Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland by Sally M. Walker (J 614 WAL)

Laura in the Youth Services Department at Thomas Ford Memorial Library grew up in Maryland. When I mentioned that I took a trip to St. Mary’s County in Maryland to do some family history research, she suggested that I read Written in Bone: Buried Lives of Jamestown and Colonial Maryland by Sally M. Walker. A day or two later in the lunch room, Uma, head of the Youth Services Department, saw that I was reading a Sally M. Walker book. She said that Walker is a well-known author of nonfiction for youth and that our library usually buys her books. A lot of hands touched the book before it landed in my hands, for which I am grateful.

Reading Writtewrittenn in Bone is much like watching an episode of Nova on our local PBS station. Walker shows in pictures and explains through text the work and findings of forensic archaeologists uncovering burial sites in two of our country’s original English colonies. Her reporting is on the spot down in the dirt. You can almost feel the Chesapeake humidity and heat as the archaeologists brush the soil from the bones of individuals who died in the 17th and early 18th centuries. Better yet, you get to witness how they examine evidence to learn how the early settlers lived and died.

Looking at our library’s catalog of books, I see that Walker has written books at various grade levels. I am attracted to two similar to Written in Bone. Frozen Secrets recounts Antarctic exploration, and Secrets of a Civil War Submarine uncovers another bit of American history. I am glad to be a big kid set loose in the children’s book collection.

Review submitted by Rick

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The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson (J 940.53 LEY)

Many Americans grew up with fathers who never talked about their World War II experiences until late in their lives. Leon Leyson was like them, but instead of being a soldier, he was a Jewish boy in Poland in and out of work camps run by the Nazis throughout the war. In post-war America, he wanted to live in the present and raise his children as average citizens of no particular origin. Only with the release of Stephen Spielberg’s epic movie Schindler’s List did Leyson begin tboyo tell his incredible story, one bound to interest readers, for it included his working for Oskar Schindler, who saved his family from certain death. He told the story in his posthumously published book for young readers, The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible … on Schindler’s List: A Memoir.

Throughout World War II, Leyson was malnourished and small, not a good candidate for factory work. In the camps he had to endure through heavy manual labor, showing no sign of failing to keep from being executed, as so many children and older adults were. Luckily for Leyson, his father was a skill worker who was able to get the sympathetic Schindler to employ Leon. When Nazi inspectors came through Schindler’s factory, he would stand on a box behind equipment to appear larger and capable of the work.

There have been many Holocaust stories written in the last half century, and The Boy on the Wooden Box fares well among them. Leyson told a compelling story with a great cast of characters about one of the most dramatic periods in our recent history. My interest never wavered.

Review submitted by Rick

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Mick Harte was Here by Barbara Park (J PARK)

Thirteen-year-old Phoebe’s life changes suddenly when her brother is killed while riding his bicycle. As if this wasn’t tragic enough, Phoebe struggles over the fact that on the last morning of Mick’s life, they’d fought over a pirate tattoo in a cereal box.mick He’d also asked her that day at lunch if she could ride his bicycle home for him after school. She said she couldn’t, and that was the afternoon Mick died.

Mick Harte was Here is the story of how Phoebe starts to heal after her brother’s sudden death. Her family has come undone, and Phoebe has never experienced this before. She must learn to let her friends and family help her as they help each other.

In this story there is also the poignant message that life can change at any moment for any person. Something as simple as wearing a bicycle helmet could have saved Mick’s life. This book would appeal to children who like realistic fiction with a touch of sadness.

Review submitted by Dana

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Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio by Peg Kehret (J B KEHRET)

Imagine a day that’s just like any other. You’re in school, singing in music class, and you notice that your leg muscle keeps twitching. Although not painful, it’s annoying. When the bell rings and you head to your locker, your legs suddenly don’t work, and you collapse on the floor. This was how 12-year-old Peg Kehret’s painful battle with polio began.

stepsThe year was 1949, and Peg was the only person diagnosed that year in her hometown of Austin, Minnesota. There were, however, 42,033 cases reported in the United States in 1949. Polio is a highly contagious virus that attacks the nerve cells that control the body’s muscles. There is no cure for polio, but there are vaccines, and today polio is rare in the Western world.

Peg, who is now a children’s author, tells her story in Small Steps: The Year I Got Polio. She considers herself lucky because her parents took her to the hospital right away and she was diagnosed early. Peg learned that she had three kinds of polio, and after one night of being in the hospital, she became paralyzed from the neck down. She didn’t know if she would ever be able to walk again—or even if she would survive. Her parents were not allowed to see or touch her when she was still contagious. One of her hospital roommates was a younger boy whose body was enclosed in an iron lung, a huge respirator that helped him breathe. Some people were never able to breathe on their own again and were confined to life with this machine. Many other people remained in wheelchairs or had physical deformities for the rest of their lives.

Peg’s life changed dramatically after she got polio. She remained in hospitals for many months, celebrating her 13th birthday in a rehabilitation center with friends she had made there. One of Peg’s biggest struggles was learning how to walk again, then adjusting to life once she returned home. She also had to endure hours and hours of painful physical therapy and treatments with steaming hot towels.

Small Steps is a look back to a time when polio was a very serious threat. Little was known about the virus and its treatments, and Peg understandably was terrified about what would happen to her. It’s not such a stretch to see how this story could replay itself in today’s world, with some new and mysterious illness.

Review submitted by Dana

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Frogged by Vivian Vande Velde (J VANDE VELDE)

Princess Imogene’s thirteenth birthday is approaching fast. Her mother has given her the book The Art of Being a PrincFroggedess as a birthday present. Imogene was finding reading this book boring and decides to take a break by going for a stroll by the mill pond. She sits down to enjoy watching the clouds, ducks, geese and swans when she hears a gruff voice. Finally she identifies the voice to be coming from a frog. As a princess is always kind and helpful, she helps the frog to only get caught in a predicament. Who will help her to overcome this predicament?

Do not miss the clever titles for each chapter in Frogged.

Recommended for ages 9 and up.

Review submitted by Uma

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Thanksgiving Books

Now that Halloween 2013 is in the books, it’s time to look toward Thanksgiving! Here’s a selection of fiction and nonfiction picture books, beginning readers, and early chapter books. Enjoy!

Picture Books

Thanks for Thanksgiving by Julie Markes

At Thanksgiving time, children express their gratitude for the people and things in their lives.

tappletonsThanksgiving at the Tappletons’ by Eileen Spinelli

When calamity stalks every step of the preparations for the Tappletons’ Thanksgiving dinner, they realize that there is more to Thanksgiving than turkey and trimmings.

Thanksgiving Day Thanks by Laura Malone Elliott

Sam has trouble deciding what he is grateful for during a Thanksgiving-themed classroom assignment.

A Turkey for Thanksgiving by Eve Bunting

Mr. and Mrs. Moose try to invite a turkey to their Thanksgiving feast.

Thanksgiving Rules by Laurie Friedman

Young Percy Isaac Gifford provides a list of ten rules for getting the most out of Thanksgiving Day, especially how best to enjoy the buffet.

The Night Before Thanksgiving by Natasha Wing

Tells the story of one family’s Thanksgiving Day celebration.

Duck for Turkey Day by Jacqueline Jules

When Tuyet finds out that her Vietnamese family is having duck rather than turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, she is upset until she finds out that other children in her class did not eat turkey either.

Beginning Readers and Early Chapter Books

katieKatie Saves Thanksgiving by Fran Manushkin

When a snowstorm causes the power to go out, Katie and her parents think their Thanksgiving dinner with JoJo and Pedro is ruined, but by being a good neighbor, Katie saves the day.

Trucksgiving by Jon Scieszka

The trucks of Trucktown create their own annual day of giving thanks.

Amelia Bedelia Talks Turkey by Herman Parish

When Amelia Bedelia volunteers to fill in as director of a third-grade Thanksgiving play, she misunderstands everything from one girl’s desire to play a big role to an opening night wish that she “break a leg,” but all is well in the end.

Thanksgiving on Thursday (Magic Tree House) by Mary Pope Osborne

Jack and Annie travel in their magic tree house to the year 1621, where they celebrate the first Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians in the New Plymouth Colony. Also check out Pilgrims: A Nonfiction Companion to Thanksgiving on Thursday by Mary Pope Osborne.

Thanksgiving Turkey Trouble by Abby Klein

Freddy is unhappy about playing the turkey in his first-grade Thanksgiving Day play, especially with Max bullying and teasing him, but his grandfather and principal both give him ideas for making the part fun.

Nonfiction Picture Books

pilgrimsThe Story of the Pilgrims by Katharine Ross

From the dangerous voyage across the Atlantic to the first harsh winter to the delicious Thanksgiving feast, all the excitement and wonder of the Pilgrims’ first year in America is captured in this retelling that is perfect for the youngest historians.

Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet

Award-winning artist Sweet tells the story of the puppeteer Tony Sarg, capturing his genius, his dedication, his zest for play, and his long-lasting gift to America–the inspired helium balloons that would become the trademark of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Sarah Gives Thanks by Mike Allegra

The story of the writer and magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale, who pushed the idea of establishing Thanksgiving as a national holiday.

Thanksgiving Crafts by Jean Eick

Keep children busy by having them make decorations for your feast or home! Activities include the classic handprint turkey, napkin holders, and Thanksgiving cards and envelopes.

Thanksgiving is– by Gail Gibbons

An introduction to the history and customs of Thanksgiving.

Picture Books about Being Thankful

bearBear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson

Bear thanks his friends for bringing food dishes to his dinner party and finds a way of sharing something of his own.

Splat Says Thank You by Rob Scotton

Splat the Cat figures out how to let Seymour know that he’s thankful for their friendship.

The Thankful Book by Todd Parr

Easy-to-read text encourages the reader to find something every day for which to be thankful, from underwear that is just the right size to birthday cakes and the wishes they bring.

The Secret of Saying Thanks by Douglas Wood

While learning the secret to a good life, a child says thank you for the natural world and for being loved, because a grateful heart is always happy.

Thank You for Me! by Marion Dane Bauer

Rhythmic text enumerates what various body parts can do, including hands to clap and a body to twirl, then expresses thanks for each of those parts–and for the whole.

Thank You, World by Alice McGinty

Eight children from eight different countries express their thanks for many special things including the sun that colors the sky, breezes that lift kites, clouds that paint cotton pictures and send rain, and sparkling stars that “shine like Mommy’s eyes.”

Submitted by Dana

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Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead (J STEAD)

Georges is a 7th-grader who has just moved from his house to an apartment in the same Brooklyn neighborhood after his dad lost his job. Georges’ mom works a lot, and his dad is busy with his new company. Georges has few friends at school, and he starts to hang out with Safer, a boy from his building. Safer is obsessed with spying on the mliarysterious Mr. X and the parrots across the street. When Safer’s “spy club” activities go too far for Georges’ comfort, Georges isn’t sure what to do or who to turn to. He enjoys Safer’s family and the respite it allows from the bullying he endures at school, but at the same time he knows that something is not right.

At times humorous, Liar & Spy will keep readers wondering about this interesting cast of characters and turn of events. Georges’ struggles are honest, and it’s easy to empathize with him. Anyone who likes realistic fiction with a twist of mystery should enjoy Liar & Spy.

Review submitted by Dana

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