Friday, 10 February 2012

Isabella Girl on the Go

Isabella Girl on the Go
Written by Jennifer Fosberry
Illustrated by Mike Litwin
(February 1, 2012) 32 pages

In this beautiful picture book, we spend an amazing day with Isabella. Although Isabella’s journey is just a trip into the backyard with her dad, her imagination takes her around the world. In her imaginings a fence becomes the Great Wall and she becomes a brave warrior.

Following the story of Isabella, the book contains a number of informational pieces. There are descriptions of 8 places that changed the world, and lists of websites about travel destinations. I would pair this book with some non-fiction resources, and help young students to explore places like the Pyramids of Giza and the Great Wall of China.

Jennifer Fosberry has created a wonderful read aloud about the delightful and spirited little Isabella. The charming art by Mike Litwin adds to the appeal of this book where a sphinx grows out of the sandbox and an Eiffel Tower sprouts in the garden. I have difficulty placing an age range on this book, but I will say whether you are an archeologosist or astronomer, artist or warrior, this book is for you.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Hades: Lord of the Dead

Hades: Lord of the Dead
George O'Connor
First Second
(January 31, 2012) 80 pages

This story might be called Hades: Lord of the Dead, but surprisingly, it is really a story about the heroine Persephone. Hades steals Persephone away to the underworld to be his bride. In this re-telling, O’Connor creates a much more rounded character for Persephone than you might have met in other myths. We discover a strong Persephone, who maybe really likes being Queen of the Dead; an independent Persephone, who stands up to her mother and goes to great lengths to get away from her; and an empathetic Persephone, who tries to ease the suffering in the Underworld.

In true Greek style, it is also a tale of woe. In her despair, Demeter abandons her duties and searches endlessly for her daughter Persephone. It is through Demeter’s desolation that we have the creation of the seasons.

I think this is a great read. Greek Mythology fans will enjoy this story, and its graphic novel format will make it accessible for so many more readers. Hades: Lord of the Dead is the fourth in a series of Olympian graphic novels by George O’Connor, and now I can’t wait to go back and read the first three books.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Giants Beware!

Giants Beware!
Written by Jorge Aguirre, Illustrated by Rafael RosadoFirst Second. 
(April 10th 2012) 208 pages

Giants beware, Claudette the Giant Slayer is about to begin her journey.  
Claudette starts stirring up controversy from the first pages of the book. She lives in a safe and orderly little town, but unlike her fellow citizens, Claudette is thirsty for adventure. She sets out on her journey with 2 reluctant sidekicks in tow. Her brother, an aspiring chef, would really much rather be cooking, and her friend, Marie, would rather be a princess and living in a castle. Along the way, all 3 characters make discoveries about themselves.

Claudette is a spunky little character. The text, the tone, and the captivating illustrations will speak to the middle grade reader. I’m looking for more books in this series, and I’m happy to see that the authors have plans to add to Claudette’s adventures. Here is an interview with the authors.

I love graphic novels and the middle grade readers in my class love them, too. What graphic novels are the young readers in your life reading? Add this one to your bookshelf this spring. I give this novel 5 giant footsteps.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Bad Kitty for President

Bad Kitty for President

Nick Bruel. Roaring Brook Press.
(January 17th, 2012) 128 p.

Bad Kitty has decided to run for president of the local cat club. As Bad Kitty tries to woo all the other cats, we learn about the stages in the election process. Bad Kitty teaches us some very important lessons, including "every vote counts".

I am a Canadian, so I can't attest to the absolute accuracy of the text, but this seemed like a very good explanation of the American political system. I know this would be a fun way to help students learn about the electoral process.

Bad Kitty is one of the homeliest and charming cats you will ever meet, and Nick Bruel has taken a not so exciting topic and made it very entertaining. I found this book to be laugh out loud funny. Once again, Bad Kitty gets my vote.

Friday, 13 January 2012

The Missing, Book One: Found

Margaret Petterson Haddix.
Scholastic Books 
314 Pages

Almost every kid, at one point or another, has thought that they were adopted. Jonah knows it's true though. In fact he's known his whole life. He hadn't questioned it too much ever. For him it's alway been a fact. Like 2+2=4, or, the Earth revolves around the sun.
One day he receives a letter in the mail. It says "You are one of the missing." Naturally he's freaked out by this, and decides to tell his new friend Chip, who just moved in a few months before. It turns out that Chip got a letter too. It says the exact same thing. Then they both get a second letter. This one reads "Beware! They're coming back to get you."
Jonah, Chip and Jonah's little sister Katherine are thrown head first into the mystery of the "Missing", which involves an FBI investigation, a mysterious man who always seems to be around, and a plane that suddenly appeared out of no where, with no pilot, and no crew.

Although I love this book, and I love the concept, I found it a bit hard to follow at first. In the beginning, each clue that the kids found seemed unrelated, and disconnected. They brought up more questions than answers, for both me, and the characters. But as time went on all the different clues came together and wove the facts they compiled into the answer. That seemed so obvious once I knew it.
In a way though, I'm glad the book kept me guessing. Sometimes, if an author makes the main answer to a mystery obvious, I tend to get bored and feel tired.
All in all, I found it an amazing book, and whenever one of my friends is searching for a good book to read, this is always one of the first ones that I recommend.
I give this book 4 pilotless planes out of 5.

Sunday, 8 January 2012


Dan Santat. Arthur A. Levine Books. (July 1 2011). 224 pages

Thank you, Dan Santat, for Sidekicks.  It was such a fun read, a graphic novel with strong comic book leanings.  Sidekicks has great comic book features including sounds in all caps - CRUNCH! CRASH! POW!  Even better, it has evil villains with maniacal laughs –HAHAHAHAHA!

I loved the amazing illustrations and all the comic aspects of this book, but the story is equally compelling. Naturally, there is the requisite conflict between good and evil, but there is also conflict within Captain Amazing’s own family. 

Our hero Captain Amazing has been undone by his weakness – a peanut allergy. While he is recuperating and auditioning for a new sidekick, his pets, Shifty, Fluffy and Roscoe , shift into action to try and develop their own superpowers. Along the way, they learn teamwork and perseverance. They learn that brains can be better than brawn, and most importantly, they learn forgiveness.

Santat’s charming drawings will appeal to a younger comic audience and will be perfect for my middle grade readers.  I am predicting that this will be a very popular read in my classroom, or should I say, “ WOW! GAH! AAAHHMAZING!"

Saturday, 31 December 2011

The Chronicles of Harris Burdick

The Chronicles of Harris Burdick
Chris Van Allsburg. Published by Thomas Allen. (October 25, 2011) 208 p.

Every year, in our House At Book Corner, we each get a brand new Christmas book. This year, my book was The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, a response to Van Allsburg's earlier work, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.  I have wandered through the pages of The Mysteries of Harris Burdick for so many years, that although I was very excited to read my new book, I was also a little scared.
Over 25 years ago, Chris Van Allsburg wrote The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, a beautifully illustrated book that had 14 pictures with mysterious captions. In The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, 14 powerful authors wrote responses to these pictures and captions. Here they are in alphabetical order: Sherman Alexie, M.T. Anderson, Kate DiCamillo, Cory Doctorow, Jules Feiffer, Stephen King, Tabitha King, Lois Lowry, Gregory Maguire, Walter Dean Myers, Linda Sue Park, Louis Sachar, Jon Scieszka, Lemony Snicket, and Chris Van Allsburg. Without knowing anything about this book, doesn't this list of authors make you want to read it right away? Their distinctive personalities draw you into the book as you watch this trailer.

These authors clearly have a sense of fun in their approach to writing, and the trailer does much to lend to the air of mystery around the book. I began to wonder about their collaboration on this project. At which point did the authors begin to discuss the stories? I wonder if they had whispered discussions before they began to write, or did they deliberately not talk about the stories together until publication? 

There are 14 wondrous stories, and I will share a little bit from one. In Mr. Linden's Library, Mr. Walter Dean Myers has written a short story about the all consuming power of a book. As a reader, I know that I have had this experience many times. Sometimes the call of a book overwhelms my brain's logic circuits, and food, family and sleep are abandoned. This line, whispered by a young girl named Carol, evokes the struggle within us as readers, a struggle that many #nerdybookclub fans share. "Don't open the book again," she pleaded with herself. "Please."

It turns out I didn't need to worry about Harris Burdick; the magic remains intact for me. This ensemble cast of authors take the promise of the original book and carried it further. In fact, The Chronicles of Harris Burdick has just opened up a world of new possibilities, a world which you can visit if you dare. Can you hear Carol whisper?