Staff Picks: Books
Staff-recommended reading from the
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