chapter book

Designing a Dr.Seuss-like Fountain

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Regarding the Fountain: A Tale in Letters, of Liars, and Leaks

by Kate Klise, illustrated by M. Sarah Klise

Ages 8+, 138 pages

I LOVED this book for many reasons! I found myself smiling and laughing aloud while reading it, so I cringe putting on actual ‘age’ on this book. The entire book is done in the form of letters, postcards, memos, artwork, and newspapers. I love reading letters, perhaps since hardly anyone writes personal letters anymore with today’s technology. A middle school principal asks for a new drinking fountain to be built, since the present fountain is old and leaky. He contacts Florence Waters who designs custom water fountains and this is when the fun begins. Florence’s designs are unique and she’s very passionate about her designs, so she asks for student creations. Communication begins between students and Florence. There are wonderful illustrations of students’ fountain ideas. Florence travels around the world for fountain designs, so children learn about new discoveries. Lies are slowly unveiled as students research Dry Creek’s history and gather more information about the fountain. At times I probably looked odd reading the book, since I was reading it upside for pictures. Also, the various letter examples help children learn how to write letters. I described it as a ‘Dr.Seuss‘ fountain, because Florence Waters doesn’t make ordinary fountains instead her only limitations are what she thinks. I highly recommend this book!

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

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Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

collected by Alvin Schwartz, illustrated by Brett Helquist

Ages 8-11, 96 pages

Yesterday’s post had a scary book banned within an Arthur book. Today, I’m highlighting an actual scary book that was banned. This is a collection of very short stories. I thought it was scary and fun, because the stories tell you how you should read them such as jump, scream, or talk quietly. These stories are a collection of folklore and scary tales told from around the world. There’s also More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Scary Stories 3.

“What do you come for?” she asked in a small voice that shivered and shook.

“What do I come for?” he said. “I come – for YOU!”

(As you shout the last words, stamp your foot and jump at someone nearby.)

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, page 13

A boy was digging at the edge of the garden when he saw a big toe. He tried to pick it up, but it was stuck to something. So he gave it a good hard jerk, and it came off his hand. Then he heard something groan and scamper away.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, page 7

Reasons for being challenged:

The American Library Association listed Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark as the number one challenged book during the 1990s. Most of the reasons were that children would experience a lack of appetite, nightmares, sickness, and unhealthy questions about death. Another challenge stated that the book encouraged violence and cruelty. Many individuals concluded that children could separate reality from folklore and these books are mild compared to television.

Reference: Banned in the U.S.A.:Reference Guide to Censorship in Schools and Public Libraries (page 159 – 161)

Book Review: Arthur’s Banned Book

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Arthur and the Scare-Your-Pants-Off Club

by Marc Brown

Ages 6-8, 58 pages

I looked for books about challenged or banned books and found this book for younger ages. The Arthur series is popular, so the book will interest young readers. Arthur and his friends love the book series Scare-Your-Pants-Off Club (not a real series) and are disappointed when they discover their favorite books have been banned from the library. The PAWS (Parents Against Weird Stories) believe the books are too scary for children and cause nightmares. They don’t understand how anyone would ban their favorite books and take action to get  the books back in the library. I liked the book, because it was simple and fun that introduced the idea of banned books and importance to allow people to read what they enjoy.

Book Review: The Landry News

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The Landry News

by Andrew Clements, illustrated by Brian Selznick

Ages 9+, 131 pages

Topics: Censorship, Newspaper, Realistic Fiction

I was first interested in The Landry News, because it discusses censorship and the freedom of press. Everyone knows a teacher who has lost their enthusiasm and may not be giving their best effort after years in the classroom. Mr. Larson, who teaches fifth grade, read a student editorial that highlighted his lack of teaching. At first Mr. Larson is upset, but this created a spark that motivated better teaching. The class writes a weekly newspaper that provides the truth with heart. However, the principal becomes upset when an article is published and hopes to use the information to fire Mr. Larson. The class discusses the First Amendment and what has a right to be printed. In fact, the book’s first pages provide the Bill of Rights. I think this was a great book to start conversations about freedom of speech and censorship.

– Editorial excerpt that sparks Mr. Larson:

     There has been no teaching so far this year in Mr. Larson’s classroom. There has been learning, but there has been no teaching. There is a teacher in the classroom, but he does not teach.

James and the Giant Peach

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James and the Giant Peach

by Roald Dahl

Ages 8+, 126 pages

Genre: Fantasy

I was first interested in James and the Giant Peach, since it was on the challenged books list. I was curious as to why this book could be challenged. This was a delightful book about a boy named James Henry Trotter who lives a terrible life with two aunts who blame him for everything and don’t allow any pleasures. He comes across some magic crystals and the next the day a peach grows larger. James explores the giant peach and meets new friends: Centipede, Earthworm, Green Grasshopper, Miss Spider, Silkworm and Glow-worm. Together with his new creature friends they face struggles and adventures. Each creature does their part for survival while living upon the giant peach.

Reasons for being challenged:

Parents challenged James and the Giant Peach for references to the aunts acting like witches toward James and the word ass appears. The courts unanimously retained the book. One school superintendent stated that the book was a fantasy about good triumphing over evil.

Reference: Banned in the U.S.A. A Reference Guide to Book Censorship in Schools and Public Libraries by Herbert N. Foerstel

Book Review: The Library Card

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The Library Card

Written by Jerry Spinelli

Ages: 9+, 148 pages

The Library Card describes various ways that a library card enhances someone’s life. The book contains four ‘mini’ stories about teens experiences that guide them to obtain a library card. Each mini story is divided into chapters. Mongoose turns from shoplifting to curiosity about information for a particular insect. Brenda discovers the library during a TV turn off week and realizes that she doesn’t truly know herself. Sonseray finds comfort at the library where he’s missing elsewhere in life. April rides a bookmobile and meets a unique individual. Overall, I thought the book was good that highlights four very different teens who benefited from the library.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins

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Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater

Ages 8+

Genre: Realistic family with abnormal animal behavior, humor, 139 pages with some illustrations

Mr. Popper’s Penguins was a delightful read and I used as a read-aloud for 5th graders. I often found myself laughing out loud with the children. The basic idea is a man who loves everything about Antarctica and enjoys listening to explorations. His dreams become reality when a crate arrives with a penguin inside. Of course, there was chaos at first but then the family preformed a show with the arrival of additional penguins. Mr. Popper became a famous person in the city of Stillwater.

Until the recent movie with Jim Carrey, most people weren’t aware of this book since it was published in 1938. It also gained a Newbery Honor Award, which highlighted books for the year but didn’t win the Newbery Award. Now, some may be thinking that I ran out to watch the recent movie with Jim Carrey in Mr. Popper’s Penguins, but I decided not to see it. Too often movies based on the book don’t do the book justice, but that’s a whole different topic. Perhaps I should make myself see it to compare the book towards the movie. The published year doesn’t matter, so even after 70 years it’s still a great book. Overall, it’s a very cute and funny book that will cause you to shake your head at the silliness of Mr. Popper.

– opening pages:

It was an afternoon in late September. In the pleasant little city of Stillwater, Mr. Popper, the house painter, was going home from work….

He had never hunted tigers in India, or climbed the peaks of the Himalayas, or dived for pearls in the South Seas. Above all, he had never seen the Poles.

Mr. Popper’s Penguins (page 3 & page 6)

Book Review: Holes

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By Louis Sachar

Young Adult

Newbery Medal Winner 1999

I wanted to read this book for a while, because I was very curious about what can be so exciting about a bunch of holes. I noticed many classrooms used this book as the reading curriculum. I flew through this book, since the book kept me wondering about the holes.

Holes is about a boy who is sent to a detention camp and their punishment is digging holes in a land that was once a lake. He grows confidence and discovers who he is at the camp while making friends. There is also a story within a story that takes place around why they are digging these holes. I found it a very enjoyable book. I recommend for ages 10 & up.

This is my first post for the many Newbery Medal winner books, which I plan to read them all.