Saturday, October 10, 2015

Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon by Kate DiCamillo

Long a fave of mine, I will read just about anything by Kate DiCamillo. And I will read just about anything by said amazing author/ America's Children's Literature Laureate. So with my second graders, I just launched right in with Francine Poulet. They had no background schema, no knowledge of any of DiCamillo's work ( tragedy right there for SURE!). And we went into the story.

At times, it was a little slow for my guys but there is absolutely no question that they wanted to know what happened, that they wanted to see the pictures, that the y wanted to laugh and guffaw with Francine and the other seriously crafty characters in the book. And they wanted to know about the ghost raccoon. They savored the last little bit of the book, they kept demanding more, they knew we had something crazy on our hands. And they smiled at the end. All 23 of them. What a sweet moment.

You probably want to know why Francine Poulet, of fame and fortune around all things involving animal rescue, had a little loss in her life. Maybe if you are lucky, you have read the prior adventures involving Francine and the porcine wonder Mercy Watson. Maybe if you are really lucky, you have read all of the Mercy Watson series and know exactly where DiCamillo is going. All I can say is read them, all of her books that involve Mercy Watson and/or Francine will want to know the twins for sure. And more, so much more....butter!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Miss Todd and Her Wonderful Flying Machine by Frances Poletti and Kristina Yee

I often forget the story behind a simple-seeming picture book. I sure did with this book....until I wrote this blog entry. Ahem, please forgive my cluelessness.

I love unique illustrations and so do my students. This book is a series of paper cuts and drawings that help frame a sweet and intense students and I were simply bound with the book as I read it to them. But today I discovered so much more about this story. Like the movie from which the book came won a long list of international awards, including a Student Academy Award.  The illustrations that we were so captured by: those are actually paper-cut out puppets in a model set, clips actually from the movie itself. Find the movie here: The brown-tinted set captured my imagination in amazing ways. 

Happiest when her feet were not touching the ground, Lily grew up trying to create flying machines to satisfy her great passion for moving in the air. A brilliant and endless dreamer, her dreams were not at all dashed by the extreme and limiting behaviors and norms for women around the turn of the century. The story centers on the real Miss Lily Todd becoming the first female in the world to build and design an airplane amid all sorts of trials of the times. 

The story in book form is uplifting and inspiring from true story of the original Miss Lily Todd to the true story of the movie craft and execution. Brilliant. And for those of you wondering, I do intend to share the movie with my students. Very soon!

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Day the Crayons Came Home by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

The Day the Crayons Quit was a huge hit with readers of all ages. This much-anticipated and drooled-after sequel is out! And it doesn't disappoint.

Crayons get lost. The fact is just a part of life. But what do the crayons have to say about it? Daywelt and Jeffers team up again in seriously funny ways. I mean, I could actually hear these crayons telling stories. In the first book, the crayons took off to see the world for a wonderful variety of reasons. In this text, the crayons are writing their owner to communicate that they want to return home.
You are gonna have to get your hands on The Day the Crayons Came Home to read about why they want to return, but let's just say serious and crass go hand in hand in this book. I loved it and I can't wait to see what my second graders think of it!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Edge of the Shadows by Elizabeth George

The third in a series, The Edge of the Shadows offers us one more sweet chance to lean into George's fabulous storyweaving. In this story, Becca still fears her father and a surprise show-up, a totally effective baseline and tension builder in the series. But the more prominent and public issue has to do with fire.

Becca and her usual cast of friends are turning their eyes toward college possibilities and life after high school when a new set of twins show up. Isis and Aidan are lively characters: Aidan has just been released from some special school in Utah, and Isis is his Big-Brother eyes, watching his every move. Aidan obviously has big problems, and he jumpstarts Becca's worry repeatedly. Isis is the sweet and talkative, if not a little manic, bff to whomever she can glom onto--for much of this story, that's Hayley. Then the fires start....the first one is small and inconsequential, the second one bigger but still small enough. The third fire destroys property and someone dies. But who is setting the fires? Is it Aidan who just happened to come from an educational setting where he learned to stop setting fires destructively? Is it the new fiddle player who has some serious hots for Hayley in kind of a worrisome way? Who is it?

George leads us well in this book. I am hoping for another in the saga. I really do want to believe someday Becca finds her way, but will she?

Friday, August 28, 2015

Another Kind of Hurricane by Tamara Ellis Smith

What is it with these juvenile authors? Every time I go to the library, I come home with more amazing books that read so crazy great. Every time!!

Another Kind of Hurricane combines the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina with a tragedy of death of a friend over a thousand miles away. Zavion battles his inner demons while trying to recover from all that he lost in the hurricane (his home, his dead mother's paintings....everything except his father and two roof tiles he grabbed as they floated away from his flooded house. Henry battles HIS own demons after his best friend dies while they are out hiking. Loss frames this book, and it is through those losses that each boy opens himself up to the desperation and celebration that erupts from tragedy and change.

This is a first novel for Smith, and I would not hesitate to pick up another by her. I loved this book! I loved the entrance and the exit of the book. I loved the mental images my brain created. I loved the voices I heard as I read (yes, Zavion and Henry have voices to me!). I love how respectfully she created each character and the adults around them, and I loved how she wove their stories together. With BLUE JEANS! And just a little more....A great read!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper

Sharon Draper, author of Out of My Mind among other great reads, writes another brilliant novel in Stella by Starlight. With a burning cross and two young darker-skinned children pictured on the cover, Draper gives us a teeny window into what this book is about. Yep, right away you think KKK (or the secret name of "triple K"). It also is about racism, finding one's way, surviving, and discovering who your friends are no matter their skin color.

I am not sure what I loved most about this book. The chapters are just-right short, and the transitions from chapter to chapter seem just like exactly-right placed stepping stones. The character development is rich too, and the tensions between characters made such sense. The storyline gripped me hard, making me read every word. If I am reading the dedication page accurately, Draper combined stories from the lives of her grandmother and father-- seek out more details on her website. As I read, I wondered which parts could connect with history and her relatives' lives. Mostly though I found Draper's work once again enlightened and beautiful. And yes, painful--I would be lying if it weren't that too. But Draper writes with such grace about such awfulness....A brilliant book and a rich read. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Tacky and the Haunted Igloo by Helen Lester

Tacky must be getting older; this book almost borders on a tad scary. But not quite! I honestly have never ever thought of being able to fancy up an igloo like a haunted house but obviously that shows the limits of my creative thoughts! Helen Lester and Illustrator Lynn Munsinger team up again to blow the top off of what might be possible up (down?) in Penguin-land. Come on: be honest. Have you ever thought of a haunted igloo?

Tacky is in usual form, not getting ready for a haunted house while Goodly, Neatly, Perfect, Angel, and Lovely are doing all of the traditional things penguins do for a haunted house. Then the six penguins decide to dress up as what they are most afraid of. The problem lies in Tacky: he doesn’t have anything he is afraid of! By evening time, trick or treaters arrive at the haunted igloo. All is going as planned until some ghosts who aren’t really what they say they are show up and toss all plans into the snow. But never fear, Tacky is here to save the day! If you are a Tacky fan or know of someone who is, you just might want to hunt down this new one from Lester. It is a unique winner!