Friday, March 28, 2014

Book talk: The Mystery of Meerkat Hill: A Precious Ramotswe Mystery for Young Readers

What would you do if you were lying in bed at night and a tiny meerkat came up to your face and sniffed your cheek? [Show p. 87].

Kosi checks out Precious
No, don't scream. What is a meerkat? They're small mammals in the mongoose family, and they live in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, in southern Africa. Meerkats are adorable.

So I already told you part of the end of The Mystery of Meerkat Hill, but it wasn't a spoiler. The hero of this story - the girl whose cheek was sniffed - is Precious Ramotswe. She's kind and smart and lives in Botswana. Precious has a great eye for detail. Detectives are all about the details.

One day she goes to her new friends' house. She can tell from their tiny, modest home that they're poor, but she doesn't say anything to make them feel bad. She's just not like that. They tell her one good thing  and one bad thing. First the good: they have a tame meerkat named Kosi, which means "chief." The bad: they have one family cow, and she is missing. When you're poor and you don't own much at all, it's really painful to lose your cow. It's like losing all your money.

Remember how I told you that Precious has a great eye for detail? There's a specific detail she's looking for, and it involves a meerkat and a cow.

The Mystery of Meerkat Hill: A Precious Ramotswe Mystery for Young Readers by Alexander McCall Smith. 90 pages. 2012: Anchor Books. Booktalk to intermediate grades.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Book talk: Peck, Peck, Peck by Lucy Cousins

What's that tapping noise? [Stand in front of a table and tap on it behind your back or get someone else to make tapping noises for you.] Is that a bird? Is there a bird in this library?

It's two woodpeckers! They are beautiful, aren't they? We all know that woodpeckers peck on wood: whether it be trees or the outside of your house. The father woodpecker is teaching his young one to peck holes. Wow! They can really make a lot of noise.

[Display to kids some of your favorite pages.] Uh oh. These are some serious holes they are making. These guys mean business.

What's that you're saying? This book has a lot of holes in it? Agghhhh! I'm going to have to have a talk with this young woodpecker. See what else he does in Peck, Peck, Peck by Lucy Cousins.

Peck, Peck, Peck by Lucy Cousins. Unpaged. 2013: Candlewick. Booktalk to PK-2.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Book talk: Caps for Sale

I hate losing things. We all lose things. You might lose your hat, or your favorite book, or your lunch. You know what's worse, though? It's worse when someone steals your hat, or your favorite book, or your lunch. No one likes a thief.

[Show first page.] This is a peddler. A peddler is someone who sells things, often by just walking around. What do you think this peddler is peddling? Right, caps. Or you could say hats. How do you think he keeps them balanced on his head? A lot of practice, I bet. He's got a checkered cap, gray caps, brown caps, blue caps, and red ones.

"Caps for sale! Caps for sale!" he cries as he walks around. But alas, no one wants any caps. What's a poor peddler to do? I think taking a nap would be a good idea. Look...he's sleeping...for a long time.

[Flip quickly to the picture of him awake, caps missing.] Hey?!!!! Where are his  caps? Did you guys steal them? Well, then, who did? Who on earth would steal caps right off a peddler's head?

Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina. 1940/1968: HarperCollins. Unpaged. Children's classic. Booktalk to K-2.

Booktalk: After by Amy Efaw (Virginia Readers' Choice)

Some teens manage to get straight A’s and perform at a consistently high level playing varsity sports: they’re perfect, right? If you knew her before, Devon, a 15-year-old girl, would fit that category. She’s a good kid who works hard both at school and at soccer, where she has the potential to be Division I. That’s Devon before.

Devon after gave birth to a baby girl and left that baby in a trash can to die. It’s horrible and cruel, obviously. But here’s the mystery. When the police got to her, she did not seem to understand that she had been pregnant or given birth. How could a girl not know that she’s pregnant? Devon is facing a bunch of criminal charges, including attempted murder.

What in her physical, daily world actually happened to Devon? And what happened inside her mind? How did she get from a fairly normal “before” to a deeply deluded “after”? After by Amy Efaw.

After by Amy Efaw. 350 p. Viking: 2009. Because of the controversial subject matter, booktalk with discretion. High school, college.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Book talk: Little Nelly's Big Book by Pippa Goodhart

[For this booktalk, you might want to have a prop: an elephant puppet or a stuffed elephant toy. If you don't have one, just use a picture of Little Nelly from the book.]

[Pointing to your elephant prop.] This is Little Nelly. She is huge and gray. She has a long trunk, big ears, and she loves to read!

She has this great book, and she is learning a lot about herself from this book. The book says: Mice can be gray. Mice have big ears. Mice have skinny tails.

She's a mouse, right? [Hear children's protests.] She's an elephant, you say? An elephant?! Well, don't tell her that! She is convinced that she is a mouse!

Plus, her book has some other very interesting info!

It says mice have holes in the wall where they live. Makes sense, right?

So Little Nelly crammed part of her huge, massive head into part of a tiny hole in the wall, and she interrupted a little mouse family: some of whom were watching t.v.!

Can a huge elephant live with a tiny mouse family? Will she step on them? Will Little Nelly ever find out that she's NOT a mouse?

Little Nelly's Big Book by Pippa Goodhart, ill. by Andy Rowland. Unpaged. 2012: Bloomsbury. Booktalk to kindergarten-2nd grade.

Book talk: Sharkopedia: The Complete Guide to Everything Shark

Sharks are awesome and are often misunderstood. Time for a true/false quiz to see how well you know your sharks.

Question 1: Bullhead sharks are known for their sluggishness/laziness during the day.
Answer: True [page 142]. They are slow and tend to stay in one place. They like shallow waters.

Question 2: Sharks bite surfers because from underwater, surfboards look like sea lions or seals or sea turtles, and those are some of sharks' favorite foods (for some shark species).
Answer: True. [Page 179]

Question 3: Sharks have only been on this planet for the last 5,000 years, so they're sort of a new animal.
Answer: False [page 54]. Sharks -- as they look now -- have been around for the last 120 million years, and prehistoric sharks existed 400 million years ago!

Question 4: There are nearly 500 kinds of sharks in the world, and of these, only about a dozen are responsible for a few unprovoked bites.
Answer: True. [Page 172].

Question 5: Nurse sharks are all white and have a little nurse-hat-shaped head.
Answer: Hahaha! False! You fell for that one? They look nothing like a nurse: [show page 36 to the kids].

If you want more cool information and photos about sharks, I highly recommend Sharkopedia: The Complete Guide to Everything Shark.

Booktalk to intermediate grades, middle school.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Book talk: Again! by Emily Gravett

Who would want to hear the same story every single night? Little dragon. Little dragon loves his book about Cedric the red dragon who has never, ever been to bed.

Guess who does NOT love little dragon's book? Little dragon's mother! It's a long book, and she gets more and more tired reading it. It goes on and on and on.

A sleepy dragon mother -- if she's smart -- will take a long story and make it shorter. And shorter [display pages]. Uh oh, I think she's falling asleep!

But what happens to little dragon when you make his favorite story shorter? He gets mad. What happens when dragons get mad?

Do you really want to know?

Again! by Emily Gravett. Unpaged. 2011: Simon & Schuster. Booktalk to PK-2. 2013 Kate Greenaway Medal nomination.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Book talk: Ungifted by Gordon Korman

Like a lot of us, Donovan isn't stupid, but he's not an academic genius, either. Actually, I'm wrong. Donovan is kind of stupid. He hit a statue pretty hard, and part of it rolled off and destroyed much of his school's gym, causing thousands and thousands of dollars worth of damage. Luckily, no one was hurt or killed. But the principal was mad. Very, very mad. And mad people can get distracted and put names on the wrong list because they're too busy being mad to pay attention. Instead of putting Donovan's name on some bad student list, the principal put Donovan's name on a list of kids recommended for the gifted school: the Academy of Scholastic Distinction. The geniuses. And Donovan's no genius.

So what does Donovan do? He certainly doesn't want to bring it to the principal's attention. It would actually be funny if he could just pass his classes there, but they're really, really hard. He's in over his head. The smart kids' math classes are way, way harder than anything he can handle. In fact, the only thing he can do at the genius school is drive the robot the other kids assembled. As one well-versed in video games, he's pretty good at that. He really likes the smart kids and they seem to like him. In spite of himself, Donovan loves his new school.

But how is Donovan going to stay at a school where he can't pass his classes and even his teachers suspect he's there by mistake?

Ungifted by Gordon Korman. 280 pages. 2012: Balzer + Bray. Booktalk to intermediate grades (3-6) and middle school.