You Call That Art?! Learn about Modern Sculpture and Make Your Own

Written by David A. Carter and James Diaz

More than one hundred years since the inception of modern art, there is still little general understanding about the discipline – what it is, what it does. In a new hands-on approach, the authors start to clear up the mystery for many readers. A brief background and history of all sculpture is followed by one- to two-page biographies of several of the giants of modern sculpture. The detailed photographs are great illustrations of the work talk about each artist. The authors are state the contributions each artist made to the art world in general and the current locations of some of their work.

Third graders and up will love the hands-on approach and creating the sculptures with their own little touches. The well-researched background provides a wealth of reference material useful to much older children. There is a lot to contribute to the readers’ comprehension of the text and of the art.

Through a review by a budding artist, we learned “the history section is fantastic. The authors have done a masterful job of providing enough information to whet kids’ appetite for learning about the history of sculpture” without overwhelming or boring young readers. Our artist “enjoyed the photographs of the different artists’ work and the ‘Did You Know’ blurbs that provided interesting tidbits about the artists.” She did wonder why there were only two female artists and why the biography spent so much time on how one dressed. She wanted to know more about Louise Nevelson’s artistic contributions. Regarding the materials for making sculptures, our artist “absolutely loved putting together the sculptures.” She proudly displayed them in her room. “Each piece took a while to put together, but the instructions and diagrams are clear and descriptive. She was able to complete the sculptures without any help.” The biggest problem was identification of individual sculpture parts after they were punched out of the cardboard. The pieces should probably be marked in some way.

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  • You Call That ArtTitle: You Call That Art?! Learn about Modern Sculpture and Make Your Own
  • Authors: David A. Carter and James Diaz
  • Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Novelty, 48 paperback pages plus art materials
  • Genre: Art, history
  • ISBN: 978-1-4197-1307-1
  • Extras: Art materials and instructions for possible use, three-page glossary, list of additional artists to check out, source notes, bibliography, websites for museums mentioned, index

Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914

Written and illustrated by John Hendrix

Why can’t peace break out spontaneously? Well, apparently, it can. One hundred years ago, during the early days of World War I, soldiers along the trenches in Europe decided to celebrate Christmas with their own special brand of good will toward men – men on the other side of the conflict. By means of a fictional letter from a British soldier, the reader learns of the conditions endured by the men on both sides. Rain, for example, meant three-foot-deep mud that seeped into everything. On Christmas Eve, the British soldiers started hearing singing. Poking their heads up, they could see lighted Christmas trees along the German trenches. Many soldiers crossed into No Man’s Land to shake hands and exchange trinkets with men from the other side. When Christmas was over, the war resumed, but the men were reluctant to shoot at their new friends. Man shot at the stars instead.

The truce really happened. The troops were severely reprimanded for fraternizing with the enemy. And another year of heavy fighting meant that the spontaneity did not carry over to the next year. But third grade readers and above can learn a lot about history, the conditions of war, and international relations from the text. Core concepts are strengthened by this fictionalized account. The realistic and beautiful illustrations enhance the story.

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  • Shooting at the StarsTitle: Shooting at the Stars: The Christmas Truce of 1914
  • Author/Illustrator: John Hendrix
  • Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-4424-9447-3
  • Genre: Historical fiction, social studies 
  • Grade level: 3 to 7
  • Extras: author’s note, glossary, index, bibliography

 

Charlie Bumpers vs. The Squeaking Skull

Written by Bill Harley
Illustrated by Adam Gustavson

Charlie Bumpers is a typical fourth grader who is afraid of scary movies, but certainly doesn’t want any of his friends to know it. His brother tries to help prepare him for a Halloween sleep over by telling him a scary story every night before bed. Each night the “practice story” becomes a little scarier.

Of course, Charlie had another purpose for wanting to go to this particular sleep over on Halloween night, too. It was so he didn’t have to take his little sister out trick or treating! Lots of young readers will relate to that problem.

So, he gets to the sleep over and goes trick or treating in a new neighborhood with really big houses and rich people. They all expect to get lots of extra candy at such big houses, but instead find themselves getting only one piece at each house. And the houses are so far apart they only get enough candy to fill the bottom of the bag.

While the story is somewhat predictable to adults, it will provide fresh excitement for the grade three readers and even the strong grade two readers. Bill Harley is able to capture the realistic voice of the fourth graders as well as of their parents. The black and white sketches by Adam Gustavson also help get the reader into the story. The pacing and vocabulary is spot on for developing independent readers. They will have great fun getting to know these characters and will enjoy reading more stories in this series.

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  • Charlie Bumpers Squeaking SkullTitle: Charlie Bumpers vs. the Squeaking Skull
  • Author: Bill Harley
  • Illustrator: Adam Gustavson
  • Publisher: Peachtree, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 164 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1056145-808-0
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Lexile: 490L
  • Extras: Blurbs about other books in the series

Mr. Ferris and His Wheel

Written by Kathryn Gibbs Davis
Illustrated by Gilbert Ford
America was preparing for the Chicago World’s Fair for 1893, and anxious to surpass France’s Eiffel Tower. But what could possibly do that? A contest was announced and engineers began sketching all manner of tower’s and novelties.
George Ferris won the contest with his idea of a giant wheel that people would ride in closed rooms furnished with velvet chairs. While the contest sponsors liked his magnificent idea, they never thought it would work. In fact, they refused to help finance the project. They seemed to sit on the sidelines watching for it to fail. However, at the conclusion of the fair, they were so amazed by its overwhelming success, they decided to name the magnificence wheel after its creator.

Kathryn Gibbs Davis has written a fascinating account of this episode in American history, including quotes and facts. The illustrations by Gilbert Ford are realistic and magical at the same time capturing the environment that was the 1893 World’s Fair. The illustration of the fair at night is especially meaningful when readers learn that this introduction of electric lights at night gave L. Frank Baum his idea for the Emerald City in his Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Grade three readers, as well as those younger and older, will be interested in the first Ferris Wheel and amazed by its size.

Core curriculum standards of American history, science, geography, and literacy skills will be met by use of this book. It is an excellent example of combining a narrative with factual paragraphs. This book is an excellent addition to every nonfiction library.

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  • Mr. FerrisTitle: Mr. Ferris and His Wheel
  • Author: Kathryn Gibbs Davis
  • Illustrator: Gilbert Ford
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-547-95922-1
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Grade level: K-3
  • Extras: Endpapers include a Selected Bibliography, Quote Sources and related websites.

Happy Birthday, Madame Chapeau

Written by Andrea Beaty
Illustrated by David Roberts

 

Madame Chapeau spends her days creating exquisite hats for her customers, but spends nights at home alone. Only on her birthday does she allow herself to go out for a special dinner. She dons a fancy dress and her favorite bonnet and walks the streets of Paris to the best restaurant in town (the tongue-in-cheek named Chez Snooty-Patoot).

 

On the way, a crow snatches her beloved hat off her head. As she runs after the bird, a variety of people, including a baker, policeman, and cowboy, offer up their hats. She cannot accept their kind offerings, because she knows the hats are not a perfect fit. She arrives at the restaurant feeling blue when a little girl approaches. The girl gives the lonely hatmaker a present – a fuzzy cap made from yarn. Even though it’s silly looking, it lifts Madame Chapeau’s spirits. A hat made for her with such love and care is cause enough to celebrate. She invites everyone to join her for cake and never dines alone again.

 

Educators and parents will have a ton of fun reading this aloud to young elementary school children. Beaty’s text rhythmically rolls off the tongue and bounces along in time.

Like the lady herself, all her hats were refined –
Brilliantly singular; one of a kind!
Each feather, each bauble, each bead, and each bow –
Painstakingly chosen by Madame Chapeau.

Third grade readers will love Robert’s illustrations, a feast for the eyes, as he pays homage to fashion editor Isabella Blow and milliners Philip Treacy, Stephen Jones, and Elsa Schiaparelli, among others. Fashionistas, big and small, will enjoy spotting some of the famous hat designs sprinkled throughout the book, such as Charlie Chaplin’s derby, Marcel Marceau’s crumpled top hat, and the unique hat worn by Princess Beatrice to the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

 

Visit the author’s website (http://www.andreabeaty.com/happy-birthday-madame-chapeau.html) for fun links on hat making.

 

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  • Happy Birthday Madame ChapeauTitle: Happy Birthday Madame Chapeau
  • Author: Andrea Beaty
  • Illustrator: David Roberts
  • Publisher: Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-4197-1219-7
  • Genre: Picture Book / Fiction

Four Famous Faces

Written by Jean L.S. Patrick
Illustrated by Renee Graef

Four beautiful Native American animals are pictured on the cover as a group of friends off on a hike. The story begins as a prairie dog pup sets off to find the “four famous faces” that all the tourists traveling past in their cars and campers are going to see. For so much traffic, they must be very important faces.

Young readers will giggle as the prairie pup asks first bison, elk, then bats and finally mountain goats if they are the four famous faces before finally reaching the welcome center to the real famous faces of Mount Rushmore. Along the journey, third grade readers will visit several fantastic National and State parks. At the back of the book, an in-depth section is presented for each of the parks as well as for each of the animals. This makes the book of particular value for teachers and librarians. The information section will fulfill the core curriculum and literacy skills of any school system.

The readers will be able to distinguish easily between the fiction and non-fiction sections of the books and can use this as an example when they are doing their own classroom writing. It is a great addition to the study of geography as well as a neat travel guide for families preparing to take their vacation in this region of our country. Otherwise, it would be a great reminder of a trip taken a couple of years ago. The story ends on a very satisfying note, as does every trip away from home.

Extras: Several non-fiction pages in the back of the book that each focus on a particular park: Devil’s Tower National Monument, Mount Rushmore National Park, Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave National Park, Badlands National Park, and Custer State Park. Each of these pages also include a non-fiction fact box about each of the animals who starred in the picture book story at the beginning of the book. (bison, prairie dog, elk, and big-eared bat)

A lengthy list of books for further reading and web sites.

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  • Four Famous FacesTitle: Four Famous Faces
  • Author: Jean L.S. Patrick
  • Illustrator: Renee Graef
  • Publisher: Stories in Stone, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-9798823-8-8
  • Genre: Fiction

The Fourteenth Goldfish

Written by Jennifer L. Holm

What if your grandfather found the Fountain of Youth and ended up a teenager barely older than you? Would you let him go to your middle school despite his two PhD’s? These questions and more are answered in Holm’s delightful new book.

Eleven-year-old Ellie comes home one day to find her mother with a thirteen-year-old boy in tow. Turns out the boy is Ellie’s grandfather, Melvin, who tested his anti-aging potion on himself. Ellie has to help him complete his research and adjust to middle school. When the potion works, Melvin is kicked out of his own lab by an enthusiastic guard. Denied access to his research, Melvin enlists Ellie’s help plus the help of Ellie’s friend. Absurd details such as Melvin wearing “old man” clothes, or whatever is clean, and using Ellie’s hair bands on his pony tail give the book kid-appeal. Ellie’s mom and grandfather experience a sort of incomplete role reversal, where she grounds him and he tells her to be in by a certain hour.

Although this book is pure fiction, the author manages to sneak in many scientific and historic facts and philosophical questions. Who was Robert Oppenheimer? Are scientific advancements inherently good or do they often carry elements of good and evil? What is the responsibility of the scientist to recognize those elements? Isn’t it important to maintain the circle of life? Third graders and above will enjoy the outrageous ideas in this story and gain literacy skills. Reading activities include research of the many topics introduced and discussion of other topics that might be explored.

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  • Fourteenth GoldfishTitle: The Fourteenth Goldfish
  • Author: Jennifer L. Holm
  • Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 208 pages
  • Genre: Fiction, fantasy
  • ISBN: 978-0-375-87064-4
  • Grade level: 3 to 6

Words with Wings

Written by Nikki Grimes

This uplifting novel in verse focuses on a girl who loves to daydream. One word can carry her away to a memory or a place. Nikki Grimes does a wonderful job of illustrating how this is a child who does care deeply about her surroundings, lessons and chores, but also needs the release of daydreaming.

It is also a story with hints of divorce, missing the past, but accepting the present. The light touch makes it realistic without becoming dark or overbearing.

The seeming simplicity of the poetry makes the story approachable for readers, but was undoubtedly difficult to construct. Third grade readers and sixth grade readers alike will slide into this story and recognize themselves and other classmates.

What a wonderful teacher Nikki Grimes has put in her book. He is a real teacher from her past that was important in supporting her writing. Instead of daydreaming being forbidden in his classroom, Mr. Spicer recognizes its importance to the children and appoints it a special time. While this can’t and won’t happen in every classroom, it might be an idea that children will adopt on their own.

Literacy skills abound in this book as it emphases how just one word has the ability to transform and transport a person. The poetic form of free verse is part of the core curriculum and can be met through this book. As well as writing standards by having students study any one poem, or group of poems before writing poetry of their own.

 

  • Words with WingsTitle: Words with Wings
  • Author: Nikki Grimes
  • Publisher: Wordsong
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 83 pages
  • ISBN:  978-1-59078-985-8
  • Genre: Fiction, Novel in verse
  • Grade Level: 3 and above

 

Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature

Written by Sarah C. Campbell

Patterns exist in the natural world, not easily divided into categories like circle, triangle or square. What are we do make of them? Things like branches in trees or bolts of lightning?

A mathematician named Benoit Mandelbrot noticed similar patterns in natural shapes. The kinds of shapes that make the fronds on a fern also continue to make the whole fern. The same can be said about the development of broccoli or branches on a tree.

The beautiful photographs in this book as well as the simple, yet clear diagrams make it easy to see the patterns described.

The afterword about Mandelbrot also tells readers that fractals are how the wiring of the Internet works and would be necessary to make something like Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak to work.

This beautiful book is a fantastic way to interest readers in mathematics, science and the natural world. Third grade readers will be able to read it on their own. Teachers and librarians will find it useful in fulfilling the core curriculum standards as well spring-boarding a student’s interest far and beyond anything they considered up to this point. Art teachers can use this volume to entice students to think about using fractals in their artistic endeavors. What a wonderful book this will be in every school library!

 

  • Mysterious PatternsTitle: Mysterious Patterns: Finding Fractals in Nature
  • Author: Sarah C. Campbell
  • Illustrator:  Photographs by Sarah C. Campbell and Richard P. Campbell
  • Publisher: Boyds Mills Press, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-1-62091-627-8
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Grade Level: 3 to 6
  • Extras: Step-by-step activity for making a fractal, afterword about the man who discovered fractals

Double Reverse

Written by Fred Bowen

Jesse and his brother, Jay, are both freshmen – Jesse in high school and Jay in college. Jesse is looking forward to being a wide receiver on the JV squad. Jay, star quarterback in high school, assumes he’ll be quarterback at Dartmouth too. The brothers spend the summer running football patterns. When practice starts, their dreams are quickly changed by reality. Jesse is a better quarterback than anyone else on the team, though he’s a bit small for the position. Jay is just an okay quarterback compared to his teammates. Jesse’s best friends also find hidden talents as the football season progresses. Without a decent kicker, the team flounders until the boys decide the best kicker they know is a girl named Savannah, who also joins the team. Both Jesse and Jay have found their niche, but not without some soul searching.

Third graders just learning about team sports will love the exciting games Bowen describes. The author presents great examples of real football plays. The reader doesn’t have to understand every play in order to enjoy the story, though studying the plays will increase comprehension and literacy skills. Reading activities include practicing the plays presented. This story of realizing one’s potential should speak to everyone. A Junior Library Guild Selection, it is fast-paced and thrilling.

 

  • Double ReverseTitle: Double Reverse
  • Author: Fred Bowen
  • Publisher: Peachtree Publishers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 125 pages
  • Genre: Sports
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-814-1
  • Extras: “The Real Story,” where the author discusses accomplished athletes who went beyond their apparent talents.
  • Release date: August 2014
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