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Children’s Book Corner – April 2010

Welcome to the Neighborhood-Kids Children’s Book Corner! Each month I offer one title each for five different age groups, although by no means should the books be limited to certain ages. These recommendations are based on my experience as the parent of two young bookworms, a teacher, and a voracious reader of children’s literature. Happy reading!

"Gentle Rosie" by Mary Morgan

For Baby Bookworms (Birth to 2)
Rosie series by Mary Morgan (Hyperion, 1999-2000)

Each of these books teaches a young reader the characteristics of a specific behavior in a gentle and positive way. When Rosie is gentle, she cuddles her doll and tickles a fuzzy caterpillar. When she is wild, she plays with her peas and bounces her baby brother on the bed. When taken as a whole, this series shows that one individual can have many different behaviors, and that all of them are okay.

"We Planted a Tree" by Diane Muldrow

For Preschool Power Readers (3-5)
We Planted a Tree by Diane Muldrow
(Golden Books, 2010)

A family plants a tree in the backyard of their American city home. At the same time, trees are planted by families in Africa, Europe, Japan, and elsewhere around the world. As the trees grow, they provide for the family, the community, and the Earth. As the trees grow, so do the children. This beautifully simple, rhythmically-told story weaves the importance of nature with the generations that inhabit it, and encourages readers young and old to take another look at the trees they see each day.

For School-age Scholars (6-8)
The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers (Philomel, 2010)

"The Heart and the Bottle" by Oliver Jeffers

A little girl delights in discovering the joys and mysteries of the world, both real and imaginary, with the guidance of an important male figure (likely a grandfather or father.) But when one day his chair is empty, the girl takes her heart and places it in a bottle to protect it from the hurt. The disadvantage to this, she finds, is that she is now unable to explore and enjoy her world in the same way…until she finds a reason to release her heart from its captivity. While this book would be a comfort to a young reader who has recently experienced a loss, it also reminds the older reader that there is always a good reason to open our hearts again.

For Independent Intermediates (9-12)
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo (Candlewick, 2006)

"The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane" by Kate Dicamillo

Edward is a china rabbit doll who is adored by his owner, the young Abilene. Edward, however, is far more concerned with his own appearances and is completely unfamiliar with the emotions associated with caring for another. It is when Edward accidentally falls overboard from an ocean liner into the deep sea that he begins to become attached to others – including a fisherman’s wife who dresses him like a girl, a hobo with whom he rides the rails, a sick little girl and her brother, and, finally, the family he was always meant to have. The beautiful illustrations by Bagram Ibatoulline and short chapters make this an easy read, yet it will not be easy to forget Edward and his friends.

"Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie" by Jordan Sonnenblick

For ‘Tweens and Teens (13-15)
Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick
(Scholastic, 2006)

Steven has the usual eighth-grade issues – girls, band practice, parents, school, and a 5-year-old brother who will never leave him alone. Life is going along about how it should for a 13-year-old…until the day his brother Jeffrey is diagnosed with leukemia. Now Steven has to balance his personal growth with his family’s struggle, and his desperate need for his brother to recover. Jordan Sonnenblick’s trademark mix of humor and serious subject matter started with Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie, his first book for the middle-school set, and he pulls it off brilliantly.

Editor’s Note: With Young Writers Studio heading in exciting new directions, this will be Stephanie Dethlefs’ last edition of Children’s Book Corner for We’re so grateful for all of Stephanie’s work and hope she’ll continue to share her expert knowledge as a parent and educator with us in the future!

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Children’s Book Corner – March 2010

Welcome to the Neighborhood-Kids Children’s Book Corner! Each month I offer one title each for five different age groups, although by no means should the books be limited to certain ages. These recommendations are based on my experience as the parent of two young bookworms, a teacher, and a voracious reader of children’s literature. Happy reading!

"Totty" by Paola Opal

For Baby Bookworms (Birth to 2)
Totty by Paola Opal (Simply Read Books, 2009)

A baby sea turtle hatches on a sandy beach, the last and smallest of his brothers and sisters. Watching them making their way down toward the water, he fears he won’t be able to catch up. But don’t let his size fool you; Totty is one clever little guy! The simple illustrations in this sweet book will charm little ones and keep them returning to its pages again and again.

For Preschool Power Readers (3-5)
The Crayon Box that Talked
by Shane DeRolf
(Random House, 1997)

"The Crayon Box that Talked" by Shane DeRolf

When a little girl comes across a crayon box in the store, she discovers that each crayon a little more opinionated than the next about the value of his neighbor. She brings them home and uses them one by one to draw a picture. When the crayons see the final result they realize that, despite their differences, they can create something wonderful together. The rhyming text and simple story will keep young readers engaged while they learn an important lesson about respecting diversity.

For School-age Scholars (6-8)
The Curious Garden by Peter Brown (Little, Brown, and Co., 2009)

"The Curious Garden" by Peter Brown

Liam lives in a city without gardens. One day, his exploration of the dreary town takes him to an abandoned railway, where he finds a “lonely patch of color.” Taking the wildflowers on as his project, he nurtures them and loves them and encourages them to grow free. And grow they do: into every nook and cranny of the drab urban community. The true surprise, though, is how the city dwellers react to the new splash of colorful joy outside their windows. Part magical adventure and part environmental commentary, this story is told less through its words than Brown’s remarkably beautiful and touching illustrations.

For Independent Intermediates (9-12)
The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke (Scholastic, 2001)

"The Thief Lord" by Cornelia Funke

Brothers Prosper and Bo, orphans on the run from their aunt and uncle, have been taken in by a group of street smart kids living on their own in Venice. Their charismatic leader Scipio has dubbed himself the Thief Lord, and he and his followers dabble in a series of petty crimes in the name of survival. But when a big opportunity lands in their laps, loyalties are tested, magical secrets are revealed, and Scipio’s true identity emerges. The Thief Lord is an intriguing blend of mystery, suspense, and adventure, while at the same time exploring the true meaning of family.

For ‘Tweens and Teens (13-15)
Nightjohn by Gary Paulsen (Delacorte Press, 1993)

"Nightjohn" by Gary Paulsen

What is freedom? What does one do with it? What makes you free? These are some of the many questions raised by this short but searing portrait of a slave plantation in the 1850s. Narrator Sarney, a 12-year-old slave girl on the Waller plantation, is aware that she doesn’t know much, so she takes every opportunity to learn what she can. Then Nightjohn, who once escaped to freedom, arrives in shackles at the plantation with the intention of teaching slaves to read. Sarney seizes the chance even though the price if caught is a bloody one. Author Gary Paulsen, well-known for his adventure tales (Hatchet, Mr. Tucket) has crafted in Nightjohn a historically accurate and humbling tale of what those in one of our country’s grimmest times would do, not just for survival, but to bravely reach out toward the light of freedom.

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Children’s Book Corner – February 2010

Welcome to the Neighborhood-Kids Children’s Book Corner! Each month I offer one title each for five different age groups, although by no means should the books be limited to certain ages. These recommendations are based on my experience as the parent of a bookworm, a teacher, and a voracious reader of children’s literature. Happy Reading!

"Me and You" by Geneviève Côté

For Baby Bookworms (Birth to 2)
Me and You by Geneviève Côté (Kids Can Press, 2009)

As two friends paint side by side, they begin to wonder how it would be to look like one another. The farther their imaginations take them, the sillier things get, until finally they realize that each of them likes the other just the way they are. This is a sweet book about friendship, appreciation of differences, and individuality.

"Benny and Penny in The Big No-No!" by Geoffrey Hayes

For Preschool Power Readers (3-5)
Benny and Penny in The Big No-No! by Geoffrey Hayes (RAW Junior, 2009)

This delightful tale is a Toon Book, one of a series of award-winning early-reading comic books. Benny and Penny learn that a new kid lives next door, but know that they are not supposed to go over the fence. When Benny peeks over and discovers that the new kid has stolen his pail (or so he thinks) hostility brews and misunderstandings ensue. While the message of the story is kindness and friendship, as well as following rules, the true pleasure come from introducing a new genre to your youngster.

"Math Curse" by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith

For School-age Scholars (6-8)
Math Curse
by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith
(Viking, 1995)

One day, a teacher remarks that “you can think of anything as a math problem.” The next mornings, the problems begin for the young narrator. With a combination of logical questions (“how many quarts are in a gallon?”) to whimsically nonsensical ones (“does tunafish + tunafish = fournafish?”) and plenty of delightful illustrations to accompany them, this book is sure to capture the minds of even the math-shy.

"Frindle" by Andrew Clements

For Independent Intermediates (9-12)
Frindle by Andrew Clements (Aladdin, 1998)

Nick Allen has always had a way of distracting his teachers with clever schemes. When his deviousness lands him an extra assignment from his fifth grade teacher, he finds himself researching how words are added to the dictionary, and comes up with his best plan yet. Soon every student in the school is stubbornly calling a pen a “frindle”…with consequences beyond what Nick ever could have imagined. This is a wonderful, kind story about the power of language.

For ‘Tweens and Teens (13-15)
The Brooklyn Nine: A Novel in Nine Innings by Alan Gratz (Penguin Group, 2009)

"The Brooklyn Nine: A Novel in Nine Innings" by Alan Gratz

Part generational tale, part baseball history lesson, this cleverly written book is a treat for both baseball fans and those who are not. Each of the nine “innings” of the story tells the tale of a young baseball player or avid fan, each the child of the one in the previous story. The novel begins in 1845 with a young Jewish German immigrant named Felix Schneider who loves nothing more than running fast and playing “three out, all out” and ending eight generations later in 2002 with Snider Flint, who uncovers the story of a wooden bat in his uncle’s antique store. National and cultural history surrounds the characters as they fight in the Civil War, play for the All-American Girls Baseball League, and fear the repercussions of Sputnik. This is a championship-level book.

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