Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Puzzling World of Winston Breen: The Potato Chip Puzzle

I have just finished my first Winston Breen book and was happily satisfied. I believe upper elementary readers will enjoy this puzzling and interactive book as well. This book has a familiar format for those of you who enjoyed The Westing Game. I also noticed some similarities to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and some reviews, which I agree with, compare it to Encyclopedia Brown books. The bottom line is that this book is fun and creative.

Summary: Winston Breen is just finishing his 8th grade year when he solves a puzzle for his school's principal. By solving the puzzle Winston's school is invited to participate in a puzzle adventure set up by Dmitri Simon, President of Simon Snack Foods. Winston's school along with several other will all compete in an all day adventure with the winning school receiving $50,000 for their school. Of course the adventure is filled with tricky puzzles which the reader has the opportunity to solve, but there are also other problems to solve along the way. Let me just say there is a cheater in the competition!

I recommend this read for 4-6 grade students.

Happy Reading,
Dr. Quinn

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Subway Ride

"Step down below to see the world." This is a line from a new picture book titled Subway Ride, written by Heather Lynn Miller & illustrated by Sue Rama. Subway Ride takes the reader to 10 different subways around the world. Each page has a simple rhyme and fantastic illustrations. Rama's illustrations are digital collages of watercolor. At the conclusion of the story, specific information about each subway is provided.

I recommend this picturebook for k-1.

Happy Reading,
Dr. Quinn

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Amiri & Odette: A Love Story

The folktale of Swan Lake is retold as a poem by Walter Dean Myers and set in an urban environment. This creative poem combined with the fantabulous (yes I said fantabulous) artwork by Javaka Steptoe make a wonderful book.

Personally, I am not very familiar with Swan Lake, but I must say that I enjoyed this version. Since it was quite new to me, I must admit that I was engaged with the text and loved the trickery by the antagonist. In my opinion Myers did a wonderful job of transforming the story to the Swan Lake Projects.

Steptoe's collages are brilliant! He used slabs of asphalt as his canvas highlighted with acrylic paints and various materials such as 14k jewelry, candy wrappers, newspapers, and more. I truly cannot say enough good things about these paintings.

I highly recommend this book for upper elementary or even middle school.

Happy Reading,
Dr. Quinn

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg

This historical fiction novel by Rodman Philbrick will take the reader on a wild adventure with Homer P. Figg (age 12) as he seeks to find his 17 year old brother who has been sold into the Civil War as a soldier. Homer's adventures begin and end in Maine, but he has various stops at New York City, Gettysburg, and other places along the way.

As I read this book, I couldn't help but make several connections with other books...Elijah of Buxton and The Whipping Boy. Homer's various adventures reminds me of the adventures Elijah had in his book. Both books were filled with smaller stories that all lead up to the overall exploit. In regards to The Whipping Boy (a book I haven't read for years), Homer's wit and resourcefulness remind me of Jemmy (the whipping boy), and how he escaped from thieves and dangerous situations.

At the end of the book Philbrick provides the reader with a section titled "Some Additional Civil War Facts, Opinions, Slang & Definitions, to be Argued, Debated, & Cogitated Upon."

A positive way to give young readers a fun adventure with the Civil War, and a strong example of reading across the curriculum.

Happy Reading,
Dr. Quinn

Saturday, May 23, 2009

You Are the First Kid on Mars

Before I start the blog entry for this book, I must apologize to my readers. I have not posted since early April. However, school is out and I am ready to roll. I have a couple of books that I want to enter this next week, and after that I hope to get more NCBLA books to review.

Today's entry is about a new book by Patrick O'Brien, You Are the First Kid on Mars. This book is an information book that mixes a narrative storyline with non fiction information about Mars. The storyline takes a young boy from Earth to Mars where he lives with his family for a while and then back to Earth. Integrated into the story are bulleted facts to provide the reader with specific information about space travel, Mars, and more. The end of the book supplies the reader with "More Information About Mars". I also feel that O'Brien's painting truly support the text.

Since this is a NCBLA (Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts) book, I will not rate it, but I will say that I highly recommend it for 3rd and 4th graders.

Happy Reading,
Dr. Quinn

Here is a photo of my youngest reading this book on our hammock.