Archive for January 2016

MOTHER BRUCE Is Funny!

January 28, 2016

Ryan T. Higgins the author/illustrator of Mother Bruce is a funny guy! This picture book, published by Disney-Hyperion, is laugh-out-loud hilarious!

Bruce is a grumpy bear who lives by himself. He doesn’t like much of anything except eggs. He whips eggs into gourmet recipes he finds on the internet. While preparing a new recipe with goose eggs, the eggs hatch into four cute little goslings. “Mama!” they say to Bruce. Bruce wants nothing to do with them and tries to return them to Mrs. Goose. Alas, she has flown south. The goslings are attached to Bruce. He tries to shoo them away, but they won’t have it. Like it or not, Bruce becomes their surrogate mother. Bruce uses his ingenuity to try to get them to leave, but nothing works. He is stuck with them as they grow from babies to teens to adults. Will he ever be rid of them? Higgins’ illustrations are delightfully funny. Each page turn offers a colorful variety of illustrations with clever lines and dialogue bubbles that kids and adults will love. If you’re a grump, Mother Bruce will make it all better!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE – Another Winner!

January 21, 2016

If you haven’t read The War That Saved My Life, I highly recommend it. Written by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and published by Dial Books for Young Readers, the book is set in London during World War II and the German invasion. It’s a 2016 Newbery Honor Book, winner of the middle-school age Schneider Family Book Award, and Odyssey Award — well-deserved awards.


Ten-year-old Ada Smith is the heroine of this story. She has a club foot that is an embarrassment to her “mam” – a horrid person. Because of her disfigured foot, Ada is not allowed to leave their flat. She endures physical and mental abuse at the hands of her mother. Even though Ada’s life is one of misery, she makes sure to give her younger brother, Jamie, the best care she can. When the war threatens the well-being of those living in London, local children are evacuated to a safer place in the country. Ada’s mother sends Jamie away, and Ada runs away to join him. When Ada and Jamie arrive at their destination, no one chooses to take them in. They end up in the home of Susan Smith, who is unmarried and has issues of her own. Ada puts up a wall of distrust as Susan Smith desperately tries to help Ada see that she is a worthy person – even with her club foot. During their stay, Susan, Ada, and Jamie slowly begin to become a family unit. When “Mam” suddenly appears and demands to take the children back to London, Susan knows she has no right to keep them. Reluctantly, Susan lets them go. Back in London, Ada is once again subjected to the cruelty of her mother. When she learns her mother never wanted children, Ada knows what she must do. In a dramatic ending of air raid sirens and bombs, Ada is determined to make it back to Susan Smith and the new life she offers them. This is a story of courage, understanding, healing, and love. Kimberly Brubaker Bradley weaves a fascinating and heartwarming tale in this must-read book!

Picture Book Wins the Newbery!

January 14, 2016

This has been an exciting week. It’s one I wait for each year. The American Library Association announced the Youth Media Award winners for 2016. Shut the front door! Knock my socks off! The Newbery Medal didn’t go to a middle-grade or young adult novel as one would expect. I’m totally awestruck the Newbery Medal went to a picture book!

Last Stop on Market Street is an amazing book written by Matt De La Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson, and published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers. It was also named a Caldecott Honor Book and a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book. This 757-word book packs power. Matt De La Peña’s lyrical language and Christian Robinson’s attention to detail depict a diverse population in an urban setting. Although this book may look uncomplicated, it’s a story of wants, needs, and the haves and have-nots in society. Readers are treated to the warm relationship between a young boy and his grandmother and their compassion for others. This book illustrates the kindness and beauty that encompasses us if we only take the time to notice. De La Peña and Robinson have created an unforgettable book – and Newbery Medal winner.

NEVER, NEVER underestimate the power of a picture book!

Historical Nonfiction Picture Books of Interest

January 7, 2016

During the holiday break, I stopped at the local library to browse. I found three nonfiction picture books that piqued my interest. These are perfect additions to school libraries.

Aaron and Alexander written and illustrated by Don Brown, Roaring Book Press, 2015

Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton were born a year apart. Don Brown, the author and illustrator, compares the similarities in their lives. Both men were orphaned at an early age. Aaron was taken in by his wealthy uncle. Alexander was taken in by a merchant. Both were bright young men who went to college. Both displayed courage as they fought in the Revolutionary War. Both became lawyers who sometimes worked together. Both became politicians, and that was where their likenesses ended. Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton had very different political views. Aaron politely approached people to ask them for their support. Alexander wrote articles and pamphlets that were insulting. The two became political enemies. Through a series of events, Aaron and Alexander continued to butt heads. When Alexander called Aaron “despicable,” Aaron wanted an apology, but none came. Aaron challenged Alexander to a duel. This duel was the demise of both men. Alexander Hamilton lost his life, and Aaron Burr lost his political career.

This book provides information about two important men in the history of our country, but it’s also a cautionary tale. These were two accomplished men, who had much to offer, but because of differences of opinion and more importantly, what one might call foolish pride, their lives were destroyed. It’s something to think about.

Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France written by Mara Rockliff and illustrated by Iacopo Bruno, Candlewick Press, 2015.

I’ve always been fascinated by Benjamin Franklin. Among other things, Franklin was a statesman, inventor, scientist, and humorist. He was brilliant. In Mesmerized, Mara Rockliff chooses to explore Ben’s approach to science and other new ideas of the time. Ben is sent to France to convince King Louis the Sixteenth and Marie Antoinette to send much-needed money and soldiers to America to help with the Revolutionary War. While there, Ben hears about the remarkable Dr. Mesmer who claims to have discovered a new force that can do many amazing things – even control thoughts. The French people are enthralled with the thought that their ills can be cured with the wave of Dr. Mesmer’s wand instead of going to a doctor. The king needs someone to help explain this new phenomenon.  Ben Franklin puts on his scientist hat and utilizes his scientific method, which is still used today. He observes, forms a hypothesis, tests the hypothesis, observes the results, and draws conclusions. Ben proves Dr. Mesmer’s force was not what he claimed it to be, and discredits him. The king is happy and provides America with the support requested by Ben. Iacopo Bruno’s over-the-top illustrations are colorful and cleverly executed. Combined with the end pages, you’ll be mesmerized by this book.

W Is for Webster: Noah Webster and His American Dictionary written by Tracey Fern and illustrated by Boris Kulikov, Farrar Straus Giroux, 2015

From his youth on, Noah Webster loved words – big words. Noah’s father knew he would never make a good farmer so he agreed to send Noah to college. Noah enjoyed school and studied hard. When the Revolutionary War began, he volunteered to be a soldier without much success. Eventually, Noah became a school teacher. Noah detested the British textbooks being used in the schools. He thought the newly independent America should have its own language. He was the one to do it. He started with a speller in which he included everyday words and simplified the spelling of other words. The speller was a success, but Noah saw a need for a dictionary with words unique to America. This was not as easy to accomplish as he had thought. He started by writing a small dictionary which was not well-received. Then he set to work on a big dictionary. He collected words, traced their origins, and wrote the definitions. Year after year Noah worked on his dictionary. He sold his expensive house and moved into a small cottage in order to provide for his wife and eight children while he continued to work on his dictionary. He spent years researching and traveling to libraries in America and Europe. He was passionate about bringing his work to completion. Twenty-five years after he began his project, An American Dictionary of the English Language, was complete. The time was right for his project. Congress made it its standard reference book. Revised editions of the dictionary are still used today. Readers will enjoy Boris Kulikov’s imaginative and whimsical illustrations that include words, letters, and comical facial expressions.

Each book includes author notes with additional information, sources, and a bibliography. These are worth checking out!


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