book review

Module #5: Ship Breaker

Posted on Updated on

Book Summary
Nailer was born a scavenger and will most likely die one.  In fact, he comes very near to drowning in a pitch-black oil reservoir in the belly of the beached tanker he is scavenging for copper when a “lucky strike” leads him to an escape hatch, spilling hundreds of gallons of “black gold” onto the beach.  That evening a terrible storm hits the beach where the scavengers live, ripping apart tents and threatening to drown anyone in its path.  The storm brings with it a new treasure, a high-tech, fast-sailing clipper ship with very precious cargo, a girl.  Nailer must decide if he will stay true to his roots and give up the girl or see her safely returned to her tycoon father.

APA Reference

Bacigalupi, P. (2010).  Ship breaker.  New York, NY:  Little Brown.


Everything involved with the actual reading experience of this book feels true to its content:  the slick, book cover with copper glinting through a sheen of oil; Nailer’s rough and “survival of the fittest” exterior coupled with his true heroic nature; and the epic journey across the Gulf Coast Region that lay in waste following years of man-made abuse.  Nailer’s addict father is absolutely terrifying;  Bacigalupi succeeds in convincing me that he would easily gut his own son without a second thought or ounce of remorse.  The final confrontation between Nailer and his father leaves the reader breathless and slightly heartbroken as he wrestles with the consequences of his actions.   His conflicting emotions and motivations for rescuing “Lucky Girl” and the magnetism between the two reminds me of the remarkable relationship between Todd and Viola in Patrick Ness’ The Knife of Never Letting Go, another post-apocalyptic, science fiction coming of age epic.  Ship Breaker however raises relevant questions regarding mankind’s insatiable thirst for resources, the impact on the planet, and the greater impact on the individual.

Professional Review

Section: Multimedia Review

Ship Breaker (unabr.) 8 CDs. 9:11 hrs. Brilliance Audio. 2010. ISBN 978-1-4418-8347-6. $49.97.
Gr 7 Up–Along a devastated U.S. Gulf Coast in a sci-fi future that includes half dog/half man creatures, teen boy Nailer must work as a ship breaker salvaging anything valuable on dangerous oil tanker wrecks.Other risks include an abusive, drug-crazed father, unemployment when he grows bigger, and flimsy shelter from ferocious storms. After one hurricane’s onslaught, he and friend Pima discover Nita Patel, a rich girl almost drowned in her futuristic clipper ship. When his father threatens the girl and wants to ransom her or accept money to turn her over to her father’s enemies, Nailer and Nita escape by hopping a train accompanied by Tool, an unusually independent dog/man. The three go to Orleans (no longer called New), a broken down relic of a city, and hope that a trustworthy captain from the Patel Company will show up.When Nailer’s dad kidnaps Nita, the boy faces a final showdown with his father to free her. Joshua Swanson narrates Paolo Bacigalupi’s fast-paced novel (Little, Brown, 2010), winner of the 2011 Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults, with steady, dramatic intensity and enlivens characters with admirable vocal variety. The action and adventures are exciting, but occasionally quite bloody. Even more distressing are the harsh conditions faced by these youthful salvagers, much like contemporary third-world children. With an interesting mix of fact and fantasy, this title offers excellent potential for conversations on international child welfare issues.

Wysocki, B. (2011). Ship Breaker [Review of the book Ship breaker]. School Library Journal57(3), 78-79.

Library Uses

This title would make an excellent companion to other post-apocalyptic novels exploring questions of survival and individuality such as Lord of the Flies, The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hersch, and After the Snow by S.D. Crockett.  A book talk featuring these titles and others might help readers venture further into science fiction, dystopian, and futuristic novels.

Module #4: A Wrinkle in Time

Posted on Updated on

Meg and her young brother charles, together with a new friend, Calvin, embark on an adventure to save their father who had been experimenting with time travel.  As they encounter the most evil forces traveling through space and the most benevolent allies, Meg, Charles, and Calvin must rely on their unique talents and gifts and ties to one another to save Mr. Wallace and find a way back to Earth in time to save it from the darkness.

APA Reference
L’Engle, M. (1962).  A wrinkle in time.  New York, NY:  Random House.

It’s difficult to add to the immense amount of reflections and critiques of this work.  Often hailed as the original science fiction for children, L’Engle’s famous novel has been dissected, discussed, and passed from reader to reader with enthusiasm and joy for years and will be for years to come.  As I was reading it, I felt sad that I did not experience it the first time as a child or even young adult.  As an adult, I found myself relating to the adults and guides in the novel, hoping for the children’s safety and speedy return, rather than empathizing with the children themselves.  I can best describe the novel’s profound impact on the reader by sharing that as I was reading it, I forgot that it was science fiction.  The time travel, technology, creatures, and outer realms became so believable through the eyes of the children that I was able to achieve suspension of disbelief;  this comes difficult for me as sci-fi is not one of my preferred genres.

Professional Review

The decade of the 1960s saw publication of A Wrinkle in Time (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1962), first of the Time Quintet. Written by Madeleine L’Engle, this book introduces Meg Murray, whose scientist father has disappeared, and three unusual characters that “tesseract” Meg, her brother, and a friend around space to locate her dad. VOYA Board Member Paula Brehm-Heeger states this work was groundbreaking in its “use of science fiction, with a dash of fantasy,” and a female heroine. Complete with other worlds and unusual creatures, it illustrates the fantasy worlds crumbling due to unproductive traditions, juxtaposed against Meg’s own family struggles. The book is still read today, often referenced in literary and pop culture, and is number twenty-three on ALA’s 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2000-2009 ( challengedbydecade/2000_2009/index.cfm).

HOLLEY, P. (2011). Groundbreakers [Review of the book A wrinkle in time]. Voice Of Youth Advocates34(2), 116-119.

Library Uses
 In addition to a special collection of Newbery and other award winners, A Wrinkle in Time, can be integrated into genre talks and presentations about science fiction.  It’s important to teach readers about genre so that they can better select texts that might interest them.  Science fiction is an often misunderstood genre;  many patrons still think of it as space opera (e.g., Star Wars).  The librarian could use excerpts, trailers, or even film clips to introduce young readers into the basic tenets of science fiction/ fantasy and follow it with a book pass of titles that represent the diversity the genre has to offer.

Book trailer for a recent graphic novel adaptation of the original classic.

Module #4: The Graveyard Book

Posted on Updated on

Book Summary
A toddler unknowingly escapes the murdered who has just killed his entire family by waddling into a graveyard whose ghosts become enamored with the young boy.  With a frantic and final plea from the young child’s recently murdered mother, the residents of the graveyard vow to protect him and make him part of their community, shielding him from the Jack who seeks to finish the work that he began.  The toddler, Bod, grows into a curious and adventurous young man who is constantly seeking connection with the outside world, sometimes through very dangerous encounters with the spiritual and physical world.

APA Reference

Gaiman, N. (2008). The graveyard book.  Harper Collins:  New York.

Without risking any major spoilers, I have to confess that I was nearly unable to move past the first ten pages.  As soon as my mind attached itself to the eighteen-month old boy bumping his rump down a flight of stairs, diaper sagging, my heart stopped.  Any mother of a young child, especially a boy, will immediately feel a maternal affection for Bod and his tragic dillema at the onset of the story.  Anyone of us in Mistress Owens’ shoes would have done the same.  From the first line  “There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife” I was hooked, and despite my initial gut-wrenching reaction to the murder of Bod’s family and his mother’s final plea, I knew I had to find out what happens to that little naked baby.
Gaiman crafted this novel to be character-driven, particularly through Bod, but also through the villainous Jack, enigmatic Silas, and host of ghosts and ghouls who reside in the grave yard.  The relationships that Bod form with each of them drive the plot and conflicts, leading to an ultimate mash-up of life and death fighting to save one young man.  In one particularly poignant scene, the dead leave their home to attend a festival during which they dance with the living only to be forgotten once more by morning.  Scenes such as this serve as a reminder of the ways in which we remember and keep loved ones who are no longer with us, near us.
This very unique and extraordinary community demonstrates the validity to the adage, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

Professional Review

“While his parents and sister are murdered by a mysterious character named Jack, a toddler gets out of his crib, walks out the open front door, and makes his way uphill to a nearby graveyard.  “Protect my son!” his mother’s ghost exhorts the spirits of the graveyard.  A character named Silas and the Owenses, a childless ghost couple, want to raise the boy.  The graveyard residents convene and, despite some objections, vote to keep the boy.  It won’t be easy, though, says Silas. “It is going to take more than a couple of good-hearted souls to raise this child.  It will take a graveyard.

And just as Mowgli was raised by the wolves and other jungle animals in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book–Gaiman’s childhood favorite and the inspiration for this novel–the boy is adopted by the graveyard community.  Since the toddler can’t tell them his name and looks like nobody they know, they name him Nobody Owens–Bod for short.”

Schneider, D. (2010). It Takes a Graveyard to Raise a Child [Review of the book The Graveyard Book]Book Links19(3), 6-8.

Library Uses
The Graveyard Book would be an excellent Newbery Award winner to introduce to students as they explore awards for children’s literature.  It could stand as the centerpiece to a display or as a gateway for children who are comfortable with illustrated and graphic novels to try a chapter book.  Additional award winner’s such as Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret could be the content of a book talk featuring illustrated novels that have received recognition in the world of children’s literature. 

Book trailer narrated by Neil Gaiman

Module #9: Double Helix

Posted on Updated on

Eli and his father live in an uncomfortable, awkward, and at times tumultuous home.  After obtaining a job with a famous biologist, Dr. Wyatt, Eli's estrangement from his father grows as a mystery decades old unravels.  What is the relationship between Eli's terminally ill mother and Dr. Wyatt?  Why does Eli's father hate the biologist so much?  Who is the mysterious, beautiful girl staying with Dr. Wyatt and why does Eli feel so drawn to her?  His relationships unfurl and deteriorate as Eli seeks the answers to his questions.  When he learns the truth, will it change how Eli sees himself?

APA Reference:
Werlin, N. (2004).  Double helix. New York, NY:  Dial Books.

Professional Review:

DOUBLE HELIX Nancy Werlin. Dial, $15.99 (256p) ISBN 0-8037-2606-6

In this mesmerizing novel, Werlin (The Killer’s Cousin) adapts the medical mystery genre to explore the bewildering, complex issues surrounding experimental gene therapy. Narrator Eli Samuels, about to graduate from high school, has fired off an e-mail to Quincy Wyatt, a world-famous scientist and head of a genetics research corporation–stunningly, Wyatt summons Eli and offers him a job. Eli is thrilled, but the news horrifies his father, who, without explanation, asks Eli to turn it down (Eli takes it anyway). Eli’s father’s silence on the subject of Wyatt has many precedents within Eli’s home. Eli’s mother is rapidly deteriorating from Huntington’s disease, a hereditary illness. Eli has not told his girlfriend, Viv, about his mother nor even introduced Viv to his father. Eli has talents he hides, but somehow Wyatt knows of them and even takes pride in them. Meanwhile Eli knows that his father conceals other information–and that Wyatt has somehow been pivotal to his family. The characterizations feel somewhat incomplete, but the plot moves at a tantalizing clip, with secrets revealed in tiny increments, and hints and clues neatly planted. Werlin distills the scientific element to a manageable level, enough for readers to follow Eli as he ponders Wyatt’s work and his mother’s illness. As the author tackles bioethical issues, the story’s climax appeals to reason and love for humanity without resorting to easy answers. Brisk, intelligent and suspenseful all the way. Ages 12-up.(Mar.)

DOUBLE HELIX (Book) [Review of the book Double helix]. (2004). Publishers Weekly251(7), 173-174.

Nancy Werlin’s medical mystery weaves suspense and medical drama into a thought-provoking narrative.  The main characters, Eli, Dr. Wyatt, and Eli’s father, are complimented by a cast of secondary female characters, the enigmatic Kayla and Eli’s girlfriend Viv.  Werlin creates strong supporting female characters who display confidence, courage, and intelligence, helping to unweave the puzzle Wyatt presents.  In Dr. Wyatt we see the epitome of egotism in medical research and blatant disregard for ethical issues, a warning that Werlin brings home to the readers.   Even with a whispered warning regarding the implications of researching involving stem cells, embryos, and genetic engineering, the book itself does not come off as didactic or overly-preachy. Instead, the reader is left with questions regarding these issues and the thrill of a well-structured and evenly paced mystery. 

Library Uses:This title is a terrific choice as a read aloud for Language Arts classes and Biology or other science classes as it allows teachers to build cross-curriculuar connections through literature.  The library can support the exploration of medical ethics through text sets that include other science fiction and literary texts and nonfiction texts that address the scientific and ethical issues that surround genetic engineering and research.  Additional novels may include Jodi Piccoult’s My Sister’s Keeper and Nancy Farmer’s House of the Scorpion.

Module #7 Hope Was Here

Posted on Updated on

Book Summary
Hope and her aunt arrive at a new Wisconsin town after leaving New York City to work as a waitress and head chef.  She has become accustomed to leaving behind friends and moving from place to place, but this new town forces her to put down real root when the restaurant’s owner, GT, a leukemia survivor, decides to run against the town’s interim mayor in the next election.  Hope joins the campaign believing in GT’s vision and passion for the small town and finds herself a permanent home with a full family.

APA Reference
Bauer, J. (2000).  Hope was here. New York, NY:  Puffin Books.


Hope quickly became one of my favorite female characters. Bauer created a leading female teenage character who is honest, complex, faulted, and most importantly, hopeful.  As realistic fiction, this book provides a refreshingly optomistic and gentle examination of some of the more serious issues that some YA realistic titles explore through much more dramatic means.  Issues realting to cancer, racism, political corruption, and non-traditional families are treated with dignity and honest perspectives of the characters who are affected throughout the story.  GT, although he knows how precarious his life is and how close to death he came, chooses to–despite his relapse–stand up for a cause and become the leader he feels his community needs.  The slow-to-grow romance between Hope and short-order-cook Braverman develop with patience and sincerity throughout the course of the novel stands in contrast to the “brooding boy meets girl-next-door” love story that populates many YA books.  The secondary cast of characters including the villainous corrupt mayor, Eli Millstone, and Hope’s absentee mother round out the diverse array of human relationships and motivations and stand in stark contrast to heroic GT and Addie, Hope’s maternal figure. 

Professional Review
Hope Was Here

2000. 186pp. $16.99 hc. G. P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin Putnam. 0-399-23142-0. Grade 7 & Up
The story of 16-year-old Hope’s move and adaptation to a small Wisconsin town offers much to readers.Raised by her aunt, Hope was abandoned by her mother and never knew her biological father. She and her aunt have moved from diner to diner all of her life; her aunt does the cooking while Hope waits tables.Once they arrive in Wisconsin, at the Welcome Stairways Diner, Hope becomes immersed in the town’s corrupt mayoral election, has a romance with a short-order cook, and continues her search for her father.The story’s ending is bittersweet, with Hope gaining and losing a new father, separating from a first love to go to college, and leaving a place that she has called home. Bauer manages to fill her heartfelt novel with gentle humor, quirky but appealing characters, and an engaging plot. Recommended.
By Kristin Fletcherspear, Youth Librarian, Foothills Public Library, Glendale, Arizona and Hamilton County, Ohio on; Cathy Hart, Perry Middle School, Worthington, Ohio and Patricia L. Kolencik, North Clarion High School Library, Tionesta, Pennsylvania

Fletcherspear, K. (2001). Hope Was Here (Book Review) [Review of the book Hope was here]. Book Report,19(5), 56.

Library Uses

Hope Was Here is a strong choice for the central title of a library display featuring strong, independent, yet dynamic female characters.  Additional titles may include The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney, Catalyst by Laurie Halse Anderson, and The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han.
Meet Joan Bauer and listen to her talk about not being afraid of the things that hurt us and using them as opportunities to make connections to others through writing.

Glolgster…not your ordinary poster project.

Posted on Updated on

Tech Tuesday #6:  Glogster–Virtual Posters

Thanks to a very unwelcome visit from the stomach-flu fairy, I missed yesterdays Tech Tuesday posting :-(.  So this week I am presenting Tech Tuesday on Wednesday!

Everyday I have teachers ands tudents asking me about technology tools for class presentations.  They are eager to move beyond the traditional stand-and-present poster project or click-and-read PowerPoint (this makes my heart happy).  Today I present Glogster, an interactive poster creator.  Gloster allows the creator to create a mash-up of video, images, text, and graphics to create a virtual poster.  View the VoiceThread tutorial below for a basic introduction of the educational version of glogster (

Ideas for Glogs:
  • Book reviews
  • Advertisements
  • “About me” presentations
  • Compare/ Contrast ideas or topics
  • Illustrate concepts
  • Extend and Deliver in VESTED

Have you or your students glogged?  Tell us about it!

Module 3: Black and White

Posted on Updated on

Book Summary: Run-away cows, out-of-touch parents, a train ride, and origami newspaper hats.  What do they all have in common?  Black and white, of course.  A story in four parts, these individual plot lines and illustrations seem to be completely disconnected, but pay close attention to the details.  They have more in common than you might first appear. 

APA Reference of Book:

Macaulay, D. (1990).  Black and white. Boston, MA:  Houghton Mifflin Co.

The illustrations tell the story. Much like Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret the text seems to accompany the pictures rather than the illustrations merely decorating the text.  The key to finding the connection between all four plotlines lies in the title itself.  With strategically placed clues, a black mask, a curious squirrel, a newspaper hidden in a bag, David Macauley illustrates four comedic stories about imagination and exploration.  Each storyline utilizes a unique style to set it apart and contribute to its tone.  When combined, the result is a fast-paced, tightly-woven narrative. 

Professional Review:

“This picture book toys with the reader just as it experiments with the concept of time, simultaneity of events, and the question of one story impinging on another. The author-artist has created an addictive puzzler which can, like a Nintendo game, draw a susceptible audience into an endless exploration of the book’s many possibilities. The story — or stories, depending upon one’s perspective — comprises four sequences, each consistently placed in a particular quadrant of successive double-page spreads. Each is executed in a distinctive style — ranging from the impressionist quality of “Seeing Things” through the more precisely limned “Problem Parents” and “A Waiting Game” to the dissolving figure-ground images of “Udder Chaos.” In the first, a boy observes the changing landscape from the window of a train; in “Problem Parents” two children are amazed by the antics of their usually staid mother and father after commuting from a long day at work; “A Waiting Game” records the endless boredom of standing on a train platform while listening to accounts of unexplained delays; “Udder Chaos” proves that Holstein cows, once released from pasture, are difficult to locate, which may be useful information if you’re an escaped con yes, the masked escapee from Why the Chicken Crossed the Road (Houghton) makes an appearance. One solution proposes that all the episodes are connected through the train motif; on the other hand, the author-artist states on the title page that “this book appears to contain a number of stories that do not necessarily occur at the same time.” Perhaps there is no one explanation but rather a series of playful allusions and clever delusions which are meant to be enjoyed by the freewheeling and freespirited as an escape from the ordinary.”

Burns, M. M. (1990). Black and white [Review of the book Black and white]. Horn Book Magazine66(5), 593-594.

Library Uses:
This text lends itself very well to lessons on predictions and inferences.  Students can view the first page, and stop to make predictions based on the inferences they draw for each of the four story titles, “Seeing Things,” “A Waiting Game,” “Problem Parents,” and “Udder Chaos.”  Following a brief discussion of using clues to “read between the lines” of the text, they can stop to periodically check their initial predictions and modify them based on new clues they find in the text.

Module 3: The Hello, Goodbye Window

Posted on Updated on

Book Summary:
A visit to Nanny and Poppy’s begins with a window.  One little girl creates memories with her grandparents on either side of the hello, goodbye window at the front of the house.  From special oatmeal in the morning, peering out at the garden, to waving to special guests like the Queen of England and the Pizza guy, the little girl knows that this special window is “right where you need it.”  Trips to her grandparents house are framed through the window complete with memories and dreams of having her own “hello, goodbye window” someday.

APA Reference of Book:
Juster, N and Raschka, C. (2005).  The hello, goodbye window.  New York, NY: Hyperion Books for Children.

Although the setting was very different from my own memories, I was immediately transported to my childhood and my grandparent’s front porch swing as memories of my own “Nanny” and “Poppy” swirled around me like the finger-painted style of this book’s illustrations.  The story with its nostalgic accounts of a young child’s visit to her grandparents’ house are brought to life through the pastel, watercolor, and crayon illustrations, reminsicent of a child’s finger painting.  The primary color scheme sets the bright and cheerful mood of the book along with the broad sweeps of watercolor to create a blue sky and swirls of crayons on various greens blend together to make each spread of pages as engaging as the text.

Professional Review: 

The Hello, Goodbye Window.

illus. by Chris Raschka. unpaged. Hyperion/
Michael di Capua Bks. Apr. 2005. Tr $15.95.
ISBN 0-7868-0914-0. LC 2004113496.

PreS-Gr 1– The window in Nanna and Poppy’s kitchen is no ordinary window-it is the place where love and magic happens. It’s where the girl and her doting grandparents watch stars, play games, and, most importantly, say hello and goodbye. The first-person text is both simple and sophisticated, conjuring a perfectly child-centered world. Sentences such as “When I get tired I come in and take my nap and nothing happens until I get up” typify the girl’s happy, imaginative world. While the language is bouncy and fun, it is the visual interpretation of this sweet story that sings. Using a bright rainbow palette of saturated color, Raschka’s impressionistic, mixed-media illustrations portray a loving, mixed-race family. The artwork is at once lively and energetic, without crowding the story or the words on the page; the simple lines and squiggles of color suggest a child’s own drawings, but this is the art of a masterful hand. Perfect for lap-sharing, this book will find favor with children and adults alike.

Reynolds, A. J., Jones, T. E., Toth, L., Charnizon, M., Grabarek, D., & Raben, D. (2005). The hello, goodbye window [Review of the book The hello, goodbye window]. School Library Journal51(3), 174.

Library Use:
After reading the story and viewing the artwork, students can participate in a “window walk” around campus to collect stories, details, and people they see through various windows.  Then, they can use magazines, clip art, etc. to create a collage for the windows they saw.  The collage window can become part of a display for this book in the library along with captions from students describing what is in the window.

Module 2: Mr. Popper’s Penguins

Posted on Updated on

Book Summary:  Mr. Popper, a “house-decorator,” painter, and father, dreams of exploring the Atlantic during his holiday.  After writing to the famous Admiral Drake, Mr. Popper receives a surprise package direct from the South Pole, an antarctic penguin.  Penguins, however, can be very lonely without other penguins, so the edition of a second penguin begins the ultimate adventure that results in ten full-grown penguins who become international stars of the stage.  Through a series of humorous and far-fetched incidences (Mr. Popper must have a refrigeration system installed in his basement along with ice  blocks to construct homes for his penguins),  The Poppers’ love and dedication to their family of penguins delights the reader from the first “gawk” to the last. 

APA Reference: Atwater, R. and Atwater F. (1938).  Mr. Popper’s Penguins.  New York, NY:  Little, Brown and Company. 

Impressions:  With the recent film adaptation starring Jim Carrey, I was very curious about this little book.  Although the plot line is far-fetched, its simplicity and quirkiness is very entertaining.  As the penguins get into one snafu after another and Mr. Popper struggles to support his penguin and human family, I became attached to the web-footed creatures.  The nicely packaged ending that provides a “best of both worlds” conclusion did disappoint me slightly.  Hoping for some hint of a moral or lesson, I looked forward to the ending for a nugget of truth to take from the book.  Instead, I was left with humorous sketches of sparring penguins and gloved pianists.  For small children, however, the penguins’ hijinks and short chapters provide a pleasurable reading experience. 

Professional Review: More than 60 years have not dated this wonderfully absurd tale–it still makes kids (and parents) laugh out loud. Poor Mr. Popper isn’t exactly unhappy; he just wishes he had seen something of the world before meeting Mrs. Popper and settling down. Most of all, he wishes he had seen the Poles, and spends his spare time between house-painting jobs reading all about polar explorations. Admiral Drake, in response to Mr. Popper’s fan letter, sends him a penguin; life at 432 Proudfoot Avenue is never the same again. From one penguin living in the icebox, the Popper family grows to include 12 penguins, all of whom must be fed. Thus is born “Popper’s Performing Penguins, First Time on Any Stage, Direct from the South Pole.” Their adventures while on tour are hilarious, with numerous slapstick moments as the penguins disrupt other acts and invade hotels. Classic chapter-a-night fun. (Ages 5 to 10) –Richard Farr (

Farr, R. Mr. Popper’s penguins [Review of the book Mr. Popper’s penguins].  Amazon.  Retrieved from

Library Uses: This short chapter book would be a fun addition to a text set centered around penguins for a book talk.  Paired with nonfiction titles about penguins, it would provide a comical glimpse into the personality of the animals.  A display could include essential questions about penguins such as, “Do penguins live with their families?”

Module 2: Freight Train

Posted on Updated on

Book Summary: A colorful train in red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple speeds across a simple track.  Simple, block letters describe  the types of car on the train through repeated sight words and short sentences.

APA Reference: Crews, D. (1978).  Freight train.  New York, NY:  Greenwillow Books. 
Impressions:  From the first sentence on a nearly blank white page, I was captivated, “A train runs across this track.”  With each page turn bold, vivid colors and text capture the eye and imagination Although very simple and two dimensional, the illustrations still manage to convey the motion and detail of the various cars.  As the train begins to move, the colors blur to create a perfect spectrum of color.  Simple phrases and verbs build early readers’ confidence with sight words while maintaining the action and speed of the train.

Professional Review:  From School Library Journal (1978) “Happily, Crews did a fine job with Freight Train’s illustrations which aptly convey the excitement of a train rushing by in a blur of color” (p. 131).

DeVinney, G., & Gerhardt, L. N. (1978). Freight train/rain (Review of the book Freight train). School Library Journal25(2), 131.

Library Uses: This text would make an engaging story time text for early readers.  Children could re-enact the story by using felt cut-outs of the train carts, tunnel, track, etc. and the teacher can help to label the motion of the train using the action verbs from the story.