February 23, 2012 | goulds
Soldier bear by written by Bibi Dumon Tak — is a wonderful, heartwarming novel based on a true story about a bear, Voytek, and a group of Polish soldiers who adopt him as a cub during World War II. Voytek grows into one smart bear who learns to act as a spy and carry bombs and, thereby, earns the honor of being made an official soldier of the company. While the horrors of war are not minimized, this delightful story keeps the reader laughing as it relates the crazy antics and mischief Voytek gets into. He is helped by a monkey and some dogs who are also part of the troop. During very difficult times he boosts the morale of all those he comes in contact with. Reading this real-life adventure, you realize just how special and emotionally fulfilling human-animal relationships can be. Drawings, actual photographs, a map, and an informative afterward enhance an already stellar piece of fascinating history.
Soldier Bear definitely earned ALA's 2012 Mildred L. Batchelder Award for the year's most outstanding translated children's book printed in the United States. It was originally published in the Netherlands in 2008. We are very fortunate this awesome story was made available to us in English!
February 6, 2012 | goulds
Breaking Stalin's nose by Eugene Yelchin — a gripping story about a seldom covered historical era — Russia, or the then Soviet Union, under Stalin's rule. Ten-year-old Sasha begins a 24 hour period in a state of utter elation, the day has finally arrived for him to join the Young Pioneers. At last he will be able to serve the Communist Party and Comrade Stalin, just as his father does who works for the secret police in State Security. But poor, niave Sasha soon finds his whole world spiraling into an abyssmal black hole. His father is arrested in the middle of the night leaving him homeless. He accidentally breaks the nose off of a bust of Stalin at school and knows he could be arrested, too, if anyone reports him and he will never be able to join the Young Pioneers. His classmates, just like the apartment comrades who reported his father, would be happy to squeal on him so they could be rewarded. Sasha begins to see the 'ideal' world of communism in a darker light as questions about motives and feelings overtake him. A suspenseful, emotional, page-turner, Breaking Stalin's Nose is historical fiction at its most awesome. An author's note at the end presents a chilling account of how Sasha's story relates to his own real experiences. Yelchin justly earned winning a Newbery honor for his work.
January 26, 2012 | goulds
Dead end in Norvelt by Jack Gantos — justly deserved winning the Newbery. It is an entertaining as well enriching read set in 1962 Norvelt, Pennsylvania — a real place. Indeed, the story is partly autobiographical which is why the main character's name is Jackie Gantos. Jackie is grounded for the summer for doing a couple dumb things. He ends up having to be the "hired hands" for an arthritic elderly neighbor, Miss Volker. As he transcribes the obituaries for the local paper, a sinister pattern begins to emerge — far too many of the town's elderly are dying in rapid succession by bizarre causes. Zany characters and wild escapades are intermixed with fascinating historical facts about not only Norvelt, but renowned figures in world history. By the end of the summer Jackie has made a quantum leap of consciousness on many levels. One realization is that anyone can benefit from studying the past, their own or mankind's. If you remind yourself of the stupid stuff done and the rotten results, you won't want to repeat it. When you can get your hands on it, you will have a memorable, fun, and enlightening reading adventure with this latest work of literary art by Jack Gantos.
January 23, 2012 | goulds
This episodic story was originally published online and was a collaboration between the National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance and the Library of Congress's Center for the Book. It began as a national literacy project for young people to help launch the READ.gov website. Nineteen celebrated children's book authors and illustrators have joined together to write a fun, humorous, adventure tale like no other:
The Exquisite Corpse Adventure: a progressive story game played by M.T. Anderson ... [et. al.] ; [The National Children's Book and Literacy Alliance] — Joe and Nancy are twins who have been raised in a circus. On their 11th birthday they learn they are not orphans after all, and that their parents need their help. Extraordinary beings and madcap adventures are but some of the engaging and amusing encounters they have as they set out on their quest find and rescue the parents they never knew.
December 11, 2011 | goulds
Inside out & back again by Thanhha Lai — Do you enjoy reading diaries? Do you like historical fiction? A wonderful adventure is in store for you then. This book justly deserved winning The National Book Award for Young People's Literature, as well as two other awards. Meet Ha, a bright, feisty 10-year-old girl, who must flee her home in Vietnam along with her mother and three older brothers. When they arrive in Florida they must stay at a refugeee camp until a family is found to sponsor them. "Cowboy" and his wife in Alabama agree to do so and yet another chapter begins in a very challenging year for Ha. She faces bullies, prejudice, an unknown language, and a deep longing for her friends, family, and life in Saigon. Not only are Ha's diary entries full of action and adventure that keep you turning pages, but they also introduce you to a cast of characters who are so vividly protrayed, you feel as if you know them. Ha's relationships with her brothers depict typical sibling rivilry, as well as loving unity. Much of what happens to Ha is based on what Lai experienced as a child.