Review: Last Stop on Market Street

Last Stop on Market StreetLast Stop on Market Street

Written by Matt De La Peña

Illustrated by: Christian Robinson

JP Putnam Sons for Young Readers; 2015, Hardcover

Target Audience: Ages 5-9

Genre: Fiction

Theme: Urban Living, Perspective, Gratitude

How We Discovered This BookLast Stop on Market Street won the 2016 Newbery Medal, and was a Caldecott Honor Book and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book. With all the talk about this book, we had to check it out.

Summary: Young CJ and his Nana take the bus from church across their city. CJ has many questions, and his Nana provides him with insightful and creative answers. Their conversation continues until they reach their final destination, which provides even more context for their blessings.

What I Liked: I haven’t read many books like this – focused truly on urban living and seeing the beauty in everything around you. The author captures CJ and his Nana’s personalities clearly through carefully chosen dialogue and specific speech patterns. I can almost hear their voices.

What Did My Kids Think? They liked the story, and the author manages to make CJ endearing rather than whiny. My children have never lived in a city, so it was interesting for them to imagine someone else’s life where they don’t own a car and they interact with a wide cross-section of people.

Resources:

 

Take a field trip into your nearest city. Make it a point (or even a scavenger hunt) to find all the things that are different from where you live. Now look for the things that are the same.

The Classroom Bookshelf site has activities related to this book for kids of varying age groups, focused on imagery, special people in your life, beauty, and sharing stories.

Identify ways that you can interact more deeply with your community. Join a book group, volunteer at a soup kitchen, or even just strike up a conversation with someone at the park.

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Review: Trombone Shorty

Trombone Shorty
Trombone Shorty

Written by Troy Andrews

Illustrated by Bryan Collier

Harry N. Abrams Books for Young Readers; 2015, Hardcover

Target Audience: Ages 5-9

Genre: Non-Fiction

Theme: Having a dream, Persistence, Overcoming obstacles

How We Discovered This Book: I requested several books from our library from this year’s ALA Awards list. This is a Caldecott Honor Book and the winner of the Coretta Scott King Award.

Summary: A young boy growing up in the Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans doesn’t have money to buy an instrument, but he loved music. He and his friends made instruments out of whatever they could find. One day, he found an old trombone, and taught himself to play. He became known as “Trombone Shorty” because the trombone was twice his size. He played throughout his neighborhood, with his own kid band, and one day was pulled from the crowd at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival to play with Bo Diddley.

What I Liked: I’m on record as not being a big fan of non-fiction books, but this kind of interesting storytelling and visual imagery is winning me over. This is a true story, written by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews himself. It is inspirational, demonstrates the hard work he put into his craft, and all of the influences on him including his town and his mother. The illustrations are creative – a combination of paintings and photographs. The illustrator uses an interesting method of overlaying faded sections to draw attention to the main focus of each panel – usually Trombone Shorty.

What Did My Kids Think? They enjoyed his story, and wanted me to read all the way through the author’s notes. We even went on YouTube to hear some of his music (see below).

Resources:

 

Make your own instruments at home!

Watch Trombone Shorty in action with his band, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue.

Learn more about the Trombone Shorty Foundation, and its work to promote music to the next generation, especially those in New Orleans.

Review: Chalk and Cheese

Chalk and Cheese CoverChalk and Cheese

Written and Illustrated by Tim Warnes

Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing; 2008, Hardcover

Target Audience: 3-8

Genre: Fiction

Theme: Friendship, Respecting Differences

How We Discovered This Book: My daughter found this book in our library’s new books bin. It was published a few years ago, but we’re glad to discover it now!

Summary: In researching the odd name of this book (I could understand the name Cheese for a mouse, but I was stumped with why a dog was named Chalk), I learned that “Chalk and Cheese” is based on an obscure British saying – as in, “They are completely different. As different as chalk and cheese.” This book takes the concept and tells a story about a British country mouse and an American dog. They are friends and pen pals, and one day Cheese comes to New York City to visit Chalk. They each look at the world differently, so we get to see two different perspectives on what they see and experience.

What I Liked: I enjoyed the illustrations and the narrative – spare text with simple illustrations. There are visual jokes and gems to find throughout. The message of embracing each other’s difference was nicely delivered without being heavy-handed.

What Did My Kids Think? Most kids like animals in their books, and my kids are no exception. They followed right along with Chalk and Cheese’s New York City adventure. They enjoyed when Cheese didn’t understand something – just like kids sometimes – and Chalk patiently explained it to him (or even better – showed him).

Resources:

 

Brainstorm things that are very different (story characters in other books, inanimate objects, family members), and give them an adventure. What would they do? Where would they go?

Illustrate your own adventure story set in the place you live. Are there secret places for hiding? Are there things a visitor to your town MUST see? No worries if you don’t consider yourself a strong illustrator – stick figures will do. Adding some color and an interesting perspective make all the difference.

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Max is back from Spring Break with his review of Chalk and Cheese. Check out his video to see what he thought!

Email subscribers: Please click over to this post on the website to see Max’s complete video.

Review: Earmuffs for Everyone!

Earmuffs for Everyone CoverEarmuffs for Everyone!

Written and Illustrated by Meghan McCarthy

Simon & Schuster Books of Young Readers; 2015, Hardcover

Target Audience: Ages 5-9

Genre: Non-Fiction

Theme: Creativity, Inventions

How We Discovered This Book: My daughter picked up this book from the new books bin at our library. Our librarians save the day yet again!

Summary: A young man in Maine in the late 1800s named Chester Greenwood wanted a better solution for warming his ears during the cold winter. He improved on the idea of basic ear covers and patented his idea when he was 19. His version is what we recognize as earmuffs today. The author adds into the story information about patents and some other famous inventions in order to help children understand what Chester really accomplished.

What I Liked: In general, I’m not a big fan of non-fiction books. However, I do have a big appreciation for non-fiction books that incorporate more traditional storytelling techniques to make the concepts more interesting. In this case, my kids finished the book with a basic understanding of patents and how valuable improvements can be in the invention process. (Does anyone really remember those people who first invented the light bulb? And no, it wasn’t Thomas Edison!)

What Did My Kids Think? My kids found it a whimsical story, especially how Chester’s hometown still celebrates him with a parade every year. Their father holds 7 patents in the medical device field, so this really hit home for them. They had a lot of follow up questions afterwards. After all, that’s what a non-fiction book should do, right?

Resources:

 

Interested in more information on the creation of the book? Check out the author’s introduction and backstory here.

The US Patent and Trademark Office has a special website set up with games for kids, to help them understand the patent and trademark processes.

The Kids Discover website outlines a classroom project for kids to create something and then prepare to patent it.

Review: Finding Winnie

Finding WinnieFinding Winnie

Written by Lindsay Mattick

Illustrated by: Sophie Blackall

Little, Brown, and Company; 2015, Hardcover

Target Audience: Ages 5-9

Genre: Non-Fiction

Theme: Storytelling, Families, Friendship

How We Discovered This Book: Finding Winnie recently won the Caldecott Award, and I was thrilled to see it in the new book bin at our library.

Summary: The great-granddaughter of Captain Harry Colebourn (Lindsay Mattick) wrote this story about how her great grandfather adopted a bear during his deployment to World War I. He named the sweet bear Winnipeg (Winnie) after his home town. After Harry gave her to the London Zoo when he was shipped off to France, Winnie became friends with a young Christopher Robin Milne and became the inspiration for Winnie the Pooh.

What I Liked: The story is framed as Lindsay (the author) tells her son a bedtime story. He asks for a true story, and she tells him the story of Harry and Winnie while interweaving interesting details that put you right into the story. The last several pages of the book are actual photos of Harry, his regiment, Winnie, and Christopher Robin. The photographs add another level to the story, and remind the reader of the reality of the story.

What Did My Kids Think? In the first week we had this book in our home, my kids requested it for bedtime reading every night. We were amazed at all the things that had to happen for Winnie the Pooh to be named – Harry happened to meet and buy Winnie, his regiment allowed Winnie to be adopted as their mascot, the London Zoo took Winnie in, and Christopher Robin became friends with her (after he was allowed to play in her enclosure!). My son still wonders where the “Pooh” part came from, but I guess that’s another story for another time.

Resources:

The DIY Homeschooler has printables, activities, and more history about the origins of Winnie the Pooh and his friends.

Choose a favorite stuffed animal or doll from the classroom or your child’s bedroom, and develop some creative stories about where their name might have come from.

Picture Books About Nature

Now that June is almost here and the weather is perfect for nature hikes, I thought it was worth a profile of some of the nature books on the shelves at our house. I selected non-fiction picture books about nature, with my children piping in to make sure I included their favorites. This list is by no means comprehensive – just a snapshot of what’s at our house. Maybe there are a few on here that you can add to your “Must Read” list.

General Nature/Weather

The Magic School Bus: Inside a Hurricane (Joanna Cole, ill. Bruce Degen)

Inside a Hurricane

Cactus Hotel (Brenda Z. Guiberson, ill. Megan Lloyd)

Cactus Hotel

Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain (Verna Aardema, ill. Beatriz Vidal)

Bringing the Rain to Kapiti Plain

Here is the African Savanna (Madeline Dunphy, ill. Tom Leonard)

Here is the African Savanna

Are Mountains Growing Taller? Questions About the Changing Earth (Melvin and Gilda Berger, ill. Robin Carter)

Are Mountains Growing Taller?

Animals/Insects

Big Sharks! (Toru Kosara)

Big Sharks!

Birds (K.M. Kostyal- National Geographic Nature Library)

Birds

Where Butterflies Grow (Joanne Ryder, ill. Lynne Cherry)

Where Butterflies Grow

Gray Wolf Pup’s Adventure (Stephanie Smith, ill. Robert Hynes)

Grey Wolf Pup's Adventure

Predators of the Sea (Mary Jo Rhodes, ill. David Hall)

Predators of the Sea

Whales (Kevin Boon)

Whales

Insects (Robin Bernard)

Insects

Gorillas: Gentle Giants of the Forest (Joyce Milton, ill. Bryn Barnard)

Gorillas

Penguins (Jane P. Reznick)

Penguins

Ants (Christine Young, ill. Andrea Jaretzki)

Ants

Additionally, we have 2 fiction favorites that should be mentioned: Owl Moon by Jane Yolen and The Salamander Room by Anne Mazer.

I’m sure you have other good nature books that you enjoy – please share them in the comments. We’ve love to discover some new nature books!

Author Review: Steve Jenkins

Recently, my son “adopted” a book for his school library. He chose Eye to Eye: How Animals See The World, by Caldecott Award winning Steve Jenkins. As part of the adoption, my son was the first one to check the book out. Not only was it filled with amazing facts about how animals see, but the artwork was stunning!

You see, Jenkins isn’t just an author–he’s an illustrator, too. His amazing paper collage illustrations first drew me to his work a few years ago, and I’ve enjoyed every title of his that I’ve read. His books, often collaborations with his wife, Robin Page, are all non-fiction books exploring animal biology with intriguing titles such as What Do Yo Do When Something Wants To Eat You? and What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? The topics range from prehistoric animals to skeletons, from beetles to Mount Everest. He’s also illustrated a number of books for other authors as well.

Jenkins’s newest book, also with Page, is Egg. It comes out this spring. His webpage shows an interesting slideshow of how they created the book, if you’re interested.

If you or whomever you’re reading to enjoys non-fiction about animals, then you simply must check out Jenkins’s beautiful and informative books. Learn more about Jenkins here.