Children's Lit Book Reviews

Monday, April 5, 2010

Children Just Like Me
By: Anabel Kindersley
Publisher: DK Publishing
Copyright: 1995
Pages: 80
Reading Level: 9-12
Genre: Non-Fiction
"The candid, approachable text, accompanying quotes, and nuggets of information make the lives of these children as vivid as a friend's."
-Family Fun

Summary: From a Bedouin village in Jordan to the heart of Hollywood, children are introduced to a wide variety of cultures and places. The Kindersley's take you directly into the life of children throughout the world and allow the reader to get a small glimpse of what life is like outside their own country. For example, meet Edgar Flores. He is an eight year old pinoy from the Philippines. His father purchases oysters from local farmers and then shucks them and turns around and sells them to the restaurants around his village. His brother also works along with his father and that work helps to supply the family needs. Like most Filipinos, Edgar and his family are Catholic and attend church at a nearby building. Unlike most children, Edgar has a pet chicken because one day his pet dog somehow disappeared, never to return. Then, on the other side of the world, Anabel invites readers to meet Nicole from Hollywood. Nicole lives a completely different lifestyle then Edgar. She has access to the modern interventions that Edgar is unable to have. However, both children have something in common and that is they both love their families dearly. Kindersley, through photographs, helps fulfil children's imagination and fascination for other cultures.
Who would benefit from reading this book? I think that all children should read this book. This book will help children learn and understand different cultures. It will also help children be more accepting of other peoples differences by showing them that, even though they are separated by miles and miles, they could still have some similarities. This is a great book for teachers to use as well as parents to borrow from the local libraries.
What problems/concerns could this book potentially cause? I don't think that this book will cause any problems. This book was sponsored by UNICEF and promotes child safety and unity throughout the world.
My reaction: I learned so much from this informational book. I especially loved reading about Edgar Flores who is from my country of birth. I sometimes wonder if I had not been adopted if I would have lived a life very similar to Edgar Flores. I think that the illustrations or pictures help tell the child's story. However I do think that it might be a little bit difficult for younger readers to understand. But I will still recommend this book to everyone and even place this book in my classroom when I eventually become a teacher.

posted by Jon Dale at 11:10 AM 0 comments

A Year Down Yonder
By: Richard Peck
Publisher: Puffin
Copyright: 2001
Pages: 144
Reading Level: 9-12
Genre: humorous fiction
Award: Newbery
"Again, Peck has created a delightful, insightful tale that resounds with a storyteller's wit, humor, and vivid description. Mary Alice's memories capture the atmosphere, attitudes, and lifestyle of the times while shedding light on human strengths and weak- nesses."
-School Library Journal

Summary: In 1937 the Depression has taken it's toll on the Dowdel family. Mary Alice is sent downstate to live with Grandma Dowdel while her a and pa eke out a meager living in Chicago. Mary Alice is less than thrilled with the arrangement. Grandma's Hicksville farming community couldn't be more different from Chicago if it tried, and the grandmother,Mary Alice remembers from childhood is a multi-chinned, no-nonsense country gal. However, Mary Alice has no choice in the matter. Mary Alice arrives by train in September with her beloved cat, Bootsie. Day one in the new high school finds Mary Alice getting on the wrong side of the local bully, Mildred Burdick. Mildred brazenly follows Mary Alice home, demanding a dollar, but Grandma Dowdel turns the tables on the tyrant, slyly untying Mildred's horse. Faced with a barefoot 5-mile-hike home, Mildred loses interest in making trouble for Mary Alice. October brings plenty of other trouble, however, when another teen hooligan, August Fluke Jr., gets in the habit of knocking down privies for pre-Halloween amusement. With the help of a strategically strung wire and a pan of glue, Grandma Dowdel trips up Augie's trickery. Luckily, Grandma's treats prove far sweeter than her tricks. At the school Halloween party, Mrs. Dowdel dishes up home-baked pies made with borrowed pecans and pumpkins. Then in the spring, Grandma takes in a New York artist as a boarder, and Mary Alice invites Royce over for a study-date. Grandma cameos as matchmaker, introducing the boarder (Arnold Green) to Mary Alice's English teacher, Miss Butler. Mary Alice survives her first tornado, and the school year wraps up with a hayride that finds Royce and Mary Alice promising to exchange letters. A year down yonder leaves Mary Alice with a more tender-hearted view of country-life and Grandma Dowdel, and she hesitates to head back to Chicago. Wedding bells ring when World War II ends, and Mary Alice returns to tie the knot with Royce McNabb on Grandma's front porch.
Who would benefit from reading this book? This is a great book, and I think that anyone who takes the time to read this great book will benefit from it. The pages within the cover pages are filled with humor and will cause one to laugh, even out loud. I think that every student in a middle school setting should read it. It does contain some history in showing what kind of life people lived during the Great Depression.
What problems/concerns could this book potentially cause? I don't think that there are any problems or concerns that this book could potentially cause. However, some might find it somewhat sensitive when the postmistress runs down the stairs completely naked in front of the teenagers.
My reaction: I found this book quite funny and enjoyed reading it. I thought that Richard Peck did a great job describing life during the Great Depression. I also think there are great lessons that are taught within these pages. I will recommend this book to everyone in need of a good laugh in children's literature.
posted by Jon Dale at 10:30 AM 0 comments

Lincoln: A Photobiography
By: Russell Freedman
Publisher: Sandpiper
Copyright: 1989
Pages: 160
Reading Level: 9-12
Genre: Photobiography
Award: Newbery
"Freedman succeeds in making Lincoln an intriguing, recognizable human being--ambitious but modest, folksy, sensible and witty, a doting parent, a determined and compassionate leader."
-Publishers Weekly

Summary:Throughout Lincoln's life, he was known as a tall, bony legged man. Although he claimed he had forgotten his childhood, historians say he was born in a log cabin near Hodgenville, Kentucky, on February 12, 1809. His parents, Thomas and Nancy named him after his pioneer grandpa who had been killed by Indians while harvesting his crops. After many years, Thomas Lincoln, who was a farmer, decided to move the family to Indiana. This was, as Lincoln said, "The hardest experience of my life." Abe and his sister, Sarah, attended a small one-room cabin school two miles away from their home. This was the only formal schooling he had. When Abe was nine, his mother, uncle and aunt all came down with the so-called "milk sickness" and died weeks later. A year went by, then Thomas found another wife. He married Sarah Bush Lincoln who was a great housekeeper and took very good care of Lincoln and his sister. She also brought her three children to live with them. Lincoln learned to work hard at an early age. Later, during his presidency, he said, "Work, work, work is the main thing." After that, Lincoln decided to look for work in New Orleans and then New Salem, Illinois. In New Salem, Lincoln studied law and decided to run for the state legislature. He lost but then ran again when he was 25 and became the second highest vote getter in the state as he was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives. At the age of 30, he moved to Springfield and met the love of his life, Mary Ann Todd. They were engaged soon after they met but called the wedding off after Mary's sister did not approve of the marriage. Lincoln's friends said this period was the worst emotional crisis of his life. On the 4th of November they told Mary's sister they were to be married, and they did marry that evening. Their first child, Robert Todd, was born nine months later. Then Eddie was born in 1846. By the time Eddie was born, Lincoln had opened his own law office, won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives and moved to Washington, DC. Eddie, not yet four, died in 1850. Later, in 1851, Willie was born, then Thomas, who was nicknamed Tad, was born in 1853. At this time, Lincoln was the leading antislavery spokesperson in Illinois. At the age of 51, he ran for President. He was elected on the 4th of November 1860. In 1861, the death of Willie, who was only 11, really upset Mary. However during Lincoln's presidency he accomplished a lot of things including the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation declared that all slaves in Confederate territory would be free. As President during the War Between the States, Lincoln agonized over the loss of life and the division of the country. He wanted to preserve the democratic government of a truly united group of states. On April 4th, 1865, at the age of 56, Lincoln was shot in Fords Theater by John Wilkes Booth. Although the President did not die straight away, he did die the next day.
Who would benefit from reading this book? This is a great informational book, and I think that anyone who would read this would benefit from it. Its a great resource for teachers to use when teaching about the civil war or even great presidents of the past.
What problems/concerns could this book potentially cause? There is only one problem that this book might potentially cause ,and that would be there are certain photos where it shows in detail dead bodies laying on a battle field. This might be disturbing for some, and parents might not want their children reading or seeing this book. However this isn't a read a ong book as much as it is an informational book about our great President.
My reaction: I am a huge Civil War buff and loved reading every page of this book. It only took me about an hour and a half, maybe two at most. However, this book is such a great resource for knowledge and helped me feel more empathetic towards Lincoln. I am truly grateful for his sacrifice in preserving what our founding fathers believed to be true. I think the photos are classic and help illustrate many of Freedman's research. I would recommend that everyone one who has interest in the Civil War read this great book.
posted by Jon Dale at 1:21 AM 0 comments

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Story of Ruby Bridges
By: Robert Coles
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Copyright: 1995
Pages: 32
Reading Level: 4-8
Genre: Picture book
"Sustained by family and faith, one brave six-year-old child found the strength to walk alone through howling protesters and enter a whites-only school in New Orleans in 1960."
Summary: Six-year-old Ruby Bridges is the first black child to attend an all white elementary school during the civil rights movement and desegregation in New Orleans in 1960. This book recounts Ruby’s move from Mississippi to New Orleans at her young age, their hard working family, and their faith in God. It explains that, at the time, black children and white children went to separate schools which was against the law. A judge ordered the schools to be desegregated, and Ruby was one of the first chosen to make this happen. Angry crowds gathered for her first day of school, pulled their own children out of class, and continued to do so for months. Ruby was all alone in school. Her teacher, Miss Hurley, recounts that Ruby was a wonderful child, eager to learn, but also lonely. The book ends with Ruby uttering a prayer among the crowd which was, "Please, God, try to forgive those people. Because even if they say those bad things, they don’t know what they’re doing. So, You could forgive them, Just like You did those folks a long time ago When they said terrible things about You. "
Who would benefit from reading this book? Everyone would benefit from reading this book. Its a book about racial differences and how one little girl some how worked up the energy and strength to endure it. It's inspiring to everyone and will captivate its readers. This short story will be a great teaching resource for black history month in elementary schools and will teach children the importance of racial unity.
What problems/concerns could this book potentially cause? Unless your are a racist, I don't think that this book would cause any problems. The book was written to address a problem and a concern within society.
My reaction: This is a great little picture book that helps show the importance of recognizing differences and what a little girl did to overcome it. I loved the illustrations of this book, and I think it helped me imagine more of what it would be like to walk in Ruby's footsteps. I recommend this book to all readers of all ages.
posted by Jon Dale at 11:22 PM 0 comments

Love That Dog
By: Sharon Creech
Publisher: Harper Collins
Copyright: 2001
Pages: 112
Reading Level: 9-12
Genre: Poetry
"Creech has created a poignant, funny picture of a child's encounter with the power of poetry. Readers may have a similar experience because all of the selections mentioned in the story are included at the end. This book is a tiny treasure."
School Library Journal
Summary: Jack is a student in Miss Stretchberry's classroom, Room 105. He is inspired to write poetry yet is scared to because boys don't write poetry. To Jack, in the beginning, poetry is a girl thing. He starts off very standoffish about his poetry and asks Miss Stretchberry to not post his poetry on the board and to not even read it out loud. His poem first starts off being about a blue car speeding down the road, and his teacher becomes confused and asks why so much depends upon the blue car. Jack becomes confused and tells the teacher that the poem about the wheelbarrow guy didn't contain a why. Jack then confesses that he doesn't want to write about the blue car. The reader might begin to feel here that Jack has a personal feeling against that blue car at this point. However, the teacher continues to inspire Jack by providing him many different examples of other poems. Each of them inspire him to change his poem a little and make it better. Suddenly, Miss Stretchberry shares a poem by Walter Dean Meyers, and it inspires Jack to completely re-work is poem. Eventually, Jack has the opportunity to write Walter Dean Meyers and invite him to his school. Jack becomes self conscience but is still pretty excited for this opportunity to share his poem with Mr. Meyers. When the time comes for Mr. Meyers to visit, Jack writes him a very special thank you with his poem in it, telling Mr. Meyers that it contained his words and was inspired by him.
Who would benefit from reading this book? I think that this is such a great little poem/novel. It's inspiring and will cause anyone to pick up a pencil and begin writing poetry as well. This book is for everyone to read and enjoy.
What problems/concerns could this book potentially cause? There are no problems or even any concerns that could potentially arise from this wonderful novel.
My reaction: This is my first introduction to poetry written in novel form, and it was absolutely splendid. I didn't know what to expect, but I couldn't put this book down and finished reading it in about 15 minutes. I will definitely recommend this book to all poetry lovers and readers alike.
posted by Jon Dale at 10:20 PM 0 comments

The Great Gilly Hopkins
By: Katherine Paterson
Publisher: Harper Collins
Copyright: 1978
Pages: 160
Reading Level: 9-12
Genre: Realistic fiction
Award: Newbery Honor
"This Newbery Honor Book manages to treat a somewhat grim, and definitely grown-up theme with love and humor, making it a terrific read for a young reader who's ready to learn that "happy" and "ending" don't always go together."
- Review
Summary: Gilly Hopkins is an eleven year old brat who continually finds herself in and out of foster homes. She has a made up a fantasy of what her mother is as she continually receives postcards from her without any return addresses of them. Her social worker, Miss Ellis, finally pulls some strings and has her moved to what hopefully will be her last foster home. As Gilly pulls up to Mrs. Maime Trotter's' home, she begins her famous, yet very manipulative, acts. However, Mrs. Trotter refuses to budge, and Gilly realizes she is about to deal with her own social issues such as racism. This is because everyone who surrounds her at this time is African American, including her teacher, Miss Harris, and Trotter's good friend and neighbor, Mr. Randolph. While living at the Trotter's home, Gilly initially gets into trouble as usual, scuffling with other students at school and leaving a racist and rude homemade card for her teacher. The only student at school who tries to strike up a friendship with her is a loathsome girl named Agnes Stokes who follows Gilly around in spite of her constant insults. Eventually, Gilly uses both Agnes and William Ernest to find some money in Mr. Randolph's book case and pays Agnes off with only 5 dollars. As she attempts to purchase a bus ticket to San Fransisco where Courtney, Gilly's mother, lives, she finds herself being snatched up by the local police. In spite of her desire to leave, Gilly eventually discovers she actually likes her new foster family and teacher. She begins teaching William Ernest to read and to defend himself against bullies. She also reads Mr. Randolph's books from his large library. In school, Gilly comes to an understanding with Miss Harris and begins to excel in her school studies. Just as Gilly settles into her new life, she is uprooted once again. Courtney receives Gilly's letter, and has requests that the state relinquish custody of Gilly to her biological grandmother. Gilly requests to stay with Trotter, but the matter is out of her hands, and she is taken to live with her grandmother in Viriginia, who wishes to be called Nonnie. Gilly bonds with Nonnie and tries to adapt to her new environment. When she learns that her mother is coming to Virginia for Christmas, she is excited because she believes that her longtime dream of a reunion is coming true. Courtney arrives, but Gilly is shattered because she immediately learns that her mother isn't going to stay in Virginia or take her back to San Francisco. Courtney didn't even want to come for the holidays, and she only consented to visit because Nonnie paid for her ticket. After calling Trotter one last time and begging to go back, Gilly finally accepts her new home. Gilly is heartbroken, but decides she will cope with the situation, just to make Trotter proud.
Who would benefit from reading this book? I think that this is a pretty decent novel with some good lessons that are taught within it. I definitely think it should be a book that 5th graders to even middle scholars need to read. The main character is a female, but I do believe that most males could relate to her in some way, making this a book that would beneficial all.
What problems/concerns could this book potentially cause? I don't think that this book contains any problems and or concerns. However, many people might disagree because of slight language problems and some racial problems that are throughout this book. I think, in this case, it's appropriate because it's used to depict a girl who will eventually change and love what she once hated and despised.
My reaction: I thought that this book was a little slow. I didn't really like it and found myself putting it down several times. But there are great lessons taught within its pages, and I think it shows a selfish girl slowly becoming more and more loving one day at time. She realizes that she truly took a situation for granted after it was taken from her, and that is a classic life example.
posted by Jon Dale at 6:58 PM 0 comments


By: Jerry Spinelli
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Copyright: 2001
Pages: 208
Reading Level: 9-12
Genre: Realistic fiction
“A magical and heartbreaking tale.”
-Kirkus Review

Summary: Stargirl is a girl that wears very awkward clothing as well as carrying her pet rat, named Cinnamon, in a bag upon which she has painted a life size sunflower. During lunch, every day, she sings "Happy Birthday" to kids she has never met. Her behavior is so unusual and so unlike anything anyone at the school has seen before that the student body, at first, does not know what to make of her. Once the student body becomes accustomed to Stargirl’s eccentricities, her popularity soars. Students begin to mimic her behavior and, at lunch, her table is overflowing with peers. She then is asked to become a cheerleader for all of the sports in her high school.The basketball season brings about Stargirl's downfall. For the first time in the school's history, they have an undefeated basketball season. She slowly begins to anger her school by cheering for not only MAHS, but the other teams as well. She doesn't believe winning is the only way to have fun, and this puzzles and angers the students, though this is the same behavior she exhibited as a cheerleader for the football team.When basketball play-offs come around, the school faces tough competition, and ultimately lose in the semi-finals. Stargirl angers the school by comforting a player from the opposing team when he breaks his ankle. This leads to her ultimate downfall from popularity. Then Leo and stargirl enjoy each others' company, and Leo begins to help Stargirl with her antics, such as leaving cards for people she doesn't know and dropping change on the sidewalk. It is by observing her behavior that he figures out that Stargirl is the mysterious person who gave him the porcupine necktie four years before. Soon, though, Leo realizes the entire school rejects them as a couple. Desperate to undo this curse, he begs Stargirl to change and become "normal," so she becomes "Susan", the name she was born with. She drops her unconventional clothing and acts like all the other students at the school. She becomes obsessed with being “accepted” and popular. This plan, however, does not work. Susan feels that the best way to become popular is by winning a state public speaking competition. Her eccentric and creative personality helps her achieve victory in the competition, and she returns to MAHS thinking she will receive a hero’s welcome. She is bitterly disappointed when only three people show up to see her homecoming. Susan realizes that she had achieved nothing by trying to fit in. She decides to go back to being her true self, and Stargirl returns, much to Leo’s dismay. He then abandons his relationship with Stargirl, confused about his feelings for her and with his own desperation to be accepted by the school. Leo decides to not go to his school dance but watches it from a distance. Hillari then confronts Stargirl and slaps her across the face. Kindly, and very politely, Stargirl returns the slap with a kiss on the cheek and walks away without causing a fuss. Suddenly, the very next day, Leo notices that Stargirl is gone.
Who would benefit from reading this book? The lessons that one can learn from this book are gems. This book should be read by every child entering either middle school or even teenager going into high school. This book teaches people to be themselves and not conform to people and society. I think that girls, and even young adult males, would find enjoyment from reading this book.
What problems/concerns could this book potentially cause? I don't think that this book would cause an problems. It is a book that teaches kids and teenagers to accept people for their differences. I think it does show stereotypes, but it's not a problem as the stereotypes are to prove a point in the book.
My reaction: This is my favorite book. I read the first few chapters, it absolutely captivated me and made it nearly impossible for me to put the book down. I think that this is a great book for everyone to read, and I will probably end up reading it again this summer. I will definitely recommend this book to everyone who is looking for a good read.

posted by Jon Dale at 6:01 PM 0 comments