This lively illustrated biography of Peter Mark Roget is written for children, yet it is smooth, easy reading for adults. I like the list of Principal Events at the back of the book beginning with Peter’s birth on January 18, 1779, in London, England. Roget is pronounced “Roh-Zhay”. Roget is known for writing a Thesaurus, a book containing lists of synonyms (same) and antonyms (opposite) words for finding just the right word. Roget’s Thesaurus provides many ideas. When he told his mother that he was FINE he wanted a better word to describe how he really was, for example: glad, cheerful, dandy, so-so, and splendid.
When Peter was five years old, his father died. He and his younger sister and his mother moved around often and that made it difficult to make new friends. Peter found a friend in books. When Peter was eight years old he started to write his own book, but he didn’t write stories, he wrote lists. He made a list of the Latin words he’d learned from his tutor and next to the Latin word he wrote the English meaning. For example, Ursus is a bear, Volpes is a fox, can you guess what Leo is?
Peter learned that Words were powerful things and when he put them in long neat rows, the world clicked into order! Peter continued working on his book of word lists, then, in 1852 Roget published his Thesaurus, (a word that means “treasure house” in Greek). Peter was suddenly a popular author! However, Peter remained humble and he continued making new lists so that today you can still find the right word!
Have You Seen My Dragon? by Steve Light
This counting book is great because of the intricate black and white drawings that feature full page spreads of a little boy looking for his dragon amidst busy New York City backgrounds. Kids and adults will have fun searching for the dragon and for the little boy and for the consecutive numbers of items from one through twenty page by page. On every two-page spread the item to look for is in color. The first spread features one green dragon on a detailed black and white New York City background… “Have you Seen my Dragon? No? I will look for him.” The next spread features two orange hot dogs on a different detailed black and white background, and the dragon is drawn in black and white and so is the little boy, the next spread features three purple buses on a different black and white background including the dragon and the little boy, and on and on until the last spread which features twenty red lanterns.
Every time you look at the illustrations you discover something you hadn’t seen before; this book stimulates curiosity, picture puzzle skills, and counting concepts. The inside back cover is a map of the dragon’s route. Stop by any of the Kalamazoo Public Library locations and search for more dragon books, they are forever popular!
Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes is a short story told in poetic verse. The story is about a girl named Gabriella and, although her grade and age aren’t revealed, she’s probably in junior high. Each page is a poem with a one or two word title that captures a day in the life of Gabriella who was named after the Angel Gabriel. Her parents are now separated, she has moved to a new school, and Gabriella uses day dreaming as a way to escape life… separation from her father and being the shy new kid in class. She day dreams when she hears any particular word and her thoughts are carried away on wings. For example, the word Dragon takes her riding on a dragon across the sky till the sun dives into the sea. However, both her mother and her teacher, Mr. Spicer, tell her to quit day dreaming. “Mom names me for a creature with wings, then wonders what makes my thoughts fly.” When Gabriella finally does stop day dreaming her mom and Mr. Spicer know that she is unhappy. Will Gabriella ever return to day dreaming?
I like this book because it is an effective poetry story. It is interesting that Grimes uses two different fonts to categorize the moods of the poems. Nikki Grimes is an award winning author and this book received a 2014 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award. Kalamazoo Public Library owns many books by Nikki Grimes.
Linus Muller is the third oldest child of a family of six children living in New York City. When Albie, Linus’s brother, enlists in World War II, Linus takes over as delivery boy at the family’s grocery store. Linus quickly learns his delivery route and gets acquainted with his customers. Linus dearly misses Albie, and to comfort himself, he has imaginary conversations with Albie’s created Superhero, Mr. Superspeed, who fights against Evil and the War.
One of Linus’s routine deliveries is a crate of oranges to a man whose name is unpronounceable, hence, Linus nicknames him Mister Orange. One day Mister Orange tosses an orange to Linus, but he doesn’t catch it and he trips and falls down the stairs. Mister Orange helps Linus up and into his apartment for first aid. Linus is amazed to see that Mister Orange has painted his apartment walls white and bright and light and calm and with colored squares and rectangles grouped together or on their own… dancing in strong colors, bright blue, and red, and yellow… the colors of Superman! Linus loves the paintings on the walls!
Their friendship grows and Mister Orange tells Linus that he likes Boogie-Woogie music. It is new and exciting, the perfect city music, with rhythms changing all the time. New York City gives Mister Orange new inspiration and energy.
Mister Orange asks about Albie, who is now in Europe on the warfront. Only three years earlier Mister Orange escaped Europe because he was afraid he would no longer have the freedom to paint, his art was in danger of being banned by the Nazis, he was scared that he would never be able to make more paintings and that no one would ever see them! Painting was Mister Orange’s way of fighting back, of finding out how things might be better in the future. He equates winning the war with fighting for the future, a future where people have their freedom and everyone is allowed to say what they believe and have an opinion of their own. Mister Orange tells Linus that whenever people have their freedom taken away they always fight back and winning the war means making certain that the imagination remains free and that’s the most important thing of all! He helps Linus understand that Albie is working just as hard for the future as is Mister Orange; Albie is fighting so that Mister Orange can continue to paint and Linus must be proud of Albie who is helping to make the future possible. When Linus accuses Mister Orange of hiding from everything that’s real, Mister Orange explains that Imagination is a Powerful weapon, Imagination is Real, Imagination is Necessary. Everything that exists starts with Imagination; it’s the first step in everything that humans have ever made.
Mister Orange’s character is based on Piet Mondrian (1872-1944), a famous painter who fled from the Netherlands to the United States during World War II. Mondrian’s paintings were completely new, not the familiar and traditional styles. He used shape, color, rhythm, to give new ideas to people all over the world.
Kalamazoo Public Library has several Mondrian art books. If you’re not familiar with his art, then I suggest checking out a Mondrian book. You can also use Google Images Mondrian for a pleasant revelation of his work and the inspirations derived from his art.
The Snatchabook is an entertaining rhyming story about a small winged animal who secretly flies into other animals’ homes at night and steals their story books, yes, ALL the story books in the town of Burrow Down. Soon, there are no more stories to read, no more pirates on the seven seas, no more princesses trying to sleep on peas, no more tales of dragons spitting flames. Who is stealing all the books?
A little rabbit named Eliza Brown decides that whoever it is, she’s not scared! She’ll catch the thief! Eliza baits the thief with a pile of books and she waits. When the thief arrives she shouts: “Stop stealing all our books, right now! Just give them back, I don’t care how!”
The Snatchabook hangs his head in shame. “A tear rolled from the creature’s eye, and softly he began to cry.” Then he says: “I know it’s wrong, but can’t you see--I’ve got no one to read to me!” The Snatchabook looked so sad, Eliza realized that if he just had a mom or dad to read him stories every night, then he would behave all right!
They hatched a plan to turn a wrong into a right and the Snatchabook promptly returned all the books. Now, if you take a closer look you might just see the Snatchabook, perched happily on someone’s bed...listening hard to each word said.
This book is a great read-aloud. There is an Educator’s Guide with Common Core Activities at JabberwockyKids.com.
The Snatchabook: Who’s Stealing All The Stories?
It’s okay to be different and this book is about a little crocodile (well, maybe), who has many brothers and sisters with whom he wants to play, but he cannot play with them because they all like to swim and play in the water, but this little crocodile does not like the water. He even saves up his money to buy a swim ring in an attempt to learn to swim, but, it just won’t happen. He gets very cold in the water and he begins to shiver, and then, he sneezes FIRE!
This little crocodile does not like to jump, either. However, he is VERY good at doing other things such as… flying and climbing, and something else that if I reveal it to you will give away the surprise ending! The illustrations by Gemma Merino are uproarious and simply convey the emotions of The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water.
The Crocodile Who Didn’t Like Water
Vacationing on Michigan’s Lower Peninsula’s scenic west coast shoreline is a wonderful choice. More than one hundred years ago Buster Keaton’s family and their vaudeville team vacationed in Bluffton, near Muskegon. Matt Phelan wrote and illustrated a graphic novel titled: Bluffton: My Summers with Buster.
The story, told in remarkable drawings, is about a boy named Henry Harrison who lives in Muskegon year round. Henry hears about the vaudevillians and is captivated by the performers and their animals! He and the young Buster Keaton form a summer friendship and they hang out and play baseball with other kids. When summer ends, kids go back to school, but not for Buster! Buster travels around doing vaudeville acts, then returns to Bluffton the next summer. Bluffton offers a glimpse into the life of one of the world’s most well-known silent screen actors and the few summers he lived on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Go back in time and watch Buster Keaton’s black and white slapstick silent films on KPL’s Hoopla site. It’s accessible directly from the KPL catalog, just enter Buster Keaton in the search field.
Bluffton: My Summers with Buster
This is based on a true story. It is World War II and a group of Polish soldiers who are escaping the Germans and Russians by way of Iran purchase a tiny, half-dead orphaned bear cub from a boy. The soldiers name the bear cub Voytek, which means “Smiling Warrior.” Voytek is cared for by Peter and Stanislav and Junusz and Lolek and Pavel… they explain to their sergeant that the bear is their new ‘mascot.’
The soldiers join the British army. The story follows the soldiers and Voytek from camp to camp for five years watching the many different soldiers’ reactions to Voytek. Voytek is a sweet bear. Peter is his keeper and there are a few instances where he aids the soldiers: he carries bombs, he corners a spy, and he entertains. Voytek provides comfort amid the horrors of war. The soldiers have a few other animals: Kaska, a monkey, who rides on the back of a big dog named Stalin and Dottie the Dalmatian.
Soldier Bear has been translated from the Dutch into English by Laura Watkinson. Soldier Bear received the Margaret Bachelder Award, an American Library Association Award given to the most outstanding children’s book originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States, and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States.
This is a high-school love story with a subplot about protesting arts funding cuts at their high school. The chapters bounce back and forth between Omar “T-Diddy” Smalls and Claudia Clarke, newspaper editor. They are both seniors at West Charleston High School in South Carolina. T-Diddy was born in the Bronx, but was sent to live with his uncle Albert two years ago to avoid trouble with the law. T-Diddy is the star quarterback of the Panthers and he is pumped by the defeat of their Powerhouse rivals: Bayside Tornadoes.
Although Claudia is turned-off by playas like T-Diddy, she soon realizes his clout with his social media skills at bringing classmates together to protest Arts cuts. T-Diddy is dedicated to restoring arts funding to their school and so is Claudia. They realize the power of collaboration. Their Principal, Dr. Brenda Jackson, aka Cruella, supports the cuts made by the school board, including the drama guild, the poetry club, the choir, and the marching band, library closure three days a week, and several teachers and staff lay-offs. However, these cuts become unacceptable to T-Diddy, Claudia, and the rest of the student body.
As Omar and Claudia spend more time together, their young love blossoms. Omar’s Uncle Albert supports their protests and provides knowledge he gained during the Civil Rights Movement.
This is definitely a worthwhile read for all teens and reinforces the power and strength of togetherness.
He Said, She Said
From the prolific author of Sarah, Plain and Tall, comes another bittersweet story featuring a young boy named Robbie. Robbie, is an only child; it is summer and his friends Jack and Lizzie are at summer camp. Robert’s parents are musicians who are in the Allegro Quartet. His aloof mother is a violinist and his father is a violist and pianist. They are off on a two month summer tour without Robbie who is staying with his Grandmother Maddy. Maddy and Ellie, his dog, are his two best friends.
Maddy’s house sits on a hill bordered by woods. Maddy’s friends are Henry, who is a doctor and a very good cook. Maddy also has many animal friends who live in the woods, even a bear! One night, Robbie and Maddy camp in a tent on a hill in the starlit woods, but then, Maddy gets hurt! What is he to do?!!! Robbie sends a written message to Henry and stuffs it in Ellie’s collar. Will Ellie find Henry and deliver the message? There is a bear in the woods and Robbie cannot leave his grandma! Read this exciting story and find out!
The Truth of Me: About a Boy, His Grandmother, and a Very Good Dog
You Gotta Have Art! After reading this simple picture book, the importance of art in our lives is so obvious, you might be inspired to visit an art museum, such as the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts where children age 12 and under are free. Kalamazoo Public Library has many insightful art books for you. We will assist you with finding them.
The Museum is a simple story in rhyme about a girl’s experiences and emotions on a visit to an Art Museum. She is energized and inspired. “When I see a work of art, something happens in my heart. I cannot stifle my reaction. My body just goes into action.” And “Its rhythm exists in all I see. The museum lives inside of me.” The watercolor illustrations blend beautifully with the book’s subject. At the end of her visit, the girl finds an empty canvas and suddenly she realizes that she can fill it anyway she chooses!
Test your art knowledge and see how many art pieces you can identify in this picture book!
There is an easy rhythm to Mem Fox’s new book titled: Good Night, Sleep Tight, that makes it really funderful for Reading Aloud. Fox has woven several familiar mother goose rhymes into a story about a babysitter named Skinny Doug who has the job of putting Bonnie and Ben to sleep. Skinny Doug tells a rhyme, and the response is: “We love it! We love it!” said Bonnie and Ben. “How does it go? Will you say it again?” and the reply is: “Some other time,” said Skinny Doug. “But I’ll tell you another I heard from my mother:” When I read this book at story time, the parents automatically chimed in and recited from memory the familiar rhymes, including: It’s raining! It’s pouring! The old man is snoring!
Judy Horacek’s expressive illustrations blend beautifully with the text and the happy time spent with Skinny Doug and the adoring Bonnie and Ben.
Mem Fox, an Australian, is a huge proponent of reading aloud to children. I encourage you to check-out her many other picture books and instructional books at Kalamazoo Public Library. Visit Mem’s website for a multitude of read aloud suggestions, ideas and techniques: www.memfox.net. Happy Read-Aloud!
Good Night, Sleep Tight
Would you be willing to risk your life to hide an escaped Prisoner of War? That is the ultimate scary decision that the Crivelli family of Florence, Italy must decide! This World War II story takes place in 1944 when Hitler’s Nazi army is fighting the English and Canadians in Italy. Paolo Crivelli is 13 years old and is ordered to remain at home, his mother is worried for his safety and that of her 16 year old daughter Constanza. When Paolo escapes at night and rides his bicycle into town, he is overwhelmed with fear when approached by the Partisans, or freedom fighters, who demand a meeting with his mother. Mrs. Crivelli is an English woman married to an Italian named Franco, who is in hiding. She makes the decision to hide the two prisoners!
The Crivelli famiy confronts head-on the perils, hardships, and heartache brought about by her choice. Will the Gestapo discover the two prisoners when they raid their home? There is very little food, how will they feed them? Will they ever see their father again? The bombardment in the nearby hills continues daily. Paolo and Constanza mature way beyond their youth as they experience the horrors of war. This is a really well written historical war story. Shirley Hughes is an English author and illustrator who has written more than fifty children’s books. This is her first novel.
Hero on a Bicycle
For a child’s view of a day in the life of Stalinist Soviet Union, read: Breaking Stalin’s Nose, by Eugene Yelchin. Sasha is ten years old and is in 5th grade and his father is a member of The State Security, which is the Secret Police. Sasha’s mother is dead, for some mysterious reason she never returned home after a hospital stay. Sasha and his dad live communally in a house with several other families. Everyone is always under suspicion, every spoken word is potentially threatening and nobody knows whom they can trust. Sasha is getting ready for the ceremony to join the Soviet Young Pioneers. A young Pioneer is a reliable comrade and always acts according to conscience. A Young Pioneer has a right to criticize shortcomings. But in his haste while carrying Stalin’s banner, Sasha accidentally bumps into Stalin’s statue and breaks off the nose on the statue! Did anyone see the accident occur? If the accident is discovered, then it is truly a bleak day for Sasha. This story is an excellent portrayal of a day in the life of a fifth grade student and the bleakness of life in the Soviet Union under the dictatorship of Stalin. Eugene Yelchin was born and educated in Russia, but now lives in California.
Breaking Stalin’s Nose
Are you vacationing in Michigan this Summer? Kalamazoo Public Library has many Michigan travel books. One particularly family-friendly book is: Fun with the Family: Michigan. Hundreds of Ideas for Day Trips with the Kids, by Bill Semion, c.2007. The contents are separated by geographic areas, such as West Michigan-North, West Michigan-South, and Upper Peninsula-East, Upper Peninsula-West… you get the picture…(picturesque!) It includes listings of events, adventures, parks, museums, sports, theatres, places to stay, and restaurants.
I also recommend viewing: Under the Radar Michigan, a PBS television show hosted by Tom Daldin, who has a friendly, comfortable presence and a great sense of humor. UTR Michigan is in its third season. UTR Michigan showcases a different Michigan town in each episode, featuring local places of interest, stories, great people, and mouth-watering foods at local restaurants. UTR is a helpful, convincing site for choosing a Michigan town to visit. Episode 318 highlights Grand Rapids, and, if you want to see a hilarious sight, watch the people pedaling on the Great Lakes Pub Cruiser, it’s crazy! To find out the art of coffee roasting and information about the Can-Do Kitchen, watch the inspirational episode featuring Kalamazoo!
Fun with the Family: Michigan. Hundreds of Ideas for Day Trips with the Kids
Missing May is a bitter-sweet story about the after-effects of coping with the death of a most-beloved wife and stepmother named May. For many years May and Ob, her husband, a disabled Navy veteran, lived in Deep Water, West Virginia in a rusty old trailer. They were a childless couple until they met Summer, a distant relative who became parentless at the age of six, and who was subsequently “adopted” by May and Ob.
The story begins after May’s death. May was a very loving woman and both Ob and Summer grieve so desperately that they attempt to find May’s spirit. Cletus Underwood, a kid from Summer’s seventh grade class, befriends Ob and senses Ob’s despair. He tells Ob and Summer about a Spiritualist in a nearby county, so, Ob, Summer, and Cletus begin a quest to find The Reverend Miriam B. Conklin, Small Medium at Large. Do Ob and Summer find what they’re looking for to quell their sadness? You will discover the truth after reading this inspirational story that received the 1993 John Newbery Award.
Some little boys want a family dog, some parents don’t want a family dog. Hal Fenton is one of those boys who desperately wants a dog for a birthday present, but his wealthy parents Donald and Albina do not want one. To pacify their son they rent a dog for the weekend; the Easy Pets Dog Agency in London is just the place. Myron and Mavis Carker, owners of the agency, do it for profit, not for the love of dogs. Kayley is the kind teenage caretaker of the dogs. Kayley finds a mongrel, brings it to the agency, and names him Fleck, and pronounces him a rare breed: a “Tottenham” terrier. The Fentons rent Fleck for the weekend. Fleck and Hal are inseparable, that is, until Albina returns Fleck.
Let the adventure begin! Hal and his pal kidnap the dogs at the agency and begin a journey to his grandparents home near the coast of England, all the while being pursued for the tremendous reward offered by Hal’s parents. The delightful story of Fleck, Otto, the St. Bernard, Li-Chee, the Pekinese, Francine, the poodle, Honey, the rough-haired collie, and even Queen Tilly, the Mexican hairless, is both harrowing and heart-warming. Do they make it to their destination? Read it and find out!
This is the last book written by Eva Ibbotson who passed away in October 2010 at the age of 85.
One Dog and His Boy
What are the top two most popular books printed in the English language?
The Bible is the number one most popular book printed in English and the second most popular book printed in English is Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language.
Noah Webster was born on a farm in West Hartford, Connecticut in 1758. Noah didn’t want to be a farmer, he wanted to be a scholar. He went to school at Yale and graduated in 1778 and became a teacher. He soon realized there were no books about America; Noah wanted American schoolbooks! America was a new country and America needed a national language and government. Americans were spelling words any way they wanted, the same word might be spelled ten different ways in ten different places. So, Noah wrote an American spelling book so that Americans would spell every word the same way, every time, everywhere. Noah had the publisher put a blue cover on it so that people could just ask for the “blue-backed speller.” Noah’s blue-backed speller taught spelling and it also listed important American dates, town and states! Two years later he published his second book, a Grammar [noun: study of words; rules for using words].
Then Noah had another big idea: to write a dictionary [noun: a book listing words in ABC order, telling what they mean and how to spell them]. His book would be 100 percent American and it would include new American words, such as skunk, dime and tomahawk. He decided to show where the words came from, all the different origins. He began this wonderful dictionary in 1807 and he completed it nearly twenty years later! Noah’s American Dictionary of the English Language was published in 1828. Noah’s words DID unite America! This is a great book and the bright, fanciful illustrations will keep your attention. [noun: the act or state of applying the mind to something].
Noah Webster & His Words
Karen Beaumont is the author of several wonderful children’s books. Her books are fun to read aloud. Have you ever spelled a word to someone else as a secret code to keep a child from understanding the discussion?
Karen Beaumont’s most recent book is Where’s My T R U C K? It is about a little boy named Tommy who loses his red truck. He is extremely upset and angry and he goes on a quest to find it, looking under his bed, in dresser drawers, his toy box, his sandbox, even in flower beds and up in trees. Tommy is so distraught he begins to cry and the frantic parents don’t know what to do! Throughout the book, the word T R U C K is spelled out, giving a rhythmic pattern to the text. David Catrow’s illustrations are comical, colorful, and lively.
We have many wonderful children’s books by Karen Beaumont in our collection. Here are a few more of my favorite Karen Beaumont books!
Where’s My T R U C K?
Peter McCarty is a Caldecott honoree illustrator; that is, he won an award for his artwork for his picture book: Hondo and Fabian. His most recent picture book is Chloe, featuring a little bunny who has a mother and a father and twenty brothers and sisters; Chloe is in the middle.
One day, Chloe’s dad surprises everyone and brings home a new television set for some family fun. After dinner the family watches a television program. However, watching television is definitely not fun for Chloe who decides that playing with the tv box and bubble wrap packaging is much more entertaining and imaginative. Soon, each of Chloe’s siblings dumps the tv show and joins their sister Chloe. Even mom and dad can’t resist Chloe’s bubble-wrap popping and bigbox playtime!
Peter McCarthy’s calm, ethereal, sometimes comical illustrations are adorable. He’s written several children’s books and the first book that got my attention is Honda and Fabian, a story about a dog and a cat. Baby Steps is based on a month by month chronicle of his daughter Suki’s first year of life with the most beautiful, delicate life-like drawings of a baby.
Zero and One… two books by Kathryn Otoshi. Kathryn Otoshi uses numbers and colors to explain self-worth to children in her two books titled: One and Zero. Otoshi’s writing is direct, simplistic and surprisingly complete. Parents, teachers, and caregivers can read this book over and over to remind children that each and every child has value.
One is the winner of 10 Awards including the E. B. White Read Aloud Honor book.
The colors in One are associated with personality characteristics, Blue is quiet, Yellow is sunny, Green is bright, Purple is regal, Orange is outgoing, Red is hot. In One the color Red bullies Blue who is liked by all the other colors, but those colors do not stand up for Blue or for themselves! Then, along comes the number One. One is funny and makes the colors laugh, except for Red, who demands that One quit laughing. But One stands up straight like an arrow and says “No,” and, “If someone is mean and picks on me, I, for One, stand up and say, No.” The story continues with coping skills for Blue to stop Red’s bullying.
Zero features the number zero who feels worthless and tries to gain worth by joining the other numbers and giving up her value, but it just doesn’t work! The other numbers convince Zero to count more and bring value to everyone!
Everyone has a story to tell and this little book titled: Telling your own stories; For Family and Classroom Storytelling, Public Speaking, and Personal Journaling by Davis, Donald, will provide you with suggestions to get you remembering! Wait a minute, you don’t think you have any stories to tell? Don’t believe it… This book will prompt you with many ideas that will truly bring out those hidden stories containing memories of your life. Donald Davis says to try for the earliest memories and then come forward rather than searching from the present backwards chronologically and that Our whole life is our library where personal memories are the books we are looking for.
There are many great prompts and marvelous ideas in his book and a sampling of them are:
- Can you remember a time when you learned something from a child?
- Can you remember a pet you once had which you don’t have any more?
- Take us to school with you during one of your favorite years in school
- Can you remember a time when you got into trouble for something you had already been told not to do?
- Can you remember a trip that you would not want to have to take again?
- Can you remember a night your parents never found out about?
- Can you remember a time when you got sick at a very inconvenient moment?
- Can you remember a birthday or a holiday you would like (or not like) to live over again?
- Can you remember a time when you got lost? Or separated from your companion(s)?
Davis includes a story-Form Format: Main Character > Trouble coming > Crisis > Insight > Affirmation.
We all enjoy a good story and you have many to tell!
Telling Your Own Stories
This book was chosen as one of Kalamazoo Public Library’s Global Reading Challenge titles for 2012. It is a Coretta Scott King Award winner. Brendan Buckley just completed fifth grade and he learned a lot from Mr. Hammond, his fifth grade teacher… how to do averages, notebook journaling, and rock collecting. Brendan digs rock collecting! He is a scientist and keeps a notebook of Big Questions About Life, the Universe, and Everything in It. He asks questions, no question is unimportant, and nothing in the universe is too small to ask about. The front part of his notebook is titled: “Questions” and the back section is titled: “What I found Out”. Here is a sampling of his questions:
How do they get the ripple in fudge ripple ice cream?
Do boys fart more than girls?
Is quartz the most common mineral in the earth’s crust?
Brendan and Khalfani, his best friend, practice Tae Kwon Do and try to live by the tenets of the discipline. They also hunt for rocks, er, minerals together. Brendan’s father is a detective and happens to be black, and his mother happens to be white. He is very close to his grandmother Gladys, his father’s mother, and he sorely misses his paternal grandfather who died a few months earlier. Brendan’s mother’s parents were never part of his family because they objected to their daughter’s interracial marriage. Soon after the story begins, Brendan quite unexpectedly meets his Grandfather Ed DeBose, President of a local rock club, at a rock club show at the mall. Quite naturally, any kid would be interested in finding out why his grandpa doesn’t like him. Brendan insists on meeting Ed, but his mother would be furious! Brendan wants to unearth Ed’s racism, after all, Brendan is a confident, well-adjusted kid and is very accepting of his skin color. Why won’t Ed be accepting of his only grandson and where will this new discovery lead?
Sundee T. Frazier, who is biracial, weaves a delicate story using geology as a metaphor for different skin colors. I highly recommend this book.
Brendan Buckley's Universe and Everything in it
If you enjoy listening to Australian accents and if you like stories written with an ingenious idea, then listen to I Am the Messenger, written by Markus Zusak and read by Marc Aden Gray.
The summary, as listed in the KPL catalog, reads: “After capturing a bank robber, nineteen-year old cabdriver Ed Kennedy begins receiving mysterious messages that direct him to addresses where people need help, and he begins getting over his lifelong feeling of worthlessness.” Ed Kennedy’s ordinariness and common desires keep this story fresh. Ed lives in a self-described shack with his stinky old dog named “the Doorman.” Who is sending these playing cards with cryptic messages written on them anyway? Messages that demand Ed to seek justice by entering the lives of various townsfolk, ie: an abused wife, a lonely old woman with dementia, an athletic teenage girl who runs barefoot, a priest with dwindling attendance at his run-down neighborhood church, a poor mother of three children, two battling brothers, Ed’s own condemning mother, and lastly, his three best friends with hidden agendas: Ritchie, Marv, and Audrey.
This intriguing, thought-provoking story is certain to satisfy both teen and adult readers.
I Am the Messenger
Dead End in Norvelt, by Jack Gantos, is the 2012 Newbery Medal winner for the most distinguished American children’s book published the previous year. Gantos has written many excellent children’s books including the naughty cat “Rotten Ralph” series and the troubled kid “Joey Pigza” series. Dead End in Norvelt is a semi-autobiographical story that mixes fact and fiction, the main character is named Jack Gantos... It is the summer of 1962. Jackie is twelve years old and is grounded for the summer for firing a shot from his father’s WWII Japanese sniper rifle AND for mowing down his mother’s corn patch intended to feed the needy inhabitants of her beloved town of Norvelt, Pennsylvania. Why did he mow down the corn? His dad, a navy veteran, told him to mow it, said he needed the land to build a bomb shelter from the Commies and a runway for his J-3 airplane, hoping to eventually fly away his family to a new life in Florida.
Jackie’s mother is devoted and loyal to the concept of neighbor-helping-neighbor. She’s forever grateful to the memory of and indebted to the social programs of Eleanor Roosevelt for whom the town is named, (“Nor” from Eleanor and “velt” from Roosevelt). Eleanor Roosevelt was instrumental in getting indoor plumbing and electricity in their New Deal homestead project built in 1934. When Jackie’s mother gives him permission to help their neighbor Miss Volker, he jumps at the chance to throw down his shovel and pick up a pencil to write obituaries with Volker. She’s old, arthritic-handed, and is the town nurse and medical examiner. Jackie writes the obits as the excited Volker dictates, never missing a beat about the importance and thoroughness of including everything, ie, the family part and, the important ideas to keep alive, and the importance of history. Volker gets worked up, pacing back and forth, swinging her arms like a windmill. Jackie types, then delivers the obits to Mr. Greene, Editor of the Norvelt News. Volker also writes: “This Day in History” for the newspaper. Volker is adamant with Jack about learning the importance of History… and don’t you forget it!
Sometimes the underage Jackie drives Volker around in her Valiant to visit the dead old ladies who are officially declared dead by Volker, the medical examiner. Why are so many of the original female inhabitants of Norvelt dying? Is it really just old age? What if Norvelt doesn’t get new inhabitants, what will become of the beloved town of Norvelt? Read this book for the surprise ending of this Newbery Award Winner!
Dead End in Norvelt
You could look only at the illustrations in this book and understand the friendship between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, but, of course, you will want to read the text that explains what transpired between John Adams, the Second President of the United States, and Thomas Jefferson, the Third President of the United States.
Suzanne Tripp Jurmain presents a brief overview of the beginnings of American independence and the important roles of Adams and Jefferson. Noisy John Adams was one of America’s best talkers and shy Thomas Jefferson was one of America’s best writers and together they helped write the Declaration of Independence. Although Adams and Jefferson were complete opposites in appearance, they both “had the same big, wonderful ideas about America. And, whenever they had a chance to work for their country, they did it together.” Interestingly enough, both John and Tom died on the same day, July 4, 1826, the fiftieth birthday of American independence.
Worst of Friends
Gary D. Schmidt does a superb job of character development and reality writing in his Young Adult novel titled: Okay for Now. It’s the late 1960s and Doug Swieteck, the main character, is 14 years old and has just moved to a new town in New York. Doug is the darling who frequently mends his family and community… a gigantic feat for a teen who is abused by his bum father, is mutually loved by his mother, is scorned by his jealous older brother, and is the lifesaver of his oldest brother who returns broken after serving in VietNam.
Doug’s best friend is Lil Spicer; her dad owns the grocery store where Doug gets a delivery job thereby befriending more townsfolk. Doug delights in his weekly redemptive visits to the library where he studies Audubon prints and learns to draw. Doug’s disabilities are painfully uncovered by an astute teacher, while yet another teacher creates nightmares.
You might ask, Why read this book? Doug is fun. Doug is cool. Doug triumphs. By the way, Gary D. Schmidt lives near Grand Rapids, Michigan, and is an English professor at Calvin College and has written other great must-reads!
Okay for Now
After you read this great juvenile fiction story, you will conclude that the book: Esperanza Rising IS appropriately titled. Esperanza is the daughter of a wealthy rancher in Aguascalientes, Mexico, in 1930. Esperanza always had servants; the most- trusted servants are Alfonso, Hortensia, and their son Miguel. The day before Esperanza’s thirteenth birthday her world is changed forever when Papi is killed by bandits. When Papi’s evil stepbrothers, Tio Marco and Tio Luis, take over the ranch, Esperanza and her mother and Abuelita (grandmother), hatch a desperate and dangerous plan of escape aided by Hortensia, Alfonso, and Miguel. Undercover, they all stealth away to California where they labor in a company farm camp and Mexican Repatriation is rampant. Esperanza is forced to change her attitude and ideas and is forced to learn common chores in order to survive.
This is a marvelously well-written story about personal change and triumph. Pam Munoz Ryan’s author’s note describes that the book parallels her grandmother’s life who lived much like the characters in this story. This book is a favorite amongst elementary teachers.
I’m currently reading What Would Joey Do?, book three of four in the Joey Pigza series by Jack Gantos. I like reading about Joey and his unpredictable life, his sweet behavior, his incredibly stupid behavior, and his mature logic about himself and his family—the abusive cigarette-smoking oxygenated grandma who raised him, his single mom with whom he now lives and who was AWOL most of his life yet now treats him with love and care, and his well-intentioned alcoholic dad Carter who lives three hours away in Pennsylvania, and his constant companion Pablo, a dachshund who tags along in Joey’s backpack.
Joey is high-strung and has major behavior problems that prompt his mom to get him evaluated resulting in him wearing medicated patches. Joey jumps into laugh-out-loud situations then suddenly sinks to real-life issues loaded with poignancy and despair. Joey is a grown-up little kid and his favorite expression is, “Can I get back to you on that?” Gantos is an extremely clever writer who has created a humorous character you do want to know!
Jack Gantos is the author of the Joey Pigza series:
What Would Joey Do?
Thrift Store Saints: Meeting Jesus 25 cents at a Time is a thoughtful true-stories book about Kalamazoo people who seek assistance from the small St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store operated by local volunteers, some of whom are in their eighties and nineties. Over thirteen years ago Jane Knuth reluctantly began volunteering at St. Vincent de Paul. She writes: “Our resources extend from providing clothing, household items, and blankets to financial help with back rent and utility bills, but it is never enough. No matter how much we distribute to needy people, their crises are never fully subdued. The moment always comes when we have to say, “You may have these or those things, but not that.” The great strain of helping the poor is that, at some point, we always are forced to say “no more.” We can never give all they obviously lack.” p67
One particularly touching story is about a caring nurse who telephones the thrift store to relay a message about a patient of hers who just got out of the hospital and she needs a bed. The nurse has a bed to donate, but the bed must be picked up within hours. Jane’s dear husband and his friend pick up the bed and deliver it to the woman’s upstairs apartment to her surprise and amazement.
I highly recommend this book about stories of local people and their needs and the helpful St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store.
Thrift store saints: meeting Jesus 25 cents at a time
“Reading, Rhyming, and ‘Rithmetic,” poems by Dave Crawley, c.2010, is a fun, entertaining book of school-themed poetry for elementary age children and on up through any age. The poems focus on every day events in a typical school day as perceived by a somewhat mischievous student. The illustrations are comical and bright.
Here are the first several lines from two favorites:
“Sub Fun: A substitute teacher! This will be fun! She won’t even ask if our homework is done! We can goof off now and play silly games! Best part of all, she won’t know our names!” (p. 26)
“Saw My Teacher on a Saturday! I can’t believe it’s true! I saw her buying groceries, like normal people do!” (p. 22)
There are many fantastic poetry books for children at KPL in the J811 section of the library. Do yourself a little favor and read a children’s poetry book. You’re in for a smile all the while!
Reading, Rhyming, and ‘Rithmetic
Ms. RoseAleta Laurell is one determined librarian who decided to raise money for children’s library services at the Dr. Eugene Clark Library in Lockhart, Texas. For an entire week in the year 2000 she lived on the library rooftop of the oldest library in the state of Texas. When she began her new position as library director, she noticed there were no children in the library… the children said it was for “grown-ups.” RoseAleta exclaimed: “We need more books—picture books, mystery books, adventure books! We need tables just the right size. Comfy chairs. Colorful artwork. And computers. Lots of families around here can’t afford computers.” RoseAleta wrote letters asking for donations for the children’s area, but got no money.
Onward and Upward! RoseAleta ascended to the library rooftop via an electric company bucket, supplied with a tent, a bullhorn, a laptop, two cell phones and a slingshot. She blew kisses and threw water balloons at the dancing children, the high school band played, and, politicians ordered her down, and finally the townspeople noticed! RoseAleta even survived a terribly cold and windy rainstorm that nearly blew her off the roof! Was RoseAleta Laurell’s rooftop fundraiser successful? Did she raise enough money for the Children’s Section? You’ll find out when you read the book: Librarian on the Roof!; a true story by M. G. King.
Librarian on the roof!; a true story
- 12/29/2010 04:30:20 PM, by Amy
- Topics: Books
I chose this book, Making Rounds with Oscar; the Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat, because of the title and the cat photograph on the cover. I am glad that I read the book as I was educated about the serious business of caring for aged patients afflicted with dementia and Alzheimer’s.
This true story takes place at Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Rhode Island and is told by Dr. David Dosa, a geriatrician and assistant professor of Medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. Dr. Dosa hears a rumor about a cat named Oscar who lives at Steere House and who happens to visit and remain with dying patients. The rumor turns out to be true and Dr. Dosa begins a quest to understand the link between animals and humans. How does Oscar know when a patient is dying? Dr. Dosa interviews families who had witnessed Oscar’s vigil during the painful death of a loved one. Although sorrowful memories were discussed, every single family member was grateful to Oscar for his steadfast, dutiful presence.
Dr. Dosa does an excellent job of relaying the personalities of the staff members and the Steere house patients and their personal histories. Everyone has a story and Dr. Dosa listens. Dr. Dosa is a caring, sometimes underappreciated physician whose work revolves around a subject most of us shun.
Making Rounds with Oscar; the Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat
This true story of a San Franciso family features Steve and Sally Winn and their 12 year old daughter Phoebe. Steve’s accounts of life with Como, the 12 pound white terrier they adopt from an animal shelter, takes the reader on an up and down Frisco streets bare-foot running bathrobe flapping chronicle of how they learn to adjust to life with Como who, horrifically, had been abused by a male.
Como, named after a lake in Italy where the family had vacationed, naturally distrusts decent Steve who painstakingly and patiently attempts to win the dog’s trust and affection. Life with Como is difficult for Steve and the reader has empathy for both Steve and for Como. Steve deserves tremendous praise for his endurance for Como. Steve, Sally and Phoebe eventually uncover the dog’s true personality and appropriately christen him “Z” because he is Z: the oddest, zingiest, zaniest letter in the alphabet … elusive and zigzagging!
Come Back, Como; Winning the Heart of a Reluctant Dog
Dewey is a heart-warming story about a cat who lived a long, pampurred life in a public library in Spencer, Iowa. The true story is written by Vicki Myron, who was the Spencer Library Director for 20 years. Considering that Vicki rescued Dewey from a library drop box when he was just a tiny, dirty, bitterly cold kitten with frostbitten paws, Dewey repays the library staff and library patrons again and again with his sweet personality and adorable cat antics.
This story is autobiographical for Vicki Myron’s personal and professional life. The town history of Spencer, Iowa is painted throughout the story with details that take the reader there. This is a wonderful story that poignantly highlights the rewarding relationship of pets to people. There is also an audiobook version read by Suzanne Toren... and... the Oshtemo Branch Library has chosen Dewey for an upcoming Oshtemo Book Group selection - stay tuned!
Vicki has since written a children’s picture book titled Dewey: There’s a Cat in the Library!
Dewey: the Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World
Mistaken Identity; two families, one survivor, unwavering hope written by Don and Susie VanRyn and Newell, Colleen & Whitney Cerak with Mark Tabb, is the true story about Laura VanRyn of Grand Rapids, Michigan and Whitney Cerak of Gaylord, Michigan, two young college students who attended Taylor University in Indiana. Their story is both tragic and redemptive. On April 26, 2006, Whitney and Laura were traveling, along with other students and staff in two university vans, back to campus after working at a banquet when, suddently, one of the vans was struck by a semitrailor that crossed over the center median of I-69 near the Marion, Indiana, exit. "The van was carrying five students and four food services employees. Of the nine people in the van, five had died." Laura was taken to Parkview Hospital in Ft. Wayne, Indiana...unconscious, in critical condition, broken bones and a very serious head injury. Unfortunately, Whitney was pronounced dead.
The events following this tragic day for the Cerak family and the VanRyn family are tremendous loss and eventual triumph. It is emotional, tender, loving, prayerful, but most of all, overflowing with their unwavering faith and strength in Jesus Christ. The book is well written; it takes the reader on a chronologically documented reality of their circumstances and the struggles faced by the victims' families, friends, communities, university, and medical personnel.
Perhaps you remember the national media events of this story: after five weeks of hospitalization and therapy it was discovered that Laura was the student who died in the accident and Whitney is the student who survived, a consequence of mistaken identity. The powerful ordeal of faith and forgiveness is highly recommended not only because of its geographic proximity to Kalamazoo, but also because of the tremendous love, inspiration and respect gleaned for the VanRyn and Cerak families.
Nebraska, the movie, is filmed in black and white, which makes it different from the start. It is a slower, steady-paced story about an adult son’s resigned understanding toward his aging father who believes he has won a million dollars in a magazine sweepstakes.
Bruce Dern plays Woody Grant, the deteriorating father, and Will Forte plays, David, the son. June Squibb plays Kate, the brutally honest wife. The story begins with the father walking along the highway in Billings, Montana. A police officer stops the father and contacts the family to pick up the old man. The son retrieves his father who tells everyone that he is walking to the sweepstakes headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska to claim his fortune. He means what he says and the son realizes there is no stopping him. A road trip ensues. On the way they stop in Hawthorne, Nebraska, Woody’s hometown, occupied by many relatives and friends and former business acquaintances. They stay with Woody’s brother and sister-in-law and criminal sons. Woody announces to everyone that he’s going to be a millionaire. After that, every day is filled with drama, shananigans and tell-all stories from the past.
The believability of the characters and the story is bar-none. You become immersed in the events. It is quirky, goofy, frustrating and tender, all things human. Nebraska was nominated for six Academy Awards. The combination of actors and directors is superb.
- 7/3/2014 09:05:22 AM, by Amy
- Topics: Drama
Jeff Kinney is the author of the very popular Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, there are seven books in the series and Kalamazoo Public Library has all seven! The printed text appears as if it were hand-written and it is combined with comic drawings to keep the attention of even a reluctant reader. Boys and girls, elementary age and teenage, enjoy reading the books.
I watched the movie titled: Diary of a Wimpy Kid and just thinking about it makes me giggle. The movie is directed by Thor Freudenthal. It revolves around Greg and Rowley, two best friends entering their first year of middle school. Greg is played by Zachary Gordon and Rowley is played by Robert Capron. Throughout their sixth grade year Greg and Rowley make several attempts and schemes at “fitting-in” to middle school life. Yes, there are a few moments of fright and, yes, there is some gross stuff, but overall it is clever, goofy, and at times, adorable. The actors do a great job of conveying their individual character including Greg’s family which consists of an obnoxious older brother and a younger brother, and a mother and father. We get to know Greg’s classmates and teachers and a few bullies. Rowley provides innocence and sincerity to the story along with his catchy phrase: zoo-wee mama! Greg is somewhat of an underdog who keeps persevering throughout, and he deserves a lot of credit for his inventiveness and maturity.
Again, this is a funny movie and I recommend it.
For books, begin at: Diary of a Wimpy Kid; Greg Heffley’s Journal (Book 1)
Diary of a Wimpy Kid
The Human Experience is a documentary film featuring Jeffrey and Cliff Azize, two brothers who go on an adventure to discover the meaning of life. Jeff asks the ageless questions: Why are we here? Where are we going? Jeff and Cliff grew up in an abusive home, no love, no security. Now they live in a halfway house in New York City. They and two friends decide to explore communities where people shunned by society live.
Grassroots Films actually films the events as they happen, thrusting the truth at us. For their first experience they live homeless for one week in New York City in February’s frigid 5 degree temps. They converse with the homeless and discover a commonness amongst the homeless: humility and vulnerability, a desire for dignity and respect.
For their second experience they travel to Peru with Will Kinnane, founder of Surf for the Cause, a group of surfers who work on community projects. They volunteer at a children’s hospital that treats mutilated, abused, and abandoned children. The children are so happy despite their physical conditions and people cannot understand this. One volunteer states: it’s not what we give them, it’s what they give us. They give us a reason to live. The joy of living is what the kids have. Many young people do not have a purpose and meaning of their life. Many young people need to experience that this life matters.
For their third experience they travel to Ghana, Africa, and see African people dancing and celebrating life, the joy of life. On their way to visit a leper colony, Jeff and Cliff visit a community where dying AIDS victims live, a mother and her baby, where suffering and death prevail. How do they cope with facing death? Then, at the leper colony, the lepers are looked at as outcasts, segregated from the rest of society. When Jeff asks a leper why do you bother to get up every morning, he responds that Love is what matters, you are my brother, it’s not what’s on the outside that matters, it’s what’s on the inside that matters.
This captivating documentary is very worthwhile. It’s not always easy to watch, but it is rich with joy; featuring commentaries from experts in humanitarian and religious fields. This film zeroes in on what it means to be human and it delivers!
The Human Experience
Fran Junker, who retires in August from the Oshtemo Branch of the Kalamazoo Public Library after more than 33 years of knowledgeable, devoted, caring service, recommended this MOST EXCELLENT MUST-SEE DVD titled: Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story, starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. Dr. Ben Carson is one of the leading Pediatric neurosurgeons in the world; he works at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, MD.
Ben and Curtis, his brother, were raised by their single mother in Detroit, Michigan. The story takes us into their home where Ben and Curtis watch too much television instead of doing their homework, much to the disgust of their mother who determines to change her sons’ lives. She insists that they study and read and she encourages them to achieve goals and to be successful . She instills priceless values of Faith in God and a belief in their own ability to accomplish whatever they desire. She tells them: “use your mind and develop your God-given gifts. You’re smart boys, but you both can do better. You got all the world in here. You just got to see what you can’t see”. We watch Ben’s physical and academic growth. Ben’s weaknesses, heartaches, trials and triumphs throughout his life are exposed.
The rewards of Dr. Ben Carson’s intelligence and medical expertise are intensely magnified when in 1987 the world awaits the outcome of his surgery performed on conjoined twins born in Germany . This inspiring story of Dr. Ben Carson is appealing to all ages. Thank you, Fran, for recommending this spectacular MOST EXCELLENT MUST-SEE DVD.
Gifted Hands: the Ben Carson story