Archive for 2012

The Extraordinary Music of Mr. Ives

Written and Illustrated by Joanne Stanbridge

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Extraordinary Music of Mr. Ives, written and illustrated by the talented Joanne Stanbridge, is aimed at readers at the third grade reading level and up. It is also the true story of an American composer who did not become famous for his work until well after he passed away. And, although his music was not understood in his day, Stanbridge shows us that it did not stop Mr. Ives from composing music that was often inspired by the hustle and bustle of New York City sounds such as: train whistles, traffic jams, honking cars, and noisy vendors selling their wares.

The piece that put Mr. Ives on the map of musical composers originates with a slice of 1915 American history when an enemy torpedo sunk the ocean liner, the Lusitania. The tragedy silenced Americans and hushed the sounds of New York City life, as well as the music that lived inside Mr. Ives.

Eventually New Yorkers in Hanover Square North began to express their feelings by singing an old tune, “In the street bye and bye, we shall meet on that beautiful shore.” These words stirred Ives to compose. He rushed home and spent the entire evening trying to capture the mood of that moment. He took their song, wove in city street sounds, and named his new piece From Hanover Square North, at the end of a Tragic Day, the Voice of the People Again Arose.

More than fifty years later, and thirteen years after Mr. Ives’ death, From Hanover Square North was performed and became a huge success. At long last, people began to understand Ives’ music and to listen to it. The biggest compliment to his work comes from other admiring musicians. They mimicked Ives’ boldness in their own compositions. Stanbridge dedicates a page of illustrations and text to three of Ives’ fans: Elliott Cook Carter’s Pocahontas, Aaron Copland’s The Tender Land, and John Adams’ On the Transmigration of Souls.

The Extraordinary Music of Mr. Ives is a nonfiction picture book that would be appropriate for third grade readers and up. It is also an ideal book to add to all school libraries and classrooms for discussions about events like 9/11. Stanbridge’s picture book is a compelling look at how people came together to mourn and offers a positive response to healing.

  • Mr. IvesTitle: The Extraordinary Music of Mr. Ives
  • Author and Illustrator: Joanne Stanbridge
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Reviewer: Annemarie O’Brien
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-547-23866-1
  • Genre: Nonfiction, biography, music, picture book
  • Lexile Score: 790

The Adventures of Jo Schmo and Dinos Are Forever

Written by Greg Trine
Illustrated by Frank W. Dormer

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The Adventures of Jo Schmo and Dinos Are Forever is a fun, exciting, and engaging chapter book for 3rd grade level readers. It has an interesting character that will grab the reader, even a reluctant one, from the very first page because the action and adventure begin right from the start.

Third grade level readers will master the reading alone and advanced third graders may also find success with the assistance of wonderful graphic illustrations throughout to emphasize the scenes. The book is a great classroom book to read together because it offers the teacher an opportunity to encourage discussion and imagination with each student. A great additional activity would be to encourage students to write their own adventure chapter book with illustrations making this an extra opportunity to teach reading and writing.
The Adventures of Jo Schmo- Dinos Are Forever introduces the reader to fantasy and learning what is true and real and what is not, offering another great opportunity for teachers to instruct about fiction and nonfiction.

The story is a great example of a fantasy graphic chapter book for the third grader. Following Jo Schmo as she becomes a detective and tries to solve crimes in her city, and as she becomes a superhero saving lives and solving mysteries, will keep both boys and girls at this reading level engaged and turning the page. The illustrations serve to aid in reading comprehension making this a win- win for both students and teachers when added to the classroom selection.

As budgets get cut, it can be difficult to decide what books to include for third and fourth grade level readers but The Adventures of Jo Schmo would be one to include. It is both engaging and interesting and just plain fun for this reading level. Kudos to Greg Trine for writing a book that kids will love to read.

  • Dinos Are ForeverTitle: The Adventures of Jo Schmo- Dinos Are Forever
  • Author: Greg Trine
  • Illustrator: Frank W. Dormer
  • Publisher: Harcourt Children’s Books
  • Hardcover: 105 pages
  • Reviewer: Terri Forehand
  • Lexile: 580

Just Grace and the Double Surprise

Written and Illustrated by Charise Mericle Harper

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Just Grace and the Double Surprise is a joy to read for the third grade reader. It has many illustrations and the paragraphs are broken up on the page so the third grade reader will not get bored reading about the fun that Grace and her friend Mimi experience.
The best part of the book and throughout the story is that Grace and her friend Mimi talk about real feelings and emotions that third grade students feel. The author does a wonderful job of making the story real. She clearly gives descriptions of words that are new to the third grade reader, words like empathy and the difference between a surprise and a mystery. The text is written at the third grade level of comprehension yet would be enjoyed by those students a grade older who were at this reading level. » Read more

Discover Persian Cats

Written by Trudy Micco

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Discover Persian Cats by Trudy Micco is a fun and informative early reader book for third grade reading level and up aimed at readers interested in learning how to care for a Persian cat and/or determining whether a Persian cat is a right family fit. It is also the kind of book I wish had existed when I was a kid trying to figure out what kind of cat to welcome into our family.
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Twelve Kinds of Ice

Written by Ellen Bryan Obed
Illustrated by Barbara McClintock

  •  A Junior Library Guild Selection
  •  A Winter 2012-13 Kids’ Indie Next List Pick
  • Kirkus Best Children’s Books of 2012
  • Booklist’s Editors’ Choice list for 2012
  • NYPL 100 Titles for Reading & Sharing, 2012

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Written in a lyrical, almost poetic style, Obed’s memories evoke a longing for the simple hopes of a quieter age. Back in the days before the first question asked was not about what liability insurance a family has, families could still afford to be the centers for activities such as ice skating. From the beginning of the book to the end, the importance of the ice is enjoyed by the entire kid-populated neighborhood. Anticipation of the first ice was like waiting for Christmas. Preparations began with that first icy film on the top of a bucket of water. Soon, the ice became an inch thick. After that, barring thaws, steady progression toward a rink in the back yard was the order of the day. The rink was so popular that schedules had to be set up and a referee, in the form of Mom, enlisted. Of course, Dad was involved in building the rink and in the actual skating. He was also the star of the neighborhood ice show. In fact, the author dedicates the book to Dad. At the end of the season, the kids say goodbye to the ice and dream of next year.

McClintock’s illustrations, charming and realistic, complete the depiction of the neighborhood project and aid in comprehension of the ideas.
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Noah Webster and His Words

Written by Jeri Chase Ferris
Illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch

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SCBWI Golden Kite award for best NF book of 2012

The second most popular book printed in English ever? Webster’s Dictionary! Jeri Chase Ferris provides a clever biography for third grade readers and tells the details of Webster’s prolific writing without being too heady or verbose. Ferris highlights the most important and interesting facts of this key American figure. Readers will immediately recognize Webster’s name from the dictionary that nearly everyone owns, but Noah Webster and His Words highlights details that most have never learned. Students will delight to learn that Webster started out as a teacher, and was driven to write books because there were no American books for his students. His search for knowledge and correct information drove him to travel and speak broadly, and he played a key role politically in the early years of the United States. Noah Webster is an American Hero!

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Desmond and the Very Mean Word

Written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams

Illustrated by A.G. Ford

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Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words truly torture the soul. Bullying can be as overt as a mean word shouted across the playground, or as subtle as exclusion from a game. The setting for Desmond and the Very Mean Word is South Africa in the mid-1900s, but it may as well be America in the twenty-first century. The themes of racism, bullying, forgiveness, and friendship are challenging and inspiring, and great points for beginning discussion in a third grade class. Any young pupil can relate to Desmond, hearing ugly things and wanting to retaliate. Through the help of Father Trevor, Desmond learns the valuable lesson that retaliation does not satisfy the soul nearly as much as forgiveness and peace.
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Infinity Ring: A Mutiny In Time

Written by James Dashner

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Oh what a swashbuckling tale of time travel, adventure and mutiny on the high seas.A smidgen of danger is thrown in: storms and volcanic eruptions, increasing crime, and earthquakes, and all of it because of the things that went wrong in the past. Time itself has gone wrong. The only way to set things right, then, is to travel to the past to correct those mistakes.

“What mistakes?”, the reader may ask. And the author tells us. This is the first book in a seven-book series and James Dashner creates the scaffolding on which this story, and all subsequent stories, will hang. He digs a deep foundation, taking us back to Aristotle’s time. Events back then took a turn they should not have when Alexander is assassinated. This leads to Aristotle seeing this as a mistake, a tear in the fabric of reality, and plans to make it right. He creates a secret society called the Hystorians, whose job is to track and document the Great Breaks through the ages, in the hope that someday time travel will enable the Hystorians to return to the past and mend the tears in the fabric.
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First Mothers

Written by Beverly Gherman

Illustrated by Julie Downing

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Who knew Andrew Jackson loved to run off and find mischief, or George W. Bush visited the principal’s office frequently, or Barack Obama’s spent many years in Jakarta with his globe-trotting mother? First Mothers offers entertaining, weird, and sad details about the lives of the United States’ 44 Presidents. It gives a unique look at the backgrounds of the presidents’ upbringing, shining light on the so-called backstage life of our nation’s Presidents. This book is much too long to read in one sitting, of course, but one can imagine a second or third grade teacher reading information about a different First Mother every few days. Beverly Gherman’s and Julie Downing’s research has paid off in dividends; First Mothers actually inspires students to do their own research to further understand our country’s leaders’ lives. Some of the facts are funny, such as Nancy Lincoln (Abraham Lincoln’s mother) used to be a wrestler in her hometown: “She wrestled many of the men in her town.” Other facts are sobering, like the First Mothers and Fathers who died when the presidents were young. This book humanizes the great leaders we tend to de-humanize with our criticism and awe.
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