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Book Reviews

July 8, 2010
Times Observer

Pre K-1st
SUMMER BIRDS: THE BUTTERFLIES OF
MARIA MERIAN
by MARGARITA ENGLE (Henery Holt, 2010)
***
In medieval times, people called butterflies ‘summer birds’ because they appeared in the summer and were gone by fall. They even thought they came from the mud as if by magic! But Maria Merian thought differently. At the age of thirteen, she captured and studied butterflies and other insects and small animals, but only in secret. If others knew she was doing this, they would call her a witch. She would feed and watch those she captured and learned their life cycles. From an early age, she also loved to paint and would paint the ‘summer birds’ and caterpillars with the flowers they took nectar and the leaves they ate. When she grew up, she wanted to put all her paintings and notes into a book so everyone would know that the small creatures that change shape were not evil. That is just the way they were supposed to be. She was way ahead of her time because she was curious enough to keep studying.
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2ND – 4TH
PINGPONG PERRY EXPERIENCES
HOW A BOOK IS MADE
by SANDY DONOVAN (Pitcure Window Books, 2010)
***
Perry loves pingpong and pizza. So he wrote a book titled, “Perry’s Practical Guide to the Pizza Picks of Popular Pingpong Players”. This is the story of how that book was made. Perry’s idea, of course, came while he was playing pingpong. He did research and sent emails to find out what kinds of pizza famous pingpong players liked to eat. And when he wrote it all in a fabulous manuscript, he sent it to a publisher and asked if they would like to publish it. After 41 ‘no, thanks’ letters, he finally had a publisher say, YES! An editor worked with him to make the book better and to correct mistakes he had made. Then a designer helped figure out what the book would look like-size, shape, illustrations, photos. Then it finally went to the printer and was put together as a book. Now everyone can buy and read Perry’s book! All the aspiring writers out there need to read this great (and fun) introduction to the world of publishing. And keep writing!
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MIDDLE SCHOOL
RATFINK
by MARCIA THORNTON JONES (Dutton, 2010)
***
This year was going to be different! This year Logan was going to become the teacher’s best friend. He was going to really succeed in school and just breeze his way into middle school next year. But he didn’t count on Grandpa moving in. Grandpa – who couldn’t remember where he left his teeth, like in the flower pot on the porch or the butter dish in the refrigerator. If any of his friends ever saw Grandpa, he’d never live it down! But Logan’s real problem is the stories he tells. When he has to explain why something happened, wild imaginative tales pop into his mind and he just blurts them out. Why is it lying when you say it but a story when it gets written down? Well, a few mix-ups with the new girl in school and Logan’s life is on a downhill crash course. She is out for revenge! And when Logan tries to explain what happened to the teacher or his parents, of course, they don’t believe him. They cut him off before he can even get it out. And now Grandpa seems to want to hang out with Logan all the time! This year has certainly not turned out according to plans!
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HIGH SCHOOL
CROSSING STONES
by HELEN FROST Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2009)
***
This novel in verse beautifully conveys the range of emotions, understandings, and actions of 4 young adults caught up in the throes of World War I.  The flow of the poems carries the reader along with a vivid portrayal of life in their small rural village in Michigan and how their families are impacted by the War in Europe.  Their reactions to the war range from a strong sense of patriotism and duty to feelings of horror and candid criticism. The main character is Muriel who, even as a teenager, had very independent views and strong feelings which often put her at odds with her teachers, family and friends as she struggled to try and reconcile her sense of justice and injustice with what was expected of her. As she grew older and gained new perspectives on the social issues of the day, she became more confident and resolute in her determination to speak out and take an active role in promoting justice issues of the day.
Review by Mary Ann Zimmer
 

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