Tuesday, April 1, 2014

tara recommends Nightingale's Nest by Nikki Loftin

Can a book be both heavy and lift you up?  Is it possible to deal with very hard, serious issues, yet be lyrical and beautiful?  Nightingale's Nest by Nikki Loftin does just that.

Twelve-year-old Little John has some real problems, including dealing with the death of his sister, working alongside an alcoholic father, and trying to negotiate a mentally unstable mother.  To top it off, he also befriends and tries to protect an abused foster child, Gayle, who lives across the street from his father's employer, Mr. King.

Gayle is an unusual child who likes to sing while perched in a self-made nest, high in a sycamore tree.  She is delicate and alone, but when Little John finds her, she lets her guard down and brings him into her world.  When her birdsong voice attracts the attention of creepy Mr. King, the richest man in town, Little John is forced to make some difficult choices.

This strangely beautiful and heartfelt story has some unanswered questions that will leave readers wondering, and there are elements that force you to suspend reality to fully appreciate the journey.  However, responsibility, trust and ultimately forgiveness are expertly woven through a unique narrative that will stay with you and pull at your heart.

Nightingale's Nest
by Nikki Loftin
published by Razorbill
February 2014
recommended for ages 10 and up

Friday, March 28, 2014

February and March 2014 Storytime Briefly

Battle of the Books craziness kept me busy in February and March as students at our elementary school read and engaged in friendly (and sometimes, fierce) competition.  And somehow, I let February get away from me without a post for storytime, so today it'll be a double.

We spent another week reading Beehive Book Award nominees.  We read
  • Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems
  • It's a Tiger by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Jeremy Tankard
  • The Princess and the Pig by Jonathan Emmett, illustrated by Poly Bernatene
I love that the students are excited about this award--someone asks each week when the winner will be announced.

We celebrated Valentine's Day by talking about love and friendship.  We read
  • Snowy Valentine by David Petersen
  • Brimsby's Hats by Andrew Prahin
  • Paul Meets Bernadette by Rosy Lamb
The kids laughed at Bernadette's way of looking at things, and they spent a lot of time after we had read it saying, "Go back to the page where . . ."

We talked about monster with these stories:
  • Bedtime Monsters by Josh Schneider
  • The Girl Who Loves Danger (a storybox by Steve Light)
I've said it before, but I can't say it enough: Children love Steve Light's storyboxes.  The Girl Who Loves Danger is my favorite.

We talked about the different medium choices artists make.  We spent time looking at pictures and read
  • The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson, illustrated by Beth Krommes
  • A Home for Bird by Philip C. Stead
  • RRRalph by Lois Ehlert

We talked about Lois Ehlert.  We read
  • RRRalph by Lois Ehlert
  • The Scraps Book: Notes from a Colorful Life by Lois Ehlert
  • Mice by Rose Fyleman, illustrated by Lois Ehlert
Since it was our second reading in as many weeks, I let the students read the dog's part in RRRalph which they really enjoyed.  We went through The Scraps Book at a leisurely pace, stopping to talk about our favorite books along the way.

We talked about pets.  We read two books and a poem:
  • The Birthday Fish by Dan Yaccarino
  • "Mother Doesn't Want a Dog" by Judith Viorst
  • Sparky! by Jenny Offill, illustrated by Chris Appelhans
"Mother Doesn't Want a Dog" has long been a favorite poem at our house (ever since my now adult son convinced me he couldn't be a "real boy" without a dog).

We read about dragons:
  • The Crocodile Who Didn't Like Water by Gemma Merino
  • The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Michael Martchenko
  • Dragon Loves Tacos by Adam Rubin, illustrated by Daniel Salmieri
The Crocodile Who Didn't Like Water wins points in my book for the not-what-I-expected resolution.  The students liked the detail on the end papers.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

tara recommends Mitosis by Brandon Sanderson

The projected release date for Firefight is fall of 2014, but if you are itching to get back into the world of Steelheart, I would suggest reading Brandon Sanderson's novelette, Mitosis: A Reckoners Story.  At a mere 35 pages, Mitosis is a quick read that takes you back to dystopian Chicago with the Reckoners and a new Epic.  

As a caution, there are definite spoilers in these chapters, so read Steelheart first to set up the characters.  With just enough details to refresh your memory, this story provides a nice gateway to the series sequel and the inventive new Epic reminds you what was great about Steelheart.  The only thing that would make this better? - not having to spend $1.99 for the five chapter story.  This seems like the perfect release as a fan-favorite bonus gift.  But, in the meantime - definitely a fun read and a nice companion to Steelheart.

Mitosis: A Reckoners Story
by Brandon Sanderson
published by Delacorte Press (as an eBook)
December 2013

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Child's Point Of View

After numerous nights of leaving the kids home to attend my "book club," a revolt was in the air.  They always wanted to come with me (request denied) and required a detailed report the next morning.  Rather than risk a full-blown revolution, we decided they needed their own book club.  They scanned the bookshelves, chose a book (Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems) and read it to each other.  I brought the treats.

I wasn't expecting a gripping discussion from my toddlers, however I was pleasantly surprised by the favorite things each child pointed out.  They found the hidden pigeon (a must-find in all Mo Willems books) and showed off their favorite pages.  We discussed the pronunciation of the title (my 6-year-old wasn't entirely convinced it was Ku-nuffle - after all the k is always silent before an n, right?), and practiced our own version of baby babbling to mimic Trixie.  Then, after talking about how the pictures were made, we even decided it was time to schedule an art project of our own to mimic the book's pages.

Overall, they were thrilled and have a much deeper connection to the book.  Who says book clubs are just for adults?  This will be a new tradition and I can't wait for our next discussion.  Enjoying a book is more than just reading it, and even a child will appreciate a detailed examination of their favorite story.  Not only will they inspect the pages more carefully, but their analysis will tie them to the book in a way a casual reading never could.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Little Things

It's easy to get excited about new programs designed to get kids reading, but sometimes it's not programs, but little things that make a big difference.  My fourth-grade son had been looking forward to reading the third book in Rick Riordan's Heroes of Olympus series, so when he found out his elementary school library had received  a copy, he rushed to the librarian's desk to check it out.  Unfortunately, someone had beaten him to it.  The next week he checked back with the librarian, but the book had not been returned.  By the third week, he was growing impatient.  A sixth-grade teacher happened to overhear his conversation with the librarian, and she offered to loan him a copy from her classroom.  He followed her to her room, and as she pulled it off her shelf she remarked, "None of the students in my class have read this yet, so you'll be the first one."  He already had his nose in the book when I picked him up from school.

So, kudos to Mrs. Hill for going out of her way to loan a brand-new book to a kid she didn't even know simply because he couldn't wait to read it.  Sometimes you don't need stickers or an ice-cream sundae party or free tee-shirts, you just need the right book at the right time.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Storytime Gifts

These are the stickers I put in the books that I gave as Valentine's Day gifts:

Can you guess the books?

Monday, February 17, 2014

danyelle recommends Brimsby's Hats by Andrew Prahin

While searching for a book to read for a friendship-themed story time, I was delighted to find Andrew Prahin’s debut picture book, Brimsby’s Hats.  This story is not only an endearing tale of friendship, but with its winter setting, it is a perfect fit for a cold February day.

Brimsby spends quiet days making hats, drinking tea, and enjoying conversation with his best friend, but when that friend leaves to become a sea captain, the hat maker’s days become too quiet.  He sets out “on a long walk, looking for new friends” and finds birds that are too busy to talk to him.  Undaunted, Brimsby uses kindness and cleverness to make new friends.

What might at first glance threaten to be a predictable plot is anything but, thanks to a generous infusion of whimsy.  Birds that shovel snow out of their nests, a conversation about lemon cookies and worms, and Brimsby’s ingenious gifts for his new bird friends are a few of the gentle surprises.

While the engaging text tells the story with matter-of-fact ease, it is most remarkable for its restraint.  By not over-explaining, Prahin gives the illustrations an equal role in telling the story. Picture-filled speech bubbles show conversation as an exchange of ideas, not just words.  And seeing the birds sleeping snugly in warm nests helps readers appreciate the hat maker’s gifts.

Prahin’s deft use of color adds depth and emotion.  When Brimsby’s friend leaves, the jaunty red disappears, leaving a world of muted color.  The search for friends seems all the more lonely as the hat maker walks across a vast expanse of snowy white and gray, and color once again brightens his world when he meets the birds.

This is one of those books where the text and the pictures work in flawless harmony. Together they meet in a satisfying conclusion that embraces friendships, both old and new.

Brimsby's Hats
by Andrew Prahin
published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

*I'm not actually sure of the publication date for this book.  Simon & Schuster lists it as December 2013, but the copyright printed in the book is 2014.