September 18, 2014

Lincoln’s Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:23 am by suebe2

Lincoln’s Grave Robbers
by Steve Sheinkin
Scholastic Press

I tend to read before swim meets and when I’m waiting to pick swimmers up from practice.  Moms and dads and siblings and I all discuss our books.  The funny thing is that everyone saw this cover, read this title and assumed I had to be reading fiction.

Nope.  A group of counterfeiters set out to steal Lincoln’s remains on Election night, 1876.

Why?  Another counterfeiter, probably the king of them all, had been caught and jailed.  Without his work engraving plates, the supply of quality counterfeit was dwindling.  Quality goods are necessary so that you don’t get caught.  If they didn’t get more of his work soon, they’d all have to find other work.  They planned to steal and hide Lincoln’s remains.  The brains of the outfit would then “find” the body and return it to the feds.  I’m not certain why he tought that this wouldn’t scream “ransom demand” but that was their plan.

And stealing the body shouldn’t have been all that hard.  Two doors stood between Lincoln’s sarcophagus and the public.  Anyone who could cut through a padlock could gain entrance.

I’m not going to tell you anything more about the story because this is a true crime story and half of the beauty of this type of story well told is the suspense.

For those of you who know Sheinkin’s work, you know that this is going to be one of those stories that is just too crazy to be true . . . but it is.  Everything in the book from the setting to the characters to the story to the dialogue has been researched by Sheinkin.  The trick in this type of book is puzzling out what really happened.  Who is telling the truth and who is making things up?

For the middle grade reader who doesn’t want to read a story that is made up, the fan of true crime and detective stories.


September 15, 2014

Piranha by Ann Ingalls

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:34 am by suebe2

Cover: PiranhaPiranha
by Ann Ingalls
ABDO Publishing

I picked this one up for two reasons – I know Ingalls who is an amazing writer and we used to have a piranha.  Would this book be able to teach me anything?

There are 30 species of piranha.  I knew there was more than one but I never guessed that there were 30.

In spite of their deadly reputation, they very seldom attack large prey or people.  Some species eat only plants; I’ve seen pictures of these plant eaters and just going by their detention you’d never guess their diet.  The red bellied piranha is most often actually a scavenger, feeding on animals that have died in the water.  So when is a frightening feeding frenzy most likely to happen?  During the dry season when water levels drop and piranha may get trapped in low lying pools or other areas where they quickly run out of their preferred prey.

At only 48 pages, this book packed in a lot of piranha facts.  You read about their physiology, their life birth to death, the Amazon River and their role in it as well as how they are often prey.  Their most dangerous predator?  People!

I was glad to see that Ingalls touched on piranhas as pets and the problems caused when people who tire of their exotic, toothy friend dump the fish in a nearby body of water. Piranha are cold blooded and draw warmth from the water around them.  In colder climates, they may survive the summer but almost always die in winter, doing damage to the habitat in the meanwhile.

This book would be a sure draw for boys hoping to read about ill-fated cattle, people and capybara.  Because this is an ABDO book, it is also an excellent choice for the classroom or library.  Chapters end with quotes — one from Roosevelt who witnessed piranha attacking a cow and one from a scientific journal.  Students are asked to read these passages and then reflect on the main idea as well as how the message might be rewritten for a different audience.

Hats off to Ann Ingalls for teaching me so much about Rex (who is no longer amond us) and his cousins.



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