What happens when the cows on Farmer Brown’s farm learn to read and write and type? They leave notes demanding certain improvements, of course.
Cronin, D. (2000). Click, clack, moo: cows that type. New York, NY: Simon &Schuster Books for Young Readers
Cronin’s humorous story of barnyard animals who band together over a typewriter and their new-found delight in the power of sending messages delights young readers, teens, and adults. Lewin’s water color images with bold tracings convey the expressiveness of both Farmer Brown and his animals as messages are sent and received. The simply repeated phrase, “click, clack, moo” sets the book’s light-hearted rhythm, inviting readers to participate whenever the familiar stanza appears, accentuated with large and bold font. Older readers might even recognize some parallel’s with George Orwell’s Animal Farm and enjoy discussing the irony of Farmer Brown’s situation and the pigs from the classical novel.
Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type.
illus. by Betsy Lewin.
S. & S. 2000.
RTE $15.95. ISBN 0-689-83213-3.
Auerbach, B. (2005). Click, clack, moo: cows that type [Review of the book Click, clack, moo: cows that type]. , (9), 58.
Use this text alongside Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin’s other works including Duck for President and Giggle, Giggle, Quack (all which take place in Farmer Brown’s barnyard) for students to explore the work of one author/ illustrator team more in depth.
Shaun Tan explores many of the themes and issues present in modern day suburbia through a collection of comic, illustrated stories and sketches. The stories are presented through a satirical lens and offer the the reader a sophisticated but humorous examination of suburban lifestyle.
Taun, S. (2008). Tales from outer suburbia. New York, NY: Arthur A. Levine Books.
illus. by author. 96p. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks.
2009. Tr $19.99. ISBN 978-0-545-05587-1.
LC number unavailable.
Tales from outer suburbia [Review of the book Tales from outer suburbia]. (2009). , 40.
Unlike his award-winning The Arrival, which focuses on a singular plot and cast of characters, Tales uses a series of short vignettes, some not even prose, to explore fantastical stories of stick people, whales beached in backyards, and even a “how-to” grow your perfect pet. Even taking the graphics out of consideration, the text alone in this work would not warrant the label “novel.” But, because it has illustrations, we are quick to place it in the graphic novel genre.
Readers who enjoy illustrated texts that invite deeper exploration in the graphics and images will enjoy this book. The quirky alien neighbors and random how-toinfluences provide some laugh-out-loud moments as well as moments for further consideration where you may even stop to wonder if Tan is sneaking in a social commentary of some sort in between his more light-heared sic-fi moments.
This title is an excellent discussion starter for graphic novels as a genre. Invite students to explore how this book is organized, the role of the graphics and the text, the multiple story lines and modes of writing, and them invite them to compare this to more linear-styled graphic novels such as The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick or any number of more traditional graphic novels.
King Tut, George Washington, Cleopatra, Marie Curie–what do all of these great historical figures have in common? They all croaked, kicked the bucket, met their maker…they died. Not only did they die, but they died in some of the most strange, gruesome, and mysterious ways. This collection of biographies of the famous chronicles the lives of its subjects–often debunking or proving myths–and provides a scientific analysis of each of their deaths.
Bragg, G (2011). How they croaked. New York, NY: Scholastic.
This title details the gruesome deaths of several famous figures including Queen Elizabeth, Pocahontas, Napoleon, Einstein, and many more. This title is a social science/ biography nonfiction book presented in chapters, one for each figure. The margins are wide and text is often accompanied with black and white drawings and figures that correlate with the subject matter.
Other than just being very informative, How They Croaked is a riot! The writing style incorporates colloquialisms and humor while providing the details and sometimes hilarious facts surrounding each death (King Henry VIII’s body exploded in his tomb because of the amount of infection and gasses that had built up in the layers of fat!)
At the end of each chapter the author provides little tid-bits and related facts such as all the different things that were named after Caesar (calendar, cesarean section, czar, Kaiser, etc.)
As an example of an excellent informational text, How They Croaked engages students through it’s relatable language, humorous tone, and related sketches. The brief chapters make for excellent read-alouds for students of all ages. Even our HOSA (Health Science Occupations) teacher came in and bought one for her class because of the direct tie-in with her curriculum.
Danner, B. (2011). How they croaked: the awful ends of the awfully famous [Review of the book How they croaked: the awful ends of the awfully famous]., (4), 189-190.
This book would be a very entertaining opening title for a book talk featuring biographies for young adults. A trailer could cleverly preview a few of the famous and their deaths.
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.
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.
Wysocki, B. (2011). Ship Breaker [Review of the book Ship breaker]. School Library Journal, 57(3), 78-79.
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.
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.
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.
HOLLEY, P. (2011). Groundbreakers [Review of the book A wrinkle in time]. Voice Of Youth Advocates, 34(2), 116-119.
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.
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.
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.”
Schneider, D. (2010). It Takes a Graveyard to Raise a Child [Review of the book The Graveyard Book]. Book Links, 19(3), 6-8.
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.
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?
Werlin, N. (2004). Double helix. New York, NY: Dial Books.
DOUBLE HELIX Nancy Werlin. Dial, $15.99 (256p) ISBN 0-8037-2606-6
DOUBLE HELIX (Book) [Review of the book Double helix]. (2004). Publishers Weekly, 251(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.