Thursday, December 8, 2011




Summary: Miss Brooks Likes Books (And I don’t) is a story about a young girl searching for a book that fits her. Miss Brooks, the school librarian, has asked that all the students find a book that they enjoy and share it with the class dressed as a character from the book. Though there are many different stories to choose from, Missy can’t seem to find anything as opposed to the other children who love the assignment and present their stories in full costume. Finally, the girl discusses the issue with her mother and they, together with Miss Brooks, find a book that makes her want to read and even dress up.

Citation:  Bottner, B. (2010). Miss brooks likes books (and I don’t). New York, NY:

Knopf Books for Young Readers. 

Impression: This book really resonated with me, because helping reluctant readers find a book that they actually want to read is the best part of my job as a youth services’ librarian. The illustrations are fun and filled with small details just waiting to be explored. The reader can recognize the references to other beloved children’s classic books in the costumes and this can spark young readers to want to explore those books as well. The main character is slightly androgynous and this helps the impact not be diminished on either gender. The character is also delightfully real and makes the book the success it is.


Lukehart, W. (2010, February). Miss brooks loves books [Review of the book Miss brooks likes

books (and I don’t), by B. Bottner]. School Library Journal, 76. Available from School Library

Journal website:

All children need a librarian like Miss Brooks. Her love for reading flows from every fiber of her lanky, quirky self. When not happily immersed in one of the colorful choices from the mountains of books surrounding her, she is dressed as Babar, a Chinese dragon, or a groundhog her puppet-clad arm popping through a hole on the page. She shares stories with a diverse group of young people, and all are captivated except for one. This first-grade narrator believes Miss Brooks is a little too enthusiastic to the point of being "vexing." During Book Week's student presentations, the overall-clad girl with large, round spectacles and a woolen beanie finds the other kids' books "too flowery. Too furry. Too clickety. Too yippity." When her mother observes that she is as "stubborn as a wart," interest is aroused, Shrek is discovered in the pile supplied by the librarian, and the transformation begins. An ogre costume and stick-on warts for the whole class complete the conversion to bibliophile. Children will delight in Emberley's spirited watercolor and ink renderings of literary favorites from The Very Hungry Caterpillar to a Wild Thing. Bottner's deadpan humor and delicious prose combine with Emberley's droll caricatures to create a story sure to please those who celebrate booksand one that may give pause to those who don't (or who work with the latter).

Idaho has a family reading week each year and this book would be a great one to plan an early literacy event around. The program could begin with the book being read aloud to the group, many of which could reluctant readers, and then the librarian could have pulled the other books referenced in Miss Brooks, like Shrek. It could also be part of a display on themes of literacy, libraries or books in general. The display could consist of other simple and fun books that appeal to reluctant readers. This would also be a great book recommendation for any parent struggling to find a great read for a reluctant reader.




Summary: This picture book focuses on a lesson about giving of one’s self through the tale of Rainbow Fish, the most beautiful fish in the entire ocean. This fish swims along in its beautiful state but remains alone because it can’t be bothered with other fish that are not physically as attractive as it is. Other fish play and swim together, but the Rainbow Fish is alone and eventually lonely. However, other fish soon ask him to share his beautiful rainbow scales. At first the answer is a definite no; then on some advice from a wise octopus, the fish shares his beauty with other fish and receives the acceptance it has been looking for.

Citation:  Pfister, M. (1992). Rainbow fish. New York, NY: North-South Books.

Impression: This book is a beautifully illustrated moral tale that leaves me feeling two different impressions. First, the quiet watercolors are the perfect backdrop for the simple underwater tale. The point, as I am sure it was intended, is to promote sharing and giving of one’s self. In this way, the story is charming and a good read for small children. On the other hand, as an adult reader, I recognize the fact that the fish is not just giving its time or effort, but is physically removing a part of its self and these parts are worn as decoration of the other fish. I found this imagery to be slightly disturbing.

Fader, E. (1992, November). Rainbow fish [Review of the book Rainbow fish, M. Pfister]. School 
 Library Journal, . Available from School Library Journal website:

Children will be immediately drawn to this book that features an iridescent, metallic-looking main character whose ``scales were every shade of blue and green and purple, with sparkling silver scales among them.'' Adult suspicions of the gimmick overwhelming the story quickly fade as the plot unfolds: none of the other fish will have anything to do with the Rainbow Fish, who always swims by superciliously and refuses to give away any of his special garb. He is lonely and without admirers until a wise female octopus advises him to give away his scales. Rainbow Fish then discovers that sharing brings happiness and acceptance. The delicate watercolors of underwater scenes are a perfect foil to the glittering scales that eventually form a part of each fish's exterior. This is certainly a story written to convey a message, but in its simplicity, it recalls the best of Lionni. Besides, what three-year-old doesn't need reinforcement about sharing?

 I think that this would be an excellent book to use in a display about ocean life for younger readers. The illustrations are particularly well done and evocative.  This could also be used as a recommendation to a parent looking for a book to help a child understand sharing, especially in the instance of welcoming a new sibling into the family.




Summary: This book is the story of young Marco and the assignment his father has given him to look for interesting sites to and from school. Marco only sees boring things, like a horse and wagon. Fortunately, Marco also has an impressive imagination.  He imagines the horse to a zebra, then an elephant. He takes each boring site and imagines how much more interesting it would be if… and proceeds to fill in the blanks until he has seen such amazing things on such a mundane street.


Seuss, T. (1989). And to think that I saw it on mulberry street. New York, NY:

Random House Books for Young Readers.

Impression: This is a great story about the wonders of imagination and storytelling itself. The illustrations are typical Dr. Seuss, colorful and exciting correlating with the increasingly wonderful sites that Marco has designed. I love Dr. Seuss and this book is no different in its effect on the reader. It is also infinitely re-readable.

 [Review of the book And to think that I saw it on mulberry street, by T. Seuss]. (1989). Available

from Horn Book website:

As little Marco describes the horse and wagon he saw on Mulberry Street, they are transformed into an elephant and a band wagon with a retinue of police. "A fresh, inspiring picture-story book with an appeal to
the child's imagination.

Uses: This book would a great starter for a story time on imagination. It could be followed by an activity where children are given a mundane image and from that create an entire exciting story either through words or art. This is also a good book that could be used in a program for the celebration of Dr. Seuss’s birthday or as part of the display.




Summary: The Cat Ate My Gymsuit is the tale of young Marcy Lewis who desperately wishes to be normal. Verbally abused by her father, overweight Marcy has severe self-esteem issues. Just when she thinks this will be her life forever, she gets a new English teacher, Ms Finney. Ms. Finney is outspoken, opinionated and interested in helping her students really learn: about English, the world and themselves. When Ms. Finney is caught up in a school controversy that leads to her suspension, Marcy and many of her other students organize to fight against the administration for Ms. Finney’s position.  She starts makes friends and defies her abusive father’s will. In the course of their battle, Marcy begins to understand who she really is and to stand up for herself in her fight to save Ms. Finney.

Citation: Danziger, P. (1982). The cat ate my gymsuit. New York, NY: Laurel Leaf


Impression:  I enjoyed this book’s tale of the girl who overcame the obstacles in her life: her father, her school administration, and most importantly, herself. Marcy is portrayed as a typical teenager suffering from self-esteem issues and is accordingly a little depressed. The writing reflects this. Even when Marcy and her mother stand up to her father in the fight against the school administration, the father still is unchanged and degrades them both. I think that the father is an interesting plot device, rather than a dynamic character. Marcy begins to make friends; however, if she had just looked outside of herself she would have seen the people willing to befriend her long ago. This book is still relevant, but it has aged  and the young readers that would benefit most from the read will not recognize a world without the internet and cell phones.


 [Review of the book The Cat Ate My Gymsuit, by P. Danzinger.]. (1998, Semptember). BookPage Reviews. Available

from BookPage website:

Paula Danziger knows that being a kid is not necessarily the "best years of your life," and for almost 25 years, she's been helping kids get through those years with her humorous and realistic novels for 6-to-14-year-olds. The Cat Ate My Gymsuit first published in 1974, set the standard now expected by young readers with its story of Marcy Lewis, an overweight, somewhat shy, junior-high girl who takes up the cause of her suspended English teacher.
The marvel is that Danziger's stories are still so current - no out-of-date slang or situations.Kids may know Danziger's character, Amber Brown, best, but Marcy Lewis, Matthew Martin, and Aurora Berealus Williams also bring nods of recognition. Their popularity stems from the way Danziger treats their serious, at least to them, problems with brisk vigor and humor. Finding a pimple, breaking up with a best friend, and fighting with parents or a sibling happen throughout the years, and Danziger paints such catastrophes in a mix of sympathy and humor. Having been "a fat little girl who had a younger brother, hated school, and felt like a misfit at home," she has plenty of experience to draw from. For several years she was a teacher herself. Then two car accidents within a year forced her to turn to another vocation, and, lucky for readers, writing was it.
Danziger has mastered the craft of middle-grade novel as well as adopting the costume and manner that appeal to kids. She stays in touch with her regular visits to schools and book fairs. Her latest schedule calls for a visit to a very special school, the winner of the contest described at right.

Uses:  I think that this would be a good book to use in a book club for a comparison of a similar story set in modern times.  For example, The Fatboy Chronicles by Diane Lang could be a great contrasting book for the gender and time period. This book could also be used to discuss student’s rights as this is another issue in the book.




SummaryKitten’s First Full Moon is the tale of a very small kitten searching for an elusive bowl of milk. The bowl of milk is actually the full moon and its various reflections. The kitten attempts to lick the moon and merely gets a bug in her mouth for her effort. She follows the moon and eventually finds the reflection of the moon in the lake. In her attempt to get to the milk, she falls into the water and is very cross. Disappointed, she finds her way home and sees that there is an actual bowl of milk waiting for her.


Henkes, K. (2004). Kitten’s first full moon. New York, NY: Greenwillow Books.

Impression:  Kitten’s First Full Moon is an adorable tale that makes the reader cheer for the kitten as she finally gets the milk. The pencil black and white illustrations are amazing in their ability to convey a moonlit night. The kitten’s attempts to get her treat are sweet and amusing. The book is very simple but also worthy of its Caldecott title.


Beach, D. r. (2004, October) [Book review of Kitten’s first full moon, by K. Henkes.]. Library Media

Connections. Available from the Library Media Connections website:

Unlike any other book Kevin Henkes has written, this one stands simply but strongly on a single character, Kitten-no Lily, Owen, Julius, or Chrysanthemum here. Bold brush strokes give form to simple b&w drawings, contrasting the darkness of night with the whiteness of Kitten, the moon, and the milk. Henkes tells of Kitten's quest for a bowl of milk to drink and coming up short each time. The ending harks back to Max in Where the Wild Things Are (Harper & Row, 1963) when he arrives home and finds supper waiting. Preschool students will enjoy Kitten's episodic journey as they chime in "Poor Kitten" each time she can't get her bowl of milk. Readers addicted to Henkes' mouse community will find it hard to give Kitten her deserved space. Recommended.

Uses: I have used this book in a storytime about cats and kittens. It is always a great opener and the audience is simply charmed. It could also be used in a booktalk for younger readers about storytimes and programs at the library. It is funny, poignant and a quick read so it is perfect for many occasions in or outside of the library.




Summary: The Little House is the story of small house through the years and transitions of land surrounding the house. The house begins as the home for a family in the country filled with fields and apple orchards. As the seasons pass, the reader can see the city lights moving closer and closer to the little house. Roads appear as the apple trees disappear. The house gets older and the finally is surrounded by the city’s oppressive presence. Then the little house is recognized as simple, country home and is uprooted and moved back to the country where the house feels a sense of belonging.

Impression: This book is so simple in its telling but it delivers an impact to the reader. The environmental themes are very apparent but I think the more subtle story about family is interesting. The illustrations are again, simple, and quiet like the little house itself.


Burton, V. (1987). The little house. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Books for



 [Review of the book The Little House, by V. Burton]. (2002, October). PW Reveiws, 2. Available from

Publishers Weekly website:

The author of Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and her works feature in a group of fall titles. Virginia Lee Burton's Caldecott Medal-winning The Little House, about a cozy country home that passes through the seasons, becomes engulfed by urban sprawl and is subsequently restored to a suitably rural setting, now appears in a 60th anniversary edition. A special bellyband bedecks the hardcover and a citation graces the paperback edition.

Uses: This would be a great book to pair up with Mo Willem’s City Dog, Country Frog in a discussion of the differences between the two areas. This story time could then have matching activity with several objects like a subway and tractor; then the children could match them to the area in which it belongs.  It could also be part of a program or a display about being green and environmentally conscious. 




Summary:  The Hero and the Crown is a coming-of-age story that details the life of the young Princess Aerin as she comes to terms with her destiny. Aerin is the only child of the king of Damar and her mother died giving birth to her.  Aerin struggles to fit in as rumors of her mother’s supernatural talents force her to lead the life of an unconventional princess. Unbeknownst to her, she has inherited her mother’s strange powers and will have to use them to defeat the evil that is threatening her kingdom. With the guidance of a supernatural being known as Luthe, Aerin will have to learn to use the Blue Sword and become the leader of a nation

McKinley, R. (1987). The hero and the crown. Logan, IA: Perfection Learning.

Impression: I thoroughly enjoyed this book and grew to love Aerin and Luthe as great characters. There is a reason that this book won the Newbery Medal; it is a bildungsroman that almost anyone can relate to, young or old. The reader can see themselves in the story and the tough choices that Aerin has to make. It is superbly written fantasy that had me looking for and reading the following book, The Blue Sword.

[Review of the book The hero and the crown, R. McKinley]. n.d. School Library

Journal. Available from the School Library Journal website:

Splendid high fantasy... filled with tender moments, good characters, satisfying action and sparkling dialogue... superb!

[Review of the book The hero and the crown]. n.d. Horn Book . Available from the Horn

Book  website:

Vibrant, witty, compelling, the story is the stuff of which true dreams are made.

Uses: The Hero and the Crown is a great book for many ages and could be used as a book club feature on fantasy books or Newbery winners. As part of the book club program bildungsroman or the coming age novel could also be the focus and the book could be discussed with that in mind. Also, many epic fantasy novels are being made into movies; the book club members could create a simply storyboards for their favorite scene in the book.




Summary: This book begins with a young Harriet praying for respite from being sold down river away from her husband. Tubman is told the true meaning of freedom and the religious themes continue throughout the book as the dialogue moves between her and God. Tubman follows these instructions and eventually makes her painful journey to Philadelphia. But it is not enough that Tubman, herself is free. She knows that all African Americans are meant to be free and sets out to complete the task. The illustrations bold colors are contrasted by the many dark, night scenes as Tubman symbolically and literally led her people to freedom.


Weatherford, C. B. (2006). Moses: When Harriet Tubman led her people to freedom.

New York, NY: Hyperion Book CH

Impression: I felt that this is great beginning for young readers learning about Harriet Tubman, the Underground Railroad and slavery in America. Though it is beautifully done and really resonates with the reader, there is a lack of concrete details that make this anymore than a quality picture. I also felt that some readers might be turned off by the heavy religious themes throughout the book. The book interweaves Tubman’s story with the biblical story of Moses. Overall, this is a wonderful book but it might be limited in its readership.


Bush, M. (2006, October). [Book review of : When Harriet Tubman led her people to freedom, by C.B.

           Weatherford]. School Library Journal, 126. Available from  School Library Journal


 Tubman's religious faith drives this handsome, poetic account of her escape to freedom and role in the Underground Railroad. The story begins with Tubman addressing God on a summer night as she is about to be sold south from the Maryland plantation where she and her husband live: I am Your child, Lord; yet Master owns me,/drives me like a mule. In resounding bold text, God tells her He means for her to be free. The story is sketched between passages of prayerful dialogue that keep Tubman from giving up and eventually call upon her to be the Moses of [her] people. Deep scenes of night fill many double pages as the dramatic paintings follow her tortuous journey, arrival in Philadelphia, and later trip to guide others. Shifting perspectives and subtle details, such as shadowy forest animals guarding her while she sleeps, underscore the narrative's spirituality. Whether filled with apprehension, determination, or serenity, Tubman's beautifully furrowed face is expressive and entrancing. A foreword briefly explains the practice of slavery and an appended note outlines Tubman's life. The words and pictures create a potent sense of the harsh life of slavery, the fearsome escape, and one woman's unwavering belief in God.

Uses: This would be a great book for African American History month as part a display or a recommendation to a reader looking for an introductory book on Harriet Tubman. Also, I frequently have religious groups looking for materials at the library and I would recommend this book to go with a Moses themed lesson.




Summary: The Dunderheads is the tale of a class full of misfits and the teacher despises them. Miss Breakbone is a terrible teacher who hates her class that she views as lazy and stupid. After making one of the students cry by taking away his newest treasure, the class can take it no more.  Spider, Pencil and Wheels, or the Dunderheads, decide to fight back and retrieve what was taken from them. They stage an elaborate plan to break into Miss Breakbone’s house and teach her a lesson.

Citation: Fleischman, P. (2009). The dunderheads.  Westminster, MD: Candlewick Press.

Impression: This is a hilarious book, especially for young readers that can relate to the teacher’s seemingly senseless rules and actions. The aptly named Miss Breakbone can be envisioned as any terrible teacher that a student’s has had the misfortune of being in their class. The illustrations are colorful and quirky; they lend themselves well to the tale.


Lukehart, W. (2009, June). [Book review of The dunderheads, P. Fleischman]. School Library Journal

            84. Available from School Library Journal website:

As long as children must endure the whims of tyrannical teachers, there will be an appreciative audience for a book such as this. Miss Breakbone suffers no fools; she refers to her class as "fiddling, twiddling, time-squandering...dunderheads!" Her militaristic form is capped by severe red hair and a menacing mouth; the latter is wide open and shrieking insults on the first page. Her alligator purse, warden-style key ring, and electric chair offer further inklings into her psyche. She makes Viola Swamp look like Glenda the Good Witch. When she confiscates Junkyard's latest find and makes him cry, the class reaches the tipping point. They devise elaborate plans to retrieve the treasure from the teacher's fortresslike home. The talents of the children in this diverse group are foreshadowed by their nicknames, e.g., Spider, Spitball, Google-Eyes, and Hollywood. Together, the Dunderheads are a formidable force, and Roberts's quirky watercolor and ink interpretations of Fleischman's deadpan humor and impeccable pacing produce hilarious results. The compositions are a pleasing mixture of busy scenes, with funny or important details rendered via judicious touches of color, gray washes, and black line work and ample white space. The spreads are sometimes defined by "panels," whose straight and curved lines form unexpected shapes and add another element of excitement to the dynamic diagonals and extreme perspectives. This book will raise an adult eyebrow or two, but young readers will relish each solution in this satisfying celebration of multiple intelligences, teamwork, and kid power

Uses: The Dunderheads would be an awesome book for a class visit. Pair this up with Miss Nelson is Missing and prepare for a very amusing storytime. This could also lead to a discussion about appropriate behavior in the library and classroom for the both the students and the teachers. It would also be a great book to add to a display in the fall for returning to school.



Summary: This adorable tale of Wodney Wat or Rodney Rat, is about a class bully and Wodney standing up for himself and others. Wodney has always been a little different as he struggles with a speech impediment. However, when Camilla Capybara moves into the class it becomes even worse for Wodney. Camilla bullies him and everyone else. Then during a game of simon says, Wodney rids the school of the bully forever. The illustrations are hilarious and capture the caricature of the animal children.


Lester, H. (1999). Hooway for Wodney Wat.  Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Impression: I really enjoyed this tale of the underdog overcoming. I found it interesting that the bully was a girl; there need to more representative stories out there for all sorts of situations. Wodney also didn’t magically overcome his speech impediment and that was realistic. However, the students made friends with who Wodney really was and not just the hero he was when he unintentionally got rid of Camilla.


McCoy, J. (1999, May ). [Book review of Hooway for Wodney Wat, by H. Lester]. School Library 

            Journal. Available from  School Library Journal website:

An underdog who can't say his "r"s suffers unmerciful teasing until he saves his classmates from Camilla Capybara, who announces and then proves that she is bigger, meaner, and smarter than anyone else in the class. However, when Camilla is not quite observant enough to detect Rodney's speech impediment, a game of Simon Says becomes her downfall. As leader, the young rat squeaks "Wodney says go west," and instead of resting, Camilla stomps off to the west never to return, making Rodney an instant hero. Munsinger's watercolor with pen-and-ink illustrations positively bristle with humor and each rat, mouse, hamster, and capybara is fully realized as both rodent and child. Children will empathize with Rodney as he hides his head in his jacket and eats lunch all alone. Bullies may not want to recognize themselves in Camilla but the battle cry "bigger...meaner...smarter" is hard to deny. Hooway is, right. Wodney Wat is wonderful.

Uses: This would be a great choice for a school book talk about bullying for younger readers. After the reading, the students could discuss how differences are what make life interesting. Also, the students could play a brief game of simon says.




Summary: Stargirl is the story of Leo and his high school experience which is permanently altered when a previously home-schooled girl decides to attend Mica High. Leo is an average high school student whose interests lie in film and production. Then one day, a new girl begins to attend school. She is different than anyone else, and Leo is intrigued. However, he is also afraid of her: not conforming in high school can mean social suicide and Leo is not prepared to do that despite the fact that he can’t stop thinking about Stargirl. Stargirl wears random clothes, brings her pet rat to school and sings accompanied by her ukulele in the lunchroom. When Stargirl becomes an eccentric cheerleader, she is suddenly accepted and emulated by her peers. Then Stargirl does something unforgivable in the eyes of the student body and is completely ostracized. Leo convinces her to give up her originality in an attempt to fit in; this fails spectacularly and Stargirl realizes Leo is not ready to be with her. She eventually disappears but haunts Leo for the rest of his life.


Spinelli, J. (2000). Stargirl. New York, NY: Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Impression: This book seems to be a teen staple; about fitting in and being yourself. I felt that it was interesting and the moral of being who you are was very clear. I didn’t like that no adults seemed to be aware of Stargirl’s situation, even her parents. Also, Leo never seems to be a very dynamic character. Suddenly, he likes Stargirl after essentially stalking her for weeks. When she leaves he is so affected by this singular high school experience that it follows him for the rest of his life. I didn’t quite believe the love story or the fact that Stargirl brings her rat and ukulele to school. While the details were unbelievable for me, I think that many teens read this book and put themselves in either Stargirl or Leo’s shoes.


Grover, S. (2000, August). [Book review of Stargirl, J. Spinelli]. School Library Journal.

Available from  School Library Journal website:

High school is a time of great conformity, when being just like everybody else is of paramount importance. So it is no surprise that Stargirl Caraway causes such excitement and confusion when she arrives at Mica High in Arizona. Initially, everyone is charmed by her unconventional behavior- she wears unusual clothing, she serenades the lunchroom with her ukulele, she practices random acts of kindness, she is cheerleader extraordinaire in a place with no school spirit. Naturally, this cannot last and eventually her individuality is reviled. The story is told by Leo, who falls in love with Stargirl's zany originality, but who then finds himself unable to let go of the need to be conventional. Spinelli's use of a narrator allows readers the distance necessary to appreciate Stargirl's eccentricity and Leo's need to belong to the group, without removing them from the immediacy of the story. That makes the ending all the more disappointing-to discover that Leo is looking back imposes an unnecessary adult perspective on what happened in high school. The prose lapses into occasionally unfortunate flowery flights, but this will not bother those readers-girls especially-who will understand how it feels to not quite fit the mold and who attempt to exult in their differences.

Uses: I think that this book, as it is especially relevant to teens, could be used in a booktalk promoting individuality. The book also lends itself well to being made into a book trailer. A program could be designed for a book club to read the book and then learn how to use various software programs and create a book trailer. The emphasis could be on originality and then compare how different all of the book trailers are despite using the same book.




Summary: In a fantastical land of wizards and their moving castles, Sophie is the eldest of three sisters. This birth order position is considered unlucky, and Sophie has resigned herself to a quiet life as a hat shop apprentice. However, all that changes as she is cursed and turned into an old crone. Her only chance to reverse the spell lies with the apprentice of  a traveling wizard who is rumored to steal young women’s souls.  Determined Sophie sets off to find him .The Wizard Howl has is own curse from the Witch of Waste but soon Sophie and Howl are traveling together. Together they will overcome the spells and learn about themselves and each other.

Citation: Wynn-Jones, D. (2001). Howl’s moving castle. New York, NY: Greenwillow.

Impression: I really enjoyed this book and it made watch the animated feature film, though that was very different. The fantasy elements are original and interesting. The curse of old age upon Sophie is not a regular evil spell and Jones pokes fun at the fact that most fairy tales involve the youngest sibling on an adventure. I particularly enjoyed Calcifer’s character, similar to a crabby old man. Sophie is a great character as well, who isn’t a natural adventurer but someone who knows how to deal with a problem when it arises.


 (2002). [Book review of Howl’s Moving Castle, D. Wynn-Jones]. Available from Horn Book


After young Sophie Hatter is turned into an aged crone by a peevish witch, she tries to aid the charming, wildly theatrical wizard Howl in vanquishing the witch, so that both of them can break the spells they're under. Another welcome reissue from Diana Wynne Jones.

Uses:  This book is a great fantasy book with a strong female lead. I would use it in a display with other books with female heroines. Books by Tamora Pierce and Robin McKinley would also be included. Perhaps it could be a precursor display for the Hunger Games movie coming out, as that also has a strong female lead.




Summary: Milo is a very bored little boy. Nothing seems to be interesting despite his numerous toys. When a tollbooth magically appears in his bedroom Milo shrugs and gets in his toy car and goes through, simply because he has nothing better to do.  What follows an amazing journey of self-discovery as Milo meets new people, creatures and lands. He is accompanied by Tock, a dog with a clock for a body, and travels to such faraway places as Dictionopolis and the Mountains of Ignorance.  This satirical book is both hilarious and thought provoking leaving the reader wanting more.


Juster, N. (1961). The phantom tollbooth. New York, NY: Random House.

Impression: I loved this book and the journey Milo takes. I think kids enjoy the funny, quirky aspect of the story; but to really get the full meaning the book must be read again as an adult. It really makes the reader think about random things, such as jumping to conclusions. This is a very versatile book and can be read various ways buy different groups of readers.


Miriam, M. s. (n.d). [Book review of the Phantom tollbooth, by N. Juster].  Library Journal, 112,84.  

           Available  from Library Journal website:

To a bored little boy [in The Phantom Tollbooth,] the gift of a phantom tollbooth opens up a new, imaginative world after he deposits a coin and drives through the gate--from Dictionopolis where words are sold on the marketplace and a Spelling Bee buzzes around to the Castle in the Air where the Princess of Pure Reason and the Princess of Sweet Rhyme wait to be rescued. The ironies, the subtle play on words will be completely lost on all but the most precocious children. Definitely for the sophisticated, special reader. Only the large libraries can afford to experiment with it.

Uses: This book could be read for many age groups, but I think that older teens doing a program on satire would really enjoy reading the book. Pairing this book with Jonathon Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels would be a great project. Teens could then look to today’s media for satire, like The Daily Show with John Stewart.




Summary: The gritty Ace Lacewing is the only one who can find Queenie Bee when she disappears in this tongue-in-cheek, noir spoof. Ace is a private detective in Motham City and determined to find the missing girl. With his friends Dr. Blue and Sergeant Zito, Ace follows the clues. Through questioning a series of suspects, Ace discovers there is more to the case. The author uses clever puns to keep both in the insect realm and the noir feel of the book .The illustrations evoke classic black and white detective films with the use of dark colors. This is a great mystery and the beginning to a promising series.

Citation: Biedrzycki, D. (2005). Ace Lacewing: Bug detective. Watertown, MA:  

Charlesbridge Pub Inc.

Impression: I thought that this was an adorable, punny book full of mystery and allusions to noir film. I enjoyed the detailed illustrations and laughed out loud at the subtle jokes. Children will enjoy the amusing tale, but adults will really get what the author has done with all the references to classic detective stories.


Ludke, L. (2005, August). [Book review of Ace Lacewing:Bug detective, by D. Biedrzycki]. School 

            Library Journal. Available from  School Library Journal website:

Motham City is abuzz with the kidnapping of Queenie Bee, and Ace Lacewing, the Sam Spade of insects, is on the case. His motto is, "Bad bugs are my business." Lacewing follows the trail of honey with the help of his gal, Doctor Xerces Blue, and Sergeant Zito, a mosquito. A motley (and sometimes molting) assortment of suspects is questioned. Their character traits are based on facts: "The roaches said of course they ran from the scene of the crime-it was their nature to scatter when the lights go on." Puns and wordplay abound: "I've known him ever since we were pupae at the same school"; "The full moon hung in the sky like a large compound eye...." The digitally enhanced illustrations evoke a film noir atmosphere, with moody blue and black backgrounds. The pages are also brimming with humorous details such as glowworm street lamps, "Bug Off" police tape, and "Slow Larvae" road signs. This clever parody of hard-boiled detective stories is sure to tickle readers' thorax.

Uses: I would use this book in a display for younger mystery books. Sometimes this can be hard to find, beyond some of the classics. The display could be completed with a simple murder mystery on a bulletin board that kids could do on their own time. This also lends itself to a program about bugs and could be paired with the movie, A Bug’s Life.




Summary: The small town of Ilsip has a huge, stinky problem. The town has no where to put  its garbage. It seems that every person in Ilsip makes more and more trash each day until the issue becomes unbearable. The town decides to get rid of the garbage by putting it on a boat and sending it somewhere else. The barge is sailed by Cap’m Duffy and he sets out with over 3000 pounds of garbage to get rid of. Of course, no one else wants Ilsip’s garbage either, leaving poor Duffy in a smelly pinch. The barge sails all the way down the coast, even down to Belize, but there no place to deposit the trash and Duffy turns around. The amazing illustrations are photos filled with actual trash and clay figures, and they evoke the lesson behind the book.

Citation: Winter, J. (2010) Here comes the garbage barge. Westminster, MD:

Schwartz & Wade Books.

Impression: This was a widely creative book in its illustrations. The actual trash is fun to pore over and attempt to identity. The characters are amazingly detailed and well thought out. I thought the book was imaginative and it was amusing to realize that the story is based on actual events. It really brings home the message of being green in today’s world, especially since this issue happed nearly twenty years ago.


Bates, I. (2010, January). [Book review of Here comes the garbage barge, by J. Winter]. School Library

Journal, 84. Available from  School Library Journal website:

A fictionalized account of real events that occurred in 1987, this story will convince young readers to take their recycling efforts more seriously. When Islip, NY, has nowhere to put 3168 tons of garbage, the town officials decide that shipping them south is the right thing to do, so a tugboat towing a garbage-laden barge takes it to North Carolina. But North Carolina won't allow the vessel to dock. It goes on to New Orleans, but again is denied harbor rights. Then it is on to Mexico, Belize, Texas, Florida, and back to New York. The garbage is ripening all along the way. Now even Islip refuses to take it back. Finally a judge orders Brooklyn to take it and incinerate it, 162 days after the barge started its journey. Islip is ordered to take the remains to their landfill. The illustrations are photographs of objects made from garbage. The people, full of personality and expression, were made from polymer clay, and wire, wood scraps, and leftover materials of all kinds were used for the tugboat and barge. The inside of the paper jacket explains how the art was done. This title should be a part of every elementary school ecology unit.

Uses: Of course, this book would be a great addition to any program on environmentalism and being green. Students could make a list of everything they had thrown in the trash for one day and see the reality of how much it is. I also think that this book could be used in an event about different illustration styles for picture books. Kids could see everything from watercolors, to collages, to these photographs. Then the children could create their own illustrations in whatever style they chose.




Summary: Stone relates the amazing journey of the Mercury 13: thirteen women who trained to become astronauts in an age where prejudice still demanded the woman’s place was in the home. When a group of women were invited to train for the possibility of becoming astronauts, several female pilots answered the call. These women trained for months and some even logged more training time than John Glenn. They passed rigorous physical and mental tests. IN the end, a congressional hearing was called to determine if these women were to be allowed into space. The answer was a crushing no. However, the book begins and ends with the surviving members of the group watching Eileen Collins, the first female commander of a space mission, blast off into space and fulfill their collective dream.


Stone, T. l. (2009) Almost astronauts: 13 women who dared to dream. Bridgewater, NJ:

Paw Prints.

Impression: I felt that there was a quiet power to this book that is essentially about how women were denied their right fly. The expansive photos really made the book personal, as the reader saw each face of these courageous women. Especially, Jerrie Cobb, who  led the way for other female pilots to train. The prologue and the ending, where the members watch Eileen Collins go into space, was especially moving for me.


Lehner, L. (2009. December). [Book review of Almost astronauts: 13 women who dared to dream, by

                T. L. Stone]. VOYA Available from  VOYA  website:

In 1960, thirteen American women passed the physical exams required to become astronauts as surely as any of the men already involved in NASA's early space flight endeavors, but they were disqualified solely because of their gender. This book is their story. Pilot Jerrie Cobb was invited at the age of twenty-eight by a private foundation working with NASA to participate in the same type of testing that the Mercury 7 astronauts had to take she jumped at the chance. She passed the difficult physical challenges more successfully and with far less complaining than some of her male counterparts. Cobb opened the door for twenty-four additional female pilots to undergo the strenuous testing. Twelve passed, only to be told in a directive from Vice President Lyndon Johnson that NASA would not be accepting female astronauts into their program. Their story then continues through the milestones for women in space up to the present Sunita Williams was appointed in 2008 to the most senior astronaut position at NASA Stone does an admirable job of compiling and crediting her facts and figures and of profiling these strong and adventurous women. Many historical photographs help tell the story, changing dramatically from black and white to full color as women take their rightful positions in the American space program. The staccato writing and authorial intrusions can confuse the narrative at times, but any girl with an interest in space flight or the history of women's rights will enjoy this account and applaud these courageous pioneers

Uses: This book could be used in a variety of ways. Programs on NASA, women’s rights and astronauts could include this book. I think one of the best ways to use this book , would be to do a class visit on forgotten heroes. It could be paired up with a book about Claudette Colvin among others. This could coincide with the class’s history portion and then each student could choose from a list of names and do research on a historical figure that time has forgotten.




Summary: This abridged version of the author’s adult book, Mockingbird, is meant for middle school and high school students. The focus is on the similarities between Harper Lee and her character, Scout. Harper Lee was always reclusive and despised the fame that publishing her novel brought. The book follows Lee has she as deals with her mother’s mental illness and her long and enduring friendship with Truman Capote.  The book is very realistic in the details of Lee’s life, despite the audience’s age. For example, Lee’s mother tried to kill her as a child and Truman Capote’s sexuality is not whitewashed. The book is very serious in tone but it is a glimpse into the life of one of the greatest, American authors ever.

Citation: Shields, C. j. (2008). I am scout: A biography of Harper Lee. New York,

NY: Henry Holt Books for Young Readers.

Impression: I found this book to be interesting and informative. Unfortunately, the author doesn’t use many primary sources and this could be due the fact that there aren’t that many available. The book as an abridged version of an adult biography makes the age range appeal smaller than if the work was an original geared toward teens. The serious nature of the book doesn’t’ make it boring, but it is not very fun either. 


Diorio, G. (2008, April). [Book review of I am scout: A biography of Harper Lee, by C. J. Shields].  

            School Library Journal, 126. Available from School Library Journal website:

This biography is a reworking of the best-selling Mockingbird (Holt, 2006), adapted for young adults. Shields spotlights Lee's lifelong friendship with Truman Capote and the creation of To Kill a Mockingbird , showing how the publication and success of that book affected the rest of her life. Shields uses previously conducted interviews with Lee and her family, friends, and neighbors. He pulls from books, magazine articles, newspapers, and radio and television interviews to piece together this life story of the notoriously press-shy Lee. The author's clear and appealing style is much the same as in Mockingbird and this adaptation appears to have been not so much edited as streamlined. Photos include Lee, her family, friends, and the famous Hollywood actors who made the film version of her book. I Am Scout moves along at a good pace, and Lee's quiet life makes for a surprisingly fascinating read. Perhaps because Shields is pulling from so many sources, the occasional turn of phrase comes across as oddly formal, but generally, this is an immensely readable, intriguing tale of a quiet, private author

Uses: I would use this book for a book club that has read To Kill a Mockingbird. The group could discuss the similarities and differences between Harper Lee’s life and Scout’s in the book . This could also be used for a young writer’s workshop about editing; one could compare Mockingbird to this abridged version and discuss the process of editing and abridgement.



Summary: When Albert Einstein was born, he was an unattractive baby with a very large heard. As he grew he never seemed to fit in with his family or schoolmates.  However, that very large head of his was always busy looking for answers.  Despite being mocked routinely at school, Einstein was extremely clearly very gifted in certain areas despite his disinterest. The illustrations are portrayed in a simple color palette and instill a sense of isolation that Einstein himself must have felt. Einstein was always a little different but whatever was odd about him helped to view the world as no one else did.

Citation: Brown, D. (2004). Odd boy out: Young Albert Einstein. Orlando, FL:

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Impression: I found this book to be a little stark, both in illustrations and details. Of course, it is a picture book biography but seems to be too complicated for the youngest readers and slightly simple for older readers. The detailed note from the author will explain more details and there is an extensive bibliography. I did like the fact that this story showed Einstein as a child and through his school years. It ties up neatly with the image of Einstein pushing his own child in a carriage.


Taniguchi, M. (2004, October). [Book review of Odd boy out: Young Albert Einstein, by D. Brown].  

            School Library Journal. Available from School Library Journal website:

This well-crafted picture-book biography focuses on Einstein's hard-to-classify brilliance, which led to awesome scientific discoveries, but all too often left him a misunderstood outsider. Brown describes his subject's loving, cultured parents who were frequently nonplussed by their son's behavior and temper. He found himself the "odd boy" at school, and as the only Jewish student, was sometimes taunted by other children. He puzzled his instructors as well; though clearly gifted in science, math, and music, he was an indifferent student in most subjects. Brown's pen-and-ink and watercolor illustrations, rendered in a palette of dusky mauve and earthy brown, portray a doubtful, somewhat unhappy-looking child, except for a picture in which he gazes fondly at a compass, a gift that astonishes him as he ponders its mysteries. In many scenes he is marginalized on the sidelines, set apart by color and shading. One dramatic spread features an adult Einstein pushing his child in a carriage, looking small against a backdrop that highlights some of the scientific puzzles that so engaged him. Through eloquent narrative and illustration, Brown offers a thoughtful introduction to an enigmatic man. This book will pique the interest of readers with little or no knowledge of Einstein.

Uses: Using this book and other picture book biographies of scientist could be the basis of a library event about inventions and scientists. The program could have simple science experiments such as static electricity and starch viscosity. Other scientists that are featured could be Marie Curie and Thomas Edison.




Summary: This is the tale of Rapunzel its never been told before. Living a lonely life in her mother’s villa, Rapunzel’s curiosity forces her to find out what is beyond the large wall of her home. She is imprisoned in a tower for her impudence. Eventually she uses magnificent hair to escape from her tower. After learning the woman she thought was her mother is not, she goes in search for her true parent. Along the way she teams up with Jack, another fairy-tale character of “Jack and the Beanstalk.”  Determined to bring down the cruel system her pseudo-mother has enforced on the people, Rapunzel takes the lessons she learned in her years trapped in the tower and applies them to this new battle.

Citation: Hale, S. (2008). Rapunzel’s revenge. Gordonsville, VA: Bloomsbury USA.

Impression: I really enjoyed this retelling of the traditional tale. The format is easy to follow and the art is interesting and humorous. I loved Jack and his role in the adventure. The setting of the American west is interesting and plays well into the story.  The art is filled with details of the Old West and the relationship between Jack and Rapunzel progresses naturally. I would recommend this to anyone looking for a good book, graphic novel or otherwise.


von Wrangel, C. (2008, Semptember). [Book review of Rapunzel’s revenge, by S. Hale]. School

Library Journal, 214. Available from School Library Journal website:

This is the tale as you've never seen it before. After using her hair to free herself from her prison tower, this Rapunzel ignores the pompous prince and teams up with Jack (of Beanstalk fame) in an attempt to free her birth mother and an entire kingdom from the evil witch who once moonlighted as her "mother." Dogged by both the witch's henchman and Jack's outlaw past, the heroes travel across the map as they right wrongs, help the oppressed, and generally try to stay alive. Rapunzel is no damsel in distress–she wields her long braids as both rope and weapon–but she happily accepts Jack's teamwork and friendship. While the witch's castle is straight out of a fairy tale, the nearby mining camps and rugged surrounding countryside are a throwback to the Wild West and make sense in the world that the authors and illustrator have crafted. The dialogue is witty, the story is an enticing departure from the original, and the illustrations are magically fun and expressive. Knowing that there are more graphic novels to come from this writing team brings readers their own happily-ever-after.

Uses:  I would use this book in a program introducing patrons to graphic novels beyond manga or comic books. This is a growing group of books that include many American artists and authors, in both fiction and non-ficiton. It could also be used as a part of a writing workshop on twisted fairy tales, paired with books such as Beastly and Ella Enchanted.




Summary: This collection of fourteen poems about man’s best friend is delightfully charming. From the adorable pug on the front cover to the following pets and their poems, the book holds great appeal for dog lovers. Lucy, a small, shy puppy sticks close to her owner in one of the poems. Another features, Pocket, a tiny dog with a huge heart. The illustrations are simple and have a narrow color palette with large sections of white space to allow for the focus to be on the rise and fall of the words in the poems.

Citation: MacLachlan, P. (2006). Once I ate a pie. Scranton, PA: Harpercollins

Childrens Books.

Impression: I have a dog of my own and this book is certainly catering to its audience. The pictures will appeal to young readers but the poetry needs an older audience to be effective. I enjoyed how most of the poems are written in first “person,” from the dog’s point of view.


Constantinides, C. (2006, May). [Book review of Once I ate a pie, by P. MacLachlan]. School Library 

            Journal, 114. Available from  School Library Journal website:

Free-verse poems about 14 individual dogs sprawl across oversize spreads accompanied by large oil illustrations. The poems and paintings together delightfully capture each distinct personality in few words and with broad strokes of the brush. The fonts change often and reflect the poet's words-rising and falling, sometimes in bold type, growing larger and smaller and dancing over the pages. The format allows for plenty of white space, emphasizing the postures and personalities of the pups and helping the playful fonts to stand out. The overall result is an entertaining visit with some very appealing canines, and a book that perhaps could serve as an inspiration in the classroom for young poets trying to describe their own pets. One wishes that the breeds were listed somewhere, but all in all, this title is still a real treat.

Uses: This book doesn’t really lend itself well to a story time because it is not a story book. I would use this rather in a poetry program and then have the children write a poem of their own about a favorite pet. They could also illustrate their poem with a drawing of their pet, real or imagined.





Tim O’Brien’s Things They Carried tells the story of Alpha group: several soldiers as the fight and try to survive physically and emotionally intact during the Vietnam War. Thought labeled as a work of fiction, the author names the narrator after himself and many of the experiences are reflections, direct or otherwise, of the author’s experience fighting a war he did not believe in. Tim O’Brien, the character, writes how he ran to Canada to evade the draft. However, he was too afraid of the opinion of his family to desert and ultimately he returns to serve because he is a coward. As the group travels, there are many losses, from outside forces and ones from within. One soldier has a breakdown and shoots himself in the foot to escape active duty. The others do not blame him because the things they have seen and experienced have marked them for life. One of the soldiers, Norman, survives the war, only to return and commit suicide. Tim is shot twice through the course of the book. The second time, he is treated by an inexperienced medic and nearly dies. Tim plays a cruel joke on the man by pretending to be a enemy soldier while the medic is on watch. Tim sees people on both sides die horrible deaths from grenades, chemicals weapons and even a completely ordinary mud slide. All of the experiences, whether horrifying or amusing are told by Tim because he believes that storytelling is a powerful act that can memorialize the events of the war.


O’Brien, T. (1991). The things they carried. New York, NY: Penguin Books.


I really enjoyed this book despite its dark themes. I love history and this told a very personal recounting of several individuals’ experiences in Vietnam. It is also interesting to note that the book is almost autobiographical in nature; this adds an additional element while reading of trying to discern which experiences actually happened to the author and what he took creative license with.  Though the book is often graphic in nature and some of the scenes are extremely disturbing, there also instances of boredom as the soldiers wait for orders. This contrast seems very real to the reader; some of the practical jokes that were played also brought a sense of innocence that was reality of many of these extremely young men. Over the course of the book, I felt that the story lost its naivety as the soldiers did. At times amusing, haunting and redemptive this is a great book that is real in its portrayal of the soldiers in Vietnam and its impact on the reader.


Hawkins, B. (1991, February). [Book review of The things they carried, T. O'Brien]. School Library 

           Journal. Available from School Library Journal website:

A series of stories about the Vietnam experience, based on the author's recollections. O'Brien begins by sharing the talismans and treasures his select small band of young soldiers carry into battle. The tales, ranging from a paragraph to 20 or so pages, reveal one truth after another. Sometimes the author tells the same story from different points of view, revealing the lingering, sometimes consuming, effect war leaves on the soul. In the end, readers are left with a mental and emotional sphere of mirrors, each reflecting a speck of truth about the things men carry into and out of war. In addition to leisure reading, this collection offers potential for history classes studying war, for English classes doing units on short stories, and perhaps for sociology or psychology assignments.

In a library setting this book would have to be handled carefully because it is a controversial book. It would be a great book club book for older, mature readers. This would especially be pertinent to a group of older teens to relate this story to the current atmosphere surrounding the Iraq/Afghanistan conflicts.  It could also be part of a Veteran Day’s program or a history program on war or Vietnam. The program could involve a community read of the book and talks by local war veterans.