Friday, October 30, 2015

Module 10: Tomas and the Library Lady

Book Summary: Tomas is an immigrant child who works on farms with his family both in Texas and Iowa. One summer in Iowa, he befriends a local librarian who introduces him to the world of reading, changing his life forever.

APA Reference: Mora, P. (1997). Tomas and the library lady. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

Impressions: What Tomas and the Library Lady has going for it best is its intermittent use of Spanish and English in order to teach Spanish language words. The story itself is alright if not underdeveloped. There is not much going on except for a boy reading a book about dinosaurs at a library and then to his migrant family. Based on a true story, there seems to be much more going on in the real version than in the children's book, as the fact Tomas excelled in life and education is far more interesting than the story given here.

Professional Review: A charming, true story about the encounter between the boy who would become chancellor at the University of California at Riverside and a librarian in Iowa. Tom†s Rivera, child of migrant laborers, picks crops in Iowa in the summer and Texas in the winter, traveling from place to place in a worn old car. When he is not helping in the fields, Tom†s likes to hear Papa Grande's stories, which he knows by heart. Papa Grande sends him to the library downtown for new stories, but Tom†s finds the building intimidating. The librarian welcomes him, inviting him in for a cool drink of water and a book. Tom†s reads until the library closes, and leaves with books checked out on the librarian's own card. For the rest of the summer, he shares books and stories with his family, and teaches the librarian some Spanish. At the end of the season, there are big hugs and a gift exchange: sweet bread from Tom†s's mother and a shiny new book from the librarianto keep. Col¢n's dreamy illustrations capture the brief friendship and its life-altering effects in soft earth tones, using round sculptured shapes that often depict the boy right in the middle of whatever story realm he's entered. 

Kirkus Reviews. (1997). Tomas and the Library Lady (Book). [Review of the book Tomas and the Library Lady, by Pat Mora]. Kirkus Reviews, Retrieved from

Library Uses: This book could be used to help bilingual or higher-level ESL students transition into reading English more.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Module 9: The Dollhouse Murders

Book Summary: Amy is your typical 12-year-old girl who just wants to hang out with friends or be alone. She definitely does not want to be with her mentally handicapped sister, Louann, who annoys her endlessly. One day, though, at her great grand-parents' house, Amy finds a dollhouse in the attic that continues to show her the crime scene of her great grand-parents' murder from thirty years prior. Eventually, with the help of her friend and her sister, Amy attempts to solve what really happened all those years ago and what is trying to fix things using that dollhouse now.

APA Reference: Wright, B.R. (1983). The dollhouse murders. New York: Scholastic, Inc.

Impressions: Giving what is a very clever concept, The Dollhouse Murders excels on creativity and concept. However, while many have praised the book for its thrills and suspense, the dry writing style left a lot wanting. The characters were not interesting and were more often than not annoying. For a mystery or thriller to work, the characters have to be engaging--the reader needs to feel attached in order to want them to solve the case or make it through to the end of the story successfully. Despite the clever concept, this book did not leave much in terms of engagement.

Professional Review: Amy arranges to spend a few days alone with her Aunt Clare in the home once owned by her great grand-parents. She is particularly relieved to have some time for herself, free of having to care for her retarded sister, Louann. When she discovers an exquisite dollhouse in the attic, an exact replica of the family home, her aunt is unenthusiastic about her find and furious when she sees the placement of the dolls; years ago her grandparents had been murdered and the figures are now where the police found them the night of the crime. She accuses her niece of insensitivity in reproducing the scene, but the girl denies responsibility for moving the dolls. An emergency at home means Louann must also stay at Clare's and at first Amy is angry at having her plans to be alone shattered, but then the two girls discover the solution to the terrible crime. The combination of a beautiful, fascinating dollhouse, dark family secrets, ghostly events, danger and suspense are all sufficient to make this a likely choice for escape reading--Karen Harris, Department of Library Science, University of New Orleans

Harris, K., & Gerhardt, L.N. (1983). The Dollhouse Murders (Book). [Review of the book The Dollhouse Murders, by Betty Ren Wright]. School Library Journal, 30(3), 84-85.

Library Uses: Focusing on story prediction skills, use this book to try and figure out the ending based on the clues earlier on.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Module 8: The Forest of Hands and Teeth

Book Summary: In this post-apocalyptic horror/romance, Mary lives in a village surrounded by a fence that holds out the Unconsecrated--zombies. As things often do in these types of stories, everything goes south quickly for Mary when her mother is bitten, and then Mary gets stuck in the workings of a dystopian-esque society. With a love triangle and a journey into the dangerous and unknown, Mary ends up having to face the forest of hands and teeth, which is where all the zombies reside.

APA Reference: Ryan, C. (2009). The forest of hands and teeth. New York: Delacorte Press.

Impressions: Zombies are incredibly popular in this day and age, and there is a high standard of quality that goes with the genre when it comes to serious attempts. At the same time, dystopians and love triangles are also incredibly popular, at least in the young adult world, and the standard of quality there is not so high. Fortunately, Ryan does more than just meet in the middle. Her writing style is gripping, mysterious, and suspenseful. The fact the book is written in first person, present tense allows an extra fear factor that anything could happen and the main character could potentially die, as well--something that cannot happen when writing in past tense, and something that's far more personal than third person. Overall, this has a lot of elements young adults look for in supernatural fiction and easily appeals to the target demographic.

Professional Review: Gr 9 Up-- Mary knows little about the past and why the world now contains two types of people: those in her village and the undead outside the fence, who prey upon the flesh of the living. The Sisters protect their village and provide for the continuance of the human race. After her mother is bitten and joins the Unconsecrated, Mary is sent to the Sisters to be prepared for marriage to her friend Harry. But then the fences are breached and the life she has known is gone forever. Mary; Harry; Travis, whom Mary loves but who is betrothed to her best friend; her brother and his wife; and an orphaned boy set out into the unknown to search for safety, answers to their questions, and a reason to go on living. In this sci-fi/horror novel, the suspense that Ryan has created from the very first page on entices and tempts readers so that putting the book down is not an option. The author skillfully conceals and reveals just enough information to pique curiosity while also maintaining an atmosphere of creepiness that is expected in a zombie story. Some of the descriptions of death and mutilation of both the Unconsecrated and the living are graphic. The story is riveting, even though it leaves a lot of questions to be explained in the sequel.

Banna, D. (2009). The Forest of Hands and Teeth (Book). [Review of the book The Forest of Hands and Teeth, by Carrie Ryan]. School Library Journal, 55(5), 117-118.

Library Uses: Headlining a zombie/monster display for Halloween.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Module 7: Because of Winn-Dixie

Book Summary: During a Florida summer, 10-year-old Opal finds a stray dog she names Winn-Dixie, after the store she found it in. Over the summer, Winn-Dixie helps Opal meet the townspeople--since she recently moved there and has no friends. She meets and befriends the local librarian and an older woman the neighborhood boys think is a witch. She also struggles to accept her mother's abandonment.

APA Reference: DiCamillo, K. (2000). Because of Winn-Dixie. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.

Impressions: Because of Winn-Dixie is a simplistically written book that attempts to be more like To Kill a Mockingbird than it is. The characters are straight-forward and mostly flat, with a few exceptions--such as Opal herself and her father. The other characters share their backstories, which mainly serves as the nearly non-existent plot of the book. This is a book more focused on introducing characters than it is about telling a story. However, the morals here are strong, dealing with abandonment and acceptance--whether that is acceptance of a personal loss or accepting others who were written off too quickly. Because of this, it is a good book for younger readers who are attempting to transition from easy chapter books to more difficult fare. 

Professional Review: Gr 4-6 --India Opal Buloni, 10, finds a big, ugly, funny dog in the produce department of a Winn-Dixie grocery store. She names him accordingly and takes him home to meet her father, a preacher. Her daddy has always told her to help those less fortunate, and surely Winn-Dixie is in need of a friend. Opal needs one, too. Since moving to Naomi, FL, she has been lonely and has been missing her mother more than usual. When she asks her father to tell her 10 things about her mother, who left the family when Opal was three, she learns that they both have red hair, freckles, and swift running ability. And, like her mother, Opal likes stories. She collects tales to tell her mother, hoping that she'll have a chance to share them with her one day. These stories are lovingly offered one after another as rare and polished gems and are sure to touch readers' hearts. They are told in the voice of this likable Southern girl as she relates her day-to-day adventures in her new town with her beloved dog. Do libraries need another girl-and-her-dog story? Absolutely, if the protagonist is as spirited and endearing as Opal and the dog as lovable and charming as Winn-Dixie. This well-crafted, realistic, and heartwarming story will be read and reread as a new favorite deserving a long-term place on library shelves.

James, H.F. (2000). Because of Winn-Dixie (Book). [Review of the book Because of Winn-Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo]. School Library Journal, 46(6), 143.

Library Uses: This can be taught with a lesson on Newbery books and why students think is the reason it might have won.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Module 6: The Day the Crayons Quit

Book Summary: The book is about a child's crayons that one day decide to petition and complain about how they are either overworked or underused.

APA Reference: Daywalt, D. (2013). The day the crayons quit. New York: Philomel Books.

Impressions: The Day the Crayons Quit is a humorous look at anthropomorphic crayons who feel fed up with their current situations. Most of the crayons feel either over- or under- worked. Some of them, interestingly, become fed up with each other and request help to get the other crayons to stop complaining or bickering. The book is a fun take on why a child's plaything would get upset like people would. Each crayon has its own personality that matches its color and why it would be disgruntled. This is definitely a book to recommend for elementary-aged kids.

Professional Review: Although the crayons in this inventive catalogue stop short of quitting, most feel disgruntled. The rank and file express their views in letters written to a boy, Duncan. Red complains of having to “work harder than any of your other crayons” on fire trucks and Santas; a beige crayon declares, “I’m tired of being called ‘light brown’ or ‘dark tan’ because I am neither.” White feels “empty” from Duncan’s white-on-white coloring, and a “naked” Peach wails, “Why did you peel off my paper wrapping?” Making a noteworthy debut, Daywalt composes droll missives that express aggravation and aim to persuade, while Jeffers’s (This Moose Belongs to Me) crayoned images underscore the waxy cylinders’ sentiments: each spread features a facsimile of a letter scrawled, naturally, in the crayon’s hue; a facing illustration evidences how Duncan uses the crayon, as in a picture of a giant elephant, rhino, and hippo (Gray laments, “That’s a lot of space to color in all by myself”). These memorable personalities will leave readers glancing apprehensively at their own crayon boxes. Ages 3–7. Author’s agent: Jeff Dwyer, Dwyer & O’Grady. (June)

Publishers Weekly. (2013). The Day the Crayons Quit (Book). [Review of the book The Day the Crayons Quit, by Drew Daywalt]. Publishers Weekly, 44.

Library Uses: This book could be used in conjunction with a lesson to humanize other inanimate objects and talk about what they might complain or be upset about.