Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Seventh Level

Jody Feldman

Travis Raines is 12 years old and in middle school. His greatest desire is to be able to join The Legend. It is, however, very secret, by invitation only, and no one ever, ever talks about it. Then one day, a shiny blue envelope mysteriously shows up in his locker. One of the requirements of The Legend is staying out of trouble. It is too bad for Travis that he keeps getting into trouble. That first letter from The Legend somehow goes flying out the second story window. To retrieve it, Travis makes a daring rescue from the roof, where he meets Assistant Principal Mrs. Pinchon when he comes back up. She is in charge of discipline, but for some reason she decides to take it easier on Travis. She also keeps telling him, “Things aren’t always as they appear, remember that.” Shiny blue envelopes continue appear in his locker, and soon he finds other blue envelopes addressed to him in another locker. Some messages could get him into trouble, and others remind him to stay out of trouble. What’s a 12 year old to do when he can’t talk with anyone about any of the messages – they are supposed to be secret! Travis has a dilemma on his hands. He has to follow the directions in the blue envelopes, but are they really from The Legend? And, why are the envelopes different? Travis tries to remember what Mrs. Pinchon said, “Things aren’t always as they appear.” Will he succeed, or will Travis wind up in more trouble?

Ms. Feldman’s story of a struggle for a 12 year old boy trying to determine what is the right thing to do in light of such great motivation. This chapter book was written for the 10 and up audience, perhaps they are a better judge of this type of story. It was a laborious read; perhaps the same story could have been told in half the pages.

BIBLIO: 2010, Greenwillow Books, Ages 10 and up, $16.99.
REVIEWER: Debby Willett
ISBN: 978-0-06-195105-3

REVIEWED FOR: Children’s Literature, Online Version, 8/10/10

Freda Plans a Picnic

Stuart J. Murphy
Illustrated by Tim Jones

Freda Plans a Picnic is a playful story about a backyard picnic with friends. Freda invites her friends, a dog, and soon it is the morning of the picnic. First things to PACK in the basket are sandwiches, apples, and cookies. Freda’s mom wants to CARRY the basket outside before her friends arrive. It is heavy so they carry it together. The blanket has been spread and Freda’s friends begin to arrive – they all jump right in the middle. The food is UNPACKED and they are ready to EAT. Freda even has a treat for the dog! After dessert, it is time to CLEANUP. Everyone has so much fun they don’t want to stop.

Mr. Jones’ clever character illustrations are original and colorful and will surprise young readers while keeping their attention on the text. This book is part of Mr. Murphy’s “I See I Learn” Series, which is the reason for the capped words above. At the end of the book is “A Closer Look”, 5 questions, is included to engage the young reader and the one reading. This book is an excellent addition to any library.

BIBLIO: 2010, Charlesbridge, Ages 3 - 5, $14.95.
REVIEWER: Debby Willett
FORMAT: Picture Book
ISBN: 978-1-58089-456-2

REVIEWED FOR: Children’s Literature, Online Version, 8/10/10

All Around the Seasons

Barney Saltzberg

Spring, summer, fall, and winter come alive in rhyming text for young readers. Hatching chicks, playing hide and seek, rainbows, long picnic lunches – these are things found during the spring. Summer time is full of wonderful fun water days, lemonade, making s’mores, campfires, and lots of lazy days. As the days cool into the fall, the rhymes include turtlenecks, kites, leaves, jars with bugs, and of course, Halloween. Of course, winter, the coldest of them all, is depicted just as charmingly.

Young readers will enjoy the colorful illustrations and the not-so typical type. Mr. Saltzberg introduces the four seasons visually and with rhyming text. All Around the Seasons is an easy-read young readers is sure to enjoy. Adding this book to any library will be enjoyed by young readers.

BIBLIO: 2010, Candlewick Press, Ages 2 - 5, $11.99.
REVIEWER: Debby Willett
FORMAT: Picture Book / Rhyming Text
ISBN: 978-0-7636-3694-4

REVIEWED FOR: Children’s Literature, Online Version, 8/10/10

Nico & Lola, Kindness Shared Between a Boy and a Dog

Meggan Hill
Photography by Susan M Graunke

Nico’s Aunt Sue was going away for the weekend and needs a favor. Her little girl, Lola, needs a special person to take care her while she was away. Would Nico be willing to take care of Lola while she was gone? Nico is more than happy to watch Lola over the weekend. Lola is a little black pug, and he knows she will need time to get to know him first. She first sniffs his hand and soon they are on their way to the backyard for fun and games. Nico makes sure Lola has plenty of cool water when she gets thirsty. When friends come over to play with Lola, Nico shows them how to be careful with Lola. All too soon Nico’s time with Lola is over and Aunt Sue will be there shortly. Nico wonders if he will ever see Lola again.

There are several lessons to be learned in this sweet picture book. From the value of kindness, to remembering manners, taking turns, helping others in needs, and more. This book is not just a story of a boy caring for a dog over the weekend. Ms. Hill successfully crafted a picture book that teaches life skills to beginning readers using engaging photographs of a friendly pug named Lola. Ms. Graunke’s photographs are perfect for this story and will draw the young readers in. The cover photograph is the perfect foreshadowing of the context of this picture book. Nico & Lola is an excellent addition to a home, public, or school library. Bonuses for this book are three PDF activities available at the publisher’s website.

BIBLIO: 2009, Harper Collins Children’s Books, Ages 4 - 8, $16.99.
REVIEWER: Debby Willett
FORMAT: Picture Book
ISBN: 978-0-06-199043-4

REVIEWED FOR: Children’s Literature, Online Version, 8/10/10

At the Supermarket

Anne Rockwell

From a young child’s perspective, a trip to the supermarket is an adventure! The magic of an automatic door begins the journey and a grocery cart only adds to the fun – how fast can it be filled! From there the smells and colors of food is the draw to keep going. His mom has chicken planned for dinner tonight, so that is the first stop but more dinners are planned. Vegetables and fruits are added to the cart. Then, lots of things that are cold are added from the dairy case – milk, eggs, butter, and cheese. There is so much more to add to the cart. Still, the most important thing to get are the things for his birthday party the next day.

Small children love to go on adventures and the supermarket is no different. This book is a delightful quick trip through colorfully illustrated pages. Age appropriate for young children who don’t understand the concept of “shopping for groceries” will soon put the two-together. Ms. Rockwell’s illustrations in this updated version use acrylic gouache that results in bright colors on white backgrounds.

BIBLIO: 2010, Henry Holt & Company, Ages 2 - 5, $16.99.
REVIEWER: Debby Willett
FORMAT: Picture Book
ISBN: 978-0-8050-7662-2

REVIEWED FOR: Children’s Literature, Online Version, 8/10/10