Gandhi: A March to the Sea
Illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez
2013 Amazon Children’s Publishing
ISBN – 9781477816448
Genre – Picture Book, Nonfiction, Poetry
Age – Early Elementary, Elementary
In 1930, Gandhi decided to protest England’s rule over India. England declared that the people of India were not allowed to use the salt from the sea, they had to purchase salt from the British and pay the exorbitant taxes on salt. Gandhi only practiced nonviolent protests and this picture book in verse tells the story of his twenty four day march to the sea and its lasting effects.
I liked this book for a few different reasons. I absolutely love the idea of nonfiction picture books. It is not always easy to pull off, but this one works. Although I am not a huge fan of poetry and books in verse, I liked this one. I find that they are often too dramatic. The story of Gandhi’s march is a dramatic one, and the format and tone of this poetry is fitting. Now for the best part, the illustrations! Holy Cow! They look so real, but not quite like a photograph. It really makes the book magical. The lines, details, light, and shadows are completely realistic. I like that the backgrounds are just that, they fade to the back, yet they are still beautiful. Each page really has a focus and they compliment the text, the history, and the nature of the story. I think this is a great book for kids in elementary school. Not only does it use a more uncommon format, but it teaches a great life lesson, and history.
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
2012 Antheneum Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9781442457027
Genre – Picture Book
Age – All Ages
Mr. Morris Lessmore loved books, stories, and words. Each day he wrote the story of his life in his book. One day a devastating storm blew everything around and mixed everything up, including the words of his story, the words of his life. He didn’t know what to do so he wandered. Then while looking up he saw a lady being pulled through the sky by a flock of books. She saw that he wanted to fly and sent him a good story. This story took him away to a magical library in a magical land of magical books in which he began to rewrite his story. He lived his life day after day writing and sharing books and stories with others.
There are honestly no words to describe this book. I say it is for all ages because anyone who has a love for books, stories, words, and a fulfilled life will love this book. Do not be surprised to feel tears in your eyes as you read and look at the pictures. Speaking of the pictures, they just add to the magical feeling of this book. They are realistic, yet not. There is an immense depth in each illustration. The colors are vibrant without being bright. Mr. Lessmore feels real to me. Its not that he looks real, but considering his expressions and body positions and mannerisms, he just feels real. I don’t want to say too much especially about the ending, because I don’t want to skew anyone’s ideas or opinions. I will say that once you read the book, which you must, go on YouTube and check out the 15 minute short film that is based on the book. It won an Academy Award for a short film.
Orson Scott Card
ISBN – 9780765317384
Genre – Science Fiction
Age – Middle School, High School, Adult
In a world where each family can only have two children, Ender is a “Third.” Each child is tested to see if they qualify to attend battle school. Here they train to join the army that must kill an alien army that attacked humans many years before. At six years old, Ender is the most promising candidate that the military leaders have identified to lead the human army to a victory. He trains by playing war games and simulated battles. As his training goes on, Ender is thrown into more harsh and desperate situations in battle as well as his personal life. Is Ender really the savior that humans have been waiting for? Can he help protect humans from an alien invasion and impending war?
This is definitely a classic for a reason. I really appreciate that it has such wide appeal. I have seen an eleven year old enjoy it as much as a fifty year old. Honestly, I can’t believe I waited so long to read it. This book has it all, adventure, conflict, heartbreak, friendship, action, and surprise. The entire time I was reading it, I had to remind myself of how old Ender and his friends are. They live in a world and are thrust into a situation in which they are forced to mature unbelievably early, yet they take it in stride. Card has created scenarios in such detail that I became so immersed that I forgot I was reading a work of fiction. I laughed, I teared up, and my jaw dropped all within a few pages. If you haven’t read it yet, you should probably add it to the list.
Vivian Vande Velde
2008 Marshal Cavendish
ISBN – 9780761455158
Genre – Fantasy
Age – Middle School
Isabelle comes to consciousness running through the woods with a pack of dogs chasing her. She can’t remember who she is or where she comes from. One family comes forward and claims that she is their daughter who was stolen six years ago by the evil witch who lives in the forest. Their other daughter, an infant, was stolen the day before as well. After this the villagers storm her cottage and burn it down, possibly with the witch and their baby inside of it. Does Isabelle belong to this family? Does she have anything to do with the evil witch?
Stolen was a good book for late elementary and middle school kids. The story was just complex enough, without being complicated. It had mystery and suspense involved, but is not confusing. The characters have intrigue and depth. Honestly, I just didn’t connect to the story. It just didn’t have enough depth or content for me, but I think that mainly has to do with not being its intended audience. Tween books have never been my favorite.
Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio
1996 Albert Whitman and Company
ISBN – 9780807574577
Genre – Biography
Age – Elementary School, Middle School
Peg was the only girl in her small Midwestern town to get polio. She was an ordinary 12 year old girl, who was excited about her school’s homecoming parade and the coming summer. Then one day her muscles began to twitch and pulse, and she came down with a fever. A doctor quickly diagnosed her with polio and she moved to a specialized hospital. However, her condition continued to worsen, as her breathing became shallow and labored. She found out that she had a very acute form of polio. She was then transferred to a hospital that could accommodate her possible needs for a respirator, or an iron lung as it was called in the 1940′s. This book follows her struggles and victories while living with this debilitating disease.
Peg Kehret is an experienced children’s writer. Aside from this book, she has published over 30 books for children over many years. She is able to really capture the way she felt emotionally, and physically in way that elementary aged kids can understand. This is particularly important when explaining a disease that has not been prevalent in many years. Pictures are included of herself, her friends, family, and even the “iron lung,” which will help kids visualize certain aspects of her story. This is a quick yet intense read that will tug at many emotions inside of the reader. Laughter and tears in the same page is not unusual.
Hero on a Bicycle
2013 Candlewick Press
ISBN – 9780763660376
Genre – Historical Fiction
Age – Elementary, Middle School
Paolo Crivelli and his family are just trying to survive the Nazi occupation near Florence in 1944. Paolo thinks the war is long and boring, so each night he sneaks out of the house to take a long bike ride. One night he runs into partisans, who are helping to fight against the occupation. They ask his family to harbor a couple of their soldiers. Although this is very dangerous, the family agrees. However, this arrangement puts everyone in the family’s life at risk. Does Paolo and his family have what it takes to be real heroes and survive the war as well ?
I thought this was a decent book. I liked the characters and the balance of strength and weakness in each of them. The story had balance as well. Bad things happened throughout, but good things did also. I didn’t feel like a terrible situation was sugar coated because it is a children’s book, but it also wasn’t horrific and inappropriate. It also had a valuable lesson that heroism isn’t always a grand action, but can be a state of mind, and just plain doing the right thing. I thought it was an interesting viewpoint to look at WWII from, one that is less common than the German, Belgian, American, and British viewpoints. On another note, I am glad that it was a short quick read, because honestly, I didn’t feel any pull to keep reading it.
2013 Margaret K. McElderry Books
ISBN – 9781416963981
Genre – Mystery
Age – Middle School
Poppy, Alice, and Zach are best friends. They love creating characters and making up adventures about pirates, warriors, mermaids, and the Queen, which is a bone porcelain china doll. After Zach’s dad throws out all of his characters, Zach decides to stop playing these games. But then a ghost begins to approach Poppy telling her a story about her death, and that she will not rest until the doll is buried. So Poppy and Alice approach Zach and beg him to join in on one final real life adventure. Will they be able to put the ghost’s soul to rest?
I thought this book was solid. I liked the way that it showed three kids that still actively use their imaginations instead of playing video games and watching TV all day long. These kids were brave and active, and just plain fun. I liked that it addressed the changing dynamics of individuals and groups of friends during the middle school time period. It can be a hard and sad transition, and Holly Black does a great job of portraying these changes. I understand that these changes do happen, but at times I was super frustrated by them while reading. I just wanted to yell at the pages and tell the kids to get over themselves. Although I was frustrated, I see this as a sign of a good book. I also liked that the entire book, I wanted to know if they would succeed in their mission, and because of that, I read it in one sitting.
2012 Scholastic Press
ISBN – 9780545331807
Genre – Historical Fiction
Age – Elementary School
It is 1964 and the summer that Glory will turn 12. Things are beginning to change in Moss Hill Mississippi. People from the North called Freedom Workers have been coming into town to help African Americans gain more rights in the South and many residents of Moss Hill are not happy. As the 4th of July and Glory’s birthday approaches, she fights to keep the public pool open for her birthday celebration. She then makes a new friend, the daughter of a Freedom Worker from the north. Through the changes in her town and her new friendships, Glory learns how to be true to herself, and she learns that things may never be the same again.
This is a beautifully and simply written story. It reminds me that although the issues of the civil rights movement were complicated, they were also simple in many ways. From the viewpoint of a child it could be hard to understand what the big issue was. I like that Glory was open to new experiences, and she stood up for what she believed even though many people did not agree with her. That can be a very hard thing to do for a child and even adults. Glory Be is an easy to read book with some difficult to understand concepts. Perfect for a young child to learn about history and the civil rights movement.
Balloon Toons: Hiccup!
2012 Blue Apple Books
ISBN – 9781609052553
Genre – Graphic Novel
Age Early Elementary
It is the day of the school play for Jamie, and he is so nervous he doesn’t want to go to school. After his dad makes him his favorite breakfast, Jamie gets a case of the hiccups. When he gets the hiccups they always last a long long time, and now he is afraid that his hiccups will ruin the play! When he gets to school, he sees Jenna the star of the play, and she tries everything she can to help him get rid of his hiccups. She even enlists the help of other kids at school, Mr. Beakerbottom, and Coach Bloat. Will anybody be able to help Jamie get rid of the hiccups and save the play?
This is my first Children’s graphic novel, and I have to say I really enjoyed it. I can definitely see the value in graphic novels for young children. The pictures in each frame are bright and descriptive, they really helped explain the story. I also think that the amount of words per picture makes the book seem less intimidating for beginning readers. I thought the story was fun. The possible hiccup cures were creative and hilarious, sure to make the kids laugh. I also thought that Mike Herrod properly captured the attitude and personalities of elementary aged students. They are nervous, scared, and at times can be very self centered. I really think these graphic novels have a place next to early reader books, and can even be great to mix options for learning readers.
Happy Birthday Bad Kitty
2009 Roaring Book Press
ISBN – 9781596433427
Genre – Humor
Age – Early Elementary
It is Bad Kitty’s Birthday, but she doesn’t want to wake up, until her favorite breakfast is served. After that the preparations for her party begin. They hang the decorations, which she destroys. The guests arrive, and they are all strange, and they all bring bad gifts, and they all get stolen. What kind of shenanigans will Bad Kitty and all of her friends get into? Will she find her missing presents, and get the one thing she wants the most?
So I just discovered the Bad Kitty series for early readers (not picture books,) and I love them just as much. First of all, I love cats, and all of the wacky things they do! Nick Bruel’s illustrations are hilarious and they accurately portray the attitude of not only Bad Kitty, but all of her friends. The story is great fun for kids between the ages of 5-9. And even adults that are young at heart! I just bought this for a 6 year old’s birthday and it was a big hit. Another really fantastic thing about this book are Uncle Murray’s sections. The more Bad Kitty books you read, the more you see how much she hates Uncle Murray. However, in this book, Uncle Murray teaches the reader interesting and true facts about cats. For instance, cats should not eat chocolate! Then at the end of the book, a few breeds that are portrayed in Bad Kitty’s birthday guests are described. It is a great melding of fun and fact.