Where’s the Pair? a spotting book

Where’s the Pair? a spotting book by Britta Teckentrup.  Reviewed by Cheryl Coffin. This is a fun, albeit more challenging. puzzle book than one might think, whereby the reader is invited to find a matching pair of animals. Each illustrated page is accompanied by a rhyme which challenges the reader to use his/her recall and visual acuity to find a particular pair of animals.

Even as an adult, it took quite a bit of concentration to locate some of these groupings. In today’s work of fast-paced computer games that make loud noises, use fast-moving characters and brilliantly flashing screens,  it is refreshing to find an activity that presents a peaceful respite from electronic games, and gives the reader an the opportunity to develop memory, observation skills and patience!

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Filed under Grade 4-6, Grade K-3, Nonfiction, Poetry

Me, Too!

Cover ArtMe, Too! Written by Annika Dunklee and illustrated by Lori Joy Smith. Reviewed by Cheryl Coffin.

This picture book offers childlike illustrations with large, brightly colored pictures rendered in pencil and colored in Photoshop.

The storyline is one that little girls will easily related to.  Annie and Lillemor are the very best of friends, for any number of reasons: both girls speak two languages, they are both seven year of age, they like the same colors and enjoy the same kinds of activities.  But when a new girl arrives from France, Annie becomes anxious that Lillemor will like Lillianne better, since they appear to have even MORE things in common than Lillemor  and herself.

What I really like about this book is the message that there are certain things all people share, you just need to be patient and open-minded enough to discover them.  I also like how the author promotes the concept that three doesn’t have to be a “crowd”, best friends can exist in multiples of more than two.  Me, Too is the perfect book for teaching important concepts, like: friendship, inclusion and overcoming jealousy.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade K-3, Picture Book, Preschool

The Star-Spangled Banner

The Star-Spangled Banner.   Written by Peter Spier.  Reviewed by Cheryl Coffin.

This beautifully illustrated picture book sheds gives new meaning to the Star-Spangled Banner.  The end papers include state versions of the American flag and various military flags, a diagram of American flag parts and a small sketch of Fort McHenry.  The text includes the music and a copy of Key’s hand-written verses, as well as a brief history of how the song came into existence.

Peter Spier is a past Caldecott Medal winner and Caldcott Honor recipient.  His art is well known for its vibrancy and fine detail.  As a result, Spier’s work is on display in museums throughout the nation and is collected by private art enthusiasts everywhere.  Although one may be able to purchase other children’s books on the Star-Spangled Banner, it is doubtful that any of those will be has attractive as this one.

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Filed under Grade 4-6, Grade K-3, Nonfiction, Picture Book

Sources of Light

Sources of Light by Margaret McMullan, Houghton Mifflin, 2010. ISBN: 9780547076591. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.

sources of light

Your clothes are hand-me-downs from your cousin and make you look odd when you go to school. Your father was killed in Vietnam and you’ve been told he was a hero. After he dies, you and your mother move from familiar Pittsburgh to Jackson, Mississippi where Mom will teach at a small college.

This is our introduction to fourteen year old Sam. She tries to fit in at her new school, but it isn’t long before she starts to realize that things in Jackson aren’t anything like what she was used to in Pittsburgh. The pervasiveness of racism is something she initially tries to ignore, but not so her mother. When Mom starts dating Perry, another instructor at the college, their shared view of the wrongness of racism, coupled with Perry’s encouragement of Sam’s interest in photography (he gives her an older camera and teaches her how to develop her own pictures), force her to look at her new town with more mature eyes.

Her life gets even more complicated when she starts liking Stone McLemore, older brother of the most popular girl in her freshman class. Stone’s father is extremely racist and as the relationship between the two teens progresses, Stone has to look in the mirror more carefully that he might like. At the same time, Sam’s mom and Perry are receiving verbal and physical threats because of their actions against racism. The book comes to a shattering climax that’s extremely real.

This is an excellent example of what historical fiction can be. It’s a blend of recent history, family dynamics, young romance and coming of age. While it’s been out for a while, I’d still encourage school and public libraries to add it because of its quality and historical accuracy.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 10-12, Grade 7-9, Historical Fiction

Crazy Beautiful

Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted, Houghton Mifflin 2009. ISBN: 9780547223070. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS


How do you cope when you’ve blown your hands off? In Lucas’ case, he’s chosen to go with hooks instead of lifelike prostheses. He’s done so for several reasons. At his age, with his body changing and growing quickly, new hooks are a lot cheaper and his family doesn’t have much money, they also are a daily reminder of what he did and they also make a statement to the world: “Stat away, I’m bad and dangerous.”

Aurora is also starting at a new school. However, she’s sweet, kind and attracts friends like flies on watermelon. When she’s unfazed by Lucas’ hooks, he starts wondering, wondering whether his self-imposed emotional exile isn’t the only way to live after what he did.

As they begin letting each other get a little closer, they realize that the other has been hurt/scarred emotionally. While Lucas’ scars are visible, Aurora’s are just as painful and devastating. What happens as their attraction blossoms into something both need, but neither expected makes this book difficult to put down. While an older book, it’s still a good one to suggest to teens who like love stories with wounded characters.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 10-12, Grade 7-9

School Days Around the World

Cover Art

School Days Around the World by Margriet Ruurs, Illustrated by Alice Feagan.  Reviewed by Chery Coffin.  This informational book introduces the young reader to a sampling of children’s school experiences around the world. The author looks at urban and rural schools in very diverse areas, such as the Cook Islands, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Cananda, Venezula and the U.S.A., among others.

The illustrations are done in bright vibrant colors.  The art is unique in that it  appears the painted pictures are cut out and arranged on a background.

This book would make a nice addition to any media center’s holdings.

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Filed under Grade K-3, Preschool

Kissing In America

Kissing In America by Margo Rabb, Harper, 2015. ISBN: 9780062322371. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS

kissing in america

How do you cope with the sudden loss of your father in an airplane crash in the Atlantic Ocean? In sixteen year old Eva’s case, she loses herself in romance novels. In fact, she’s read 118 since his death, much to her professor mother’s dismay. Mom thinks reading them is anti-feminist and trashy. To make their relationship even more strained, every time Eva starts to talk about her late father, Mom goes rigid and either gets angry or says that this isn’t the time to deal with it.

Eva remembers Dad as the warm, loving parent and this makes her loss all the more painful. Fortunately she has a very good friend, Annie who is brainy and determined that she’ll get into a good college on scholarship. The girls volunteer as peer tutors and when hunky Will starts working on his college essay with Eva, she can’t help but feel something even though he’s met by a pretty girl after every session (not always the same one, even). When Will begins talking to her about his own feelings of loss and what’s going on at home, she realizes that he’s the first guy who ever tried to understand how she feels.

Unfortunately, Will’s mother can’t make enough to keep even the rundown apartment they live in because her cupcake bakery simply isn’t generating enough income. She moves in with a relative, but Will has to go to California to live with his estranged father. This devastates Eva. When she learns about a TV scholarship contest that will be filmed in California, she convinces Annie to apply. Annie gets accepted and Eva comes along with her as her answer helper. It should be a simple bus ride to California, but Eva’s mother couldn’t keep out of it and insists that her sister Janet, a phobic spinster who teaches about sexually transmitted diseases, accompany them.

What happens on this crazy trip, how her reuniting with Will, and how Annie does on the show all make this a very hard to put down book. It’s funny, sad, emotionally-charged and is guaranteed to pull most teen readers in quickly and hold them until the final page. It’s a great addition to any library where teens love to read.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 10-12, Grade 7-9

The Truth About My Success

The Truth About My Success by Dyan Sheldon, Candlewick Press, 2015. ISBN: 9780763672720. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS

truth about my success

Paloma Rose is sweet and cute…Or used to be and still is on rare occasion on her rapidly failing teen TV show. These days, she’s more likely to be caught in an embarrassing or compromising photo or situation that makes YouTube or the tabloids. This is in part because she’s turned into a spoiled brat, but also because she’s feeling like her life is turning into an ever smaller box thanks to her driven mother. Mom has had her in front of the camera since she was a baby and now they’re in an ongoing war.

When things reach a point where one more bad photo or blow-up on the set of her TV show will tank her career, Mom and her agent Jack Silk realize that drastic measures are in order. They decide to send her off to a wilderness brat camp for troubled teens. Only there’s a problem. Who will replace her on the show and in the press?

Enter Oona Ginness. She looks almost exactly like Paloma, or would with contacts and some hair tweaking. Jack and Mom spotted her when they stopped at the restaurant where she waitresses. Oona’s life is at the other end of the spectrum from Paloma’s. She lost her mom to cancer and that loss hit her dad so hard he can’t really work or be a parent. He sits in front of the TV most of the time while Oona takes care of his maintenance duties at the rundown apartment complex where they live. Her only enjoyment comes from helping some of the other people who live there and Harriet, her small dog.

When Oona is approached about impersonating Paloma, she refuses at first, but the amount of money being waved in her face would really turn things around at home, so she very reluctantly agrees. No sooner does she say yes than Paloma is outfoxed by Jack and flies off to what she thinks will be a luxury break at a remote spa.

The book alternates between each girl’s point of view and reading how they deal with being in completely new situations as well as gradually realizing how they’ve been hoodwinked, makes for a fast and fun read. Teens who like stories about celebrities and teens in unusual, but funny situations will enjoy this book.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 10-12, Grade 7-9

Don’t Bump the Glump! and other fantasies

Cover ArtDon’t Bump the Glump! and other fantasies.  Written by Shel Silverstein.  Reviewed by Cheryl Coffin.

Shel Silverstein’s imagination knows no limits in this humorous but startling collection of poems that depict strange creatures with unusual names, like the Galloping Griss, the Glump, the Long-Necked Preposterous and the Terrible Feezus.

The poems  are never longer than a single page and the writing is clear and easy-to-understand with a great deal of repetition and rhyme, so even young children will be able to enjoy the vast majority  of these tantalizing poems.

The book’s illustrations are done in the typical Silverstein tradition,  simple drawings with lots of white space.  This was Silverstein’s first poetry book, and the only one he ever  illustrated in color so Silverstein fans and other poetry fans will find this book a “must have” for their collections.

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Filed under Grade 4-6, Grade K-3, Nonfiction, Poetry, Preschool

In Another Life

In Another Life by Laura Jarratt, Electric Monkey, 2015. ISBN: 9781405271196. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS

in another life

Hannah and her older sister Jenny have always been close. Part of the reason for this is their mother’s refusal to talk about her past, particularly the part about growing up in England. All she’ll say is that it was a difficult and painful time. When Jenny gets a chance to work as an au pair for the owners of a castle-like hotel in England, her mom is extremely reluctant to let her go, but can’t stop her. Several months after her arrival, Jenny vanishes while on an afternoon walk.

Mom has to stay at home because Hannah’s younger brother, a recent cancer survivor, isn’t feeling well and there’s concern he might be having a relapse. This means that Hannah and her father must go to England and see if they can unravel the mystery of Jenny’s disappearance. The only clues are episodic text messages Hannah receives on her phone that seem to indicate that Jenny left voluntarily, supposedly to learn why her mom was so secretive about her life before coming to America,

As things drag on with no progress and another girl who befriended Jenny vanishes from the hotel, Jenny does some detective work on her own. In the process, she discovers that she has an extremely strong attraction to Harry, a boy a couple years older than herself who works as an assistant training hawks and owls at the hotel. At first, she thinks Harry dislikes her, but the more she gets to know him, the more she realizes that he’s like her, awkward around other people and unsure how to fit into the world.

Together, they walk a very interesting path that combines falling in love with some scary moments as they play detective. Like the author’s other YA books, this has some amazingly well crafted plot twists. What really struck me about this one was how well she describes falling in love for the first time. I don’t recall a book where the feelings that accompany that experience have been so well described. Add that to what’s a dandy and sometimes scary mystery and you have a book that many teens will devour. I have read all four of the author’s books and each has been a stellar read.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 10-12, Grade 7-9