Amy Says Read This

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Storm on the Desert by Carolyn Lesser

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Lesser, C., & Rand, T. (ill.) (1997). Storm on the Desert. San Diego: Harcourt Brace & Company. ISBN: 9780152721985

Annotation: The Southwestern desert bakes in a summer sun as thirst inhabitants seek shelter. Suddenly, a storm rages, and in the aftermath, the desert is a changed place.

Reaction: I loved this book. Lesser’s poetry is lovely, but it’s Rand’s illustrations that bring to life a monsoon storm in the Sonoran desert. He perfectly captures what a storm is like: sudden, no visibility, flash floods, running for shelter, and the peaceful aftermath, being cleansed by the rain. His illustrations make me homesick for Tucson and the raging summer thunderstorms we endure there.

Lesser gives a shout out to the Desert Museum in Tucson in the acknowledgements, which warms my heart. I never went to the Desert Museum in the six years I lived in Tucson, thinking I would always have the opportunity some other time. Now that I don’t live there, I wish I gone back then.

This book could have a place as a part of a 5th or 6th grade poetry unit, to teach students about free form poetry. It also could be used as part of an ecology unit, to teach students about the desert and its unique inhabitants.

This book has examples of both simile & metaphor.

Simile:

  • “like a dragon breathing fire”
  • “puff up like a prickly pillows”
  • “fragrance like lemons”
  • “shaking like a dog after a bath”
  • “like towering giants”
  • “as dry as dust”
  • Metaphor:

  • “great bowl of the desert”
  • “bony fingers of lightning”
  • “coyote becoming a shadow”
  • This book is in my Top Ten Favorites.

    Media Used: Pencil, pastel, chalk, and watercolor on 100% rag stock.

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    Mermaid Queen by Shana Corey

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    Corey, S., & Fotheringham, E. (ill.) (2009). Mermaid Queen: the spectacular true story of Annette Kellerman, who swam her way to fame, fortune, & swimsuit history!. Location: Publisher. ISBN: 9780439698351

    Annotation: Annette Kellerman was one of the early female athletes, learning to swim at a young age to help strengthen her legs. She swam in exhibitions all over the world and pioneered modern women’s swimwear.

    Reaction: I sought out this book because I loved all the other books illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham. It was just an added bonus that this one also happened to be about a sassy lady who challenged society’s expectations for women. I had also really enjoyed Here Come the Girl Scouts! by Shana Corey, who seems to have a penchant for writing about strong, real life heroines to whom young readers can look up. This is a Good Thing.

    I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again, but it’s so important for girls to have good role models. Adults need to be aware of putting materials in front of kids that feature women being strong, smart and capable, doing things that just Weren’t Done to encourage Kids Today to keep reaching for better and more.

    Kellerman found something she loved doing and spent her life traveling the globe trying to make people understand her passion. She encouraged the use of swimming to provide women with exercise to better their health, and when the heavy, bulky women’s swimsuits got in the way, she designed a new suit to make swimming easier and more comfortable, while also preserving a woman’s modesty.

    I love Fotheringham’s art in this. He uses lots of bright, bold colors in his backgrounds and employs lots of water inspired imagery to create the feeling of fluidity in his illustrations. His art is playful and fun and he captures the essence of Kellerman’s spirit.

    Media Used: Digital Media

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    Franklin Richards: Son of a Genius by Chris Eliopoulos

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    Eliopoulos, C., & Sumerak, M. (2010). Franklin Richards: Son of a Genius: Ultimate Collection. New York: Marvel Worldwide, Inc. ISBN: 9780785149248

    Annotation: Franklin Richards is the 10 year old son of The Smartest Man Alive, Reed Richards, and The Invisible Woman, Sue Storm. His parents make up half of the Fantastic Four, and when their attention is occupied with saving the world, Franklin uses his father’s inventions to get into all sorts of trouble.

    Reaction: This book would be really fun for 10 and 11 year olds, especially boys. It’s made up of lots of 4-6 page stories featuring Franklin and his robot nanny, H.E.R.B.I.E., getting in and out of trouble around their home in New York. Each story is fun, quick and easy to read, so kids with short attention spans can easily pick it up and put it down without having to worry about losing the thread of a long story. Franklin’s adventures are fun and fantastical, and H.E.R.B.I.E. is a terrific character who provides plenty of laughs for adults reading.

    Eliopoulos’s art reminds me a lot of Calvin and Hobbes comic strips, which gives the stories a fun, weekly adventure feel. The illustrations are fun and joyful, and it is clear that Eliopoulos enjoys his job.

    The stories do get a little repetitive (I actually didn’t read all of them), but original enough that I think kids would be able to enjoy them. Plus, the format allows for easy reading and rereading of one or two favorite stories, which is valuable even if kids don’t read every story.

    Media Used: Ink and brush on 2-ply bristol board.

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    Mama Miti by Donna Jo Napoli

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    Napoli, D. J., & Nelson, K. (ill.) (2010). Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9781416935056

    Annotation: When the women of Kenya have problems, they go to Wangari to solve them, and she has a tree to fix every issue.

    Reaction: I love Donna Jo. She has written a lot of fairy tale/mythology retellings that I devoured in high school, so when I saw this picture book sitting on the shelf at the library, I knew I wanted to check it out. This story is pretty simple, in that there’s no major conflict or action, but it is a powerful story of a woman peacefully changing her country by encouraging her people to embrace nature. The tone is very mellow and calm, and the entire story evokes a strong sense of peace and tranquility. It was so nice to read because it had such a calming effect on my hectic day.

    Because the story is simple, the art really stands out and shines. Nelson used fabric and oil paint on gessoed board to create the illustrations, and the bright fabrics really bring Kenya to life for the reader. He uses fabrics for everything except the faces and hands of the people, which are so beautifully detailed in rich chocolate brown oil paint. The patterned fabrics add a lot of wonderful texture to the pictures, and I love that he uses them for unexpected things: the green of the seedlings and browns of the fields, plus all the colorful clothes.

    This book would well used in 5th or 6th grade social studies, possibly paired with One Hen.

    Media Used: Oil paint and fabric on board.

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    Confessions of a Serial Kisser by Wendelin Van Draanen

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    Van Draanen, W. (2008). Confessions of a serial kisser. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN: 9780375842498

    Annotation: After her parents split up, Evangeline takes comfort in a boring routine of all work and no play, until she discovers a romance novel that inspires her to start taking some risks and seek out her “crimson kiss.”

    Reaction: This was a fun, quick read. Evangeline is a smart high school student who is dealing with her parent’s separation and reinventing her image. She finds a collection of romance novels under her mother’s bed, including The Crimson Kiss, which, along with a self-help book about “living your best life”, lead her on a quest to find her own crimson kiss. Her encounters with the opposite sex are funny and sometimes awkward, but once she sets her mind to finding that kiss, nothing’s gonna stop her.

    I really liked Evangeline. She’s gutsy, takes risks and learns from her mistakes. She’s a character to whom teens can relate and look up. I enjoyed all the Classic Rock references Van Draanen threw in, and I appreciated how big a role music played in Evangeline’s life. Van Draanen takes the reader along as Evangeline learns some important lessons and starts figuring out her identity.

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    Bone by Jeff Smith

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    Smith, J. (2010). Bone: The Complete Cartoon Epic in One Volume. Cartoon Books. ISBN: 9781888963144

    Annotation: When cousins Fone, Phoney and Smiley Bone are run out of Boneville, they wind up in a strange valley, helping new friends in an epic battle between good and evil.

    Reaction: So let’s talk about Bone. I’d seen various volumes at libraries since I was in high school, but it never interested me, at first, because it looked too cartoony, and then, because I never saw the first volume and didn’t want to get involved in a long series. Spring 2012, the first volume was required reading for my Graphic Novels class, and I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed it.

    As a part of my post summer semester reading, which is mostly still sitting on my Library Books bookshelf as I went a little crazy and brought home about 20 more books than I could read in the week between classes, I checked out the all-in-one-volume from the library so I could just power through the entire series. I’m glad I did. It was fantastic and reading it all in one volume was definitely the way to do it. Each separate volume only took an hour or so to read, so it was nice just being able to segue right into the next volume.

    The first couple of volumes are pretty light and fluffy fun with the Bone cousins getting in and out of trouble and the reader getting to know all the characters. During the Graphic Novels class discussion, people remarked that the series became darker the farther along it progressed, indicating that it might not be good for younger readers because of this. While the story does become darker and deal with war and death and the epic battle between good and evil, I don’t think it ever gets so dark that 10-12 year olds couldn’t read it. As I was telling my husband, it certainly isn’t any darker than the later Harry Potter books, and it’s every bit as exciting. By the end of the story, I was emotionally invested in all the characters, even Phoney Bone, who is awful in the beginning.

    Smith does a great job of giving all of his characters unique personalities and allows all of them to learn and grow throughout the story. His art is wonderful, and I enjoy the cartoony Bones set against the much more realistic Valley and it’s residents. He does a great job of conveying expression with just a few changes in the eyes and eyebrows, and his backgrounds are so detailed. The all in one volume is in black and white, while the individual volumes are now being printed in color. I missed having the color, but the ease of not having to wrangle nine volumes was totally worth it.

    I would certainly recommend this to readers of all ages, particularly reluctant readers, as each volume is fast and entertaining, and the story quickly draws in the reader. It’s a fun adventure, epic fantasy and would certainly appeal to readers with many different tastes.

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