Tuesday, June 18, 2013

5 Picture Books, 4 Middle Grade Books

Source:  I received a review copy of each of these books in exchange for my honest review.

Thompson Twins Call the Cops – Lesa Hammond
Pages: 136
Genre: Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

 This is the second book I have read by this author.  This one definitely has a message my students could relate to.  Fifth grade twins Letty and Carlos Thompson live in Oakland, California with their mother.  They don’t live in the best area of town.  One night they hear gunshots, which is not uncommon in their neighborhood.  They end up huddling together in a bedroom farthest from the street to avoid any stray bullets.  This scene brought to mind when my sister lived in Indianapolis.  Her college dorm faced a street where there were often shootings.  They were often moved across the hall to rooms on the other side to avoid stray bullets.

On the way to school the next day the twins are confronted by Hector, a former friend who has hooked up with a gang.  They harass the kids at the store and take whatever they have in their pockets.  They make comments to the girls that make them feel very uncomfortable.  As they are all standing in front of the store they witness a speeding white car almost hit a cat.  They rescue the cat and take it to school.  At school they have a guest speaker.  The officer is there to talk with all of them.  Manuel, one of the students has had other run-ins with the law.  Many of his own family members have been arrested.  Everyone in the class judges him and assumes he is just like his family, never giving him a chance. 

When they get home that afternoon they find there mother there because her car has been stolen.  They assume that it was Hector and his friends responsible for all of this.  They decided to get the evidence or confession out of him.  Overheard by a friends grandmother, they are persuaded to call the cops instead.  They learn some valuable lessons throughout this story.  They learn that you can’t judge people by their family, and that you shouldn’t take matters into your own hands.

These books are full of life lessons that are written mostly for the inner city kid, but will appeal to middle school children everywhere. I have students who live this lifestyle every day.  It is important to have books like this that they can relate to. I look forward to reading future books by this author.

Circle and Square –Sally O. Lee
Pages:  34
Genre: Children’s Picture Book

Sally O. Lee has written another simple book with a simple message and wonderful illustrations. The story is about a circle and a square. They are different from each other. The circle asks the square if it is still a square when it bounces a ball. The circle understands after asking several similar questions that one doesn’t change who they are by doing different activities. It also has a message of being different but, being friends and sharing different likes because of those differences.

Candy and the Cankersaur – Jason Sandberg
Pages:  32
Genre:  Children’s Picture book

Candace Courtney lived in a mansion with her father. Everyone called her Candy. Her father was always traveling on business trips so she didn’t get to spend a lot of time with him. She was constantly sent outside to play. Candy’s neighbor Chucky always tried to outdo whatever toy Candy got.

Candy’s father decided to get her a pet to keep her company. Her pet arrived by helicopter. Her father opened the crate and out came a Cankersaurus Rex. At first, Candy was scared. Then she decided to train him. She named him Cank and began training him. She had one rule, “No Biting”. She taught him to fetch a stick. He liked the taste of the stick so he bit into a bigger one, a tree. When they played hide and seek they couldn’t hide in the rose bush because he would eat the roses.

Candy’s neighbor Chucky became jealous and stole Candy’s Cankersaurus Rex and sold him to the circus. Chucky returned home and saw how sad Candy was. Could he fix the he created? This was a great story and one I believe EVERY PARENT should read with their child. It is a reminder that there is nothing more important than spending time with their children and know that you can’t buy their love.

Alphabet Anatomy: Meet the Capital Letters – Linda Ann Jones
Pages:  32
Genre:  Children’s Picture Book

Author Linda Jones and her illustrator son Branson Jones has created a wonderful pre-k/kindergarten book to teach kids the capital letters. The wonderful rhyming descriptions explain how to draw the letters, gives a word to help remember the letter.  As a teacher who started out teaching kindergarten I can definitely see the value in having this book on your shelf.  If I was teaching kindergarten today I would project one letter at a time, read the rhyme and have the students practice drawing the letter.  I think this should be on every kindergarten classroom shelf.

Oh Brother! - Kimberly Sentek
Pages: 28
Children’s Picture Book

This was an interesting book.  The story is actually told from two perspectives.  We first hear from Nico. He was the only dog in his house for a long time.  Then one day his family brought home another dog. The new dog’s name was Tugger. He got on Nico’s nerves because he cried and took his toys.  Just like all new members to a family, Tugger got most of the attention.  He doesn’t understand why they don’t love him anymore.  He also tells of playing with Tugger and laughing at all of his puppy antics.  As Tugger begins to grow up they begin to get along and Nico decides he likes having Tugger around.  The second half of the story is told from Tugger’s perspective.  Tugger wants to play with Nico but Nico ignores him.  The solution?  He begins to take and play with Nico’s toys.  He tries everything he can think of to get Nico to play with him, but Nico gets grumpier until he rolls a red ball to him.  He lets Nico go first. They both begin enjoying each other’s company.  The underlying story is about accepting new family members and fighting the jealousy.  I read this to my grand-daughter and then gave it to her to share with her brother.  She has just learned she has a new step-sister.  She’s not met her yet.  She was angry with her father feeling like he didn’t love them anymore and so she wasn’t going to like the new baby.  After reading the book she changed her mind.  She’s decided it’s not the new baby’s fault and that maybe when the baby gets older they can be friends.  I would say that this book was a great success.  Yes my grand-daughter has always thought things through in a more mature way.  But, I saw a tough lesson taught in such a simple manner.  I think this should be a book given to families finding them self suddenly in change whether it is from the birth of a new child or the blending of families.

The Riotous Rocket Ship Robbery – Kim Donovan
Pages:  160
Genre:  Upper Elementary/Middle Grade Fantasy

 Imagine going to school inside a volcano where you learn to be bad, and get extra points for being extra bad.  That’s right, you get to take classes such as World domination taught by Dr. Super Evil, The Super Simulator in the evil hands of Vera Vile and Sinister Science by Professor Plutonium.  Well, If you attended St. Viper’s School For Super Villains you would be doing that and much more. 

Demon Kid is one of the lucky attendees along with his friends Stacey Stretch, Wolfgang, a young werewolf, and others.  However, this school is similar to our very own schools.  They have bullies just like we do.  The difference is that these bullies are super villains who also bully other super villains, namely Demon Kid and his friends.   For a bad guy Demon Kid is always trying to help his friends. Now he has to find a way to stop the super villains who are constantly picking on them, all the while learning to dominate the world.  This is a cute book and one I could see my reluctant readers picking up.  It is full of action and humor.

Hello Bella – Nicole J. Foster
Genre: Children’s Picture Book
Source:  review copy from publisher

This cute little book would be a great intro for your preschool children. Ages 2 and up will not only be enchanted with a simple story and wonderful pictures, but will learn how to say hello in several languages. Bella is a cute dog who is taken for a walk. As she passes the pizzaria, bakery and other places along her walk she is greeted in different languages. I imagine you could make the repetition a game with younger children. Either way I definitely look forward to sharing this with my grand...moreThis cute little book would be a great intro for your preschool children. Ages 2 and up will not only be enchanted with a simple story and wonderful pictures, but will learn how to say hello in several languages. Bella is a cute dog who is taken for a walk. As she passes the pizzaria, bakery and other places along her walk she is greeted in different languages. I imagine you could make the repetition a game with younger children. Either way I definitely look forward to sharing this with my grandkids.

Pages: 222
Genre:  Children’s Fantasy

Brother and sister Harold and Megan have lost their father.  Harold is awakened on night by a ghostly visitor who explains to Harold that he must save his father.  His dad is being held  by gnome named Gagledormius.  He must solve a riddle to help find his father.  The problem is that Harold is terrible at puzzles.  His mom doesn’t believe him when he tells her about the visit.  His sister does.  When mom refuses to help they try their classmates.  They realize they must convince their mom and go to Ireland to figure all of this out.  Along the way they will meet fairies and leprechauns and find plenty adventure on their path to finding their father.

This is a cute fantasy for those who love reading about Irish figures.  However, as a middle school teacher I recognized some of the problems my students have when writing.  The paragraphs go on and on. There are a couple of places where we go from one point of view to another and back again.  This was distracting for me.  However, the story line makes up for these few mistakes.  I believe this would be a great book for reluctant readers.

Impostors & One Far-Out Flying Machine - Sands Hetherington
Pages: 320
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy

Crosley is a bright red crocodile that lives under the bed of John Degraffenreidt. Why? John has so much energy he has difficulty going to sleep. He and Crosley go on night-time adventures called programs. His boss or handler is named Crenwinkle. In the first book they had to find out who was stealing all of the pineapple cheesecakes. This time the adventure is one that affects Crosley. There are several impostors running around town as red crocodiles, and they are doing bad things. Crosley's boss and brother Crenwinkle along with John must get help to solve this mystery. They rely on a friend from the first book to help. Along the way they must get help from Rodney Oglesby who runs a very unique hotdog stand. he sells sauerkraut and jelly bean hotdogs.  Come along on this adventure and find out how they solve this new mystery. Thebook teaches kids about obeying rules and laws, teamwork, honesty and many more lessons.

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