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Karen's Book Reviews
Evaluating Books
Evaluating Books
Picture Books and Easy Readers
Traditional Lit and Poetry
Nonfiction and Biography
Fiction - Historical and Fantasy
Fiction - Realistic
Patricia Polacco - Biography
Patricia Polacco - Bibliography
Patricia Polacco - Bio-Critical Analysis

August 30 - September 12, 2004

Fleming, Denise. 1991. In the tall,tall grass. New York: Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 0805039414

This delightful story tells about things found in the "tall,tall grass'"from a caterpillar's point of view. The story follows the caterpillar from lunchtime to night time. Hummingbirds, bees, birds, ants, snakes, and many other creatures join in the fun.

The book is large in dimension, making it easy for children to hold when reading. The cover of the book shows a curious toddler peeking through the grass, spying on an adventurous caterpillar. Colorful illustratons by Denise Fleming are pleasing to the eye and enrich the text. Virginia Opocensky, in the School Library Journal (Spetember 1991) says, "Bold, bright, stylized collage illustrations capture the eye and the imagination as they depict the simple, rhyming text of this outstanding nature tale." The addition of the curious caterpillar on every page will keep young readers engaged throughout the story to see what he will encounter next. The medium used by the illustrator, a cotton pulp technique, makes the pictures seem very lifeike to the reader.

The lyrical, rhyming text is easy for very young readers to follow. Crisp language such as "crunch, munch, caterpillars lunch'" and " crack, snap, wings flap" keep the story exciting. Children ages two through six will particularly appreciate the predictable text patterns. Set in large lettering, the text helps to animate the illustrations.

This book is the perfect read aloud for primary aged children. Young readers will enjoy the descriptive language and beautiful illustrations. Children will come back to read this story again and again.

Rappaport, Doreen. 2001. Martin's big words: The life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Ill. by Bryan Collier. New York: Hyperion Books for Children. ISBN 0786807148.

This beautifully illustrated story follows the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. from childhood to adult. The first thing that catches the eye of the reader is the lovely portrait of Dr. King that spans the entire front cover of the book. The title, author, and illustrator information is located on the back cover of the book.

The story begins with Martin as a child, reading the signs in his hometown declaring "whites only". The text goes on the describe his feelings about the signs and ends with a quote - "You are as good as anyone." The story continues to follow the way that Dr. King used his ideas to help encourage others to talk things out peacefully instead of using violence. Rappaport uses easy to understand language and concise sentences to convey the story of Dr. King. In a starred review from Horn Book Magazine (January/February 2002), Mary M. Burns wrote, "Inside the text is a mix of Rappaport's finely honed biographical narrative and appropriate quotes from King himself, emphasizing the concept that from his youth Martin had sought to inspire others with his words, as he had heard his father do." King's words are inspiring and convey his hopes and dreams for all people.

The watercolor and cut paper collage illustrations by Bryan Collier beautifully enhance the biographic story. The reader is immediately drawn into the story through the wonderful illustrations. The pictures are detailed and realistic, showing every color of the stained glass windows and every shadow and light on the character's faces.

The last page of the story reminds readers of the words and ideas that King so cherished: freedom, peace, together, love, and most of all "I have a dream". The addition of the four candles to the final illustration represent the four girls who were killed in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church.

"Martin's Big Words" is a biography that older children will enjoy reading and adults will enjoy sharing when learning about one of our country's most inspiring and courageous leaders.

Appelt, Kathi. 2000. Bats around the clock. Ill. by: Melissa Sweet. New York: Scholastic Inc. ISBN 0439243181.

This energetic story combines telling time with a "rockin' dance party"! The story follows the broadcast of "American Batstand" , a dance program shown live around the nation, and hosted by the fabulous "Click Dark". The enthusiastic host leads a group of bat dancers in a twelve hour dance-a-thon. Beginning at "one o'clock Pacific time" and ending at twelve midnight, the dats jiggle and jive their way through the hours with the shrug, the jitterbug, the bugaloo, and many other swingin' steps! A helpful mouse holds an analog clock at the bottom of select pages to show the reader the advancing time.

The rhyming text follows a catchy beat that readers will find engaging as the bats "be-bop' their way through the night. Young readers will enjoy seeing "Chubby Checkers" and the night's very special guest in bllue suede shoes! Wendy S. Carroll, from the School Library Journal (June 2000) writes, "The rhymes are delightful and the narrative jives right along. Children will love them."

The illustrations by Melissa Sweet are simple and represent the story well. They are colorful and readers can relate to the actions of the bats and their cool dancing steps.

This book is geared for preschool to elementary-aged children. It adds an exciting new twist to telling time books. The book engages the reader with colorful illustrations and a catchy beat. This book is a fun way to help children learn about time to the hour!

Look, Lenore. 2001. Henry's first moon birthday. Ill. by: Yumi Heo. New York: Antheneum Books for Young Readers. ISBN 0689822944.

This sweet story follows the preparations of a Chinese-American family for a special birthday celebration. Jen has a new baby brother, Henry, who is celebrating his "first-moon" birthday. Her Grandmother, GninGnin, has been staying with the family to help with the new baby and Jen, in her new role as the big sister, has proclaimed that she is in charge of the house. GninGnin will be leaving to return home after the celebration, and an underlying theme in the story is how much she will be missed by the family. The story also addresses the universal theme of sibling relationships.

Narrative text told from Jen's point of view follow the preparations for the party. She and GninGnin use "ink - the real stuff' to write Henry birthday wishes in Chinese, make pig's feet and ginger soup for the feast, and dye eggs red for good luck. In a review from Publishers Weekly (April 2001), the authors write, "Jen is an entertaining narrator, a plucky helper filled with a refreshing confidence in her important role in the family."

The text showcases many uses of figurative language such as: "red as a firecracker", "clean as celery", "gray like a rainy day", and "pink - like the salmon on crushed ice at the Pike Place Market". The author also uses descriptive words such as "quillery" to describe the feel of dad's beard and "creamy white" to describe the cooking chicken.

Yumi Heo's illustrations, done in pencil, oil, and collage, are bright and cheerful. They convey Jen's excitement about her baby brother, the party, and helping the grownups. The illustrations are simple and make you feel part of the first-moon birthday celebrations.

The story gives the reader a glimpse into Chinese-American culture and there is a glossary at the front of the book to help the reader translate Chinese phrases. This is a wonderful multicultural story to share with children.