Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Secret of Zoom

Just a few days ago, the President of the United States stopped into a bookstore to buy some books for his two daughters.  You can read more about his visit here.  One of the books that he bought is part adventure, part mystery, and part amazing imagination.

Jonell, Lynne (2009). The Secret of Zoom (Gr. 4-7)

Christina Adnoid's mother died when she was just a baby, and her father has kept her safely protected inside their house ever since then.  He's a scientist for Loompski Labs, and Christina has never been very interested in what he does. She isn't interested in very much at all until an orphan boy secretly meets Christina and tells her about the sinister plot to steal children for a secret project run by Mr. Loompski himself.  Christina and this orphan embark on a daring adventure through hidden tunnels and dangerous mines to unveil the truth--and they discover even more secrets as they dig deeper and deeper into the mystery. 

The Secret of Zoom is a world very much like our own world, but it has the potential to be run by music and imagination in this exciting adventure that will keep middle-grade readers turning pages to discover the ending.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Spring! Plants! Gardens!

Spring is a marvelous season.  The sun stays in the sky a little bit longer every day, the temperatures warm up, and living things begin to return to the world around us.  From snowdrops to daffodils, and from song birds to the skunk that lives in my neighborhood, you can see, hear (and smell!) all the signs of spring.

Spring is also the season to plant vegetables and flowers in your very own garden.  Whether you have a big garden in your yard or just a few empty flower pots sitting around, you can grow a colorful, exciting garden during spring, summer, and into fall.

Krezel, Cindy (2007). 101 Kid-Friendly Plants. (Gr. 3-8)

Organized by type of plant, this book covers one hundred one seeds, bulbs, herbs, vegetables, and trees that kids and families can plant together.  The sections include information on what the plant looks like and how to take care of it.  There's also a chapter at the end about plants that can be dangerous when eaten or touched.

Krezel, Cindy (2005).  Kids' Container Gardening. (Gr. 3-8)

From a garden the size of a drinking glass to giant salad bowls, this book offers projects that will inspire you to add a little color to your home.  Each project uses containers of varying sizes to hold vegetables, flowers, or decorative plants.  You don't need much room at all to try one of these ideas!  Be sure to try out the worm garden: you'll get great dirt for new plants when you feed old vegetable scraps to worms.

Lock Deborah (2008). Grow it, Cook it. (Gr. 3-6)

Some gardens are filled with flowers that are pretty to look it, but this book introduces gardens that are meant for eating.  Each section talks about a kind of edible plant followed by a recipe that uses it.  Potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants, onions, beans, pumpkins, zucchini, strawberries, blueberries, lemons, sunflowers, and more fill the pages with beautiful colors and delicious recipes.  Some plants require lots of room in the garden (like pumpkins and zucchini), but others can be grown in containers (like tomatoes, strawberries, and even potatoes).

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Other worlds are just an attic away ...

Wilson, N.D. (2007). 100 Cupboards (Gr. 5-7).

12-year-old Henry York has led a strange, if uneventful, life.  He has never played baseball, drunk soda, or had parents who paid much attention to him.  When his parents are kidnapped on a bicycling trip in South America, Henry travels to Kansas to stay with his aunt, uncle, and cousins.  A thump on the wall of his attic bedroom throws Henry into a whirlwind, sometimes creepy, adventure of mysterious cupboard doors that lead to other worlds.  Henry and one of his cousins begin to explore, finding notes from their grandfather and meeting a few people from these other worlds. Some of the people want to help, some want to be left alone, and others want something much more sinister than Henry can even imagine.

100 Cupboards combines the best of fantasy and mystery--readers might even find it a little bit scary.  Fans of Neil Gaiman's Coraline should check this one out!  The books move quickly, so be sure to request the two sequels at the same time.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Where the Less Wild Things Are

Proimos, James (2009). Patricia von Pleasantsquirrel (Gr. K-2).

Patricia von Pleasantsquirrel knows that she is a princess, but her non-royal family disagrees.  Inspired by Max, from Where the Wild Things Are, she flies off in her little airplane to search for her own princessdom.  The Land of Hippos happily welcomes Patricia as their princess: they dance past midnight, eat cake all day long, and give her a great big crown to wear.  Unfortunately, Patricia's job comes with a very long, very tiring list of rules.  Suddenly, home seems a lot better than it did before.

This picture book is laugh-out-loud funny for both kids and the adults who read to them.  Comical side comments and literary references balance Patricia's saucy personality, making this an irreverent take on a familiar childhood wish.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Boston Massacre: March 5, 1770

Two hundred forty years ago, on this very day in history, a small group of British soldiers killed five colonists in the city of Boston.  Colonists were angry about the taxes they paid to England, and very unpopular British soldiers patrolled Boston every day.  Colonists made fun of the soldiers and threw objects at them on March 5, 1770, and the confused soldiers fired their guns into the crowd, killing five men. 

John Adams--a lawyer who would sign the Declaration of Independence six years later--defended the soldiers in a trial despite the anger toward the British in Boston.  None of the soldiers were convicted of murder, and only two were convicted of other crimes.  Even so, the event was named the Boston Massacre, and it became a very important event that led to American independence from England.

Learn even more about the Boston Massacre:

Fradin, Dennis Brindle.  The Boston Massacre.
     Covers the Boston Massacre as a watershed event in U.S. history, influencing social, economic, and political policies that shaped the nation's future.

Santella, Andrew.  The Boston Massacre.
     Discusses the events leading up to the Boston Massacre, including the Sugar and Stamp Acts, and the aftermath of the massacre.

Burgin, Michael.  The Boston Massacre
Rinaldi, Ann.  The Fifth of March: A Story of the Boston Massacre.
     Fourteen-year-old Rachel Marsh, an indentured servant in the Boston household of John and Abigail Adams, is caught up in the colonists' unrest that eventually escalates into the massacre of March 5, 1770.