Peter Pentland and Pennie Stoyles
Chelsea House Publishers 2003
Elementary mid to upper
Forensic science is about gathering scientific evidence to solve a crime. Evidence is handled carefully and compared and matched to find leads. Simple things like measuring tape can be used to solve a crime, but sometimes microscopes get involved to find the tiniest piece of evidence. Witnesses are most accurate if they have stayed calm throughout witnessing the crime because it is less jumbling of their memory. Because we are good at memorizing human faces often we are asked to describe and identify suspects. Fingerprints are a good way of finding evidence because we all have different fingerprints. Footprints and tireprints are also used, but they are less exact than a fingerprint. Blood is a helpful but not conclusive evidence. DNA profiling is used because we all have unique DNA. They also find clues in dust particles which can contain fibers and hair. Teeth marks are great because we all have different teeth patterns. We also can use handwriting analysis.
Your Reaction: Interesting look into different areas of forensics. Seemed to include a lot with decent descriptions.
Potential Problems: Kind of gross.
Recommendations: Kids who are interested in police work, crime, or the medical field.
Come Look With Me
Elementary all ages
History is preserved through art. A prized Chinese art form is called the “Three Perfections” which includes painting, poetry, and calligraphy combined into one form. In China even their words written are an art form. Tibetans have some art that was painted on silk fabrics for portability. Statues of Hindu gods are important to Indian Culture. Muslims created the art of miniature painting. Nepalese honor Buddha through sculptures. Japanese adapt woodcut art. Japan is also well known for their anime and manga. Chinese culture often included folding screens called byobu which they would paint. Korean artists liked to portray the daily life of their citizens. The Koreans were also renowned for their celadon pottery.
Your Reaction: Really cool art work portrayed with good in depth explanations. A lot of information.
Potential Problems: No major problems.
Recommendations: Those interested in Eastern culture and those who love art.
Pebble Books 2004
Thomas Jefferson was a well learned man. He married and lived on a farm where he had slaves. His home was called Monticello. He authored the Declaration of Independence. The colonists then fought the British, and the US won. Thomas Jefferson helped form the government, and became the third president of the united states. He was responsible for the Louisiana Purchase which doubled the land mass of the US. He died in 1826.
Your Reaction: Gives the bare-bone facts of the 3rd president. Puts it in simple enough terms to understand.
Potential Problems: States that the president had slaves.
Recommendations: Parents wanting to teach their children about presidents. The words are simple enough for young children.
Bearport Publishing Company, Inc. 2007
There are many different types of dinosaurs that are built for different reasons. Some were built for fighting, others for reaching tall plants, others for fleeing, and others had horns or spikes to protect from predators. They sometimes had plates to protect themselves from predators. It also might have armor and a club. They all had different things to either protect them from predators or to prey on prey.
Your Reaction: Really simple and informative book. It was easy to understand which dinosaur belonged in which category.
Potential Problems: Scary dinosaurs that kill.
Recommendations: To a five year old boy this would be a great read. Even some girls are intrigued by dinosaurs and how each one fits into the kingdom,
The Great Gilly Hopkins
Harper Trophy 1978
Galadriel Hopkins is a foster child who is a clever trouble maker. She doesn’t want to put herself in a situation where she will be left vulnerable and capable of hurt, so she uses her wits and pushes people away. She is put into a home with Mrs. Trotter, a sweet, clever, fat lady, and William Ernest. She initially thinks of them as idiots (to be fair, William Ernest is a little slow) and she can’t handle the fact that they have Mr. Randolph, a black man, over for meals. She writes to Courtney, her mother, who writes that she wants her. But the honest truth is that Courtney doesn’t want her. She tells Courtney of the awful situation she is in, exaggerating truths and telling blatant lies. Courtney reaacts by getting in contact with her mother. As this is happening Gilly had set aside some money she had stolen from Mr. Randolph, but things are changing. She begins to get along with and like her new family. When they are sick, she cares for them, and when her grandmother comes it is as if her complaints were true, because the house is a mess and she is taking care of the household. Her grandmother sets out to removing her granddaughter from this horrible situation. Her case worker says she has no choice. They are all sad that she is leaving, and Gilly wishes she could stay. But she has to make do with what she has. Her mother is coming to visit, and her hopes get up. When she meets her mother she realizes how little her mother cares. She is selfish. She is lucky that she is with her grandma and not her mother. She learns that she has to deal with the decisions she makes. Her grandmother is a good person so there is hope.
Your Reaction: I liked Gilly’s sassiness, and I like the real world message that the story sent. It doesn’t matter if you are a child, you still make decisions and they still matter and can affect your happiness. But it also teaches you to make the best of what you have because it’s all you have.
Potential Problems: Back talking and swearing. Not a perfect happy ending where the child gets what she wants. A parent who doesn’t care.
Recommendations: This is a great book for kids who like the rebellious sassy smart character. Students who can relate to part of these stories might be better candidates to read it. The smart kid, the foster kid, the troublemaker.
Gary D. Schmidt
Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy
Late elementary/middle school
Turner Buckminster moves to Phippsburg, Maine when his father recieves a job as the town minister. Little does he know, at the time, that he is going to become best friends with a black girl. He initially is ostracized by the local children, and they do things differently around town. They even play baseball differently, which was supposed to be the one thing that helped him fit in. But he struggled, and even the mean old lady Mrs Cobb immediately judged and ostracized him. Little did he know he would come to love her too. He throws a rock that ends up hitting her fence and his father demands that he spend his time with her, reading and playing to her. He meets Lizzie on the beach, injuring himself thanks to her. She teaches him how to play, and they become fast friends. She lives on an island and comes to the beach to dig for clams. He visits her island and meets her people. The townspeople find out and tell his father. They tell him that these people are bad and nothing but a nuusance. They are taking up prime land that could be used to bring tourism and revenue to their home. The minister does as the people say because that is what they expect of him. He doesn’t allow Turner to visit Malaga island any more, but he continues to meet her at the beach. When it is discovered that they have been meeting on the beach, he is forbidden from that as well. He continues to play for Mrs Cobb and encourages Lizzie to attend since they cannot hang out at the beach. She comes and Mrs. Cobb takes it better than expected. She isn’t allowed to sit on furniture or speak, but she is allowed. Eventually Mrs. Cobb grows fond of her, first her voice, then her presence. She leaves the door open for Lizzie to come enjoy Turners playing. Time goes on and the town is less and less supportive of Turner’s actions. Turner is angry that people treat the Malaga islanders so poorly, and is angry that they tell him his thinking is being manipulated by the islanders, but he sees his father being forcibly manipulated even more. His father is strict, but clearly he is sympathetic of his son in the end when he takes a stand. Unfortunately his father takes a stand for his son and is then killed for it. Turner can’t save the island, and he can’t save Lizzie, though when Mrs. Cobb dies she leaves her house to Turner who offers the house to Lizzie. She can’t take it, the town will not allow her kind in town, so they are sent to the mental institution. He goes to take her out of their but she was dead by the time he got there. Turner and his mother live in Mrs. Cobb’s house and Turner understands life a little better. There is hope, but yet despair in the end.
Your Reaction: Such a wonderful book. I loved the friendship between Lizzie and Turner. It was a normal healthy love hate relationship. Things were not portrayed as perfect, but normal. They came from different walks of life but still were able to be friends.
Potential Problems: This highlighted a controversial issue that actually happened. It contained violence and injustice. Turner was often not mindful to his parents.
Recommendations: I think is great for the history buff, because it isn’t a very much talked about event. A good book for a boy or girl in the middle school years.
How to be Popular
Harper Tempest 2006
It sucks when a middle school mistake costs you your entire life’s reputation. Steph was friends with the most popular girl in school. Lauren until she made a mistake she had no idea would cost her for so long. She accidentally spilled a slushy on Lauren’s designer skirt and Lauren coined the phrase “pulling a Steph Landry” for any stupid move. She was doomed to being a social leper for life. Until she decided to make a change. She had friends, recently hot best friend Jason and her girl friend Becca. But this wasn’t enough. She needed to redeem her name, so she turned to an attic discovery from Jason’s family’s attic. This discovery? A book on How to be Popular. The rules were outdated, but they often worked. Jason didn’t get her new look or attitude, but it was working. She publicly reveals a fun idea to fund raise, and her classmates actually see it as cool and not dorky and “Steph like.” But Jason liked Steph the way she was, not the way she was trying to be. Steph has a crush on the hunky quarterback, but she realizes as Becca admits her crush on Jason that she likes Jason as well. But she won’t admit it! She spies on him as he changes from her bathroom window. She secretly loves him. But she is too enamored with Hunky Mark, Lauren’s boyfriend. She flashes back to her feelings for him when Lauren and her cronies joke about him. But she just can’t commit! Lauren constantly challenges Steph’s rise to popularity, but smartly Steph combats right back. Lauren is lucky enough to have minions to write her evil doings off on, but that doesn’t secure Lauren’s throne for good. Steph was able to clear up her name from the stupid mistake she made years ago, because people had mistakenly blown it out of proportion thanks to Lauren’s encouragement. But, despite these accomplishments the further towards popular she progresses, the further from Jason she becomes. Steph is perplexed when Jason bids top dollar on doting Becca. But then she goes and bids top dollar on Mark. She just needs to keep her story straight… What does Steph want?! Mark kisses her on the cheek and all she can think about is the night before seeing Jason and Becca kissing. Her popularity peaks when she buys Mark in the auction, and mere days later she falls when Lauren convinces her cronies to throw the party at Steph’s grandfather’s new observatory. Steph reluctantly agrees to open the venue even though she tries to voice concerns to Mark. He cheesily silences her concerns with a kiss, leaving her frazzled. She realized that Mark was a jerk. Nice guys don’t manipulate other girls by cheating on their girlfriends. And Jason was on her mind anyways. She went to her grandfather’s observatory and locked the door. The crowd came and banged but she wouldn’t let them in. They left upset at her. Her fall from fame. But it wasn’t so bad, because Jason appeared. He had been there the whole time to make sure she made the right decision. They talked and cleared things up. He never liked Becca. She never really liked Mark. And they liked each other. In fact, they were kind of in love. And then they kissed.
Your Reaction: Cute and funny. Steph goes through all these hoops just to find out she is in love with her best friend. Classic chick flick type of story. Perfect teenage love story, told many and many times.
Potential Problems: Language! As well as sexual references and drinking.
Recommendations: As a middle schooler I would have loved to read this, so I would recommend it to middle school girls who are trying to figure out who they are still. And what middle school girl isn’t? It takes years. Usually it doesn’t happen until high school or college.