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Preview: Children's Bookshop & Teaching Supplies - Reader's Blog

Children's Bookshop & Teaching Supplies - Reader's Blog

Updated: 2017-06-25T13:59:12.680-07:00


What Makes a Great Read Aloud?


At least some of it is beautiful language. Words that just flow and invite you into the story. Some of it is characters you want to know more about as soon as you meet them. And some it is a plot that leads you to unexpected places. In The Year the Swallows Came Early by Kathryn Fitzmaurice, I was seduced by her use of language. Listen to this, "Inside the smell of flour tortillas and cinnamon greeted me. Add to that all the onions, peppers, and chilies heating up on the stove, and you could tell it was the kind of place people liked coming to." I love it. Easy to read aloud. Fills the senses. And invites you right into the story. Now you just have to wait until February for the rest. On sale 2/3/09.

Alvin Ho


Looking for a great read aloud? Like funny books? Ones with pictures and a distinctive voice? Maybe you're a fan of Junie B. Jones or the Time Warp Trio? Well, here's the book for you:

Alvin Ho Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look.

And yes, that really is the whole title. Alvin doesn't talk at school. Doesn't talk at all. Fortunately, he has friends who help him out, a very understanding family and a great sense of humor. This would be a perfect read aloud for 1st - 3rd grade.

History, More or Less


This last week everything I've read seems to have a historical bent. Nat Turner by Kyle Baker(image) is an amazing graphic novel about the life of Nat Turner, leader of a slave rebellion. His story is a powerful one and telling it through this medium makes it even more so. The images are haunting. Recommended for teens and up.

I also read Karen Hesse's upcoming book, Brooklyn Bridge. If you are looking for a book to illustrate the idea of voice, this would be perfect. Joe lives in Brooklyn in 1903 and you can hear the Brooklyn accent in your head as you read. My favorite line comes when he meets a young woman who will be staying with his family for a while and he describes her with, "Pauline Unger looked like a girl who never bought on sale." A story about family, hard work, and opportunity in a new world. Available in September.
Finally I read Heroes of the Valley by Jonathan Stroud, the author of the Bartimaeus Trilogy, a series I found somewhat dark. Heroes is lighter in tone than the Bartimaeus but it's not all laughs either. Set in a fictional world that owes a lot to Scandinavian mythology, this is a classic hero's journey story. Halli has never fit in at home, sets out to avenge his uncle's murder, grows and changes as he travels, and finally comes home where he must protect his home and everyone he cares about from a deadly threat. Perfect for readers of The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer. Available in January.

Frankenstein Takes the Cake or Why I Think Adam Rex is a Genius


(image) A few years ago, Adam Rex wrote a book called Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich, a perfectly fine set of poems perfect for Halloween. Now he's taken the gag one step further and it is genius. Frankenstein Takes the Cake starts out with a comic strip on the end papers in the front and a "list of poems that do not appear in this volume in the back." In between there are poems, comic strips about Frankenstein meeting his bride's parents, the Headless Horseman's blog (entitled "Off the Top of My Head" and my favorite of all the bits), fake advertisements, sight gags and a nice little bit about Dracula accidentally getting some garlic bread from the buffet at the Frankenstein wedding. I laughed and laughed. Take a look yourself. It's available now.

Heart of a Shepherd


Rosanne Parry's book, Heart of a Shepherd, made me laugh and cry. Brother (and you might choose to be called Brother too if your given name was Ignatius) is the youngest of five boys in a ranching family in eastern Oregon. He is the only one still living at home and when his father's reserve unit is called up to go to Iraq, he's left in charge along with his grandfather. When the unit goes, it impacts the whole community--ranchers, the school bus driver, teachers and many other important members of the community go too. Heart of a Shepherd looks at the way military service affects family and community as well what service, duty, community and faith mean and how many different ways there are to serve. Brother, his Quaker grandfather and everyone in their community will find a place in your heart by the end of this book.

Rapunzel's Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale


(image) Everyone's trying their hand at graphic novels these days. Shannon Hale, writer of great girl power novels, and her husband have teamed up illustrator Nathan Hale (no relation) to create this reimagining of the story of Rapunzel. Rapunzel grows up with Mother Gothel in great luxury but when she starts to ask too many questions, Gothel exiles her to a giant tree from which their is seemingly no escape. While she's there, Rapunzel's hair grows and grows and she learns to use it as a lasso. By using it as a rope, she gets out of the tree and finds herself working with a mysterious outlaw in a wild west setting to right the many wrongs that Gothel has perpetrated. Fabulous girl power, an appealingly klutzy heroine and true love's kiss at the end. Highly recommended. Available August 19.

The Tomorrow Code


(image) The Tomorrow Code, by Brian Falkner
Tane and Rebecca are all that stand in the way of the end of the world, but they don't know it yet. All they know is that they seem to be getting cryptic messages from the future. They start out trying to decode strings of 0's and 1's using Tane's computer and before they know it, they're buying a winning lottery ticket, sneaking into a highly secure genetics laboratory and researching buying a submarine. The New Zealand setting is at once exotic and familiar and the details about Maori culture are woven seamlessly. Science fiction and adventure--a great combo. Coming in October.

The Hunger Games


(image) Dystopian novels for kids. Forget the science fiction of the past featuring astonishing technology and flights to the stars, now it's all about the dark possibilities that the future holds. In The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins a post-apocalyptic world is getting ready for the annual Hunger Games. Children are forced to compete to the death on a nationally televised reality show. When her younger sister is chosen as the girl to compete from her district, Katniss volunteers to take her place. She doesn't want to get too close to Peeta, the boy her district sends, but traveling to the capitol and training with him make it inevitable. How will she survive the gruelling competition with her body and soul intact?

I couldn't put The Hunger Games down. I read in the evening and then got up and read more while I ate my breakfast. Intense and fast paced with well drawn characters whose suffering feels real--mental as well as physical. Katniss has a hard shell but as the story develops, you see the girl beneath that shell and understand why she protects herself from the world. Watching her begin to care for Peeta and some of the other competitors, you feel yourself torn too.

Coming out in October. Recommended for readers of The City of Ember and The Giver. I've been hearing Newbery-ish buzz about this book. I guess we'll have to wait and see if they pick science fiction--not the usual Newbery fare.



(image) Shift by Jennifer Bradbury
I loved this book. It opens with Chris starting college and remembering the cross country bike trip he took over the summer with his best friend, Win. Now Win is missing and Chris is taking the heat. Win's parents want to know where he is and don't mind putting the pressure on Chris to find out. But Chris wants to know where Win is too. As the book progresses, hints about where Win might be develop but Bradbury doesn't tip her hand too soon--tension is maintained throughout the whole book. Great for mystery lovers, readers of John Green and anyone who likes adventure.

Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning


(image) Is there a genre called coming of age tomboy books set in the south? If not, there should be. Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning by Danette Haworth is a prime example of the genre.

When a new girl moves to her sleepy Florida town, Violet's life gets shaken up. Suddenly things she's always taken for granted--Friday night fish fries, looking for Brain Freeze cups to turn in for a free Brain Freeze, hanging out with her friends Eddie and Lottie--don't seem quite so easy and natural. Melissa is ready to grow up in a way that Violet isn't and seeing her own life through Melissa's eyes makes Violet uncomfortable.

The sense of place in this book is incredible--I could feel the humidity, the mud under the Cypress trees, the crackle of lightning in the air. And Violet herself is really real--smart, prickly, a word collector, able to see when she's in the wrong even if she doesn't want to apologize.

I'm putting this book on my "contender for a Newbery honor" list.

The Dragonfly Pool


(image) Eva Ibbotson's new book, The Dragonfly Pool, is vintage Ibbotson. The heroine is smart and caring, the villains heartless and full of self-importance, and the setting is both England and an imaginary central European country. The heart of the story is Tally, the daughter of a poor, hardworking and beloved by his patients doctor. With WWII looming on the horizon, Tally's father is relieved that Tally has received a scholarship to a boarding school in the country. Tally doesn't want to leave her father and London behind but once she is in the Devon countryside with a whole school full of children who need her concern, she is happy to be there. It is Tally who organizes the children and persuades the school authorities for a folk dancing trip to the country of Bergania. And that is where the real adventures begin--when they meet the crown prince of Bergania and help him escape from Nazi kidnappers. Coming in September.

Girl Power


Justina Chen Headley, one of the divas at, writes about girls finding the power to be themselves. In North of Beautiful her main character struggles with issues of (image) self image and family. Terra's dad is verbally abusive to the whole family. Her brothers are old enough to have moved away from home leaving Terra to be the buffer between her father and her cowed mother. Terra has other problems too--one side of her face is covered by a wine colored birthmark. She covers it with makeup and dreams of a treatment that will finally get rid of it altogether.

Her journey of self-discovery is illustrated with references to map making. Years before this story takes place, Terra's father had staked his academic career on an ancient Chinese map that turned out to be a very good fake. This event echoes through the whole story. Terra's oldest brother works as a high priced lawyer in China. Her father displays maps in their house--but none of Asia. And most important, Terra meets Jacob, whose Goth sensibilities challenge how she views the world. With Jacob and his coffee buyer mom, Terra and her mother travel to China to visit Terra's brother and the orphanage that Jacob lived in as a baby.


Real Characters


(image) A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban could be any other story about a sixth grade girl whose family isn't perfect and who doesn't quite fit in at school and yet it's so much more. What sets it apart? I think it's characterization. Zoe's oddball dad and hard working mother are presented in a loving and exasperated way that makes them extremely real characters. They don't seem to have quirks because the author thinks that will make them more memorable but because that's who they are. So, who are they?

Well, Zoe is a girl who really wants to play the piano. Unfortunately for her, her dad gets overwhelmed when he goes to the mall to buy the piano and ends up with an organ. But Zoe is a kid who knows how to make the best of things and so she starts taking organ lessons and ends up competing in an organ competition. Along the way she loses her best friend and makes a new friend who comes home after school to bake with her dad.

Her dad is the kind of guy who doesn't like to leave the house because he might get lost. Her mom is careful and detail oriented.

A great first novel.



Paper Towns, by John Green
Q has known his neighbor Margo Roth Speigelman since they were both little kids. Once they were close friends but as high school comes to a close they move in completely different circles. Q hangs out with the band nerds and Margo Roth Speigelman (you always have to use her full name) is one of the coolest of cool kids. But one night, Margo Roth Speigelman knocks on Q's window, forcing their circles to intersect. After a night of righteous pranks designed by Margo Roth Speigelman to right some wrongs and punish wrong-doers, Q thinks maybe, just maybe, they can be friends again. But then Margo Roth Speigelman disappears. The longer Q looks for her, the more he discovers about who she really is and how the surface Margo Roth Speigelman is not the whole picture at all.

Although there are some very funny moments, this is not a primarily funny book. Those funny moments balance out discussions of philosophy and poetry, real angst about what has happened to Margo Roth Speigelman, and thoughts about the meaning of friendship.

Old Stories, Retold


Impossible by Nancy Werlin
One of my favorite kinds of books is the fairy tale retold. Impossible by Nancy Werlin is a story based on the ballad "Scarborough Fair," a song which is haunting me now that I've read the book. Nancy Werlin has written a version of the song where the girl must complete three impossible tasks in order to be free from her Elfin admirer and then written a story around it. In the story, Lucy is seventeen and living with her very loving foster parents. Her life seems perfect. Perfect until she finds out about the curse on the women of her family. A curse she must complete three impossible tasks to escape.

This is a can't put down read. The love story is compelling, the evil chilly, and then tension is high.

Coming in September.

Poetry Month Addendum


Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech
Right at the end of poetry month I got an advanced reading copy of Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech. Even though poetry month is over now, I have to gush about this book. It's a sequel to Love That Dog and is told in poems too. Jack and his favorite teacher, Miss Stretchberry, are back. This time we learn about Jack's deaf mother and how they communicate and Jack learns to appreciate cats--even the horrible black cat who scratches him and is the inspiration for the title. Here is the first poem in the book:

I hate that cat
like a dog hates a rat
I said I hate that cat
like a dog hates a rat

Hate to see it in the morning
hate to see that
F A T black cat.

There is discussion of onomatopoeia and alliteration, what his uncle Bill calls "real writing", and the poetry of William Carlos William. You will be inspired to read more poetry and maybe even write a poem or two of your own.

Day 29 Poetry Month


The Tortoise
I wear a helmet
On my back.
It's hard
And guards
Me from attack.
And if I wheeze,
Or sneeze,
Or cough,
The shell I dwell in
Won't fall off.
It's glued without
A screw or mortise.
I'm born with it,
For I'm a tortoise.

From lizards, frogs, and polliwogs by Douglas Florian

Poetry Month, Day 24


From Flicker Flash by Joan Bransfield Graham, a little sun for you since the sky is so grey today.
miles away I bring
you this dynamite, ring-
a-ding day. I'll shout in
your window and bounce
near your head to solar
power you out of
your bed!"

Poetry Month, April 22nd


Alphabet Sherbet
Alphabet Sherbet.
Have you ever heard of it?
I bought myself a gallon,
and ate about a third of it.
The A's are all amazing.
The B's are a beautiful blue.
The C's and D's
are cool and delicious.
The E's are enjoyable too.
The F's are fair,
but don't you fret--
the G's are great,
so go and get
a bowl of Alphabet Sherbet.
You'll love it,
I'm sure of it!

from Flamingos on the Roof by Calef Brown

Day 19, Poetry Month


Word Watch
Jittery seems a nervous word;
snuggle curls up around itself.
Some words fit their meanings so well:
Abrupt. Airy. And my favorite--

which means: having lots of syllables.

From the most excellent Tap Dancing on the Roof by Linda Sue Park. A poem about words and their meaning seems most appropriate for poetry month.

Day 17, Poetry Month


Windshield Wipers
Windshield wipers wipe the windshield
Wipe the water off the pane
This way That way
This way That way
This way That way
In the rain
from The Llama Who Had No Pajama, by MaryAnn Hoberman

Day 15, Poetry Month


Job Satisfaction, by John Collis
I am a young bacterium
And I enjoy my work
I snuggle into people's food
I lie in wait--I lurk.
They chomp a bit and chew a bit
And say, "This can't be beaten"
But then in bed they groan and moan,
"I wish I hadn't eaten."

from Dirty Laundry Pile, Poems in Different Voices

Day 10, Poetry Month


Uh oh, I missed yesterday as well. Today's poem is from the book Imaginary Menagerie: A Book of Curious Creatures, written by Julie Larios and illustrated by Julie Paschkis. Both of them live in Seattle and Julie Paschkis's illustration style may look familiar to users of the library since she did some work for last summer's summer reading program. Anyway, here is today's poem:


Listen to the waves

break on the shore--

half song, half roar.

Listen to the beach

answer back--

half cry, half laugh.

Underneath it all,

you might hear a splash,

you might hear a call,

or you might hear a sigh,

long and low.

What does she say,

part woman, part fish?

I wish . . . I wish . . .

Day 8, Poetry Month


I meant to post a poem every week day of the month but missed yesterday. Oops. Here's a poem for today from Douglas Florian's Insectlopedia.

The Praying Mantis
Upon a twig
I sit and pray
For something big
To wend my way:
A caterpillar,
Or bee--
I swallow them

Poetry Month, Day 4


Rain on the green grass,
Rain on the trees,
Rain on the housetops,
But not on me.

Mother Goose

Hope you're staying dry.