Saturday, November 28, 2015

Module 14: Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reverso Poems

Book Summary: This is a book of reverso poems: Poems that can be read both forward and backwards. All of these poems tell two sides of various fairy tales.

APA Reference: Singer, M. (2010). Mirror Mirror. London, England: Dutton Children's Books.

Impressions: A fun and fascinating read. While some poems are better than others, most are delightful and fresh. All the fairy tales are familiar, meaning very few who read this book will be lost to the meaning of the poems. The best poems are those where one way is the hero and the reverse is the villain--the highlight being Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf. 

Professional Review: This ingenious book of reversos, or poems which have one meaning when read down the page and perhaps an altogether different meaning when read up the page, toys with and reinvents oh-so-familiar stories and characters, from Cinderella to the Ugly Duckling. The five opening lines of the Goldilocks reverso read: “Asleep in cub’s bed / Blonde / startled by / Bears, / the headline read.” Running down the page side-by-side with this poem is a second, which ends with: “Next day / the headline read: / Bears startled / by blonde / asleep in cub’s bed.” The 14 pairs of poems—easily distinguished by different fonts and background colors—allow changes only in punctuation, capitalization, and line breaks, as Singer explains in an author’s note about her invented poetic form. “It is a form that is both challenging and fun—rather like creating and solving a puzzle.” Singer also issues an invitation for readers to try to write their own reversos on any topic. Matching the cleverness of the text, Masse’s deep-hued paintings create split images that reflect the twisted meaning of the irreverently witty poems and brilliantly employ artistic elements of form and shape—Cinderella’s clock on one side morphs to the moon on the other. A must-purchase that will have readers marveling over a visual and verbal feast.

Austin, P. (2010). Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reverso Poems (Book). [Review of the book Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reverso Poems, by Marilyn Singer]. Booklist, 106(9/10), 81.

Library Uses: Used during April's poetry month as an example of a type of poetry.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Module 13: Amulet: The Stonekeeper

Book Summary: The first book in a graphic novel series, Amulet: The Stonekeeper tells the story of a brother and sister named Emily and Navin. A few years after their father's death, they move to their great grandfather's remote home. While there, Emily discovers an old amulet. Her mom is quickly kidnapped by a monster, and Emily and Navin race after her to the rescue. After arriving in the parallel world, Emily discovers new powers, and the siblings find new friends, new dangers, and new responsibilities. 

APA Reference: Kibuishi, K. (2008). Amulet: The stonekeeper. New York, NY: Scholastic, Graphix.

Impressions: The artwork is great, reminiscent of a high-class manga style. The story is run-of-the-mill, at least at this point, but the characters are well written, and the action moves the book forward very quickly. Enough intrigue is left, as well, to make the reader want to continue on with the series to see what happens to the characters and to find out what is really going on.

Professional Review: Almost too clever and poignant, Amulet is, on the surface, about navigating the murky waters of adolescence and, beneath that, an exploration of abandonment and survival. Emily and Navin are lost children, literally lost in a dark, new world and struggling to save their mother, who has been kidnapped by a drooling, tentacled beast. With stellar artwork, imaginative character design, moody color and consistent pacing, this first volume's weakness lies in its largely disjointed storytelling. There is the strong, young, heroine; cute, furry, sidekicks; scary monsters--all extraordinary components, but pieced together in a patchwork manner. There is little hope in his dark world as Kibuishi removes Emily and Navin's frame of safety. Their hopes rest in a magic amulet that seems to be working in the interest of the children--until it suddenly isn't. The most frightening element of Amulet is the sense of insecurity we feel for Emily, fighting her way through uncharted terrain with no guide and no support system. This first volume of Amulet isn't a disappointment, but it does feel like a warmup to the main event. If anything, it's a clear indication that Kibuishi has just begun skimming the surface of his own talent.

Publishers Weekly. (2008). Amulet: The Stonekeeper (Book). [Review of the book Amulet: The Stonekeeper, by Kazu Kibuishi]. Publishers Weekly, 255(4), 48.

Library Uses: The book series could be used to get reluctant readers, particularly boys, interested in reading by discussing and going through it with them.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Module 12: Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science

Book Summary: Phineas Gage is a biography detailing the life of Phineas Gage, a railway foreman who has a steel pipe go through his brain and lived. However, it forever changed his personality. He became a major study in medicine and psychology. The way the brain works and is affected by outside stimulus has fascinated many, and Phineas was the perfect example to study.

APA Reference: Fleischman, J. (2002). Phineas Gage: A gruesome but true story about brain science. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin.

Impressions: A fascinating read about a fascinating case, Phineas Gage gives us details about the life of the man who forever changed brain science. One of the more interesting aspects of this book is actually the fact it's written in present tense, as if we are traveling through the life of Phineas Gage right now. There are also plenty of good pictures to show us various people involved as well as scientific explanation photographs

Professional Review: The fascinating story of the construction foreman who survived for 10 years after a 13-pound iron rod shot through his brain. Fleischman relates Gage's "horrible accident" and the subsequent events in the present tense, giving immediacy to the text. He avoids sensationalizing by letting the events themselves carry the impact. The straightforward description of Gage calmly chatting on a porch 30 minutes after the accident, for example, comes across as horrifying and amazing. The author presents scientific background in a conversational style and jumps enthusiastically into such related topics as phrenology, 19th-century medical practices, and the history of microbiology. He shows how Gage's misfortune actually played an intriguing and important role in the development of our knowledge of the brain. The present-tense narrative may cause occasional confusion, since it spans several time periods and dates are not always immediately apparent from the text. Illustrations include historical photographs; one showing the iron bar posed dramatically next to Gage's skull is particularly impressive. Other photos and diagrams help explain the workings of the brain. The work of Gage expert Malcolm Macmillan, cited in the list of resources, seems the likely main source for the quotes and details of Gage's life, but this is not clearly spelled out in the text or appendixes. Like Penny Colman's Corpses, Coffins, and Crypts (Holt, 1997) and James M. Deem's Bodies from the Bog (Houghton, 1998), Phineas Gage brings a scientific viewpoint to a topic that will be delightfully gruesome to many readers.

Engelfried, S. (2002). Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science (Book). [Review of the book Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science, by John Fleischman]. School Library Journal, 48(3), 247-248.

Library Uses: Used for a book talk regarding strong biographies for older elementary-aged children.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Module 11: An Egg is Quiet

Book Summary: With various illustrations of dozens and dozens of egg types next to informational text, this book gives a multitude of information about different eggs and why they are the way they are.

APA Reference: Aston, D. (2006). An egg is quiet. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books.

Impressions: A superficial though fascinating look at the different types of eggs, An Egg is Quiet is an informational picture book for almost any age. There is not much depth or function to it outside of learning different egg styles and reasons behind it, along with what animals go with which eggs. 

Professional Review: This beautifully illustrated introduction to eggs resembles pages drawn from a naturalist's diary. The text, scrolled out in elegant brown ink, works on two levels. Larger print makes simple observations that, read together, sound almost like poetry: "An egg is quiet. . . . An egg is colorful. An egg is shapely." On each spread, words in smaller print match up with illustrations to offer more facts about bird and fish eggs across the animal spectrum. The illustrations are too detailed for read-alouds, but there's a great deal here to engage children up close. The succinct text will draw young fact hounds, particularly fans of Steve Jenkins' Biggest, Strongest, Fastest (1995) and his similar titles. Long's illustrations are elegant and simple, and the gallery of eggs, as brilliantly colored and polished as gems, will inspire kids to marvel at animals' variety and beauty. A spread showing X-ray views of young embryos growing into animal young makes this a good choice for reinforcing concepts about life cycles.

Engberg, G. (2006). An Egg is Quiet (Book). [Review of the book An Egg is Quiet, by Dianna Aston]. Booklist, 102(16), 48.

Library Uses: This book would be used for younger kids branching them over from picture books to non-fiction.