Archive for March, 2013

PIRATE TRIPLE PLAY Book Review March 31, 2013 HAPPY EASTER!

CaptSnachReview of: Captain Snatchit’s Parrot: Three Pirate Stories

Author: Emma Laybourn

This book actually consists of three separate adventure stories. Each of the books is set up as a chapter book. There is a lot of colorful, pirate language especially in the first book of the trilogy. Many children will love this feature even though it will make independent reading of the book more difficult. In the first book, which is titled The Pirate’s Parrot, we meet Neptune, Captain Snatchit’s mistreated parrot. When the ship is attacked, the pirates man the life boats and Neptune is cast off on his own. Just when he is at the point of exhaustion, Neptune spies an island which is inhabited by parrots and monkeys. He settles into a normal life with friends and fun. But soon after a ship is spied on the horizon and the parrots will have to find a way to dispose of the pirates.

In the second story called Captain Snatchit’s Revenge, the captain realizes he has been outwitted and finds a way to get back to the island by hijacking a fishing boat. The crafty parrots must again find a way to trick the pirates and sink their ship.  The fishermen suffer the loss of their fishing boat, but the parrots are sure they are rid of  those pirates for good this time!

Book Three is named The Wreck of the Seahag. The pirates return with a salvage ship ready to raise the Seaslug. Neptune realizes that Captain Snatchit will not give up. He despairs but Liana urges him on implying that they are smarter and can outwit him.  All the inhabitants of the island work together to come up with a clever scheme to defeat the pirates. Will they finally succeed in their mission and regain their peaceful home?  The book is an adventure filled with moral lessons. Underlying the story are  lessons like the value of team work and cooperation, the need to be honest, truthful, and courageous, the need to be strong, and not give in to your weaknesses.

The structure of the story allows the reader to stop at the end of each book or read it in one sitting. It is suitable for a read aloud or can be developed into a series of classroom discussions.  I recommend it as independent reading for ages five and six. Younger children will enjoy the simple pictures and the story when accompanied by the explanations of parent or teacher. As a bonus, you may visit the author’s website http://megamousebooks.com/puzzlepageslist.html to download a free pirate crossword puzzle!

Available at http://freekidsbooks.org/  for download, printing or as an e reader.

GUEST REVIEW – Janet Ruth Heller

JanetHellerJanet Ruth Heller
Fiction Writer, Poet, Playwright, Educator, Memoir Writer, and Literary Critic: Review of Barbara Ann Mojica’s Little Miss History Travels to Mount Rushmore, with illustrations by Victor Ramon Mojica, Eugenus Studios, 2012.

This picture book for children ages 7 to 12 is chock-full of details and statistics about the carvings of four United   States presidents’ faces on Mount  Rushmore, which were executed from 1927 to 1941.  Statistics include the annual number of visitors to the monument, the scale of the carvings compared to an average person, the number of steps that workers had to climb, the amount of stone that was hauled away after carving, and the number of people who worked on the project.

Mojica explains why Jefferson appears on the left side of Washington, instead of on his right.  She also explains why sculptor Gutzon Borglum carved only heads, rather than torsos, as he originally planned.  Readers also learn which historical documents the unfinished Hall of Records holds.  The emphasis on nonfiction presented concisely and energetically should appeal to children and to schools trying to implement the new Common Core standards.

Mojica also explores the Native American heritage of Mount  Rushmore.  A new memorial to honor Crazy Horse will be built near the four presidents.  Mojica points out that James Anaya has suggested that the United States return the lands around Mt. Rushmore to the Native Americans.  She asks readers for their reaction to this idea.  Questions like this will stimulate children to do critical thinking, an important skill for success in school and in life.

The illustrations by Victor Ramon Mojica add humor and colorful details to the book.  He portrays Miss History as a lanky girl with knobby knees and red sunglasses.

Barbara Ann Mojica is a historian and retired educator.  She has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in history. She taught for more than 40 years in New York City and holds New York State teacher certifications in elementary, special education, and administration. She also spent several years as a special education administrator and principal of a special education preschool for developmentally delayed children.  Her background definitely qualifies her to write about American history for children.

The one criticism that I would make of this work is that the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Reading Level of 8.7 is too high for a picture book.

The first in a series of books about American monuments, Little Miss History Travels to Mount Rushmore begins with a rhymed preface and ends with a promise to explore the Statue of Liberty next.

GREAT KIDS IN HISTORY

Author: Michael Williams

Genre: nonfiction

Ages 8+

GrGreat Kids in History covereat Kids in History is a collection of twenty two short stories on the contributions of kids to history. Some of these names will be familiar to adults and many children. For example, there are stories about Thomas Edison, Andrew Jackson and Robert Fulton. But then you probably have never heard of Grace Bedell or Philo Farnsworth. This compilation is a nonfiction book that is not intended to be comprehensive or scholarly. It is written in simple language appropriate for independent reading in middle grades. The information presented is not exhaustive; it may give children a sense of pride in the achievements made by these young people in many fields such as politics, sports, inventions, science, the military and technology.

Grace Bedell hoped that Abraham Lincoln would win election even though she was only eleven years old. She feared that Lincoln’s face was too thin and thought that he needed whiskers. Grace persuaded her father to mail Lincoln her letter. To their surprise he answered her but made no promises. Before he was inaugurated President, Lincoln visited her home town of Westfield, New York and sought out the little girl who had written to him. He told her that he had grown a full beard just for her. In 1999 a statue was erected in Westfield commemorating that day. The letter that she wrote to Lincoln sold for one million dollars.

Jackie Mitchell was sixteen in 1931, and she was the only female on the Chattanooga Lookouts, a minor league baseball team. The Yankees came to play exhibition ball. When she took the mound and faced both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, the crowd was astounded when she struck out both of these baseball giants.

Willie Johnston of Vermont went off to battle in the Civil War with his father. Because he was a child, the only role he could play was that of a drummer boy. He fought in at least twenty five battles. At the age of thirteen he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for Bravery. He kept drumming and never left the battlefield. The drumsticks he used are in a museum.

In the 1890’s many orphans in cities sold newspapers. They were called “newsies.” When powerful editors like Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst raised their prices but not the wages paid to the children, they organized a strike and held up traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge for days. The owners tried to send thugs against them, but the newsies succeeded in getting the owners to buy back the newspapers. Their strike became a model for other cites and helped to change child labor laws and improve child welfare.

Sybil Ludington was a sixteen year old girl who lived in Kent, New York before the Revolutionary War broke out. Her father was a farmer and a Colonel in the local militia. On April 26, 1777, she volunteered to ride forty miles on horseback to gather volunteers and warn colonists that the British were burning the town of Danbury. Her warning allowed the colonists to muster forces and force the retreat of the British to Long Island.

I think that any boy or girl will find at least a few of these stories inspiring. Teachers will be able to select one or more as a springboard for discussion and research on many topics. My guess is that any adult who shares this book with a child will learn a thing or two as well!

GREAT BOOK TO ADD TO YOUR COLLECTION

Book Review: How the Moon Regained Her Shape

Available en English and Spanish

Author: Janet Ruth Heller, PhD

Illustrator: Ben Hodson

How the Moon Regained Her Shape

 

This book is a wonderful addition to any library for so many reasons, First, it is a wonderful Native American folktale explaining how the phases of the moon came to be. The round moon happily danced across the sky until one day she danced across the sun and eclipsed it. The sun became angry and belittled her. She shrunk herself and slithered across the sky until there was almost nothing left of her. One day she meets a comet who suggests that she visit his friend Round Arms on earth. Round Arms is a kindly Native American woman who takes Moon to visit with friends who miss her appearance in the night sky. She meets a painter, some rabbits and dancers. They convince Moon that she is a valued friend and encourage her to return home to her place in the sky. Now when someone insults her, she remembers her friends on earth and is encouraged to be brave and grow again to her former self.

Children and adults will readily appreciate the relationship of this folktale to bullying. The angry sun caused the moon to lose her self esteem and in that process hurt not only her feelings but those who depended on her. There is a page detailing the ways a child can deal with bullies included at the end of the story. The language of the story flows along. You get the message without being overpowered by it. The hundred women who danced and sang express their hope in a beautiful poem. The reader learns about good and bad feelings and how to deal with them.

Yet there is still much more to be learned from this book. At the end of the text readers will find a chart containing the names that Native Americans used for the moon during the calendar year. There is a “Creative Mind” activity encouraging children to expand their knowledge of the moon’s phases. Parents and teachers are given the publisher’s website on which there is a treasure trove of information. You can look up how the book coincides with the common core standards of your state. Under the Language Arts section, there are questions to activate prior knowledge and comprehension questions for assessment after reading. There is a list of suggested vocabulary words and instructions on how to make a word wall, sentence strips and writing prompts. For math, educators are given activities to calculate relative size of earth and moon as well as distance to the moon. A science journal allows the student to draw pictures of the moon in its phases and note the date and time of the month. Students might even want to use the map to record where in the world the moon is located at a point in time. Finally, there are even quizzes in reading and math to measure the results of knowledge acquired.

To sum up, this book may be used on many different levels and for many different reasons, For younger children it is a picture book read aloud. I would caution that an adult may need to guide the child. The illustrations are beautifully done in mixed media in muted colors, but the facial expressions are strong and stylized which could frighten a young child who is not given a clear explanation of the story. Target audience for the book is children aged six through ten. Parents, classroom teachers and homeschooling parents will find this book well worth their investment. I thoroughly enjoyed it and recommend it.

 

LAURA INGALLS WILDER:PIONEER WOMAN

LauraIngallsPic

This biography is another excellent piece of writing from Charles River editors.  Laura Ingalls was born in 1867 to Charles and Caroline Ingalls who lived in  Pepin, Wisconsin. Her parents wanted to buy land on which to farm, but they were deceived into purchasing Indian lands and were forced to give them up. After they returned home to Wisconsin and saved up again. this time they moved to Minnesota. Laura’s baby brother was born and became ill soon after.  The family spent all their money trying to make him well, but he soon died.  Laura’s sister Mary became ill with scarlet fever in 1879. Mary suffered blindness as a result. Laura then served as her sister’s guide.  She could not go to school but developed her storytelling skills in order to explain the world to her sister. Soon the family joined her father in South Dakota. Her father became both a shopkeeper and a farmer. He saved enough money to send the girls to school. Laura also got a job as a seamstress. When Laura turned 16, she began to teach farm children. In 1885 Laura married Almanzo Wilder. They had two children, but their son soon died. Then their house burned to the ground. So they moved to Florida and worked hard to save money. Finally, they had enough saved enough to buy a farm in Missouri. On the trip, Laura wrote down what she saw in a journal. By 1910 Laura was writing for a local newspaper and worked to help make life better for the women who lived on the farms. Like many other women such as Susan B. Anthony, Laura felt that women should be treated better. She worked with the Farm Loan Association to get loans for her neighbors who needed them. By 1930 Laura no longer wrote for the newspaper. She wrote stories about her life growing up on the prairie. Americans loved her stories. Laura opened the first public library in her town of Mansfield. She lived until the age of 90. The Little House books are still read today.

The story is a mirror of life  during the time of western expansion. There are actual photographs that help us to know the characters in the story. We are given a glimpse into nineteenth century life in America.

BOOK REVIEW MARCH 17, 2013 HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY

The Sun and the Places Where It Shines   A book about our solar system

Author: Thea Kinyon

Genre: nonfiction

Age: 8+

Thea Kinyon wrote this book in the hopes of inspiring children to become interested in planetary science. Fifty percent of the profits are given back to the Chabot Space Center in California. The 36 page book is filled with large, colorful illustrations. The author begins with the evolution of our solar system and descriptions of our sun. Each  one of the planets and its moons are featured. Ms. Kinyon discusses their similarities and differences. She suggests reasons why life on these planets if it exists might be very different from life on earth. There is a glossary featuring some of the more difficult terms included near the end of the book. In addition, the author provides a short selection of internet sites where more information may be found on these topics. As a bonus, the constellations are featured with two blank pages for the young scientist to record what is seen when she goes out to explore the night sky.

This is an interesting book. I did note a few weaknesses. Near its end the author asks the reader to go back and refer to information on previous pages. While cross referencing skills are a tool students need to master, it does distract the reader. Also, the text is not of uniform size. The placement on the pages is not consistent. A child with dyslexia or similar reading problems would find difficulty following the story line.

All in all, the author does a good job of presenting a lot of information on our solar system in a concise format. Younger children will enjoy the pictures and story when read aloud by parent or teacher. They will be sure to ask questions. Older children will find a wealth of information, some new vocabulary, and a springboard for further investigation of the topic either on their own or as a unit of classroom study.

The book is available for free download or purchase on http://freekidsbooks.org

KID-LIT BLOG HOP # 11 MARCH 13, 2013

Happy Wednesday, Fellow Bloggers!

 

Today I am answering the questions passed down to me last week about my book Little Miss History Travels to MOUNT RUSHMORE. This published book is the first in a series of nonfiction books intended to making learning facts fun for children ages 8 and up. You can visit her website at : http://www.littlemisshistory.com

Where did the idea for this book come from?

I was thinking about the new core curriculum here in the US, which makes a dramatic shift from a fiction dominated curriculum to one that is dominated by nonfiction. By fifth grade 50% of books used are supposed to be nonfiction. Most younger children love fiction and I wanted to find a way to make learning history fun. So I came up with an adventure loving, funny character named Little Miss History to be a guide and narrator on trips to historic landmarks. I am a retired educator and historian so combining a love of history and teaching
comes naturally to me.

What genre is this book?

This book does not fit into one category. I would use the tags: nonfiction, history, travel and adventure.

Which actor would play the characters if a movie version were made?

I could not see this story made into a traditional movie, but an animation would be great because Little Miss History is a funny character. She reminds me a little of Merida in Brave so I could see Kelly MacDonald doing the voice over. No other characters speak in this first book.

How could you sum up the book in one sentence?

Little Miss History is a wannabe park ranger with pig tails and hiking boots three sizes too big who will make learning about history fun!

Is the book self-published, Indie published, or by an agency?

The book is self-published by eugenus®STUDIOS.

How long did it take to finish the manuscript?

The process of writing and editing with layout of illustrations took about three months.

What other books would you compare it to?

As far as I know, the concept is unique.

Who or what inspired me to write this book?

As I said before, I love both children and history. My desire was to make the learning process a fun experience, I also enjoy traveling and have visited many historic landmarks.

What else about this book might pique reader interest?

The successful and unique combination of  illustration and photography  which embellish the text.

Now it’s time for me to tag the next five authors:

Mom of Four – https://www.facebook.com/MyFourLittles

Tracee Ford – https://www.facebook.com/tracee.ford

Olga D’Agostino – https://www.facebook.com/Mrs.DBooks

Melissa Taylor – https://www.facebook.com/ImaginationSoup

Mom at the Jenny Evolution – https://www.facebook.com/thejennyevolution

Looking forward to their responses!

 

%d bloggers like this: