Module 10: Amulet: The Stonekeeper

12 08 2010

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Summary: When Emily and Navin move with their mom to an old family house in a small town they aren’t expecting much. But when their mom is kidnapped by a strange tentacled creature Emily and Navin follow them through the basement door and into another world. Here they discover a strange land beset by many dangers that they must survive in order to save their mom. With the help of some unexpected friends and a strange amulet they will do whatever they must to get her back.

Citation: Kibuishi, Kazu (2008) Amulet: The Stonekeeper. New York: Scholastic.

My Impressions: I began this book with low expectations and not expecting to like it. I’ve never read a graphic novel, and have never had a desire to. I like having lots of words on the page to be able to understand the story and characters better, and I wanted to create my own images in my mind. But I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I liked Amulet. The story was entertaining and fast-paced and despite the lack of words I was able to get a firm grasp on the characters and plot. This book definitely changed my view of graphic novels. While I probably won’t be reading many on my own, they certainly have their place and they are not without merit.


“Almost too clever and poignant, Amulet is, on the surface, about navigating the murky waters of adolescence and, beneath that, an exploration of abandonment and survival. This first volume of Amulet isn’t a disappointment, but it does feel like a warmup to the main event. If anything, it’s a clear indication that Kibuishi has just begun skimming the surface of his own talent.” —Publishers Weekly review excerpt

Library Use Suggestion: This would be a good book to recommend to an ESL student or one who does not like reading. Since the story is told through pictures and words are secondary (but still present on every page) this would be a good book to try to get a patron interested in reading and books.


Module 10: Forever

11 08 2010

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Summary: When Katherine and Michael fall in love they are sure it is forever. But as they face the end of their senior year and a summer apart with the knowledge they will be going to different colleges, they begin to question if it will last. Forever is all about firsts, and finding out how long they last.

Citation: Blume, Judy. (2003) Forever. New York: Simon Pulse

My Impressions: I had a little bit of trouble getting into this book. The big problem for me was that I just didn’t feel that I got to know the characters very well and that the author didn’t go in depth enough. That being said, Forever has its merits particularly as a book that deals very candidly and realistically with two major issues teens face–sex and love. I can see how this would be a frequently challenged book, there are some pretty explicit sex scenes and even some teenage drinking (although for them it’s legal since the drinking age is 18) and references to pot smoking. However, none of it is sensationalized nor is it taken lightly. The book deals with issues that teens face, and I think they can definitely learn mature ways to approach it through this book.


“No preaching (Blume never does) but the message is clear; no hedging (Blume never does) but a candid account by Kathy gives intimate details of a first sexual relationship. The characters and dialogue are equally natural and vigorous, the language uncensored, the depiction of family relationships outstanding.” –Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

Library Use Suggestion: Forever would be a good book to mention with mature high schoolers in a book talk  that deals with love and relationships.

Module 9: Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars

7 08 2010

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Summary: Using colorful collage-like paintings, and simple rhythmic poetry Florian introduces young readers to the wonders of the cosmos. Each two-page spread is devoted to a single poem and an accompanying illustration.

Citation: Florian, Douglas. (2007) Comets, Stars, the Moon, and Mars. New York: Harcourt.

My Impressions: I think this is a really great book for young readers. The illustrations are beautiful and the poetry is short, simple, rhythmic, and rhyming–all the things children love about poetry! Each poem also contains factual information to help children build their knowledge of space. The book also contains a glossary that corresponds to the subject of each poem, explaining the subject in more depth and detail.


“This large-format book looks at astronomy through the magnifying, clarifying lens of poetry. Each broad double-page spread features a short, accessible poem about a subject such as the sun, each of its planets, a comet, a constellation, or the universe, set within an impressive painting.” –Carolyn Phelan, Booklist Online review excerpt

““The poet-painter’s latest book brings warm wit to the outermost reaches of cold, dark space. . . . Florian’s illustrations depict the marvels of space with luminous texture and detail.”–The New York Times review excerpt

Library Use Suggestion: Children could choose a poem in the book to illustrate through a picture or model, or they could choose an item in space to write their own poem.

Module 9: Crank

6 08 2010

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Summary: Written in free-form verse, Crank is the story of Kristina who visits her estranged father and discovers a life of drugs, boys, and irresponsibility. She also discovers her alter ego Bree who justifies flirting with boys and drugs, a.k.a “the monster”, and knows no limits. Back home Kristina struggles to keep Bree and the monster a secret from her family while falling deeper into their embrace.

Citation: Hopkins, Ellen. (2004) Crank. New York: Simon Pulse.

My Impressions: I have never read a novel in verse like this, but as a lifelong lover of poetry I really liked this book it! I think even a person who is not a lover of poetry would enjoy this book as it is written in a very realistic voice, is an easy read, and is something a number of young adults would be able to relate to. This is certainly a disturbing book, but only so because it is so realistic and could very easily be the story of a teen you know. Hopkins does a great job of getting into the character’s head and showing how a person enter into that type of life and justify her or his behavior. Definitely a book I’d recommend.


“Readers won’t soon forget smart, sardonic Kristina; her chilling descent into addiction; or the author’s note, which references her own daughter’s struggle with ‘the monster.'” –Gillian Engberg, Booklist Online review excerpt

“Hopkins writes in free-verse poems that paint painfully sharp images of Kristina/Bree and those around her, detailing how powerful the “monster” can be. The poems are masterpieces of word, shape, and pacing, compelling readers on to the next chapter in Kristina’s spiraling world. This is a topical page-turner and a stunning portrayal of a teen’s loss of direction and realistically uncertain future.” –Sharon Korbeck, School Library Journal review excerpt

Library Use Suggestion: This book is full of unique poems about Kristina’s experiences written simply and in her voice. It shows readers that poems are not abstract things that have to stick to a formula or rhyme scheme, but that poems can be personal, real, and informal. Based on this young adults could write a poem based on their own life experience.

Module 8: The Dollhouse Murders

6 08 2010

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Summary: When Amy goes to live with her Aunt Clare for a couple weeks she is entranced by the dollhouse she finds in the attic that is an exact replica of her Aunt’s house. However, her feelings soon turn to fear as she discovers that the dolls in the dollhouse come to life and reenact an unsolved murder that happened in that same house years ago. Is there an evil spirit haunting the dollhouse or is someone trying to tell the truth of the murder from beyond the grave?

Citation: Wright, Betty Ren. (1983) The Dollhouse Murders. New York: Holiday House.

My Impressions: At first I was thoroughly creeped out by this book. In my opinion nothing is more frightening than the unknown and with an unsolved murder and dolls mysteriously moving around acting out the murder I couldn’t help but be a little scared. However, the book is far from action-packed and the initial fright quickly dissipated as Amy deals with the much more mundane matters of her life. Maybe it was because I read this book on the heels of the action-packed, fast-paced 39 Clues: Maze of Bones, but overall this book failed to truly impress me.


“[T]aut, suspenseful novel…A subplot about Amy’s relationships with her parents, younger sister and best friend adds depth and warmth to this crisply paced tale.” —Publisher’s Weekly review excerpt

Library Use Suggestion: What the dolls do when they come to life is a vital part to Amy solving the mystery. Using the book’s descriptions children could act out what they think the dolls did.

Module 8: 39 Clues (Maze of Bones, Book 1)

31 07 2010

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Summary: When Dan and Amy Cahill’s Aunt Grace dies, it sets off an international scavenger hunt which will lead members of the Cahill family to “a secret which…will make you the most powerful, influential human beings on the planet.” Pitted against their less than honest family members, and against the wishes of their Aunt Beatrice who is their guardian, Dan and Amy take their au pair and travel across the world in their search to discover the first of the 39 clues that will lead them to their goal.

Citation: Riordan, Rick. (2008) The 39 Clues: Maze of Bones. New York: Scholastic

My Impressions: I’ve been wanting to read this series for a while due to its popularity, and I’m glad I finally had an opportunity to. The book was very entertaining with a fast-paced plot, intelligent, yet realistic main characters you like from the start, and mystery and danger at every turn. This is the type of mystery/adventure that can appeal to all ages who like the genre, in fact with a few changes this could be an adult mystery. The other great thing about this series is how interactive it is with cards for children to collect and an online game they can play to solve the 39 clues themselves.


The book dazzles with suspense, plot twists, and snappy humor, but the real treasure may very well be the historical tidbits buried in the story.” —School Library Journal review excerpt

“Built around a ripe conceit—wealthy matriarch scatters cryptic clues to a mysterious fortune around the globe—this first installment in a projected 10-book series is tons of fun. Lead-off hitter Riordan (The Lightning Thief) mixes just the right proportions of suspense, peril and puzzles in a fast-paced read.”–Publisher’s Weekly review excerpt

Library Use Suggestion: This would be a good book to get children interested in researching their family tree. Just like Amy and Dan discover their famous ancestors through their search to solve the clues, kids might be surprised to discover who some of their ancestors are.

Module 7: Leonardo’s Horse

20 07 2010

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Summary: This is a story about Leonardo da Vinci and his life’s work, primarily the 28-foot-tall horse statue that he never completed. The book tells the story of this horse, how da Vinci first got the commission to create the horse, how he designed the horse and why it was never completed. The book then fast forwards centuries to 1977 and Charles Dent, an American art lover who learned about da Vinci’s horse and was determined to complete it as a gift to the Italian people.

Citation: Fritz, J. (2001) Leonardo’s Horse. New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.

My Impressions: I was expecting there to be more detail about da Vinci’s life and his other inventions, but the book focuses primarily on da Vinci’s unfinished horse. Despite that, the story was enjoyable, full of information I had never heard. The only problem I had with it is that it seemed to downplay da Vinci’s many achievements and genius.


“Although there are quite a few books about Leonardo, none delve so deeply into the history of the statue. Even the design of the book is unique. A title that is sure to create a lot of interest among young art, history, and horse lovers.” –Anne Chapman Callaghan, School Library Journal review excerpt

“Talbott’s (Forging Freedom) diverse multimedia artwork includes reproductions of da Vinci’s notebooks, panoramas revealing the Renaissance in lavish detail and majestic renderings of the final equine sculpture. Talbott makes creative use of the book’s format a rectangle topped by a semi-circle: the rounded space by turns becomes a window through which da Vinci views a cloud shaped like a flying horse; the domed building that was Dent’s studio and gallery; and a globe depicting the route the bronze horse travels on its way from the U.S. to Italy. An inventive introduction to the Renaissance and one of its masters.” Publisher’s Weekly review excerpt

Library Use Suggestion: This book would in an activity about inventions or inventors. After reading the book children could come up with and design their own invention and explain what it would do.