Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Children's Book Reviews



I was contacted back in the late spring by Heather from Thomas Allen & Son about reviewing children's books....and of course loved the idea! Then the summer hit, we moved house, I'm pregnant, it was hot...etc, etc and somehow the draft of the this post got lost in the shuffle.

But, I've found it and it's ready to go!

First up is Mad Science 2- Experiments You Can Do At Home, But STILL Probably Shouldn't by Theodore Gray.  The title alone is enough to get anyone excited about this book!



I think any boy I've ever taught would grab this book off the shelf and dive right in! (Quite of few of the men I know would do the same...and then run to the hardware store for supplies....!) This book has amazing pictures and some really interesting scientific information. The non-fiction reader in your class would probably gobble it up. I think it's a little advanced for my Grade 3 class, but I've no doubt the boys would enjoy skimming through and exclaiming over the pictures and ideas. 

I would recommend that this book be in classroom libraries for grades 5 and up, and could be used as a suggestion for reluctant readers. It would also make an excellent addition to a non-fiction text features unit!

Next up we have, Just Grace and the Trouble with Cupcakes by Charise Maricle Harper. 


I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book! The cover is enticing and the title grabs the reader's attention. My two and half year old daughter was even intrigued by this book and we have sat down together to read a few pages here and there...and if a chapter book can hold the attention of a toddler that's saying something!

I would love (and plan to) to get more copies of this book and the rest of the books in the series. I think they would be a fantastic addition to my Grade 3 classroom library and to use for literature circles or novel studies. 

Harper's writing of Grace and her classmates is very realistic and positive. It shows the actual trials and tribulations of a grade 3 student (especially a girl) without seeming preachy or condescending. I also enjoy the pencil drawings (i.e. Diary of a Wimpy Kid) found throughout the book. The drawings and heading require the reader to delve a little deeper into the text on the page as they are a part of the story.

Just Grace and the Trouble with Cupcakes is about the school fair that Grace and her classmates have been assigned to plan by their teacher. Of course, they have to pick a theme which leads to a rift in Grace's friendship with her best friend, then she ends up in a group of kids she's not sure she likes and to top it off the visit from her Grandma does not go as planned. The students will enjoy reading how Grace handles these real-life student problems and be able to connect to their own experiences in the classroom.

This book is definitely a A!

The first book I read when the box arrived was Parched by Melanie Crowder. 


What a powerhouse!

This is the kind of book that makes me miss teaching the older kids...where was it 5 years ago when I taught Grade 7 and 8! For anyone with a social-justice focus in their class this is a must have book. I will admit though, it's a challenging read. For some students the vocabulary and story-telling from multiple perspectives might prove to be difficult. However, it would do well as a class read aloud or a lit circle book for more advanced readers.

If your curriculum involves water and conservation than Parched would be an excellent way to integrate your literacy and science curriculums. Here is the description from Thomas Allen & Son's website:

In this haunting, lyrical novel told from three perspectives, Sarel has just witnessed the violent murder of her parents. But she is not completely alone on the drought-ridden land. Nandi is the leader of a pack of dogs who looks out for her pups and for skinny Sarel-girl. Nandi knows they are all in trouble, and she knows, too, that a boy is coming—an escaped prisoner with the water song inside him. A hard-hitting but ultimately hopeful survival story.

This book drew me in from the first page (okay, the cover) and I just couldn't put it down. Imagine the conversations it could spark!

The last book in the package was The Ugly One by Leanne Statland Ellis. 


This is an interesting book...and yet, I'm not sure if I liked it.

Here's the description from Thomas Allen & Son:


I had always been ugly, as far back as I could remember.

Micay has a deep scar that runs like a river from her right eye to her lip. The boys in her Incan village bully her because of it, and most of the adults ignore her. So she keeps to herself and tries to hide the scar with her long hair, drawing comfort from her family and her faith in the Sun God, Inti. Then a stranger traveling from his jungle homeland to the Sacred Sun City at Machu Picchu gives her a baby macaw, and the path of her life changes. Perhaps she isn’t destined to be the Ugly One forever. Vivid storytelling and rich details capture the life and landscape of the Incan Empire as seen through the eyes of a young girl who is an outsider among her own people.

The content of the book are interesting and I like connections to a Cinderella type story but I had some trouble maintaining my focus while reading. The slightest noise or movement would draw my attention away from the book. 

With the changes that have taken place in the Ontario Social Studies curriculum this year I am not sure where this book could be placed most effectively for integration either. I think that for a good understanding the students reading this book would have to be at least Grade 6 or higher, perhaps an advanced Grade 5?

I do think it's worth looking into if the description intrigues you...the storyline is rich in detail and lends itself to a great deal of visualization. I would love to see student drawing's of Micay as part of a class art project.

This is one I'm just not sure about. It wasn't my cup of tea but I wouldn't say it wasn't interesting either. 

Have you read any good children's books recently? I'd love to hear about them. 

2 Brilliant Teaching Thoughts:

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