Space Case (Moon Base Alpha) by Stuart Gibbs

Looking for a book for tweens or boys? The protagonist is Dash, a twelve-year-old, living on the moon with his family in the first colony from earth to make the moon their home. In between narrating about the horrendous bathrooms and the tasteless food, Dash reveals that he thinks a death of an older scientist was not an accident. When he approaches the head of the colony and his parents, they tell him that they think he is wrong and that he should drop it. They think the scientist had mental issues and that he caused his own accidental death. Things get more complicated when a Zan, a mysterious woman who says she’s working with the space agency, arrives on the shipment rocket and tells Dash that he is on target and to continue investigating secretly. She can’t be seen with him, but she will make contact with him when she can. Other characters give some good laughs with food flying through the air and fights with moon gravity allowing the victims to literally rise above the bullies. One family is there because they paid billions to be in the first colony. They and their children are obnoxious and create some interesting situations for the other kids and adults.

This is a great science fiction read that is entertaining for all ages. The science parts of the story seem like what it could really be like to live on the moon some day. Nothing is perfect, but the moon colonists must not complain or tell the nitty gritty or funding could be lost. Phone calls to earth can be made, and the kids are required to make video logs to share with the world as everyone is watching the real life reality show set on the moon. I couldn’t put it down. The ending was a surprise and I can’t wait to read the sequel.

Hansel & Gretel: A Fairy Tale with a Down Syndrome Twist by Jewel Kats and Claudia Marie Lenart

This version of Hansel and Gretel is told with a new perspective as Hansel takes the lead in finding his family some food to eat. The parents send the children to look for food. Hansel’s mother has been very protective of him, not allowing him to venture off much on his own. Most of the action occurs when Hansel, who has Down Syndrome, runs away from his sister and discovers the witch’s candy house. He makes a deal with the witch by holding her broom as hostage until his demands are met. Once met, he befriends the witch. His caring gesture of offering to become a friend to her leads to the witch’s spell being broken and she becomes a princess. The author shows Hansel as more than Down Syndrome. The text reveals that he is a child, a brother, a son, and now a friend to Mirella, the witch, and the reader can infer that Hansel is capable of a much richer life and doesn’t need to be protected so much. The interesting artwork is rendered with fibers.

Jenny & Her Dog both Fight Cancer: A Tale of Chemotherapy and Caring by Jewel Kats and Claudia Marie Lenart

The tough topic of cancer is approached from a child’s point of view. The book begins with Jenny finding out that her dog has cancer. They are there for each other as they both fight to live because Jenny also has cancer. Jenny feels like everything’s a blur when she hears about her dog, Dolly. The illustrator depicts the images in a blur as well. Fuzzy illustrations using fibers such as yarn as the medium support the text as the two feel the fuzzy insecurities of what might happen in the future. The vet explains to Jenny that he can only try to make Dolly comfortable and cannot cure the cancer. As the story progresses Jenny’s hair falls out, but in the end, her cancer is cured. Dolly’s movements slow and she sleeps more, and at the end, she passes away as Jenny is with her. This heartbreaking story is realistic, and for children facing cancer or the death of a pet, I think this book will be a supporting tool. Parents can read the book to help children begin to express their own feelings about going through traumatic experiences.

Ah Ha! by Jeff Mack

Schema: Frogs, ponds

Inferring: What a fantastic book to use when teaching inferences! Almost wordless, except for the, “ah ha’s,”  the reader must infer the story and the tone of each “ah ha” by looking at the illustrations.

“Aahh!” infers pure happiness and joy as the little frog sits on a rock in the pond. Next a child captures the frog in a jar as a dog grins a happy “Ah Ha!” as it gotcha!

The frog is shown yelling “aahh!” as the boy pours him out of the jar. I infer the frog is a little frightened at this point.

Frog sighs with relief, “ah ha!” as he climbs on the back of a turtle, and the reader can infer that the frog may be thinking he is on a rock like in the beginning of the story.

The turtle pops his head out of the water with an “ah ha!” that may mean dinner!

Frog escapes with an, “aaahh!” before he’s eaten by the turtle.

Frog happily lands on what he infers to be a log with a relieved, “ah ha!” only to find he is on the back of an alligator who is thinking, “ah ha!” We can infer the alligator is thinking about a snack.

Just before the alligator’s teeth snap shut on the frog, he jumps away with an, “aahh!” of fear.

At this point, even the youngest reader is inferring that what the frog lands on is not a blade of grass. Maybe it’s a snake? But no, now he’s landed on the leg of a hungry flamingo whose beak is open with a yummy, “ah ha!” The frog is too quick for the flamingo as he jumps away just in time for the flamingo to bite his own leg with a painful, “aahh!” As three predators chase the frog, he once again finds himself inside the child’s jar, but we can infer he’s not too unhappy about it since he’s being saved from the turtle, flamingo, and the alligator. The child exclaims an excited “ah ha!” as he admires his catch in the jar. As the child is walking away with the frog in the jar, frog says, “ha ha” to his predators. Can we infer taunting?

The lid falls off of the jar as the child is walking so the frog says “ah ha,” as he finds his freedom once more, and says a relaxing, “aahh!” as he lounges in the pond once again.

Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams & Khadra Mohammed

Schema: Sharing, friendship

The story is set in a refugee camp in Pakistan. Two girls, age ten, meet as they both get one each of a pair of sandals dropped off by a relief truck. The next day, Lina gives Feroza the sandal. Feroza suggests they share taking turns each day. The girls share their experiences of losing family and the sacrifices of being refugees and develop a caring friendship. They shared their hopes for finding a new home. They recognize the beginning of Ramadan.

Characterization: Lina and Feroza were both compassionate and caring, and both have a desire to learn. Although they were not allowed to go to school with the boys, they would listen by the window and practice writing in the dirt.

Symbolism: The sandals represented hope for finding each other in America some day. Each girl kept one as they parted.

Realistic Fiction: The story is based on real experiences in a refugee camp and can help readers to feel compassion for others who are homeless and immigrating into another country.

Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution by Pat Miller

Schema: New Year’s Resolutions

Summary: Squirrel hears about New Year’s Resolutions on the radio, but doesn’t know what it means until she goes to the library to ask Bear. When she understands what it means she plans to make one, but keeps getting distracted because her friends need help with various things. At the end, Rabbit points out to her that her resolution must be to help others. Rabbit tells Squirrel that her “actions speak louder than words.”

Fable: This book could be used as an example of a modern-day fable since all the characters are animals and the book does have a good lesson to teach.

Idioms: Actions speak louder than words.

Theme: Be kind

¡Hola! Let’s Learn Spanish: Visit New Places and Make New Friends by Judy Martialay

Meet Panchito, a Mexican jumping bean, and enjoy a story that blends English and Spanish into a story that is a great read aloud. The author inserts Spanish words throughout the story and either explains the word or uses it in a context that children can interpret on their own. Panchito is looking for friends, but also has to escape some situations that he doesn’t like such as being cooked in pot of beans and being a prize in a Piñata!

Readers are given instructions about how to practice some Spanish terms and phrases with a short play and a song. A weekly chart to keep up with practice is also included. Crafts, such as how to make a mask, are also included as part of the information about the culture of Mexico. A map of Mexico supports the text.

The cartoon-like illustrations are full color and support the text. The paperback book is printed on heavy, slick paper. The author includes a website for the audio version of the book and more activities.

Parents and teachers seeking books to introduce Spanish to young listeners will enjoy Panchito’s adventure.

The Gift of Reading

What will reading for twenty minutes a day do for children? What a great chart and comparison table! When you think about the investment in time, why not model reading at the same time your kids are reading? Imagine the impact of that over the years, and to make it even better, begin a dialogue about what you are reading and what they are reading. Talking about reading is something that makes thinking visible to kids by showing them how good readers think while reading. For young readers to be able to share how what they are reading impacts their thinking is a great way to help them synthesize what they have read. So many times in reading with children, I have had aha moments that I would not have had if I had not been sharing my thinking about what we were reading together. To give a child the gift of time by listening to them with your full attention and responding to their thinking is priceless. How lucky am I that I am an elementary school librarian!

Picture of Grace by Josh Armstrong

Schema: spending time with grandparents, death, painting and art

Inference: The reader must infer that Grandpa Walt died

Characterization: The evil Delilah is greedy and rude. It would be fun to list all of her traits and find supporting evidence from the text.

Main Idea: Grandpa Walt was a famous painter and had made a deal with an art dealer named Delilah to provide a painting for her gallery. He wasn’t finishing it fast enough to suit her so she was angry. Grandpa shares with Grace that his work is rewarding, but also stressful.

Theme: Enjoy your career for how it makes you feel and don’t try to please everyone.

Point of View: The death of Grace’s grandfather is viewed with sadness by Grace and her mother, but his death is viewed as a way to make more money on his paintings by an art investor.

Summary: Grace makes the point that his painting is a way to remember him and how much he loved her when she paints herself and her grandfather into his unfinished painting. Her mother says she did not ruin the painting, but completed it, just like spending time with her grandfather completed his life. This book is a sweet one to introduce the idea of death to primary aged children. The caricature paintings show the emotions of all the characters. Taylor Bills’ full color illustrations support the text very well. The evil character, Delilah, adds a little humor to the story and the illustrations of her sharp features support her evil traits. The reader will understand the sadness of death and the joy of remembrance through Armstrong’s story. The unexpected death of a grandparent is something to which many children will relate.

A copy of the book was provided to me by the author with a request to review the book.

Pursuit of the Magic Piece by Jeanne Chenge

Pursuit of the Magic PiecePursuit of the Magic Piece What a fun and original way to introduce the idea of nutrition to young children! Kye, a young boy, is playing with his toys and his dog, when his dog suddenly runs away with the magic piece that makes the robot he is building work. Kye begins to chase his dog and runs into a garden where the vegetables engage him in conversation about the magic piece they have to make people stronger, better, faster and smarter. The story is charming and the plot entertains while also sharing expository text about how the vitamins interact with the body. The illustrations are detailed and will help young children visualize how food helps their body to be healthy. The illustrations are full color and convey all the emotions Kye feels as he is playing, chasing, worrying, and understanding from beginning to end of this fast paced story. The end pages include healthy recipes that children and parents could make together.

This would be a wonderful book to share with caregivers of young children. Older children might want to Google the vegetables they like or dislike to research what benefits they have to the body. We have a choice about what we eat, and this little picture book will instill a purpose for eating and may help children to make more thoughtful choices about what they put into their growing bodies.