Friday, February 28, 2020
Straight Talk for Librarians: This simple, colorful picture book portrays Snail and Worm’s friendship with humor and fun, teaching life lessons about the importance of caring for others along the way. Large text and short sentences allow early readers to take a stab at reading to themselves.. The lack of a narrator also makes this an excellent choice to practice voice in reading aloud; the story is told in dialogue only, the color of the text alternating to make it clear which character is speaking. A great choice for early reader and picture book collections.
Straight Talk for Librarians: Every young reader will be able to see aspects of themselves in one of Mr. Wolf’s students, from the constantly-in-motion Abdi to perfectionist Penny. The story meanders throughout different storylines and characters, with just enough connecting them to feel like one cohesive story. From the kindergartener asking someone to tie his shoe to the student who makes ten stops on their way to the office, Mr. Wolf’s Class is hilariously true to life and will resonate with any elementary school student. Any graphic novel fan will love this series!
Straight Talk for Librarians: This second installment in the series is a marked improvement on the first, and fantasy fans looking for illustrated early chapter books will love Cora and her eclectic group of sea-creature friends. Blue and black illustrations depict Cora as a pudgy, expressive mermaid, and the other characters - particularly the earless, eyeless, fingerless sea cucumber, Larry - are comical and well-drawn. Cora’s journey outside of her comfort zone and into self-empowerment is inspiring to follow, and the lessons she learns along the way - about brainstorming, the difficulties of putting your experiences on paper, and animal migration - could make for a great companion to either a writing or science lesson.
Fierce 44, The: Black Americans Who Shook Up the World, written by the Staff of The Undefeated (Website), reviewed by Anneliese White
Straight Talk for Librarians: Overall, this is a great purchase for upper elementary/middle school aged students to get a quick overview of 44 important African Americans. The biographies are concise and have a conversational tone which young readers will appreciate. This is not a title intended to be used for serious research, but does a great job giving a swift general overview of facts of lives to pique readers’ interest. Some mature content about a few persons might prompt younger readers to need an adult to discuss with, but this is something I would recommend for purchase, even though there are a plethora of African American biography collections out there, for the main reason that writing is done in an interesting and hip way, and the collection holds profiles of unknown individuals that many other books don’t feature. Good for upper elementary, better for middle school, add this title to your non-fiction section.
Monday, February 24, 2020
Straight Talk for Librarians: Full-color illustrations and a rhythmic rhyme style reminiscent of Dr. Seuss’ early reader texts fill these short chapters. From the opening lines - “A mob of Bobs lives like slobs. A mob! Of Bobs! Oh, such slobs” - readers will be curious about the boldly drawn characters. While the families themselves are fairly one-dimensional caricatures, and a simplistic compromise solves the book’s main conflict, there is a lot to like in this quick read. The repetitive rhyme scheme makes this a perfect choice to teach poetry and vowel sounds for young readers, and the differences between the families could serve as the foundation for a class discussion of compromise and conflict resolution.
Friday, February 21, 2020
Straight Talk for Librarians: The almost frenetic pace of the crew’s journeys can be a lot to keep up with, but adrenaline seekers (and of course, all Geronimo fans) will find a lot to love about this book. Geronimo’s natural clumsiness leads to slapstick humor, and there is certainly never a dull moment. Each time period is introduced with factual blurbs explaining important people, events, and customs, including traditional wardrobes for all walks of life. Readers will learn a lot about history without even realizing it! The travel journal appendix includes quizzes, crafts and activities to extend the learning on the three time periods visited in the book. Use as an extension for strong readers looking to learn about history, or hand to those who have graduated from “Magic Tree House” that are looking for a similar read.
Straight Talk for Librarians: “I Love You So Mochi,” presents itself as the rare unicorn of YA romance novels; it features a fantastic story, rich in education of another culture, spotlighting main characters who are all miniorities, and...wait for it...wait for it...NO SEX SCENES OR SEX REFERENCES! Seriously folks, just kissing and a sweet innocent romance fill these pages. It is the book that librarians are often searching for, to appease their female tween readers, while not having to worry about mature content. It should be noted that there is some profanity in the novel, but not enough that it would prohibit a purchase. Kuhn’s novel would be great for discussions on Japanese cultural differences (she seamlessly weaves Japanese customs and do’s and don'ts for American readers), inaccurate stereotypes, as well as talks on pursuing your goals and passions. It’s a must purchase for middle school and high school libraries, and here’s hoping Kuhn is conceivably intending a sequel.
Rotten! Vultures, Beetles, Slime, and Nature’s Other Decomposers, written by Anita Sanchez, reviewed by Anneliese White
Straight Talk for Librarians: “Rotten! Vultures, Beetles, Slime, and Nature’s Other Decomposers,” offers a great bundle of important information on decomposition, flora and fauna, and the cycle of life and death. Science teachers and librarians will rejoice at how Sanchez craftily explains various worlds of rotting, and although it often appears gross and foul smelling to humans, readers will see what really is going on underneath the surface, and why it’s so important. Many science experiments and discussions can accompany this title, and educators can utilize this book in parts by chapter to cover topics within decomposition, or as a whole. Although it’s advertised for grades 3-6, personally it seems more appropriate for grades 5-8 for it’s verbose chapters, unless an educator is assisting in its reading and understanding. Overall, a highly recommended pick that will both disgust and delight students.
Straight Talk for Librarians: Short, illustrated transitional chapter books are easy to come by, but few series pack a nonstop-adrenaline punch like Dragon Masters. Fans of the series and newcomers alike will be invested in the fast-moving plot. Although character development is nonexistent, the group of students is culturally and racial diverse. Perfect for fans of “Notebook of Doom,” or those eyeing “Wings of Fire” but not ready to read long chapter books.
Monday, February 17, 2020
Captain Underpants and the Perilous Plot of Professor Poopypants, written by Dav Pilkey, reviewed by Katy Golden
Straight Talk for Librarians: George and Harold’s fourth adventure has been republished in full color and readers will be chomping at the bit to get their turn! Few writers have the comedic, clever and readable flair that defines Pilkey's work, and his blockbuster success makes this purchase a no-brainer. Every page is in full color, making the characteristic flip-o-rama, mini-comics, and illustrations pop even more than the original. Readers will also love the opportunity to use the Professor’s name-changing code boards to come up with their own new “silly” name: Flunky Lizardchunks? Snotty Gerbilsniffer? Fans of Captain Underpants, silly names, and clever pranks will be begging for more!
Straight Talk for Librarians: This book was an absolute delight to read, and I think it is a great book for a library. The School Library Journal is absolutely correct in their review, the reveal of why Chloe's parents don't want to discuss their past adds a jolt of energy to the rest of the novel, and Chloe's reactions are an amazing representation of a seventh grader reacting to unexpected and life changing news. I think if it were to be used in a classroom, it would be best used as a class read aloud novel to teach empathy, predictions, and to introduce the idea of research projects, as Chloe spend a few chapters doing research in this book. Unidentified Suburban Object by Mike Jung will absolutely be added to my middle school library.
Straight Talk for Librarians: Kate is a loveable and relatable character that readers will adore. The supporting characters are well rounded and memorable. West clearly knows what her readers want. The plot is believable and entertaining. The novel’s high interest subject and lower reading level make it a great recommendation for striving readers. Though the book is set in high school, the novel is appropriate for middle school students. The romance is light-hearted and sweet without ever becoming saccharine. I rarely read romance novels and particularly not young adult romance novels. I loved a previous Kasie West novel and decided to take a chance on Listen to Your Heart. I am thrilled that her writing is consistently strong and entertaining. Kasie West has created another delightful romantic comedy novel. Fans of Kasie West's previous novels will love this heartfelt tale of romance, friendship and family loyalty. I highly recommend this novel. It would make a wonderful addition to a classroom library. Listen to Your Heart clearly deserves to find a home in a school or public library.
Not One Damsel in Distress: Heroic Girls From World Folklore, written by Jane Yolen, reviewed by Anneliese White
Straight Talk for Librarians: School libraries’ non-fiction collection is often lacking, and this title is a perfect purchase for the folklore section. It has such a diverse collection of stories that readers will feel transported across the globe and will savor each hero. Yolen perfectly pieced this collection together to show that girl champions come in many forms, from princesses to warriors to average girls. This title has so many lesson possibilities with folk tales, studies on individual foreign nations, and of course bravery and courage. Notes on the stories at the end of the book fantastically explain the origin and variations of each story. My only criticism is I wish there were more illustrations, and that those illustrations were in color. In an open letter to Jane Yolen at the end, her daughter and granddaughters perfectly sum up that they in fact, did not need this book because they already know girls have the power to be heroes, but that boys need this book even more so they know that girls can be heroes too.
Monday, February 10, 2020
Straight Talk for Librarians: Agatha is a friendly, chatty narrator who is constantly breaking the fourth wall by conversing with her “lovely reader” (“That’s where this chapter ends, so you can shut the book now”). Her “gang” of four friends are largely one-dimensional, and while the adults are largely comical, they, too, are undeveloped. With large, easy-to-read type accompanied by black-and-white drawings, “Agatha Parrot” is a transitional chapter book series for fans of Katie Kazoo and Junie B that are looking for a quick read. An additional purchase
Straight Talk for Librarians: Readers who grew up with Fancy Nancy picture books and early readers will be thrilled with this illustrated chapter book version. The illustrations are simple line drawings that perfectly capture Nancy’s effervescent (and, of course, fancy) style and enthusiasm. Readers will feel accomplished as they pick up Nancy’s “superb” vocabulary by reading the simple definitions that accompany each fancy word (“Nancy and Bree were more than surprised. They were flabbergasted.”). This installment could be used as a companion for an economics unit or alongside Jacqueline Davies' The Lemonade War to teach demand, products and services, and the challenges of entrepreneurship. Nancy Clancy is a gem of an illustrated chapter book series to hand to any fan of a headstrong female lead!
Princess Truly in My Magical Sparking Curls, written by Kelly Greenawalt, reviewed by Anneliese White
Straight Talk for Librarians: This book definitely represents diversity, and would be a beneficial addition to a library seeking to fulfill that goal. It was written by and illustrated by two women who happen to be Caucasion and who both have daughters who are African American. As mentioned at the end of Truly’s story, they wanted to create this book so their daughters could “...see a strong, smart, problem-solving, confident young girl with beautiful curls who could do anything she set her mind to!” The illustrations are in watercolor form, and will entertain young readers. This book could be exclusionary in an obvious way as young male readers most likely won’t want to pick up a book about a princess, nor a book with pink and purple all over the cover. It would be great as a choice to promote and discuss self-esteem and the differences that we all have, and should all celebrate. Undoubtedly it is a recommended purchase for libraries where the book fits.
Straight Talk for Librarians: I have really been enjoying this series. While it is marketed for younger students, I really think that high school readers will get a lot out of these books. The text is really engaging and it’s not often that you laugh out loud reading biology-like information. I did not realize how large and powerful ostriches are. The illustrator chose complementary earthy colors and you can easily spot the other books in the series based on this style. I think this is a pretty unique series and I highly recommend it for elementary through high school libraries. I am going to set up a portable display and bring these books to the biology classrooms to just have in there. My hope is that students will just pick them up and start reading. Once they get hooked, I will be happy to check it out to them. I think these books can serve as a great inspiration for coming up with topics for animal reports and it’s much more entertaining than the usual lists of animal traits. I think the book (and series) is very interdisciplinary as it shows the possibilities between biology, writing and visual arts. Perfect for an IB school!
Straight Talk for Librarians: While the mystery plot is a bit convoluted and the amount of characters can seem daunting, the novelty of a story told through the pets’ point of view will engage animal-loving readers. Queenie and Arthur are both a bit charicaturized at times (there is only so much self-praise from Queenie and forgetfulness from Arthur that one page needs), but each are lovable in their own way. The reader does need to put some pieces together at times to solve the mystery, because the narrators are not doing the work for them, and a basic knowledge of the Prohibition era could be helpful in understanding the outcome. Use this as a mentor text to model voice or perspective using the dual narrators, or as a quirky read for an adventure or animal lover. Violence and use of weapons; grades 5-8.
Straight Talk for Librarians: This is a really unique book with two authors alternating chapters with their stories. The book chapters are set up by the lunch schedule, so the story spans a week and the reader will know what is for lunch every day that week. I thought it was a really cool structural device for the story. I think this is a particularly poignant story in terms of finding ways to understand each other and becoming friends with people who might be a little different than you. It’s hard to be an outsider for a variety of reasons. It also gives the reader some insight into what it might feel like to be at a new school and experiencing a new culture. I would say there is also a message about trying to understand living with a learning disability as some readers may have never heard of APD. There is also the underlying message about the importance of pronouncing names correctly. It’s a big part of a student’s identity, so we should all try hard to pronounce names correctly. I think this story could be a great way to develop empathy and to walk in someone else’s shoes. For some readers, this book may introduce a lot of new foods and how lunch might differ between students in the US and in India. Many other books are available about school lunches around the world in non-fiction so this might serve as a good opportunity for fiction and non-fiction book pairings in the library. This book could also serve as inspiration to sit with someone new during lunch and get to know them a little bit. Both Ravi and Joe have a glossary at the end and readers will be delighted to find two recipes they could try that were mentioned in the book. I think this book would work well as a read-aloud so it could be a good choice for a One Book, One School read. All in all, this book is a great purchase for an elementary school library.
Straight Talk for Librarians: This will be a popular graphic novel in the collection and has a fantastic message for teachers and librarians to use with students. As 5th grade ends and middle school begins, cliques are almost always beginning, and this graphic novel poignantly portrays the hurt many kids feel when social groups change and they feel left out. Olive demonstrates such a great message that it’s still important to be kind to others but also be true to yourself. The illustrations, done by Miller, are well done and feature a diversity in characters. Click portrays a difficult topic in a lighthearted way, and will open up discussions for your students. Definitely a must add.
Straight Talk for Librarians: There is no doubt that this book will be appealing to upper elementary students at any library. It has the epic formula of girl power, boy crushes, pesky older siblings, and parents who seem to treat the main characters unfairly. If readers are looking for deep substance and a non-cliche read, this may not be the right match. It would be something I would recommend for librarians to purchase because it is a fun reboot of the popular Babysitters Club (with a second book already out), but it is highly doubtful that middle school students would be interested in this one, as the storyline and characters are quite immature (despite the main characters being in 7th grade in the book). The three main characters (Bree, Dot, and Malia) are diverse, which is nice. It could be used to start a discussion on entrepreneurship. Definitely recommended, but with the push to 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade readers.