Archive for July 18, 2014

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