Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Road to Tater Hill

Book Information
Hemingway, Edith. The Road to Tater Hill. New York: Yearling, 2009.

Book Review

This book is for older children (ages 9 - 12) who are looking to read about serious and sensitive issues. It opens the door to reflection on several discussions, including grief, healing, friendship and the (mis)judgement of society about unfortunate people. A gripping read -- highly recommended.

Summary (from
Annie can always count on spending summers at her grandparents''. This summer should be even better because Mama is going to have a baby soon. Before Daddy leaves for his Air Force assignment, he gives Annie a journal for summer memories. But now Annie is grieving over the death of her newborn sister. How can she tell Daddy that ever since the baby died, Mama has been slipping away? If Annie wrote those words, Mama might stay that way forever. The only comfort Annie finds is in holding a stone she calls her "rock baby."  Then Annie secretly befriends a mysterious woman. She helps Annie accept her loss while Annie hopes to draw her back into the community. But all that is interrupted when a crisis reveals their unlikely alliance and leads to a surprising turn of events.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

No Posts til Canada Day


I am taking a temporary pause from blogging!

I will be back online in early July!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Boom! by Mark Haddon

Book Information
Haddon, Mark. Boom! (or 70,000 light years). London: David Fickling Books, 2009.

My Summary and Review
Boom! is a fast-paced alien teacher sci-fi spoof by Mark Haddon, author of the bestseller The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. James is having a hard time, and he is not all that interested in school. When James hears that he might be transferred to a different school, he and his friend Charlie bug the teachers' staff meeting and listen in. Instead of a regular meeting, however, he and Charlie soon hear some teachers speaking in an alien language. The adventures soon begin with a break-in, sinister brass bracelets, a cross-country motor bike trip and... space travel?

Readers will particularly enjoy the various science fiction references, from the light-bulg finger tips (E.T.?) to the aliens' strange speech and hover scooters. A funny, action-packed, breezy teen read. 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Mao's Last Dancer

My Summary and Review
An epic story of family life during Mao's Cultural Revolution in China: a young boy's ballet-oriented dreams and goals contrast strongly with his communist upbringing. A captivating book.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Solace of the Road

Book Information
Dowd, Siobhan. Solace of the Road. UK: David Fickling Books, 2009.

My Review
This twisting turn on the "road story" is an edgy teen read. The late Siobhan Dowd was gifted with creating complex characters, particularly Holly, who is so strong-willed, independent-minded, and so incredibly vulnerable at the same time. The fast-paced plot, the memorable characters who help Holly along her way to Ireland (and to self-knowledge), and Holly's many conflicting decisions, make this novel an incredibly gripping read. Highly recommended.

Book Summary
(from Memories of Mum are the only thing that make Holly Hogan happy. She hates her foster family with their too-nice ways and their false sympathy. And she hates her life, her stupid school and the way everyone is always on at her. Then she finds the wig, and everything changes. Wearing the long, flowing blonde locks she feels transformed. She's not Holly any more, she's Solace: the girl with the slinkster walk and the super-sharp talk. She's older, more confident - the kind of girl who can walk right out of her humdrum life, hitch to Ireland and find her mum. The kind of girl who can face the world head on.

So begins a bittersweet, and sometimes hilarious journey as Solace swaggers and Holly tiptoes across England and through memory, discovering her true self, and unlocking the secrets of her past.

SOLACE OF THE ROAD is a wonderful novel from one of the UK's most talented new writers for teenagers. Holly's story will leave a lasting impression on all who travel with her.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Ideas That Changed the World

Book Information
de la Bedoyere, Camille, ed. Ideas that Changed the World. New York, NY: Dorling Kindersley, 2010.

My Review and Summary
Interested in science or history? Check out Ideas that Changed the World, from Dorling Kindersley (publisher of the famous Eyewitness series). Ideas that Changed the World is filled with fast facts and interesting photographs about inventions and discoveries that have made history! This book is packed with the ideas that inspired creative inventors: the wheel, lasers, video games, GPS systems and cell phones.  Informative and action-packed, this book is appealing for learners of all ages!

My Notes
My brother-in-law, who is a mechanical engineer, pored over this book for at least half an hour! I introduced it to him because it had a page on the history of concrete (an area of specialty for his company), but he spent a good deal of time looking through the rest of it too!

I found the page on the invention of cash registers quite interesting, as they are quite sophisticated anti-theft machines. While working in a local museum a couple of summers ago, I actually created an exhibit featuring an early cash register -- the sheer weight of the machine was an anti-theft device in itself!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Excellent children's health websites

A few interesting and somber information services questions were posted to the American Library Services to Children email list about resources to help explain to children about health issues faced by their families. These issues were quite serious, and focused on car accidents and long term bed rest. In researching e-resources and website, I saw that there are comparatively few serious health online resources in this area appropriate for children, despite our society's growing focus on health.

An excellent website for children on health issues (varying in severity from nutrition to brain injuries) is KidsHealth at It's operated by Nemours, the organization that runs the Alfred I DuPont Children's Hospital. It features an online medical dictionary for children, whose definitions go far beyond the standards and include "biopsy" and "bruxism". In the category "Health Problems", the section on the brain was useful in answering the question on car accidents and their impact on the brain. The site presents the information using bright colours and drawings, and has fun quizzes and games to help kids grow their health knowledge. This website also has solid health information for teens and for parents too!

Additionally, has a section just for kids that explains the functions of different organs in the body and health concerns, including diabetes, epilepsy and pain management. As in the Nemours website, it has a variety of kid-friendly online informational games, quizzes and animation/videos.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

National Adult Literacy Database

Today, I discovered a data source whose focus is at the heart of many public libraries: adult literacy. The National Adult Literacy Database (a Canadian non-profit registered charity located at is an Internet-based source for information on literacy and essential skills in Canada. Here, you will find links to Canadian research in adult literacy, information on adult literacy training, and current adult literacy event information.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

ALSC help question results

Recently, I put out a question to the ALSC listserv, asking:

"Can you recommend a science fiction book at grade four reading level?

It has to have aliens. The vocab can't be too difficult, as the student is in ESL (though the reading level she is around the fourth grade). The student really likes art."

The ALSC community came through, and I have created a new page on this blog, above the post, displaying the results. Happy Reading!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The hidden agenda of bedtime stories -

An excellent article on why we should read to children before bedtime. Night-time reading has a variety of benefits for children, including the development of cognitive skills, learning language, and understanding issues that they face day-to-day. To find out more, visit: The hidden agenda of bedtime stories -

A few recommended reading lists from public libraries:

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Drop Everything and Read Silently, At Camp! Part 2

I thought I would add this as a follow-up post.

Offering an opportunity for silent reading/quiet activities was one of my best ideas for camp this week. It was a real treat seeing so many children, even those who proclaimed not to like reading, looking avidly through the books together that had been selected for camp, from Eyewitness-style non-fiction to sports books to mystery novels. I got requests for books during the week, and some campers even brought their own! Unsurprising to me, the Bone and Pokemon graphic novels were in demand! My supervisor and I felt that it was wonderful having the "library" brought to our campers at a municipal March Break camp.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Drop Everything and Read Silently, at Camp!

I wanted to add this brief post:

Partnerships between libraries and camps (March Break or summer) can work wonders. Today, I led a Drop Everything and Read Silently session at my camp, and it was amazing. It was boy-heavy, so we had plenty of nonfiction and fiction choices (I never thought I would top 50 books out of the library at a time, and have been proven wrong). Needless too say, it was a real success. Kids browsed books quietly, or played a quiet game. They even had additional requests for me, which I filled tonight. I am really pleased with the way it ran. They behaved so well that they scored an additional gym time session with extra time added on.Tomorrow, there will be a few graphic novels and magazines.

So, if your library does not have a formal partnership with your town's camps, you may wish to consider this as an additional outreach opportunity.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pirate Books -- Kid Lit

Pirate Book Reviews! These are samples of books I am making available to the kids in my March Break program.

Series Information
Allison Lassieur and Liam O'Donnell. The Real World of Pirates. Mankato, Minnesota: Edge Books, 2007.

My Review
Take a trip back to the Golden Age of Piracy and learn about what it took to become a pirate back in the 1700s. From pirate gear to pirate treasure, this series of short books describes pirate life using clear vocabulary and vivid illustrations. In addition, each book is sprinkled with trivia facts about pirates. Did you know that Blackbeard wove hemp into his hair and lit it on fire to frighten his enemy? Great for nonfiction-loving reluctant readers.

Book Titles

The History of Pirates: From Pirateers to Outlaws
The Pirate Code: Life of a Pirate
Pirate Gear: Cannons, Swords and the Jolly Roger
Pirate Hideouts: Secret Spots and Shelters
Pirate Ships: Sailing the High Seas
Pirate Treasure: Stolen Riches

Book Information
Lock, Deborah. Pirate. DK Publishing, 2005.

My Review
In the tradition of DK books, opening this book is like having a museum in print format. It's filled with pirate information in bite-sized facts, with many informative photographs of pirate artefacts.

Book Information
Havercroft, Elizabeth. A Year On a Pirate Ship.  Minneapolis, MN: Orpheus Books Ltd, 2008.

My Review
This book discusses pirates in more of a story format, with some "Where's Waldo?" style item-finding throughout the book. Not a book to work with if you need solid facts, like dates and/or names.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Upcoming Pirate Blog Posts

If you love the action of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and can't wait for the next film to come out, then check out the next few blog posts. During March Break, I am teaching a full-day program on pirates and lost treasures for my local museum. In my quest to become a pirate-ology expert, I am reading several brief books on pirates. Interested in learning about any of my pirate activities? I will post a list of activities with comments, and a handy list of resources at the end of March Break.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Rome Antics by David Macaulay

Book Information
Macaulay, David. Rome Antics. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.

My Summary and Review
A pigeon carrying an important message takes the reader through ancient and modern Rome. The simple story line is just a frame for the intricate, detailed and majestic line drawings of Rome's treasures. Reader: I challenge you to identify all of the sites within Rome that are drawn by Macaulay's masterful pen. At the back of the book, readers will find a detailed bird's-eye view of Rome, and a list of all the locations that the pigeon has visited.

Other books by David Macaulay include Cathedral and The Way Things Work. His books have won many prestigious awards, including the Caldecott Medal and Honour Awards, and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Art of Reading

Book Information
Reading is Fundamental. The Art of Reading: Forty Illustrators Celebrate RIF's 40th Anniversary. New York: Dutton Books, 2005.

My Review
This book is a treasure trove.  It highlights books that inspired forty well-established illustrators. From well-known classics (including Charlotte's Web and The Outsiders) to lesser-known books (especially The Thirteen Clocks by James Thurber), readers get a snapshot of a variety of books. Equally important, through the short essays and through illustrations that each artist creates about their chosen books, young readers can see how reading provokes thought and motivates achievement.

Reading Is Fundamental is a literacy-focused nonprofit group whose goal is to achieve a reading America, inspiring children to become lifelong readers. Their services include free books and resources for children and families that need them the most. Their website ( features a variety of activities, book lists and articles about literacy.

My Notes
My favourite illustration was Kevin Hawkes` Freddy the Detective, in which Freddy is shown holding a magnifying glass. Readers can see that Freddy`s shadow is in the shape of a boy wearing a Sherlock Holmes outfit. As Hawkes described it, the shadow represented himself as a boy, searching for clues for the next Freddy mystery.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya

Book Information
Tanigawa, Nagaru. The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya. New York, NY: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2010.

Book Summary and Review
The superpowerful, superpopular Haruhi Suzumiya is back at it in another light read from Sneaker award-winning author Nagaru Tanigawa. One confusing December day, Kyon wakes up in an alternate reality in which the superhero team "SOS Brigade" has not been formed. Who has caused this change, and how can it be fixed?

With a driven plot and manga illustrations, complete with Haruhi's usual craziness, this book is a really fast read.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

National Geographic Concise History of Science and Invention

Book Information
National Geographic. National Geographic Concise History of Science and Invention: An Illustrated Timeline. Washington, D.C.:National Geographic, 2009.

My Review
This highly entertaining and informative book has something for everyone. It's full of quick facts for fast readers, and there are many in-depth articles for amateur historians and scientists. Large glossy photos of extraordinary images (including bacteria, early planes and original automobiles) are found throughout the book. This book is an excellent choice for a casual flip-through or for a thorough read.

My Notes
The timeline's only obvious fault is that the section dedicated to North American events skips the birth of Canada in 1867.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tangles by Sarah Leavitt

Book Information
Leavitt, Sarah. Tangles: A Story About Alzheimer’s, My Mother and Me. Calgary, Alberta: Freehand Books, September 2010.

My Review
Tangles is Sarah Leavitt's first book, and is a current finalist for the Alberta's Reader's Choice Award (to be awarded in June, 2011). Leavitt's decision to describe her family's odyssey with Alzheimer's in the graphic novel format is quite inspired -- readers can easily see and begin to understand the changes that Alzheimer's causes.

The drawings are black and white and simple, but quite demonstrative. The way in which Leavitt drew "holding hands" by drawing two connected arms is a visual demonstration of the family's love for one another. This book is filled with the many moments of frustration, love, sadness and humour that are experienced by families who care for people with memory challenges. Sarah Leavitt's mother, Midge, was really blessed to have a family who loved and cared for her so deeply.

More Reading for Caregivers/Families of Individuals with Alzheimer's/Dementia

The Sunshine On My Face By Lydia Burdick is a picture book designed to stimulate conversations with older adults who have Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia.

My Notes
This book was difficult for me to review (in several drafts!), particularly because I cared for my grandmother, who had dementia. Sarah Leavitt has done a wonderful job of depicting the frustrations (and the few joys!) of memory challenges.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Family of Readers: The Book Lover's Guide to Children and Young Adult Literature

Book Information
Parravano, Martha V. and Roger Sutton. A Family of Readers: The Book Lover's Guide to Childen's and Young Adult Literature.

My Review and Summary
A Family of Readers is a thorough guide to children's and youth literature from the editors of Horn Book, a publication whose articles and book reviews focus on children's and youth literature.

This is a must-read for parents who want to become actively involved in their children's reading, and for professionals who want to further their knowledge of children's literature. This book addresses many subjects in children's literature, from "boy" books, board books and biographies to young adult literature. There are many brief essays written by children's authors and subject specialists.

Reading materials recommended in A Family of Readers extend beyond the classics; it features contemporary recommended reading lists by grade level. A Family of Readers often discusses childhood development, from how to choose board books based on the developmental needs of babies, to providing reading selections for teens who need "private reading" space.

A comprehensive, enjoyable book.

My Notes
I particularly enjoyed reading "Unlucky Arithmetic -- Thirteen Ways to Raise a Nonreader".

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mr. M: The Exploring Dreamer

Book Information
Meister, Soizick. Mr. M: The Exploring Dreamer. Vancouver, Canada: Read Leaf, 2010.

My Summary and Review
The enigmatic Mr. M explores his thoughts and a Canadian Surrealist landscape.

This book is poetic and beautifully illustrated (acrylics on wood or canvas). A deliciously slow read: savour each sentence, and have a dictionary close at hand.

My Notes
Generally, I expect picture books to have rhyming couplets, or at the very least, to star children. At first, I only gave this book a brief glance before sharing it with others, who enjoyed it. I gave it a second chance, and was better able to appreciate the symbolism and the art!