Book Review

Book Review: When a Pet Dies by Fred Rogers

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petWhen a Pet Dies
Written by Fred Rogers 
Photographs by Jim Judkis 
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons 1988 
Genre/Topics: Realistic, Death, Pets
Ages: 3-6, 32 pages
Death is a hard time period for all individuals, especially children who may have difficulties understanding exactly what death means. The first death experience a child may have is when a dear pet dies in their family. When a Pet Dies begins slowly and discusses how pets are part of the family and take great care. The book explains that sometimes their pet gets sick and needs a pet doctor or veterinarian. However, sometimes their pet is too old, sick, or injured for anyone to cure. Many people may gently explain to children that death is going to sleep for a long time, but When a Pet Dies explains that when a pet dies it isn’t alive so it can’t wake up. The book explains how people handle death differently. It’s okay to feel upset, cry, or desire to be alone. The important thing is to remember that there are loved ones who care about how you feel about losing your pet. When a Pet Dies finishes that with time you will no longer feel sad and you’ll feel happy again thinking about the good times with  your pet. When a Pet Dies doesn’t talk down to children, instead it handles a difficult subject in a comfortable and understanding way. Fred Rogers understands children, which is clearly seen if you watched Mr. Rogers. When a Pet Dies never goes into detail about what occurs after death or anything religious. That can be discussed within your family. I recommend When a Pet Dies for both a pet and individual death. 

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Here’s my family’s dog, George, who recently passed away.

 

Wordless Wednesday: Mirror by Jeannie Baker

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mirrorMirror

Written & Illustrated by Jeannie Baker

Published by Candlewick on November 9, 2010
Genre/Topics: Wordless, Cultural
Ages: 6+, 48 pages 
 

Two stories and two cultures are told simultaneously in one book. The stories appear side by side as the reader turns the pages at the same time. Mirror follows a typical day of two boys on opposite sides of the world. The stories take place in Sydney, Australia, and Morocco, North Africa. An introduction is provided in English and Arabic at the start of each story. The boys awake, eat breakfast, and travel to town for errands. The left story takes place in Sydney, Australia, and the destination is a hardware store by car on roads. The right story takes place in Morocco, as the boy and his father travel by donkey on a trail to the market. The final pages display the family in Australia, with a new carpet bought on their travel and the family in Morocco, explores their new computer. The two families may appear different, but they mirror each other with common elements found in all families.

I highly enjoyed Mirror. This wordless picture book is a very unique idea how two stories are told at the same time. Mirror really provides the reader with an experience about each boy’s day in their culture. The book’s illustrations are amazing with detailed facial expressions, market foods, car license plates, animals on the trail, carpet designs, and even keyboard keys. You really feel that you are there with the families. The illustrations are photographs of collages. The detailed collages are made with many materials, such as sand, fabric, wool, tin, plastic, paint, clay, and vegetation. I read some criticism about Mirror starting it’s not easy as a read aloud in the classroom. True, it may be difficult to handle the extended pages so perhaps independent or partner reading is best. Besides, you need to examine closely to view all the details. Another criticism was that Mirror displayed cultural stereotypes. Mirror is a great book to introduce children to different lifestyles and cultures even though we share similar traits. I recommend Mirror for older ages to understand the concept and handle the book with care.

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Wordless Wednesday: Where’s Walrus? by Stephen Savage

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walrusWhere’s Walrus?
Written & Illustrated by Stephen Savage
Published by Scholastic Press on February 1, 2011
Ages: 3-5, 32 pages
Topics/Genre: Wordless, Humorous, Animals
 

All is well at the zoo until walrus notices the open gate and decides to escape. Where’s walrus now? The zookeeper frantically searches for the escaped walrus throughout town. However, walrus is difficult to find as he hides by disguising himself. He blends into scenes and situations in town. A few disguises he becomes are a firefighter, artist, and even a dancer. Walrus wears different hats that match each disguise. Walrus can’t help but stand out when he discovers a pool and shows his diving skills. Is the chase off now that walrus is no longer in disguise?

Where’s Walrus? is a delightful and humorous book, especially for younger ages. The illustrations are simple with bold colors. The storyline is also straightforward – animal escapes, hides, and zookeeper tries to find. Younger ages can find walrus within the pages. Where’s Walrus? is sure to get many laughs. I recommend this book.

Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

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readyReady Player One
Written by Ernest Cline
Published by Broadway Books on June 5, 2012
Genre/Topics: Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia
384 pages
 

The year is 2044 and the world isn’t a pleasant place. Extreme famine, war, homelessness, and energy shortages are just a few concerns. Teenager Wade Watts’ only escape is when he’s connected to the virtual world OASIS. When he’s in OASIS, Wade can be whomever he desires, attend high school virtually, form friendships, and most importantly is in a utopia-like world.

His poor living conditions may change when he learns about an OASIS contest to win billions of dollars. James Halliday, the founder of OASIS, creates a virtual treasure game to win the billions. The prize is far from an easy task to find. It is hidden within clues and puzzles. Halliday was obsessed with everything about the 1980s, so all the puzzles somehow connect to the 1980s. Wade masters all the arcade video games, movies, television shows, and anything about Halliday’s life growing up in the 1980s. Wade is the first to find a clue, but there are now challenges. He learns that some players are out to kill in order to win the prize and control the OASIS. The only way for Wade to survive is to continue playing the game. Is his 1980s knowledge enough to win? How does the real world connect to the virtual OASIS?

Ready Player One was a very fun and entertaining read! If you enjoy video games, movie and television trivia, and a look back into the 1980s then you’re sure to enjoy this book. I didn’t play video games, but the terms were easy to follow. The OASIS in 2044 really doesn’t seem that far away as today in 2014. We often hide in our own ‘worlds’ behind Facebook, constant web searching, dating sites, and texting to name just a few. There’s a balance between the real world and virtual world. Wade has this same problem in Ready Player One. Let this book remind you that it’s okay to unplug ourselves from the virtual world and enjoy each other in real time.

Wordless Wednesday: Sidewalk Circus by Paul Fleischman

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Sidewalk Circus

Written by Paul Fleischman

Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

Published by Candlewick on May 8, 2007

Ages: 5+, 32 pages

Genre/Topics: Wordless, Circus

Ladies, gentlemen, boys, and girls The Garibaldi Circus is coming to town! There are many busy preparations for the circus, but if you look closely you may get a sneak peek. A young girl watches across the street at the bus stop as people prepare for the upcoming circus. The girl witnesses a tight rope walker who is actually a construction worker balancing pails. She sees clowns who are kids skateboarding into the market. There’s a sword swallower sitting in the dentist chair. A stilt walker balances on a ladder while painting. A dog’s shadow becomes a scary lion. The entire street ‘circus’ is viewed on the last pages. The girl boards the bus at the same time a boy sits at the bus stop to watch. What exciting things will you see at the circus pre-show?

Sidewalk Circus is an entertaining book that displays ordinary street events into an exciting show. I thought it was interesting that the girl was the only individual at the bus stop who noticed the street shows. Even though this is a wordless picture book, words appear on circus posters, shops, and billboards announcing the circus. The illustrations are bright, colorful, and show city details. I recommend Sidewalk Circus to help see the extraordinary in the otherwise ordinary daily events in your city.

Book Review: Bunnicula by Deborah & James Howe

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bunniculaBunnicula: A Rabbit-tale of Mystery

Written by Deborah & James Howe

Illustrated by Allan Daniel

Published 1979

Ages: 6-9, 128 pages

Genre/Topics: Humor, Mystery

The fun and adventure begins when the Monroe family returns from the movie with a new family addition – a rabbit. The family agrees to name the bunny Bunnicula, since it was found at the movies while watching Dracula. However, two family members are hesitant about Bunnicula – Chester the cat and Harold the dog. We learn about Bunnicula from Harold’s perspective. Chester believes Bunnicula really is a vampire and with Harold’s reluctant help they discover more about Bunnicula. Bunnicula has fangs and stays awake at night. Is Bunnicula really a vampire? Humorous events occur as Chester is determined to prove that Bunnicula is a vampire.

I loved Bunnicula! I really did laugh out loud as Harold described the weird events happening in the house since Bunnicula arrived. The reader learns about Chester’s mischievous behavior and Harold’s family loyalty. The book is mysterious without being scary. Readers will be curious about Bunnicula and want to know more about Chester and Harold’s adventures. There are additional books in the Bunnicula series. I highly recommend Bunnicula for a fun read!

 

Wordless Wednesday: Flotsam by David Wiesner

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flotsam
Flotsam
Illustrated by David Wiesner
Published by Clarion Books on September 4, 2006
Ages 5+, 40 pages
Genre/Topics: Wordless, Marine Life

Flotsam: A wreckage of a ship and its cargo found floating in the water.

A curious boy explores many animals and things at the beach. An old camera with barnacles washes onto the shore and he develops the film. He discovers interesting pictures of sea creatures: An octopus reading in the living room, seastars carry islands on their back, and even small aliens surrounded by sea horses. One photo catches his eye of a girl holding a photo who is also holding a photo. The boy zooms in the photo with his microscope and discovers many children holding the photo. He then takes a photo of himself with the photo. The camera is thrown back into the water, so more photos can be taken and other children can find it on the beach.

Flotsam is another beautifully illustrated book by David Wiesner. The book has realistic elements as he finds animals on the beach with fantasy elements of sea photos. The photo pages were outlined black in the book to appear like a photo. I only had a problem with throwing the camera back into the ocean, but I understand it’s part of the story. Remind children (and adults) to keep nature clean. Spark their wonder about sea mysteries with Flotsam.

Book Review: I Haiku You by Betsy Snyder

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haikuI Haiku You
Written & Illustrated by Betsy Snyder
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers on December 26, 2012
Genre/Topics: Poetry, Haiku, Love Expressions
Ages:4-6. 32 pages

A haiku is a Japanese poem divided into three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables. I Haiku You is a cute book that expresses different loves written in the form of haiku. The book isn’t exactly a story, instead it’s things, situations, and people who show happiness. I Haiku You has simple haiku poems and messages that children can understand. Haiku poems range from butterflies, bike rides, summer treats, friendship, snow angels, and even s’mores.

I found myself counting the syllables on my fingers the entire time I read I Haiku You. I think this a delightful book to introduce haiku poems to young children. The book doesn’t even have to be used for poetry alone, since the cheerful messages are sure to make you smile. The illustrations are also cute and really show the haiku’s theme. Take this book’s inspiration and create your own haiku today!

 Haiku History & Information:

A haiku poem consists of three lines, with the first and last line having 5 moras, and the middle line having 7. A mora is a sound unit, much like a syllable, but is not identical to it. Since the moras do not translate well into English, it has been adapted and syllables are used as moras.

Haiku started out as a popular activity during the 9th to 12th centuries in Japan called “tanka.” It was a progressive poem, where one person would write the first three lines with a 5-7-5 structure, and the next person would add to it a section with a 7-7 structure. The chain would continue in this fashion. So if you wanted some old examples of haiku poems, you could read the first verse of a “tanka” from the 9th century.

The first verse was called a “hokku” and set the mood for the rest of the verses.  Sometimes there were hundreds of verses and authors of the “hokku” were often admired for their skill. In the 19th century, the “hokku” took on a life of its own and began to be written and read as an individual poem. The word “haiku” is derived from “hokku.”

The three masters of “hokku” from the 17th century were Matsuo, Issa, and Buson.  Their work is still the model of haiku writing today. They were poets who wandered the countryside, experiencing life and observing nature, and spent years perfecting their craft.

Example of Basho Matsuo Haiku from 1600s:

An old silent pond…

A frog jumps into the pond,

splash! Silence again.

Example of Kobayashi Issa Haiku from late 1700s & early 1800s:

Everything I touch

with tenderness, alas,

pricks like a bramble.

Example of Yosa Buson Haiku from late 1700s:

A summer river being crossed

how pleasing

with sandals in my hands!

Informtation obtained from Your Dictionary Haiku Poems

Wordless Wednesday: Free Fall by David Wiesner

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free fall
 
 
 
 
Free Fall
Illustrated by David Wiesner
Published by HarperCollins September 18, 1991
Ages:6+, 32 pages
Genre/Topics: Wordless, Imagination
Awards: Caldecott Honor

A boy falls asleep and his adventures begin in his dreams. The book he read before bed is open and a page with a map floats away. This map appears throughout the pages on his journey. His checkered blanket becomes fields then a chess board. He battles a dragon through a forest. There’s even a Gulliver’s Travels element as the boy appears bigger and smaller at moments. He freely falls from one adventure to the next.

Free Fall is a beautifully illustrated book that truly takes the reader on adventures. After reading the book once, I slowly went back many times to view the details. The transitions from one adventure to the next occur smoothly and gradually. I recommend Free Fall for older ages to pick up story details and continue in their writing. Younger ages can also enjoy Free Fall for the illustrations. I recommend this book.

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Giver by Lois Lowry

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giver2The Giver
Written by Lois Lowry
Published January 1, 1993
Genre/Topics:Dystopia, Science Fiction
Ages: 13+, 240 pages
Awards: Newbery Medal & others

Jonas lives in a perfect community. Everyone’s spouse, occupation, and children are carefully chosen for each individual. People in the Community do not know pain, war, or even love. They live in a world of Sameness where nobody gives others attention, positive or negative. In the Community, individuals feel safe and this world is all they know.

When Jonas turns twelve he attends the ceremony to determine his role in the Community. He’s signaled out and chosen to be The Receiver who gains all memories, pain and pleasure, from The Giver. He now receives special training as The Giver shares all memories only to Jonas. Jonas now learns the truth about what occurred in the Community’s past.

I read The Giver way back in middle school and disliked the book. Recently, someone was shocked and wanted me to read it again. I read The Giver again and loved it. I don’t think I fully understood the book’s story and message. I suggest The Giver for older ages to have a good discussion. I think The Giver is much more than a standard dystopia that’s so common today. The Giver is the first book in the The Giver Quartet Series. Later this year, The Giver will be released as a motion picture. I’m not sure the movie can match the book, but isn’t that always the case? I recommend The Giver.

 

 
 

Book Review: I Pledge Allegiance

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pledge

I Pledge Allegiance
Written by Bill Martin Jr. and Michael Sampson
Illustrated by Chris Raschka
Published by Candlewick on June 3, 2004
Ages: 4+, 40 pages
Genre/Topics: Patriotism, Pledge of Allegiance, U.S. History

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Many students begin the day reciting The Pledge of Allegiance. What exactly does it mean when we proudly salute the flag? When did it begin? Has the Pledge changed since it started? These questions and more are explained in I Pledge Allegiance.

I Pledge Allegiance isn’t exactly a story, instead the entire Pledge is ‘spoken’ on the pages. The book breaks it down and explains what words mean. Only a few words are on a page with an explanation, such as pledge, allegiance, flag, republic, nation, God, liberty, and justice. These are big concepts for children to grasp. There is additional information about the Pledge throughout the book. The book explains the flag’s colors, what to do when saying the Pledge, brief Pledge history, and even a colorful map of the United States of America.

I really enjoyed I Pledge Allegiance. As a teacher, I proudly state the Pledge every morning. Some students don’t show respect when saying the Pledge, so I think this book will explain what it means. The illustrations are unique, because they appear like construction paper and watercolors. I Pledge Allegiance does a great job showing how all are represented under the flag, since the people are all colors from yellow to blue. I highly recommend I Pledge Allegiance, so children can understand what the Pledge means and how to be respectful.

Facts about The Pledge of Allegiance:

  • In 1892, Francis Bellamy wrote it as a poem for children. It was published in the children’s magazine, The Youth’s Companion.
  • It wasn’t intended to be spoken daily, instead it was written to celebrate Columbus Day.
  • The Pledge used a military style salute, similar to the Nazi salute. In 1942, the U.S. Flag Code changed the salute to be a hand over the heart.
  • In 1954, President Eisenhower asked Congress to add ‘under God’.

Original Pledge:

I pledge allegiance to my flag and the Republic for which it stands – one Nation indivisible – with liberty and justice for all.

 

 

 

 

 

Wordless Wednesday: Museum Trip by Barbara Lehman

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Museum Trip
Illustrated by Barbara Lehman
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on May 22, 2006
Ages 4+, 32 pages
Genre/Topics: Wordless, Museum, Field Trip, Imagination

A museum holds many interesting things from paintings, artifacts, and sculptures. A young boy is on a field trip to a museum and everything is fine, until he stops to tie his shoe. He now lost his group and wanders alone. He discovers a room with maze-like drawings. When he takes a closer look he finds that he is physically inside the maze. He now explores maze after maze. When he finishes navigating through all the mazes, he exits the room. Finally, the boy catches up with his classmates on the museum trip. His field trip experience is quite different from others.

The Museum Trip is a simple wordless book and not too much imagination is needed. The book is fun, because each maze is on a page. The reader can ‘help’ the boy find the center and exit the maze.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Apple Pie 4th of July by Janet S. Wong

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apple pieApple Pie 4th of July
Written by Janet S. Wong
Illustrated by Margaret Chodos-Irvine
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on May 1, 2006
Ages: 4-7, 40 pages
Genre/Topics: 4th of July, Immigrant Families

A Chinese American girl is unhappy as she sits inside her parent’s market while 4th of July festivities take place outside. Her parents are busy making chow mein and sweet & sour pork, but the girl states that nobody wants Chinese food on the 4th of July. Her father replies that fireworks are Chinese. The day continues as she hears a parade she’d like to attend. A few customers wander inside for soda and ice cream, but nobody buys the Chinese food. The girl doesn’t think her parents understand American things, even though her mother loves apple pie and her father has lived here as a boy. Finally, evening arrives and customers enter to buy Chinese food for dinner. When the market closes, the family watches the Chinese fireworks while eating ‘American’ apple pie.

Apple Pie 4th of July is a great children’s book to highlight different sides of what it means to be American. The United States is referred to the ‘melting pot’ or ‘tossed salad’, so there’s no formula of what exactly makes an American. The girl learns that she can be proud of her heritage while enjoying stereotyped ‘American’ apple pie. The illustrations and plot are simple for young ages to enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wordless Wednesday: Journey by Aaron Becker

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journeyJourney
Illustrated by Aaron Becker
Published August 6, 2013 by Candlewick Press
40 pages, 7+
Genre/Subject: Wordless, Imagination, Travel
Awards: Caldecott Honor Book 2014
 
Journey tells the story of what can happen with a red marker and an imagination. A girl desires an adventure when she asks each family member to fly a kite, play ball, and ride a scooter. Everyone says no, so she’s bored again in her room until she notices the red marker. She draws a red door and heads out on a journey. Her red marker creates a boat, balloon, and even a flying carpet through her journey. Hopefully, her red marker helps bring her journey home.
 
I thought Journey was a delightful and colorful wordless book. There are small details you notice the second time reading. Journey can be enjoyed by all ages, but older ages can take full advantage of asking what will happen next on her journey. Children can write about what they would do if given a magic marker to take them anywhere. Journey is a fun book that will have your imagination to new places.