Carol Hurst's Children's Literature Site
Newsletter, Volume 18, Issue 1
For Preschool through Eighth Grade
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The following books have been newly added, expanded or updated on the site. There's nonfiction, an easy reader, picture books and novels. Click "read more" at the end of a title's annotation to find a longer review, related books and links. Some titles also have classroom discussion starters and activities.
The Snake Scientist by Sy Montgomery. Illustrated by Nic Bishop. (2001, Sandpiper. ISBN 9780618111190. Order Info.) Nonfiction. 48 pages. Gr 4-8.
This was the first of the amazing "Scientists in the Field" series of nonfiction books. In this volume writer Sy Montgomery and photographer Nic Bishop follow herpetologist Bob Mason to Manitoba, Canada to study the red-sided garter snake. We watch, step by step, as he conducts his experiments. The photographs are beautiful and the writing that accompanies them gives us background on snakes in general as well as the specific information of this species' mating, migration, and hibernation habits. Read More.
Granny the Pag by Nina Bawden. (1996, Clarion Books. ISBN 9780395776049. Order Info.) Novel. 192 pages. Gr 4-8.
This is a terrific story. Cat (real name Catriona) lives with her unconventional grandmother whom she has nicknamed Pag. Her mother and father are television stars and are so silly that their personalities are almost caricatures. The Pag is a famous psychiatrist and she and Cat have a warm, funny relationship. At school, run by a fatuous headmaster, Cat is being harassed by three boys but her good friends Rose and Tom, with threat of retribution by The Pag, have held them at bay. Read More.
Skellig by David Almond. (2009, Delacorte. ISBN 9780385326537. Order Info.) Novel. 208 pages. Gr 4-7.
Michael first discovers Skellig in a broken down garage on the property of his new home. Skellig lies amongst the dirt on the floor of the structure, eating flies. He can hardly move due to arthritis. Unsure at first, that he has actually seen Skellig, Michael finally brings his new friend Mina to find out if she can also see Skellig. Skellig's very definition is hard to come by. Is he a man? An owl? An angel? Some combination of all three? Whatever and whoever Skellig is, he haunts Michael who already has enough to worry about. Read More.
What Jamie Saw by Carolyn Coman. (1995, Front Street. ISBN 1886910022. Order Info.) Novel. 123 pages. Gr 4-7.
This is a spare, thoughtful, and insightful story about child-abuse and feeling safe after being afraid. Jamie's mother takes herself, the baby and Jamie away from the violence in their home. The rest of this intense, brief novel deals with this small wounded family and how, with the help of a friend and Jamie's teacher, they find safety and healing. This remarkable novel is carefully honed; the unsaid words are as important as what is written on the page. Read More.
Previously reviewed with our sports article this has now been expanded into a Featured Book:
Thank You, Jackie Robinson by Barbara Cohen. Illustrated by John Steptoe. (1997, HarperCollins. ISBN 9780688152932. Order Info.) Novel. 128 pages. Gr 4-7.
Sam Green is nuts about baseball. His mother runs an inn in New Jersey and Sam's best friend is Davy, the African American cook at the inn. They especially admire Jackie Robinson, the first black man in major league baseball. Together Davy and Sam set out to see a game at each ballpark within a day's drive of their home. They can't go any farther than that since, in the 1940's, segregation prevents Davy from entering any restaurant or hotel. When Davy has a heart attack, Sam musters up his courage and gets past many obstacles to get Jackie Robinson's autograph on a baseball for Davy, somehow convinced that the ball will make him better. Read More in our Featured Teachers' Guide with classroom activities, related books and links.
Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. (2009, Candlewick. ISBN 9780763644321. Order Info.) Novel. 288 pages. Gr 3-7.
Heart-warming, touching, tender are all apt adjectives for this brief novel. Winn Dixie is a stray dog that our heroine, India Opal, finds in the midst of chaos at the Winn Dixie grocery store. Not since Shiloh have we had a literary dog so full of life and character. Read More.
The Very Quiet Cricket by Eric Carle. (1990, Philomel. ISBN 9780399218859. Order Info.) Picture Book. 32 pages. Gr K-2.
A very small cricket tries again and again to make a chirp by rubbing his wings together as other insects pass him, making their unique sounds. Each page has an insect and a verb describing his behavior. Each page also ends with "The little cricket wanted to answer so he rubbed his wings together, but nothing happened. Not a sound." Read More in our Featured Book Teachers' Guide with classroom activities, related books and links.
Owl At Home by Arnold Lobel. (1975, HarperCollins. ISBN 9780060239497. Order Info.) Easy Reader. 64 pages. Gr PreK-3.
Owl is more than confused; he's crazy, but his innocence is delightful. When the wind rattles the door, he lets it in to destroy his house. When he is upstairs, he wonders if he's downstairs and tries to be both. When he discovers strange bumps at the foot of his bed, he becomes furious, never realizing that they are his feet. The book is a so-called easy to read and has short, choppy sentences which we used to think made easier reading, but Lobel's talent for storytelling is so great, it overcomes the artificial boundaries he puts on it. Read More including a few activities.
The Mitten by Jan Brett. (1989, Putnam. ISBN 039921920X.) Picture Book. 32 pages. Gr PreK-2.
Find this book: Local Bookstore, Amazon, B&N
Jan Brett has put her own spin on the familiar folk theme of a shelter that stretches to accommodate each new occupant. Here, based on a Ukrainian tale, it's a boy, Nicki, who begs his grandmother, Baba, to knit him a pair of white mittens. A mole discovers the mitten lying on the snow and crawls inside, followed by a snowshoe rabbit, a hedgehog, an owl, a badger, a fox, a bear, and finally a mouse. Read More in our Featured Book article including classroom activities, related books and links.
Kitten's First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes. (2004, Greenwillow. ISBN 9780060588281. Order Info.) Picture Book. 40 pages. Gr PreK-2.
The plot is simple. A kitten decides that the full moon is a saucer of milk just waiting for his use and tries every means possible to get it. The charcoal illustrations are shades of gray against a creamy white. Unlike the strokes in his mouse books, these are broad, decorating the page with curving lines. This book is also available in Spanish and Japanese. Read More.
Related Areas of Carol Hurst's Children's Literature Site
- Browse all our recommended book reviews by grade, title, or author.
That's it for this issue.
- Rebecca Otis
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