, especially when you’re trying to show how scientists conduct their research.

This post is in honor of Nonfiction Mondays. For the entire round-up of all the bloggers who participated, head on over to A Mom’s Spare Time.

This book in particular was read as I participate in YALSA’s 2013 Hub Reading Challenge which challenges readers to finish 25 books by June 22nd from a list of 83 titles that were recognized and published over the last year.

2 the Point Tuesday The Giant and How He Humbugged America

For my new job, all the librarians write a maximum 150 word review of a new book that came into the library during the month. I’ll be adding my contribution to the blog in a new feature I’m calling To the Point Tuesdays. If you want to play along, just post a link in the comments and I’ll add them to the post.

The GiantTitle: The Giant and How He Humbugged America
Author: Jim Murphy
ISBN: 9780439691840
Pages: 112 pages
Publisher/Date: Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc., c2012.

Nichols had hit something solid. After banging his shovel on it several more times, Newell decided he’d hit a large stone and went to get a pick. While Newell was gone, his two workers continued to dig and clear the area around the stone. But they discovered something startling. The blue-gray stone was shaped exactly like a foot. A very large foot! […]

They worked quickly and managed to uncover the entire body in a matter of minutes. The diggers scrambled from the hole and all six men stood there, gazing in astonishment. Despite its being covered by a gnarly old tree root, they could see it was indeed a human body. A very old-looking one at that. And big. In fact, at ten feet, four inches long, it was nothing if not a giant. (11-12)

A New York farmer named Stub Newell enlists the help of some of his neighbors to dig a well for his farm in 1869. In the process, they discover a body of a man measuring over ten feet tall! Nearly impossible to keep secret, newspapers and so-called respected experts nation-wide weigh in with pictures and “evidence” on what the figure could be. Is it a petrified body? Is it some unknown ancestor to the Native Americans? Is it an engraving from some persecuted civilization? Or could it really be an elaborate hoax? In a time when science, archeology, and idea of specialists were just beginning, this convoluted tale of secret agreements, underhanded dealings and conflicting stories of authenticity became one of the biggest scams in America’s history.

Nancy Clancy Super Sleuth

Title: Nancy Clancy Super Sleuth
Author: Jane O’Connor
Illustrator: Robin Preiss Glasser
ISBN: 9780062082930
Pages: 124 pages
Publisher/Date: HarperCollins Children’s Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, c2012.

Nancy Clancy was all set to solve a mystery. She had a fancy magnifying glass complete with rhinestones. She had a spiral notepad and a flashlight. She had sunglasses, a hat with a floppy brim, and a pink trench coat. (A trench coat was the kind of raincoat that detectives wore.) She had superb detective skills. She was naturally nosy. So she was good at snooping. (Investigating was the professional word for snooping.)

Really the only thing Nancy was missing was a mystery. (1-2)

Nancy Clancy, from the popular Fancy Nancy series doesn’t have to wait long for not one but two mysteries to require her investigation. With the help of her friend Bree, they discover that one of the twins is keeping a secret from Nancy and they’re intent to find out the secret! In the meantime, their teacher’s memento, a marble given to him by his grandfather, has gone missing on Family Day. Is there a thief in their classroom? With suspects at every turn, Nancy and Bree are on the case.

I was pleasantly surprised by the substance that was in this book. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Fancy Nancy series, but was hesitant to find out how the glitter girl was going to transition from picture books to chapter books. Nancy is still using her wonderful vocabulary, from “investigating” and “acquaintance” to “memento” and “integrity”. She is also using valuable sleuthing techniques, including dusting for fingerprints, interrogating suspects, examining pictures of the crime scene for clues and trying to determine motive. There are some false leads and accusations that they eventually recognize, but in the end they find their culprit, who is someone they didn’t suspect.

Another excellent aspect of the series that continues with the chapter books is Robin Preiss Glasser’s illustrations. While they are unfortunately in black and white, the faces are just as expressive as in the original picture books. Nancy’s tongue sticks out in concentration, her body language transitions from imperious to contemplative to dejected, and even her eyes express the range of feelings that she encounters throughout her investigation. The cover design is thankfully in color, and you really get a great idea of what Nancy grew up to become.

The grade isn’t specified, which I think is a great choice since Jane O’Connor said in a Publisher’s Weekly interview that third and fourth grade girls were asking for the chapter books. She’s obviously older, but Amazon.com reviewers (who have had nothing but good things to say about the series) have mentioned reading them aloud a chapter at a time to their four and five-year olds to rave reviews. The format isn’t the only thing that indicates the older audience, as Nancy’s clubhouse has become “Sleuth Headquarters”, she and Bree are communicating in a secret code which might be a little hard for the younger readers to understand, and themes addressed by the end of the book include guilt, justice, and false accusations. But as I said, they are all well handled and appropriate for not only the older audience it was intended for but also the younger, more precocious fans.

The next book in the series arrives in January.

Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass

Title: Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass: The Story Behind an American Friendship
Author: Russell Freedman
ISBN: 9780547385624
Pages: 119 pages
Publisher/Date: Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, c2012.

Douglass and Lincoln had never met, but they had some things in common. They had both risen from poverty and obscurity to international prominence. Both were self-educated. Lincoln, born dirt poor, had less than a year of formal schooling. Douglass, born a slave, wasn’t permitted to go to school. He taught himself to read and write in secret, hiding the few books he was able to get his hands on. And in fact, the two men had read and studied some of the same books.
Even so, in the year 1863 it required plenty of ‘nerve,’ as Douglass put it, for a black man to walk unannounced into the White House and request an audience with the president. [...]
He was determined to wait. (3)

Describing the relationship that Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass had as a friendship might be hard for us to believe, considering they only met each other three times. But since some friendships these days are formed solely through digital communication means like the phone and the Internet, it might not be so hard for people to accept this description as I might think. In this book, Russell Freedman returns to his roots. Having already written a Newbery Medal winning photobiography about Lincoln, I can only imagine the resources he has at his disposal to investigate the relationship between Lincoln and Douglass.

But really the book isn’t just about those three meetings. It covers Lincoln’s and Douglass’s lives before they met up to Lincoln’s assassination. The unique part about this book is it discusses the evolution of Lincoln’s thoughts about slavery. Most students only learn about the Emancipation Proclamation and that Lincoln was against slavery. Freedman’s book shows that Lincoln’s actions and beliefs were never that black and white (pardon the pun). Lincoln maintained during the early part of the war that his only goal was to restore the Union, and didn’t end up issuing the Emancipation Proclamation until over a year into the war. He appears to be a political strategist from the beginning, and he always hesitated before slowly enstating further liberties for African-Americans because of his fear of the public’s response. Douglass had so such fears, and actually fled the country twice to avoid the public backlash against him and his beliefs.

While I can see it being added to numerous African-American History Month reading lists, students will probably have to consult other sources in order to get a complete view of these two influential men and the circumstances that brought them together.

This post is in honor of Nonfiction Mondays. For the entire round-up of all the bloggers who participated, check out Jennifer Wharton over at Jean Little Library.

Knucklehead

Title: Knucklehead: Tall Tales and Mostly True Stories About Growing Up Scieszka
Author: Jon Scieszka
ISBN: 9780670011063
Pages: 106 pages
Publisher/Date: Viking, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, c2008.

The first time I heard the name Knucklehead, it wasn’t being used as a particularly good name. I think it was my dad, finding that his toast tasted like melted green plastic army man, who first asked the question, “What Knucklehead put an army man in the toaster?”
The answer was Jim. He was trying to get one of his riflemen to aim a little higher. But that didn’t seem like the best answer. So Jim, me, Tom, Greg, Brian, and Jeff all said, “I don’t know.”
Over the years, there were a lot more questions. (105)

Since he grew up in Flint Michigan, I tend to count Jon Scieszka as one of “our” authors, even if he doesn’t live in the state anymore. So I have a soft spot for his work and his accomplishments. His autobiography of his time in Michigan growing up as one of six brothers is a laughable account. Proof that biographies don’t have to be about stuffy old dead people, Scieszka instead relates tales of boyish high-jinks like making money by charging your siblings and friends for various things, getting in trouble for using bad words, and all aspects of sibling rivalry and one-upmanship including Halloween costumes, grades, and sharing your room.

This is one of my go-to books for parents who are serving as guest readers in the upper elementary schools. Filled with dozens of very short stories, most kids and especially the boys find quite a bit to laugh about, and parents can read as many or as few as necessary to fill their time slot. Teachers and librarians should take a look too.

Meet Marie-Grace and Cecile

Title: Meet Marie Grace
Series: American Girl Cecile and Marie Grace, book 1
Author: Sarah Masters Buckey
Illustrator: Christine Kornacki
ISBN: 9781593696511
Pages: 105 pages
Publisher/Date: American Girl Publishing, Inc., c2011.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Title: Meet Cecile
Series: American Girl Cecile and Marie Grace, book 2
Author: Denise Lewis Patrick
Illustrator: Christine Kornacki
ISBN: 9781593696603
Pages: 109 pages
Publisher/Date: American Girl Publishing, Inc., c2011.

Marie-Grace Gardner has just returned to New Orleans, the place of her birth, after moving around for several years with her doctor father after the death of her mother and baby brother from disease. New Orleans is different from everywhere else she has lived, and the sights, sounds, tastes and smells are overwhelming. Some residents even speak French, a different language that shy Marie-Grace struggles to understand. She slowly becomes friends with Cecile Rey, an outspoken African-American girl who has lived in New Orleans her entire life. Cecile longs for her brother to return from studying overseas, but stays busy taking music lessons from Mademoiselle Oceane, who also teaches Marie-Grace. The two girls become fast friends, and an unexpected adventure during Mardi Gras brings them closer together as they share a secret that could get them in trouble.

Honestly, I was severely disappointed with the series after reading these first two books. I think the American Girl Company wasted an opportunity here, because the two books tell almost the exact same story, even though one is from Marie-Grace’s perspective and one is from Cecil’s point of view. Entire portions of dialogue are copied and pasted from the first book to the second, and very little happens as we “meet” the two girls. I remember reading the American Girl series when I was younger and being thrilled with the little glimpses into history and the different adventures that the girls got into. I know of school groups that base their monthly meetings around a different girl. But this just felt like a marketing ploy to me, like they somehow ran out of things the girls could do. The descriptions of the other books leave the impression that there will be more, and obviously people are going to buy the set as opposed to leaving one out. The other thing that really bugs me is that it’s only a year after Kristen’s books take place, which breaks the pattern that they have set for themself of having at least a decade between the girls. It could have been done intentionally for comparison purposes, but I am just surprised in this change.

WHEW! Now that I’ve got that off my chest, I did like the fact that we have some bilingual characters in the mix of American Girl options. I also appreciated the fresh perspective of wealthy and well-to-do African-Americans who were never slaves, since all too frequently we only view the slave perspective in pre-Civil War books about African-Americans. Cecile’s well-educated family, who actually employs servants and owns their own successful business, introduces readers to a whole new world. And as always, the last couple pages make up the “Looking Back” insert, separating fact from fiction. The pronunciation guide included in the back is much appreciated for non-French speakers. Bravo for the overall concept that begins with a rather rocky start. Hopefully they’ll redeem themselves in future books.

Heart and Soul

Title: Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans
Author/Illustrator: Kadir Nelson
ISBN: 9780061730740
Pages: 108 pages
Publisher/Date: Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, c2011.
Awards: Won Coretta Scot King Author Award, 2012
Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor, 2012

Most folks my age and complexion don’t speak much about the past. Sometimes it’s just too hard to talk about–nothing we like to share with you young folk. No parent wants to tell a child that he was once a slave and made to do another man’s bidding. Or that she had to swallow her pride and take what she was given, even though she knew it wasn’t fair. Our story is chock-full of things like this. Things that might make you cringe, or feel angry. But there are also parts that will make you proud, or even laugh a little. You gotta take the good with the bad, I guess. You have to know where you come from so you can move forward.” (7)

Just as the subtitle says, this is the story of America and African Americans. Narrated by a family matriarch, she takes readers back in time to her grandfather’s time, when he was taken on a slave ship to serve on a plantation, and proceeds to tell her family’s story all the way to present day. Covering the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, both World Wars and the Great Depression, she concludes with the Civil Rights marches and an epilogue that discusses the accomplishments that movement brought.

Kadir Nelson’s work is a force to be reckoned with. He has been recognized by the Coretta Scott King Book Award Committee a total of five times, but I think this surpasses everything I’ve seen of his. The book is formatted and designed to mimic a photo album, with the cover artwork framed out with scrollwork. The double page spreads primarily consist of one full-page picture and a page of corresponding text. Generous white space, short chapters, and the conversational tone make the book a very quick read, and readers will feel like their listening to their own grandmother telling the story of her youth.

You’ll really need to go through it a second time to truly appreciate the detailed artwork, ranging from unoccupied landscapes to crowded scenes. Nelson even includes imitations of some iconic portraits like Martin Luther King’s Jr. address on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Interspersed throughout the book are a handful of double page illustrations that really bring readers to a halt. The book could be called a pictorial history book or narrative nonfiction, but in any case it’s a stunning portrayal of history.

This post is in honor of Nonfiction Mondays. For the entire round-up of all the bloggers who participated, check out publishers Capstone over at Capstone Connect.

Amelia Lost

Title: Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart
Author: Candace Fleming
ISBN: 970375814989
Pages: 118 pages
Publisher/Date: Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House, c2011.

The fear in Earhart’s voice made Leo Bellarts’s skin prickle. “I’m telling you, it sounded as if she would have broken out in a scream. . . . She was just about ready to break into tears and go into hysterics. . . . I’ll never forget it.”
Seconds turned into minutes. Minutes became an hour. But the sky above Howland Island remained empty.
And in the radio room, Leo Ballerts and the other crew members sat listening to the “mournful sound of that static.” (5)

Amelia Earhart is probably one of the most well-known female pilots due to her unsolved disappearance. During her flight over the Pacific Ocean, she lost radio contact and was never heard from again. Rather than entertain ideas of what might have happened after that assumed fatal flight, Fleming instead focuses on Amelia’s accomplishments and the reports of what was heard over the radio.

I’ve read quite a bit regarding Amelia Earhart’s flight, so I already knew a few of the more interesting tidbits. I already knew that Eleanor Roosevelt was friends with Amelia Earhart, and they had taken a flight together. I knew that Earhart was inexperienced with the plane and the radio systems on the plane when she planed to fly around the world.

But Fleming was still able to provide infrequently revealed information and her research skills impressed me. Like did you know that people as far away as Florida picked up Amelia’s voice on the radio? And that Amelia Earhart had 5,000 stamp covers in the nose of her plane that she refused to jettison because it was a financial fundraiser for the flight? It’s these fascinating aspects of the flight that really bring Amelia Earhart to life and will encourage readers to find out more. What also impressed me about this book was that Fleming was not afraid to portray Amelia’s flaws. She brings up the less than flattering and questionable purchase of an airplane with funds that were donated to Earhart’s “Fund for Aeronautical Research” for developing “scientific and engineering data of vital importance to the aviation industry.” (85)

I would have liked to have seen more details regarding her early life, but overall, it’s an intriguing look that tries to dispel the myths from the truth and set the record straight for students.

This post is in honor of Nonfiction Mondays. For the entire round-up of all the bloggers who participated, check out Tammy Flanders over at Apples With Many Seeds .

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