Where the Wild Books Are
Eled 408: Children's Literature course at Salisbury University
Educ 409: Young Adult Literature at Salisbury University
REED 520: Master's level course in Children's and Young Adult Literature at SU
ANDERSON, Laurie Halse. Chains. Jacket illus. by Christopher Silas Neal. 316p. Simon &Schuster Children’s Publishing. 2008. RTE $23.95. ISBN 978-1-4169-0585-1. LC 24681097531. Ages 10-12:
Anderson does a wonderful job presenting a historical fiction about life in revolutionary times without making it seem dry. This very kid friendly book is an easy read although it has a very complex plot line. I found that while there were many aspects to the book I did not feel overwhelmed as the reader. Chains is the story of Isabel (approximately 11 years old) and her “simple” sister Ruth. They have been promised their freedom by their master Miss. Finch when she dies but instead they are sold by her greedy nephew to a new cruel master Mr. and Mrs. Lockton (whom are loyalists) in New York City. Isabel is approached by another slave Cruzon who convinces her to spy on her Loyalist master for the Patriots. Although, Isabel spends most of her time trying to hide Ruth’s “spells” from Mrs. Lockton and when she is unsuccessful her sister is sold to another master. Isabel must now decide where do her loyalties lie with the Patriots or Loyalists. Which side will help reunite her with her sister and end slavery? -- Kara H. Brown
Collins, Suzanne. Hunger Games. 374p. Scholastic Press. 2008. ISBN: 978-0-439-02348-1. Gr 6 Up
Set in a futuristic society where the country is divided into districts, Katniss has always been able to provide for her family. With the help of her hunting partner, Gale, she manages to supply the basic necessities for her, her mother and her sister Prim. That is until the day of the reaping. Each year, in a ceremony all citizens are required to attend, a boy and girl from each district are chosen by lottery to participate in the Hunger Games. The rules of the Game are simple. The last person alive, wins. Kat is stunned when 12 year old Prim is picked and she quickly steps forward to take her place. Forced into an unwanted alliance with the boy from her district, Peeta, Kat begins to wonder how and if she can survive this competition. As the preparation for the competition continues, her relationship with Peeta becomes more complicated and she is concerned with the consequences. The night before the competition, Peeta tells a nation wide audience that he has been in love with Katniss ever since they were children in the same school. In a reality TV scenario, with cameras watching their every move, Kat must reconcile her feelings for Peeta with the knowledge that one of them will not survive the games. Suzanne Collins has written a compelling story about love, survival, and self examination while showing a desperate government’s attempt to control its citizens.
Hemphill, Stephanie. Your Own Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath. 272p. photos. Bibliog. Random House Children's Books. Dec. 2008. ISBN-13: 9780440239680. Gr. 9 up
Written as a collection of poems, this book is a fictional but highly researched account of Sylvia Plath's life. Many of the poems are written in the same style as Plath wrote. The poems highlight key moments in Sylvia's life, such as her early years, relationships with men, her college years, her first attempt at suicide, and her relationship with her husband. After each page the author provides a footnote with additional information about the poem and the events within. Literature discussion questions are also provided at the end of the novel. This book is a great introduction to Sylvia Plath and would easily accompany one of her works, like The Bell Jar. -- Andrea Marine
Reger, Rob and Jessica Gruner. Emily the Strange: The Lost Days. 266p. Harper Collins Publishers. 2009. ISBN-978-0-06-145229-1. Gr. 7 up
Waking without knowing who or where she is, Emily starts taking notes and drawing pictures in her journal. After renaming herself Earwig, she realizes she is stranded in a quirky town called Blackrock and seems to have amnesia. She soon finds that she must like the number 13, since she keeps making lists of 13 items, four black cats keep following her around, and she enjoys hanging out at the El Dungeon, the town café. While many people keep mistaking her for some girl named Molly, Emily (a.k.a. Earwig) meets some strange characters like Umlaut, the guy who runs the traveling medicine show. As readers continue through the story, who Emily really is will be revealed, mostly, but they will have to keep reading the following books to find out how her adventures will end. -- Andrea Marine
KINNEY, Jeff. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Greg Heffley’s Journal. illus. by author. 217 p. Amulet Books. Apr. 2007. $12.95. ISBN 978-0-8109-9313-6.
Gr 4-7 – Sixth grader Greg Heffley’s, at his mother’s encouragement, begins keeping a diary of his adventures and feelings over the school year. Greg insists it is not a diary, but rather a journal in which he records the amusing stories of his older brother, Roderick; his younger brother, Manny; and his best friend, Rowley Jefferson. Accompanied by humorous comic-like sketches, the stories Greg tells are of the trials of middle school, friendship, bullying, being a younger brother, justifying his actions, and dealing with life as pre-pubescent boy. The problems Greg faces can be appreciated by upper intermediate to middle- school-aged students, especially boys. The manner in which Greg deals with these issues will make any-aged person laugh. – Amy Taylor, Centreville Middle School, MD.
CURTIS, Christopher Paul. Elijah of Buxton. 341p. Scholastic Press. 2007. RTE $16.99.ISBN 978-0-439-02344-3
Gr 5-8 – This story, set during a time when slavery was a way of life in the south, portrays an aspect of slavery that is not well known…the life of an escaped slave living as a free person. Elijah is eleven years old and is the first child born in the runaway slave settlement of Buxton, Canada. Life in the settlement centers around farming and family and Elijah learns that not everyone has the best interests of the settlement or its people in mind. Through one person’s dishonesty, Elijah finds himself traveling to the United States where he is in danger of being captured as a runaway slave. He also comes face to face with the horrors of slavery that he has only heard about from his parents. He is forced to make a decision that tests his resolve. Elijah leaves Canada a boy and returns, after his adventure, as a young man. This is a good historical fiction book that shows a side of slavery that is not often portrayed and would be a great resource in discussing that part of history. -- Lizanne Wallace.
PENNYPACKER, Sara. Clementine. Illus. by Marla Frazee. Scholastic. 2007. $3.99. ISBN 978-0-545-03619-1.
Grades 2-3 – Clementine is a very energetic young girl who usually acts before she thinks. Pennypacker takes us through one week of Clementine’s life. We get to witness her antics and the events that they bring about. Clementine tries to help her father solve the pigeon problem at their apartment building. Clementine then finds out that the neighbors and her parents are planning a party and she has not been included. Quickly, Clementine decides that her parents are ready to get rid of her because she is the “hard” child and her brother is the “easy one”. However, Clementine is in for a big surprise. The simple gray tone illustrations help young readers clarify and visualize the story. – Susan Shimek, Choptank Elementary School.
CHRISTOPHER, Matt. Lacrosse Firestorm. 144 pages. Little, Brown Young Readers. 2008. RTE $4.99 ISBN 978-0316016315.
Ages 9-12—Lacrosse Firestorm is the sequel to Christopher’s Lacrosse Face-Off (Little, Brown Young Readers, 2006). The narrative picks up at summer camp after protagonist Garry Wallis thwarted his rival Michael Donofrio’s attempt to win top-scorer in the last book. In Lacrosse Firestorm Michael is back and seeking revenge. Like most boys his age, Garry must wrestle with some complex decisions about how he is going to handle the team bully. As if this wasn’t enough, there is a fire at their camp and Garry now has a mystery to solve. While the storyline and writing style is appealing to its intended audience, the character’s language seems a tad juvenile. Still the book is highly recommended for sports lovers -- Nori Burkhardt.
The Election Process in Children’s BooksCheck out these three books that would enhance a unit on elections:
First, and most primary, would be Doreen Cronin’s Duck for President. This is a fun book for introducing vocabulary, the concept of citizenship, and election procedure through the use of farm animals. As Duck becomes zealous for power, he decides to run for farmer, then governor, and finally, president. Children get a good jump-start to elections with these animals with human like wants and actions!
Next, Kelly DiPucchio’s Grace for President (illustrations by LeUyen Pham). When Grace learns that there has never been a girl president before, she immediately takes action! She becomes Thomas’ opponent in her school’s mock trial, and learns many values along the way. What a great book for learning about the electoral system, as well as the importance of taking chances, determination, and working hard. The author’s "Final Note" is an effective nonfiction look at the electoral process.
Finally, I would use VOTE! written by Eileen Christelow. A combination of fiction and nonfiction, this little book is filled with story, time line, a glossary, and fun amazing facts. Written in a “partial graphic novel style” the characters (people and animals alike) are going through a mayoral campaign. Readers learn about the election process from beginning to end. Some extra bonuses: a list of online resources for children to explore for more information on voting, as well as a matching section for ‘hands on’ time (with answers!) -- Paige Diskin