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Monday, May 21, 2018

Bylines: A Photobiography of Nellie Bly by Sue Macy

Bylines: A Photobiography of Nellie BlyNellie Bly, born Elizabeth Jane Cochran, led an exciting, fascinating life. She was the most famous reporter in America, and she made a habit of doing things that she was often told women could not do. In fact, her journalistic career began with an angry letter to the editor. When a newspaper columnist wrote an article saying that women's job in life was to make a nice home for her husband, not to have a career or compete with men in any way, Nellie was furious and wrote a passionate, opinionated letter that so impressed the editor that he offered her a job writing for the paper.

Bylines: A Photobiography of Nellie Bly covers Nellie Bly's journalistic career, including the origin of her pen name and the type of stories she liked to write, and her infamous trip around the world in eighty days. Nellie was prone to undercover and dramatic investigative reporting, such as the time she had herself committed to an insane asylum to report on the conditions of the hospital (for more about this, check out our e-book copy of Ten Days a Madwoman by Deborah Noyes).

Her most famous and most daring stunt, though, was the one that made her a household name. Like the character Phileas Fogg in the 1873 Jules Verne novel Around The World in Eighty Days, Nellie insisted that she could travel around the world in less than eighty days. Bylines does a great job of capturing the trip in descriptions and photographs (it's a National Geographic book, so the photographs are excellent). For slightly older readers, we have some chapter books about Nellie's trip around the world! Interested readers should check out The Race Around the World by Nancy Castaldo or It Can't Be Done, Nellie Bly!: A Reporter's Race Around the World by Nancy Butcher.

For more advanced readers who are interested in journalism and the muckrakers, I recommend Nellie Bly and Investigative Journalism for Kids: Mighty Muckrakers from the Golden Age to Today (with 21 activities) by Ellen Mahoney. This is a more in-depth, 121 page biography of Nellie Bly and other investigative journalists like Ida B. Wells and Upton Sinclair and has different activities that correspond with each of the journalists.

Monday, May 14, 2018

The Great Treehouse War by LIsa Graff

The Great Treehouse WarWinnie may possibly flunk 5th grade and it's her parents' fault; I'm not kidding, it really is her parents' fault.  Winnie's parents have just recently divorced and they get hung up on spending exactly the same amount of time with her.  They decide since there are uneven days of the week, she will spend Wednesdays by herself in the treehouse which is located between their houses.  Both parents are highly competitive and start finding obscure holidays to celebrate with her.  This may not sound bad to you, but the holidays prevent Winnie from doing her homework.  Her teacher begins to notice the change in Winnie and contacts her parents, but they are too worried about who he contacted first instead of what's going on with Winnie.  When Winnie finds out she may flunk 5th grade, she has had enough!  She gives her parents an ultimatum; she will not come down from the treehouse until her parents agree to talk with her together.  Winnie's friends find out what she has done and join her in her fight because they too have problems with their parents.  And so, the great treehouse war begins.

The Great Treehouse War appeals to a child's desire to have his/her voice heard and to be able to make decisions on their own.  Also, who wouldn't love to have their own treehouse like Winnie's?  Especially one equipped with a zip line.  The story is told as a homework assignment where Winnie's friends are helping to edit along the way.  It reminded me of Kate Klise's style of writing as it has sticky notes from her friends that give you a bit more detail into their personalities, as well as letters, memos, emails and television scripts written by the adults.  In addition, there are little write-ups by her friends on how to make friendship bracelets, directions on making a perfect water balloon, a recipe about extra-gooey marshmallow Cheetos treats and a few others.  It is a book that I think children (and parents) would enjoy.

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Monday, May 07, 2018

Lulu and the Brontosaurus by Judith Viorst

Lulu and the BrontosaurusMeet Lulu, a typical young girl.  She is happy because her mom and dad always give her what she wants.  Before her birthday, she asks for a brontosaurus as a pet.  Her mom and dad say no for the first time ever.  Well, she screams and yells.  Then, she makes up annoying songs about getting a dinosaur.  The whole neighborhood can hear her sing.  When that doesn't work, she runs into the forest to find her very own, long-necked, prehistoric brontosaurus. 

After meeting a tiger, a snake, and a bear, she finally sees the animal she wants.  All she has to do is put a leash on him and take him home.   Super easy, right?  Wrong.  The dinosaur has a different idea about who the pet should be in this relationship.  How will she find a way to spend time with a big animal that is taller than her house?  Will she end up being the pet child of the brontosaur?  Read and find out.   

I like Lulu as she gets nicer and nicer.  She certainly gets more realistic about how to choose a pet.  She is one determined girl who wants just one thing.  No substitute pets allowed.  If you know a stubborn person in grades one to four, this Lulu has three fast paced action stories to keep you busy. 

Readers meet another feisty girl in Violet Mackerel's Remarkable Recovery by Anna Branford.
Violet  is going to get her tonsils removed.  While she is a little nervous about going to the hospital,   the promise of many different flavors of ice cream makes her less worried.  Who can say no to eating ice cream for one week?  While she is in the waiting room, she meets another older patient, Iris MacDonald, who needs surgery on her arm.  Violet is determined to have tea with Iris after she eats all that ice cream.  Will she ever find a way to contact her new friend?  This book is a perfect chapter book for those in grades one to three.

Monday, April 30, 2018

The Story of Diva and Flea by Mo Willems (author) and Tony DiTerlizzi (Illustrator)

The Story of Diva and FleaThe Story of Diva and Flea is the tale of the unlikely friendship between a pampered little dog, Diva, no bigger than a shoe, and a big, adventurous cat, Flea, who live in Paris, France.  Diva sees herself as a brave guadienne (guard) dog, but who really runs away at the first sign of danger (like feet!).  Flea describes himself as a flâneur (someone, or somecat, who wanders the streets and bridges and alleys of the city just to see what there is to see).  These two become friends, and then the adventures begin.

Flea urges Diva to face her fears and venture out onto the streets of Paris to see all there is to see, including The Eiffel Tower, which he describes as "the giant tower that can cut a cloud in half."  Diva reluctantly agrees to go, and after a few scary moments, becomes fascinated with the big world outside her home.

Diva then encourages Flea to come into her home, but being afraid of brooms and the people who use them, Flea is not so sure. Eventually, Flea comes to realize that a home can be a safe and loving place.

This was a wonderful little book.  Fans of Mo Willems will be delighted to read this chapter book, and the beautiful illustrations by Tony DiTerlizzi will make the reader think he is right there wandering the streets of Paris.

Perfect for readers from age 4 (as a read aloud) to about 7 as a first independent chapter book, The Story of Diva and Flea is sure to delight.  The themes of friendship, adventure, getting to know someone new, facing fears, home and freedom are all addressed in this beautifully written, charming story.

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Monday, April 23, 2018

Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez

NightlightsSandy loves to draw, and she loves the lights that appear in her bedroom every night. She turns the magical lights into fantastical creatures for her to play with at night, and then she draws pictures of them in her sketchbooks throughout the day. Bored at her strict school, Sandy would rather be outside, drawing pictures of her magical friends. Then one day, she befriends the new girl at school, who no one else has met yet, who is very interested in her drawings. At the same time, a spirit starts to visit Sandy's room when the nightlights are there, and the spirit wants Sandy to draw creatures for it. But does the spirit mean Sandy or her creatures harm?

The graphic novel Nightlights has beautiful illustrations (so many colors!) and creative storytelling. I really loved all of the pictures of Sandy's creatures, both on the page and in her notebooks, and how much more colorful Sandy's dream world and nightlights are compared to her daily life. It was a great way of showing how much more colorful and compelling daydreams are compared with reality. This book is a great example of magical realism (which fuses magic with day to day activities like going to school). I'd recommend it for slightly older readers who are interested in art or other creative pursuits, mainly because there are some monsters (good and bad) who might be a little scary for the younger crowd.

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Monday, April 16, 2018

Mr. Gedrick and Me by Patrick Carman

Mr. Gedrick and MeIt is less than six months after his father's death and Stanley's family isn't doing so well.  His siblings, Fergus and Amelia, are lost in their own grief and barely speak to each other.  Mom is trying to juggle work and taking care of the kids, but unfortunately she is struggling with balancing all of it.  Stanley's dad was a stay-at-home dad and also the glue that held the family together.  Stanley tries to be that glue but he is the youngest and often feels alone and invisible to his family.  That is until Mr. Gedrick comes into their lives through an online Nanny app. As soon as Mr. Gedrick arrives, things start to change.  With a "pinch and a twist," he gets the house back in running order and eventually the family too.

Mr. Gedrick definitely reminds me of Mary Poppins as he uses his magic to help the family realize they need to regain their strong family bond.  Just as with Poppins, when his work is done, he moves onto the next family who needs him.  A reader just can't help but cheer for Stanley and admire the love he has for his family in this heartwarming tale.


Monday, April 09, 2018

Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly

Upside Down in the Middle of NowhereThis book is about how a friendship between shy Virgil Salinas, deaf Valencia Somerset, and star seeking Kaori Tanaka, becomes a crucial connection.  These three middle school students did not talk to each other in school - not a hi, hello, a wave, or a shrug.  But when Virgil disappears, creating an emergency situation, these students connect because they want to find and help Virgil.

Virgil is in the woods looking for special stones when Chet Bullens, the school bully, pulls a mean prank.  Chet forces him to go in a well and then puts on the lid.  At first, Virgil calms himself by pretending that he is in his room.  Then, he talks to a girl from his imagination.  When that does not work, he faces his fear of being heard by others.  He shouts just loud enough that Valencia and Kaori hear his cry for help from the bottom of the well. 

The girls find him, help him out and he goes home to his loud, outgoing family with a new strength.  Now that he has found his voice, he tells him mom that he dislikes being called "turtle."  He finally tells people how he feels about being super shy.  His parents finally understand what wonderful ideas that he has in his head. 

While this book is ideal for readers in grades three to seven, readers might also like Fish In a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.  Fish In a Tree is about Ally, who has has fooled a lot of teachers into believing that she can read by distracting them with her bad behavior.  When Mr. Daniels tries to find the smart, funny girl underneath the trouble-making behavior, she learns how to ask for help with her reading disability, dyslexia.  You will tear up at the end of this wonderful story about a child who faces her fear and learns to read.  Both Ally and Virgil face their most terrifying fears.  This is perfect for readers in grades four to six. 

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