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Horrible Harry and The Goog
By Suzy Cline
Illustrated By Frank Remkiewicz
Scholastic Inc.
ISBN 9780670059928
Grades 2-4
In Stores

When I was a youngster, there were places in the school that students didn’t go. This was back in the days when Reagan was holding down the White House, Balki was in his prime, and cell phones, well, kinda looked like books.

Call me crazy, but working as a school librarian, it seems that some of the walls between teacher and student have come down. Generally speaking, this has been for the best. “Horrible Harry and The Goog” takes me back to my Peter Gabriel-soundtracked formative years when curiosity over these forbidden zones weighed on my mind.

Harry and his friend Doug just gotta find out what is going on. There is a secret gathering in the library after school for teachers only. The boys decide to stay after and investigate.

Harry’s Grandma shows up with a cake for the secret event and another surprise: Harry’s pet cat, Googer. I’ll be polite and just say that the Goog is unfortunate-looking. In fact, most rats would probably have this cat beat in the looks department. When he escapes in the school, Harry and Doug’s search for the Goog lead them to explore some uncharted school territory.

Younger readers should enjoy the search.

Just when you think you’re never going to hear back from somebody, they call out of the blue. That was the way I felt this afternoon upon seeing an invitation in my inbox to try out Yahoo! for Teachers. After receiving a tip from my School of Information connection, Piet, I signed up to receive a notification when the service went live. I then proceeded to forget all about it. Well the beta version was just released and I’ve been putting it through the wringer.

Yahoo! for Teachers is aimed at helping educators easily create lessons and share them with peers. If that statement leaves you with a mouthful of yawns, I hear you. I should say I heard you. See, Yahoo! has gone and upped the educational ante with a feature called the Gobbler. Once installed, it allows teachers to easily incorporate information they find using a web browser (pictures, educational videos, information) into their lessons. This got me thinking that, if used the right way, Yahoo! for Teachers might just catch on. Maybe in a big way. Alright, I’m going to go ahead and predict that this service will make some waves. The best way to learn about all the whistles and bells associated with this product? Check out the video and links below.

Click here for more information on the Gobbler.

Click here for a review of the Yahoo! for Teachers by the wonderful tech blog ars technica

Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow
by James Sturm
Illustrated by Rich Tommaso
Jump at the Sun (Hyperion Books for Children)
ISBN 9780786839018
Grades 5-8
In Stores December 18, 2007.

*Best New Books*

There is something to be said for simplicity. Baseball is not what I would consider to be a simple game. No, the act of tossing a ball the size of an orange into a tiny imaginary square with any kind of power or accuracy sounds pretty complicated to yours truly. Call me crazy, but somehow I think that communicating the cultural landscape of an era of American history is just as tricky. Doing so in a simple, authentically powerful fashion is downright hard (and rare to boot). And how about trying to do that without, you know, using many words? In “Satchel Paige”, the author and illustrator have done just that. A graphic novel about America, segregation, baseball, and racism – all told with understatement through the life of Satchel Paige, a pitcher with a flair for the dramatic.

The story is told through the eyes of a nameless sharecropper from Tuckwilla, Alabama whose prowess on the diamond brings him into contact with the great flamethrower Paige. After besting Satchel at the plate, our narrator suffers an injury, forcing him to give up the game for good and head back to the farm.

Sharecropping with his family is difficult and exhausting work. Add to this that the land owners – Walker Jennings and his two sons – are dangerously unkind.

Fast forward 15 years. Satchel’s celebrity has exploded and his team is visiting Tuckwilla to play the local all-stars. It takes everything our narrator has to attend the game with his son, but Paige’s performance breathes new life into him and the citizens of Tuckwilla.

Simple words and illustrations guide the reader through the story. Additional information is provided at the back of the book to help inform readers on the history and terminology that is sprinkled throughout. A great biography and a quality selection to be sure.

(Shout out to A Fuse #8 Production for the advance reading copy)

Also (Wonderfully) Reviewed By: A Fuse #8 Production, Urban Horrors, Shelf Talker, The Comics Reporter

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More
by Roald Dahl
Puffin Books
ISBN 9780141304700
Grades 4-7
In Stores

As the title suggests, this book is a collection of seven short stories written by one of the all time greats: Roald Dahl. Let us start with the big one, the monster, the “man this one is so good, let’s just name the whole book after it” – “The Wonderful Story” in the flesh.

Stretching the limits of short by clocking (flipping?) in at 68 pages, “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar” could nearly be published all by itself. I can see the title now: Henry Sugar, the EP. The tale is worth every page. The story centers on a rich, bored man (the aforementioned Henry) who comes upon an unassuming notebook. The thin volume holds the key to something, as Dahl would put it, fantastically extraordinary: the ability to see through solid objects.

Now I don’t know about you, but this premise alone had me hooked as a youngster. The remaining pages melted away as I wondered if Mr. Sugar would have the patience and determination to learn this astounding skill, and what he would do with the power if he got it.

While “The Wonderful Story…” towers over the others in both size and ability to thrill, the accompanying six short stories pack a significant punch. From a true story of a man unearthing a fortune to an unforgettable tale of a hitchhiker with sticky fingers, young readers (especially boys) will be delighted. A landmark in my childhood of reading.

Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners
by Laurie Keller
Henry Holt and Company
ISBN 9780805079968
Grades 1-3
In Stores

(Reviewer pulls out clipboard and pencil)

Alright everyone! Looks like we’ve got ourselves the new Laurie Keller book here. I’m just going to go down the list for a second to make sure everything is accounted for:

Aside-happy artwork that will take multiple readings to fully absorb? Check.

Voices given to usually nonspeaking main characters? Uh-huh.

Silliness in spades? Yep.

Clever storyline that will appeal to kids and adults alike? Well…

(Reviewer quietly puts clipboard and pencil down in order to speak frankly)

Well, you see, that’s where I get just a bit hung up on this one. Let me explain.

Our story begins with Mr. Rabbit hopping through the woods, heading home to his comfortable tree hole. Once there, he runs into his new neighbors – the Otters. Mr. Rabbit is worried; he doesn’t know much about otters and is nervous about how they will get along. To the rescue comes Mr. Owl, who provides a twist on the old golden rule. He asks Mr. Rabbit to list some of the good qualities he would like to see in Otters. Friendliness, honesty, and kindness all make the list, to name a few, with each characteristic illustrated in Keller’s signature humorous fashion.

You see, Do Unto Otters is really more of a how-to guide than a story. And as a how-to, it succeeds – taking a subject of universal importance and making it fresh and entertaining. While it doesn’t hit the highs I was anticipating, Do Unto Otters is still 3 out of 4 by me – nothing to mope about.

No Talking
by Andrew Clements
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
ISBN 9781416909835
Grades 3-6
In stores

*Best New Books*

Working in a public school, I am around children every day. Here are two facts that I feel I can state from experience:

1. Kids like to talk

2. There is nothing that gets the youngsters going like boys vs. girls competition

In No Talking, Andrew Clements manages to merge both of these eternal truisms.

At Laketon Elementary, the 5th grade class has a reputation for embracing the spoken word – so much so that they earned the nickname “The Unshushables” from teachers. On top of all this noisiness, the boys can’t stand the girls and the girls aren’t all that keen on the boys.

One day Dave Packer attempts something that surely has never been done by anyone in his fifth grade class – to make it through the school day without saying a word. He fails, but his experiment leads to a challenge between the boys and the girls: Two days of school. Whichever group talks the least wins.

This book has all kinds of classroom implications, and the rivalry between boys and girls will immediately draw kids in. No Talking is an entertaining story and a quality fiction selection

What Do Wheels Do All Day?
by April Jones Prince
Illustrated by Giles Laroche
Houghton Mifflin Company
ISBN 9780618563074
Grades K-3
In stores

In my job as a school librarian, I am occasionally faced with inquiries about what it is I do. When I began my professional life in aught 5 I was unaware of the apparent mystery surrounding my line of work. Since then I’ve tried to hone my pitch down to a nice litte bit of job description magic that leaves the questioner both satisfied and enlightened. I’m still working on it. In What Do Wheels Do All Day, the author sets out to accomplish a similar goal … only with wheels.

The story is told in rhyming verse, which shimmies the reader along, describing different ways that wheels are used in everyday life. They race, they spin, they push, well, you get the idea. It is how these words match up with the illustrations that make this title a quality nonfiction choice.

Let me take a minute to talk about the artwork, because it is not your run of the mill paint and canvas-type stuff. Giles Laroche creates his scenes in cut-paper relief, which is a fancy way to say that it looks similar to the work of Steve Jenkins, but more three dimensional. Laroche also appears to be a bit of a perfectionist, adding plenty of detail that the casual reader may not notice at first peep.

So while I’m still perfecting my job description to the masses, What Do Wheels Do All Day has mankind’s most important invention pretty well covered.

Sardine in Outer Space
by Emmanuel Guibert
Illustrated by Joann Sfar
First Second (an imprint of Roaring Brook Press)
ISBN 9781596431263
Ages 7-12
In stores

As many librarians will tell you, “give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day. Give a child an age-appropriate graphic novel and it will circulate until the pages disintegrate”. Kind of an odd saying, I know, but a true one. This title was originally published in France and has now been translated for the American audience. Less graphic novel than serial, this collection of short comics tell the story of a little girl (Sardine), her uncle Captain Yellow Shoulder, and cousin Louie. Together they fight against the evil combo of Supermuscleman, chief executive dictator of the universe, and his large headed sidekick Doc Krok.

The adventures are fast paced and goofy, occasionally straying into the absurd. In one tale, our heros travel to planet Discoball to take part in a dance contest with The Empress Laser Diskette. Providing the music? Diskette’s son Prince BeeJeez. Yes, like the band.

Kids will enjoy the action and silly situations, but this reviewer was left wanting just a little bit more.

Great Estimations
by Bruce Goldstone
Henry Holt and Company
ISBN 978-0-8050-74446-8
Ages 7-12
In Stores

A couple weeks back we held the annual book fair at two of the elementary schools I work at. One of the ways the book fair organizers hyped the kids into a froth was through a little game called “guess how many marshmallows are in the the jar”. The student who guessed the number closest to the actual number of marshmallows won the whole jar of ’em. I’m guessing most of you have taken part in something similar in your day. The problem? Half of the guesses were for one hundred, the other were for one million. For kids, it seems, there is not a whole lot in between. In Great Estimations, the author breaks down how to make a killing at “guess how many marshmallows are in the jar”. How I wish this book had been around in my younger days – the hot chocolate would be flowing like water, with plenty of those little puffs of sugar spilling out of the top. The book uses a variety of objects, from people to pennies all in the name of teaching the reader how to make an accurate estimate.
While I don’t foresee many repeat readings, there is a lot to like in Great Estimations.

The Lemonade War
by Jacqueline Davies
Houghton Mifflin Company
ISBN 978-0-618-75043-6
Ages 8-11
In Stores

Jessie Treski knows two things that I don’t: her multiplication tables up to 14 times 14, and how to run a successful lemonade stand. Jessie is so smart, in fact, that when summer vacation is over and school begins in a few days, she’ll skip the third grade entirely and go straight to fourthsville. Evan, Jessie’s fourth-grader-to-be brother is not happy with this turn of events and is having visions of his little sister crashing his fourth grade party, showing him up, and generally ruining his classmate cred. Desperate to best his sister at something, Evan puts his people skills to work selling lemonade. When he is put to shame yet again by Jessie, the Lemonade War begins. Evan is fighting for his reputation; Jessie is fighting to show that she can fit in with the fourth grade crowd.
The Lemonade War is an entertaining read with a splash of math and business sense. Many readers will identify with the brother/sister conflict and sense of competition. A quality selection.

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