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Review: Fish in a Tree (2015)

fishtreeI want to share this book with every teacher that I know.

This is the story of Ally, a bright young girl who has creatively managed to fool a lot of people. Her poor behavior at school hides her truth. She can’t read.

This is also the story of Mr. Daniels, a teacher who sees Ally’s potential and finds a way to reach her.

The irony is that the kids who this book will speak to the most are not likely to be kids who pick it up to read. This book would be a great title for teachers to read aloud. It would appeal to a wide variety of ages, and I think could do well in grades 2-5.

Ally’s determination and optimism send a positive message to readers on the power of hard work and perseverance. The kindnesses shown by Mr. Daniels and by some of Ally’s classmates illustrate how simple acts of caring can change a person’s life.

I highly recommend reading this book, and sharing it with kids in your life!

-Erin

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Review: Crenshaw (2015)

crenshawCrenshaw! Who can resist? A giant cat who loves purple jelly beans and bubble baths. I was hooked by the cover alone, and happy to find that the heart of the book delivers. This is a compassionate tale of young Jackson, a kid whose family has fallen on hard times financially. Jackson is not one to let his imagination run wild, so the reappearance of his imaginary friend is troubling. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that he and his family may find themselves living in the car, again?

Author Katherine Applegate deftly navigates this tale, giving an endearing voice to her main character. Readers will root for Jackson and wish for their own Crenshaw. This book shines light on the struggle that homeless children endure, providing us opportunities for empathy and connection to anyone affected in this way.

Many thanks to Net Galley for providing this novel in advance. -Erin

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Review: Sisters (2014)

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It is summertime, so I finally had a chance to read this book. Getting my hands on it during the school year was impossible. Our students, both the girls and boys, are loving this graphic novel about a family that takes a road trip from California to Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Sisters is actually book 2 in a series by Raina Telgemeier. I have not read the first book, and felt that this one stands alone just fine. It is a quick, engaging read and has the power to hook a lot of young readers. I enjoyed the story much more than I expected to. Actually, I really loved it. This may be because the author is close to my age and she wrote about her own life as a child, growing up in a way that seemed very familiar to me.

This book has been nominated by kids for the Colorado Children’s Book Award in 2016. Despite the very stiff competition it has, I’m going to go ahead and predict right now that this one will win the kids’ votes. -Erin

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Review: Where Are My Books? (2015)

Young Spencer loves his books. Before bed, he and his mom read his favorite, Night Night Narwhal, and then Spencer puts the book away in the same spot he always puts it on his bookshelf. Life is good, until the next morning when Spencer wakes up and the book is gone! He makes due with other titles, but the calamity continues as each night more books go missing. Where are his books?

IMG_2663 Debbie Ridpath Ohi has created a fresh new book with appealing illustrations and an unexpected twist. Kids will love solving the mystery of the missing books. I was certainly surprised to find out where they had gone! This book will soon get purchased and cataloged into our school library and I look forward to sharing it with our primary kiddos. It even talks about library procedures near the end and will lend itself well to library orientation.

My 5 year old son has one question after reading – “Do narwhals really sleep?” I’m guessing it’s time to develop some research skills together! -Erin

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Review: Once Upon a Cloud (2015)

celeste 2On a recent trip to the public library, I picked up this exquisite new picture book debut by a Disney animator, Claire Keane. Oh, the illustrations in this book! Magical, lush, evocative. I could stare at the drawings of Celeste on their own and never tire of their many nuances, but then there is so much more on each page. The story follows Celeste through her dreams as she attempts to find a good gift for her mother. This book is a treasure for all of us who love to dream and believe in the power of our subconscious to lead us to answers for life’s puzzles.  It is a true example of a book where the art and text enhance each other. Highly recommended for fans of Disney animation. -Erinceleste2 2

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Review: The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects (2015)

death 2Paul B. Janeczko and Chris Raschka reunite for this anthology. I will begin by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of poetry. I loved the organization of the poems throughout time, beginning in the Early Middle Ages through today. Each of the 50 poems is written about an object, further uniting the poems in the collection.

The poetry caused me to reflect on life and the human experience. Because the poems spanned so many centuries, it was also interesting to read about how someone once felt about certain objects in time gone by. Poetry is often written about nature and nature is certainly a theme here.

Raschka’s watercolor illustrations are breezy and light – but also sometimes require further consideration to catch his true meaning. Astute readers will notice that the solitary wildgoose from Cui Tu’s poem in the beginning flies through many of the pages, finally reconnecting with other geese in the end papers.

As with any collection, some of the poems and the illustrations struck a chord in me. Some did not. Most of my favorites were from the more recent years. I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud by William Wordsworth, Manhole Covers by Karl Shapiro, and both of the cat poems by William Butler Yeats and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. It must be a difficult task to decide on the poems to include in an anthology, and the introduction is well worth the time to read.

For me, as a lover of the written word and admirer of poetry, this collection is a treasure. As an elementary school librarian, I am a bit more torn. The intended audience for this book is children, and here I’m afraid it may have missed its mark. I’m just not sure how much kid-appeal these poems hold. – Erin

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Review: Sick Simon (2015)

Sick Simon by Dan Krall

This is a book teachers have begged me for. Usually this happens when the weather changes and flu season hits, but sometimes it happens earlier in the year. “What do you have that will teach my students about spreading germs?” Initially I purchased a few non-fiction titles about germs, which are great and purposeful, but here we have an engaging storyline with pictures kids will love (they turned my stomach, just like they are meant to!) Simon is sick but he LOVES school, so he continues to go. Worse than that, he is one of those kids that has no understanding of the ways he is spreading his germs to his friends and teachers.

I think this story can be effective as a teaching tool in the classroom. Teachers will have to explain that germs are really too small for us to see, unlike the pictures of the hidden germs on all of the “sick” pages. My 8 year old daughter pointed those out to me. It would be great to pair it with a non-fiction title on germs.

-Erin

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