Category Archives: review

Adventures on the Ancient Silk Road by Priscilla Galloway, Dawn Hunter

Adventures on the Ancient Silk Roadby Priscilla Galloway, Dawn Hunter

This is a gripping account of three dramatic journeys that changed the course of history.

The fabled Silk Road conjures up sights, smells and sounds of faraway lands. But traveling the Silk Road took years, and those who set out encountered bandits, starvation and treacherous storms.

“Adventures on the Ancient Silk Road” introduces readers to three great historical figures:

Chinese Buddhist Xuanzang, whose 16-year journey from China to India and back (629-645 AD) is the only source we have for huge chunks of the history and geography of this time. His successful search for Buddhist scriptures changed the course of two great nations.

Genghis Khan, bred from infancy to be a warrior, brought the Mongol clans together. He established the greatest empire the world had seen, which ruled the Silk Road from 1201 to 1227.

And the Italian merchant Marco Polo who journeyed through China from 1271 to 1295. He changed the way Europe saw the world, and his book even inspired Columbus to sail west across the Atlantic Ocean in search of China.

Beautiful photographs and art depicting the ancient routes and peoples bring the stories to life. Maps, sidebars and an afterword that updates the story of the Silk Road are also featured. This is one of those books that is labeled YA or children’s but really is an ‘everybody’ book.

Mr. Pip by Lloyd Jones

For years I kept coming across a scrap of paper on my desk, or in a drawer. The title of a book recommended by someone, I can’t even remember who recommended it.
Mr. Pip – the story of a teacher in the South Pacific’ that scrap of paper said. I never threw it out because the title held such promise. 
Then, a few weeks ago, I was cleaning up the shelves in the recycle book depot and there it was. A blue book with a photo of a palm tree and ocean. Mr. Pip by Lloyd Jones.
The book was in terrible shape: stained and possibly mildewed. But the title had so long been with me that I could not bear to part with it. I took it home.
And when I opened the tattered cover, I fell right in. I fell into the story and in love with the characters. What a work of great literature! What spell binding storytelling.
Take Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, transport it to an island in the South Pacific ravaged by mining, strikes and violence. Enter a young girl and a teacher who shares his love of literature. Weave in intrigue, suspense, some nonfiction and an exotic location.
The story is brilliant, full of beauty and horror. Full of gentleness and violence.
It is the tale of the impact a gifted teacher can have on eager children, the power of a good story to turn someone into a lifelong reader, even to influence a life. It’s even about how a story can claim a life.
It’s hard to sum up the storyline, I won’t even try. This is a book you need to read if you are a book lover, or a teacher, or an admirer of Dickens. To quote from the book itself:
‘You cannot pretend to read a good book.
Your eyes will give you away. So will your breathing.
A person entranced by a book simply forgets to breathe.’
I forgot to breathe throughout this story. A quote from the very last page of this 256 page book:
‘His survival was story. My Mr. Dickens taught every one of us kids that our voice was special, and that whatever else happened to us in our lives our voice could never been taken away from us.’
Lloyd Jones’ voice is special. It makes me want to try his other books.
I hope you will try this one.

Mr. Pip by Lloyd Jones, Random House, ISBN 978-0-676-97928-2

Petey, by Ben Mikaelsen

Petey, by Ben Mikaelsen
Petey is a touching story of friendship, discovery, and the uplifting power of the human spirit.
In 1922, at the age of two, Petey’s distraught parents commit him to the state’s insane asylum, unaware that their son is actually suffering from severe cerebral palsy. 
Bound by his wheelchair and struggling to communicate with the people around him, Petey finds a way to remain kind and generous despite the horrific conditions in his new “home.” 
Through the decades, he befriends several caretakers but is heartbroken when each eventually leaves him. Determined not to be hurt again, he vows to no longer let hope of lifelong friends and family torment him.
That changes after he is moved into a nursing home and meets a young teen named Trevor Ladd; he sees something in the boy and decides to risk friendship one last time. Trevor, new to town and a bit of a loner, is at first weary of the old man in the wheelchair. But after hearing more of his story, Trevor learns that there is much more to Petey than meets the eye.
This timeless story is recommended for all ages!
Author’s website: http://www.benmikaelsen.com/ for background information on this book.

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

When Billie Jo is just fourteen she endures heart-wrenching ordeals that no child should have to face. The quiet strength she displays while dealing with unspeakable loss is as surprising as it is inspiring.

Written in free verse, this Newbery Award winning story is set in the heart of the Great Depression. It chronicles Oklahoma’s staggering dust storms, and the environmental as well as emotional turmoil they leave in their path. An unforgettable tribute to hope and inner strength.

I completely fell in love with the language of this book. Not all Newbery books are books that I love, although most of them are. And that medal on the cover always makes me want to read the book, just to see why the judges felt it was worthy. Out of The Dust is powerfully written and deserves this recognition. It made me want to read all the free verse novels I could get my hands on. Love the genre. Karen Hesse says more with fewer words. Read it!

ZOOM to your library!

Zoom by Istvan Banyai

Here is a picturebook that is for almost all ages! The book is wordless and takes you onto an amazing journey: from farm to ship to city streets to a desert island. You will go by any mode of transportation, around the entire globe.
But if you think you know where you are, guess again. For nothing is ever as it seems in Banyai’s mysterious landscapes of pictures within pictures.
Like a photographer with a zoom lens, the illustrator zooms out from a close-up, surprising you at every turn of the page.
You can ‘read’ the colorful images with young children, make up elaborate tales with others and have interesting discussions with readers right into high school.

If you like this book, try part 2: Rezoom.
Paperback, 64 pages, Puffin Books  ISBN 0140557741 (ISBN13: 9780140557749)

Lesson Plan: http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/lesson-plans/applying-question-answer-relationships-370.html

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games #1) by Suzanne Collins
One of the advantages of being in a book club, I find, is that it sometimes makes me read books I might not select on my own. The Hunger Games is a perfect example. Judging by the short content on the back cover, I would never ever have picked this book to read. Gruesome, terrible, not at all ‘my kind’ of book. I am not at all a fan of science fiction (if that’s what this is).

However, my book club decided that we should read this first book in the series, mostly to find out what all the hype was about. My book club consists of about 6 – 8 women ranging in age from 19 to 80.

And so I took The Hunger Games home from the library and, hesitantly, starting reading.

I don’t remember now how long it was before I was completely, totally hooked: in the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister Primrose, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister’s place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before — and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

I could not put the book down. The writing was superb, the story riveting. And with today’s popularity of reality TV shows, scary as it is, even has a ring of truth to it.

When my book club next met we discovered that the story had gripped each of us in a similar way. Each of us read all three books in a row:
Part 2: Catching Fire
Part 3: Mockingjay

Powerful writing! Highly recommended for YA and adults of all ages. Good discussion material in highschool.
I had no need at all to see the movie: as with all good books, I had already seen the movie in my head while reading.

http://www.scholastic.com/thehungergames/ (for games, downloads)

Clementine, Sara Pennypacker

Clementine by Sara Pennypacker

In this first book of the series, Clementine tries to help out her friend Margaret, but ends up in a lot of trouble for it. Things get worse each day of the week, until finally she’s worried that Margaret is right: Clementine’s parents might consider her to be “the hard one” in the family. They’re up to something mysterious…are they thinking they’d be better off if they only had her little vegetable-named brother…”the easy one”?
I love Clementine because of her spunky, individual voice. Her character rings true and I can recognize real several little girls in her. A great example of ‘voice’, this is a wonderful book to read aloud at bedtime to 5 – 8 year olds.

Hyperion Books
Paperback, 160 pages
http://sarapennypacker.com/pennypacker-clementine.htm

First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg

First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg
remains one of my favorite picture books ever. It’s one of those books I wished I had thought of and written! 🙂

We all have had those first day jitters as the first day of school approaches, especially if it’s the first day at a new school. Sometimes you have to be dragged there after long summer holidays.

In this funny story you will love the surprise ending! Guess who is being dragged to school, who doesn’t want to go? Guess who’s afraid no one will like her and she won’t know anyone?!

Gotta read the book to find out!

Paperback, 32 pages, Charlesbridge Publishing  ISBN
158089061X (ISBN13: 9781580890618)

Activity Guide: http://www.busyteacherscafe.com/literature_guides/firstdayjitters.html