Graphic Novels

Image

Lunch Lady: The League of Librarians  

 

Bibliography

Krosoczka, Jarrett. 2009. Lunch Lady: The League of Librarians. New York: Knopf Books.                                                                         

ISBN 9780375846847

 

Plot Summary

In the second book of the Lunch Lady Series, The League of Librarians, by Jarrett Krosoczka, the Lunch lady and her sidekick Betty have noticed that the school librarian has become cold and sneaky. What can the librarian be hiding? Hector, Dee, and Terrence and of the Breakfast Bunch cannot get the librarian to smile or be friendly as she had been before. When the Breakfast Bunch attends a book fair their suspicions are aroused when they discover a plot by the league of Librarians to destroy all video games. Lunch Lady and Betty are working undercover to solve the librarian mystery at the school and the breakfast Bunch decides to help investigate. Lunch Lady is on the case and the Breakfast Bunch is along for a wild ride in this action packed graphic novel.

 

Serving justice . . . and lunch!”

 

Critical Analysis

Lunch Lady:The League of Librarians, by Jarrett Krosoczka is the second graphic novel in the Lunch Lady series. This was my first exposure to a graphic novel and I was very impressed with Mr. Krosoczka’s full page illustrations. His use of vivid colors made the lively cartoon pictures come alive and young readers appreciate striking visuals in their books. The Lunch Lady series is age appropriate and filled with mystery, adventure and action. Lunch Lady: The League of Librarians is a fun and appealing connection between fantasy fiction and graphic interpretation.  The character of Lunch Lady is fantasy but readers like her and her adventuresome personality. The Breakfast Bunch members exist in every school across America. This is a group of students who are friends and enjoy each other’s company. These are your average students and this why readers will identify with them. The plot of this graphic novel is fiction but it is the kind of fiction that young readers find appealing. The librarian is plotting to destroy all video games, steal money from the school and take over the world! The librarian is the villain and the Lunch Lady has to stop her. The setting of this novel is a public school, with a cafeteria and a library. Young readers will have a clear picture of this setting and can visualize the Lunch Lady and librarian as they move about the school.  The theme for this graphic novel is simple; good triumphs over evil! This type graphic novel gives young readers a foundation of what is expected in society, what is right, and how to make things right.  The author uses age appropriate language in this graphic novel and elementary readers, as well as, pre-teens, will enjoy the suspense and action. This graphic novel is filled with humor and dialogue that will capture and hold a young readers interest.

 

Awards

This graphic novel has not won any awards. However, Mr. Krosoczka has been awarded the following.

The IRA/CBC Children’s Choice Award, 2002, 2004 – winner

Charlotte Award, 2012 – Nominee 

Children’s Choices Book Awards, 2011 – Winner

“3rd Grade  to 4th Grade Book of the Year” 

Review Excerpts

 

School Library Journal

“When not serving up French fries and gravy to students, Lunch Lady escapes to her secret kitchen lair to lead the life of a crime fighter. Using an assortment of lunch-themed gadgets (created by her sidekick Betty), she is definitely a quirky superhero. Tipped off by the Breakfast Bunch (three students who discovered Lunch Lady’s crime-fighting alter ego in Book 1), she attempts to foil the plans of the evil League of Librarians, who seek to destroy all video games. The black-and-white pen-and-ink illustrations have splashes of yellow in nearly every panel. The clean layout, featuring lots of open space, is well suited for the intended audience. Terrence, Hector, and Dee become more developed in this second installment in the series, especially Dee, who asserts herself as the strong-willed leader of the group. The winking references to book fairs, read-a-thon enrollment, and media specialists fit well with the story line. With its appealing mix of action and humor, this clever, entertaining addition to the series should have wide appeal.”

 

Children’s Literature

When her Apple Alarm alerts her to a crime in progress, crime fighter Lunch Lady knows it is time to leap into action! Armed with her Taco-Vision Night Goggles and aided by her trusty sidekick/assistant server Betty, Lunch Lady serves up justice to everyone from muggers to crime syndicates, but, when Lunch Lady’s young informants, the Breakfast Bunch, alert her to an evil plot by the League of Librarians to destroy all video games, can even a super-powered cafeteria worker stop a group of villains capable of sending an evil Black Stallion or Cheshire Cat against her? Inspired by author/artist Jarret J. Krosoczka’s crazy ideas about his own elementary school lunch lady, much of the book’s humor comes from Lunch Lady’s cafeteria-themed gadgets, including the Spork Phone, Hairnet Nets, and Sonic Boom Juice Box. For a graphic novel meant to encourage reading, however, the story delivers some mixed messages about librarians, as the librarians are portrayed as video game-hating villains who knock people out with dictionaries and attack superheroes with evil versions of literary characters. At one point, the heroes even toss the librarians’ books into the river to defeat the villains. Overall, the book plays with some clever concepts and provides some diversionary entertainment but is not particularly filling.”

 

Connections

Describe and discuss the cafeteria at the reader’s school.

Describe and discuss the Lunch Lady. Could she solve a mystery?

Ask the readers if they could go undercover to solve a mystery?

 

 

Related Books

 

Hinds, Gareth. 2010. The Odyssey.  New York: Candlewick Press.                                                                                                   ISBN 9780763642686

 

Tan, Shaun. 2007. The Arrival.  New York: Scholastic Incorporated.

ISBN 9780439895293

 

Tan, Shaun. 2009. Tales from Outer Suburbia.  New York: Scholastic Incorporated.    

ISBN 9780545055871

 

Read other titles in the Lunch Lady series.

LUNCH LADY AND THE CYBORG SUBSTITUTE #1.   ISBN 9780375946837  

            LUNCH LADY AND THE AUTHOR VISIT VENDETTA #3 ISBN 978-0375860942

            LUNCH LADY AND THE SUMMER CAMP SHAKEDOWN #4 ISBN 978-0375860959

            LUNCH LADY AND THE BAKE SALE BANDAIT #5, ISBN 978-0375867293

 

 

Websites

                               

http://www.goodreads.com/series/57186-lunch-lady  

 

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lunch-lady-and-the-league-of-librarians-jarrett-j-krosoczka/1022905804?ean=9780375846847

 

Advertisements

Where Things Come Back

WhereThings

Michael Printz YA Award Winner

Where Things Come Back

Bibliography
Whaley, John Corey. 2011. Where Things Come Back. New York: Atheneum Books.
ISBN 978 1442413337

Plot Summary
Where Things Come Back is based on the true story of the Lazarus Woodpecker: The supposed reappearance of the ivory-billed woodpecker is a true story that inspired expression in a variety of media. Author John Corey Whaley inspired to write the book after he heard Sufjan Steven’s “The Lord God Bird”. Cullen Witter’s life in a small Arkansas town takes a strange turn the summer before his senior year in high school. His cousin dies of an overdose, his younger brother disappears without a trace, and the whole country is abuzz with the sighting of a supposedly extinct woodpecker in Cullen’s small hometown of Lily, AR. A carnival atmosphere takes over and Cullen finds and loses love all in one summer while growing increasingly worried about his brothers Gabriel’s disappearance. In a second story that is woven into Cullen’s story, a young missionary has a crisis of faith. Both stories have a theme of second chances.

Critical Analysis
Where Things Come Back John Corey Whaley is a great summer book for young adults. The theme of second chances is one that young adults seem to live by. The characters are all solid, especially Cullen as he tries to hold his family together. Cullen’s younger brother Gabriele can be funny at times, but young readers will appreciate this. The character of Cabot Searcy can be both menacing and comical at times. Cabot is scary and violent but does stupid things that young readers will find amusing. The setting is the small town of Lily AR; a small, dull town where nothing extraordinary ever happens. The plot is pure fiction, except for the sighting of the Lazarus Woodpecker. Brothers don’t get kidnapped and returned still alive months later. The theme in this novel covers a teenager’s growth into a young man. Cullen discovers his role within his family and finds and loses, his first love. There is a theme of second chances and wishing to do something over again to get it right. Mr. Whaley writes with the style of a southern storyteller. Where Things Come Back is complex and with melancholy and regret, comedy and absurdity, this novel finds wonder in the ordinary and emerges as ultimately hopeful. It’s about a lot more than what Cullen, as the protagonist, calls, “that damn bird.” It’s about the dream of second chances and things coming back. Small town southern life and culture is represented well in this book. This book has no illustrations. There are two versions of the book jacket. One version has a drawing of the woodpecker in flight, while the second book jacket shows the woodpecker in a tree. Neither book jacket does the story justice.
Awards
Michael L. Printz Award
William C. Morris Debut Award Winner
Publishers Weekly Best Book 2011

Review Excerpts

Publishers Weekly

“In this darkly humorous debut, Whaley weaves two stories into a taut and well-constructed thriller…Vulnerability balances Cullen’s arch sarcasm, and the maelstrom of media attention lavished on the woodpecker offers an element of the absurd, especially when juxtaposed against the mystery of Gabriel’s disappearance. The portentous tone and flat affect of Whaley’s writing is well-suited to the story’s religious themes and symbolism… as Whaley gradually brings the story’s many threads together in a disturbing, heartbreaking finale that retains a touch of hope.”

Kirkus

“In a build-up that explores the process of grief, second chances and even the meaning of life, Cullen’s and Cabot’s worlds slowly intersect and solve the mystery of Gabriel’s disappearance in this multilayered debut for sophisticated readers. Unexpected, thought-provoking storytelling.”

Booklist

“What will hold readers most is the moving story of Cullen’s beloved younger brother, who suddenly goes missing, leading to mystery, heartbreak, and an astonishing resolution on the very last page…An intriguing, memorable offering teens will want to discuss.”

Connections
Describe and discuss life in small southern towns.
Introduce a discussion about how and why some things are right or wrong.
Ask the readers if they believe in second chances?
Can people ever really forgive and forget?

Related Books

Silvey, Craig, 2011. Jasper Jones.New York: Knopf Books for Young Readers. ISBN 9780375866661

Handler, Daniel. 2011. Why We Broke Up. New York: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
ISBN 9780316127257

Green, John. 2006. Looking for Alaska. New York: Speak Books.
ISBN 9780142402511

Websites

http://johncoreywhaley.com/

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8563789-where-things-come-back

Image

feathers

feathers

Newbery Honor Book

feathers

Bibliography
Woodson, Jacqueline. 2007. feathers. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.
ISBN 978-0399239892

Plot Summary
In Jacqueline Woodson’s novel feathers, Frannie is a sixth grader who frequently reminds herself of the poem Ms. Johnson read in class. “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul, and sings the tune– without the words, And never stops at all. “ by Emily Dickinson. Frannie and her friends Samantha, Ray-Ray, Maribel and Trevor are surprised when the new kid in their class is white and he is the only white kid in their school, which is located on the wrong side of the highway. Frannie is concerned about her mother’s pregnancy, her brother’s deafness and how her friends react and try to understand racism, class, segregation, religion, disabilities and hope for better things after segregation is outlawed in the 1970s. Hope is a thing that should have feathers becomes Frannie’s strong hold throughout the entire story as she begins to see things in a new light.

Critical Analysis
feathers by Jacqueline Woodson would fall in the Contemporary Realistic Fiction genre, but I also read a review that said it was historical fiction. After so many years most Contemporary Realistic Fiction does become historical when it is set in a specific time period. This novel is set amid the racial upheavals of the 1970s and tells the story of several black friends, their school, home and church life, and the effects it has on them when a white boy, the Jesus Boy, is enrolled at their school. Woodson covers the Contemporary Realistic Fiction Subtopics of self, family and friends. This is a slice-of-life novel that is built upon events that are true to life. The characters are very real. Frannie as the central character tries to keep her friendships intact as things change around her. Trevor is a bully and would love to fight the Jesus Boy. The Jesus Boy is calm and self assured; he promotes anti-violence. Samantha worries about her loss of faith and Frannie’s family worries about her brother’s future and his deafness. The theme for feathers would be one of personal growth and understanding the world and those around you and how everything and everyone changes. Ms Woodson’s style of writing is very lyrical and poetic. She uses symbolism and figurative language that helps the story progress, and keeps the story real and believable. Ms. Woodson is African American and her race gave her an insight into the culture of pre-teen African Americans and the changes about race in the 1970s. Ms. Woodson allows Frannie to be the protagonist in feathers and Frannie does a great job of solving most of the problems that face her group of friends.
There are no illustrations in this book, but the book jacket is simple and eloquent, with a single yellow feather floating on a pale blue background with snowflakes. This is in keeping with the setting of the book in the Winter of 1971 and the title feathers.

Awards
Newbery Honor Book

Review Excerpts
From Barnes & Noble
“Hope is the thing with feathers / that perches in the soul.” Frannie, this novel’s 16-year-old narrator, lives with a sweet sense of expectation, a feeling nurtured in her loving home. But even the purest hope does not always materialize. When a white boy nicknamed Jesus Boy joins her previously all-black class, Frannie and one of her friends start to believe that he might indeed be special. An unexpected occurrence snaps them back to reality. Carefully nuanced portrayals and a sensitive look racial segregation, prejudice, and religious faith by a Coretta Scott King Award-winning author.”

Publishers Weekly
“The narrator of Woodson’s 2008 Newbery Honor title is fascinated with Emily Dickinson’s famous couplet “Hope is the thing with feathers/ that perches in the soul.” Frannie grapples with its meaning, especially after a white student joins her all-black sixth-grade classroom. Trevor, the classroom bully, nicknames him “Jesus Boy,” because he is “pale and his hair [is] long.” Frannie’s best friend, a preacher’s daughter, suggests that the new boy truly could be Jesus (“If there was a world for Jesus to need to walk back into, wouldn’t this one be it?”). Set in 1971, the book raises important questions about religion and racial segregation, as well as issues surrounding the hearing-impaired (Frannie’s brother is deaf). Johnson, who also voiced Woodson’s Hush, sensitively renders Frannie’s narration, and her slow delivery affords listeners the opportunity to fully experience Frannie’s keen perceptions. Subtle changes in inflections distinguish the many characters’ voices in a skillful performance that enlarges the book’s already wide appeal.”
Connections
Introduce a discussion about the 1970s. How were race relations in America at this time?
Were the classes of people decided by income, skin color, and religion?
Discuss living in a poor area in a city where crime was prevalent.
Ask would it be difficult to move away to an area and be the only person of your color or religion?
Contrast and compare how African Americans were treated in the 1970s and today.
How are those with disabilities being treated today in America?

Related Books
Woodson, Jacqueline. 2010. After Tupac and D Foster. New York: Speak. ISBN 9780142413999

Stead, Rebecca. 2010. When You Reach Me. New York: Yearling.
ISBN 9780375850868

Appelt, Kathi. 2010. The Underneath. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
ISBN 9781416950592

Websites

http://www.jacquelinewoodson.com/feathers

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/272334.Feathers

Historical Fiction

Image

 

Hattie Big Sky  

 

Bibliography

Larson, Kirby.  2006. Hattie Big Sky. New York: Delacourt Press.                                                                                                     

ISBN 9780385733137

 

Plot Summary

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson is a wonderful historical fiction novel set during WWI. In 1918 Hattie Brooks, also known as Hattie Here-and-There, is an orphan who finds the strength and determination to leave her latest foster home in Iowa and move to Montana all by herself, to “prove up” a homestead willed to her by an uncle she never met.  Hattie is a strong girl at only 16 years old and tackles the journey to Montana with great enthusiasm. Charlie Hawley, who is Hattie’s friend from Iowa, has enlisted and is in France fighting the Kaiser. Hattie’s new friends in Montana, the Mueller’s, are considered German sympathizers by a “patriotic organization” the Dawson County Council of Defense. Hattie and the Mueller’s fight blizzards, flood, hail, wolves and burning summers trying to “prove up” their land.  Hattie is heartbroken over the death of neighbor’s child but never gives up trying to save her uncle’s farm.  The plot is truthful and life in the American West during WWI is not whitewashed.

 

“My arms wearied as I worked the flour into the stiff dough. My heart wearied, too, that Perilee couldn’t enjoy the good in her life after so much sorrow. If God really was in the punishing game, why doesn’t he send lightning down on the whole danged County Council of Defense?”

                                                                                                      Hattie, page 202

 

Critical Analysis

Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson is told in first person narrative style and is an excellent example of historical fiction. Set in 1918 during WWI, this novel provides a factual depiction of Hattie homesteading her uncle’s farm in Montana after his death. The characters are depicted honestly as they were during this time period with anti-German sentiment and citizens who are members of home councils who try to intimidate those of German descent. The plot moves steadily through the seasons with deaths, heartbreak and the tension when someone away fighting in a war is lost. The setting of the Montana farming community is honestly portrayed as people work and die and try to carry on during WWI.  This is an excellent book for young readers. Hattie is an excellent role model for young girls and women. She was brave, she worked hard and she didn’t give up. This is an excellent read for young readers wanting to know about experiences of teenagers, homesteaders and the West.

 

Awards

2007 Newbery Honor Book Award

2006 Montana Book Award

2006 Cybils Nomination

School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

2007 Nominated California Young Readers Medal

 

Review Excerpts

 

Booklist

 

Larson’s vivid descriptions of the harshness of the work and the extreme climates, and the strength that comes from true friendship, create a masterful picture of the homesteading experience and the people who persevered. Hattie’s courage and fortitude are a tribute to them.

American Library Association

Larson, whose great-grandmother homesteaded alone in Montana, read dozens of homesteaders’ journals and based scenes in the book on real events. Writing in figurative language that draws on nature and domestic detail to infuse her story with the sounds, smells, and sights of the prairie, she creates a richly textured novel full of memorable characters.

Kirkus Reviews

What dreams would lead a 16-year-old to leave her safe home in Arlington, Iowa, and take a chance on a homestead claim in Montana? Hattie Brooks, an orphan, is tired of being shuttled between relatives, tired of being Hattie Here-and-There and the feeling of being the “one odd sock behind.” So when Uncle Chester leaves her his Montana homestead claim, she jumps at the chance for independence. It is 1918, so this is homesteading in the days of Model Ts rather than covered wagons, a time of world war, Spanish influenza and anti-German sentiment turning nasty in small-town America. Hattie’s first-person narrative is a deft mix of her own accounts of managing her claim, letters to and from her friend Charlie, who is off at war, newspaper columns she writes and even a couple of recipes. Based on a bit of Larson’s family history, this is not so much a happily-ever-after story as a next-year-will-be-better tale, with Hattie’s new-found definition of home. This fine offering may well inspire readers to find out more about their own family histories.

Connections

Introduce a discussion about WWI. Which countries were allies and enemies of America?

Discuss living alone with no telephone, nearby neighbors or local grocery store.

Contrast and compare how other nationalities are treated in America today.

Ask the reader if he/she would be willing to live as Hattie did.

 

Related Books

Larson, Kirby. 2013. Hattie Ever After. New York: Delacourt Press.                                                                                                       ISBN 9780385737463

 

Larson, Kirby. 2008. The Friendship Doll. New York: Yearling Press.

ISBN 9780375850899

 

Klages, Ellen.  2008. The Green Glass Sea. New York: Puffin.

ISBN 9780142411490

 

 

Websites

http://hattiebigsky.com

 

Aside

Image

 

Historical Fiction

 

Patricia Reilly Giff Historical Fiction Novel

 

Gingersnap

 

Bibliography

Giff, Patricia Reilly. 2013. Gingersnap. New York: Random House Kids.                                                                                                       

ISBN 9780375838910

 

Plot Summary

Gingersnap, by Patricia Reilly Giff is a wonderful historical fiction story that includes of all things, a ghost! Gingersnap is set in the 1940s during WWII. Jayna, nicknamed Gingersnap, and her brother Rob share an apartment in New York after being orphaned when their parents died in an auto accident. Rob enlists in the navy and is sent to war serving on a submarine, but before he leaves he tells Jayna he has found a blue recipe book that may have belonged to their grandmother. Jayna is left in the care of their landlady Celine and one day Jayna decides to travel to Brooklyn to try and find their grandmother’s bakery. Jayna thinks she may be imagining things because she starts to see the ghost of a young girl with red, “gingersnap” hair just like her own who seems to be leading her in the right direction.  When Rob’s submarine is reported missing Celine, Elise, the ghost girl and the blue recipe book help Jayna create a new family and get through tragic days.

 

Critical Analysis

Gingersnap, by Patricia Reilly Giff is a wonderful historical fiction novel that has the feel of an old book even though it was just published in 2013. This historical fiction novel is set in 1944 during WWII and the dust jacket has the only illustration, but just by using this visual the reader can tell the approximate year(s) the story was set in by looking at Jayna’s clothing.  The food shortages experienced by Americans during WWII are addressed by the recipes in the blue recipe book. The character’s appreciation for the small amount of food they have is an accurate representation of wartime and the lack of food. This is an excellent book for young readers because it blends historical fiction with a ghost story. The theme of this novel is family and how various people can band together and create a family if they really want to.  

 

Awards

Gingersnap has not won any awards. However, the author, Patricia Reilly Giff is a two time Newbery Award winner.

 

Review Excerpts

Publishers Weekly

Giff smoothly intertwines threads of loss, displacement, hope, family, and the soothing power of food (especially soup) in a quiet but emotionally charged novel set during WWII. Jayna—nicknamed Gingersnap by her mother, who died in a car accident along with the girl’s father—feels understandably alone after her only relative, her older brother Rob, goes missing while serving in the Navy. Inspired by items from her mother’s past that she finds, and urged on by the voice of a ghost, Jayna packs up the turtle she’s adopted and runs away from upstate New York to Brooklyn. The ghost (who Jayna believes to be her mother) promises to help her find a family, and Giff’s deft plotting leads the girl to find just that, in surprising and satisfying ways. The pacing falters occasionally—it takes Jayna a while to share information that she knows links her to the kindly bakery owner who takes her in—but Jayna’s yearning to belong and desperate longing for her brother’s safe return give this story its soulful core.”

 

Kirkus Reviews

 

“Giff is one of few writers who can entwine an odd lot of characters, set them in Brooklyn during World War II, flavor the story with soup recipes, add a ghost and infuse the plot with a longing for family–and make it all believable. When Jayna’s brother leaves for submarine duty, she’s left to stay with their cranky landlady (their parents died in a car accident). She remembers an old, blue recipe book inscribed with a name and address in Brooklyn and becomes convinced the woman in a photo standing in front of a bakery named Gingersnap (her nickname) is her grandmother. With her pet box turtle, Theresa, in a cat carrier and the recipe book in her suitcase, she takes a bus into New York City and the subway to Brooklyn. Through a series of misfortunes, she finds the bakery and its owner, Elise. Is Elise her grandmother? Will Rob return from the war? Who is the ghost wearing Jayna’s toenail polish with only her hands and feet visible, and can she connect with Rob? Will Theresa survive? Jayna’s eight tasty soup recipes befit the circumstances as they unfold: Don’t-Think-About-It Soup, Hope Soup, Waiting Soup and so forth. The author’s note to readers refers to her own childhood war memories, lending dimension to the characters and plot. Unfortunately, the cover image of a girl with a suitcase walking by brownstone houses won’t entice readers, though the story itself is riveting. While the outcome is foreseeable, Jayna’s journey is a memorable one.”

 

Connections

Introduce a discussion about WWII.  

Discuss living in foster homes and being reunited with a family member.  

Ask what makes a family a family?

 

Related Books

Timberlake, Amy. 2013. One Came Home.  New York: Knopf Books.                                                                                                         ISBN 9780375869259

 

Holm, Jennifer L. 2007. Penny from Heaven.  New York: Yearling Books.  

ISBN 9780375836893

 

Holm, Jennifer L. 2008. Turtle in Paradise.  New York: Yearling Books.  

ISBN 978 0375836909

 

 

Websites

 

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0375838910/?tag=mh0b-20&hvadid=2277372513&ref=pd_sl_3c13vv1r3p_e

 

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/gingersnap-patricia-reilly-giff/1110503653?ean=9780375838910

 

 

Aside

Anning

Special Author: Sally M. Walker

 

Mary Anning: Fossil Hunter   

 

Bibliography

Walker, Sally M.  2007. Mary Anning: Fossil Hunter. Illustrated by Phyllis V. Saroff.  New York:         First Avenue Editions.

ISBN:  978-1575054575

 

Plot Summary               

Mary Anning: Fossil Hunter is an excellent biography written by Sally M. Walker. In this informational book Ms. Walker tells the story of Mary Anning and her life spent collecting and indentifying major fossils. For most of her life Ms. Anning did not receive credit for the fossils she found even though her finds had a great impact in Paleontology in 19th century England. Ms. Anning’s father was a furniture carpenter and sold the fossils in his shop. By the time of Ms. Anning’s death in 1847 she was considered to be one of the greatest fossil collectors, dealers and paleontologist of her time. She was known around the world for a number of important finds she made in the Jurassic marine fossil beds at Lyme Regis in Dorset where she lived. Her work contributed to fundamental changes that occurred during her lifetime in scientific thinking about prehistoric life and the history of the Earth.

 

Critical Analysis

Sally Walker’s biography of Mary Anning is a wonderful telling of a female scientist in the male dominated world of Paleontology. Ms. Anning, who discovered many of the best and most complete fossils in nineteenth-century England, is described as a curious, intelligent woman who began collecting rare fossils to help support her family. This biography is well organized with a factual timeline of Ms. Anning’s life. The story is accurate, well written, and portrays Mary Anning as a heroine. Children of all ages, especially girls, will relish the idea of being a “treasure hunter”. This book provides a well rounded portrait of Mary Anning and her life as a fossil hunter. The illustrations by Phyllis V. Saroff matched the book’s text, but they seemed extremely dreary. The colors were not vibrant, mostly brown, light blue and grey, and some drawings of Ms. Anning seemed to be better suited to a “cliff side murder mystery”. The illustrator should have “painted” Ms. Anning with more color and made the cliff side scenes more dramatic to illustrate her risk taking profession.

 

Awards

IRA/CBC Children’s Choice Award

 

Throughout the 20th century, beginning with H.A. Forde and his The Heroine of Lyme Regis: The Story of Mary Anning the Celebrated Geologist (1925), a number of writers saw Anning’s life as inspirational. She was even the basis of Terry Sullivan’s 1908 tongue twister, “She sells seashells,” according to P.J. McCartney in Henry de la Beche (1978):

She sells seashells on the seashore
The shells she sells are seashells, I’m sure
So if she sells seashells on the seashore
Then I’m sure she sells seashore shells
.

Charles Dickens wrote an article about her life in February 1865 in his literary magazine All the Year Round that emphasized the difficulties she had overcome, especially the skepticism of her fellow townspeople. He ended the article with: “The carpenter’s daughter has won a name for herself, and has deserved to win it.”

Review Excerpts

 

School Library Journal: “Anning has been the subject of a spate of recent titles, such as Catherine Brighton’s heavily pictorial The Fossil Girl (Millbrook, 1999), Don Brown’s more difficult but still pictorial Rare Treasure (Houghton, 1999), Dennis Fradin’s yet more difficult and still heavily illustrated Mary Anning (Silver, 1997; o.p.), and Jeannine Atkins’s almost picture-bookish in appearance Mary Anning and the Sea Dragon (Farrar, 1999). Such a rash of simple biographies on one woman may seem the outside of enough, but Walker’s large print, short sentences, and easy text, with an authoritative bibliography appended, places Anning’s life and accomplishments well within the personal grasp of young readers. Realistic illustrations, appropriately done in earth tones, accompany the readable narrative, and the whole is made complete with an afterword about the scientist’s legacy.”

 

Children’s Literature: “The bicentennial of Mary Anning’s birth produced a plethora of biographies, some with handsome illustrations and vigorous prose. This biography has neither, with average but scientifically correct illustrations in tones of beige, browns and greys and a straightforward controlled vocabulary. However, this biography does the job with emphasis on the role her brother Joseph had in her discoveries of an ichthyosaur skeleton, and her discoveries made later in life. Based on a long list of primary sources, this is a valid informational book for young report-writers, with a timeline and an afterword included, but no index. Part of the “On My Own Biography” series.

 

Connections

Introduce a discussion about fossils.

Ask who has visited a museum to see the dinosaur exhibits?

Discuss male versus female roles in science and medicine.

 

Related Books

 

Atkins, Jeannine. 2012. Mary Anning and the Sea Dragon. Illustrated by Michael Dooling.         Charleston, S.C.:  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

  ISBN:  9781480056879

Anholt, Laurence.2006.  Stone Girl Bone Girl: The Story of Mary Anning.  Illustrated by Sheila           Moxley. London: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books.

ISBN: 9781845077006

 

Cole, Sheila.1991. The Dragon in the Cliff.  Illustrated by T. C. Farrow. Bel Air, CA: Lothrop, Lee           and Shepard.

ISBN:  9780688101961

 

Websites

http://www.amazon.com/Mary-Anning-Fossil-Hunter-Biographies/dp/1575054574/ref=sr_1_sc_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1374092162&sr=8-1-spell&keywords=mary+anning+fossilhunter

 

 

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/mary-anning-sally-m-walker/1003826685?ean=9781575054575

 

 

NonFiction and Biography

ship

2009 Sibert Award Winning Book

 

We Are the Ship  

 

Bibliography

Nelson, Kadir. 2008. We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball.  New York: Hyperion         Book CH.                                                                                                    

ISBN 9780786808328

 

Plot Summary

We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson is a nonfictional account of the struggles endured by African American baseball players as they faced injustices and racial discrimination. This book is an historical account, told in nine innings, that describes the talented athletes, the coaches, the team owners and often, the bigoted fans. The last chapter of this great book includes factual information about baseball and integration and includes quotes from several sources involved in Negro League Baseball.  Nelson tells the story through an anonymous player-narrator. Nelson’s book is truly an informational book that tells of Negro League baseball from its beginnings in the 1920s through its decline after Jackie Robinson crossed over to the majors in 1947.

 

“We are the ships; all else the sea.”  Rube Foster, founder of the Negro National League.

 

 

Critical Analysis

Kadir Nelson spent many years researching We Are the Ship to ensure that it was factual and would be well received by African Americans and baseball fans alike.  Mr. Nelson’s book is a  factual and well written document. Nelson’s illustrations, he refers to them as paintings, are truly exceptional. Each scene is well represented with lifelike drawings of the players, coaches and team owners. There are multiple two-page “paintings” in this book that are both creative and informational. Children and young readers will enjoy the written word as much as the beautiful art work. Also, there is an excellent index at the back of the book that will guide readers looking for additional information on this historical time in baseball history.

 

Awards

2009 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal

2009 Coretta Scott King Book Award-Author Award Winner

2009 Coretta Scott King Book Award- Honor Book Illustrator

2009 Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children-Honor book

2009-2010 Nominated for the Texas Bluebonnet Award

Review Excerpts

 

School Library Journal: “A lost piece of American history comes to life in Kadir Nelson’s elegant and eloquent history (Hyperion/Jump at the Sun, 2008) of the Negro Leagues and its gifted baseball players. The history of the Leagues echoes the social and political struggles of black America during the first half of the 20th century. There were scores of ballplayers who never became as famous as Babe Ruth and Ty Cobb and were almost lost in obscurity because of segregation—and Nelson recreates their history here. The narrative is divided into nine innings, beginning with Rube Foster and his formation of the first Negro League in 1920 and closing with Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier into white major league baseball. In between are fascinating snippets of the events and men who formed the Negro Leagues. Listeners glimpse the pain black Americans endured because of bigotry and segregation, but the true center of this story is the joy of baseball and the joy men felt at being able to play the game. Hall of Famer Hank Aaron, who began playing with the Negro Leagues, provides the foreword.”

 

Booklist: “Award-winning illustrator and first-time author Nelson’s history of the Negro Leagues, told from the vantage point of an unnamed narrator, reads like an old-timer regaling his grandchildren with tales of baseball greats Satchel Paige, Josh Gibson, and others who forged the path toward breaking the race barrier before Jackie Robinson made his historic debut. The narrative showcases the pride and comradery of the Negro Leagues, celebrates triumphing on one’s own terms and embracing adversity, even as it clearly shows the “us” and “them” mentality bred by segregation.”

 

Connections

Introduce a discussion about sports.

Ask who are today’s star athletes?

Contrast and compare how athletes are treated in today’s sports arena and yesteryear’s.

 

Related Books

 

Nelson, Kadir. 2009. Change Has Come: An Artist Celebrates Our American Spirit. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

  ISBN 1416989552

 

Nelson, Kadir. 2011. Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans. New York: Balzer + Bray. 

 ISBN 9780061730740

 

Nelson, Kadir. 2005. He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands. New York, NY: Dial.

ISBN 9780803728509

 

Websites

 

http://www.wearetheship.com

 

http://www.ala.org/news/news/pressreleases2009/january2009/ymasibert

 

http://www.amazon.com/We-Are-Ship-League-baseball/dp/0786808322/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1374087332&sr=8-1&keywords=we+are+the+ship++kadir+nelson

 

 

Aside

Biography:  Barbara Kerley

 

What To Do About Alice?   

 

Bibliography

Kerley, Barbara. 2008. What To Do About Alice? Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham.New York:         Scholastic Press.  

ISBN:  978-0439922319

 

Plot Summary               

“Theodore Roosevelt had a small problem. Her name was Alice. Alice Lee Roosevelt was hungry to go places, meet people, and do things! Father called it “running riot.” Alice called it “eating up the world.” What To Do About Alice? written by Barbara Kerley is the fantastic biography of Alice Lee Roosevelt, the oldest child of President Teddy Roosevelt.  Alice was an adventurous girl who ignored public opinion concerning what a young girl should or should not do. She was known as a rule-breaker in an era when women were under great pressure to conform. The American public noticed many of her exploits; she rode in cars, stayed out late partying, and kept a pet snake named Emily Spinach. In 1904 – 5, Alice at age 20, along with her father’s Secretary of War, William Howard Taft,  led the so-called “Imperial Cruise” to Japan,  China, the Philippines and Korea. It was the largest diplomatic mission in U.S. history. Alice Roosevelt was vibrant and colorful and charmed everyone she met. When Alice returned to America she married and became a mother, but never left the political arena or the public eye.

 

The exhausted president commented to his friend, author Owen Wister, “I can either run the country or I can attend to Alice, but I cannot possibly do both.” Theodore Roosevelt

 

Critical Analysis

Barbara Kerley’s biography of Alice Lee Roosevelt Longworth, What To Do About Alice? is a great book for young girls (and boys). This biography is often a little exaggerated but does not fall into historical fiction. This is a nonfiction book with a larger-than-life person as its subject. The author used actual events and history to write this biography and Alice Roosevelt’s character and personality are captured on paper for all to read. Edwin Fotheringham’s illustrations are so large and playful that they go perfectly with the text provided by Ms. Kerley. The illustrator used bright colors to make the book entertaining and interesting. The dust jacket shows Alice crazily riding her bike across the White House lawn and it invites the reader to open the book and read about Alice and her antics.

 

Awards

Sibert Honor Book
Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book

Irma Black Award Honor Book
Parents Choice Award

A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
An ALA Notable Book

Review Excerpts

 

School Library Journal: “”Kerley s text gallops along with a vitality to match her subject s antics, as the girl greets White House visitors accompanied by her pet snake, refuses to let leg braces cramp her style, dives fully clothed into a ship’s swimming pool, and also earns her place in history as one of her father’s trusted advisers. Fotheringham s digitally rendered, retro-style illustrations are a superb match for the text.”

 

Kirkus: “Theodore Roosevelt s irrepressible oldest child receives an appropriately vivacious appreciation in this superb picture book…. Kerley s precise text presents readers with a devilishly smart, strong-willed girl who was determined to live life on her own terms and largely succeeded.”

 

Booklist: “Irrepressible Alice Roosevelt gets a treatment every bit as attractive and exuberant as she was….The large format gives Fotheringham, in his debut, plenty of room for spectacular art.”

 

Connections

Introduce a discussion about living in the public eye.

Ask who has visited Washington D.C. and the White House?

Discuss how the roles for women have changed in the last 100 years.

Introduce a discussion about how boys and girls are expected to behave.

 

Related Books

 

Kimmelman, Leslie. 2009. Mind Your Manners, Alice Roosevelt! Illustrated by Adam Gustavsaon.          Atlanta GA: Peachtree Publishers.

ISBN: 9781561454921

 

Fleming, Candace. 2011. Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart. New York:          Schwartz and Wade.  

ISBN: 9780375841989

 

Berne, Jennifer. 2011. Manfish: A Story of Jacque Cousteau. Illustrated by Eric Puybaret.  New          York: Chronicle Books.

ISBN: 9780811860635

 

 

Websites

 

http://www.amazon.com/What-To-About-Alice-Roosevelt/dp/0439922313/ref=cm_cr_pr_pb_t

 

http://ux1.eiu.edu/~psstorm/Monarch10/alice.html

 

http://www.theodoreroosevelt.org/site/c.elKSIdOWIiJ8H/b.8090799/k.C003/Home.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aside

Alice

Biography:  Barbara Kerley

 

What To Do About Alice?   

 

Bibliography

Kerley, Barbara. 2008. What To Do About Alice? Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham.New York:         Scholastic Press.  

ISBN:  978-0439922319

 

Plot Summary               

“Theodore Roosevelt had a small problem. Her name was Alice. Alice Lee Roosevelt was hungry to go places, meet people, and do things! Father called it “running riot.” Alice called it “eating up the world.” What To Do About Alice? written by Barbara Kerley is the fantastic biography of Alice Lee Roosevelt, the oldest child of President Teddy Roosevelt.  Alice was an adventurous girl who ignored public opinion concerning what a young girl should or should not do. She was known as a rule-breaker in an era when women were under great pressure to conform. The American public noticed many of her exploits; she rode in cars, stayed out late partying, and kept a pet snake named Emily Spinach. In 1904 – 5, Alice at age 20, along with her father’s Secretary of War, William Howard Taft,  led the so-called “Imperial Cruise” to Japan,  China, the Philippines and Korea. It was the largest diplomatic mission in U.S. history. Alice Roosevelt was vibrant and colorful and charmed everyone she met. When Alice returned to America she married and became a mother, but never left the political arena or the public eye.

 

The exhausted president commented to his friend, author Owen Wister, “I can either run the country or I can attend to Alice, but I cannot possibly do both.” Theodore Roosevelt

 

Critical Analysis

Barbara Kerley’s biography of Alice Lee Roosevelt Longworth, What To Do About Alice? is a great book for young girls (and boys). This biography is often a little exaggerated but does not fall into historical fiction. This is a nonfiction book with a larger-than-life person as its subject. The author used actual events and history to write this biography and Alice Roosevelt’s character and personality are captured on paper for all to read. Edwin Fotheringham’s illustrations are so large and playful that they go perfectly with the text provided by Ms. Kerley. The illustrator used bright colors to make the book entertaining and interesting. The dust jacket shows Alice crazily riding her bike across the White House lawn and it invites the reader to open the book and read about Alice and her antics.

 

Awards

Sibert Honor Book
Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book

Irma Black Award Honor Book
Parents Choice Award

A Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year
A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year
An ALA Notable Book

Review Excerpts

 

School Library Journal: “”Kerley s text gallops along with a vitality to match her subject s antics, as the girl greets White House visitors accompanied by her pet snake, refuses to let leg braces cramp her style, dives fully clothed into a ship’s swimming pool, and also earns her place in history as one of her father’s trusted advisers. Fotheringham s digitally rendered, retro-style illustrations are a superb match for the text.”

 

Kirkus: “Theodore Roosevelt s irrepressible oldest child receives an appropriately vivacious appreciation in this superb picture book…. Kerley s precise text presents readers with a devilishly smart, strong-willed girl who was determined to live life on her own terms and largely succeeded.”

 

Booklist: “Irrepressible Alice Roosevelt gets a treatment every bit as attractive and exuberant as she was….The large format gives Fotheringham, in his debut, plenty of room for spectacular art.”

 

Connections

Introduce a discussion about living in the public eye.

Ask who has visited Washington D.C. and the White House?

Discuss how the roles for women have changed in the last 100 years.

Introduce a discussion about how boys and girls are expected to behave.

 

Related Books

 

Kimmelman, Leslie. 2009. Mind Your Manners, Alice Roosevelt! Illustrated by Adam Gustavsaon.          Atlanta GA: Peachtree Publishers.

ISBN: 9781561454921

 

Fleming, Candace. 2011. Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart. New York:          Schwartz and Wade.  

ISBN: 9780375841989

 

Berne, Jennifer. 2011. Manfish: A Story of Jacque Cousteau. Illustrated by Eric Puybaret.  New          York: Chronicle Books.

ISBN: 9780811860635

 

 

Websites

 

http://www.amazon.com/What-To-About-Alice-Roosevelt/dp/0439922313/ref=cm_cr_pr_pb_t

 

http://ux1.eiu.edu/~psstorm/Monarch10/alice.html

 

http://www.theodoreroosevelt.org/site/c.elKSIdOWIiJ8H/b.8090799/k.C003/Home.htm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry for Children

Poetry for Children

 

 

Newbery Award

 

Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night

 

Bibliography

 

Sidman, Joyce. 2010. Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night. Illustrated by Rick Allen. New           York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.                                                      

 ISBN: 978-0-547-15228-8

 

Plot Summary

Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night by Joyce Sidman is a collection of twelve poems about creatures of the woods that come out at night. There are poems about owls, snails, trees, spiders and bats. The book ends with the poem, The Moon’s Lament, about the end of the day and the beginning of a new day. This book shares poems about creatures that are active from dusk to dawn. The first poem is Welcome to the Night,” which begins, “To all of you who crawl and creep, who buzz and chirp and hoot and peep,  who wake at dusk and throw off sleep: Welcome to the night.”

 

Critical Analysis

Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night would be a great book to take along on an overnight camping trip. Joyce Sidman’s book is a collection of poems and a science book. There is a column of factual information on each page and a science glossary at the end of the book. The illustrations by Rick Allen are dark and dramatic; especially the cover print of the great horned owl. Allen used the relief printing process to create the artwork for Dark Emperor.  According to a note in the front of the book, “The prints for Dark Emperor were each printed from at least three blocks (and in some instances as many as six) and then hand-colored with a strongly pigmented watercolor called gouache.” These poems are sure to arouse interest and curiosity about the creatures of the night.

 

Review Excerpts

School Library Journal

Sidman continues her explorations of natural history in this set of poems about nocturnal life in the forest. As in her other collections, each selection is set in an expansive spread that includes a factual discussion of the featured subject. The illustrations are bold, richly detailed linoleum prints colored in gouache. The 12 poems are led by a scene setting “Welcome to the Night” and go on to feature 9 different creatures and some mushrooms with a concluding lament by the moon as night fades into morning. Sidman adroitly applies varied poetic forms and rhyme schemes. The title’s dark emperor, the great horned owl, lends its shape to the one concrete poem, and the closing lament is in the medieval style known as an ubi sunt. The poetry is reflective and at times philosophical. “Build a frame/and stick to it,/I always say./Life’s a circle….Eat your triumphs,/eat your mistakes:/that way your belly/will always be full…,” advises the night spider. Other poems are playful and some just a bit confusing. The porcupine poem explains that the infant of this species is known as a porcupette; the repeated use of “baby porcupette” seems oddly redundant. The bookmaking is beautiful with the concept of night lending itself generously to poetry. It invites lingering enjoyment for nature and poetry fans, and, as with Sidman’s earlier collections, it might be used with varied curriculums.

 

Booklist

Like Sidman’s Caldecott Honor Book, Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems (2005), this picture book combines lyrical poetry and compelling art with science concepts. Here, poems about the woods at night reveal exciting biology facts that are explained in long notes on each double-page spread. In a poem about crickets, lines describe “the raucous scrape / of wing against wing,” while a prose passage explains that the cricket’s wing has a serrated “file,” which the cricket rubs against a hard “scraper” on its other wing to attract a mate, creating a sound called “stridulation” that can swell to deafening levels. The facts are further reinforced in the accompanying picture, which shows the small file on a cricket’s wing. In an opening note, Allen explains his elaborate, linoleum-block printmaking technique, and each atmospheric image shows the creatures and the dense, dark forest with astonishing clarity. Looking closely at a picture of a snail, for example, readers will see the physical detail, described in an adjacent poem, in the small animals’ moist, slug like bodies, “riding on a cushion of slime.” The thrilling title poem captures the drama of predator and prey: a mouse in the undergrowth flees an owl’s “hooked face and / hungry eye.” A final glossary concludes this excellent, cross-curricular title.

 

Connections

Discuss the creatures you see when you go camping.

Introduce a discussion about spending the night in the dark woods.

Ask who would like a wild creature for a pet?

Newbery Award Winner

 

Related Books

Songs of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems   ISBN: 978-0618135479

Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow          ISBN:  978-0618563135

Red Sings from Treetops: A Year in Colors                    ISBN:  978-0547014944

 

 

 

 

Special Author: Douglas Florian

 

lizards, frogs and polliwogs

 

Bibliography

Florian, Douglas. 2001. lizards, frogs and polliwogs. New York: HMN Books.

ISBN: 978-0152052485

 

Plot Summary

Douglas Florian’s book, lizards, frogs and polliwogs, is a collection of twenty one fun poems about reptiles and amphibians. In this book he tells of noisy peepers, sticky geckos that crawl up the walls, iguanas, tortoises and rattlesnakes in a fun and rhythmic way.

 

Critical Analysis

Florian features geckos, a glass frog and a rattlesnake. The book is filled with wordplay and puns that will entertain and amuse children of all ages. The poems are simple to read and flow well. Florian’s illustrations are creative, whimsical and colorful. This book is intended to be read aloud with its tongue twisting alliterative verse.

 

Review Excerpts

Amazon.com Review

We are mad for poet-painter Douglas Florian. We were buzzed by Insectlopedia, moony for Mammalabilia, and batty for his other beautifully biological, biologically beautiful books as well. We love Florian for his clever, downright shameless wordplay. One of our favorite poems in Lizards, Frogs, and Polliwogs is “The Wood Frog”:  I am a frozen frogsicle. I froze beneath a logsicle. My mind is in a fogsicle Inside this icy bogsicle. My temperature is ten degrees. I froze my nose, my toes, my knees. But I don’t care, I feel at ease, For I am full of antifreeze.

 

Publishers Weekly

Like Florian’s Insectlopedia and Mammalabilia, this volume contains witty poems filled with comic word play–this time about 21 scaly, slimy creatures. With the droll verbal dexterity of J. Patrick Lewis and the just slightly naughty humor of Jack Prelutsky, Florian regales his readers with unexpected rhymes. “It’s wise to stay clear/ Of the dangerous cobra,” he warns, “all the months of the year,/ Including Octobra.” A picture of a costumed child holding a jack-o’-lantern is accompanied by the verse “I wouldn’t wanna/ Be an iguana–/ Except for Halloween.” From the Midwife Toad (“On Dad’s back the eggs are toted./ To his kids he’s toadally devoted”) to the Poison-Dart Frogs, Florian finds mischievous reptile lore that will make young readers laugh. At first glance his illustrations seem less varied than in the previous books, but these bug-eyed amphibians have a low-key style of their own. The newt reads the “Newt News” paper, and the Glass Frog camouflaged on a leaf labels various parts of the painting either “me” or “leaf.” The medium is different, too: here Florian uses watercolors and collage elements atop brown paper bags. The warm, familiar tones and soft lines belie the idiosyncrasy of the compositions–these frogs and friends don’t necessarily jump out at readers, but continually take them by surprise.

 

Connections

Discuss the care and feeding of reptiles and amphibians.

Consider the pros and cons of having a rattlesnake for a pet.

Ask who has a lizard or an iguana or a frog for a pet.

 

Related Books

insectlopedia                                                   ISBN: 978-0152163358

mammalabilia                                                ISBN: 978-0152050245

Beast Feast: Poems                                         ISBN: 978-0152017378

 

 

Novels in Verse

 

Crossing Stones

 

Bibliography

Frost, Helen. 2009. Crossing Stones. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

ISBN: 978-0374316532

 

Plot Summary

Helen Frost’s novel in verse, Crossing Stones, is the story of Muriel Jorgensen, her brother Ollie and their neighbors Frank and Emma Norman, and the tragedies the two families endure during WWI. Muriel is fascinated by the women’s suffrage movement but she is told to keep her thoughts and opinions to herself. An Influenza epidemic threatens members of both families as   Muriel begins to cross into a new and changing world, stone by stone.

 

Critical Analysis

Helen Frost’s novel in verse, Crossing Stones, is a beautifully written story about two neighboring families and how WWI brings tragedy and change into their lives. Frost’s use of novel in verse allows each character to tell his or her own story and this is what appeals to young readers. It is simply written and easy to understand and follow. The illustration provided by Ms Frost on the cover print of Muriel leaning against the apple tree is very telling.

 

Review Excerpts

School Library Journal

The children of the Norman and Jorgensen families have grown up together, with their family farms located on either side of Crabapple Creek. In 1917, the outbreak of World War I shatters their idyllic lives: strong-willed Muriel opposes it, but the two young men, Frank and her brother, Ollie, enlist and are soon sent overseas. Muriel’s lively personality comes alive in free-verse poems that roam across the page like the free-flowing waters of the creek. “My mind sets off at a gallop/down that twisty road, flashes by ‘Young Lady,’/hears the accusation in it—as if it’s/a crime just being young, and ‘lady’/is what anyone can see I’ll never be/….” The poems of Ollie and friend Emma are written in “cupped-hand” sonnets; their rounded shapes resemble the crossing stones of the creek and record their growing love. While the young men find themselves amidst the horrors of trench warfare, their families attempt to cope with their absence. Muriel travels to Washington, DC, to be with her aunt Vera, a suffragist who is recovering from a hunger strike; joins picketers at the White House; and helps out in a settlement house. Back home, youngest sister Grace comes down with influenza. Frost’s warmly sentimental novel covers a lot of political, social, and geographical ground, and some of the supporting characters are not fully fleshed out. But this is Muriel’s story, and her determined personality and independence will resonate with readers, especially those who’ve enjoyed the works of Karen Hesse.—

 

Booklist

Frost skillfully pulls her characters back from stereotype with their poignant, private, individual voices and nuanced questions, which will hit home with contemporary teens, about how to recover from loss and build a joyful, rewarding future in an unsettled world.”—

 

Kirkus Reviews

With care and precision, Frost deftly turns plainspoken conversations and the internal monologues of her characters into stunning poems that combine to present three unique and thoughtful perspectives on war, family, love and loss. Heartbreaking yet ultimately hopeful, this is one to savor.”—

 

Connections

Ask students if they have had a relative who was a soldier.

Introduce a discussion about living on a farm.

Discuss how the world has changed since 1917.

Printz Honor

 

Related Books

Hidden                                                             ISBN-10: 0374382212

 

Diamond Willow                                             ISBN-10: 0312603835

 

The Braid                                                        ISBN-10: 0374309620