Thursday, May 31, 2012

Review of Escaping Titanic: A Young Girl's True Story of Survival

With the 100-year anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic this year, numerous books were published to commemorate the tragedy. This picture book relates the story of one of the young survivors, 12 year-old Ruth Becker. Her father was a missionary and the family had been in India. Ruth, her mother, her four year-old sister, Marion, and the baby named Richard were all heading back to the States on the Titanic while their father stayed behind. Mother was very nervous about the trip; but, everyone kept reassuring her that everything would be okay.

The first part of this picture book shows some of the things that the girls did to pass their time. When it comes to the day of sinking, the date and time appears at the top of each page, to denote the timelines of events. Some suspense kicks in when Ruth gets separated from her family. Will she make it to a lifeboat and will all of them survive?

The book gives enough detail about the sinking to provide children with an understanding of what happened. It does not get into the gory, horrific details about all of the people freezing to death in the water, though it acknowledges that part of the tragedy. 

I appreciate that this book is a true story, instead of a fictional account based on the sinking. It definitely lends more credibility to the story. While I enjoy fiction, I would prefer to use an real survivor story when teaching children about the tragedy.

The illustrations in this book, though, remind me more of a computer-generated cartoon movie. They almost look like stills from an animated show. This is not my favorite type of illustration, especially as it seems to detract a bit from the "true story" being told. The people are more cartoon-y than the pictures of the Titanic, which seem more realistic.

At the end of the book, there is a real picture of Ruth, as well as a page telling about the rest of her life and how it was affected by being a Titanic survivor. There is also a brief timelines of the sinking of the Titanic and an Internet resource via FactHound for kids to do more research. I would definitely include this book in an elementary unit on the Titanic. I think it is more appropriate for those in the younger grades, because it does not overwhelm them with the horror.

I received an eARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Review of Do Super Heroes Have Teddy Bears?

Carmela LaVigna Coyle's latest children's book, Do Super Heroes Have Teddy Bears? features a little boy and a little girl with blankets as capes tied around their necks. Doesn't that bring back childhood memories? The little sister is asking her big brother all kinds of questions about how to be a super hero. She wants to know things like whether or not super heroes have teddy bears and what kinds of things they can do. He basically tells her that they can do anything that they want. He also teaches her that super heroes are responsible and kind. They take ownership of their mistakes and do what they can to make them right again. They also get to share secrets with each other. Their parents even get involved for a little bit of guidance.

I love the lessons that the book teaches. All kids are capable of being super heroes, especially when they are being what we call good citizens in my classroom. This book shows them how to do that. I like that the parents empower their children to do the right thing, while still having fun with them. I also like how at the end it says that no two super heroes are alike. It's important to be your own hero.

Too often, young children only associate super heroes with fighting and getting rid of the bad guy. This book provides a much more meaningful definition, to which all children should aspire. It will speak to young children and can inspire them to come up with their own ways of becoming super heroes.

I also enjoyed the flashbacks to my childhood that this book gave me, as I used to teach my younger sister the ways of the world. Cute story!

I received an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review of this title.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Review of B is for Bufflehead

B is for Bufflehead: Flying through the ABC's with fine-feathered friends is the product of two years of work by photographer and author Steve Hutchcraft. He took the time to find 49 different kinds of birds from North America, two for each letter of the alphabet (except U, X and Z). He then photographed each one and then researched each one. Through the pages of the book, each bird tells its own story. After the birds are introduced, readers are invited to take a "Who's Who?" quiz that serves as a sort of reading comprehension with picture recognition, as well as providing information on even more North American birds. The back of the book has a full index with even more information about each bird, including its range, habitat, food and other fun facts.He also includes a variety of websites and print books that serve as resources for further information.

To emphasize the alphabet in both uppercase and lowercase, two birds are used. One has its name written with the lowercase letter and the other is written with the uppercase letter. My only problem with this is that they don't seem to follow the usual patterns for proper and common nouns.

The photographs are absolutely stunning. Hutchcraft is a very talented artist. I love that he uses real photographs instead of illustrations, so that children can really know what the bird looks like. I also love the wealth of information given about each bird. The book is presented in such a way that older children could use this book for research and younger children could simply enjoy learning the different names of the birds. Adults would even be able to use it as somewhat of a field guide. It is very versatile.

I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review of this book. This is one that I would definitely like to add to my classroom library. Plus, a portion of the proceeds of the sales of B is for Bufflehead will be donated to habitat conservation and environment education.

Visit the official website for B is for Bufflehead. It includes fun activities and lesson plans coming soon.

Check out some of Steve Hutchcrafts's nature photography at his website.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Review of Wild Rose's Weaving

Wild Rose's Weaving by Ginger Churchill is the story of a young girl named Wild Rose whose grandmother wants to teach her how to weave. Wild Rose can't be bothered, though, because she is too busy. She plays outside, kicking up dirt and playing in the storm. She keeps telling herself that everything has got to be better than weaving. As she plays, Grandma works with the loom and her weaving grows higher and higher. By the time the storm ends, Grandma's rug is finished. Wild Rose looks at it and feels the life and the peace contained within it. She asks her grandmother how she created it. Grandma tells her that she did all of the same things that Wild Rose did, only through her weaving instead of outside. As Wild Rose begins to understand how the rug is "a picture of life," she decides that she would now like to learn how to do it. Grandma tells her that now she is too busy and the two go outside to play under the rainbow that has risen from the storm. The next day, they weave the rainbow into their rug.

I love the bond that is being created between grandmother and granddaughter. That relationship is a special one and this made me miss my own grandmothers. Passing down traditions from generation to generation is something to be cherished. I also loved the connection between nature and art that goes into the weaving of the rug. Both grandmother and granddaughter shared the same experience, though it manifested in different ways. Nicole Wong's illustrations perfectly accompany the story as Grandma's weaving on one page mimics what Wild Rose is doing on the other. This spiritual book is one that will be cherished by families who share it.

I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Wild Rose's Weaving is also available to download to your Kindle.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Review of Henry Helps With the Baby

Beth Bracken's book about Henry and his new baby sister Penny is really cute. At first, he isn't sure what to make of this noisy little creature. His mother tells him that she needs lots of help because she is so little. So, Henry quickly finds ways to help his parents with the baby, such as bringing the burp cloth after a feeding and finding her hat before a walk. He really is sweet with her as he sings her lullabies and kisses her when she cries. He really is a good big brother.

This story is really cute and relatable to young children who have a new baby in the house. After reading it, you can ask the child to explain how he helps with his baby at home. Chances are he will already be telling you as you read through the book.

The illustrations are also adorable. You can see Henry's frustration quickly change to pride as he learns how to help care for his baby. The baby's face shines with admiration as she looks up to her older brother. Parents are often found beaming in the background as their big boy helps out.

I love that on the back of the book are pointers for parents about raising toddlers and young children. Parents need all of the advice that they can get. The information is concise, relates to the story, and is based on current research by the University of Minnesota.

Children and parents will both enjoy sharing this book with each other.

I received a complimentary preview set of galleys from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Review of Big Sisters Are the Best

In Big Sisters Are the Best by Fran Manushkin, the little girl telling the story has a new baby in her family. She explains the differences between being a baby and being the big sister and how she can be a helper to her parents. For young children who are about to become the older sister, these are important points to understand. Some of the help that the big sister offers is playing quiet board games or doing gymnastics outside so that they baby can sleep. It's hard when Mom and Dad are busy with the baby, but she has her own baby doll for which she can care. When the baby is settled, she can still have some of that quality one-on-one time with her parents. She looks forward to when her baby is older and can also play with her.

I like that this book gently acknowledges that sometimes it can be hard for the big sister when her parents have to spend time with the baby, instead. Even though she knows they had to do the same for her when she was a baby, it is still a big change. I like that she offers advice on ways that a big sister can help. I also like the subtle reminder to parents that it is important to make some special time for that older child. So many times it is easy to get caught up in the baby's immediate needs that you forget the older sibling needs a little TLC, as well.

Because the characters have no name, it is easier for the reader to imagine herself in the situation of having a new baby. The illustrations make the baby look like a boy, but no reference to the baby's sex is made. Again, that makes it a more relatable story for the reader.

The story is short and sweet. The illustrations are darling. This is a book that families can enjoy with their children again and again.

I received a preview set of galleys from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Review of The House on Dirty-Third Street

The House on Dirty-Third Street by Jo S. Kittinger, illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez, is the story of a young girl and her mom who move to a rundown house on Thirty-Third Street. The entire neighborhood appears somewhat rundown, but theirs is the worst. Her mom tells her to just look at it through the eyes of faith. The two start to dig away at preparing their new house to fit their dreams and quickly feel defeated. When they go to the new church, the girl asks her Sunday School teacher to pray for them, so that they could see their home with the eyes of faith. Almost immediately, people from the church and the neighborhood start to show up to offer their assistance. Working together, the house that they had seen through their eyes of faith becomes a reality.

I love this book. I also live in an older neighborhood where houses seem to constantly need some kind of attention. Like the neighborhood in the book, we are a community that does whatever we can to help each other. You know that if you need help with anything, you can reach out to the neighbors and get what you need. We're all here to live our lives in a beautiful neighborhood. It reflects on us as people and we take pride in where we live.

Sometimes it isn't easy to see the beauty in your home and life. The old saying goes, "When life hands you lemons, you need to make lemonade." Make the best of what you are given and it will become better than you had imagined. I like the line in this book about looking at the home through the eyes of faith. If you have faith in something, you can make it happen. It isn't always going to come without some hard work, but it will come.

This book also serves as a reminder to help your neighbors and to follow the Golden Rule. Take the first step and say something kind to the people you see. It can be infectious and lead to great things. It's also good for your karma.

I would use this book with elementary-aged students, to remind them about being helpful and optimistic. It could be used in schools, as well, as a foundation for discussions as to how people find their eyes of faith, no matter what their religion.

I received a set of galleys from the publisher in exchange for my honest review of this book.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Review of Slither Slide, What's Outside?

Spring has finally spring, which makes it a great time to check out the new book Slither Slide, What's Outside by Nora Hilb & Simon and Sheryl Shapiro. This rhyming story encourages children to go outside and to interact with nature. They also have to use their imaginations to pretend to be like things in nature. In the story, kids plant a tree, wiggle like a worm, glow like stars, explore waterfalls and rainbows and so much more. The book actually covers topics for an entire year of different seasons.

The illustrations of the kids playing are quite charming. On the opposite page is a real photograph of the topic being discussed. I like the realistic aspect, which is so important for kids who are at a concrete age. The illustrations give the impression of imagination, which is required to interact with nature in the same way that these children do. It would make for a good lesson on the seasons. Children can try to mimic the pictures and even create their own version of the book.

I received a complimentary set of galleys from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Reflecting on Kids Books From A to Z

I had a lot of fun with the A to Z Challenge this year. I had my topics picked out in advance, though I will admit that I did a lot of research during that first weekend, as well. Last year, my father fell ill in April, so I didn't have the opportunity to finish very many posts. I wanted to make up for it this year.

I fell behind a little bit right away, which wasn't surprising, as I had entered 8 blogs. I was planning on catching up over Spring Break, but ended up sick as dog over most of it. I was able to read books, but not construct coherent sentences for posts. However, I still managed to complete posts all of the way from A to Z in time fo r the end of the challenge at 11:59 p.m. on April 30th.

I enjoyed reminiscing about my childhood and all of my favorite books from back then. I even was able to reflect upon some new ones that I have encountered as an adult. A friend of mine from grade school commented on how the entries brought back many memories for her, as well.

Will I do this challenge again next year with this blog? I'm not sure I will be able to come up with enough posts again. I am going to think on it some and see what I can do in the next 10 1/2 months. We shall see.

Here are the posts I did this year. Read and reminisce:

A is for Alexander
B is for Berenstain
C is for Chester Raccoon
D is for David Michael Slater
E is for Ed Emberley
F is for Frances
G is for Good Night
H is for Henkes
I is for I Spy
J is for Johnson
K is for Keats
L is for Lobel
M is for Mercer Mayer
N is for Numeroff
O is for Olivia
P is for Prelutsky
Q is for Queen Vernita
R is for Rey
S is for Scarry
T is for Toddler Tools
U is for Uncle Wiggily
V is for Virginia Lee Burton
W is for Walsh
X is for X-Factor
Y is for Young
Z is for Zipperump-A-Zoo

Here is the handful I completed for last year's challenge:

A is for Alphabet Books
A is for Arthur
B is for Brett
B is for Berenstain
C is for Counting Books
D is for dePaola
E is for Encyclopedia Brown
F is for Froggy