April 22, 2009
In this new picture book by Jeanie Franz Ransom, Joe Dumpty (Humpty’s detective brother) sets out to prove that Humpty’s fall was no accident. Kids will recognize lots of nursery-rhyme characters from Little Miss Muffet to the Three Little Pigs. Adults will recognize the spoof of classic detectives. The story, which has quite a bit of narration, includes mystery and crime, but not murder – Humpty is not dead, just broken (since all the King’s men can’t put him together). However, the bright, full illustrations will help readers who may have trouble with lots of words. All in all, this is a very fun book and would be great as a read-aloud.
April 20, 2009
A friend once told me that a great place to learn about something is to start with children’s books. This non-fiction picture book illustrated by Lisa Swerling and Ralph Lazar and written by Simon Adams is a GREAT place to learn about Earth, world culture, and geography. It’s jam-packed with information – from the solar system to weather to oceans to people to Earth’s structure and surface. Alternated between these more general topics are fold-out pages of each continent. Individual countries and their capitals are clearly labeled, and significant geographical features are mentioned in the margins. When the pages are unfolded, the four-page spread goes into more detail on the countries that make up the continent, providing facts on history, architecture, and culture.
Each page is fully illustrated and has several sections begging to be observed. At times there almost seems to be too much information for one read-through. It is, however, perfect for reading again and again. The sixth time through readers will surely see something they had missed before – even if it’s the clever quips the little Brainwaves have to say on each page that parents will love. The Most Fantastic Atlas of the Whole Wide World is more entertaining than the Eyewitness non-fiction books, and I highly recommend it!
April 13, 2009
Abe’s Honest Words: The Life of Abraham Lincoln is the second picture book by Doreen Rappaport that I have reviewed on this blog, the first being Martin’s Big Words. As good as that one was, I think the Lincoln biography is even better. This one, unlike the last one, is illustrated by Kadir Nelson. The pictures are beautifully realistic – large and filled with detail. Rappaport’s words are mixed with quotations from Lincoln. They’re easily distinguished from one another yet flow perfectly together.
This is a great biography. While reading it, I felt as if I were listening to a documentary and hearing the narrator speak, offering background, before Lincoln’s own voice came in. The book goes through a quick rundown of Lincoln’s life. Although it doesn’t go into many real details, overall it is extremely well done and should definitely be one of the frontrunners in the new batch of books on Lincoln to come out over the past year. The end of the book offers a timeline of important dates, as well as a suggested bibliography.
For more nonfiction books, check out Nonfiction Monday Round-Up at Abby (the) Librarian!
April 6, 2009
United Tweets of America: 50 State Birds, Their Stories, Their Glories by Hudson Talbott is a picture book about (surprise!) the U.S. state birds. Each state is featured in alphabetical order, and readers may be surprised by some of the birds they find on each page — New Mexico’s state bird is the roadrunner, and the cardinal is the state bird of 7 states! Besides the state bird, each page offers a few other facts about the state or the bird.
However, although United Tweets of America is definitely informative and interesting for learning about the state birds, it doesn’t offer a lot of good facts about the state – just a few here and there. If you’re teaching or learning about the state birds, this is a great book, but if you’re more interested in the states themselves, I recommend Our 50 States by Lynne Cheney, which is a great picture book full of information.
April 1, 2009
You may recognize Allan Ahlberg’s name from the 1986 book The Jolly Postman (one of my favorites!), which he worked on with his wife Janet. His latest book, The Pencil, definitely belongs on Time’s list of Top 10 Children’s Books of 2008. (Also on the list – Bats at the Library.)
The Pencil is a wonderful book about a pencil that begins to draw. It begins with a boy and dog. Soon everything the pencil has drawn wants to be in color, so the pencil draws a paintbrush. After that the things the pencil has drawn are unhappy with parts of themselves, so the pencil draws an erase. But, uh-oh, the erase begins to erase everything! This book is fun, clever, and funny – especially when everything the pencil draws wants to know what its name is. I highly recommend it. Not only is the story great but the pictures by Bruce Ingman are fantastic!
March 11, 2009
Bonnie Geisert has written four picture books based on various types of towns in the United States. Each one was illustrated by her husband Arthur Geisert. The first, published in 1998, is Prairie Town. Next came River Town, which was followed by Mountain Town and Desert Town.
Although I haven’t read Desert Town yet, I expect it to have the same style as the others. In each one, Geisert uses simple narration to describe the town over the course of a year and explain how the seasons affect it and the people living there. Her husband’s birds’-eye-view illustrations make readers feel they are silent, secret observers.
These books are great for depicting towns and people across the United States. They are realistic examples of specific parts of America. Although they’d be great for geography lessons, these books work best in one-on-one reading. The details in the pictures are best seen up close. With so much detail in the pictures, however, the story is new every time it’s read.
At the end of each book, Geisert also includes a note to mention events that happened throughout the year (a wedding, carnival, dedication, etc.) that the reader may have missed. It’s fun to go back through the pages of the story to find evidence of those events in the town. These are definite reads for anyone interested in small towns across the country.
February 10, 2009
This cute book from 2007 was written by Carla Morris and illustrated by Brad Sneed. I just happened to stumble upon it while browsing through the library, and of course, since it involves librarians, I had to pick it up.
The story is about Melvin who grows up going to the library every day after school. He talks to the librarians, who he says are always happy to see him. They help him find information, teach him about classification, help him practice lines for a play, and much more. Melvin also mentions attending all the library programs, including the Spend the Night in the Library party. Do some libraries really do that?
As Melvin grows up, he continues coming to the library and visiting the librarians. This is a great book about how the library can affect kids! This book is also great for helping kids who have library anxiety because it shows children that librarians are kind, helpful, and full of information. One of my favorite parts is a reoccuring theme about the librarians, whether they help him find information or are proud of him when he succeeds: “They couldn’t help it. That’s how librarians are.”
December 23, 2008
Two batwings up for Bats at the Library, written and illustrated by Brian Lies. It came out this year and has been on lots of best-books lists. The story, written with fun rhythm and rhyme, is super cute: Bats discover that a librarian has left a window open to the public library, and since they love to learn, they fly in to read books all night. The pictures are beautiful, and there’s lots of clever literary references, particularly when the bats get “lost” in the book during storytime.
Brian Lies has several other books out, including another featuring the friendly bats – Bats at the Beach. I will definitely be checking that one out soon!
April 16, 2008
This book by Lynne Cheney is filled with interesting information about all 50 states. The book has a loose plot of a family traveling throughout the entire country, but with each page dedicated to a state and jam-packed with pictures and trivia, the book certainly does not read like a story. The family vacation concept does pop up on each page though; if you’re paying attention you will find the two kids sending their grandma or friends emails and text messages about the exciting things they see or learn. Our 50 States is a great way to learn about geography and the diverse culture of the United States. With so much information on each page, this is definitely a book where each look may provide you with something new.
Mrs. Cheney has also written four other books for children, including A is for Abigail: An Almanac of Amazing American Women. Each of her books for children includes an aspect of American history, and most, including Our 50 States and A is for Abigail are illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser and feature fun, colorful illustrations.
April 10, 2008
This book by Lane Smith was easily my favorite from the selection for class last week. It combines history, Beatles references, and humor to create a very entertaining book. I highly, highly recommend it. Actually, the more I read Lane Smith books, whether they are his own or an effort with Jon Scieszka, the more I love his work. Not only are these books fun for kids, but also for adults who read with kids (or just for the fun of it on their own). This story shows a look at five American leaders as children and how their actions as children may have impacted them as adults.
Like with Martin’s Big Words, Scholastic also put out a video for this book. The video is definitely just as good as the book. It works in some new animation as well as includes music that sounds very similar to Beatles songs. James Earl Jones also narrates. The video is great to watch if you have the opportunity, otherwise check out the book. It will absolutely make you laugh.
Here’s an advertisement for the book and video.