Saturday, April 12, 2014

ALSC blog

The Official Blog of the Association for Library Service to Children- Blog

Bloggers: They currently have 14 bloggers who are working in libraries around the country. They also utilize guest bloggers from time to time. 

Summary: According to their website: The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) is a network of more than 4,000 children’s and youth librarians, children’s literature experts, publishers, education and library school faculty members, and other adults committed to improving and ensuring the future of the nation through exemplary library service to children, their families, and others who work with children.

Strength/Weaknesses: The ASLC blog is a great resource for children’s librarians with almost daily updates. However, I did not see a section for award winners on the blog. The page about their bloggers has a link to their individual pages so librarians can have access to even more resources. 

Uses: This blog has suggestions for what to do if your program needs a makeover, suggestions for books for story time, helpful posts for people who are new children’s service managers, etc. Most of the blog posts are tagged and the category list is on the right side of every page, making it easy to search for specific topics. For example, clicking on Programming Ideas brought up all the posts related to programming. There were not, however, tags for awards, which would have been a helpful section.

Audience: This is a blog for children’s librarians.

Read-alikes: by Abby Johnson, by Amy Koester, by School Library Journal

Awards: This blog has won no awards.


Crankenstein - picturebook

Berger, Samantha. Illus. Dan Santat. Crankenstein. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2013. Print.

ISBN-13: 9780316126564

Summary: Crankenstein is a picture book about a little boy who gets very cranky when things don’t go his way. 

Strength/Weaknesses: Crankenstein is a delightfully illustrated book about a boy who gets upset over things- waiting in long lines, having to take cough medicine, when it is too hot for popsicles. People of all ages can relate to Crankenstein during these times. He is drawn to look similar to Frankenstein’s monster in a green color with a scowl on his face. He seems to always be cranky, that is until he meets another Crankenstein and laughter changes him back into a kid. Even the endpapers follow Crankenstein’s moods-the front has a gray and rainy look, while the back has smiling sunshine pictures. Removing the dust cover reveals even more gems-the front cover has a picture captioned ‘Anatomy of a Crankenstein’ with an illustration of Crankenstein with labels such as “A sneer from ear to ear” and “runny nose woes.” The back cover shows the back of Crankenstein and more labeled parts. This book is a funny book that kids will love. It is a topic they will be able to identify with and is beautifully illustrated with full color pages. 

Uses: Crankenstein can be used in the early grades to talk about made-up words - ‘Crankenstein’ and ‘MEHHRRRRR’ and how these words make this little boy seem very cranky. It can also be used during a unit on feelings with other books of a similar nature. 

Audience: Crankenstein is recommended for ages 3-6.

Read-alikes: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds, illus. by Peter Brown, Llama Llama Mad at Mama by Anna Dewdney

Awards: This book has won no awards.

Zoobooks magazine

Zoobooks- Children’s magazine

Zoobooks. Wildlife Education, Ltd., 2014. Print.

Summary: Zoobooks is a magazine for children that covers a different animal or animal group in a way children can understand. The issues I reviewed were “Hippos,” “Lions,” “Ducks, Geese & Swans,” and “Insects.” Zoobooks is published ten times a year.

Strength/Weaknesses: Each issue covers the anatomy, habitat, eating habits, & role of a single animal or animal group. It is a full color, glossy magazine that has a combination of photographs and color illustrations. Large pictures of the animals, short paragraphs and captions under the pictures help keep kids interested. The center section of the magazine is a pullout section with activities for kids that relate to the animal of topic. Each issue that I reviewed had drawings by kids and the activities included a crossword puzzle, word search, and scavenger hunt, although they did vary slightly in each issue. The answers for each activity was included in this section as well. There is an online website for the magazine where readers can take a 20 question quiz about the current issue, however most of the online content is for subscribers.  (
While the pictures are very colorful, some may be a little scary for younger readers, for example, the Insects issue had quite a few close up photographs of various insects.

Uses: This magazine would supplement an elementary social studies or science curriculum. The publisher offers a subscription rate and allows one to purchase an entire library or single editions. It could also be used in a reading center for children to choose during a free reading time. 

Audience: Zoobooks magazine is recommended for ages 6-12. The company has other magazines for younger readers- Zoobies for ages 0-3 and Zootles for ages 3-6.

Read-alikes: Ranger Rick, National Geographic Kids, 

Awards: According to their website, Zoobooks “is the proud winner of the Parents' Choice gold award 8 years in a row.”

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Music All Around Me

Music All Around Me - Music CD

Hartmann, Jack. Math All Around Me: Making Early Childhood Math Fun Through Music 'N' Movement. Hop 2 It Music, 1998. CD.

Summary: Jack Hartmann takes basic math skills and sets them to music. Skills include shape recognition, patterns, basic counting, calendar skills, and counting on. 

Strength/Weaknesses: Most children love music and many of the songs on this album would be useful to supplement teaching basic math skills. Count by 2’s is a great one to teach skip counting at this age. Hartmann's music is popular with many in early childhood. According to one Pre-k teacher, "Jack Hartmann is like the early childhood equivalent of Bon Jovi. Every time he is at a convention, it is packed and everyone is jumping and screaming and singing along."
A few of the songs, however, seemed to be a stretch for math (Shake Your Hands, for example) and there was not much variety in how the songs were performed.  Too often the songs sounded much like the one preceding it and gave the CD as a whole a monotonous feel.

Uses: Because of their repetitive nature, many of the songs would be very useful in a Pre-k and kindergarten class to help teach and reinforce math skills. Birthdays and Today, Yesterday & Tomorrow are good examples to use when teaching about the calendar. And while Going on a Treasure Hunt is one that I would not use in math, Preschool children will love the call and response nature and movement of the song. 

Audience: Math All Around Me is recommended for ages 3-8.

Awards: This CD has won no awards.

Bink & Gollie

 Bink & Gollie - Graphic Novel

DiCamillo, Kate and Alison McGhee, illustrated byTony Fucile. Bink and Gollie. Somerville: Candlewick Press. 2012. Print.

ISBN-13: 978-0763659547

Summary:  Bink & Gollie follows two best friends-one very tall and one very small-through three stories. The first one is about Bink and her obsession with very long rainbow colored socks. The second is all about Gollie and her desire to spend some time alone imagining herself climbing the Andes Mountains. The third is about a marvelous new companion Bink has found and the resulting jealousy of Gollie. 

Strength/Weaknesses: Bink & Gollie is a genre bender of sorts-a picture book meets graphic novel meets early reader. It is a delightful tale of two girls and their quirky friendship. Early readers will enjoy the graphic novel type pictures and quick dialogue. This book would help students make a great transition from picture books to early chapter books. 
While the three short stories end quickly and are not tied together by storyline, the authors do include a few running themes-pancakes, the rainbow socks and roller skates help tie them together. There are a few words that are advanced for lower elementary (for example: implore, marvelous, companion, extraordinary to name a few) but these could be explained in the context of the story. 

Uses: This book can be used with kindergarten, first & second grade. 
The following information is from a lesson plan by: Librarians of Jefferson County Public Schools: Other books and resources are available there as well.

One Common Core aligned activity for each grade could be:
Grade 2 
As a class encourage students to pull the details from the story to answer the companion worksheet statements about their best friend.

Kindergarten and Grade 1:
Use pages 4 and 5 from the Candlewick Press teacher’s guide for a double sided worksheet.
The first is a matching page, and the second gives the students an opportunity to draw themselves into a scene in the book. 

Audience: Bink & Gollie is recommended for ages 6-8.

Read-alikes: Odd Duck by Cecil Castellucci, Ivy & Bean by Annie Barrows

Awards: 2011 winner of the Theodor Seuss Geisel award

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

The Hidden Girl: A True Story of the Holocaust

The Hidden Girl: A True Story of the Holocaust - non fiction

Kaufman, Lola Rein, and Lois Metzger. The Hidden Girl: A True Story of the Holocaust. New York: Scholastic, Inc. 2008. Print.

ISBN-13: 9780545200530

Summary: Eight year old Lola goes into hiding when her mother is shot and killed by a Nazi soldier. First, she goes with a Ukrainian woman but is almost discovered. Then she is sent to a farm and hides in a hole with another family. The only possession she has is an embroidered dress her mother made for her. After the war, she is shuffled between various homes and is finally reunited with an uncle. Like many other hidden children, she remained silent about her time during the war for many years and finally began to tell her story when she was contacted about donating items to the Holocaust museum. 

Strength/Weaknesses: This autobiography is a glimpse into what it was like for children during World War II who had to go into hiding to survive. The reader will sympathize with Lola while she is hiding with strangers in a hole at a farm, not being able to talk aloud, stand up, or go outside the hole and living in constant fear of being discovered.
The writing is a little choppy. It is written in present tense and seems to jump rather quickly from one scene to the next.
Overall, it is a look into one girl’s story of her time during the Holocaust and how she survived because of the kindness and bravery of non-Jewish strangers. 

Uses: This book could be used to supplement a unit on World War II or when discussing autobiographies. This website has some more examples of books that can be used in the classroom

The website for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum also has a list of books dealing with this topic.

Lola Rein Kaufman and Lois Metzger spoke about the book and Mrs. Kaufman’s experience here

Audience: The Hidden Girl:A True Story of the Holocaust is recommended for ages 9-13.

Read-alikes: There are many books dealing with children’s experience during the Holocaust. A few examples are: Escape: Children of the Holocaust by Allan Zullo, The Girl Who Survived: A True Story of the Holocaust by Bronia Brandman & Carol Bierman, I Am a Star: Child of the Holocaust by Inge Auerbacher 

Awards: This book has won no awards.

Friday, March 28, 2014


Tangled- movie

Tangled. Dir. Nathan Greno, Byron Howard. Perf. Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi. Walt Disney Pictures, 2010. DVD.

Summary: Tangled is a retelling of the classic Rapunzel story. As a baby Rapunzel is kidnapped because her hair has the magical ability to heal. She is kept isolated in a tower and yearns to see the floating lights every year on her birthday. When a thief happens upon her tower, she uses it as a way to get out of the tower and experience the world outside. She also discovers the truth about herself.

Strengths/Weaknesses: (This section contains spoilers for the movie) Tangled has all the appeal of a typical Disney movie-the charming guy, the funny animals, the feisty female. While Rapunzel may seem helpless at first being stuck in the tower, she shows her strength and bravery several times throughout-i.e. helping Flynn escape the guards, confronting Mother Gothel. Tangled is a fun movie for the whole family. However, there are a few moments that might be too intense for younger viewers. Flynn is stabbed by Mother Gothel and dies before being revived by Rapunzel and when Mother Gothel falls out of the window after she begins aging when Rapunzel’s hair is cut are two examples. 

Uses: Tangled would be a great movie to use in conjunction with a fairy tale unit. Students can do fairy tale retellings, read the picture book Rapunzel by Paul O Zelinsky and the graphic novel Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale, and discuss the differences. 

Audience: Tangled is rated PG for mild brief violence. 

Watch-Alikes: Brave, Frozen, Enchanted

Won: Best Song Written Specifically for a Motion Picture or for Television, Grammy Awards, 2012
Best Song, Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards, 2010
Best Animation, National Movie Awards, UK, 2011

Top Box Office Film, ASCAP Film & Television Music Awards, 2011

Monkey Me and the Golden Monkey

Monkey Me and the Golden Monkey (Book 1) written and illustrated by Timothy Roland- early reader

Roland, Timothy. Monkey Me and the Golden Monkey. New York: Scholastic, Inc. 2014. Print.
ISBN 9780545559768

Summary: Clyde is a very active kid. His twin sister, Claudia, tries to keep him out of trouble. His class takes a trip to the museum where Clyde eats a radioactive banana. Now, every time he gets excited he turns into a monkey.  Claudia knows this can be more trouble, but when an artifact is stolen from the museum and a stranger shows up at his school, Clyde knows a monkey may be just what is needed to save the day. This is the first book in a series. Book 2 was published in March 2014. 

Strength/Weaknesses: This is a high interest book about a very active little boy. Many kids will be able to relate to energetic Clyde. The illustrations on every page (also by Timothy Roland) move the pacing along. Roland’s use of a comic strip whenever Clyde turns into a monkey helps separate the two sides of Clyde.
There are some words that may be a little advanced for this age group, for example-radioactive and gamma ray. Overall, though, I believe most readers will be able to follow along just fine. 

Uses: This book is a good one to use with reluctant readers on the upper end of the age range because of the short chapters, fast pacing and high interest story. It would also be good to use as an introduction to graphic novels. 

Audience: Monkey Me and the Golden Monkey is recommended for ages 6-8.

Read-alikes: Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborn, Marty McGuire by Kate Messner, Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park, Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown

Awards: This book was published in January of 2014. At the moment, there have been no awards given to this book. 

Year of the Dog

Year of the Dog by Grace Lin- fiction

Lin, Grace. The Year of the Dog. New York: Little, Brown and Company. 2005. Print.
ISBN-10: 031606002X

Summary: Pacy is an Asian-American girl trying to find her place in the world. When her mom tells her that this year, the Year of the Dog, is the for family, friends and finding oneself, Pacy, the middle child with two sisters, sets out to find her talent. During this year she meets a new friend, struggles with disappointment, and begins to discover a talent all her own. The Year of the Dog is a sweet story about family and friendships.

Strengths/weaknesses: The Year of the Dog gives great insight into one Asian-American family. Pacy attends a school where she and her older sister are the only Asian students in the school. Even with the arrival of another Asian-American student, Pacy still struggles with being different-her friend can speak both English & Taiwanese and Pacy complains that doesn’t see kids like herself in books or plays. Students can relate to Pacy in feeling different from their peers at times. 
Although set in current day, the author uses Pacy’s mom to relate tales of what it was like growing up in Taiwan. These stories help contrast Pacy’s experiences in an American school. 
While this book is recommended for ages 8-12, the writing style may be too simple for some advanced older readers in this range. 

Uses: Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month is celebrated in May and this would be a great book to use. Students can read about & discuss Chinese horoscopes-find out what year they were born & symbolic meanings, practice calligraphy and Chinese symbols. 

Audience: Year of the Dog is recommended for ages 8-12

Read-Alikes: Ramona Quimby books by Beverly Cleary, Ivy and Bean books by Annie Barrows , The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang (for the older end of the age range)

Awards/Honors: (from the author’s website
• 2006 Fall Publisher's Pick
• Starred Booklist Review
• 2006 ALA Children's Notable
• 2006 Asian Pacific American Librarian Association Honor
• 2006 National Parenting Publications Awards (NAPPA) GOLD Winner
• 2007-2008 Texas Bluebonnet Award Masterlist
• 2007 Nene Awards Recommended List (Hawaii's Book Award Chosen by Children Grades 4-6)
• 2007 Cochecho Readers' Award List (sponsored by the Children's Librarians of Dover, New Hampshire)
• NYPL 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing 2006
• Kirkus Best Early Chapter Books 2006
•2006 Booklist Editors' Choice for Middle Readers
•Cooperative Children's Book Center Choice 2007
•Boston Authors Club Recommended Book
•2007-2008 Great Lakes Great Books Award nominee
•2007-2008 North Carolina Children's Book Award nominee
•2007-2008 West Virginia Children's Book Award nominee
•2009 Beverly Cleary Children's Choice Award (OR) nominee

•2009 Pacific Northwest Young Readers Choice Award (WA, OR, ID) nominee

Skulduggery Pleasant audiobook

Skulduggery Pleasant audiobook
Written by Derek Landy, read by Rupert Degas

Landy, Derek. Skulduggery Pleasant. Read by Rupert Degas. HarperChildren’s Audio, 2007. MP3.  
ISBN10: 0061341045

Summary: When twelve year old Stephanie’s quirky Uncle Gordon dies a stranger shows up at the reading of the will. Stephanie discovers the man is an old friend of her uncle’s named Skulduggery Pleasant, who also happens to be a detective, a sorcerer, and a walking, talking skeleton. When he tells Stephanie that he believes Gordon was murdered, they set off to find answers- and Stephanie discovers she has more power in her than she realized. 

 Strengths/Weaknesses: While on the upper end of the middle grade reading range, Skulduggery Pleasant is a novel that some advanced 9-year-old readers would also enjoy. The author, Derek Landy, does an excellent job of mixing in humor and sarcasm right when things seem to be getting a little too scary. It is interesting also to note that while one of the main characters is a girl, the book is not promoted as a “girl book.” 
The narrator, Rupert Degas, does a wonderful job of adding drama and intrigue to the story. Even though he has a deep, gravelly voice, he changes it for each character when they speak and it lends itself well to the suspenseful nature of the story. The jazzy music and sound effects after each chapter help hold the suspense. They do seem a little long at times, especially when tension has built at the end of a chapter and the reader is eager to find out what happens next.

Uses: At the end of the story, there is an interview with the narrator as the Skulduggery Pleasant character where he answers questions that were submitted by fans. This could be extended into the classroom or library by having students or book club members write what questions they would ask, then have the others answer how they think Skulduggery would.
Another way to use this novel would be to host a kid friendly murder-mystery program after having read the book. 

Audience: Skulduggery Pleasant is a delightfully humorous mystery novel for kids ages 10-14. 

Read-Alikes: This book is great for fans of fantasy, magic, mystery, and adventure. Other books that like this include: Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer, Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, Harry Potter series by JK Rowling.

Awards: Odyssey Award Honor Audiobook, 2008