Thursday, December 9, 2010

This Librarian's Quick Picks: Upper Elementary Edition

How Tia Lola Learned To Teach
by Julia Alvarez


When Tía Lola is invited to teach Spanish at Miguel and Juanita's school, Miguel worries how everyone will react to his wacky non-English-speaking aunt.

Why you'll love it:
  • Julia Alvarez integrates Spanish throughout the story in a natural way, incorporating meanings without interrupting the flow of the narrative.
  • Chapters each begin with a fun, plot-related saying (”The sleeping shrimp is carried away by the current,” for example), in Spanish and English. The sayings are gentle lessons for Tía Lola’s niece and nephew—and for the reader.
  • Readers will recognize and/or identify with some of Miguel and Juanita’s feelings and experiences. At school, fifth-grader Miguel wants to fit in. Meanwhile, Juanita, in third grade, has a hard time paying attention in class. At home, their parents have recently divorced, and their papi is getting remarried. Miguel gradually comes to accept—and appreciate—that Carmen will be a permanent part of their family. 

    Soar, Elinor!
    by Tami Lewis Brown
    Genre: Biography


    In 1927, many people thought females shouldn't fly. Still, sixteen-year-old Elinor Smith became a licensed pilot, then performed a seemingly impossible aerial maneuver.

    Why you'll love it:
    • A fascinating look at a lesser-known female aviator.
    • The details of Elinor Smith's preparation make it clear that her gutsy feat required careful planning, precision, and quick decisions, while the historic flight is portrayed with immediacy.
    • Gives readers a sense of the culture and excitement surrounding aviation in the 1920s.
    • François Roca uses varying perspectives in his vibrant illustrations to fully depict Elinor's flight, giving not only Elinor's view from the cockpit, but also the vantage point of onlookers from the Manhattan Bridge and from the deck of a ship in the East River.
    • The back matter provides information on Elinor Smith's subsequent aviation accomplishments and describes the author's first-hand research. 

      True Things (Adults Don't Want Kids to Know): Amelia Rules!
      by Jimmy Gownley
      Genre: Graphic Novel


      Amelia's eleventh year begins with a wonderful birthday party, but things quickly go downhill. Aunt Tanner would usually help--but she is hardly ever around.

      Why You'll Love It:
      • Jimmy Gownley continues with his signature mix of seriousness and humor: complex relationships between well-drawn characters combine with lightness about the difficulties of growing up.
      • Has a slightly more sophisticated look than previous books in the series, as Amelia deals with more grown-up problems, such as having a crush and doing poorly in school. She also confronts the loss of childhood things, including the clubhouse she once shared with her friend Reggie.
      • Amelia’s beloved aunt Tanner plays a large role in this story. Tanner follows her dreams, dispenses advice, and ultimately leaves home to go on tour.
      • The art is colorful and dynamic, with text and characters often extending outside of their panels. This book will not stay on the shelf at my library!!!

      The Ghostwriter Secret: The Brixton Brothers
      by Mac Barnett
      Genre: Mystery


      Just after Steve Brixton opens his detective agency, he receives a letter from mystery writer MacArthur Bart. Before Steve can reach him, Bart vanishes.

      Why you'll love it:
      • A wonderful send-up of Hardy Boys-style detective stories. Steve's antiquated slang and his heartfelt belief in such mottoes as “Ace sleuths must always keep their cool—even when the danger is red hot!” are endearing and funny.
      • Though intentionally campy, the book also offers a genuinely compelling mystery, with ample surprises for Steve and readers alike.
      • Steve's best friend, Dana, is a comical foil, providing plenty of deadpan humor during his many attempts to talk sense into Steve. And Dana is easy to relate to, often acting as an audience stand-in by expressing doubt about Steve's absurd crime-fighting methods.

      Before They Were Famous: How Seven Artists Got Their Start
      by Bob Raczka
      Genre: Nonfiction


      See the evolution of seven artists including Dürer, Picasso, and Dalí by viewing works they made as children and masterpieces they created as adults.

      Why You'll Love It:
      • It is inspiring to see their childhood work, and to note the talent they had from a young age. As Bob Raczka points out to readers, “make sure your parents save a few of your favorite art projects. Who knows, maybe you’ll grow up to be a famous artist!”
      • Full-page biographical sketches of the artists focus on their childhood interest in art and their early training.
      • Captioned reproductions of three works by each artist include a childhood piece and an iconic piece for which they are known. The progression of their work, often within a short period of time, is fascinating.

      Journey into the Deep: Discovering New Ocean Creatures
      by Rebecca Johnson
      Genre: Nonfiction


      Based on real journeys undertaken for the 2000-2010 Census of Marine Life, this book documents the discovery of fascinating new ocean creatures.

      Why You'll love it:
      • Vivid color images of a stunning variety of marine creatures, such as the barreleye fish, which has a transparent head, and the rainbow-colored squat lobster, will capture readers’ attention.
      • Helpful diagrams show where in the world particular species were found, and in what type of ocean habitat.
      • Without being heavy-handed, the descriptions of marine life and the interdependence of animals demonstrate the precarious balance of underwater environments, and the need to conserve them. 

      Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth
      by Jeff Kinney


      In his latest diary, middle-schooler Greg Heffley chronicles his search for a new best friend after a falling out with Rowley. With family members urging him to become more responsible, Greg decides that he's not in a hurry to grow up.

      Why You'll Love It:
      • This Wimpy Kid installment is just as funny as the previous books, with illustrations providing many of the punch lines. Greg’s attempt to get the family’s housekeeper to do his laundry, for example, leads to a hilarious standoff.
      • Greg is getting older, and the situations covered here—learning about puberty in health class, having a pimple, and attending family gatherings—will be familiar to middle-grade readers.
      • Jeff Kinney explores the tenuousness of being a preteen and a middle child. Greg realizes that people no longer consider him cute: his little brother, Manny, is the center of attention in the Heffley family, and a younger boy is chosen over Greg to become the next spokesperson for Peachy Breeze Ice Cream.
      • Greg’s take on posting pictures online is amusing and timely, as he tries to look like he’s having “a total blast” by editing himself into photos of pillow fights and conga lines. A cautionary message about sharing too much information on the Internet—via Greg’s older brother Rodrick’s wild photographs—is presented humorously, but effectively.

      by Patricia Reilly Giff
      Genre: Historical Fiction


      Even though they are separated by centuries, Elizabeth feels a kinship with her ancestor, Zee. Elizabeth's present-day story alternates with Zee's story.

      Why You'll Love It:
      • Although Elizabeth and Zee's stories are separated by centuries, the girls have many similar traits and feelings—such as their impulsive actions and carelessness, and the guilt they feel when they disappoint their families—providing a sense of the continuity of the human experience.
      • Zee's story is compelling, with interesting Revolutionary War-era details, gripping moments in battle, and grievous loss.
      • Elizabeth's developing relationship with her aunt, Libby, is realistic and heartwarming.
      • Readers may be inspired to seek out their own family histories after following Elizabeth's search to discover more about Zee's life.


      Veens said...

      Some great books. I want that Wimpy kid book :)

      ImageNations said...

      Have to start some collection for my son... great list

      Alyce said...

      My son loves the diary of a wimpy kid books. Thanks for the other suggestions!

      emily said...

      All of those sound really good! Thanks for recommending:D

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