Sunday, November 27, 2011

Non-Fiction Monday: How the Sphinx got to the Museum

Welcome to Non-Fiction Monday!  Throughout the day I will add links to posts about non-fiction books across the web.

I picked up Jessie Hartland's How the Sphinx got to the Museum at the library because the cover looked fun and intriguing.  The book details a sphinx's journey from being commissioned by Hatshepsut to ending up in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  It goes through the small details of the journey from the sculptor creating it, the jealous stepson destroying it, the archaeologist finding it and putting it back together, and the riggers moving it.  It is written in a cumulative style - with every page going through each step - back to being ordered by the Pharaoh.  This really helps to cement each steps.

I really like this book - I think it is informative in a very accessible way.  It shows, in great detail, how much work goes into getting a single piece of art into a museum.  Before you head to a museum - especially the Met - pick this book up and read it with your kids.  I think they will see the museum in a whole new light.

If you have a non-fiction post - add your link and a brief description and I will add your post below.

A Teaching Life- I review a book (one of a series) about princesses from long ago and far away who were way ahead of their times in terms of self empowerment and social justice.

Do celebrate big jazz band with us over at GatheringBooks as we feature Marilyn Nelson and Jerry Pinkney's "Sweethearts of Rhythm: The Story of the Greatest All-girl Swing Band in the World" for Nonfiction Monday

Playing by the Book - I review one of the books shortlisted for this year's Royal Society Young People's Book Prize, The Story of Astronomy and Space. I also show how you can create a to-scale solar system in your back garden!

NC Teacher Stuff reviews  Hey Diddle Diddle: A Food Chain Tale - a story detailing the food chain. 

The Nonfiction Detectives have a review of Coral Reefs by Jason Chin today.

Ms. Yingling Reads reviews two WWII books today.  

Prose and Kahn - I finally got to the book How They Croaked. 

Wrapped in Foil - I reviewed a biography of Dan Eldon written for teens. 
Wild About Nature blog reviewed Over in the Meadow by Jan Thornhill this week.

Delightful Children's Books - I have a booklist of 10 great books about snow, each with a short review. As with all my booklists, I recommend a mixture of fiction and nonfiction books about a theme. The two nonfiction books on this list are Building an Igloo by Ulli Steltzer and Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and Mary Azarian. 

The Swimmer Writer - My selection for this week's blog is Black Elk's Story: a Lakota Story by S. D. Nelson. This first person narrative tells the story of Black Elk, a medicine man, who was the cousin of Crazy Horse.

At The Fourth Musketeer I have a new picture book biography in free verse of ballerina Alicia Alonso.

Jean Little Library - I've got a review of Off to Class by Susan Hughes, about schools around the world.

At Geo Librarian, I am highlighting a book about archeology called Cities of the Dead: Finding Lost Civilizations.

Jeanne Walker Harvey -  True Tales & A Cherry On Top goes back in time with Joan of Arc exquisitely illustrated by Demi.
Biblio File - I'm in with the Cybils nominated Mysteries of Angkor Wat.

Apples with many Seeds - I've posted about Jacqueline Briggs Martin's book The Chiru of High Tibet. 

At SimplyScience, I have MyPlate and You about the new food guidelines for kids. Thank you for hosting.

At Bookends, Cindy and I have a review of Heart and Soul by Kadir Nelson.

Chapter Book of the Day reviews Taylor Swift by Anita Yasuda *and* Picture Book of the Day reviews Duke Ellington's Nutcracker Suite by Anna Harwell Celenza (Author) and Don Tate (Illustrator).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Today the movie Hugo is out in theaters.  It is a Martin Scorsese adaptation of Brian Selznick's The Invention of Hugo Cabret - and it looks awesome. In September I heard Brian Selznick speak at the National Book Festival and he said he was very pleased with the movie and that when he met Scorsese on the set Scorsese had his book in hand.  I am reposting my previous review of the book along with the movie clip.  I am hoping that I can sneak away sometime this weekend to see it . . . 

I love picture books.  I always feel a little sad when I hear parents say "My child has outgrown picture books - they read chapter books now."  I strongly believe that one should never outgrow picture books.  Although as we grow older we will add chapter books, young adult novels and Dickens' classics to our reading repertoire - picture book reading does not need to end.  There is a lot to be gained from reading not only the text on the page but the pictures as well.


One picture book that I love, and is clearly written for an older audience, is the 2008 Caldecott winner The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brain Selznick.  This is a 500 page picture book.  It tells the story of a young orphan boy named Hugo who keeps the time in an old train station.  No one knows that it is Hugo who keeps the time - it is his uncle's job - and he must remain hidden to keep the job - and thus shelter and food.   But when Hugo crosses paths with a young girl and a grumpy old man from the toy shop in the train station the mystery of a drawing from his deceased father begins to unravel.

The story goes between text and extended pages of black and white pencil drawings with incredible detail. In order to read this story both the text and pictures must be read for the complete story to come together.  Selznick's illustrations are amazing as is the way he combines the text and illustrations to create the whole.

I think this book would be great for children 8 or older and adults.  It is a fantastic picture book. But whether you pick up The Invention of Hugo Cabret or A Sick Day for Amos Magee - I hope you feel as I do.  That one is never too old for a good picture book.  

Monday, November 21, 2011

What Do you Do with a Tail Like This?

A bookseller recently introduced me to one of her favorite authors - Steve Jenkins.  I had never seen anything by him but his book What Do You Do With a Tail Like This?  won me over in a hurry.  In fact, I bought it for my four-year-old son for Christmas - he loves animals and will be thrilled.  

This is a picture book that looks at various animals based on different body parts and how they use them.    For example, it will ask "What do you do with a nose like this?"  On that page are illustrations of different animal noses - then on the next page it shows the entire bodies of all the animals and explains how they use their noses.  Hyenas find their next meal, elephants give themselves baths and alligators breath through their noses while hiding under the water.  

The illustrations in this book are very fun and the set-up of only showing part of the animals first creates a fun guessing element to the text.  The ratio of text to illustration is the perfect amount to captivate the child audience and at the end of the book there is even more information on each animal.  

This is a fun and informative book that kids will love - a perfect gift for animal lovers.  

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Holiday Gifts

Over at kirtsy I have a slide show of a few (a very few) of my favorite books to give as holiday gifts - check them out!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mouse and Lion

While perusing my favorite independent bookstore, I found a beautiful rendition of Aesop's fable of the lion and the mouse entitled Mouse and Lion written by Rand Burkert and illustrated by Nancy Ekholm Burkert.  Jerry Pinkney won the Caldecott in 2009 for his rendition - The Lion and the Mouse - a nearly wordless picture book depicting the traditional story.  The illustrations are breathtaking.  Even coming on the heels of this Caldecott winner, Mouse and Lion is fantastic.

Mouse and Lion tells the story largely from the viewpoint of the mouse - hence the switch in the order of the names.  The text tells of a brave Mouse - who climbs mountains and fights blades of grass.  The Lion is prideful but amused by the small - and clearly not brave - Mouse so he lets him free.  When the Mouse ultimately saves the Lion his bravery is celebrated and the Lion's viewpoint of the world is changed.

The illustrations match the text in detail and description.  The muted colors and detailed illustrations bring to life the Mouse and his bravery - both in standing up to and saving the Lion.  Nancy Ekholm Burkert's illustrations could tell the story on their own - but the addition of the text makes the story even stronger.

At the end of the book Rand Burkert writes, "In most productions of this fable, Lion's name appears first on the marquee.  It is not clear why this should be, when Mouse clearly performs the lion's share of the work."  This book certainly celebrates Mouse in Aesop's well known tale.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


When I looked at the clock last night after I turned off my lamp it read 12:50.  I got in bed with the intention of just reading a little more of Brian Selznick's Wonderstruck but could not put it down.  Needless to say the little voices chatting at 6 a.m. came awfully early this morning (curse daylight savings!).  But it was worth it.

Wonderstruck tells two separate stories- one exclusively through illustrations (Rose) and the other through text (Ben).  Rose and Ben are both in New York City for much of their story so some of the images seen by Ben are shown in Rose's story - only 50 years earlier.  Rose lives in 1927 and has scrapbooks full of pictures of a famous actress - Lillian Mayhew, while Ben lives in 1977 and is in search of his father.

Brian Selznick's illustrations are simply amazing.  Since Rose's story is told only through illustrations - the reader must read the illustrations carefully to follow her story.   The black and white pencil drawings are incredibly detailed and emotionally vivid.  I was really drawn into her story.  Ben's story is also intriguing. The text is well written and Ben's story is also emotionally charged.  Selznick weaves the details of the two stories together into a wonderful conclusion.

This is a fantastic book and would make a great Christmas gift.  It is for a little older audience - perhaps 8 or 9 and older.  Age range is always hard to pin down because it really varies from child to child.  The story as a whole is impressive but the illustrations, for me, are what bring the emotion of this story to the forefront.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Seasons by Blexbolex is a very retro look at the seasons.  It is all illustrations with one word descriptions in large, thick, pink block letters at the top.  The book begins with four illustrations - all the same - but altered for each season: Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.  The book continues on to have images that are reminiscent of each season - they are randomly ordered, not going through each season in turn.  

Blexbolex is from France and studied screen printing in school.  The book contains grainy, colorful print images that vary from simple to wonderfully detailed.  The artwork is really fantastic.  I think this book would be very fun to look at with a young child pointing out simple items and naming them.  I think it would also be interesting for an older child who loves art to see a different medium done very well.  

Monday, November 7, 2011

Gator or Croc?

The last time we went to the library my four-year-old son came home with two non-fiction books that he picked.  With pictures of a crocodile and koala on the front of them I can see why he was so excited. 

 The first book was Gator or Croc? by Allan Fowler and it is a part of the Rookie Read-About Science series.  This book is great because it is filled with pictures of crocodiles and alligators with simple text.  The book uses the pictures and text together to demonstrate the difference between alligators and crocodiles - you can see the bottom teeth of a crocodile when its jaws are closed - you can't on alligators.  My son has asked for this book to be read numerous times - it has been fun to learn more about alligators and crocodiles.  I definitely will look for more books in this series at the library.  

The second book he chose was Koala by Edana Eckart - a part of the Scholastic Welcome Books: Animals of the World.  We also really enjoyed this book.  My son was very excited to learn that koalas have some similarities to kangaroos.  This is also filled with great pictures and simple text - more simple and less words than the other series.   

These short books are a great way to learn about a variety of subjects in a quick, informative and interesting way.  I think my son was especially excited about them because he picked them off of the shelf himself.  I think the limited text is key for the preschool age group - a lot of text would have lost my son's attention - but these were perfect.  

Friday, November 4, 2011

Ruby the Red Fairy

I confess.  I can be somewhat of children's literature snob.  All books are not created equal - some are definitely better than others.  And in general I try to fill my blog with books that I think are great.  There are also ones that my children generally like as well.  However, there are many books that my children love - that are - well - not my favorite.

I was not always a children's literature snob.  As a child I read very few of the books I now deem as great books.  My favorite series was The Babysitters Club by Ann M. Martin.   I loved these books.  I remember many nights staying up late into the night, reading by the light of my lamp, to finish "just one more chapter" and then "just one more . . ."  While this series certainly is not going to go down in history as "great literature" to pass on from generation to generation - they did something very important for me - and I am sure many other young girl readers:  they cultivated in me a love for reading.

What The Babysitters Club was for me The Rainbow Fairies is for my daughter.  She picked out one at the library and read it in a weekend.  After finishing it she started looking at the pictures of all of the other fairies and deciding which ones she liked best, wanting to know which ones I liked best, and trying to decide which ones she needed to read next.  Hallie the Halloween fairy usually does not come for a few days after Halloween allowing our kids to have a few days to enjoy some of their candy.  My daughter put her candy out on the night of Halloween with a note for Hallie asking for Ruby the Red Fairy - she did not want to miss Hallie and her chance to get her new fairy book.

Hallie came through in the clutch and brought Ruby the Red Fairy.  The fairy books follow two friends - Rachel and Kirsty as they help fairies in fairyland solve - fill in the blank: lost fairies, lost pets of fairies, etc.  The stories are written by Daisy Meadows - which is really just a pen name for five different writers who write the books.

And while these books are most certainly not my favorite - I am thrilled about them.  Because they are cultivating a love for reading in my daughter.  And isn't that the most important thing we can do for young children - help them cultivate a lifelong love of reading?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Halloween Fairy

We are big into fairies around here.  My son even likes fairies although I think he envisions them a little different than my daughter.  Some of the trees around here drop small, sharp sticks that are perfectly shaped like fairy swords and my son finds them and leaves them for the fairies.  His fairies are slightly more violent than fancy like my daughters.

A few days after Halloween a fairy visits our house - Hallie.  Our kids eat candy for a few days and then leave their bags out for Hallie and she takes their candy and leaves them books in return.  And she usually leaves a couple of their pieces of candy as well - she's nice like that.

This year Hallie brought my son an Elephant and Piggie Book - Happy Pig Day by Mo Willems.

Both of my kids love the Elephant and Piggie series - but my son especially thinks they are hilarious.  Pig and Elephant have such a funny friendship and the illustrations really play off of that.  These are great early readers for kids and just as fun for read-alouds.  After I put my kids down at night I often hear them chatting and my daughter reading a story to her younger brother - and I think this is going to be a new go-to for her to read to him.

It is nice to be nearly candy free today and excited about new books!!