A Nest for Celeste: A Story About Art, Inspiration, and the Meaning of Home

celeste    Written and illustrated by Henry Cole.

Celeste is a sweet little mouse who makes her home under the floorboards of an Oakley Plantation house in New Orleans. Her quiet, industrious life, while occasionally disturbed by two mean rats, is turned upside down when the house cat discovers her whereabouts. In search of new lodgings she is discovered by Joseph Mason the young assistant to the great naturalist John James Audubon. Mason and Audubon, guests at the plantation, are in search of different types of wild birds as subjects for their drawing portfolio. Mason adopts Celeste as his pet. Celeste makes various new animal friends through her adventures with Joseph.

This realistic fiction chapter book is suitable for middle to upper elementary students. It is a beautiful tale that includes themes of friendship, kindness, ingenuity and proper treatment of animals. The detailed, life-like pencil illustrations are a very attractive and important contribution to the narrative. Some students may find the occasional descriptions of bird hunting and killing too graphic. These parts of the story though could be easily skipped without much change in the story. Otherwise the story is an enjoyable read.

Bug Off!

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Cathi Hepworth, the author of ANTics brings another fun vocabulary book for insect lovers everywhere. Inside you’ll find beautiful colored illustrations featuring vocabulary words and the insects they relate to. For instance, maMOTH with a giant moth, and staGNATe with a sleepy gnat. A great way to introduce children to more complicated vocabulary, or just to admire the pictures and chuckle at the clever wordplay, this picture book will delight all children, especially those that love to explore the outdoors and make buggy friends.

 

 

-Josie

Magic By The Lake

Magic by the LAke

Magic By the Lake by Edward Eager, published in 1957

 

What would you do if you had a whole lakeful of magic? Mark, Jane, Katherine and Martha find out in Magic By the Lake!

 

Magic by the Lake is the story of four children vacationing for the first time at a lake house. They are beyond excited to finally be going on holiday, but it turns out that there is much more in store for them than just a quaint cabin and sandy beach. Through the power of a grumpy magic turtle, the children suddenly acquire an entire lake full of magic. From luring pirates with the mermaids to exploring the caves of the Ali Baba, the children have magic-filled, occasionally perilous vacation that concludes with a selfless, magical deed that saves their stepfather’s struggling book shop.

 

Tops and Bottoms

Tops and Bottoms

“What will it be Bear, tops or bottoms?” A business agreement between lazy Bear and cunning Hare provides the basis for this witty narrative. In order to feed his family after selling his land to be able to pay up on a lost bet, Hare strikes a deal with Bear, who owns a tremendous amount of land but who is only interested in sleeping. Hare will plant and harvest the crops and in return he will receive half of the profit. But to be fair Hare will allow Bear to choose which part of the crops he will get. “What will it be Bear, tops or bottoms?” After several seasons of weeding, planting, watering, and harvesting, Hare and his family have become quite prosperous while Bear has continually been tricked.

An adaptation of European folktales and traditional Southern American slave stories, Tops and Bottoms written and illustrated by Janet Stevens “celebrates the trickster tradition of using ones wits to overcome hardship.” It is a book that any child would enjoy and not only is the story enthrallingly entertaining and the illustrations deemed worthy of the Caldecott Honor, but this outstanding anecdote is rich with meaning as there are many morals to be discussed and unpacked.

The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales

 

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Author: Jon Scieszka

Illustrated by: Lane Smith

These are not your traditional fairy tales. In these fairly stupid tales they have funny twists to the story plot. Some of these fairly stupid tales include: Chicken Licken, The Really Ugly Duckling, The Tortoise and the Hair, Cinderumpelstiltskin, Little Red Running Shorts, Jack’s Bean Problem and much, much, much, more! At the end of this book you will have a new outlook on traditional fairy tales.

Lane Smith does an amazing job on making the illustrations match the hilarious fairly stupid tales. The illustrations make the tales come alive!

Melissa J.

Fiona’s Lace

 

Fiona’s Lace by Patricia Polacco was published in 2014. It is a beautiful story based on Polacco’s Irish ancestors. Fiona and her sister, Ailish, love to hear their father tell the story of how he met their mother by following a trail of their mother’s lace, tied to lampposts, trees, etc. In time, Fiona learns from her mother how to make beautiful Irish lace too. When the family has to move to America, they discover their new home in Chicago to be less than the glorious image they had in mind. They are forced to work much harder than expected and in terrible conditions. The family receives a ray of hope when a large sum of money is offered for Fiona’s fine lace. However, disaster strikes when the Great Chicago Fire burns the city to the ground! Will the family be separated, or will they find one another again? This is a wonderful story of hope and the love of a family. It would be a great story for students to learn about history as well as learning the value of their own family stories.

I Am David

Image result for i am david by anne holm

Written in first person, I Am David by Anne Holm, tells of the thoughts, feelings and story of twelve-year-old David. Having spent his whole life in the confines of a concentration camp in Eastern Europe David has no idea what the world is like, or how to survive in it.

Then one day David is given an opportunity to escape – from the very person he would least expect it. But is this real freedom or only a trap? With a small crust of bread, a compass, and some water David runs for his life, his enemies close on his heels. It is not too long before David realizes how little he knows and struggles to survive in a strange and unknown world. But David’s determination is strong and he holds onto the one thing he was told, go North to Denmark and freedom.

This book would make a great read alone or read aloud book for grades five and up. It would particularly appeal to boys, perhaps grabbing the attention of a reluctant reader. While it contains some heavier topics (concentration camp, death, etc.)  it is presented in a way that could lead into worthwhile discussions and as a more subtle introduction to the topic of the times in history when concentration camps were utilized. This book takes your breath away and moves your heart, containing within its pages adventure, mystery, suspense, and a beautiful message of hope and healing.

(Originally titled: North to Freedom)