Boys Dancing: From School Gym to Theater Stage

Written by George Ancona

 Boys dancing? You bet! This title will invite more diversity to the theater stage and give boys permission to carry around a book about dance.

Constant movement comes naturally to the four boys introduced at the beginning of the book while they are out at recess. From the playground to the gym, this large collection of full-color photographs follows children from several schools as they learn dance moves from a traveling dance teacher. Later in the school year, and in the book, the children are brought together to prepare for a dance recital.

Each dance is tied to a favorite book. It is a fun look at what can be done in a school or community to introduce students to dance, music and well-loved books.   

Teachers, librarians and parents can use this book to introduce boys to the idea of dancing and bring such an activity to their own schools. As a read aloud, teachers could ask students what stories they would like to see added to such a presentation. Art teachers as well as classroom teachers can use the discussions about costumes to plan a character’s day dress up and play some music to get the class members all dancing.

Buy on Amazon

  • Title:  Boys Dancing: From School Gym to Theater Stage
  • Author:  George Ancona
  • Illustrator:  Photographs by George Ancona
  • Publisher:  Candlewick, 2017
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format:  Hardcover, 48 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-7636-8202-6
  • Genre: Picture Book
  • Grade level: K to 3

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets

Written by Kwame Alexander, et al.
Illustrated by Ekua Holmes

Poems are as individual as the people who write them, but great poets do tend to develop a recognizable style. To help the reader learn about some of the world’s best poets, Alexander, along with Chris Codlerley and Marjorie Wentworth, write a series of poems celebrating those styles. Each poem tells a portion of the poet’s own story.

They begin with “How to Write a Poem: celebrating Naomi Shihab Nye”

Hush

Grab a pencil

some paper

spunk.

and end with “Majestic: celebrating Maya Angelou.”

Shine on, honey!

Know you

are phenomenal.

In between are “Snapshots: celebrating Nikki Giovanni”

poetry is … barbecue … cotton candy … purple skin beets from Daddy’s garden …

and “(Loving) The World and Everything in It: celebrating Mary Oliver.”

I love to stand beside

the old oak trees

beneath a symphony

of birdsong and listen

to every perfect note

 

Incredibly beautiful collages illustrate the feel of each poem perfectly.  From the basketball scene for Walter Dean Myers to the forest for Pablo Neruda.

This is a must have for any classroom studying poetry. Kids will want to read the original poets and try their hands at adapting the styles to their own writing.
Buy on Amazon
 

  • Out of WonderTitle: Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets       
  • Author: Kwame Alexander, et al.
  • Illustrator: Ekua Holmes
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 56 pages
  • Grade Level: 3 to 7
  • Genre: Poetry
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-8094-7
  • Extras: About the Poets Being Celebrated — Short biographical information on each poet highlighted and era during which each lived or lives

Flowers for Sarajevo

Written by John McCutcheon
Illustrated by Kristy Caldwell

Children the world over, every single day are experiencing the destruction of their cities and lives by war. How can that be explained to the other children without causing unnecessary nightmares? Is there any possibility of teaching a positive response? Something capable of making a statement as well as offering survival?

Flowers for Sarajevo is close to a perfect beginning.  This beautiful, softly illustrated picture book relates a story based on the real bombing of one of the last bakeries in Sarajevo on May 27, 1992.  The mortar hit at ten o’clock in the morning killing twenty-two people just standing in line to buy bread. But a most amazing thing happened the next morning at ten. A door across the block opened, a man wearing a tuxedo carried a chair and a cello over to the crater. He sat, played a moving concerto, folded his chair, and walked away. Then did the same for each of the next twenty-one days.

Added to the true story is one of a flower seller and his son, allowing the story to be told from the viewpoint of a child. The child’s response is to pray for each of the broken families. He also leaves his unsold flowers at day’s end at the door of the broken bakery and the orchestra door. The story leaves many unanswered questions, does his father return? Does the bakery rebuild? But true to life, the questions remain unanswered. What the children will see is how the people support one another, how they all respond to questions without answers.

Inserted inside the back cover is a CD with an original folk song by the author about the event, as well as a beautiful rendition of the concerto played by the cello. Teachers, librarians and parents will appreciate the depth of the author’s notes concerning the actual event, the biography side bar about the cellist, Vedran Smailovic, and the description of the, ”Region of War” complete with maps and suggestions for further reading.

Even though this book is listed as a pre-school through grade three read, it is a book capable of being used to meet curriculum requirements in geography, social studies, language arts and current events in grades through middle school. Picture books can be used successfully far beyond elementary school.

Librarians, teachers and parents, as well as guidance counselors can use this as a book club discussion book for talking about how people can respond to events. What helps us survive as people? How should we respond to trouble with respect and compassion for the people around us? Flowers and music are a powerful beginning.

Buy on Amazon

  • Flowers for SarajaevoTitle:  Flowers for Sarajevo
  • Author:  John McCutcheon
  • Illustrator:  Kristy Caldwell
  • Publisher:  Peachtree, 2017
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format:  Hardcover, 32 pages
  • ISBN:  978-1-56145-943-8
  • Genre:  Picture Book
  • Grade level: PreK to 3)
  • Extras: Detailed Author Note/ Background History and Geography of Sarajevo/ CD with original music as well as cello music mentioned in the book/ Related Reading List/Educator Suggestions

Patrick and the President

Written by Ryan Tubridy
Illustrated by P.J. Lynch

Sometimes, the most memorable moment of your life comes early in your life.

In 1963, President John Kennedy visited his ancestral homeland, Ireland. This is the story of Patrick, one of the children who lived in the village where the president’s family originated.

The president was very famous and very popular in Ireland, so all the residents were excited and happy. Patrick participated in the children’s choir that greeted the president at the airport with “The Boys of Wexford” and two other tunes. “We are the boys of Wexford, who fought with heart and hand, …” Later in the day, Patrick helped serve the president his lunch at Mary Ryan’s home. It was in serving the cake that Patrick had a real opportunity to speak to the president. It was a day no one would soon forget. The author does a wonderful job of bringing out all the emotion of the day and describing every aspect of the entourage.

The realistic illustrations are almost like faded photographs, making the historic event come alive.

Kids will learn about the president, about Ireland, and about what it might be like to meet an idol. The historical note at the end provides more information on the event.

Buy on Amazon

  • Patrick and the PresidentTitle: Patrick and the President         
  • Author: Ryan Tubridy
  • Illustrator: P.J. Lynch
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2017
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: 1 to 4
  • Genre: Historic fiction, Heritage
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-8949-0

The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked & Found

Written by Martin W. Sandler

Pirates, plunder, shipwrecks and discovered riches all arrive in one accessible and engaging story. First, Sandler lets the reader know what it was really like to be a pirate. Keeping an oath and getting marooned on an island were realities one lived with every day. As well as with the dangers of living on the open sea.

Extensive primary research went into the writing of this book that also looks at the economic tragedies brought about by piracy at the time and the extreme danger faced by any ship at sea with a cargo. Pirates were always hunting new prey.

But sometimes they got caught, by storms at sea and/or authorities on the land. Students can read about the real trial of these pirates, as well as their execution.

Also included are informative inserts of two or three- page length. One such insert relays the beginnings of the rescue missions of the United States Coast Guard.

Teachers and librarians can use this as an example of primary research as well as geography as it all takes place along the coast of Cape Code. Fourth grade readers as well as fifth grade readers will be excited to read about the discovery of the sunken treasures of the, Whydah, so many decades after it sunk. It may also intrigue them to imagine how many thousands of dollars of gold doubloons still sit on the bottom of the sea waiting to be found.

Several authentic photos of the recovery efforts are included and add a sense of reality to the notion of piracy so often relegated only to fictional stories.

Highly recommended for elementary, middle school, and public libraries.

Buy on Amazon

  • The WhydahTitle:  The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked & Found
  • Author:  Martin W. Sandler
  • Publisher:  Candlewick Press, 2017
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format:  Hardcover, 176 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-7636-8033-6
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Grade level: 4 to 8
  • Extras: Photography Credits, Source Material, Bibliography, Index

The Harlem Charade

Written by Natasha Tarpley

Harlem is a community of many neighborhoods flavored by deeply ingrained history and worldwide cultures. But this story is as universal as hope, friendship and loyalty. Three kids get involved in solving the mysteries of an attacked grandfather and some missing paintings.

Good guys and bad guys are sometimes hard to distinguish, but friendship and the patient unraveling of clues are reminiscent of Balliet’s, ChasingVermeer. Amid school projects, secrets kept from parents and everyday chores at the bodega, Jin and Alex, two most unlikely friends, protect homeless Elvin from the streets as well as the authorities. Urban development versus protecting the community is a major theme. Teachers, librarians and parents may want to discuss issues of social justice, while readers will be in a hurry to find those missing paintings from those long talked about sixties.

Monetary worth is paled in comparison to the history protected in the paintings as Jin and Alex realize sometimes it takes an object to prove history did happen the way the story says it did. Tarpley’s book is very well done and recommended for all collections. It would be a valuable book club addition as it is a truly cross curricular look at Harlem during the explosive sixties through the eyes of artists who lived it. Many discussion groups would become engrossed in the story and it would fulfill many learning objectives.

Buy on Amazon

  • Harlem Charade.jpgTitle:  The Harlem Charade
  • Author:  Natasha Tarpley
  • Publisher:  Scholastic Press, 2017
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format:  Hardcover, 320 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-545-78387-3
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Grade Level: 3 to 7
  • Extras: Notes on actual locations mentioned in the book.

Harry Miller’s Run

Written by David Almond
Illustrated by Salvatore Rubbino

What was it like to be in the first Great North Run? Liam, eleven years old, doesn’t know, but he’s excited to train for his first participation in the Run. The older kids run all the way from Newcastle to South Shields, thirteen miles. Liam is in the Junior division, running a shorter route. On the way to training, Liam and his Mam stop to care for Harry, an older gentleman. Liam is reluctant to take the time, but ends up glad they did. Harry tells him all about the first time he and his buddies ran to the sea. Harry and three friends set out on a lark and ran and ran. They stopped many times to get drinks. Once, they stopped to enlist the help of a girl who knew the way. “There’s a wolf on your tail! Run for your lovely life!” people would tell them. They knew they were done when they talked to the ice cream man on the Ocean Road. And Harry kept contact with the girl. Shortly after Liam’s visit, Harry died.

Rubbino’s illustrations are perfect for the flavor of the times and the culture of Harry and Liam. The illustrations for present day are black and white, while the time of Harry’s first run are color, as Harry’s memories are so vivid.

Though the story is about a specific event, it points out the importance of oral history and learning about traditions from our elders. Liam found that Harry had a lot to teach him. The dialectic dialogue is occasionally difficult to decipher, so younger or reluctant readers may need a little help with comprehension. But this story is well worth the effort.

Buy on Amazon

  • Harry Millers RunTitle: Harry Miller’s Run        
  • Author: David Almond
  • Illustrator: Salvatore Rubbino
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 64 pages
  • Grade Level: 2 to 4
  • Genre: Early Reader, Oral history, Tradition
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-8975-9

Muffy’s Florida Adventure

Written and Illustrated by Devra Robitaille

Muffy returns with a trip to Florida. How does a family with six dogs take a vacation? In an RV dubbed the Great Escape. With a touch of magic so the reader can hear what all the animals are thinking, Robitaille creates a cute and cuddly tale that any kid will love.

On the first day of the journey, Muffy gets loose and nearly gets left at a rest stop. The gang stops at Myrtle Beach. Several of the dogs had never seen the ocean and frankly didn’t believe such a thing existed. Arrival at Sarasota Bay reveals a wonderful place to rest and play with cousins. The resident dog there is a huge help on the flat bottom tour boat his owner runs. During a day out on the boat, the dogs encounter manatees and spoonbills – another thing the dogs didn’t really believe in. When they meet a family of dolphins, they wind up helping save the youngster who gets cocky and is separated from his mother.

Younger children would enjoy having the story read aloud. Third graders and up can enjoy it independently. It’s great for learning about some creatures and the environment plus the importance of helping others.
Buy on Amazon

Muffys Florida Adventure

  • Title: Muffy’s Florida Adventure        
  • Author/Illustrator: Devra Robitaille
  • Published: The Hologram Library, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: E-book, 67 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Chapter book, Animals, Family, Travel
  • ASIN: B01LYWDYMR

Muffy & the Dog Catcher

Written and Illustrated by Devra Robitaille

The first book in the “Muffy” series introduces a number of captivating characters. Muffy is just a puppy and the smallest of the litter on the farm. She often gets left behind. To amuse herself, she plays a sort of hopping game with a grasshopper and leads herself way beyond the parameters of her farm. Familiar with the concept of a road, she finds one and follows it. Eventually, she comes on a house with a number of dogs and very welcoming humans. She makes herself at home, but misses her farm and her sister. Through one of the other dogs, she meets a dog catcher who can talk to the animals.

This would be fun as a read aloud for younger kids. The characters are compelling and kids can help figure out how Muffy will find her true home. The illustrations of Muffy are beautiful and soothing enough for bedtime. For independent reading, the language and voice are a bit challenging so should be left to somewhat older kids.

Kids will love the characters and will identify with Muffy’s struggles to fit in. They will enjoy getting into the minds of the dogs, as the dog catcher does.

Order on Amazon

  • Title: Muffy & the Dog Catcher         
  • Author/Illustrator: Devra Robitaille
  • Published: The Hologram Library, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: E-book, 49 pages
  • Grade Level: PreK to 3
  • Genre: Chapter book, Animals, Family
  • ASIN: B01IUFLQJA

 

 

Smashie McPerter and the Mystery of the Missing Goop

Written by N. Griffin
Illustrated by Kate Hindley

This entertaining mystery teaches a little about math, music, code breaking, and music. Kids will love solving the mystery along with the characters.

Smashie and Dontel’s third grade class return to prepare for a musicale with the other third grade class. To spice up the show, they decide to sculpt everyone’s hair using a magical gel invented by Charlene’s mother. The hair goop (aka Herr Goop) allows Charlene and her mother to sculpt hair into any shape. Every time a new jar of Herr Goop shows up, it immediately disappears. Since the ingredients are expensive and the musicale is coming up soon, it’s important that the jars are found. Smashie and Dontel keep a notebook of clues, motives, and suspects to try to figure everything out. They notice a code written on the jars. After decoding, they follow the clues all the way to the musicale itself.

The characters are lovable, the musical and dance numbers are engaging, and the intrigue is intense. Reading activities could include everything from 60s music to code breaking to baking brownies.
Buy on Amazon
smashie2

  • Title: Smashie McPerter and the Mystery of the Missing Goop       
  • Author: N. Griffin
  • Illustrator: Kate Hindley
  • Published: Candlewick Press, 2016
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 304 pages
  • Grade Level: 2 to 5
  • Genre: Chapter book, Codes
  • ISBN: 978-0-7636-8535-5
« Older Entries Recent Entries »