Earth Day – April 22, 2012

Check out this blog I wrote for the Manlius Children’s Library about Earth Day!

Earth Day – April 22, 2012.

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Patrick in A Teddy Bear’s Picnic and other stories

Patrick in A Teddy Bear's Picnic and other stories by Geoffrey Hayes

Hello all! So I’ve made a great discovery today, LEVELED GRAPHIC NOVELS!! Toon Books are easy reader graphic novels for those kids that just “can’t get into reading.” They’re fun and easy to read for Kindergarten to Grade 3. In the back of every Toon Book there are tips for parents and teachers on how to read comics for kids as well as how the graphic novels are leveled (three levels broken down by the amount of words, amount of characters, and content). This particular title is Patrick in A Teddy Bear’s Picnic and other stories by Geoffrey Hayes.

Patrick is an adorable little Pre-K Teddy Bear who adores his parents and loves to get into a bit of mischief. There are two longer stories and one short vignette that both parents and children will enjoy reading. Mom’s, in particular, will connect with Patrick’s mother as she deals with an excited kid heading out for a picnic. I love the thunder in her eyes when Patrick runs ahead of her and scares the birds. The “PATRICK!” is something I have heard myself saying to my own child as we were out and about having a fun day.

The drawings are very “Saturday morning cartoon” -esque and the panels are easy for younger readers to follow. They aren’t too convoluted, and the word bubbles and dialogue are obvious. There are very few characters for children to need to remember, and one of the main threads in this story deals with a bully who Patrick ends up outsmarting, a scenario that many children will have to face throughout their school years.

I hope that this will be a new trend in the leveled readers, heading towards a mixture of the older types of readers (Dick and Jane, Fly Guy, Biscuit) and the new graphic novels. This will allow all learning styles to have a book to turn to. Personally, I think this would be a great addition to our children’s repertoire of learning tools.

Quick Facts:

Author: Geoffrey Hayes

Series; Toon Book (three different levels for different ages and reading levels)

Publisher: Candlewick Press, Somerville, Massachusetts

Stickman Odyssey – Book One: An Epic Doodle

Stickman Odyssey Book One: An Epic Doodle by Christopher Ford

So I’ve decided to stay with the adventure GN’s (graphic novels) and decided to check out a book I pretty much figured would be hysterical, Stickman Odyssey Book One: An Epic Doodle by Christopher Ford (who developed two pilots for Comedy Central).

This story (as you can tell from the cover) has a lot of influences from the Ancient Greek myths (particularly Odysseus). It follows self-centered Zozimos as he attempts to find his way back to his homeland of Sticatha (yes, you read that correctly). In the first installment of his tale we learn of Zozimos’ fleeing from his homeland, his upbringing by his crazy uncle, and his first adventures which include Golems, a Sphinx, a magical boat, and a misunderstood hermit.

This story is perfect for those middle school boys who love a good laugh and adventure. Filled with snarky humor, wit, and a couple fart jokes, it is a fun journey to follow. Plus, the fact that it is mostly about stick figures (which is possibly the only thing I can draw) makes it appealing for even those who have no artistic talent. It shows that anyone who can tell a good story can find a way to draw it as well.

I hope you enjoy the humor and zaniness of Zozimos and his friends as much as I did. Once you get past the “boyness” of this title, it really is a great introduction to Greek myths. You can easily pull out three Greek myths (from Oedipus to Odysseus) in this story, which opens the road for more conversations and later reading down the road.

Quick Facts

Author: Christopher Ford

Series: Stickman Odyssey (this is the first installment)

Publisher: Philomel Books, New York, New York

Tower of Treasure

Tower of Treasure by Scott Chantler

Hi all! Hope you’re enjoying life!

So I decided to look at some of my all time favorite items in the library, GRAPHIC NOVELS! I am such a huge fan of juvenile graphic novels (and teen, and adult, pretty much anything with panels and a storyline) that its high time I finally selected some new(er) ones and gave them my once over. Considering I’ve pretty much never found a graphic novel I didn’t like, these should all be positive reviews 😀

To start it off I chose the first book in a series that I’ve been wanting to read since I first scanned the cover. Three Thieves-Book One: Tower of Treasure by Scott Chantler.

This is the introduction to the saga of Dessa, Topper, and Fisk, three performers in a traveling sideshow. Dessa is a young acrobat, she is looking for her twin brother who (we learn) was taken by a strange man who Dessa has very vague memories of. Upon arriving in Kingsbridge, the Royal City, Topper and Fisk decide that they are going to rob the Queen’s gold in the tower. Dessa, who is against any kind of thievery, refuses to help at first, but eventually gets dragged into the scheme. Upon being caught, the three have to fight to escape prison, and Dessa discovers the one man that she has been searching for who can point her in the direction of her long-lost brother.

This GN (graphic novel) is A FANTASTIC introduction to this new saga. It reads quickly and easily and almost feels like a well-directed television show. It’s full of action, mystery, and easy to discern flashbacks and overlay of panels. It does not push the back story like some introductory novels do, but let’s the mystery unfold. You don’t really need to know everything, just yet, about this world. Dessa’s discovery of the man she has been searching for is really the central point, the Tower heist is the backdrop to this discovery. This GN combines adventure, fantasy, mystery, and humor seamlessly. It’s a fantastic story with very fluid illustrations and characters that one will want to learn more about.

I would highly recommend this to anyone who loves adventure, particularly Three Musketeers or Robin Hood type adventures, and for those reluctant readers who “just can’t get into a book.” It’s a series that I’m rooting for and that I hope continues along the same path that this introduction hints at. I can’t wait to read the next installment!

Quick Facts

Author/Illustrator: Scott Chantler

Series: Three Thieves (This is the first book)

Publisher: Kids Can Press Ltd., Tonawanda, New York

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Hello again! Sorry for the delay, the month of February is just screaming by! For this entry I decided to look at Rita Williams-Garcia who won the Coretta Scott King Honor Author for Like Sisters on the Homefront. I read another title by her, One Crazy Summer.

This is a story of three sisters, Delphine (11), Vonetta (9), and Fern (7). These three girls travel to see their mother, Cecile (Nzila), in Oakland, California in the summer of 1968. Cecile abandoned her daughters shortly after Fern was born and moved to California to write her poetry and has become involved with the Black Panther movement, although she remains mostly on the fringes. Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern don’t know their mother and although they hope that this trip will forge some kind of bond between them that has been missing all these years, Delphine in particular does not have her hopes up.

Rita Williams-Garcia weaves a fun and beautiful story about the relationships between sisters, mothers and daughters, and the social reform that was occurring in California at this time. As outsiders to the movement, and raised by a family of Southern Blacks, the girls have an outsiders view of the Black Panther movement and the effects it had on the youth of the community. Although it deals with some tough topics (abandonment, social issues, and white/black relationships) this book has found a balance in both humor and seriousness. The sister’s relationship and the way they talk to each other is fun to read and fun to interpret.

I would recommend this book to people interested in the 1960’s social reform movement or anyone looking for a good book about family relationships. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Quick Facts:

Author: Rita Williams-Garcia

Title: One Crazy Summer

Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books, New York, New York

Dave the Potter by Laban Carrick Hill, Illustrated by Bryan Collier

Dave the Potter by Laban Carrick Hill; Illustrated by Bryan Collier

To continue with those winners or honorees of the Coretta Scott King Award, I’ve chosen Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave by Laban Carrick; illustrated by Bryan Collier. Bryan Collier was the winner of the Coretta Scott King Award in 2010, and a brief look at this picture book/biography will tell you why.

Based on the artwork of Dave, an artist and slave living in South Carolina during the 1800’s, the author and illustrator have created a beautifully articulated and crafted book that shows not only the beauty of pottery and in creating it, but also the freeing nature of artwork, particularly to one who is enslaved.

Dave was not only a potter, he was also a poet. He wrote on a number of his pieces small poems that highlight his nature, his surroundings, and his servitude. No more than two lines, these poems have also been honored in this piece of work as the writer has drawn upon Dave’s own inspiration to try and tell his story.

Included in the back of this book is information about Dave, all his poems, and how he has inspired both the writer and illustrator in their own lives. Bryan Collier blends both watercolors and collage images in this beautiful tale of finding freedom in the darkest of places. I would recommend this book to anyone who wishes to learn more about a noble man whos spirit and art has spoken through the ages.

Quick Facts

Author: Laban Carrick Hill

Illustrator: Bryan Collier

Ages: Kindergarten and up

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, New York, New York

Zora and Me by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon

Zora and Me by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon

I’m BAAACCCKK!! So after a very long time of dead silence on my end, I finally have found time to get back to some blogging. Mostly, I’ve found time to get back to some organized reading more than anything else. And in honor of Black History Month, I’ve decided to look at authors and illustrators who have been winners or honors of the Coretta Scott King Award. I’m going to start off with a book I’ve been looking forward to reading since it hit our shelves, Zora and Me by Victoria Bond and T.R. Simon.

This is the only project ever to be endorsed by the Zora Neale Hurston trust that was written by someone other than Zora Neale Hurston. It is a fantastic story about a young Zora and her two friends, Carrie and Teddy. The story is told from Carrie’s point of view, which adds to the readers view of Zora. We are given insights and thoughts about her from her friend’s perspective, it adds more depth to her character than a first person narrative by Zora would have. It also is in true form to Ms. Hurston, an aloof character in African-American literary history whose impact is still felt today.

The story is set in Eatonville, Florida, which was the first incorporated African-American town in the United States, and the actual location of Zora Neale Hurston’s childhood. “Gator Mythology” is in full swing in this story, as well as the storytelling prowess and creativity that Zora would produce in her published writing later life. Zora is seen as a “liar” and “tale spinner” by everyone except for those who know her best (Carrie, Teddy, Zora’s mother, etc.) who realize that Zora interprets the world around her the best that she knows how. And, most of the time, her stories not only make sense but are true, if one digs deep enough.

This story is very multi-layered. It has a fun side with the friendship between the three main characters and their want for adventure of any kind in their small town. It deals with racial issues when the neighboring white settlement and Eatonville need to interact in any way. It deals with loss, as Carrie struggles to deal with the disappearance of her father. It looks at identity issues as the character of Gold comes to grips with her true self upon the loss of her brother. Finally, it deals with outlook, as the three children discover that people are not always what they appear; there is always something more to another human being than what people take for granted.

A great book with a bit of mystery, intrigue, mythology, fantasy, and history all rolled into one. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the writing of Zora Neale Hurston or anyone who may be interested in a good mystery.

Quick Facts:

Author: Victoria Bond & T.R. Simon

Awards: Coretta Scott King Award

Ages: Grades 3-5

Publisher: Candlewick Press, Crawfordsville, IN