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Mirror Mirror : A Book of Reversible Verse by Marilyn Singer

July 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Publication Date: March 4, 2010

Reviewed For: Grades 3-6

Journal Review / Summary
This appealing collection based on fairy tales is a marvel to read. It is particularly noteworthy because the poems are read in two ways: up and down. They are reverse images of themselves and work equally well in both directions. “Mirror Mirror” is chilling in that Snow White, who is looking after the Seven Dwarves, narrates the first poem of the pair. Read in reverse, it is the wicked queen who is enticing Snow White to eat the apple that will put her to sleep forever. “In the Hood” is as crafty as the wolf who tells of his delightful anticipation of eating Red Riding Hood. The mirrored poem is Red Riding Hood reminding herself not to dally since Grandma awaits. The vibrant artwork is painterly yet unfussy and offers hints to the characters who are narrating the poems. An endnote shows children how to create a “reverse” poem. This is a remarkably clever and versatile book that would work in any poetry or fairy-tale unit. A must-have for any library. -SLJ

Presentation of Information (accuracy, clarity, information):
New spin on classic fairy tales.

Delineation of a setting:
Setting is well described in illustration.

Delineation of a plot:
There isn’t a plot that continues from page one to the end but each fairy tale’s poem briefly tells the tale in two very different ways – showcased by the reversible poem. Very well done.

Delineation of characters:
Each poem has its own characters, obviously.

Appropriateness of style:
The reverse style of the poems in this book is very interesting. The first poem in the book is an explanation of the poem style to follow – helpful for the reader. Singer had adapted the style for each of the fairy tales so that the opposing view (the second poem) makes sense – Cinderella, day and night; Sleeping Beauty and the Wide-Awake Prince, for example –

Interpretation of the theme or concept:
Well done by the style.

Excellence of presentation for a child audience:
Kids will get a kick out of the reversible stories, but I don’t think this would be a good introduction to these fairy tales. This could actually be a great activity to do in a classroom with older children – writing a poem that makes as much sense reading up as down is a difficult project.

Things I Liked:
The Doubtful Duckling was my favorite.

Concluding Newbery Thoughts:
Don’t think it’s quite worth a Newbery, or even an honor, but this is still a great book.

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The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz

July 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Publication Date: February 23, 2010.

Reviewed For: Grades 1 – 4

Journal Review / Summary
Flory is a night fairy who is still becoming accustomed to her beautiful mothlike wings when a run-in with a bat drops her into a strange garden unable to fly. She is forced to learn to survive in the daylight and takes up residence in a birdhouse in a Giantess’s garden. Flory, no taller than an acorn, struggles at first with squirrels, hummingbirds, spiders, and other creatures that do not look at the world the same way she does. She quickly learns that kindness, compassion, generosity, and bravery can help her to make much-needed friends. Written in short chapters, this beautifully crafted tale works equally well as a read-aloud or as independent reading. Barrett’s full-color watercolor illustrations add depth and perspective to the story. Detailed and drawn to scale, they give readers a sense of just how tiny Flory is compared to the other animals. Children will enjoy looking at this garden from the perspective of the tiny but resilient protagonist. Sure to be a favorite among girls who love fairies. – SLJ

Presentation of Information (accuracy, clarity, information):
Clear.

Delineation of a setting:
Wonderful description.

Delineation of a plot:
Plot based on character development – very strong.

Delineation of characters:
Very very strong character development.

Appropriateness of style:
Great for read-aloud or transition between easy readers and longer chapter books.  Illustrations are beautiful.

Interpretation of the theme or concept:
Well written, I think kids will get it.

Excellence of presentation for a child audience:
Fairy loving girls will eat this book up for sure.

Concluding Newbery Thoughts:
I don’t understand why this is on so many Mock Newbery lists, but I kind of want to put it in mine so we can all discuss it.

Categories: Mock Newbery 2011

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

July 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Publication Date: March 9, 2010
Reviewed For: Grades 4 – 6

Journal Review / Summary
Born with cerebral palsy, Melody, 10, has never spoken a word. She is a brilliant fifth grader trapped in an uncontrollable body. Her world is enhanced by insight and intellect, but gypped by physical limitations and misunderstandings. She will never sing or dance, talk on the phone, or whisper secrets to her friends. She’s not complaining, though; she’s planning and fighting the odds. In her court are family, good neighbors, and an attentive student teacher. Pitted against her is the “normal” world: schools with limited resources, cliquish girls, superficial assumptions, and her own disability. Melody’s life is tragically complicated. She is mainly placed in the special-ed classroom where education means being babysat in a room with replayed cartoons and nursery tunes. Her supportive family sets her up with a computer. She learns the strength of thumbs as she taps on a special keyboard that finally lets her “talk.” When she is transitioned into the regular classroom, Melody’s undeniable contribution enables her class to make it to the national quiz team finals. Then something happens that causes her to miss the finals, and she is devastated by her classmates’ actions. Kids will benefit from being introduced to Melody and her gutsy, candid, and compelling story. It speaks volumes and reveals the quiet strength and fortitude it takes to overcome disabilities and the misconceptions that go with them.  – SLJ

Presentation of Information (accuracy, clarity, information):
Obviously we have no way of knowing how accurate Draper’s representation of Melody is – but even if it isn’t, she’s written a book that will make anyone who read it think twice before looking down at someone in a wheelchair for any reason – not just cerebral palsy.  “I really don’t think so. My problem with these books is the author’s first person narration. They both seem to make a lot of assumptions about what people with these conditions think. Personally, I think books like Rules work so well because it’s told from the perspective of someone trying to understand (but also because the author has a son with autism.)  Not that authors can’t attempt this, but I just didn’t think either of these books seemed terribly well researched.” – Dana, GoodReads

Delineation of a setting:
To me, the setting isn’t that important in this book – the setting is less the physical world of where Melody is from scene to scene and more Melody’s mind itself, which is richly described.  Of course, the limitations of the world around her are important when considering her wheelchair.

Delineation of a plot:
The plot starts off very strongly but the more we get to know Melody the more melodramatic the plot seems to become.  It gets too predictable.

Delineation of characters:
Melody is an incredibly strong character with a fierce heart and mind.  The people who both help and hinder her life are also strong characters – and I think the incredible strength and description of each character contributes to the melodrama of the book’s plot.

Appropriateness of style:
This isn’t the first book told from the perspective of someone with cerebral palsy, and I doubt it will be the last.

Interpretation of the theme or concept:
The theme is definitely strong throughout the entire book.

Excellence of presentation for a child audience:
Realistic fiction fans are going to love it.

Concluding Newbery Thoughts:
I’m with most of the people on GoodReads – it’s too melodramatic for me to expect a Newbery, but nonetheless, I think it’s going to get an Honor at least.

Categories: Mock Newbery 2011

The Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco X Stork

Publication Date: March 1, 2010
Reviewed For: Grades 8 and up

I decided that this book would be much better suited for the Printz Award, and will not be completing my Mock Newbery evaluation form for the book.  However, here is my review.

After the death of his older sister, Rosa, Pancho Sanchez has nothing in the entire world. No family, no friends, and nowhere to go. All he has is the burning knowledge that someone killed his sister, and that her murder will be avenged.

As for D.Q., death is all he has. Recently diagnosed with terminal cancer and living out his days in Las Cruces at a foster home, D.Q. spends his time writing the Death Warrior Manifesto – a guide for living life to the fullest.

When Pancho arrives at the foster home, D.Q. immediately declares Pancho his personal assistant. In need of money so that he can go kill his sister’s murderer, Pancho agrees to the job, for $30 a day. Soon the two find themselves in a cancer facility in Albuquerque, where D.Q.’s estranged mother hopes clinical testing will save her son. D.Q. is just hoping to woo the beautiful Marisol, and Pancho hopes to find the mysterious “Bobby” from his sister’s diary.

Being a Death Warrior isn’t easy. You must suck the marrow out of life and live each day to the fullest. But when your body is giving up on you, like D.Q., or your anger consumes you, like Pancho, the true meaning of being a Death Warrior can change.

You might like this book if you enjoyed Going Bovine by Libba Bray; Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick; or Notes from the Dog by Gary Paulsen.

Categories: Book Reviews, Mock Newbery 2011 Tags: ,

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

June 25, 2010 2 comments

This being my first Newbery possible evaluation, I started writing far too much and had to limit myself to two sentences for each bullet point.

Publication Date: January 26, 2010
Reviewed for: Grades 4-7

Journal Review:
Eleven-year-old Delphine has only a few fragmented memories of her mother, Cecile, a poet who wrote verses on walls and cereal boxes, played smoky jazz records, and abandoned the family in Brooklyn after giving birth to her third daughter. In the summer of 1968, Delphine’s father decides that seeing Cecile is “something whose time had come,” and Delphine boards a plane with her sisters to Cecile’s home in Oakland. What they find there is far from their California dreams of Disneyland and movie stars. “No one told y’all to come out here,” Cecile says. “No one wants you out here making a mess, stopping my work.” Like the rest of her life, Cecile’s work is a mystery conducted behind the doors of the kitchen that she forbids her daughters to enter. For meals, Cecile sends the girls to a Chinese restaurant or to the local, Black Panther–run community center, where Cecile is known as Sister Inzilla and where the girls begin to attend youth programs. Regimented, responsible, strong-willed Delphine narrates in an unforgettable voice, but each of the sisters emerges as a distinct, memorable character, whose hard-won, tenuous connections with their mother build to an aching, triumphant conclusion. Set during a pivotal moment in African American history, this vibrant novel shows the subtle ways that political movements affect personal lives; but just as memorable is the finely drawn, universal story of children reclaiming a reluctant parent’s love. – Booklist

Initial Thoughts:

Thoughts on Criteria:

  • Presentation of information (accuracy, clarity, organization)
    When I read reviews of this book before it came out, I had been expecting a lot of historical details about the Black Panthers and their beliefs.  I was disappointed when this information was couched in the characters and plot – but overall I think the novel does a fair job of informing readers about the Black Panther movement, even if it isn’t quite the historical fiction novel with hidden history lessons that I was hoping for.  While initially I disliked Delphine’s distrust and dislike of the Panthers because I felt it painted them in a negative light, I think that her initial dislike will mirror that of any readers.  I didn’t feel anything was inaccurate as far as Black Panther history goes, but I do still wish she’d talked a little bit more about the major tenants of the movement as well as some of the figures (there is some namedropping that happens but they’re not introduced very well.)
  • Delineation of a setting
    Oakland, 1963.  From the classes I took in college on Civil Rights Black History, the setting felt very accurate.  Characters fit comfortably into the setting despite the treatment received from Cecile/Inzilla.
  • Delineation of plot
    Sending Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern to Oakland to be with their mother seemed odd to me.  Delphine, I could understand sending because she’s getting to the age where a vacation on her own would make sense.  I suppose Vonetta and Fern were just sent along as well. Throughout the whole book, the girls’ reason for being in Oakland kept nagging at me as being weird.
  • Delineation of characters
    “Regimented, responsible, strong-willed Delphine narrates in an unforgettable voice, but each of the sisters emerges as a distinct, memorable character, whose hard-won, tenuous connections with their mother build to an aching, triumphant conclusion.” – Booklist.  I enjoyed all of the characters and felt even the minor passing characters to be important and well-developed.
  • Appropriateness of style
    The writing style is much like Cecile – short and to the point – despite being narrated by eleven year-old Delphine who is self-proclaimedly different from her mother.  I had to keep reminding myself that the book was reviewed as low as fourth grade and that just because I felt the subject matter to be ‘advanced’ (in the sense that no one ever talks about the Black Panthers in 4th-7th grade), the writing style did not need to be.
  • Interpretation of theme of concept
    “Set during a pivotal moment in African American history, this vibrant novel shows the subtle ways that political movements affect personal lives; but just as memorable is the finely drawn, universal story of children reclaiming a reluctant parent’s love.” – Booklist.  I thought this novel ended up being more about family than about black history – the black history was kind of a “bonus” to the point of the novel.
  • Excellence of presentation for a child audience
    Very approachable.  I hope to recommend it to kids who are reluctant historical fiction fans, I feel that it would be very approachable to them.

Concluding Newbery Thoughts:
I thought this was a great book and I plan to recommend it often, but I’m still not sold that it’s outstanding enough for a Newbery.  I love Rita Williams-Garcia and would love to see her rewarded in this way but I just don’t see this book as the one to do it for her.



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