September 29, 2017

The Nantucket Sea Monster: A Fake News Story by Darcy Pattison, illustrated by Peter Willis

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 8:10 pm by suebe2

The Nantucket Sea Monster:
A Fake News Story
by Darcy Pattison
illustrated by Peter Willis

In August 1937, a Nantucket newspaper, The Inquirer and Mirror, reported that a local man had seen something strange.  Bill Manville, a local fisherman, was out in his boat.  He hadn’t caught any fish and was looking around when he saw the head of an immense animal rise above the waves.  He had spotted a sea monster!

At the end of the story, the reporter asked anyone else who had seen something to come forward.  Several other people wrote in giving details about seeing the monster.  People were scared even before the giant footprints were found on the beach.  The monster had bene out of the sea walking around!

The story was reported all over the country. Things quieted down for a bit but then it happened.  In mid-August a local man captured the monster.  People flocked down to the beach.  Would it be a fisherman with sharks?  Wreckage from a downed ship?

No one expected what they saw.  It was a giant balloon.

It had all been a publicity stunt – the man who caught the balloon monster had made it.  He also made balloons for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  In fact the whole thing had been planned out ahead of time with full knowledge of the newspaper editors.  That’s why it wasn’t a hoax. They hadn’t been tricked into believing something.

They had willingly reported something that they knew was not true.  This was really and truly fake news.

Fake news is a tough concept to explain to young readers.  It isn’t an opinion that someone can choose to believe or not to believe. It isn’t a hoax where someone is tricked into believing something.  It is something that the publisher knows is false and they publish it anyway.

This is the perfect story to illustrate the concept. In part, this is because it doesn’t have any political overtones. Using a historic story also helps young readers understand that this is not a new situation. Fake news has been around for a long time and will be around for years to come.

Pattison has taken a complex topic (fake news) and brought it to life in a way that can be discussed by supporters of any candidate. This is a book for discussion over the dinner table and in the classroom and we all seek to help young learners understand how to evaluate the things they read.

–SueBE

 

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September 22, 2017

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 9:15 pm by suebe2

flame in the mistFlame in the Mist
by Renee Ahdieh
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

From her youngest years, Mariko was always the curious one.  She wanted to know how and why.  She looked for better ways to do things.  Her brother on the other hand always knew his duty.

As a result of her curiosity, Mariko had a reputation for being odd.  Fortunately, she is the daughter of a high-ranking samurai so she has tutors and leisure time. At least until her father finds a suitable suitor.

And he isn’t just any young man.  He is the crown prince.  He will be the next emperor.

Mariko doesn’t know what to expect when she reaches the palace but she knows better than to ask.  No one cares what a worthless girl thinks.

But then her party enters the forest and is attacked.  Mariko is the only survivor but her survival is anything but guaranteed.  She can feel the eyes of the forest watching her.  She is told that the attack on her group was the work of the Black Clan, a band of bandits and murderers.  Mariko decides to find out why they wanted to kill her by infiltrating the clan.

As is often the case with fantasy, this is a hard book to describe without simply retyping the entire book.  Ahdieh has created a tale peopled with colorful 3 dimensional characters, powerful magic, and treachery.

Not only does Mariko have to find her way out of the forest, she also has to decide who to trust, who to believe, and who she truly is – passive daughter of a samurai or Mariko, inventor, planner and fighter.

This is the first of a two book series set in feudal Japan. The setting definitely comes to life, going so far as to reach out and threaten the unwary.  There is action, there is romance, and there is mystery.  Readers will definitely want to know what happens next.

And I have to admit that was my only problem with the book.  There is enough left hanging that you will want to immediately pick up the next book but that doesn’t come out until May 2018.

That said, this is definitely an excellent book for fantasy fans especially the patient ones who don’t mind waiting until May.

–SueBE

September 15, 2017

The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet by Carmen Agra Deedy, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 9:20 pm by suebe2

The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet
by Carmen Agra Deedy
illustrated by Eugene Yelchin
Scholastic Press

“Once there was a village where the streets rang with song from morning until night.”  The problem was that it wasn’t one person singing or even two.  Everyone sang.  Even the fountains crooned.  It got to the point that it was even hard to sleep.  So it wasn’t a surprise when they fired the mayor.

The new mayor promised that La Paz would be one thing — quiet.  He won by a landslide.  (Isn’t that gloriously ironic?)

He didn’t wait to start passing laws.  First you couldn’t sing loudly in public.  Then you couldn’t do it at home.  Before long, you just had to be quiet.  Shhh.

That’s when a little rooster, el gallito, came to town.  He heralded in the dawn with his song.  Kee-kee-ree-KEE!

The mayor wasn’t going to put up with such a noisy bird.  First he chopped down el gallito’s favorite mango tree.  The rooster still found a reason to sing. Then the mayor took away his family.  Kee-kee-ree-KEE!  One thing after another is taken away from the rooster but the mayor simply cannot take away his song.

The people of the town were drawn to the rooster. Something was waking up in their hearts.

Finally the mayor threatens the rooster’s life.  And then….

Ha!  I’m not going to spoil the ending.  You will definitely need to read the book.  It is such an encouraging, uplifting story.  Really, go get a copy.

Yelchin’s art work with its bright colors brings this story to life.  No one who sees this cocky rooster is surprised when he keeps singing.  He’s just to full of spark to silence.

Share this story with your class or with your own children.  Use it as a jumping off point for discussions on bullying and freedom of speech.  Although it will make a marvelously fun story time book – be prepared.  Your young learners will definitely want to  Kee-kee-ree-KEE along with el gallito.  I know I do!

This is a must have for the classroom and home.  Just remember to expect a little song.

–SueBE

 

September 12, 2017

Prudence the Part-Time Cow by Jody Jensen Shaffer, illustrated by Stephanie Laberis

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 7:09 pm by suebe2

Prudence the Part-Time Cow
by Jody Jensen Shaffer
illustrated by Stephanie Laberis
Henry Holt and Company

Prudence may look like the other cows in the herd but there’s a big difference between her and Bessie and Patty.  They are full-time cows.  Prudence is only part-time because even when she tries to fit in she just can’t shut off her mind.  Prudence is into science and she’s always making observations, calculations and ways to improve all their lives.

The tough part is that Prudence knows she isn’t like the others.  Their side stares and snide comments hurt. Still Prudence tries one last time to win them all over.

This book definitely belongs in both the home and school library.  It is a great jumping off point for discussions on bullying (how do we treat those who don’t belong), being true to yourself (what do you do when you don’t fit in) and STEM (try, try again!).

It also has something many teachers and librarians are looking for in a STEM book – a female character who is fascinated by science. One of the best things about Prudence’s passion for science is that it isn’t just passion for one field in science.  She’s an engineer, an architect and an inventor.

Stephanie Laberis has created digital illustrations that are silly and fun – that’s important in a book that could quickly be weighed down when the character feels picked on.  But the cartoony feel of these pictures, helped along by a wealth of bright color, are fun even when things are tense.  The characters, but Prudence especially, are very expressive which could also help lead a discussion on emotion and how to tell what people are feeling  and when we need to back off.

When you read this to your class, be prepared for a conversation that is sure to touch on a variety of topics and strong opinions!

–SueBE

 

September 6, 2017

Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin by Liesl Shurtliff

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 8:43 pm by suebe2

rump the true story of rumplestiltskinRump:
The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin
by Liesl Shurtliff
Knopf Books for Young Readers

When your name sets up your destiny, you want a good name, a great name, a name that makes people take notice.  In a good way.

Unfortunately, Rump’s mother was very sick when he was born.  She whispered his name to the newborn child but Rump was all anyone heard.  So Rump he became.

Do I really need to explain why this is a bad name to have?  No, I didn’t think so.

But life was okay.  Rump’s grandmother loved him dearly.  And he had one friend – a girl named Red, a name as fiery as his temper and only a little better than his own.  But food is scarce and if you don’t find gold in the mines your family will go hungry.

Rump has to feed his grandmother.  She’s simply too weak to survive the winter.  So in spite of her warning he gets out his mother’s spinning wheel.  He doesn’t know how.  He doesn’t know why, but he can spin straw into gold.  With gold, he can keep the only family he knows alive.

But with each whir of the wheel, Rump spins himself deeper into the curse.

A have to admit that it took me a little while to get into this one.  But once I did?  I was captured in a rumple, a tangle of threads, that wouldn’t let me go.

Spinning straw into gold may seem like a blessing but it is truly a curse and Rump knows that he needs help to break it.  He leaves behind his village and sets off in search of the town where his mother grew up.  Surely someone who knew her will be able to help him out.

Shurtliff has spun a story that is part fairy tale and fantasy and part mystery and tale of discovery.  With each fact Rump finds about his mother, he learns something about himself.  With each person he meets, he learns about the world he lives in. He learns about the difference between fact and fear.  He learns about friendship and trust.

Although this story involves a character who traipse across the country side, it is comfortably middle grade.  Young readers who enjoy fractured fairy tales but are ready for something beyond the realm of the picture book, this book is a must.

–SueBE

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