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State of the Stacks: Too Soon Edition

I’m reblogging this essay to share with my readers because it contains a great discussion on developmental reading and book choices. I hope you find it as interesting as I do.

Plucked from the Stacks

As a child, reading is a constant period of transitions. A kid usually starts with someone reading picture or board books to them. From there, they might try to tackle wordier texts like easy readers and chapter books. Before long, there’s a pull for longer stories with more complex plots, and that’s when middle grade novels kick in. And as they grow and develop as readers, young adult works wait for them before they drift into the wild and untamed world of adult books.

Of course, every reader is different and, just because a kid moves toward a different style of book, it doesn’t mean they can’t return to an old, trusted format. So while each type of book represents a door for readers, it’s an open one— one they can pass back and forth to suit their moods. It’s how adults can still find joy in picture books.

However…

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Madeline Finn and the Shelter Dog–introduction to the animal shelter

Madeline Finn and the Shelter Dog

written and illustrated by Lisa Papp

Madeline Finn and the Shelter DogIf you like kids and reading and you have a heart for shelter dogs, then you will enjoy sharing Madeline Finn and the Shelter Dog by Lisa Papp with a child in your life. The storyline is simple. A little girl, Madeline, begs her mother for a puppy. Mrs. Dimple, who volunteers at a shelter, has a rescue dog, Bonnie, with some pups. Madeline is allowed to choose one, and in the process she learns about shelters where animals wait for their forever homes as well as how to care for her new puppy. Madeline is a girl of action. She not only helps at the shelter, she also rallies her community to bring blankets and books to read to the shelter animals. Madeline Finn and the Shelter Dog is a sweet read with gentle and engaging illustrations.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Peachtree Publishers (Myrick Marketing) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Children’s Fiction

Publication:  March 1, 2019—Peachtree Publishers (Myrick Marketing)

The Writer Who Couldn’t Answer Standardized Test Questions About Her Own Work

board chalk chalkboard exam

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

This article hits me hard on two levels. One is OVERTESTING! What are we doing when we contrive in standardized tests to create “gotcha” questions that the author of a work can not even answer? The other is a reader’s understanding of a piece. To comment on a work of literature is to bring your own background knowledge to the work. It should affect each reader in a different way. This is not to say that we cannot discuss the possible intended meaning by the author, but to claim authoritatively from a reading what another person thinks is hubris. My view of standardized tests is that you are right, KayCKay; just listen for the cha-ching echoing in the hallowed halls of learning.

KayCKay Book Reviews

Yesterday I posted a review of one of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories called The Cask of Amontillado. At the end of my review I commented that the story has been analyzed to death regarding the “meaning” of the story and what the story may signify or represent. My final comment was to wonder what Poe would say if we were able to ask him directly. My thought is that he would say it was just a story!

Today I saw an article about a poet that couldn’t answer standardized test questions about her own poems!

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Storytime: The Not-So-Brave Penguin

Storytime: The Not-So-Brave Penguin

by Steve Smallman

The Not So Brave PenguinJoin Percy penguin and Posy penguin doing what Antarctic penguins do—and bring along some kids for a fun time together. Storytime: The Not-So-Brave Penguin is an adorable picture book written and illustrated by Steve Smallman. It tells the tale of the adventurous daredevil Percy and his timid friend Posy. When Percy’s penchant for rollicking fun takes him over the edge, Posy finds the courage to overcome her biggest fear, the dark, to rescue him.

Children can identify readily with both characters and will enjoy talking about the plot, characters, emotions, and setting. The illustrations are outstanding and such that a non-reader could retell the story. The author follows up with suggestions for discussion and activities to enhance comprehension with charts and art activities.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Quarto Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Children’s Fiction

Notes:  Age Range: 4-8 years

  Grade Level: Preschool-2

Publication:   November 15, 2018—Quarto Publishing

Memorable Lines:

Percy penguin wasn’t scared of anything. 

He loved WHIZZING down snowy slopes on his tummy.

Posy penguin was not so brave. 

She shuffled down slopes on her bottom instead.

Meet Me at the Farmers Market–fun event for kids

Meet Me at the Farmers Market

written by Lisa Pelto

illustrated by Paula S. Wallace

Meet Me at the Farmers MarketSophia is seven years old and one of her favorite things to do is to go to the local Farmers Market every weekend with her mom—regardless of the weather and even if they are on vacation. Meet Me at the Farmers Market has appealing, colorful line art created by Paula S. Wallace. Author Lisa Pelto has tapped into the current revived interest in buying local and organic and entertainingly walks children through what it is like to go to a farmers’ market. Sophia meets her friends there, and it is a community event complete with pets and musicians. There are fun things for kids like face painting, balloon animals, and delicious food snacks. Sophia and her mom buy fresh seasonal vegetables, eggs and meat.

This is a fast and easy read that children can enjoy as a read aloud and later read by themselves. It offers many possibilities for discussion about families, friends, community and eating clean and local.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Reading is Key Publishing  (Concierge Marketing) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 4/5

Category: Children’s Fiction, Food

Notes: 

1. Age Range: 3-7 years

    Grades: K-3

2. I wonder if it is typical for animals (besides service animals) to be allowed at a Farmers Market.

Publication:   June 8, 2018—Reading is Key Publishing  (Concierge Marketing)

Memorable Lines:

Mom always tells Farmer Dan, “Your eggs are the freshest, and that’s no yolk!”  Farmer Dan says, “You crack me up! See you next week.”

A Literary Tea Party: Blends and Treats for Alice, Bilbo, Dorothy, Jo, and Book Lovers Everywhere

A Literary Tea Party

by Alison Walsh

A Literary Tea Party2A Literary Tea Party, subtitled Blends and Treats for Alice, Bilbo, Dorothy, Jo, and Book Lovers Everywhere, is a delightful book tantalizing the senses with beautiful color photos and delicious themed recipes. The Table of Contents categorizes the recipes into Savories, Bread and Muffins, Sweets, Homemade Tea Blends, and Tea Alternatives. Each recipe is then listed by its themed name and the book or author associated with it. For example, Savories includes Poetical Egg Salad Sandwich referring to Anne of Green Gables.

Although many of the books referenced are childhood favorites, this is not a children’s recipe book. The recipes are of various difficulty levels and although they generally are aimed at sophisticated tastes, the whole tea party atmosphere is so special it would entice children to sample something a little different. Most recipes include a photograph, a quote tying in the literary reference, a note about the recipe, a listing of ingredients, and clear directions followed by a serving note that again references the literary work. Sometimes important cooking notes are added and highlighted. For some recipes a tea pairing is included. There is also a section of the book which gathers five or six recipes together into a theme for a tea party. Some draw on recipes that refer to one book. Some refer to a theme such as murder and draw from a variety of authors.

The author, Alison Walsh, displays her creativity and artistic skills in the various dishes she shares as well as her photography. Walsh is a self-taught food blogger (Alison’s Wonderland Recipes) who also loves books. In the process of writing A Literary Tea Party, Walsh researched the science behind cooking and devoted herself to developing her culinary skills. The result is a beautiful book that any food lover or book lover would  appreciate; it is a magnificent combination of culinary and literary interests immersed in a refined, but fun, atmosphere only achievable in a tea party setting.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Skyhorse Publishing for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Cooking and Food

Publication:   June 5, 2018—Skyhorse Publishing

Memorable Lines:

Note that accompanied “Candied Nuts with Meadowcream” from The Legend of Luke: A Tale of Redwall by Brian Jacques: Most Redwall recipes are simple, rustic dishes, and dessert is no exception. In fact, sugar doesn’t even make an appearance in this recipe. Instead, lightly honeyed spiced walnuts are the star of this dish, accompanied by a generous helping of Redwall’s famous meadowcream. This dessert’s cozy flavors and homey feel make it a perfect Redwall dish!

Note that accompanied “Dark Chocolate Earl Grey Lavender Truffles” from “The Naval Treaty” by Arthur Conan Doyle: There’s nothing more British than Earl Grey tea or Sherlock Holmes, so why not bring them together? These dark chocolate truffles use cream steeped in tea to get that distinct Earl Grey flavor.

Note that accompanied “ Fairy Dust Star Cookies” from Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie: This imaginative take on the linzer cookie features a raspberry jam center and silver sprinkles. Delicately sweet with an otherworldly twinkle, they’re a dessert even Tinker Bell couldn’t resist.

Hot on the Trail in Ancient Egypt–young time travelers

Hot on the Trail in Ancient Egypt

written by Linda Bailey

illustrations by Bill Slavin

Hot on the Trail in Ancient EgyptHot on the Trail in Ancient Egypt is a juvenile graphic novel that kept this adult interested from beginning to end.  In this book, which is part of The Time Travel Guides, the bored Pinkerton twins chase after their little sister Libby who has entered the rather creepy Good Times Travel Agency. Opening the owner’s personal guide book catapults the three children into Ancient Egypt. They learn that their adventure will not end until they finish reading the book.

The layout of the book is very appealing. The fictional story is told in comic book style at the top of the page. At the bottom of the page is a drawing of an aged book (Julian T. Pettigrew’s Personal Guide to Ancient Egypt) containing nonfiction text that explains and elaborates upon what is happening in the story. For example, when an Egyptian woman invites them into her home, the nonfiction text describes the house, food, and clothing of Ancient Egypt.

I can’t stress enough the current importance of books like this to interest children in history for three reasons. First, most people are familiar with the saying attributed to George Santayana that “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” There are many horrific events in history most can agree should never be repeated. Second, sadly to say, most children are not exposed to history in their younger years in school. The school day and curriculum in public elementary school is so regimented that the focus is reading, taught in a boring and uninspired way, math, and standardized testing. I am not kidding or exaggerating when I say that as a teacher I had to sneak in science and history and hope the principal didn’t catch me. Third, history is interesting and FUN. in an age when teachers do their best to incorporate games and movement activities called “brain breaks” (to replace the recess that was taken away), we need to restore the intrinsic fun that comes through learning interesting things. In that way we create life long learners.

In addition, a book of this type actively demonstrates reasons for reading—to learn more about something you are interested in and to be carried away by a story. I particularly appreciate that Bailey gave a belated shout out to her high school history teacher: “Great work, Mr. Visch—you made it fun!” She dedicated the book to her daughter who “once did a school project on the Sphinx and has been in love with all things Egyptian ever since.” Teachers and projects do make a difference.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kids Can Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Children’s Nonfiction

Notes: 1. new edition of an older book

  2. Grade Level: 3-7

  3. Age Range: 8-12 years

Publication:   May 1, 2018—Kids Can Press

Memorable Lines:

For drinks, try the national beverage—beer! It’s made from half-cooked bread and river water, and it’s thick, dark and sometimes a bit lumpy. You’re supposed to strain it well before serving, but not everyone does.

Down at the bottom are the farmers and laborers. Most people in ancient Egypt are at the bottom of the society—where there’s plenty of room!

Sightseeing in the middle of a getaway? This was a very bad idea. Emma and Josh tried to lure their little sister out of the pyramid.

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