October 28, 2017

The Spiderwick Chronicles: Book 1: The Field Guide by Tony DeTerlizzi and Holly Black

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 9:12 pm by suebe2

The Spiderwick Chronicles:
Book 1: The Field Guide
by Tony DeTerlizzi and Holly Black
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

“Go away.
Close the book.
But it down.
Do not look.”

This is the warning on the back of the Field Guide. Yes, yes, you can disregard it.  After all, it is printed on a leaf and left lying on the book, but really?  If someone has gone through that much trouble, do you want to ignore it?

Jared and his twin brother Simon and older sister Mallory are forced to move into their great aunt’s house after their father leaves the family. Mom is especially worried about Jared.  After all, Simon has his books and his animals.  Mallory has her fencing.  Jared?  He got into a fight at school but that doesn’t seem to count for anything good.

Unfortunately this isn’t a cool old house.  Unless of course you think it is cool to live in a house with rotten floor boards, rooms that aren’t safe to enter and something scuttling around in the walls.  They are trying to find the source of the scuttling when Jared finds a hidden library.  Inside he finds a riddle written on a piece of paper.

Plot Spoiler.  No, really, this is going to mess up the plot.  But you were warned.

When Jared solves the riddle, he finds the Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You.  Reading it, he start to develop a theory about what is in the walls, who pinched Mallory and Simon at night and got Jared in trouble, and how Simon’s poor tadpoles ended up in the freezer.

Mom doesn’t buy into the theory.  She’s sure that Jared is behind it all.  But he manages to convince his siblings that one of the creatures from the field guide is supposed to be watching the house.  Unfortunately, something has gone wrong.

This series isn’t new but my library just bought a new set of the books.  What is more inviting than a row of new books!?

I have to admit that one thing really bothered me.  I didn’t like that Mom was so ready to blame Jared.  Now, if I was 10 and had recently been blamed for something I didn’t do, as happened often when I was 10, I might feel differently.  But, as a mom, that bothered me.

My favorite part was the old house.  Like the characters in the book, I would want to explore and discover what is what.

With three young characters – one who is sporty, one who is bookish, and one who is having troubles finding himself – young readers will almost certainly identify with one of them.  If you have an older elementary student who is reading well on their own but isn’t ready for full length teen novels, try these books out.  They are fantasy and only about 100 pages long.  Each book has pen and ink illustrations that help bring the story to life.


October 21, 2017

Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers, illustrated by Shawn Harris

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 9:49 pm by suebe2

Her Right Foot
by Dave Eggers
illustrated by Shawn Harris
Chronicle Books

Take a look at a few photos of the Statue of Liberty.  Not paintings.  Photographs.  Seriously.  Do it now.  Pay special attention to the base of the statue.  Have you ever noticed that she is walking?  This woman is on the move.

Eggers has covered so much in this one book.  When I requested it from the library, I thought it was your standard picture book.  Then it came in and I panicked.  “This isn’t 32 pages.  It is so long!”  And it is long for a picture book at 104 pages.  I wouldn’t try to read it to a preschooler but an attentive 6 or 8 year old?  You bet. This book tells a story that we all need to be thinking about.

Eggers brings the reader into the story early.  He takes us right to the moment where two men in France, Eduard de Laboulaye and Frederic August Bartholdi came up with an idea to celebrate the 100th birthday of the US.  They would give the US a statue.

Eggers writes about the models.  He writes about the construction.  He writes about taking it all apart again and shipping it, on a ship yet, to the US.  He writes about putting it back together again.

If you think you know all there is to know about this statue, think again.  He wrote about it’s changing color.  He wrote about Edison’s plans for the statue and, most importantly of all at least where this book is concerned, he wrote about her feet.  Around her feet lay broken chains.  This is something that a lot of people have noted.  But he back foot, her right foot, is captured in the act of coming off the ground to stride forward.  What could this possibly mean?

Eggers has some ideas.  The Statue of Liberty is a celebration of freedom.  It is a celebration of welcoming the immigrant and the refugee.  How can Lady Liberty stand still when there are people who need her?  “She is not content to wait. She must meet them…”

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Eggers’ style, it’s a bit cheeky.  I have to admit that I found it a little off-putting at first. This is such a serious topic!  But as I got into the book, I realized that that is precisely why he style was perfect.  We need a bit of cheek to keep it from becoming preachy and dark.  Eggers’ tone emphasizes some very important points, especially in light of recent debates regarding immigration, but he does it without making the book grim.

I love the collage illustrations that Harris created to accompany the text.  My favorites?  Lady Liberty going for a stroll.

Share this with your class studying history, government or immigration.  Read it as a family.  And then be prepared to sit down and discuss how things are vs how they should be.

I don’t know about you, but now I’ll be looking for quirky details in every monument I see.



October 14, 2017

Madam President by Lane Smith

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 11:20 pm by suebe2

Madam President
by Lane Smith
Hyperion Books for Children

A confident girl takes the reader through a “typical” day for Madam President.  It starts at home as she makes an executive order for waffles.  It continues through the school day as she vetoes tuna casserole.  Honestly, I would vote for this kid.


She leads by example as she picks up her room but also knows when to delegate, letting someone else take over a task when she is just too tired to do it well.  And her cabinet?  Oh, just too funny. Her piggy bank is Secretary of the Treasury and Mr. Potato Head is Secretary of Agriculture.  Smith’s trademark humor comes into play because there is also a Secretary of Fantasy and a Secretary of Pizza.  Makes sense!


As is so often the case with Lane’s books, the text is spare and the punch is in the illustrations.  The look on the Boy Scouts faces when she pops in for a photo-op is priceless!

Unlike many picture books, this one is story light.  But that’s okay because Lane makes it work.  Young readers will come away from this with a much better understanding of everything that a president does.

Somehow I managed to assume that this was a very recent book, but it is 2008.  In spite of this, the book is both timely and timeless.  Madam President must attend to disasters and make sure that things get cleaned up – a task that she takes on herself instead of passing it on to an underling.  Of course, her desire to negotiate a treaty when no one asked her to butt in is a bit too American as well but that’s the beauty of Smith’s work.  He is willing to point out all manner of things, some that you appreciate and some that you might rather forget.

Definitely a good book to spark discussions as to what a president does, how they should behave and more.  Share this one with the young reader in your life today and sit down for a long chat!


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