Friday, August 29, 2014

Gifts from the Gods: Ancient Words and Wisdom from Greek and Roman Mythology

Victory, echo, fate, mortal, furious, Grace, grateful, janitor---these are just a few everyday English words that take their origin from ancient Greek and Roman mythology.  The brief stories in this collection introduce readers to the ancient myths, and explain how the stories are related to today's common words.  It's a wonderful introduction to Greek and Roman mythology for intermediate and middle school readers, and is a great resource for the English classroom.  Lise Lunge-Larson is the Minnesota author behind this clever book, and the action-filled illustrations by Gareth Hinds bring the stories to life.

Monday, August 4, 2014

West of the Moon

Astri is a thirteen year old Norwegian girl who has been lent (sold?) to a cruel goat
herder. She is determined to escape and travel to America to join her widowed father.  The story is told in three parts:  service to the goat herder; the daring escape to the coast; and travel to America.  Several Norwegian folktales are woven into the story, and they inspire Astri to hold onto hope despite her dire circumstances. The story is conceived from a statement in the diary of the author's great-great-grandmother.  Minnesota author Margi Preus, has written another winner for intermediate and middle school readers.  It might be a good read-aloud to accompany immigration units.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Water Can Be...

Water is an important part of the earth's environment.  This picture book by Laura Purdie Salas uses poetry to explore the many things that water can be -- from garden soaker, to thirst quencher, to drink cooler and fire snuffer, among others.  Illustrations by Violeta Dabija add to the mood of each page.  Back matter including a glossary and explanatory material for each water property add to the usefulness as a classroom resource for primary science units on the forms of water.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Plant a Pocket of Prairie

The author/illustrator team of Phyllis Root and Betsy Bowen have produced another winner about Minnesota ecosystems--this time the native prairie of southern and western Minnesota. Readers are encouraged to plant a pocket of prairie to help reestablish that rich ecosystem of birds, insects, flowers, grasses and other features that we have nearly lost.  Back matter includes more information on the plants and animals featured, as well as the prairie ecosystem in general.  A great classroom resource for intermediate level science or social studies units studying Minnesota ecosystems.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Three Bird Summer

Summer will be different this year for twelve year old Adam.  Since his parents divorced, he will spend the summer at Three Bird Lake in northern Minnesota with just his mother and grandmother.  He's not even interested in Alice, the girl next door, at first, but she will become his ally in solving a mystery. 

Grandmother's memory problems are getting worse as she starts leaving strange notes for Adam to find.  One day Adam finds a very unusual treasure map, and he and Alice work together to solve a family mystery.  The setting, characters, and activities are nicely described by author Sara St. Antoine, in this gentle well-written first novel.  A good summer read for junior high/middle school readers.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Sex and Violence

Now there's a title to get your attention!

This young adult novel for mature readers is the story of 17 year old Evan.  His mother has died, and Evan and his father move around a lot, so he is always the "new kid" in school.  His interest in sex has grown as he has, and he has figured out a way to identify the "easy" girls in each new school, and arrange hook-ups with them.  All without consequences, until he hooks up with the wrong girl at a very wrong time.  After a vicious assault that leaves Evan scarred physically and emotionally, he and his dad move to a lake cottage in northern Minnesota; and Evan begins the slow process of healing.

A well-written first novel by Minnesotan, Carrie Mesrobian, this was a finalist for the William Morris Award (for debut novels), and won the Minnesota Book Award in 2014.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Grasshopper Magic

The third entry in the Magical Mixups series by Lynne Jonell has the Willow children getting ready for the town festival.  Abner has been chosen to dress up and represent his great uncle General Abner Willow.  Abner is worried about how things will go--will he forget his speech?, or fall off his horse?  The other Willow children decide he needs some bravery practice.  One day the children are challenged to eat some baked grasshoppers, made by Mrs. Delgado, the seamstress who is making Abner's costume.  Abner bravely tries a few, and soon he is leaping 20 feet in the air.  How to stop the grasshopper magic?  Read the story to see if the children solve this dilemma in time for the festival.