“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Place for Frogs • Picture book (non-fiction)

A Place for Frogs
by Melissa Stewart illustrated by Higgins Bond
New!   Peachtree Publishers   Ages 4-8
"Frogs make our world a better place.  But sometimes people do things that make it hard for them to live and grow." More than just a book about frogs, A PLACE FOR FROGS will open readers' minds to a wide range of environmental issues.  
Story:  In simple yet informative language, award-winning children's science writer Melissa Stewart introduces readers to some of the ways human action or inaction can affect frog populations.  Describing various examples -- from the northern leopard frog in MN ponds to the harlequin frog in the rainforests of Central America -- the text provides an intriguing look at frogs, at the ecosystems that support their survival, and at the efforts of some people to save them.  

Kids will love the endpapers featuring maps of where particular frogs live -- plus the author offers readers a list of things they can do in their own communities to help protect these special creatures.  After all, frogs have lived on earth for around 200 million years.  This beautiful and informative picture book helps children find out what they can do to make sure there is always a place for frogs. 

Story behind the story: I asked author Melissa Stewart if she would share a few words with us about the genesis of A Place for Frogs.  Here's what she had to say: "Before I wrote a single word, I thought about how educators might use A Place for Frogs in the classroom. The book has two layers of text, so it’s perfect for Reading Buddy programs. Younger students can read the simpler main text. Older students can read the more detailed sidebars. Then the buddies can look at the art and discuss the content together. The structure of the text emphasizes cause and effect—a concept that can be tough for early elementary students to grasp. Maps on the end papers show readers where each featured frog lives. And although the book focuses on things that people—including kids—are doing to protect frogs and their habitats, I made sure that it includes age-appropriate curriculum topics, such as food chains and the frog life cycle. Here’s a fun life cycle song I wrote to go with the book:

The Frog Life Cycle
(To the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”)

Eggs, eggs, tiny eggs
That’s how frogs begin.
In a clump, a slimy clump
Floating with their kin.

Swim, swim, swim-y, swim
That’s what tadpoles do.
Eating algae as they grow,
They really like that goo.

Legs, legs, brand new legs
Froglets hop to shore.
Catching flies all day long,
There’s always plenty more.

Chug, chug, chug-a-rum,
Now they are full grown.
They find a mate and lay more eggs
To start a family of their own."

Plus, I love the name of the author's website:  Melissa Stewart's Science Clubhouse.  As you'd imagine, it's filled with activities plus a curriculum guide, fun facts and more -- definitely worth a visit.

FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please check back on the "comments" link to read what your colleagues have to say.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Dugout Rivals • Middle-grade fiction

Dugout Rivals
by Fred Bowen    
New! (March 2010)
Peachtree Publishers Middle Grade Fiction Ages 9-12
Last year Jake was one of his team's best players. But this season it looks like a new kid is going to take Jake's place as team leader. Can Jake settle for second-best?
Story:  Jake is pumped about the upcoming season. He’s a pretty good shortstop, but there’s a new kid Adam who can do it all — pitch, hit, and field.  Adam’s talents start to dominate every game and Jake resents all the attention he’s getting. Everything changes, however, when Jake learns something about Adam and something about himself. 
Story behind the story:  Bowen gives us "The Real Story" behind DUGOUT RIVALS: "In team sports there is no such thing as a one-man (or one-woman) team. Even the greatest players need help. They need good teammates. There are many terrific players who may have appeared to play in the shadows of their superstar teammates, but who made major contributions to their teams in their own rights, including Lou Gehrig (Babe Ruth), Joe DiMaggio (Lou Gehrig), Scottie Pippen (Michael Jordan), and Kristine Lilley (Mia Hamm)."

Bowen now writes a weekly sports column for kids in the Washington Post and has been a sports fan since "I was a kid. My best childhood memories are from playing Little League in the park and basketball on the playground. I can still remember home runs, bad calls, and great comebacks from those games. My favorite reading back then was sports fiction and the sports section in the newspaper. Many of today's kids are as sports-crazy as I was. And I am thinking about them as I write my books and my columns." All of the books in the Fred Bowen Sports Story Series are based on real-life figures or situations from sports history."

"Bowen is quickly joining the ranks of today's most popular sports fiction authors." - School Library Journal 

"Bowen is a natural when it comes to writing sport stories and informing his readers about the past. These books are perfect for kids ages 8 to 12." - Newsday

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

This Means War! • Historical fiction

Just out! April 20, 2010    Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers   Ages 10 - 14
From an award-winning author, a powerful coming-of-age story that brings a tumultuous time in American history vividly to life.
Story:  It's the end of summer October 1962.  Julie Klostermeyer's world is turning upside down.  All she hears from her parents and teachers and on the news is the Russian threat and the Cuban Missile Crisis.  And things aren't much better at home.  Her best friend doesn't seem interested in being her friend anymore -- he'd rather hang out with the new boys instead.  When Patsy moves in, things are looking up.  Patsy is fearless, and she challenges the neighborhood boys to see who's better, strong, faster:  a war between the boys and the girls.
All this talk of war makes Juliet uneasy.  As the challenges become more and more dangerous, Juliet has to decide what she stands for -- and what's worth fighting for.
Story behind the story:  Best to hear it straight from the source, so I give you Printz Honor (for Hard Love) award-winning author (and former librarian!) Ellen Wittlinger:
"Juliet lives in a small town in a house attached to the grocery store her parents own. Just like I did. I was fourteen in 1962 when President Kennedy went on television one October evening to announce that the United States was on the brink of nuclear war. For a week we were terrified, listening for approaching bombers, crawling under desks at school, wondering if those families with bomb shelters would live while the rest of us died.
In This Means War! The Cuban Missile Crisis is the background for a smaller neighborhood war--one between the boys and the girls to prove which group is stronger, faster, braver. As with the larger crisis, the neighborhood tests soon get out of hand, progressing from foot races and Twist contests to dangerous challenges.  Where is the line between bravery and foolishness? What does it mean to be a hero?
By broaching the topic in a work of fiction, I hope to help children understand that, although they may not have power over world events, they do have the power to change their own lives."


"Wittlinger latches on to a poignant metaphor in this lively and readable tale...a clever concept that keeps the proceedings fun even as the darker drama of potential world collapse provides a weighty element... A warm way to introduce the cold war." -- Booklist

"Wittlinger raises many complex gender questions without being heavy-handed...The book's backdrop -- an Air Force town during the Cuban Missile Crisis -- ratchets up the anxiety and clearly places the children in a critical moment between childhood and the adult world." -- Publishers Weekly

Be sure to take a peek at the discussion guide -- in addition to a summary, author note and discussion questions, it includes project suggestions for language arts, history, music and art.

FYI: all the review copies for this title have been sent; please check back on the "comments" link to read what your colleagues have to say.