Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Ride: The Legend of Betsy Dowdy

Author: Kitty Griffin
Illustrator: Marjorie Priceman
Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers 2010

I stumbled on this book at the public library recently. The story caught my attention because it is a local legend from Currituck Sound of North Carolina and I've never heard of Betsy Dowdy.

I will share the book and might even start off the year with it because:

  • my kids are familiar with this area of North Carolina
  • strong female protagonist
  • character shows courage and bravery in the face of adversity 
  • character shows persistence and tenacity = GRIT (heard an NPR episode tonight on the importance of Grit)
  • coincides nicely with the celebration of Constitution Day (September 17, 2012)
However, I'm not a fan of the illustrations. Marjorie Priceman is a two time Caldecott Honor award winner but, the style and art technique do not add or enhance this telling. The characters were harsh which made it hard to connect visually and emotionally. The image of Little Red Riding Hood and the wolves invaded the story line with the cloak and mysterious eyes hiding in the woods. Don't let the art work keep you from enjoying the quest of Betsy Dowdy. Be creative- read aloud the story, withhold the pictures, or share images of the wild ponies of Currituck (readily available online but remember to preselect). This will also lend itself nicely to discussions on Paul Revere and Jack Jouett. If you aren't familiar with the story of Jack Jouett, check out this link

Friday, September 7, 2012

Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters First 100 Years

Authors: Sarah and Elizabeth A. Delany with Amy Hill Hearth
Publisher: Kodansha International 1993

This book jumped off the shelf of my public library. It just appeared magically in my pile. It was a busy summer and it was hard to get to all the books I wanted to read. You know how it is. This book was in the pile but not rushing to the top of the list.... until I came home one day and found this from my Mom-
This yellow flag caught my eye as I walked in the door.

I started reading it that night because anything that can make Mom laugh out loud- well it is Not to be missed.

And, I agreed there were parts that made me laugh out loud and parts that made me sad, stronger, and more connected to humanity. The strength and accomplishments of these women who did extraordinary things in the face of unbelievable challenges. Run, don't walk to the library or bookstore to pick up this book and meet the Delany women and family. Be Inspired!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Flight of the Phoenix (Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist Book One)

Author: R. L. LaFevers
Illustrator: Kelly Murphy
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin for Children 2009

Nathaniel Fludd was left by his parents several years ago with a governess named Miss Lumpkin while his parents explored. The original plan was to send for him at the age of 8. Years passed without word until a lawyer shares that his parents have been declared lost at sea and that he will be sent to live with a distant cousin on his father's side. The cousin Phil A. Fludd is not at all what Nathaniel or the reader anticipates and just like that a drastic change happens.

I enjoyed this book and think it will be a perfect read for my 2nd graders. It is a challenge to find books that meets their level of reading sophistication while recognizing their overall innocence. This book fits that bill with simple story lines and just the right amount of complexity. The introduction of beasts such as the phoenix, dodo, and non-beast such as a gremlin named Greasle will keep readers engaged. The book does have a flaw in my opinion and I'll be interested to hear what the kids think. The book takes a left turn when trying to rescue Phil Fludd from the Bedouin that was implausibly convenient. I'm not a fan of this story technique (remember Dan Brown's character leaping out of the crashing helicopter and landing safely because of a square yard of fabric??). I am hopeful that the series has developed more fully. I do have a large willing suspension of disbelief  but it can be exceeded and this pushed that boundary.

However, I am already thinking perhaps we should start a Beastology Anthology or something and encouraging the kids to research griffins, unicorns, basilisks, manticores... which means I'll have to dig around first. I just saw a book the other day that might provide just the right framework for such an assignment. Hmmm, I'm going to have to check out Michael Hearst's book Unusual Creatures: A mostly accurate account of some of Earth's strangest creatures all over again. The illustrations and style of Unusual Creatures along with the fictional nature of Nathaniel Fludd, now that could be Fun! 

Want more? Here is the webpage to explore more things Nathaniel Fludd. (linked here)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Stopping by the Library

Dashed into my public library the other day to pick up one book for school. This is a bit like dashing to the grocery store for milk and walking out with a full cart. My arms couldn't hold all the books I had not planned to checkout but did. Here's a sampling of what I'll be doing over the next week. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams

Author: Rhonda Hayter
Publisher: Dial Books For Young Readers 2010

Abbie Adams would be described as a normal fifth grade girl who wants to be an actress, has a grumpy teacher, and too much homework. She just happens to be a witch along with the rest of her family. While there are definite benefits such as zapping yourself to the first Olympics or Hawaii, it isn't always easy and it only gets harder when the new kitten (which is not a kitten) arrives.

I loved this book after reading 2 pages and had to restrain myself from running to the computer to purchase it. I managed to finish the book and then put it on my order list but just barely. My favorite things about this book include:
  • filled with smart words like confound, levitating, vermin, and disenchantment;
  • Mrs. Linegar is the perfect name for this teacher;
  • Munch a.k.a. Lazarus, the younger brother;
  • a plot that assumes we readers are intelligent even if young;
  • the way historical events and time periods are interwoven and will spark curiosity;
  • and the Beverly Cleary/Judy Blume feel of the book (just good old fashioned modern writing~ that makes no sense but read it and you will understand the feeling).
Rhonda Hayter's website (linked here) includes a teacher guide perfect for book club conversations. I can't wait to see what happens next for this author or for my copy to arrive so I can share it with the kids.