Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Robot Dreams by Sarah Varon

Wordless friendship is probably be the best way to describe this fantastic graphic novel about a dog and his robot friend.  Through the use of imagery alone, Sarah Varon does a great job demonstrating the friendship between the dog and his mail-ordered robot.  Together both characters share many adventures and have a great time, until they go to the beach.  Dog encourages Robot to jump in the water with him.  Robot reluctantly agrees and eventually joins Dog in the water.  After their swim they both decide to lay down on the sand, but when it’s time to leave, Robot is unable to move. Dog is forced to leave Robot at the beach where he comes to visit Robot every day.  When winter comes and the beach closes, Dog can no longer visit Robot. Will Robot still be there when the beach opens next summer?  Dog doesn’t know it, but Robot’s adventures are just about to begin.

Robot Dreams is suitable for any reading level since the only text found in this graphic novel is onomatopoeia; the rest of the novel is textless.  Students will enjoy looking at each panel and flying through the pages as though they were watching a silent film.--Claudio Leon

Varon, Sara. Robot Dreams. New York & London: First Second, 2007. Print

Monday, December 17, 2012

Encyclopedia of Sharks by Steve Parker

Sharks are older than dinosaurs and just as fascinating.  These mysterious predators come in all shapes and sizes, from the 6-8 inch dwarf lantern shark, to the 40-foot whale shark, and the Encyclopedia of Sharks has them all.  Chock-full of glossy, full-color photographs, charts, and maps, it’s clear that the immediate appeal of this book is visual.  However, the casual browser is soon roped in by the interesting snippets of information presented in sidebars and captions.  Each page of the book is a separate section, clearly organized with titles and subtitles, making it easier for fluent readers to skim for information.  These sections are grouped into chapters, such as “Shark Design” and “Hunters and Killers.”  The Encyclopedia of Sharks includes an extensive index and glossary, as well as a list of places to see sharks and shark-related resources. --Regan Schwartz

Parker, Steve. Encyclopedia of Sharks. Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books, 2008. Print.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Can’t Get There from Here by Todd Strasser

The New York City streets that Maybe and her tribe of homeless teens have called home for months are growing colder and more desolate with each passing day.  As the winter wears on and intensifies, the group struggles to survive, spending their days and nights in ever-more-desperate searches for shelter and food.  For Maybe, life on the streets is a better option than going home, but trust is hard to come by.  She learned a long time ago that adults lie and cheat and generally want something in return for any small kindness.  As the temperature drops and her friends begin to disappear, can Maybe learn to trust in time to save herself?

Written in Maybe’s humble voice, the narrative is fairly straightforward and easy to follow.  However, it is interspersed with short biographical sketches that may prove a bit confusing at first.  While the situations and events portrayed are uncomfortable and ugly, the language is not, making this book suitable for sensitive middle grade readers and classroom use. --Regan Schwartz

Strasser, Todd. Can’t Get There From Here. New York: Simon Pulse, 2004. Print.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Ray Charles: Find Another Way! by Susan Sloate

Don’t be fooled by this slim biography. Yes, it’s easy on the eyes with large font, plenty of white space and large color photographs, but it’s also filled with interesting information about the late rhythm and blues great, Ray Charles. In a mere thirty-two pages, I learned several memorable things about the man that I had never heard before. For instance, he changed his name from Ray Robinson, so as not to be confused with the boxer, he played chess against people with sight, and he even drove a car sometimes! These personal facts are intertwined with the historical context of his career, and Sloate includes a few anecdotes about Ray’s participation in the Civil Rights Movement.

The back of the book has an abbreviated timeline, a glossary, a bibliography, and an index. If you want to learn more about Ray Charles, Sloate includes a few books to consider reading as well as a few websites. This book is a great choice for struggling and reluctant readers, especially as the the Common Core State Standards ask all classes to incorporate more nonfiction texts.  --Anja Kennedy

Sloate, Susan. Ray Charles: Find Another Way! New York: Bearport Publishing, 2007. Print.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Amazing Baby by Desmond Morris

From their button noses to their teeny toes, babies are designed to enthrall us, and Amazing Baby is your one-stop guide to them.  This book, full of gorgeous full-color photographs, tackles every aspect of human infant development, from gestation to toddler.  With sections on “staying healthy,” “how babies learn,” and “emotional life,” Amazing Baby covers a wide range of topics thoroughly and succinctly.  Each topic is amply illustrated with photographs and full-color overlays, and broad categories are broken down into a series of 1-2 page subtopics, each further broken down into 1-2 paragraph sections, allowing the reader to skim for pertinent and interesting information.  This book proves ever-popular, especially with our female students.  When it comes time to browse for books, you can be sure there will be a group of two or three poring over the images and information in this one.

Because it covers such a broad range, the readability of the text varies quite a bit from topic to topic.  Some of the sections dealing with physiology are quite dense, while others dealing with play or common routines are very readable.  The text is well organized, with a table of contents and a comprehensive index.  However, the real appeal of this book is in the stunning images. --Regan Schwartz

It should be noted that there are two images of a nursing infant and one image of a topless, pregnant torso, which may make this volume unsuitable for some readers or environments.

Morris, Desmond.  Amazing Baby. Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books, 2008. Print.