June 15, 2018

Alabama Spitfire: The Story of Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird by Bethany Hegedus, illustrated by Erin McGuire

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 8:12 pm by suebe2

Alabama Spitfire:
The Story of Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird
by Bethany Hegedus
illustrated by Erin McGuire

I have to admit that I wouldn’t have automatically been drawn to a picture book about Harper Lee.  I like To Kill a Mockingbird just fine but my son loved her novel when he read it in middle school.  Loved.  It.

Little did I know that Harper Lee was my kind of girl.  She wasn’t about lace and frills as a girl – she called that life the pink penitentiary.  She was all about “dungarees,” the jeans I coveted but wasn’t allowed to wear until I was 11.  She spent her time with her older brother, climbing and playing and scraping herself up.

Her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama never had much money to spare.  Oddly the Great Depression didn’t hit Monroeville the way it hit the big cities.  Maybe it was because people were used to helping each other.  In spite of this, segregation ruled and it was obvious that separate was not equal.

Harper Lee went by Nelle and she spent a lot of time with her father, a lawyer.  It was from him she learned to love words and justice.  That’s why she was willing to stand up for the new kid, Tru.  With his white linen suits, it was obvious Tru was a city boy but they hit it off, spending time together making up stories.

Eventually Tru moved back to New York where Nelle, by then a young woman, would look him up when she made it to the Big City.  Tru, now known as Truman Capote, encouraged her to keep writing.  Eventually she drew inspiration from the soil and people of Alabama, writing To Kill a Mockingbird.  Even after her death, the book is still popular and still speaks out against injustice.

Books are funny things.  I read this as a whole stack of picture books from the library.  I expected to like several other books more but this one outshone them.  Hegedus has done a great job creating a biography that will help young readers see the importance of justice and being our own people.

Erin McGuire digital Photoshop illustrations do a great job bringing the story to life.  And this is definitely a story young readers need, about a girl who turned into a woman who did things her way, using her art to speak out against injustice.  A great choice for readers in the 3rd through 6th grade.  Add this to your classroom shelf today!



June 11, 2018

Whobert Whover, Owl Detective by Jason Gallaher, illustrated by Jess Pauwels

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:21 am by suebe2

Whobert Whover, Owl Detective
by Jason Gallaher
illustrated by Jess Pauwels
Margaret K. McElderry Books

Whobert Whoever, Owl Detective is bound and determined to keep his neck of the woods safe.  Because of this, he is always on the lookout for crime.  It isn’t surprising that he’s the one who found Perry the Possum lying awfully still in the forest.

Whobert examines Perry for signs of life, poking and prodding the poor possum.  Astute young readers will note that Perry’s eye moves as he keeps track of what Whobert is doing.  The first clue that Whobert finds are feathers, red feathers.

Again, young readers are most likely a step ahead of Whobert who accuses Debbie Duck of whacking Perry with her wings.  In the background, Perry is watching with both eyes open.  From one would-be clue to another, Whobert proves that what he’s the best at is jumping to conclusions.

Jason Gallaher has created a funny main character who so wants to be a big help but is actually a big problem.  Young readers who often dream big and then have troubles executing their plans will identify with Whobert, but they will also loving being one or more steps ahead of the Owl Detective.

For the most part, the clues are provided in Jess Pauwels’ illustrations.  Brightly colored and full of expressive secondary characters, Pauwels keeps the discovery of the possum’s body from being frightening both because the characters are cartoonish and it is obvious the possum is still alive.

The adult reader will appreciate the story’s puns including the character’s name but the story is an age appropriate mystery for preschool and kindergarten readers.  This book could work for story time with a small group but a larger group might have problems seeing the clues in the illustrations if they are too far from the book.

But expect this book to launch a discussion about clues and detectives and just how much better these young readers would be than Whobert.  A picture book mystery that is both fun and funny.


June 7, 2018

Wait for Me by Caroline Leech

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 1:56 am by suebe2

Wait for Me
by Caroline Leech
Harper Teen

Farm life is anything but idyllic in 1945 Scotland.  Both of Lorna Anderson’s brothers are in World War II.  That means that it is just Lorna, her father, and Nellie to get everything done.  Nellie is a Land Girl, sent from the city to the countryside to help out on one of Scotland’s undermanned farms.  Nellie’s learned small engine repair and she’s great with the cattle, but there is just too much work for one man and two girls. Lorna can see how exhausted her father is.

She’s still shocked when an Army truck pulls up and leaves behind a prisoner.  Lorna knows her father needs help but she does not want a Nazi on her farm.  Her first surprise is the prisoner’s face.  One side looks almost like it has melted and she realizes he has recovered from horrible burns.  Then he tells her in English that he is no Nazi.

Lorna tries to nurse her hatred, after all the Germans are the reason for this war that has taken away her brothers.  But her father befriends the young man giving him gloves to ward off the cold and making sure he has plenty to eat.  During lambing season when they work late into the night, Mr. Anderson arranges for Paul to stay on the farm instead of returning to the base prison each night.  Lorna sees how good he is with the lambs and watches him joking with Nellie and working beside her father.

When he comforts her after a date goes horribly wrong, Lorna realizes that she too cares for the young German, perhaps as more than a friend.

I don’t really want to say anything else about the plot because I don’t want to give it away.  But Leech has woven together a story that does an excellent job of examining issues of right and wrong and who is really a friend or an enemy.  Leech did her research, not wanting to create romantic tension where none was possible.

The characters in this book are three-dimensional and realistic.  Lorna’s fellow Scots are not all good people.  The Germans are not villainous caricatures.  And the emotions?  They are real.

Share this title with your young reader who likes history, romance or a great fictional story.  Leech has created a winner.


June 1, 2018

Bloom by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Julie Morstad

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 4:38 pm by suebe2

Bloom: A Story of Fashion Designers Elsa Schiaparelli
by Kyo Maclear
illustrated by Julie Morstad

I have to admit that I had no clue who Elsa Schiaparelli was when one of my students recommended Bloom. No idea.

But in just a few sentences I was pulled into the story of a little girl whose parents wanted a boy and hadn’t even chosen a girl’s name. No big deal.  A lot of parents have been caught in such a situation.  But a lot of parents don’t call one daughter beautiful and the other ugly.  Right away I wanted this little girl to show them what true beauty was.

Granted, some of her ideas don’t succeed. At one point, she tried to plant flowers on her face.  This girl had a vibrant imagination!  Fortunately she has an uncle who is an astronomer and he encourages her ideas.  She discovers that when she dresses up, she can be many things.

She discovers dress making and she and her baby daughter move from city to city, settling in Paris. Soon Elsa has made friends with the group of visionary artists that include Picasso and Salvador Dali.

Her first big success is a sweater with a trompe l’oeil design.  It looks like a black sweater over a white blouse with a large bow at the neck.  It is really a sweater of two colors.  Women can now look fancy while riding their bikes through the city streets!  She encourages them to use their imaginations and they encourage her.

She combines materials – leather and lace, decorates her dresses with bold images, and even encourages a chemist to invent a new color just for her clothes.

Whether or not you are into clothing, Kyo Maclear has created a story about a visionary artist who did not let other people’s harsh words hold her back.  The story is enhanced by Julie Morstad’s illustrations.  I especially love the one where the chemist is inventing a new pink dye.

Elsa Schiaparelli is definitely someone who could inspire a young artist.  She was wildly creative, even wearing a shoe as a hat.  Hopefully children will also look at her photo in the back of the book and realize that hurtful words are so seldom true.

Share this book with your young visionary.  Give it a place in your home library and your classroom library.  Young readers need internalize the message.


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