January 2008 Reviews



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BOOK REVIEWS
2008

January 2008 Reviews

November Book Reviews


R.N., NHS Student

Fiction


Showalter, Gena. Red-Handed. MTV, New York, 2007.   $9.95  ISBN: 1416532242   288 p.  Gr. 11-adult  
Phoenix, an ex-druggie, is at a party in the woods, her first one after rehab.  At the party she meets a boy, Ryan, and is instantly attracted.  During the night aliens attack and she learns that Ryan is actually an A.I.R. (Alien Investigation and Removal) agent, someone who fights bad aliens.  She helps Ryan and his sister fight off a group of killer aliens.  Once the night is over she goes home and her mom thinks she’s on drugs (even though Phoenix wasn’t) and calls the phone number of the A.I.R. agent/recruiter who gave her his contact information when he brought her daughter home.  The mom inadvertently sends her daughter to the A.I. R. training camp.  At the camp, she reunites with Ryan (who turns out to be her teacher at the camp) and gains self esteem while restoring her relationship with her mother (and kicking alien ass at the same time.)  Did I like the book?  Hell, yeah – it was really easy to read (took me 3 days) and I loved it.  The characters were all like people I knew, so they were believable and easy to relate to, though the story line was incredible and very imaginative. P6 Q8

November Book Reviews


I.F., NHS Student

Fiction


Landy, Derek.  Skulduggery Pleasant Harper Collins, New York, 2007.   $17.99  ISBN: 0061231150  400 p.  Gr. 6-9
The leading lady in this book is a middleschooler named Stephanie who inherits a haunted mansion from her Uncle Gordon.  While at the reading of her Uncle’s will, she meets Skulduggery Pleasant, (S.P.), a 1,000 year old ‘living’ skeleton.  S.P. turns out to be a good guy, if not a bit weird, and helps rescue Stephanie many times from certain death.  Together they solve the mystery of who murdered her uncle and thwart a plan for world domination by evil persons and minions.  The book is well-written, very funny (S.P. has some really snappy lines), and has a lot of surprises in store for the reader.
P7 Q8

Oregon Coast Preview Book Center for Young Readers


January 2008 Reviews by M.D

Parra,Kelly. Graffiti Girl: She’s ready to make her mark. Pocket Books. MTV Books. New York. 2007. $9.95. grade 7 and up. 247 pgs. 978-1-4165-6461-7. P7 Q 8


Angel wants to be chosen as the leader of the schools mural committee she and two other students are in the contest.  She doesn’t win but Nathan invites her to be a part of the committee and Miguel takes an interest in her and her art.  Miguel Badalin or Badman his tag name will teach her graffiti art if she joins his gang and after a kiss she defaces school property to join the group.  Nathan doesn’t understand when she starts missing committee meetings and hanging with Miguel more.  She gets in over her head when she attends a party with Miguel and is forced into an impending graffiti war with another gangs girl.  She has to learn as much as she can from Miguel and quickly.  Angel compromises her beliefs when the gang tags a city park and she is shocked when it makes the newspaper.  She wants out but can’t until she does the graffiti war or she will be jumped.  The ending is all that we the reader wants with good prevailing and she ends up with the good guy. 

Perry, Eliabeth. Illustrated by Linda Bronson. Think Cool Thoughts. Clarion Books. New York. 2005. $16.00 grade 2-4 32 pgs. 0-618-23493-4.  P6 Q7


Bright colorful cartoon like drawings are included in this book that has several words on a page if not paragraphs.  Angel is an African American girl who is so hot and thinks of ice cubes to cool her in the very hot summer.  Her mother and Aunt Lucy tell her of when they were young and how they would cool off.  They slept outside on their mattress and Angel gave her mom a look – Ok she said and they drug the mattress to the roof top.  That night after her bath she slept outside with her mom and Aunt Lucy.  Morning came and she had cool dreams and then it started to rain.  They rushed to get the mattress inside and went back to bring in the kitchen chairs but instead she danced in the rain to cool off. 

Yolen, Jane. Illustrated by Melissa Sweet. Baby Bear’s Big Dreams. Harcourt, Inc. New York.2007. $16.00. grade pre-k to 3rd. 30 pgs. 978-0-15-205291-1. P7 Q8


A very enjoyable book with bright colorful pictures and a  few words per page which will help to make it a good  book for a story time.  A boy bear can’t wait to grow up so he can have all his friends over to play and they can live in a toy shop. He will build a house and in a year of two I will be a big bear grow up and read his big bear poem to his parents.  

Mortensen, Lori. Illustrated by Frances Moore. Harriet Tubman: Hero of the Underground Railroad.Picture Window Books. Minnesota. 2007. $17.95. grade 2-4. 24 pgs.978-1-4048-3103-2.P6 Q7


This book includes a time line, did you know questions, glossary, a to learn more section, an index, and a list of other biographies in the series.  There is an actual photograph of Harriet Tubman and the rest of the illustrations are made from what looks like fabric or different paper patterns.  Harriet was a slave and had to work when she was five years old.  At seven she took some sugar, ran away from her mistress and hid in a pigpen for five days before she returned.  The story continues with her marriage, and her experiences with the underground railroad. She followed the north star to freedom some 130 miles by foot.  She returned to Maryland 19 times to help 300 slaves to freedom.  She also became a spy and soldier in the Civil War.  

McKissack, Lisa Beringer. We the People…Women of the Harlem Renaissance. Compass Point Books. Minneapolis. 2007. 978-0-7565-2034-2. 48 pgs. Grade 4-5 P5/Q7  This is a series called We the People which explores U.S. history from pre-colonial to modern times. This book has a table of contents, glossary, did you know section, important dates and people, want to know more section and an index.  The book explains when and why in 1920’s the renaissance began in Harlem New York. The book has photos, maps and other drawings of popular works of literature from the time.  It discusses such people as Augusta Savage a sculptor and teacher as well as Bessie Smith a Blues singer.  I was impressed with the history and education available to women at this time in history.  

Aller, Susan Bivin. Juliette Low. Lerner Publications Company. Minneapolis. 2007. 0-8225-6580-3. Grade 3-4.48 pgs. P6/P7
This is a part of a history maker bio series.  The back cover asks a true or false question to grab the attention of the reader as well as other people that the series has books about like Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, and The Wright Brothers. Juliette Low was the founder of the Girl Scouts of America organization. She was unable to have children but gave her motherly care to her animals.  She was a strong woman and led girls to greatness as girl scouts.  The book has a table of contents, introduction, chapters, pictures of her home and family members.  It also has an extensive timeline from 1865 to 1927, further reading section, websites, select bibliography and an index. 

Kishel, Ann-Marie. Elizabeth Blackwell…a life of diligence. Lerner Publications Company. Minneapolis. 2007. 0-8225-6459-9. Grade 1-2. 32 pgs.P5/Q6


This is a part of a Pull Ahead – Biographies series on other such people as Abraham Lincoln, Jane Addams, William Penn ect. A very elementary bibliography about Elizabeth Blackwell sketches and real photos as well.  Elizabeth wanted to become a female doctor and she studied at Geneva Medical College in New York. The book has a table of contents, a timeline, websites, glossary and an index. 

Aller, Susan Bivin. Madam C.J. Walker. Lerner Publications Company, Minneapolis. 2007 0-8225-6582-X. 48 pgs. Grade 3-5. P5/Q6


This is from the History Maker Bios series which also includes such people as: Abigail Adams, Henry Ford, Rosa Parks and the Wright Brothers. The back cover asks a True or False Questions to grab the attention of the reader. The book includes a table of contents, actual photographs as well as cartoon like drawings, break away boxed with definitions and important history dates, a timeline, a section called the company of women: a brief on her daughter Mae Walker. The book also has a further reading section, websites, an index and select bibliographies. This book would make excellent resources for a young student’s first research paper. Sarah Breedlove Walker grew up in the South just after slavery had ended but she wanted a better life for her daughter and herself. She invented products that helped black women’s hair become healthy. She became a millionaire and helped other black women improve their own lives. She started her own business and helped other women become hair specialists as well. She was asked by Booker T. Washington to give a speech at a NNBL Convention.

Sciurba, Katie. Illustrated by Edel Rodriguez. Oye, Celia! A song for Celia Cruz.


Henry Holt and Company. New York. 2007. $16.95 0-8050-7468-6. 23 pages. Grades 1-3 P6 Q7
The cover has a different look as part is buff and the title is outlined in a shiny bubble. I liked the drawings they look like abstract art. There is a section in the back: Spanish words used. The story is about Celia Cruz the green of salsa and the songs she wrote and sang about Cuba.

Wiess, Laura. Such a Pretty Girl. Pocket Books. New York, 2007. 212 pages. 978-1-4165-2183-9. Grades 9-up. P8/Q7.


Meredith is a fourteen year old girl whose pedophile father has been released from prison early. She has only had three years of peace. Her mother is so excited and wants them to be a real family again. Her best friend Andy also abused by her father and in a wheel chair lives on the same complex as she. Nigel, a retired cop helps her plant some nanny in her condo because only after 24 hours of his release she can tell her will never stop. She thinks of running away to her grandmothers where she will be safe but realizes her father will just molest some other young child. She decides to sacrifice herself and make sure he goes away for good. The ending has a wonderful twist of fate and is just a quick read away. The book has reading group guide discussion questions, another question and reader tips.

Cohn, Rachel and David Levithan. Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List. 2007. $16.99. Alfred A. Knopf. New York. 230 pages. P7/Q8 978-0-375-84440-9


This format the author uses is hard to understand. It took me until the third chapter to figure out that each chapter is from the point of view of a different character. Naomi and Ely have been friends for years and they live in the same complex in New York City. They attend NYU but Noami wants Ely to be her first despite the fact that he is a young gay man who is good looking and flaunts it. Noami has a boyfriend “Bruce the second” but they have only gotten to second base because she is saving herself for when she and Ely get married. But then Ely kisses her boyfriend and it’s over (their friendship.) Her mother needs to get over her dad who had an affair with one of Ely’s moms. She is starting to realize it was never going to be with her and Ely and maybe he really does love Bruce the second. She thinks maybe she could like the doorman but she needs to get her mother away from their condo and the remembrance of her dad. She and Ely decide to save their friendship despite the fact that they will have to redefine it.

Kizer, Amber. One Butt Cheeck at a Time… Gert Garibaldi’s Rants and Raves. Delacorte Press. New York, 2007. $15.99. 978-0-385-73430-1. P8/Q7 295 pages. Age 14 and up.


Gert is a 15 year old girl who only has one friend, Adam who just happens to be a young gay man who is interested in dating Tim who hasn’t come out at all. Gert wants a boyfriend, some girlfriends, her drivers license and to survive her sophomore year. She and Adam always spend Saturday evenings at the hamburger place talking but now Tim has taken her best friend. She likes Lucas, Tim’s twin brother but when she thinks Adam has set up a double date-no luck Lucas has invited Sue over instead. In the end she gets her license Adam throws her a surprise Birthday party and her new boyfriend Stephen asks her to go steady. She finds out everyone really does put the pants on one butt cheek at a time.

Cooper, Ilene. Up close: Oprah Winfrey media queen…a twentieth-century life. Viking. 2007.$15.99. 978-0-670-06162-4 ages 12 + up pages 192. P6/Q6


I believe some may find some of the content too mature of subject for 6th graders. Oprah was sexually abused and became promiscuous as a teenager. None of this was discussed in detail but may be to mature for some. Any student would be able to write and excellent paper on Oprah’s life from this short but interesting book. I learned that she had a son who died two weeks after birth when she was a teenager. It has and index with; source notes and a complete bibliography.

Hogan, Mary. Susanna sees stars. Delacorte Press. 2006. $7.96 pgs. 235 978-0-385-73513-1 Grade 6 + up pgs235  P7Q8.


A fourteen year old girl Susanna from NYC wants to be a celebrity reporter. She lands a summer internship at scene magazine. She is a savvy New Yorker who ends up being a “toady” or personal assistant for Nel the editor in chief.  She looks for a way to get an exclusive story but ends up with a picture of her butt on the front cover and labeled a celebrity stocker.  She finally convinces her friend Mel to take a train to New Jersey to look up the senior prom date of a mega star.  She gets invited to his movie premiere with his old high school sweetheart.  There is a sequel to the book and Susanna gets to go to Los Angeles for the Academy Awards with Ken.  At the end of the book there is a three page teaser for the next book “Hollywood”. 

January 2008 Book Reviews by C.B. NMS

Cooney, Caroline, Diamonds in the shadow, Delacorte Press, New York, 2007, 228 pgs.,
$15.99, ISBN:0385732619, Gr. 6+, P 8, Q 8,

A refugee family from Sierra Leone is being sponsored by a church group in New York state, when the families apartment falls through, the Finch family steps up to house them. From the start Jared Finch, seventeen year old boy, does not want to share his room with Mattu a boy of the same age. Mopsy, Jared’s twelve year old sister, however can’t wait till she has a sister to share things with. The two familes come together and share the Finchs home. It is here that the African family reveals the horrors of their countries atrocities, the father has had his arms cut off, Alake, the daughter does not speak and Mattu has been a member of the children’s rebel fighters. They all share a secret too, that they are not a real family but strangers to one another who have replaced the original one murdered by a fellow refugee on their plane. This man has smuggled diamonds into the country, carried by Mattu in his grandfather’s ashes urn, two cardboard boxes. As the family is amazed by well stocked grocery stores, cell phones and microwaves they are also in fear of having their secret revealed and also being discovered as diamond smugglers. This book will offer middle and high school students a look into a war, in Africa, that has been going on for over 60 years. It also will bring home to them the difficulties that refuges face in America. 

Creech, Sharon, The castle corona, illustrated by David Diaz, New York, Joanna Cotler Books, 2007, 320 pgs., $19.98, ISBN:0060846224, Gr. 4+, P 7, Q 8,

I have read several of Sharon Creech’s books and found this one different from the others. This time she has created a book set in Italy during feudal times that is a fairy tale


of a King and his family and two orphaned children, Pia and Enzio, who become the kings official food testers. This book made me laugh at the comical king, his guests, vain daughter and his sons who are seeking to be different. The illustrations which are really illuminations help tell whom each chapter is about and add to the time period as well. This story would be a great read aloud to any class that is studying the medieval times. Students who love fairy tales will also enjoy this book too.

Franklin, Emily, The other half of me, Delacorte Press, New York, 2007, 247 pgs.,


$15.99, ISBN:038573445X, Gr. 7+, P 8, Q8,

Jenny Fitzgerald is member of a family where there are two twin sisters, a brother and a mom and dad. Jenny is different though she was created from Donor 142, and now she wants to find someone who has some of her talents or features, one who can finish her sentences for her, like her twin sister do for each other. She is also a painter who functions as a athletic family. One day on the internet someone, a girl, her sister, sends her an e-mail, one in answer to a query “is there anyone out there with Donor 142 as a father.” This answer is one that starts a voyage of discovery for Jenny and her family and one that doesn’t necessarily have the results that either girl hopes for. 

George, Jessica, Dragon slippers, Bloomsbury Children’s Books, New York, 2007,
324 Pgs., $16.95, ISBN:1599900572, Gr. 5+, P 8, Q 8,

Dragon stories are hot right now and this book will not disappoint those who love them. It has all the ingredients of a super story: an aunt who gives her niece to a dragon in hopes of a young prince who will rescue her and bring wealth to the family. What Creel, the damsel-in-distress, finds instead is a dragon who collects shoes and whom communicates with other dragons in the kingdom. Given a pair of the must comfortable shoes she has ever worn, Creel journeys to center of the kingdom where she dreams of owning her own dress shop. She finds instead danger and calls for help, she is rescued by a dragon who collects stained glass windows. Creel doesn’t realize that the shoes she wears are really magical and that they control all the dragons. They are stolen from her and given to a really nasty princess who wages war on the peaceful kingdom. This book is sure to delight elementary and middle age school students.

Godwin, Jane, Falling from grace, Holiday House, New York, 2006, 187 pgs., $16.95,
ISBN:0823421058, Gr. 7+, P 7, Q 7, 

Annie and her sister are playing on the beach one night, during there vacation, when Grace see’s a struggling Penguin, in the surf. She rushes to its aide not bothering to listen to her sister Annie’s warning or the rising tide. It is soon too late to go back to the beach, for the tide and wind has risen so quickly. Annie climbs to safety and then urges Grace to do the same, she tries but falls back in to the surf where she disappears from sight. Everyone is soon searching for Grace and it is Annie and Kip, a fourteen-year old boy, who are questioned about the disappearance of Grace. The story unfolds as it is told by the three children and in different chapters. This book will appeal to middle and high school students.

Horowitz, Anthony, Snakehead, Philomel, New York, 2007, 388 pgs., $17.99,
ISBN:0399241612, Gr. 5+, P 8, Q 8,

Horowitz is one of my favorite authors and in this his next book in the Alex Rider series he has again captured my attention so much I had to read this book in one setting. We now find Alex a weary young man who has just returned to Earth, after he rescued it and blasted off into space, back on Earth and being called on to rescue us again. This time however I was able to see that Alex was tiring of always being called on and that he really does want to be a boy back in England just going to school. Alex can’t though let the world down and pulls himself together to meet his godfather and to save the world once again.  

Weaver, Will, Defect, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2007, 199 pgs., $16.00,
ISBN:0374317259, Gr. 7+, P 8, Q 8,

None of us ever wants to be different we always want to fit in and we want to be accepted for what we are. In this book David is a young man in high school who just wants to fit in but can’t seem too. Maybe if David wasn’t so strange looking, he could. A genetic disorder has changed David, he wears hearing aids to diminish sound, glasses so that he can see and he also has a gift of an appendage under his arms that allows him to fly. Living in a foster home David dreams of being different and accepted but does not find this until he goes to a different high school where all the kids seem to have one problem or another. Here he finds a young girl who loves him for who he is and he eventually, after a flying accident reveals his wings to her. This story would be great to give any student who is struggling to understand themselves or to others who need to understand the David’s in this world.


 
William, Karen, and Mohammed, Khandra, Four feet, two sandals, illustrated by Doug Chayka, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2007, unp, $17.00, ISBN:0802852963, Gr. 3+, P 7, Q 8,

There are a lot of people who have been displaced in the Middle East due to the turmoil in this region. The authors of this book are two girls who were also displaced and have written about it to show the world the courage and strength that the refugees have. Two girls meet in a tent camp where truck has brought them some clothing from relief organizations. They both find one sandal, which they both want, they become friends and share the sandals. One wears them one day and the other the next. When Lina and her family get word that they are to go to America Feroza gives Lina the sandals. Lina can’t after all arrive in America without any shoes to wear. This friendship through such adverse times will surely stimulate students to talk about what war does to countries, people and the world.

Williams, Marcia, Archie’s War, Candlewick Press, 2007, unp, $17.99,
ISBN:0763635324, Gr. 3+, P 9, Q 10,

This book, scrapbook, is dynamite, here we meet Archie and his family, drawn in comic book style, in 1914 just as World War I starts. Archie has letters from his uncle in Germany which tell of the horror of war. The letters also tell of a peaceful Christmas where the soldiers themselves quit fighting, and instead sing Carols, and swap food and tobacco across the trenches. He also collects newspaper articles and draws about the events that take place during this time. His sister who marches against the war, his grandmother and mother who work in the factories and roll bandages, and the young German boy who he can’t play with any more. This collection of artifacts, letters and newspaper articles will appeal to not only elementary students but also to middle school students as well. This is a book that should be in every school library.

Wolf, Joan, Someone named Eva, New York, Clarion Books, 2007, 208 pgs., $16.00, ISBN:061835799, Gr. 4+, P 9, Q 10,

Milada and her family are separated from their home in Lidice, Czechoslovakia, by the German during World War II. The men are led off one way and the women and children are taken to near by town where Milada and one other girl are chosen, because they exhibit the traits the Germans are looking for in the Aryan race, to be part of the Lebensborn program. This program was designed to take children for other nations and that showed the blond blue eyed traits of the true Aryan German to be trained and adopted into good SS German homes. Milada and the other girls who are chosen spend the next two years studying the German language, the only one they are allowed to speak, the culture, the inferior Jewish race and what a good German is. This book is based on a true incident where the men of this village, all 173, were executed for the assassination of one of Hitler’s favorite high ranking generals. Milada struggle is one that needs to be part of all middle and high school library collection.

Whyman, Matt, Icecore: a Carl Hobbs thriller, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, New York, 2007, 307 pgs., $16.99, ISBN:1416949070, Gr. 7+, P 8, Q 8,

Carl Hobbs, is seventeen-years-old when he is arrested for breaking the security code that guards Fort Knox. He is also seventeen when he signs a paper that takes him from his native England to a secret secured, American, military base. Here he has agreed to give all evidence that pertains to his crime, but the military does not believe and he is instead treated as a terrorist. This prison camp is one of America’s secret bases, that are allowed being allowed in other countries, and one where the ice and supreme cold are a deterrent for the suspected terrorist are housed. This book gives the reader a look at the brutality of life for these detainees it also explores the hopelessness that they feel and could be experiencing. A great book to be used as a read aloud, at the middle and high school level, and will stimulate conversations about America’s Home Land Security abuses of power.

NON FICTION

Charman, Andrew, Life and times in ancient Rome, Kingfisher, Boston, Massachusetts, 2007, 32 pgs., index, map, $9.95, ISBN:075346151X, Gr. 4+, P 8, Q 8,

Charman, Andrew, Life and times in ancient Egypt, Kingfisher, Boston, Massachusetts,
2007, 32 pgs., index, map, $9.95, ISBN:0753461498, Gr. 4+, P 8, Q 8,

Charman, Andrew, Life and times in ancient Greece, Kingfisher, Boston, Massachusetts,


2007, 32 pgs., index, maps, $9.95, ISBN:0753461501, Gr.4+, P 8, Q 8,

Charman, Andrew, Life and times in the Viking world, Kingfisher, Boston, Massachusetts, 2007, 32 pgs, index, map $9.95, ISBN:0753461528, Gr. 4+, P 8, Q 8,

The four books above are a series that offers students, in elementary and middle schools, an opportunity to read about the four civilizations: their daily lives, gods, homes, culture, and dress. Using full color spreads each of these topics are discussed and vocabulary is demonstrated through arrows that point to each piece of clothing or article that is being discussed. This collection is a starting point to further in depth research, but will capture, middle school student’s curiosity to explore further.

Collier, Bryan, Twelve rounds to glory: the story of Muhammad Ali, illustrated by Bryan Collier, Candlewick Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2007, 80 pgs., $19.99,


ISBN:0763616923, Gr. 4+, P 9, Q 9,

This book is great, no fantastic, in the retelling of the greatest boxer there ever was Muhammad Ali. The boxer “who floated like butterfly and stung like a bee.” Written in prose and using full page collage illustrations, in mostly blacks and browns, the story of this athlete is told. Starting with his 1960 Olympic gold medal to his raised hand holding the Olympic torch in 1996, his fights, the fighters he fought and his life are all hit upon. Any student would love to browse the pages of this remarkable book.

Geras, Adele, Cleopatra, illustrated by M.P. Robertson, Kingfisher, Boston, Massachusetts, 2007,63 pgs., glossary, index, $16.95, ISBN:0753460254,
Gr. 4+, P 8, Q 8,

The story of Cleopatra, the last Queen of Egypt, is told by her ten-year-old hand maiden Nefret. This young servant girl tells of her court, her loves and her children as Cleopatra struggles to become the ruler of her land. There is a reference section at the end of the book which gives accurate historical information too. The illustrations by Robertson are bright and cheerful and reminiscent of art found on the tombs of the pharaohs. He has also chosen to print the story on paper that looks like papyrus paper. This book will be a great resource for elementary and middle school students to draw upon.

Hinshaw, Kelly, Art across the ages: ancient Mexico: level one, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, California, 2007, 32 pgs., $14.95, ISBN:0811856704, Gr. 2+, P 7, Q 8,

Hinshaw, Kelly, Art across the ages: ancient Egypt: level one, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, California, 2007, 32 pgs., $14.95, ISBN:0811856682, Gr. 2+, P 7, Q 8,

Both to the books above are in a series designed for elementary students. Here Kelly Hinshaw has collected various art pieces to introduce young students to the art work of the ancient civilizations. She does this with head pieces, jewelry, ceramics, carvings and paintings which are full color display and descriptions of what each is. Vocabulary and pronunciation keys are also used to help the developing reader. This is a great series that will surely capture student’s interest.

Mark, Jan, The museum book: a guide to strange and wonderful collections, illustrated by Richard Holland, Candlewick Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2007, 52 pgs, index, glossary, $18.99, ISBN:0763633704, Gr., P, Q,

If you are planning on taking a trip to a museum read this book first. Not only does it show how a museum is laid out, how collections came to be placed here, it talks about how some times there is enough room to always display things that a museum owns. The text is written as though you are having a conversation or being guided by someone who could answer a question if you had one. Richard Holland’s illustration’s catches the readers eye with quirky and peculiar mixed-media examples of artifacts, dinosaurs and two headed sheep from around the world. Students will spend hours roaming the pages of this book.

Park, Linda, Tap dancing on the roof: Sijo poems, illustrated by Istvan Banyai, Clarion Books, New York, NY, 2007, unp, $16.00, ISBN:0618234837, Gr. 4+, P 7, Q 8,

I have read poetry for years and have written Haiku’s this is the first time I ever read a Korean form poetry. Linda Park’s collection of Sijo poems are an overlooked poetic form that is until now. Park notes the orgins and history of this Sijo poetic form. Sijo poems are written in which there are three lines each with fourteen to sixteen syllables and the last line has a twist to it and has humor or irony, a pun or unexpected image at the end. Using free form in the illustrations, Istvan Banyai has captured this unique collection of Sijo poems humor and imagery. This book is must to complete any library collection.

Wilkinson, Philip, Joan of Arc: the teenager who saved her nation, National Geographic, Washington, D.C., 2007, 64 pgs, index, $17.95, ISBN:1426301162, Gr. 5+, P 7, Q 8,

Joan of Arc is another biography in a series which National Geographic has again captured an extraordinary life in print. They have drawn upon small illustrations and photographs that depict her life, her home, battles, and the church during this time. The text is crisp and easy to read and using topics such as “The Church and Medieval warfare” the reader is better able to understand the historical events that surrounded this woman. Joan of Arc was seen as the hero of her nation and many statues are now found through out France. She was burned at the stake and years later the Catholic Church made her a saint, students in middle and elementary schools will enjoy this book.

January Book Reviews L.F., NHS

Non-Fiction Selections – Biography

Murphy, Jim. The Real Benedict Arnold. Clarion Books, New York, 2007.   $20  ISBN: 0-395-77609-0  264 p.  Gr. 9-12   I don’t think I’ve had such strong feelings about a biography since I read Kitty Kelly’s The Bush Dynasty, but for exactly opposite reasons.   Murphy’s meticulously produced biography of Arnold gives us a vivid picture of a much- maligned, complex hero.   This book also reveals much about the tenor of the times: an unruly, chaotic congress, disintegrating militia, and few true patriots.  Struggling through many battles (in the field and in congress), Arnold turned Loyalist because he questioned whether the government he had been fighting for was worthy, not only of his personal sacrifices, but of those of his fellow Americans.  Murphy includes copious notes, sources, and related asides, as well as a T of C and index.   Though previously published reviews put this at the 9-12 age level, I believe this to be a typo, as the book would be better suited/understood by students in grades 9-12.   A MUST for all High School libraries, this book could be used not only in Civil War studies, but also to promote critical thinking, media & political awareness discussions with students.  P5 Q9

Haugen, Brenda. Annie Oakley: American Sharpshooter. Compass Point Books, Minneapolis, 2007.   $23.95   ISBN: 0-7565-1869-5  112 p.  Gr. 4-8    This little gem is a model for all preteen biographies: well-organized, engaging, lots of photos, and just the right level of detail.  Haugen’s not really digging up anything new, just synthesizing a lot of other biographies on Oakley, but she’s doing it with real panache, which makes this biography especially attractive to young readers.  Like all of the Compass Point Signature Series books, this one contains a timeline, additional resources, glossary, and index. P6 Q8

Rau, Dana Meachen.  Elizabeth Dole: Public Servant and Senator.  Compass Point Books, Minneapolis, 2007.   $23.95   ISBN: 0-7565-1583-1  112 p.  Gr. 4-8  Another nicely produced bio in Compass Point’s “Signature Lives” series, this book covers Dole’s upbringing, education, achievements, skills, aspirations, and relationships very thoroughly and in a manner that will engage preteen readers. Lots of great photos, too.  Contains a timeline, additional resources, glossary, and index. P6 Q7

Sommerville, Barbara. Clara Barton: Founder of the American Red Cross.  Compass Point Books, Minneapolis, 2007.   $23.95   ISBN: 0-7565-1888-1  112 p.  Gr. 4-8.    Produced for the same series as the 2 books above, Clara Barton shares the same thoughtful organization and level of detail and is profusely peppered with photos and illustrations.  Sommerville has gone a bit further with her research, however, and this biography is more in-depth.   Barton’s many accomplishments are well-documented here, as are issues she confronted daily (civil rights, disease, politics.)   P5 Q8

Joinson, Carla. Civil War Doctor: the story of Mary Walker. Morgan Reynolds Publishing, Greensboro, NC, 2007.   $27.95   ISBN: 1-59935-028-9 128 p.  Gr. 6-9   This was a fairly painful biography to read: Mary Walker was a brilliant young woman who became a doctor 1855 and spent the rest of her life on the battlefields of war, politics, and suffrage.  She was also a leading advocate for ‘dress reform,’ and fought to free women from the painful trappings of accepted couture.  Throughout the book, there’s an overwhelming thread of Walker’s constant frustration, as she fought for recognition and monetary compensation for her hard work.   Liberally illustrated with photos, maps, and drawings, this was an interesting account but far from an engaging read, as the writing is dull, repetitious, and often ambiguous.  Includes: Timeline, Sources, Bibliography, list of Websites, Index and T of C.  P5 Q6

Yannuzzi, Della. New Elements: The story of Marie Curie.  Morgan Reynolds Publishing, Greensboro, NC, 2007.   $27.95 ISBN: 1-59935-023-8  144 p.  Gr. 7-9   I’ve read several biographies on Marie Curie, but I think this is one of the most informative and engaging books on this amazing woman for young readers.  The selection of photos and illustrations makes the already colorful text come alive and the overall organization of the biography makes the story flow very well.  While the biography is not detailed, it does give a balanced picture of Marie and her times.   Also included is a timeline, list of sources, bibliography, webliography, index and t of c.   P5 Q8

Krull, Kathleen. Marie Curie. Illustrated by Boris Kulikov.  Viking, New York, 2007 $15.99   ISBN: 9780670058945  142 p.  Gr. 4-8    I’m glad I read this book before I read the Yannuzzi one above, I would’ve just written the Krull bio off as unreadable.  Even though I have enjoyed her other biographies (Leonardo, Isaac Newton) this one is very dull and disorganized.   Making this book even less of a good choice for young readers, there are only 3 lackluster illustrations in the entire book, and the font (Kennerly H) makes for blurry reading.  The author tries too hard to make the text kid-friendly, using terms like “brainiac” and “fool around” which are easily dated, ambiguous terms.  The only outstanding thing I can find about this bio is how Krull writes the last chapter “How She Changed the World,”  giving readers a nice synopsis and relating her achievements to her motivations, support, and genius.  P5 Q7

Bausum, Ann. Muckrakers. National Geographic, Washington, D.C., 2007.   $21.95   ISBN: 9781426301377  110 p.  Gr. 5-9   This gifted author has produced a beautifully crafted book that should appeal to anyone interested in the history of journalism in the US.  The nicely presented text, liberally illustrated with period sepia photos, is done in a typewriter font, with typewriter keys being used as initial letters.  It’s a very clever but subtle way of pulling in the reader and making the text more personable. Ida Tarbell, Upton Sinclair, Lincoln Steffens, and other ‘muckrakers’ are illuminated in this meticulously organized book and their respective styles of investigative reporting are explored. Would be a great addition to any journalism class curriculum. Includes t of c, timeline, resource guide, bibliography, research notes, credits, and index.    P6 Q8

Bausum, Ann. Our Country’s First Ladies. National Geographic, Washington, D.C., 2007.   $19.95   ISBN: 9781426300066  128 p.  Gr. 5-9.    Another winner from Bausum, and not your typical whitewashed White House presentation, either.  The book is historically organized, beginning with Martha Washington and ending with Laura Bush.  Each woman’s 1-3 page story contains a sidebar giving a synopsis (birth, death, maiden name, age as first lady, and more.)  The selection of photos and painted portraits is especially nice, as it gives readers more to identify that first lady with.  Bausum’s writing style is friendly and chatty, but not superfluous.    P5 Q 8

Yoder, Carolyn P. John Adams, The Writer. Calkins Creek, Honesdale, PA, 2007.   $16.95   ISBN: 159078247X  144 p.  Gr. 8-adult    Constructed almost entirely from letters, journal entries, and public documents, this biography doesn’t read like most.  While I admire the author greatly for her meticulous research and the overall way the bio is organized, I found this a very difficult book to read.   Adams may have been a profuse and passionate writer, but his entries are often too indirect and convoluted and it makes for a less than engaging read.  If you can wade through the text, there’s a lot of insight into an accomplished man, his equally amazing wife, and their exciting times.   Best for HS readers +.   Includes T of C, Timeline, Bibliography, and Index.  P5 Q7

Giblin, James Cross. The Many Rides of Paul Revere. Scholastic, New York, 2007.   $17.99   ISBN: 0439572908  86 p.  Gr. 3-8   This book is one of those rare biographies that are suitable for sharing with the very young but detailed enough for older middle schoolers.  With a bit of pruning, it might even work as a read-aloud in a third grade classroom, possibly as a supplement to exploring Longfellow’s “Midnight Ride.” The author does attempt to elucidate the misrepresentations in the poem, and goes into depth about Revere’s military accomplishments, honors, and misdeeds.   The nicely organized text is liberally illustrated with maps, photos, woodcuts, paintings, and drawings – all tastefully reproduced in the same sepia tones as the text.   P6 Q7

Smith, Charles R., Jr.  Twelve Rounds to Glory: the Story of Muhammad Ali. Illustrated by Bryan Collier. Candlewick Press, Cambridge, MA, 2007.   $19.99  ISBN: 9780763616922  80 p.  Gr. 3-8   This book is much like Ali: hard-hitting, staccato prose, and graceful, yet  bold and powerful illustrations.  Each of the twelve “rounds” of prose takes on the tempo of the fight, or whatever is going on in Ali’s life at the time.  The book is without a doubt one of the most creatively-wrought biographies in print.  This book is a good introduction to many things: poetry (ringside!  even young boys would be enthralled with this), civil rights issues, biography, and the zen of boxing.  Would be also be appropriate for middle schoolers to use in creative writing development.  P7 Q8

Shivak, Nadia. Inside Out: Portrait of an Eating Disorder. Simon & Schuster, New York, 2007.   $17.99   ISBN: 0689852169  64 p.  Gr. 6-12   As a former anorexic/bulimic, I have read a plethora of self-help books on the subject, but none that saw eating disorders from the inside out as this book does.  Ironically, it wasn’t until I heard back from a young library patron about how this book had comforted her that I realized that it truly is a self-help book and not just a very painful autobiography.  The author puts us through at least 60 pages of living hell, and truly, she doesn’t overcome her disorder as much as she learns to detatch and distance herself from it – at age 40.  What is most refreshing (if anything in this book could be called that) is the humor and the mode of presentation: somewhat like “Amelia gone to Eating Disorder Hell” journals.  Her talented and obsessive writing is at times concrete poetry and at other times reminiscent of Dante’s Inferno, illuminating the dark corners of this obsession.  There are few, if any, books that adequately portray the angst and manage to comfort sufferers: make sure this book is in your library!   Includes afterward, helpful websites, acknowledgements, and a list of eating disorder factoids.   P7 Q9

Hilliard, Richard. Ham the Astrochimp. Boyds Mill Press, Honesdale, PA, 2007.   $16.95   ISBN: 9781590784594   32 p.  Gr. 2-5 Not your usual cute animal story, Ham the Astrochimp would make a great read-aloud introduction to biography, astronauts, or even exploration in an early elementary classroom.   This well-written book presents the life and achievements of  the U.S.’s first intelligent being to travel in space. While the central, large font text doesn’t go into detail about why or how Ham was chosen and trained for the Mercury flights, there are smaller font sidebars that elucidate this and give the reader many facts about our early space program.   The illustrations are meticulous and engaging, as might be expected from a professor of graphic design and illustration.  The only thing missing is a bibliography/source notes.   A great addition to any elementary library.    P7 Q8

Bolden, Tonya. Take-off: American all-girl bands during WWII. Random House, New York, 2007.   $18.99   ISBN: 9780375827976  76 p.  Gr.6-10    Take-off (a slang term for improvisation) is truly a history book like no other: jazzy, slangy, at times scintillating, and always obsessively informative.  The book’s theme is the rise of women in  performance music, filling vacancies left by men drafted in to World War II service.  Before this time, it was considered ‘unseemly’ for women to be performing in a band on stage.   Take-off  is meticulously researched and produced, beautifully illustrated, and includes a CD of “Songs to Swing To,” performed many of the big name “orks.”  There’s also lengthy documentation and discussion on racial segregation in women’s bands.  This book would be a great reference for music history, women’s studies, or civil rights history classes.  P6 Q9

Marsalis, Wynton. Jazz ABZ. Illustrated by Paul Rogers. Biographical sketches by Phil Schaap.  Candlewick Press, Cambridge, MA, 2005.   $24.99   ISBN: 0763621358  76 p.  Gr. 5-adult  One crazy book, filled with poems, odes, calligrams, etc. about all the greats, from Louis Armstrong (A) to Dizzy Gillespie (Z).  Jazz ABZ is an incredibly creative, beautifully produced book that is just ABOUT jazz, it is jazz.  Rogers illustrations are exciting, 50’-ish stylized paintings. Includes a list of 26 recommended jazz records.  This book would be great addition to any library. P6 Q9

Sciurba, Katie. Oye, Celia!. Illustrated by Edel Rodriguez.  Henry Holt, New York, 2007.   $16.95  ISBN: 080507468  32 p.  Gr. 1-4   This book is a appealing tribute to salsa superstar Celia Cruz, written.  While not an indepth biography, it would make a nice classroom read-aloud..  The illustrations are vivid and warm.   P5 Q6


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