August 29, 2018

Breakout by Kate Messner

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 1:13 am by suebe2

by Kate Messner

“Welcome to the Adirondacks!”  The sign on the grocery store welcomes visitors and residents alike and it fits how Nora Tucker thinks of her home town, Wolf Creek.  It is a friendly, welcoming place except for when it isn’t.

School is almost out for the summer when Elidee Jones joins the class.  Everyone is working on their contributions for the Wolf Creek Community Time Capsule and prepping for the mile-long run that is part of track and field day at the school. Nora is ready to win that race and uphold family tradition.  But Elidee is fast, faster than Nora.

As if having Elidee threaten her plans wasn’t enough, two inmates break out of the prison where Nora’s father works as warden.  The escape brings in the media and everyone is questioning how things are run. How could this have happened? Whose to blame?

With two felons on the lose, the community is thrown into turmoil.  Kids aren’t allowed to play outside, Nora’s dad is never home because he’s always at the prison and Elidee and her mom can’t visit the prison where her brother Troy is an inmate.  Visits are suspended and the prisoners are being kept in their cells.

That’s it on the plot folks because you are going to want to explore this for yourself.  I don’t want to give away the plot!

Messner tells the story through letters, interviews and recorded conversations, all things that have been turned over for the time capsule.  Unfortunately, the prions break makes residents questions everything and everyone.  And that’s one of the things that I loved about this book.  It asks who society sees as “good” vs who is sees as “bad.”  It also questions why we are willing to let “good” people get by with abusing “bad” people.

Cleary, the book is also a call for social justice. It openly questions the racial make up of our prisons, both the guards and the prisoners.

But it would also be an excellent tool for bringing poetry into the classroom. Much of Elidee’s part of the story is told through poems as she emulates the styles of Nikki Grimes, Jacqueline Woodson and more.

This is simply a book that should be in every classroom, every school library and every home book shelf.  It is just that relevent.



August 25, 2018

Dude! by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Dan Santat

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , at 7:13 pm by suebe2

by Aaron Reynolds
illustrated by Dan Santat
A Neal Porter Book/Roaring Brook Press

When Beaver and Platypus meet on the beach, they are ready to catch some waves but surfing doesn’t go as smoothly as planned.  First a gull poops on Platypus and then Beaver spots danger.  A shark’s fin following behind them.

But as the two frantically paddle away, up pops Shark.

He’s teary eyed, devastated that, yet again, no one wants to be his friend.  Being the awesome dudes that they are, Beaver and Platypus work him into their day, teaching him to surf.  Will their day be ruined when they lose their surf boards on the rocks?  You’ll have to “read” the book to find out!

“Read”?  I put that in quotation marks because Dude! isn’t your typical book.  The text consists of one word, repeated.  Dude!  The clever reader is going to change the inflection and intonation throughout because sometimes it is awesome and sometimes it is devastating, the story is made clear in the pictures.

And the pictures do tell a large part of the story because Santat is a master at weaving important details into the background.  Whether or not the reader catches these bits and pieces, such as the ice cream stand and the warning sign, the first time they are depicted or only later on when their importance is made clear will depend on the reader.

As simple as it sounds, this a great book for discussing story and emotion.  Teaching children to have empathy with others is largely accomplished by teaching them to tell what someone else is feeling.  Given that the emotion expressed in this single word, Dude!, changes from illustration to illustration, a lot depends on the characters’ expressions and what is going on. How do we tell when they are happy or scared or even sad?  Fortunately Santat is a master of the subtle hints that allow even cartoonish animals to express themselves clearly.

A fun book for reading aloud, by ready to let your young readers tell their own one word stories afterwards.



August 3, 2018

Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing by Kay A. Haring, illustrated by Robert Nuebecker

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 10:15 pm by suebe2

Keith Haring:
The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing
by Kay A. Haring
illustrated by Robert Nuebecker

Because people asked Kay A. Haring what her brother the artist was like as a child, she wrote The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing. The title kind of says it all.  Keith Haring drew.

He drew as a child. He drew as a teen.  He drew as an adult.  When he saw a flat empty space, he drew whether it was a piece of black paper on the wall of the subway or a blank brick wall in his neighborhood.  Painting that particular mural meant that he had to pay a fine because although his neighbors loved it, he hadn’t gotten permission or filled out the proper paperwork.

Not to worry.  He kept drawing.

When people started seeking out his work, a gallery put on a show. Everything sold!  Haring gave the money away because he had heard a news story about kids who didn’t have enough food.  They needed help and, really, he just wanted to make art.  Being rick wasn’t on his radar.  He kept drawing.

When the Statue of Liberty was 100 years old, Haring drew the statue’s outline on a huge piece of vinyl.  He invited 900 children to help him finish the drawing.  His instructions?  “Draw anything.  Whatever you want.  No one can say it’s bad or good. It’s yours.”  People questioned why someone as famous as he was wanted to work with a bunch of kids.  Haring didn’t answer.

He kept drawing.

Although I recognized some of his work, specifically the crawling baby and a row of dancing figures, I didn’t know anything about him. I’m not an enormous fan of modern art – I love glass and textiles from various cultures more than anything else – but I’ve requested library books about Haring.  He took such joy in creating his art and it was his.  He did it his way wherever he felt like doing it.

What a great message and the book gets it across without preaching.  Why?  Because his sister simply told his story.  And what an amazing story it is.  Definitely a book to have on your shelf at home and in the classroom. Get it out when young learners are discouraged and need a gentle nudge.


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