Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Universe of Fair by Leslie Bulion

The Universe of Fair is about an 11-year-old boy named Miller and his friend Lewis. More than anything, Miller wants his parents to realize how responsible he has become and allow him to go to the city fair this year alone with Lewis. (In the past his mom and dad have always taken him  and his little sister Penny.) What happens when Miller inadvertantly gets his wish makes for an adventure packed book!

By Camille N.

Leaving Gee's Bend by Irene Latham

After reading Don't Feed The Boy, I decided to read Irene Latham's first novel, Leaving Gee's Bend.  For those of you who don't know, Gee's Bend is a real place in west Alabama.  It is an isolated place that is best arrived at by crossing the Alabama River on a ferry. Gee's Bend is a traditionally African American community that is known for its quilts. In fact, a wonderful exhibit called The Quilts of Gee's Bend travels the world. I saw it at the Jule Collins Smith Museum in Auburn several years ago.

This is the fictional story of 10 year-old Ludelphia Bennett.  Lu has lived her entire life amoung the safety of family and friends in Gee's Bend and has never crossed the river to see the rest of the world.  That, however, is about to change.  When her mother becomes deathly ill with pnuemonia, Lu is determined to fetch Doc Nelson to save her. She sets off on a dangerous adventure to leave Gee's Bend.  Will Lu like what she sees across the river?  Will she ever return to her beloved Gee's Bend? Will her quest to save her mother's life be successful?

If you like reading stories set in your home state of Alabama and written by an Alabama author and if you like historical fiction that is full of adventure, you should read Leaving Gee's Bend.
Recommended for students 11 and up. 

Caution: A birthing scene occurs early in the novel.

By Mrs. Norton

If You Were a Chocolate Mustache by J. Patrick Lewis

If You Were a Chocolate Mustache is a collection of poems by Children's Poet Laureate J. Patrick Lewis. It includes riddles, limericks, story poems, haiku, nonsense rhymes, and other types of poetry. Each poem is illustrated with Matthew Cordell's  funny black and white drawings. Poetry lovers of all ages will enjoy this book!

By Mrs. Norton

It Jes' Happened by Don Tate

It Jes' Happened: When Bill Traylor Started to Draw is a picture book that tells the story of Bill Traylor, a folk artist from Alabama. Bill lived most of his life in the country working the land.  He began life as a slave on an Alabama cotton farm.  Once slavery ended, his family became sharecroppers. Late in his life, Bill found himself alone and moved to the city of Montgomery. His transition to city life was not easy, and he became homeless.  He spent a lot of time remembering his life in the country and began drawing pictures on cardboard boxes, old signs, and discarded bags. Bill's artwork was discovered by a young artist and later displayed in a museum.  Today Bill Traylor is known as one of the most important self-taught folk artists in America. 

If you are an upper elementary-aged student and enjoy art, you will enjoy reading about the life of a fellow Alabamian as well as looking at the colorful and interesting illustrations in this book.

By Mrs. Norton

Drummer Boy of John John by Mark Greenwood

The setting for this picture book is Trinidad during the time of Carnival.  Winston, the young main character, along with the other villagers of John John are preparing to celebrate by participating in the annual parade. The best band in the parade will be awarded free rotis, a much-loved fried pancake treat. Inspired by music made by various village bands,  Winston uses his creativity and help from his friends to create his own Carnival band.

This book is full of fun sound words (onomatopoeia) and colorful paintings. Young elementary school students who like music and/or learning about other cultures will enjoy Drummer Boy of John John.

by Mrs. Norton

Victricia Malicia Book-Loving Buccanner by Carrie Clickard

Despite her upbringing on a pirate ship, Victricia Malicia Calamity Barrett is not your typical pirate. She cannot stand life at sea and is no good at living the pirate life.  Victricia is quite a clutz and causes one mishap after another aboard the Potbellied Pirate.  She prefers to spend her time reading and dreaming about life on dry land.  After one particularly big blunder aboard ship, Victricia's pirate family agrees to leave her ashore where she is finally able to settle into the life of her dreams.

This story is fun to read as it is driven by a tongue-twisting rhyme scheme. Recommended as a read aloud to mid-elementary aged students.

By Mrs. Norton

The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas by Tony Wilson

This picture book is a humorous version of the traditional Princess and the Pea fairy tale.  In this version, Prince Henrik is looking to marry a princess who is not overly sensitive and delicate...a princess who is the opposite of a "real" princess! Henrik is determined to find the princess of his dreams so he devises a plan involving a thin camping mattress, an old sleeping bag, and a packet of frozen peas.  Does such a princess exist in the kingdom?  Read The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas to find out. Recommended for students ages 5-9.

By Mrs. Norton

If You Spent A Day With Thoreau At Walden Pond by Robert Burleigh

In 1845 Henry David Thoreau began a radical experiment: He set out to see if he could live alone in the woods of Massachusetts by Walden Pond. While there, he built a cabin, grew his own food, and mostly observed the nature around him.  The well known book, Walden, recounted Thoreau's observations for an adult audience; however, this simple, beautiful picture book now makes Thoreau's experiences acccessible for children.  Recommended for 5-9 year olds.

By Mrs. Norton

Barnum's Bones by Tracey Fern

If you are interested in dinosaurs and/or aspire to become an palentologist, Barnum's Bones: How Barnum Brown Discovered the Most Famous Dinosaur in the World is for you! If you don't already know, Barnum Brown is credited with discovering the world's first Tyrannosaurus Rex. This picture book full of wonderful, humorous illustrations provides a brief biography of an unusual boy who grew up to discover a very unusual dinosaur. An interesting Author's Note and a Selected Biography of more books to read on this subject are included at the book's end.

By Mrs. Norton

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

I read Wonder with my 6th grade daughter, and we both loved it!  We looked forward to reading it each day and were kind of sad when we finished it.  In this novel, Palacio tells the story of a year in the life of August Pullman, a 10-year-old boy.  August is an "ordinary" kid in every way except for one...he was born with a facial deformity.  Thus far, his parents have homeschooled him, but this year he is enrolling in middle school.

Palacio tells August's story from the perspectives of various people in his life.  Some chapters are told by August himself while other chapters are told by his older sister Via, his friend Jack, etc.  While you might think changing speakers would make the story confusing, it doesn't.  Instead, it allows us to more fully understand how difficult being "different" is, not only for the the person who is "different" but also for his family members and friends.

In this day and age of bullying awareness, I whole heartedly recommend this book to students in the upper elementary grades! This is one of those books that has the potential to open up your mind and heart and make you a better person.

By Mrs. Norton

Don't Feed The Boy by Irene Latham

Don't Feed The Boy is a novel by an Alabama author named Irene Latham.  Mrs. Latham is from Birmingham, and I met her this past summer while attending the Alabama School Librarian Association's summer conference.  My 6th grade daughter read the book first and enjoyed it so much that she recommended it to me. 

In this book Mrs. Latham tells the story of 11-year-old Whit, a boy who lives at the Meadowbrook Zoo. (His mom is the zoo director, and his dad is the head elephant keeper.) Whit is largely ignored by his kind but work-obsessed parents. His only interactions are with zoo employees and Ms. Connie, the teacher his parents hired to homeschool him.  His longings to leave zoo grounds and have a friend his age become a reality when he meets Stella, a mysterious girl who comes to the zoo each day to draw the birds.

Don't Feed The Boy is a satisfying story of a friendship between two very different people.  I recommend this book to girls and boys between the ages of 8 and 12. 

By Mrs. Norton

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Silent Star -- The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy

You think baseball is tough now?  Imagine trying to play if you couldn't hear the fans cheering you on, or your coach telling you it was your turn to go hit, or if you couldn't hear the umpire say "Strike" or "Ball," and doing all of that in the Major Leagues, against the toughest competition in the world! William Hoy had this problem and bravely rose to the challenge that his deafness presented.  Read all about how he overcame his seemingly impossible roadblock to become an inspiration to so many.  Despite his lack of hearing, he never gave up, and was inducted into three different Halls of Fame, and is in the top 25 of all time in MLB for steals, assists by an outfielder and double plays made by an outfielder!  Read all about his inspiring success story in Silent Star -- The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy.

By Payne N.

A Place for Bats

This nonfiction book wonderfully describes the relationship between bats and people, and how we can help our bat friends live and grow.  It is very interesting and will have you on the look out for ways to help our very, very important animal friends. I recommend this book to students in the younger elementary grades who are interested in animal conservation.

By Payne N.