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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: Secrets of Selkie Bay (2015)

selkieSecrets of Selkie Bay by Shelley Moore Thomas

Years ago I saw a movie called The Secret of Roan Inish. It was a story of Ireland, family, and selkies. That story stuck with me through the years and the Irish folklore of selkies continues to fascinate me, so when I saw this title available to read and review in advance through NetGalley, I jumped on it. I was not disappointed.

Set in an Irish seaside town, Secrets of Selkie Bay tells the tale of three girls and their Da trying to pick up the pieces after the disappearance of their mother and wife. Questions abound, adding intrigue to the story. Is it possible that their mother is a selkie, and has found her seal coat and returned to the sea? Why won’t Da spend the money in the sugar jar despite their financial distress? Could there really be an enchanted island in the mist, home of selkies and buried treasure?

I look forward to purchasing this title for our library and book talking it with our students. How many of them have heard of selkies, I wonder? Shelley Moore Thomas did an excellent job developing the characters in the book, touching on themes such as loss, family and the environment, and creating an air of magical mystery in a seaside town.

The book is not without flaws. I usually love covers done by Gilbert Ford, but this one is lost on me.  The seal drawings look pained and sad. Overall, however, this is book I will recommend highly to my students!

-Erin

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Review: Mr. Tiger Goes Wild (2013)

tiger

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown has been on my mind today. I recently came across a fantastic video of author and illustrator Peter Brown discussing his inspiration for this work. Watching the video reminded me of how much I love, love, love these illustrations. The story tells about Mr. Tiger’s transformation from a proper tiger to one who embraces his wild side. The classes that I shared this book with enjoyed the pictures every bit as much as I did, especially the page where he sheds his clothes. (This illustration is just perfection – the look on his face, the way he is standing. It makes me smile every time I see it.) Truly, every page in this book is a delight.

tiger

Now, will someone please buy me these pajamas?

tiger

-Erin

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Review: Lulu Walks the Dogs (2012)

Lulu Walks the DogLulu Walks the Dogs by Judith Viorst

I picked out this Judith Viorst chapter book to read to my 5-year-old not knowing that it was a stand-alone sequel to another Lulu book, Lulu and the Brontosaurus.  I chose this book because of the attractive cover (not judging a book by its cover totally goes against human nature, in my opinion!), the variance of the text from one page to another (which make the pages fun to look at), and the amusing black-and-white pictures that were created by Caldecott Award winner, Lane Smith  (which turned out to the be the best thing about this book).

Lulu really, really wants a mysterious something that her parents will not buy for her so she decides to earn the money for it by walking dogs in her neighborhood.  Lulu does not have the patience or skill needed for walking dogs and so, to her dismay, her utterly perfect and annoyingly kind neighbor Fleischman must come to her rescue.

There is a lot that is good about this book.  It is a simple story that is easy to follow and it is divided into multiple chapters that are quite short, so you don’t have to commit long amounts of time to sit down and read it to your little people.  This book would make a good read-aloud for a 1st grade class, especially if you want a couple of good examples of characters with easily identifiable character traits or if you are trying to highlight the idea of voice in text.

My 5-year-old son really enjoyed this book.  According to him, it was “as good as Charlotte’s Web, but not better”.  This mother does not agree at all.  So, I had to ask him, what does a 5-year-old find appealing about this book?  He told me his favorite parts were the silly money song that Lulu would sing throughout the book, and he loved the character of Fleischman “because he’s so smart”.  On the other hand, my parent brain found the character of Lulu to be quite annoying and the writing to be choppy and awkward.  I would be interested to hear if other younger students also like this book.  Perhaps it’s the grown-up in me that makes it hard to appreciate what this book has to offer?   -Marika