Monday, August 31, 2015

Characters with character: RESPONSABILITY

Reblogged from: Reviews in Chalk

Summer Wheels - Eve Bunting, Thomas Allen
Summer Wheels
by Eve Bunting
Illustrations by Thomas B. Allen

The "Bicycle Man" fixes old bicycles and loans them to the kids of the neighborhood. There are only a few rules to borrow one: sign in the bike on time, and help fix it if it breaks when you are using it.
The kids are generally very careful about respecting these rules, but one day Leon appears. Leon has problems being responsible for his actions. He signs the bike out as "Abraham Lincoln" and fails in bring it back at the end of the day. When he is given a second chance he breaks the bicycle being deliberately imprudent and neglecting. The kids are very angry at him, but the Bicycle Man never gets tired of giving more opportunities.
Leon will learn how important is to accept the consequences of his actions and will do his best to be responsible and change his ways.  He seems to appreciate the Bicycle Man intention of help him.
He is not the only one who can learn something out of this situation. Lawrence and Brady will learn that being kind and friendly would bring a better outcome. I found this story really emotional.

Allen's illustrations are done in charcoal, pastel and colored pencil. They are not full of details, but more in a diffuse style. I personally liked them.

Age range: 7 to 10 years old.

*This review is part of my project Characters with character.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Characters with character: FRIENDSHIP

Reblogged from: Reviews in Chalk

Charlotte's Web/Stuart Little Slipcase Gift Set - E.B. White, Garth Williams
Charlotte's Web
by E. B. White

Everybody knows the plot of this adorable story, which is centered in Wilbur and Charlotte's friendship. A spider and a pig being best friends is certainly unusual, but they both show the deepness of their friendship in many ways along the story:

Wilbur accepts Charlotte the way she is. Although Wilbur is glad of having a friend and not being lonely anymore, he wonders if he could love someone "fierce" and "bloodthirsty" like Charlotte. He puts aside these thoughts and allows himself to discover Charlotte's kind heart.

Charlotte keeps her promise of helping Wilbur. She thinks and works hard to save her friend, and at the end, even feeling exhausted, she remains at Wilbur's side.

Wilbur trusts Charlotte. He knows his friend will come up with a plan to save him. And Charlotte trusts Wilbur her children when she knows she can't make it back to the farm.

Wilbur gives up something important for Charlotte. He makes the "solemn promise" to Templeton the rat of let him eat first from his own trough if Templeton gets Charlotte's egg sac for Wilbur.

Wilbur remains faithful to Charlotte taking care of many generations of her descendants.
And he misses her:
"Wilbur never forgot Charlotte. Although he loved her children and
grandchildren dearly, none of the new spiders ever quite took her
place in his heart. She was in a class by herself.
It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend
and a good writer. Charlotte was both."

*This review is part of my project Characters with character.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

"'How can you talk if you haven't got a brain?'
'I don't know, but some people without brains do an awful lot of talking.'"

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
L. Frank Baum

Friday, August 28, 2015

Small Pig

Small Pig - Arnold Lobel
by Arnold Lobel

This is a cute story written in 1969. The farmer's wife cleans the mud puddle in the pigpen since she thinks is the dirtiest spot in the whole farm. Small pig is angry with her and decides to run away. Looking for a new mud puddle he arrives to the city, and ends into trouble... Thankfully those who care for him will be there to save Small pig.
Small pig learns that he is welcome in the farm, that is his home too. The farmer and his wife missed the pig they think is the best pig in the world. They promised to be more tolerant.
This story is good as a trigger to talk about how sometimes it could be differences between persons that love each other, and how it's possible to go over them. A little patience and tolerance could be the solution.
The illustrations (made by the author too) are simple (mostly in back, yellow, green and blue) but nice. Some of them are pretty funny. They don't distract the reader.
This is a transitional book. It is not divided in chapters but it has page numbers.

Age range: 6 to 10 years old.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Characters with character: SELF-DISCIPLINE

Harriet, You'll Drive Me Wild! - Mem Fox, Marla Frazee
Harriet, you'll drive me wild!
by Mem Fox
Illustrated by Marla Frazee

Harriet is really trying not to misbehave, and her mom is really trying not to get mad at her. But sometimes both things happen. It's touching to see how both of them are trying hard. Mom doesn't like to yell. Harriet says she is sorry, and she means it. The best part is that they both can be forgiving, with themselves and with the other, and then try again.
It's a strong point in this story that both, mom and Harriet, have to effort to control themselves, this way parents and kids can relate with the characters. The repetition of the phrase "just like that" helps to see how natural this situation is.

The illustrations are beautiful, and they really add details to the text of the story being told. That's something so important in a picture book, that always involves a reader and a pre-reader who follows the story with the help of the images.
Frazee is a very talented illustrator. The illustration that accompanies the "There was a terrible silence" page is SO good! It shows this second of silence before the big explosion with such a vivid tension!

Age Range 3 to 6 years old.

*This review is part of my project Characters with character.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass - Lewis Carroll, John Tenniel, Martin Gardner"'Begin at the beginning,' the King said, very gravely, 'and go on till you come to the end: then stop.'"

Alice in Wonderland
Lewis Carroll

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The pleasure of finding a pearl.

There's a few ways you usually guess a book should be good before reading it. Maybe it's a classic that passed the test of time. Many people from different backgrounds and in different times liked it. It has to be good, even if it is not for your taste.
Maybe it was recommended to you by someone whose taste you know and trust, or it was written by an author you already tried and loved. Maybe it's in the top 10 of the moment, and you have heard a lot about it. The thing is when you pick one of these books you kind of expect to like it. But who doesn't love to be pleasantly surprised by a book? Who doesn't like to find a pearl?

A pearl is one of those books you decide to give a try for some vague reason and turns to be precious. Might be in a yard sale, or in a little free library, or you just pick it in your library because the cover catches your attention, or simply was in the same shelf as the book you were initially looking for. Pearls are probably the first reason why I sink my head in any book table or box that crosses my way. There's something so special and gratifying in finding a pearl! Last time it happened to me was just a few days ago when trying to find a book for my 10 years old picky reader. I thought "Who was that masked man, anyway?" would got him because of the title and the masked boy in the cover. First Avis's book for both of us. It ended being an absolutely pearl!

Now that I thought about it, it would be interesting to create a shelf exclusive for pearls. Off to rescue my pearls and give them a proper place.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Lemonade War

The Lemonade War - Jacqueline Davies
by Jacqueline Davies

Loved this book!

Evan and Jessie Treski will be in the same fourth grade classroom next year, since Jessie will skip one grade. Evan is not really happy with the idea of having his little sister in his same grade, specially because Jessie is the "smart-one" and he's scared to death of being embarrassed by her.
Jessie can't understand why Evan is so mad at her. She was feeling so happy she'll be in Evan's class next year since he is the "good-one-understanding-people" and could help her to fit in the new group.
This disagreement between sister and brother will end in The Lemonade War, where the first one earning one hundred dollars selling lemonade in the 5 days before coming back to school wins and keeps all the money. The looser wins nothing.
This is a book full of funny situations, feelings fathom and comical introduction of business concepts. It's fresh and enjoyable. The last chapter is as funny as emotional. Absolutely recommended for children in the 8-10 years old range.

Age range: 8 to 12 years old.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Charlotte's Web - E.B. White, Garth Williams, Rosemary Wells"'Do you understand how there could be any writing in a spider's web?'
'Oh, no,' said Dr. Dorian. 'I don't understand it. But for that matter I don't understand how a spider learned to spin a web in the first place. When the words appeared, everyone said they were a miracle. But nobody pointed out that the web itself is a miracle.'
'What's miraculous about a spider's web?' said Mrs. Arable. 'I don't see why you say a web is a miracle-it's just a web.'
'Ever try to spin one?' asked Dr. Dorian."

Charlotte's Web
E. B. White

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Ghostly Thief of Time

by Ruben Bolling
Age range: 8 to 12 years old.

I'm sure you, like me, have seen a lot of stories (in books, movies, shows, etc.) where a rational explanation is found to a scary or suspicious situation. It comes to my mind the old episodes of Scooby Doo, always ending with the monster or ghost being unmasked, turning to be only an unscrupulous person with a selfish interest in scaring the rest in order to get some particular benefit. It always worked with Scooby and Shaggy, but smart Velma, with Daphne and Fred will find an absolutely "from-this-world" answer.
In GHOSTLY THIEF OF TIME the characters will do all the contrary! Stuart, Brian and Violet (with the help of Ferdinand, an "alien robot" dog) will find a supernatural explanation to an absolutely normal, ordinary, daily situation.

Something is obviously happening with the time in Stuart's sixth grade room. It's evident time goes slower the near of the end of the day it is, and the closer to the back of the room you sit. Why does the last half an hour of the school day seems to last two hours? (Who hasn't wondered about this at least a thousand times?) The EMU Club has a new mystery to solve. Is the school janitor really what he claims to be? Could be the janitor's closet a time portal? You'll need to read this engaging story to find out!

This book was a great shared read with my son. It's very funny. We laughed or grinned at almost every page. It's visually attractive, written in an "EMU Club Report" format, with colorful pictures. The characters are likable, and they have a beautiful relationship between them. The time travel elements are easy to follow by the kids, not confusing at all.

I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Little Prince & Letter to a Hostage - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry"And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."

The Little Prince
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Thursday, August 20, 2015

More Bears!

More Bears! - Kenn Nesbitt, Troy Cummings
by Kenn Nesbitt

What happens when the author doesn't want bears in his new story book, but the children start asking for lots of them? So many that the book gets crowded and the author turns grumpy?
This is an original and funny story, with beautiful illustrations. I loved the fact of the author "hearing" the kids requests while in the writing process. The whole idea of being part of this process has to be amazing for the kids!
My kids and I have a great time shouting MORE BEARS! each time we turn the page. This is an all times favorite.

Age range: 3 to 6 years old.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Knees: The mixed up world of a boy with dyslexia

Knees: The mixed up world of a boy with dyslexia - Vanita Oelschlager, Joe Rossi

By Vanita Oelschlager

This lovely book is written in rhyming prose and illustrated in simple attractive black over cream drawings. Its goal is to explain dyslexia from the point of view of a boy who suffers it. It shows in a very clear way how difficult is for "Knees" to do some things other kids do without give it much thought. How he struggles and even feels upset sometimes, but how he is able to success too, like any other boy.
Great book to introduce little kids to the topic of differences, tolerance and acceptance.

Age range: 8 to 12 years old.

I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Who Was That Masked Man Anyway?

Who Was That Masked Man Anyway? - Avi
by Avi

Wow! I wasn't expecting such a good book when I picked this one at the library to read with my 10 years-old son. It was a VERY pleasant surprise!

Set in the US during WWII, this is the story of Frankie (short for Franklin Delano Wattleson), a sixth grader crazy about radio shows and avid to save the world with his friend/sidekick Mario Calvino.
The book is all written in dialog form, plus the transcription of radio shows (including those funny commercials!). The style is really innovative. Although the story is funny, other more "real" situations are present, like Frankie's brother being wounded at the war (and coming back home suffering from depression), Mario's father dying while fighting the war, etc. These events are not display in an upsetting way, though.
I think this book is a great way of introduce historical fiction. I'll try more Avi's books for sure.
Age range: 9 to 13 years old.

Monday, August 17, 2015


by Torben Kuhlmann
age range: 7 to 11 years old.

I really like the idea of wordless (or almost wordless) books with beautiful pictures that "speak". This is the story of how Moletown was first settled, how it grew and developed, and the problems that brought. But there's always people willing to find a solution, right?
This was one of those books you want to start over and over again.

I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Don't Dangle Your Participle

Don't Dangle Your Participle - Vanita Oelschlager

by Vanita Oelschlager

The book starts with a clear explanation of what a participle is and how if getting "dangled" in a sentence totally changes its meaning. This explanation is followed by many examples of illustrated sentences when written in the wrong and the right way. The situations absolutely change and the illustrations show that.
The examples are funny and easily understandable, and I really liked the illustrations.
I imagine using this book as a trigger kids could play building their own sentences.

Age range: 7 to 12 years old.

I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.