Monday, March 27, 2017


The texture of the cover, both the raised, smooth drops of rain and the glossy, “wet” title itself are indicative of the beautiful representation of rain within.  As Granddad says, “…the very best things are always worth waiting for.”  Throughout the first half, it seems Granddad is just postponing having to get wet, but as the waters rise…and rise, and he relents that the rain has stopped so it is time to go, we learn that he was perhaps waiting for something more as it was “time for an adventure at last.”  The adventure of delivering a letter is reminiscent of a Dr. Seuss-esqu escapade.  In other words, that escalated quickly.  Like the main character, you’ll be hoping it rains again tomorrow too.  I’m excited to check out Sam Usher’s “Snow” soon too.  Though, after our mid-March blizzard, I’ve had just about enough of that and I’m ready for Spring!

Title: Rain
Author: Sam Usher
Published 2016 by Templar Books

ISBN: 978-0-7636-9296-4

This copy was received from the publisher for purposes of review.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Ellen's 2017 Elementary Nonfiction Shortlist

Here is the CYBILS Elementary Nonfiction Panel Shortlist and the following were my personal shortlisted titles.  Some made it.  Some didn't.  Those that made it include: Giant Squid and Plants Can't Sit Still.  Giant Squid was our overall winner it won a shiny Sibert honor too!  

To The Stars!

Giant Squid   
Prairie Dog Song
Charles Darwin's Around the World Adventure

Plants Can't Sit Still
The Hole Story of the Doughnut

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Inventors of Lego Toys

By virtue of the word Lego in the title, this is already destined to be a hit with young readers and builders.  I find that students have an increased interest in the origin story of their favorite toys and games.  Creativity and inventiveness are being encouraged in new and different ways in schools.  Engineering (and reverse engineering) are being encouraged through physical building with materials like legos, k’nex, magnetic blocks, and cardboard as well as electronic building with coding through resources like Tynker, Osmo, Lego EV3 software, and 3D printing.  Students naturally have interest in where certain ideas, especially lasting ones like the Lego Brick design began and “The Inventors of Lego Toys” by Erin Hagar fills that void.

As I’ve stated once or seventeen times before, the inclusion of a map is always a plus for me and there is one that shows Northern Europe, and specifically Denmark where the town of Billund (home of Lego) is located.  In an age of the plasticization of everything when a return to more natural materials is beginning to take a turn with wooden toys, the story of Ole Kirk’s transition from wooden toys to plastic molded toys was a bit cutting edge.  Fortunately, because Lego bricks last and hold their value to collectors, you won’t be likely to find them in a landfill.  Towards the end of the book, there is a note about the Lego company working on creating their bricks out of a new material in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint.  It will be interesting to see how Lego’s evolve over time.  Kirk’s re-use of yo-yo halves to make wheels for a truck demonstrates his aptitude for problem solving.  The inclusion of both blue prints and illustrations of the size of the factory growing over the years after fires destroyed each in turn shows readers how the company grew over the years from a small operation to a larger (but still modest) one.

The book is organized in chronological fashion and follows the story of the Lego Company from the one man carpenter/toy factory all the way to the global enterprise it is today.  The story highlights set backs and arguments about the direction of the company as well as information about other toys on the scene at various times along the way.

A personal reflection.  I received this book from the publisher to read and review.  And I did read it.  Right away.  But I had to borrow a library copy to review it.  Fourth and Fifth grade students at my school had just begun their informational writing pieces and a teacher emailed me, inquiring if I had a book about the inventors of lego.  Off the shelves before it even got on one!!  When I left for winter break, the student was still using the book to get information for his writing piece, so I requested a copy to write this review.  I asked him what he thought of it and he indicated it had the information he needed and that he was enjoying reading it as well.  

Hagar and Garrison did a great job putting together a story with a rich and lengthy history.  The end of the book includes a glossary and index.  There is a page with other books to “Read More About Inventors,” but an inclusion of a bibliography to indicate where they got their information would be great for kids wanting to read more about these inventors.

Title: The Inventors of Lego Toys
Author: Erin Hagar
Illustrator: Paige Garrison
Published 2016 by Duopress
ISBN: 9781938093531

This copy was received from the publisher for purpose of review (and borrowed from the public library too!)

Thursday, March 9, 2017

All the Dirt: A History of Getting Clean

Truth is stranger than fiction.  And the facts of the history of how people have achieved cleanliness seems strange, and yet, each of the ideas presented show the evolution of societies.  For example, when Paris decided to provide public urinals to prevent people from just going on the sidewalk, a German doctor decided an outdoor shower was a good idea too.  It didn’t catch on.

Full disclosure, I make deodorant.  Like, in my kitchen, by hand.  And I am one of the “small but vocal movement of people…taking a new approach to clean” mentioned on page 90.  So this book was a page turner for me.  I am friends with several soap crafters and the history of soap, cleanliness, oils, etc. is personally fascinating to me.  “All the Dirt” presents a balanced approach to cleanliness and customs around the world and throughout history.  As a school library media specialist interested in media literacy, the advent of advertising and the soap opera chapter also speaks to why certain cultures are more concerned with cleanliness than others.  Namely because they were targeted by convincing advertising tactics.  As in the past, there is disagreement over which approaches to cleanliness are “right” or “healthy”.  One thing that is definitely good for you is a good read, like “All the Dirt: A History of Getting Clean.”

Title: All the Dirt: A History of Getting Clean
Author: Katherine Ashenburg
Illustrator: Capucine Mazille
Published 2016 by Annick Press
ISBN: 978-1-55451-790-9

This copy was received from the publisher for purpose of review.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Will’s Words: How William Shakespeare Changed the Way You Talk

Will’s Words combines history and the history of words and expressions originated by Shakespeare that have seeped into our “household words”.  The history of London in Shakespeare’s time, including the globe, actor, and audience tendencies reside on the left hand side of each spread.  Each of these text sections includes 1-3 phrases or references and on the right hand side, the explanation is given of their origins from plays written by Shakespeare.  Jane Sutcliffe embeds each word or phrase into the story to highlight their usage and the elaborates about the definition of each.  John Shelley’s depiction of the crowded Globe Theater full of audience members waiting “with bated breath” shows the mass of people shoulder to shoulder to take in the great Shakespeare’s latest play.  His cross sectioned illustrations showing the inner workings of the theater from top to bottom helps the reader understand how “special effects” were achieved in the 1600’s.  

Recently, after visiting a holiday shop at school, my daughter gave me a clue (that I did not ask for) about the gift she chose for me.  “It’s fashionable,” she said.  Do you want to know who coined that term?  None other than Shakespeare himself.

Will’s Words is not “too much of a good thing,” but it certainly is a good thing.  “Hurry” to check it out and read to your “heart’s content!”

Title: Will’s Words: How William Shakespeare Changed the Way You Talk
Author: Jane Sutcliffe
Illustrator: John Shelley
Published 2016 by Charlesbridge
ISBN: 978-1-58089-638-2

This copy was received from the publisher for purpose of review.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Wild Animals of the North

The size of this book alone will be a huge draw to young readers eager to gobble up animal facts.  Dieter Braun’s illustrations are captivating and the way animals are grouped is helpful for kids to learn the animal’s habitats.  I like that there was an index included to reference back to the individual animals but it is in page order instead of being in alphabetical order by the animal’s names.  The lack of a bibliography or other sources is disappointing.  I’m excited that this looks to be the start of a series (or at least a pair of books) with Wild Animals of the South being advertised coming soon.  

Title: Wild Animals of the North
Author and Illustrator: Dieter Braun
Published 2016 by Flying Eye Books
ISBN: 978-1-909263-96-3

This copy was received from the publisher for review.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay

What an awesome story!!  Truly, out of trash comes treasure.  In a town built on trash, literally on a landfill, ingenuity springs to craft the types of instruments that the residents cannot afford.  This is the type of book that gives a great deal of information but still leaves me wanting more (in the best possible way).  The author included information about a number of videos and websites to find more information that I intend to include here and check out as well.  The illustrations by Sally Wern Comport have trash collaged throughout, specifically sheet music and faraway places, as if foreshadowing what is to come for the orchestra and Ada.  The primary sources offer a teachable moment about how to incorporate interviews with the subject of research when the story is current.  

Title: Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay
Author: Susan Hood
Illustrator: Sally Wern Comport
Published 2016 by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3095-1

This copy was borrowed from the public library for purpose of review.
*Better late than never, a copy was received from the publisher!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Preaching to the Chickens

While I was updating nominated titles in the CYBILS database, I came across this title and instantly knew who it was about.  I had JUST listened to the Reverend John Lewis, Congressman from Georgia, speak about the March graphic novel trilogy at the SLJ Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. and he spoke about his chickens.  And preaching to them.  So, when I read the title, I realized this must be about John Lewis.  And it was.  A friend of mine is a US Congressman and had posted a selfie (you can’t make this stuff up) of himself with John Lewis in July when Democratic representatives stayed at the Capitol to call for a vote on legislation and, as a result, had their own sit in.  

That was the first time I heard of John Lewis and began to do some research, then I heard him speak, and then this book comes across my lap.  I’d venture to say this is the year of John Lewis, though I’m sure others would argue it’s not his first, just for me.  

*Further update - March: Book 3 won loads of awards.  Totally a good year for John Lewis!

All that to say that author, Jabari Asim, and illustrator, E.B. Lewis, bring the story of John Lewis’ childhood, and his chickens, and the lessons this experience instilled in him to life in beautiful fashion.  Through caring for his chickens, he learned to speak up for those who couldn’t speak for themselves.  He continues to do so to this day.

Title: Preaching to the Chickens
Author: Jabari Asim
Illustrator: E.B. Lewis
Published 2016 by Nancy Paulsen Books
ISBN: 978-0-399-16856-7

This copy was borrowed from the public library for purpose of review.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Princess Cora and the Crocodile

My 3 year old son has a penchant for nonfiction, specifically dinosaurs.  He enjoys picture books and loves sitting on my lap to read together.  But he doesn't have much patience for longer stories.  And Princess Cora and the Crocodile is just that.  It is illustrated (fantastically by Brian Floca, need I say more?!?) but it is a chapter book and 74 pages long.  So I had been planning on this particular book being something I would read with my 7 year old daughter.  And yet.  My son spied it on my bedside table the first night I brought it home and asked to read it.  I shall never deny such a request, so we did.  He made it halfway through before tiring.  He IS 3.  But he asked if we could finish it the next night.  Perfectly reasonable.  He (and I) LOVE Princess Cora and the Crocodile.  Belly laughs throughout.  He continues to ask to read it again (and again, I will always comply) and refer to the characters and their antics.  I love that this story of empowerment and finding your voice features fun as well.  I love that Cora's mother and father and nanny learned to really look at her (for goodness sake, they confused a crocodile for her all because of a dress and a mop for a wig) and see their expectations from her perspective.  And I love that Cora was able to explore and wander and build and discover.  And three baths a day is just excessive for anyone.  Next time I step on a cow pie, I hope to declare like Princess Cora, "I'm having an adventure." Find a copy of Princess Cora and the Crocodile to begin your adventure.

This particular quote speaks to me as a school librarian.  Freedom to read is essential for our youngest reader to discover their passions and learn about topics of their own choosing.  Don't pigeonhole kids with expectations that are beneath them.  Let them rise to the challenge.

"From now on, I want to choose my own books.  I want to read about sharks and tigers and fairies." ~Princess Cora from Princess Cora and the Crocodile by Laura Amy Schlitz

Likewise, my dino loving son doesn't JUST love dinosaurs.  He has diverse interests.  Like princesses and crocodiles.  And so much more.

Title: Princess Cora and the Crocodile
Author: Laura Amy Schlitz
Illustrator: Brian Floca
Published 2017 by Candlewick Press
ISBN: 978-0-7636-4822-0

This copy was received from the publisher for review.