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Henry's Heart: A Boy, His Heart, and a New Best Friend

  • Posted on December 29, 2011 at 12:23 AM

Henry’s Heart: A Boy, His Heart, and a New Best Friend by Charise Mericle Harper is a book for individual reading, not storytime. Throughout these pages exploring Henry’s heart, there are tiny drawings and even tinier messages spread throughout. Some of the illustrations reflect a child-like attempt at drawing with the stores alongside a road at the top of the page being upright while at the bottom of the road being upside down.

The innocent appeal of this title lies in how the author incorporates factual information about the heart with a fictional story of a boy who wants a dog. I found this title interesting through the way facts are intermingled in a variety of formats like checklists and drawings.

Although the review in Publisher’s Weekly wasn’t as enthusiastic, Henry’s Heart is a Junior Library Guild pick and I’m already working on ways to integrate this into our STEM curriculum.

Henry’s Heart: A Boy, His Heart, and a New Best Friend by Cherise Mericle Harper. Holt/Ottaviano, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8050-8989-9.

Solomon Crocodile by Catherine Rayner

  • Posted on December 28, 2011 at 4:18 PM

Just look at the cover of this book! It’s irresistible. a Crocodile Smile, innocent (?!) eyes, GLITTER, and the words “Uh-oh, here comes trouble!” Who could resist? Not me, I had to drop everything I was doing to pick up this title.

Catherine Rayner uses soft colors and simple layouts to create a delightful title that will be enjoyed by preschoolers and kindergartners again and again. The vocabulary delightfully rolls off your tongue. Teachers looking for examples of figurative language will appreciate phrases like “Solomon splats and slops” and the use of synonyms. Storytime readers will be able to encourage student participation and anticipation with simple repetition of the phrase “Go away, you’re nothing but…”

Poor Solomon may not be the best role model for making friends, but preschoolers will laugh at the antics of this crocodile who only wants to tease and torment the other animals for a moment of levity.  The design of the illustrations highlights this paint-spattered crocodile just looking for fun. Count me a fan of Catherine Rayner’s work.

Solomon Crocodile by Catherine Rayner. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $15.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-374-38064-9.

Quick reviews from Laurie Travis

  • Posted on December 28, 2011 at 2:23 PM

I’m fortunate to have Laurie Travis as my library assistant. Laurie recently earned her MLS from Trevecca. While I know Laurie will be snapped up as librarian by some smart principal soon, I’m happy to share her part-time with another elementary school in Nashville. Laurie has been helping me sort through many review titles. She chose the titles below to take to the other school. In return, I asked her to make review notes.

Cool Theme Parties by Karen Latchana Kennedy- series – Checkerboard How-To Library ABDO

Two page layouts and great graphics make this very kid friendly. Kids can create their own themed parties from beginning to end. Included are sections for invitations, decorations, party favors and activities.

Empty Full by Apple Jordan – series Bookworms- Opposites -Marshall Cavendish

Simple book for emergent readers demonstrates the concepts of empty and full by showing photos of familiar items that are empty and items that are full.

Guess Who Sniffs by Apple Jordan – series Bookworms-Marshall Cavendish

For emergent readers- each page has a picture and text clues about a dog’s behavior and physical characteristics which invite readers to guess what it is being described.

The Tall Tale of Paul Bunyan retold by Martin Powell-   series – Graphic Spin: American Tall Tales – Capstone

This is a fun and rollicking retelling of the legend of Paul Bunyan in a graphic novel.  Readers can make connections to American geography through the hyperbolic descriptions of how they were made by Paul Bunyan and his big blue ox, Babe. There are also writing prompts and discussion questions at the end of the book.

Scooby-Doo and the Rock‘n’Roll Zombie by Jessie Leon McCann- series Spotlight – ABDO

Graphic novel features Scooby-Doo, and his pals at a rock concert.  When a zombie kidnaps the lead singer, they go to solve the mystery.  An implausible situation at the very least, Scooby and Shaggy always get in trouble and have to be rescued.  The poor grammar and silly premise for a story make this a less than stellar example of children’s literature.

Chill Out Scooby-Doo by Sonia Sander- series Spotlight – ABDO

This graphic novel tells of Scooby Doo and Shaggy in a bind (as usual) because they have been tricked and dropped in the Himalayas and chased by the Abominable Snowman.  The silly premise for a story make this a less than stellar example of children’s literature.

Electronic Devices

  • Posted on December 28, 2011 at 11:35 AM

I wish everyone could have two weeks vacation time at Christmas. Teaching is the best profession while I’m on winter vacation. Curling up and reading, visiting bookstores, visiting public libraries, drinking coffee leisurely at Waffle House while I’m reading on my new Kindle Fire. WhooHoo! My new Kindle Fire! These are the times I love being a librarian.

Last night at midnight I was curled up on the sofa with the laptop beside me blogging and playing Facebook games, my Android phone on the pillow so I could keep texting my friends and checking app’s, and the Kindle Fire in my left hand with a netbook connected transferring some of my netgalley’s and Project Gutenberg titles. I was connected to the Nashville Public Library preparing my new list of checkouts and editing the database of nonfiction titles I want to blog about soon.

At the same time, I was entertaining three dogs and two cats who needed petting and babytalk. I have boxes of children’s books sitting next to me and Milia kitty keeps trying to get in the box with the books.

But my electronic devices were distracting me. I knew Ken hadn’t read the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and since I have a month free of Kindle Prime I decided to watch the movie on my Kindle. Wisely Ken had given me headphones to use with my Kindle so I could either watch movies or listen to my favorite songs like the Sleepless in Seattle soundtrack without waking him.

Most of my librarian friends received Nooks and Kindles for Christmas, too.  I wonder if they are using them as much as I am. At the moment life is good. I can easily checkout books using NPL and Overdrive to send them to my Kindle and I don’t have to worry about overdue fines.

My love of the printed book is in no way diminished just because I have more access electronically. Instead I feel exhilarated at the possibilities. I’m currently reading six books simultaneously and I feel free to read at my superfast speed without anyone knowing exactly how fast I read. Yesterday I finished 4 novels and 10 children’s books while I appeared to just be looking at my screen. No one could interrupt me to ask if I was really reading or just flipping pages. And, no one could see exactly what I was reading so I could intersperse adult titles for pleasure reading with review titles.

Have electronic devices changed the way I read? Yes, but they have in no way taken away from the amount of titles I purchase either electronically or in print. Instead, I’m able to access sequels faster and branch out to new titles at an exciting speed.

Tell me, did you receive an e-reader for the holidays? How has your reading changed?

The Dead by Charlie Higson with a review by Susan Norwood (guest blogger)

  • Posted on December 27, 2011 at 5:13 PM

What’s cooler right now than zombies? If you said nothing, you’re right. While vampires, the ultimate forbidden love,  make for good romances, there’s nothing like a zombie invasion to get your pulse pumping. There is absolutely nothing about a zombie to love and everything to fear. Such is the case in Charlie Higson’s The Dead, a prequel to his first zombie novel, The Enemy.

Unlike many series, either book can be read as a stand-alone.  Although it’s somewhat preferable to read The Enemy first, it isn’t necessary. Each book has different characters and a different setting in time. Higson is known for another action series that appeal to boys, the Young Bond Series.  No character is ever safe, the action is non-stop, and it’s gross factor is right up there with The Living Dead.

Every person over the age of 16 has been stricken with a gruesome disease. They feel intense flu symptoms and begin to develop pus-filled boils all over their body. Once diseased, they hunger for the meat of younger children. Those who

survive call the humans-turned-monsters by various names, including mothers and fathers, strangers, and sickos. Once bitten, the victims don’t catch the disease, but they usually die from their wounds. Hospitals and doctors no longer exist.

The main characters are a group of boys from a prep school in England. When they can no longer keep the teachers from attacking them, they decide to flee to London. On route, they meet up with other fleeing kids- some who are helpful and others who view them as competition. They are on a constant quest for food and security. As in Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, no character is safe, and main characters die as well as minor ones.

Here is a taste (pun intended) of just one of the many attacks.

. . . one of the teenagers was on him. A sharp-faced boy who looked to be about eighteen. It was hard to tell, though, because he eyes were bulging out of his head, and his face resembled a Margherita pizza, livid red with crusty yellow patches, like the worst case of teenage acne Ed had ever seen. . . The boy was snarling and snorting, which made green snot bubble from his nose. Pinkish-looking saliva foamed from between his rotten teeth.

And this is just one of the scenes. Admirably, Higson does not become redundant in his gruesome depictions, unlike some horror writers. This book will appeal to readers who don’t think that they can become shocked and that nothing is as scary as what they see in the movies or on TV. Seriously, I love to read a book while I am eating, but with this book I just couldn’t do it.Recommend this to fans of Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins  and Rot and Ruin by James Maberry.

Cool sites Diane says to check out:

Charlie Higson’s Silverfin

Charlie Higson’s site

Book Trailer

My Favourite Books blog

Susan, have you read the sequel to Rot and Ruin – Dust & Decay? I think I’d better put it on my new kindle ASAP.

According to Wikipedia: “Higson is currently writing a zombie-horror series of books for children. The first book, The Enemy, was released in the UK by Puffin Books in 2009 and in the US by Disney-Hyperion in 2010. Book 2, The Dead, was released in the UK in September 2010. The third book in the series, The Fear was published on 15 September 2011. Charlie is currently writing the fourth novel in the series that will be out next year.

Anyone know how I can obtain 465 book copies of Walt Disney's 101 Dalmatians?

  • Posted on December 20, 2011 at 5:17 PM

This has been an exciting year at my new school. It is currently a STEM school, but there are rumors among the related arts folks that we are turning it into a STEAM school to include the arts. The collaborations among the art, music, P.E., computer, and library teachers (me) have been clever and creative. Now, we have a chance to truly shine.

Thanks to the hard work of our music leader David Nooe, our school is participating in an exciting theater opportunity with the Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC)  and “Disney Musicals in Schools”.  We will help our students produce the Disney musical for 101 Dalmatians. This is part of the new pilot program Disney is testing before implementing nation-wide. Who will be next? I wonder.

Unfortunately there is no re-release of the video/dvd to come so finding 101 Dalmatians books and memorabilia is tough. Anyone have some extras? I’ve written to Disney/Hyperion, but they don’t have this many books on hand. I am still trying to find a way to put one copy of the book in every child’s hands. I did find their website where they allow us to use their buddy icons or avatars. I’m still looking for the disclaimers on what we can and cannot post from Ideas?

From the press releases:

The Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) has announced the five Metro Nashville Public Schools selected to participate in “Disney Musicals in Schools,” an outreach initiative formerly only available to New York City public schools. As announced in September, TPAC Education was selected by Disney Theatrical Group to pilot the project to lay the foundation for expansion in school systems nationwide.
Participating Nashville Schools are: Glengarry Elementary School; Hattie Cotton STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) Magnet Elementary School; Hull-Jackson Montessori Magnet School; Kirkpatrick Elementary Enhanced Option School; and Percy Priest Elementary School. They were selected from a field of 12 applicants.
“The applications from all of the schools were extremely thoughtful, with contributions from all corners of each school. Music teachers were generally the prime contact, but principals, parents, and educators outside of arts disciplines all expressed interest in being a part of the project. They saw the opportunity to involve their entire community, to use the musical as a vehicle for improved communication between stakeholders in the school, and to strengthen English language initiatives. They want to put on a fun, engaging and educational Disney musical and leverage all of the good that comes out of this,” said Roberta Ciuffo-West, TPAC’s executive vice president for education and outreach.
“I was struck by how well faculty, principals and parents had prepared themselves for the site visits. They had thoroughly investigated the possibilities, drilling down to specific benefits and the potential for long-term impact of Disney Musicals in Schools. Many saw the program as a way to stretch their skills, to draw attention to their work, and to increase public understanding of what they are achieving,” she said.
At no cost to them, the five elementary schools will receive a performance license to the Disney KIDS musical of their choice, comprehensive resource materials, and in-school support from two TPAC teaching artists for 15 weeks. Rehearsals will begin in January, with up to 60 children from each school taking part in the production, both on and off the stage. Following performances at their schools in the spring, each will present one musical number at a “Student Share” event for the general public at TPAC on May 17, 2012.
“We could not have dreamed that the first five schools to participate in Disney Musicals in Schools would be so diverse, representing a cross-section of Nashville. It’s incredible—Montessori and STEM magnet schools, one enhanced-option school, one suburban school and one school with a high percentage of English language learners,” said Ciuffo-West.
Disney Theatrical Group provided TPAC Education with an assessment tool that detailed a combination of factors to help identify which schools were the best match for the logistics and goals of the program. The specific categories in the assessment, each holding equal weight, were: logistics, opportunity to develop/strengthen theatre program, school leadership and school team commitment to program, commitment to community development, opportunity for cross curricular applications, and appreciation/understanding of the importance of arts in education.
Disney and TPAC’s goals include developing awareness and appreciation of musical theatre as a collaborative art, connecting the project to curriculum standards, and strengthening the school community, which includes students, families, faculty, staff and neighbors.
“Although individual methods vary, each school is a great match for the goals of Disney Musicals in Schools, involving music, art, physical education, and classroom teachers, along with librarians, principals, parents, and other faculty. That’s a reflection of how arts education engages children across all subjects and serves students from all backgrounds and neighborhoods. The arts cross cultural and academic borders. The arts strengthen communities,” she said.
Disney KIDS musicals, created in partnership with Musical Theatre International (MTI), are about 30 minutes in length, and have been adapted from classic Disney films including 101 Dalmatians, Aladdin, The Aristocats, Cinderella, The Jungle Book, Sleeping Beauty, and Winnie the Pooh.
In December, staff from Disney Theatrical Group will come to Nashville to train local teaching artists, who already are participating in one of TPAC Education’s four programs for learners of all ages.
“We honor what educators are doing in the schools and this is a true partnership for TPAC Education. The experience of working with them in this sort of laboratory setting over 15 weeks is an extraordinary opportunity for our teaching artists and staff,” said Ciuffo-West.
I can’t wait til January when we begin working with students.

Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie

  • Posted on December 20, 2011 at 2:37 PM

My sons haven’t had children yet to make me a grandma, still next Sunday I will instantly become one when I say “I Do!” to Kenneth Patrick  Kelly in a simple ceremony in our house with 2 sons, 4 dogs, and 2 cats present. Instantly I have step-status for Julia, Lexie, Colyn, Austin and the two babies on their way thanks for Patti and Catherine. I’m far more excited than Ken and already dreaming of spoiling  them rottenly sweet. I hope I can be a super-cool grandma like Tillie in Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie by Laurie A. Jacobs.

Publisher’s description: Lucky for Sophie and Chloe, Grandma Tillie knows how to royally entertain her grandchildren. To their delight, whenever Grandma Tillie babysits, she seems to disappear, only to be replaced by a parade of lovable characters. There’s Tillie Vanilly with the bright pink hair, star of The Tillie Vanilly Show, who loves to tell jokes and dance the conga; Chef Silly Tillie with the lampshade hat who offers up a dinner of Worm Chili with Glue Gravy; and Madame Frilly Tillie with the sparkly eyeglasses and towel turban, the world’s most creative bath-bubble stylist. Sophie and Chloe wonder who will appear to tuck them into bed: Hiker Hilly Tillie, Explorer Chilly Tillie, or Zoo-lady Gorilly Tillie? To their surprise, it’s the best character of all—just plain Grandma Tillie.

When I unwrapped this title, I was immediately attracted to the illustrations by Anne Jewett. This title begs to be read and shared. It’s irresistible to little girls and provides many opportunities for creative grandparents all over the world to insert their own brand of silliness.

I even like the font and had to go read the CIP data for more info.  This book was typeset in Zephyr and Gypsy Switch. I want those fonts! Anyone know how to get them? I was impressed with the thickness of the cover also. Flashlight Press has published a book to last through many storytimes and snuggling sessions with grandma.

Anne Jewett has inserted a quirky cat in each page who enjoys the girls’ romps as much as we do. For a fun story give this to grandma’s everywhere and watch out for their knitting bags (in my case, crochet bag). You never know when wild personas will emerge.

Nonfiction Monday – We've Got a Job

  • Posted on December 19, 2011 at 11:58 PM

We’ve Got A Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March by Cynthia Y. Levinson is a remarkable story interweaving four children  protesters out of 4000 and how their actions impacted  the Civil Rights movement. This is the story I have been missing all my life as it takes an importance series of children’s protests to explain the events of the Civil Rights movement and how individuals affected the greater movement. Here is the story that shows the confusion, the determination, and the ups and downs of civil protests. It is amazing and I urge you to rush to purchase this from Peachtree Publishers in February, 2012.

We’ve Got A Job provides the background I’ve needed to understand the greater picture of how small protests built and how changes occurred. No individual is glorified or “heroized”. Human actions are realistically described and the imperfections of the leaders are honestly shown. Levinson reveals the problems behind coordinating many small actions for the larger movement. She also uses simple comparisons between white students and black students’ views and actions during the events to provide a multi-faceted setting.

I carried this uncorrected proof with me for over 2 weeks while I read and re-read portions. I utilized the timeline in the back to build a sense of how these actions fit within the larger Civil Rights movement. Author Cynthia Levinson echoes my feelings in her author’s note when she writes:

“Although I read newspaper articles about the marches, hoses, and dogs, it wasn’t until I was an adult, writing about music in the civil rights period for Cobblestone magazine, that I learned the heart of the story: all of the protesters assaulted and jailed that May were children…. [others]  needed to know how a Children’s March changed American history.”

Quotations that may be familiar to students are connected to the atmosphere and actions of Birmingham. On page 97 we read:

On D-Day, police officer Captain George Wall said to Captain Evans, “Ten or fifteen years from now, we will look back on this and we will say, ‘How stupid can you be?'” But everyone had to obey the Segregation Ordinances, even those who despised them. “The ultimate tragedy of Birmingham, “King observed, “was not the brutality of the bad people but the silence of the good people.”

While adults in May 1963 hesitated to protest the racist culture of Birmingham, Alabama, with their lives and jobs at stake, their children and teens left school to march and force the police to arrest them. By filling the jails with children and responding in a peaceful manner to attacks by dogs and fire hoses, these students brought national attention to Birmingham. Adult protests had stalled. If the children had not acted, would changes have occurred? Their actions are a vital part of the civil rights movement and need to be shared.

Many people accuse librarians of being too liberal and focused on social activitist clauses, yet I was shocked to read about the public library bathrooms being locked rather than desegregated. Aren’t librarians at the forefront of the protection of civil liberties? Levinson writes:

“Public libraries had been informally desegregated by demonstrators and were soon officially integrated. Their bathrooms, however, were not and remained locked; all patrons–black and white–had to seek facilities elsewhere.”

The importance of protest songs is interwoven with actions. I’ve sung the song “We Shall Overcome” at sunrise ceremonies and learned in my 20’s that this was considered the anthem of the Civil Rights movement. Still, it did not connect me to actions and history. It was simply a moving song. I’d read the Wikipedia description of the songs history, but it was putting together the pieces of children’s actions and their music that made this real.

We’ve Got a Job moves to the top of my nonfiction list purchases for any middle or high school collection. While this won’t be published until February, it needs to be pre-ordered to be sure it is received this school year and shared with students. This title once read-aloud to students  may be the most important historical account of the Civil Rights movement they’ll read in school since it connects students with real people their age who took steps to bring about change. This is a vital piece of the Civil Rights movement and needs to be understood within the larger context to see how long it takes for change to occur.

President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 two years before I was born. Growing up in Iowa, I knew of the Civil Rights movement as a historical event, assumed it solved all problems and that everything was instantly desegregated. (Okay, I realize that was a foolish notion but I was naive.)

When I moved to Tennessee in 1996, I was surprised to talk to teachers who had experienced segregated schools as students and as teachers. What seemed ancient history to me became a real and continuing battle as I opened my eyes to current problems. I tried to put bits and pieces together including this staff report from the US Commission on Civil Rights on School Desegregation in Nashville-Davidson County. I’ve visited the Nashville Public Library and sat on the chairs memorializing the sit-ins.

I’ve seen the documentary on the Clinton 12 and how students made a difference. “On the first day of school in August 1956, the black students walked into Clinton High School. They were the first African Americans in the South to attend a previously all-white public school.” See Tennessee 4 Me. A year before the Little Rock Nine, twelve youth walked into Clinton High School and into history. Their story can be found at

My current school has the distinction of having been bombed during desegregation. You can read more on the website Tennessee 4 Me. There is a fascinating account of A Child Shall Lead Them: Two Days in September 1957: The Desegregation of Nashville Public Schools.

All of these stories about children and their actions are important pieces of history. I appreciate Cynthia Levinson’s bringing the story of these Birmingham, Alabama children and their actions to We’ve Got A Job.

Nonfiction Monday

  • Posted on December 19, 2011 at 1:41 AM

We’re here in Practically Paradise for Nonfiction Monday. My post is We’ve Got A Job on the next link so we can enjoy these gifts today first:

The Unknown Spy (The Ring of Five series) by Eoin McNamee

  • Posted on December 5, 2011 at 12:08 AM

I took a moment to curl up with The Unknown Spy (The Ring of Five series) by Eoin McNamee. I couldn’t resist this title because the idea of a young spy made me recall series Alex Rider and Ally Carter’s Gallagher Girls. Would this title become a favorite of middle schoolers and my avid 4th grade readers?

I hate coming in to a series with the second title, but I think McNamee brought me up to speed quickly. He left enough juicy hints that I have to  seek out the first book in the series during the holidays. The first chapter captured my attention as Danny Caulfield leaped into action to help save his “parents”. I enjoyed the author’s showing us Danny’s thought processes as he put his spy skills to work during danger.

While I read The Unknown Spy, I found myself contemplating betrayal, treachery, and how we define being good at something. If we are good at spying, lying, and tricking others, isn’t this a good thing for a spy? As I read, I was distancing myself from Danny. He wasn’t a goodie-two-shoes character that perfectly spurred all evil and virtuously did only good as he solved the mystery. His methods and relationships were not the typical style of a youth in an adventure title. He was moody, untrustworthy, and sometimes unlikable. Yet, I read on and was compelled to find out what happened to the supporting characters. Those, I liked. As I read, I realized I didn’t have to like the main character to read on.

The betrayal and secrecy of Danny’s parents throughout the beginning of this title led me to mind-wandering down a path. Suddenly I was listing all the titles I’ve ever read where a youth discovers his parents aren’t what he (or she) thought them to be. Aha! This was a rite of passage, a mark of growing up, a sign for a title of bildungsromans. A child must separate from their parents to begin the journey to adulthood. Most titles allow emotional growth of the youth to eventually reunite or come to peace with their parents. Will Danny have a relationship with his “parents” in the future? We are left to wonder. I’ll be impatiently waiting for the next title in this series to see if Danny becomes a lovable character or if his treacherous spy self overcomes the good side.