Friday, April 18, 2014

A Snicker of Magic, by Natalie Lloyd -- Nominated for the 2015 Emerson Mock Newbery (ages 9-12)

Last week, two girls came bounding into our lunchtime book club bubbling over about how much they loved a new book they both just read: A Snicker of Magic. Their enthusiasm immediately spread to other friends. Hooray!! And so, here is our first book nominated to the 2015 Emerson Mock Newbery, followed by Thea and Fiona's review.
A Snicker of Magic
by Natalie Lloyd
Scholastic, 2014
preview on Google Books
*2015 Emerson Mock Newbery*
Your local library
Amazon
ages 9-12
A Snicker of Magic
Review by Thea and Fiona

A Snicker of Magic is a great book about a young girl, Felicity Pickle, who sees words around people and things .”Some words glow, and some words dance Some have wings , and some have zebra stripes.” After moving (again) to her mom’s childhood home, Midnight Gulch, (which is magic) she learns some important things about her family. But there’s still a gaping hole. Will she find it out in time or is she going to feel the hole forever?

Natalie Lloyd
We think that the moral of A Snicker of Magic is you can believe in anything you want to and always believe in yourself and your family. Our evidence of this is at first Felicity did not believe in magic until she started learning about her family. What we have in common with Felicity is that sometimes we don’t always believe in something until we have seen or witnessed it.

We recommend this book because this story has a really good plot that makes you want to never put it down once you started it. It has magic mixed with family drama , and amazing characters like Felicity and the Beedle, and lots of suspense.

WE RECOMMEND THIS BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thea enjoyed Natalie's recent post on the Nerdy Book Club, all about the magic of memories that are hidden away in the books we read. This is certainly part of the wonderful charm of A Snicker of Magic.
There's a Lion in My Closet, by Natalie Lloyd

My first novel, A Snicker of Magic, takes place in a quirky Tennessee mountain town called Midnight Gulch. The sugar-wind blows through Midnight Gulch thanks to a famous (er… infamous, rather) ice cream factory called Dr. Zook’s. While Zook’s boasts all sorts of strangely delicious concoctions, the most popular flavor is only sold locally. It’s called Blackberry Sunrise, and years ago, the first batch was made from a crop of wild berries, sugar, milk … and memories. That’s the problem with eating Blackberry Sunrise, as my hero, Felicity Pickle, soon discovers. That particular flavor always calls up a memory. And you never know if the memory will be sweet or sour unless you’re brave enough to take a bite.

Sadly, I don’t know how to hide memories in ice cream.

But I know how to hide memories in books.

For more, head to the Nerdy Book Club post.

Thea and Fiona are nominating A Snicker of Magic to our 2015 Emerson Mock Newbery. Our process is that a book must be nominated by two readers to be entered into our final reading list. Students commit to reading at least 5 books from our list to participate in our voting in January. Thank you, Thea and Fiona, for sharing about why you want all of us to read A Snicker of Magic!

The review copy was kindly sent to us by the publishers, Scholastic Press. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Words with Wings, by Nikki Grimes -- powerful novel in verse (ages 9-12)

Kaiyah C., a fourth grader at Emerson, came to me last week asking to write a review of Nikki Grimes' Words With Wings. You have to know that it takes something special for a kid to ASK to write a review. This book is truly special, and it has found a home in Kaiyah's heart.
Words with Wings
by Nikki Grimes
WordSong, 2013
2014 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award
your local library
Amazon
ages 9-12
Review of Word with Wings
by: Kaiyah C.

I just read Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes and I really liked this book because I related to Gabby (Gabriella). We both daydream to keep our lives/minds magical so we can throw all our ideas out and put it on paper.

Gabby especially daydreams when her parents are fighting. This helps her forget. Gabby and her mom are very different. Gabby’s favorite word is pretend and her mom’s is practical . Gabby is just like her dad. Sometimes Gabby’s mom stops her from daydreaming because she does not want her to be just like her dad. In the end Gabby becomes an author and her mom starts daydreaming too.

I enjoyed reading this book because of the way it was written in poetry. I think you would especially like it if you daydream. It would be awesome if we could have 15 minutes of daydreaming, just like Gabby’s teacher told her to do. But I don’t think that will really happen for us. This was a really heartwarming book.

This was the best book I’ve ever read.
-------------------------------------
I think Kaiyah will be interested in reading Ms. Grimes' reflections on her own childhood and the importance of daydreaming to her personally, over at the Teaching Books blog. Ms. Grimes writes:
Daydreaming becomes a strong muscle if you exercise it often enough. By the time I was ten, I could lasso a daydream and ride the wind. Who wouldn’t want to do that?
There were no lassos where I grew up in the inner city, of course, but there were daydreams to be had, if you knew where to look. That’s the secret I shared with Gabriella, the main character in Words with Wings (Wordsong, 2013). Like Gabby, I was a girl who lived inside her head.
- See more at: Teaching Books blog
Thank you, Nikki Grimes, for writing such wonderfully powerful stories that speak to my students. Thank you, Kaiyah, for such a heartfelt response to Words With Wings.

The review copy came from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, April 14, 2014

Firefly July: A year of very short poems, selected by Paul B. Janeczko (ages 5-10)

I adore poetry--hooray for National Poetry Month! I love the amazing tumbling, turning and twisting that poets do with words. I marvel at the layered meanings in poems, and I have so much fun with the silliness of other poems. The only the I have such trouble with is memorizing poems. So imagine my delight when I read a whole book of poems just right for me to try to remember!
Firefly July
A year of very short poems
selected by Paul B. Janeczko
illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Candlewick, 2014
*best new book*
your local library
Amazon
ages 5-10
This picture book balances poetry and illustrations in a lovely way, so that children from preschool through upper elementary can linger over each page. Paul Janeczko has selected 36 poems to reflect our four seasons, and Melissa Sweet illustrates each poem, balancing literal and figurative meanings in ways that help children understand the poems fully. Take this lovely poem
"The Island", by Lillian Morrison
At first glance, this is just a peaceful picture of an island on a summer's day. But Sweet's illustration helps young children understand how "wrinkled stone" might indeed look "like an elephant's skin." As the Horn Book says, "Sweet's expansive mixed-media illustrations -- loosely rendered, collage-like assemblages in seasonal palettes -- are just detailed enough to clarify meaning without intruding on young imaginations."

Sweet includes children in so many of her illustrations. Do you see the young child looking out at the island? It's a small detail, but just enough for a young child to put themselves in the scene, to imagine being their on a summer's day. Take a look at the picture below, and notice how Sweet includes children just as silhouettes -- letting the fireflies take center stage, but inviting children to be part of the poem as well.
"Firefly July" by J. Patrick Lewis
I absolutely agree with five starred reviews Firefly July has received! This is a delightful collection that children will enjoy returning to time and again. My sense is that this collection will captivate children from kindergarten through fourth grade, precisely because poetry can be read on so many different levels. For other reviews, check out Betsy Bird's review on SLJ's Fuse #8, and Anita Silvey's post on The Children's Book-a-Day Almanac.

Illustration copyright ©2014 by Melissa Sweet. The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Candlewick Press. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Unwanteds, by Lisa McMann -- student review (ages 9-12)

CYRM Awards
Our book club has been reading the books nominated as part of the California Young Reader Medal awards. Each year, students across California vote on their favorite of thee nominated books.

Our book club tries to take this beyond a popularity contest and practice evaluating the books we read thoughtfully. We talk about how well each book develops characters, plot, setting, and theme. We talk about the language, the pacing and the emotions in each book.

Here's a review by one member, Emily S. I'm hoping we have more reviews to come!

The Unwanteds, by Lisa McMann
review by Emily S.

Recently I’ve been reading the California Young Reader Medal books that have been nominated this year. Recently I’ve finished The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann. This book is filled with excitement, adventure, twists, magic, and surprises.

The book is about a thirteen year old boy named Alex Stowe. Alex is creative he is good at drawing usually that is a good thing, but in Quill the town Alex lives in creativity is a way to get sent to your grave. Alex gets sent to his grave awaiting his death. But to his surprise a eccentric magician named Mr. Today saves Alex and the other Unwanteds.

I like this book because it is filled with fantasy creatures, surprises, twists, excitement, magic, and adventure. Something that I think could improve is the beginning. A few people say that the beginning is boring or dull, because it doesn’t have much excitement in the beginning. In fact it made me a tiny bit impatient because many people told me it was exciting. If you read the beginning and think that it is boring or dull try reading to page 25 and then see how you like the book.

In conclusion this book is a great book especially if you like the Hunger Games, Harry Potter or other fantasy books about magic.

I like this book trailer made by Mrs. Bunda's class:



Thanks, Emily! It was really interesting to hear your opinion about this book. The pacing in a book is so important. It isn't easy to establish strong characters, but also hook readers right from the beginning. Thank you for your thoughtful review.

The Unwanteds
by Lisa McMann
Aladdin / Simon & Schuster, 2011
Amazon
your local library
ages 9-12

The review copy came from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, April 7, 2014

Peanut Butter and Jellyfish, by Jarrett J. Krosoczka (ages 3-6)

Sometimes my kids ask for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich because they are just craving comfort food. Jarrett Krosoczka's newest picture book, Peanut Butter and Jellyfish, is exactly like that -- comforting, a little gooey and certainly sweet. Reach for it if you're in the mood for something that will make you smile.
Peanut Butter and Jellyfish
by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2014
your local library
Amazon
ages 3-6
Best friends Peanut Butter and Jellyfish love to swim up, down and around--all over their ocean home. But every time they swim past Crabby, he shouts out something mean to them, like: “What a bunch of bubbleheads!” or “You guys smell like rotten barnacles!” What is it with that guy? More importantly, what should these two happy friends do about it?
Best of friends who spent their days exploring...
When Crabby gets caught in a lobster trap, Peanut Butter and Jellyfish have to decide whether they're going to reach out to help him. Krosoczka's story touches just the right notes, creating empathy and suspense along the way. His artwork is bright and cheerful, with lots of kid appeal.

I know many families will enjoy this as they snuggle up for a story at the end of the day. Lovely comfort food, and without the sticky mess! Enjoy this delightful trailer:



Illustration copyright ©2014 by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Knopf Books for Young Readers / Random House. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Writing nonfiction that honors women in history: an interview with Tracey Fern

As I explore Women's History Month with students, I want to help them think about how they can honor women in history. We talk about honoring women in their lives, because for young students the immediate it so important. But I'm also fascinated by the way authors investigate women whose stories we might not have heard yet.

Today, I'm thrilled to share with you an interview with Tracey Fern about her journey to learn about the life of Eleanor Prentiss and then writing Dare the Wind. My questions are in red; Tracey's answers follow in black.

MS: How did you first learn about Eleanor? What drew you to her story?

TF: I first learned about Eleanor when I was browsing through my local bookstore and happened upon David Shaw's book, Flying Cloud. I'm always on the lookout for strong female characters, and so I knew instantly that I wanted to write about Eleanor. Eleanor's story also combined adventure and science, two elements that I'm also often drawn toward. Finally, I'm a Massachusetts gal who grew up with the ocean and the beach in my backyard, and I love that Eleanor grew up here, too!

MS: Did you travel at all to do your research? What was your research process like?

TF: I traveled to Marblehead, Massachusetts while writing Dare the Wind. Marblehead was Eleanor's home town, and parts of the town still look much the way I imagine they looked when Eleanor walked its cobbled streets. I also visited the Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut and toured the USS Constitution in Boston harbor to get myself in a seafaring state of mind! My research process for this book was different from my usual research, because there are relatively few primary sources available. As a result, I relied more heavily on secondary sources than I typically do.

MS: I was amazed at how well you conveyed being on a ship at sea in a storm. Have you sailed like this at all?

TF: Thank you! I've been sailing before but never under the challenging conditions that Eleanor faced. I'm so happy that I could convey the sensations of being on a ship at sea in a storm to readers.
MS: Did you provide any guidance to Emily McCully to help her make sure the illustrations were historically accurate? What details do you want children to notice in the illustrations?

TF: I adore Emily's illustrations! She did her own research to ensure that her illustrations were accurate. I did send Emily a very detailed description of the Flying Cloud that was published at the time of the ship's launch. Some of the details that I love in Emily's illustrations are the wonderful spread of the Flying Cloud at the pier in New York City, the view of Ellen (Eleanor) below deck working on her charts which beautifully captures the feeling of motion in the tilt of the lamp above her head, and the cover illustration which shows the figurehead of an angel on the prow of the ship, mirroring Ellen and her telescope on deck. I especially love the cover illustration because it seems to capture the forward movement of Ellen's amazing journey!
MS: What was the most surprising thing you learned about Eleanor doing your research?

TF: The most surprising thing about Eleanor was just how ahead of her time she was. Not only did she assumed the role of navigator at a time when that was absolutely atypical for a woman, she also embraced the new navigational theories of Matthew Fontaine Maury, which went against the prevailing wisdom of the time. Eleanor was clearly a force to be reckoned with!

MS: Did you have to leave anything out that you really wanted to include?

TF: There's always so much more I'd love to include in all of my books! Believe it or not, Eleanor's journey was filled with even more exciting incidents, including a threatened mutiny that I simply couldn't include. I would have also loved to have included more details about Donald McKay, the builder of the Flying Cloud, and the ship-building process, but perhaps that's material for another book!

Thanks so much for your interest in Dare the Wind!

Thank you, Tracey! I loved sharing this story with students, and hearing their reactions. Eleanor was definitely a force to be reckoned with!

For more information, definitely check out Tracey's website. Illustration copyright © 2013 by Emily Arnold McCully, shared by permission from the publisher. The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Margaret Ferguson Books, Farrar Straus Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books