Monday, March 29, 2010

New tween fiction for March

Mystery, fantasy ... and snacks! Here are some great new reads for tweens, including artwork by John Howe, who helped create the visual effects of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. There's magic of all kinds here, from the mysterious Breath World to the strange happenings in Green Lawn! Look for these using the WorldCatalog and Amazon search boxes here on BookBag

The Ever Breath, by Julianna Baggott (Delacorte Press) Fantasy. Twins and complete opposites Truman and Camille Cragmeal are spending the winter holidays with their peculiar Grandmother Swelda. Swelda tells the twins unbelievable stories (which turn out to be true) about a place called Breath World. When they stumble into that magical yet dangerous realm, Truman and Camille learn that an amber orb called the Ever Breath, which maintains the balance between the real world and Breath World, has been stolen...and it's up to the two of them to get it back before it's too late. Author Julianna Baggott also writes under the name N.E. Bode; if you liked her Anybodies series -- or Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell's Edge Chronicles -- you'll enjoy this fast-paced adventure that introduces a variety of bizarre creatures.

Just Grace and the Snack Attack, by Charise Mericle Harper (Houghton Mifflin) Fiction. After one kid calls another's lunch "disgusting," Grace's whole class ends up studying foods of the world. And, after a friend gives her a bag of French roasted-chicken flavored potato chips, Grace has the perfect project idea--to learn about all kinds of unusual chips! Meanwhile, she is trying not to be jealous of her best friend and also trying to figure out what makes Owen 1, the only troublemaker of the three boys named "Owen" in her class, act out so much. This hilarious 5th book in the Just Grace series is illustrated, as usual, with Grace's own cartoons and also includes instructions for making your own mini-zine (a homemade magazine).

Lost Worlds, by John Howe (Kingfisher) Visual Nonfiction. Created by one of the two lead artists for Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings film trilogy, Lost Worlds provides a window onto 24 worlds or cultures--some real, some mythological--that have disappeared. Tantalizing bits of history (or, in some cases, legend) offer explanations for what became of these worlds, from Pompeii and Babylon to Atlantis, Shambhala, and Faerie. If you love history (or fantasy!) and like to flip through books and read only what strikes your fancy, this gorgeous and generously illustrated book is for you.

January Joker, by Ron Roy; illustrated by John Steven Gurney (Random House) Mystery. Bradley Pinto is absolutely convinced that aliens have landed in Green Lawn and abducted his older brother, Josh--along with Josh's friends Dink and Ruth Rose (from the popular A to Z Mysteries). The eerie lights and strange footprints that Bradley saw before the trio of older kids went missing were enough to convince him of his theory, but his twin, Brian, and their friends Lucy and Nate aren't so sure ... until even more strange things happen. This super-easy-to-read first book in the new Calendar Mysteries series is full of surprises and lots of fun.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Recommended reading favorites in Spanish

This recommended list of books for kids from WETA's Reading Rockets project includes favorites for Hispanic students and for those interested in learning a bit of Spanish. The books are written by today's most notable Hispanic and Latin American children's authors. The diverse sampling includes traditional songs, bilingual poetry, and much more. Some of the books are bilingual while others come in Spanish or in English editions peppered with Spanish words. Look for these books by using the World Catalog / search boxes on BookBag.

Esta lista de libros recomendados para niños de los cohetes de WETA Reading Rockets proyecto incluye los favoritos para los estudiantes hispanos y para aquellos interesados en aprender un poco de español. Los libros son escritos por los más notables hispanos y latinoamericanos de hoy los autores de los niños. La toma de muestras diversas, incluye canciones tradicionales, poesía bilingüe, y mucho más. Algunos de los libros son bilingües, mientras que otros vienen en español o en ediciones Inglés salpicado de palabras en español. Puedes buscar estos libros utilizando el Catálogo Mundial y los cuadros de búsqueda en

Abuela, by Arthur Dorros (age level: 3-5; reading level: beginning reader). Rosalba imagines flying over New York City with her much loved abuela. The young girl uses a lovely mix of English and Spanish to describe their journey, moving from the busy streets of Manhattan to the Statue of Liberty. Brightly colored illustrations detail what Rosalba and her grandmother glimpse as they fly, and the rich tales of Abuela's memories. (Available in both English and Spanish).

Arroz con Leche, by Lulu Delacre (age level: 3-6; reading level: beginning reader). These traditional rhymes and songs from Latin America are presented in both English and Spanish. Gentle illustrations accompany the short verses, and show both cities and the countryside. Children and adults from Spanish-speaking backgrounds will recognize many of these fun songs and rhymes.

Barrio: José's Neighborhood (Barrio: El barrio de José) by George Ancona (age level: 6-9; reading level: independent reader). José lives in a diverse neighborhood where he's just as likely to hear Spanish, English, or Chinese. The appealing photographs in this book document José's life at home, at school, and on the streets of his barrio in San Francisco, a city that is a vibrant mosaic of different cultures. (Available in a Spanish edition and in an English edition with a Spanish glossary).

Chato's Kitchen (La cocina de Chato), by Gary Soto, illustrated by: Susan Guevara (Age level: 3-6; reading level: beginning reader). Chato, along with Novio Boy, are the coolest cats in their East Los Angeles barrio. When a family of mice moves next door to Chato, he invites them to dinner. He's going to eat them for dinner, but the mice bring a friend along – a dog – to surprise Chato and foil his plans. The text and pictures show the funny situation and the satisfying solution. (In English sprinkled with Spanish. Includes a glossary of Spanish words used in the text.)

De Colores and Other Latin-American Folk Songs for Children, by Jose-Luis Orozco, illustrated by Elisa Kleven (age level: 3-6; reading level: beginning reader). Bursting with color and spirit, this book is a bilingual collection of Latin-American folk songs. The songs were selected and translated by popular Mexican performer and songwriter Jose-Luis Orozco. The book includes traditional tunes, rhymes, and hand games. An accompanying music CD is also recommended.

From the Bellybutton of the Moon and other Summer Poems (Del ombligo de la luna y otros poemas de verano), by Francisco Alarcón, illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzalez. (Age level: 6-9; reading level: independent reader). The poet remembers summers growing up in Mexico in poems presented in both English and Spanish. Readers meet his family and join them in the everyday joys of the sunny season. Illustrations are as colorful and evocative as the words.

In My Family (En mi familia), by Carmen Garza (Age level: 6-9, reading level: independent reader). Kingsville, on the border of Mexico and Texas, comes to life in words and pictures in this book. Readers will share the simple joys of eating, dancing, and celebrating as the artist remembers her own childhood. Her stories, presented in both English and Spanish, are accompanied by her bright paintings.

Roadrunner's Dance (El baile del correcaminos) by Rudolfo Anaya, illustrated by: David Diaz (Age level: 6-9; reading level: independent reader). Snake terrifies children and their parents. He claims to be the "king of the road." But with gifts from the animals, Desert Woman fashions Roadrunner to defeat Snake. In the tradition of a folktale, this original story explains why rattlesnakes have their rattle and how cooperation can save the day.

The Most Beautiful Place in the World (El lugar más hermoso del mundo), by Ann Cameron, illustrated by Thomas Allen. (age level: 6-9, reading level: independent reader). Now that Juan's mother has left him with his grandmother, he shines shoes to earn a living. More than anything else, though, 7-year old Juan wants to learn to read and go to school. Guatemala comes alive through the daily lives of Juan and his grandmother and the detailed black/white illustrations.

The Rainbow Tulip, by Pat Mora, illustrated by Elizabeth Sayles (Age level: 6-9, reading level: independent reader). Stella and her brothers speak Spanish at home but English at school. Being different is both scary and exciting. Stella learns this when she prepares for the school's celebration of May Day. She finds a way to honor her Mexican background by wearing a special skirt that is both alike yet
different from the other girls'. Stella, like many children, can take pride in being part of two cultures. (In English sprinkled with Spanish).

Under the Royal Palms: A Childhood in Cuba (Bajo las palmas reales), by Alma Flor Ada (age level: 9-12, reading level: independent reader). In writing about her childhood growing up in Camaguey, Cuba, the author evokes all the senses. Readers will smell jasmine, coffee, and grandmother's perfume. They will see the bats flying overhead and hear adults talk. When parents and other adults read this memoir with children, they may start to share their own family stories.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Truth vs. fiction: books about history

Sometimes truth really can seem stranger than fiction! Here is a selection of books, some non-fiction and others fiction based on fact, for readers who enjoy reading about unusual history -- and the almost-unbelievable stories of some American heroes. Find these books here on BookBag by using the World Catalog and search boxes.

The Great and Only Barnum: The Tremendous, Stupendous Life of Showman P.T. Barnum, by Candace Fleming; illustrated by Ray Fenwick (Schwartz & Wade Books) Nonfiction. Lay-dees!... and!... Gentlemen! Children of All Ages!! Step right up and be AMAZED by the story of a man who hauled himself up from the depths of poverty by fooling people for a fee--and making them like it! That's right: this self-avowed "humbugger" made preposterous claims about the wond
ers in his traveling exhibitions, but folks still clamored to see them. He was the infamous P.T. Barnum, and among other things, he founded the circus known as "The Greatest Show on Earth." This entertaining biography presents the facts--both flattering and appalling--of Mr. Barnum's life in stories, pictures, and memorabilia that are almost as much fun as the circus that still bears his name.

Twelve Rounds to Glory: The Story of Muhammad Ali
, by Charles R. Smith, Jr., illustrated by Bryan Collier (Candlewick Press) Nonfiction. As nimble with a rhyme as he was in the boxing ring, world-champion boxer Muhammed Ali is duly honored in this collection of poems and artwork that tell his life's story. Boldly illustrated, Twelve Rounds to Glory tells about some of Ali's most famous fights--not jus
t his rounds against opponents like Joe Frazier and George Foreman, but also his resistance to racism, his refusal to be drafted into the Vietnam war, and his ongoing battle with Parkinson's disease.

Riot, by Walter Dean Myers (Egmont USA) Historical Fiction. Desperate for more Union troops, President Lincoln has instituted a draft requiring all able-bodied men--except those wealt
hy enough to pay a $300 waiver--to serve in the Civil War. This doesn't settle well with Irish immigrants who can't afford the waiver and who are already angry because they believe that black people are "stealing" their jobs. On July 11, 1863, the first names are drawn for the draft in New York City, and simmering racial tensions explode--Irish mobs loot stores, set fires, and attack black people in the streets. Told in a screenplay format like the author's book Monster, this powerful story centers on 15-year-old Clare Johnson, who, as the daughter of a black father and an Irish mother, is caught between the two warring sides.

A Season of Gifts, by Richard Peck (Dial Books) Historical Fiction. When 12-year-old Bob Barnhart's family moves in next door to Mrs. Dowdel -- aka Grandma Dowdel from A Year Down Yonder and A Long Way from Chicago -- he isn't sure what to think of his grumpy and odd new neighb
or. But then Mrs. Dowdel helps Bob get back at the town bullies for pulling a humiliating prank on him, and their friendship is well on its way. Chock full of memorable characters and small-town Illinois charm, this homey story brings the late 1950s (when Elvis was king and not everyone had indoor plumbing) to vibrant life.

Murder at Midnight, by Avi (Scholastic Press) Historical Mystery. Orphan and former street-urchin Fabrizio, newly apprenticed to Mangus the magician, is eager to prove his worth to his master. When Mangus is accused of treason against the king, Fabrizio gets his chance to be useful by proving the charges false--before he and Mangus are executed. Set in Italy during the Renaissance, this fast-paced and suspenseful prequel to Midnight Magic includes fascinating history about the first printing presses, which were thought by some to run on the power of evil magic. [Would-be time-travelers, take note: don't show off any modern technology to citizens of the past--they're liable to burn you at the stake for it.]

The Omnivore's Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat, by Michael Pollan, adapted by Richie Chevat (Dial Books) Nonfiction. Do you know where your dinner came from? If you'd like to find out, this is the perfect book for you. It explains how many processed foods, like chicken nuggets, "are really corn wrapped up in more corn" and that, if you wash 'em down with a soft drink, "you are drinking corn with your corn." Breaking down what most Americans eat, where their food comes from, and why it matters, author Michael Pollan also answers a nagging and fascinating question: since human beings are omnivores and can eat just about anything, what should we eat? Environmentalists, foodies, and fans of the movie Super Size Me will find plenty of food for thought in this kid-friendly version of the best-selling book, The Omnivore's Dilemma.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Reading especially for boys, from BookDads

Books especially meant for boys to read are sometimes difficult to find. Here's a selection of books for different age groups, most reviewed by BookDads, a unique booksite online since 2008 featuring reviews of material for boys and their fathers. The site is currently going through a re-design at the moment but check back to see if they are up and running soon; for copies of these books use the WorldCatalog and Amazon search boxes here on BookBag.

Two-Minute Drill: Mike Lupica's Comeback Kids, by Mike Lupica (Philomel Books) Ages 9-12 Two Minute Drill is an appealing YA book about the importance of sportsmanship, determination, friendship, fatherhood, and reading. Chris Conlan is the coolest kid in sixth grade- the golden-armed quarterback of the football team, and the boy all the others look up to. Scott Parry is the new kid, the boy with the huge brain, but with feet that trip over themselves daily. These two boys may seem like an odd couple, but each has a secret that draws them together as friends, and proves that the will to succeed is even more important than raw talent.

The Very Best Daddy of All, by Marion Dane Bauer: illustrated by Leslie Wu (Simon & Schuster) Ages 4-8 The Very Best Daddy of All is a children’s book about thirteen different animal daddies, and one human daddy. Each two-page spread shows a different animal daddy and single child, along with a description of what each daddy does for his children. Fish daddies build houses, wolf daddies comfort crying pups, and fox daddies take care of mamas so they can care for kits. Admirably, all of the animals in this book are factual examples of good animal fathers and include lesser-known instances such as playful prairie dog fathers and fearless frog fathers. The soft illustrations have a sleepytime fell to them, and make this a good bedtime book. The Very Best Daddy ends with a human daddy and his son, since no one but a child’s own daddy is the very best of all.

Half for You, by Meyer Azaad; Illustrated by: Nahid Haqiqat (Carolrhoda Books) Ages 4-9. This original Persian folk tale is the story of a little bird who is learning from his father. Once the father has taught his son how to fly and taught him how to find grain, he sends him into the fields to find something useful. The little bird finds a strange plant that is prickly on the outside and soft on the inside. The father sends the little bird off to visit the spinner, who tells him that he has found a cotton boll, and spins it into yarn. He then visits the weaver, the dyer, and the dressmaker, giving each of them half of what they have crafted for him, until he has a beautiful scarf to show his father.

My Daddy and Me, by Jerry Spinelli; illustrated by Seymour Chwast Ages 4-8 A Newbery medalist writes a kid's book in praise of both the fun things and the practical things about daddies.

My Parents Are Divorced, My Elbows Have Nicknames, and Other Facts About Me, by Bill Cochran; illustrated by Steve Bjorkman (HarperCollins) Ages 4-8.
Ted’s parents are divorced, but that doesn’t mean he’s weird. Instead, there are a lot of other reasons that he’s weird. Like the fact that his elbows are nicknamed Clyde and Carl, or that he sometimes answers the phone and pretends to be a chicken, or that he wears a cape a lot even when it’s not Halloween. Sometimes he makes soap Mohawks with his hair in the tub and then walks around the house like that. He’s done it at his mom’s house and at his dad’s house, and they both think it’s a little weird.

When the Whistle Blows, by Fran Slayton (Philomel Books) Ages 9-12. Jimmy Cannon lives in the little railroad town of Rowlesburg, West Virginia, and is a boy of his place and time. His world is Rail’s general store, and raising mischief with his pals, and going hunting, and playing on the high school football team. He grows up surrounded by the men of the town, from his troublesome older brothers Bill and Mike, to his Uncle Clarence the biology teacher, to the machinists of the railroad yard. Yet among all these men, the one man that Jimmy can never see eye-to-eye with is his father. Jimmy’s father doesn’t hunt, says that the railroad isn’t a worthwhile career for a man, and doesn’t believe that Jimmy’s football team can ever win the county championship. More alike than they know, Jimmy and his father share a orneriness that builds a wall between them. As Jimmy says, “I know I’ll never understand that man. Even if I live to another hundred All Hallows’ Eves.”

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Family matters: fiction for tween readers

Where do you fit in? Young fiction has always explored the relationship between parents, brothers, sisters, and extended family members. Here are some brand-new books for tween readers published this month focusing on family matters. Find copies by using the World Catalog and search boxes here on BookBag.

Finding Stinko, by Michael De Guzman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Fiction. Three years ago, Newboy stopped talking. And why not? In the 12 years since his mother abandoned him as an infant, Newboy has lived in eleven different foster homes--and his latest "family," the Knoxes, are the worst yet. Fed up with both the state child-care system and the Knoxes, Newboy runs away and starts living a dangerous life on the streets. When he finds a reeking, beat-up ventriloquist's dummy in a dumpster, he names it Stinko...and suddenly finds that, through Stinko, he has a voice again. With great characters and friendships that develop into something like a family, this heartwrenching story is sure to be a hit with fans of Rodman Philbrick's Freak the Mighty.

The Road to Paris, by Nikki Grimes (G.P. Putnam). Realistic Fiction. Eight-year-old Paris Richmond and her brother Malcolm have run away from a bad foster home and are headed to their grandmother's house--it's the only place they have left to go. Devastatingly, their grandmother hands them back over to Family Services, who find a new home for Paris but not for Malcolm. Life in her new neighborhood is scary for Paris--not only does she miss her brother, she's the only bi-racial kid around. But while her troubles are far from over, Paris relies on her faith in God and is on the road to being okay. If you liked the strong brother-and-sister relationship in Jacqueline Woodson's Locomotion, you'll enjoy this moving and memorable story.

Tracking Daddy Down, by Maybeth Kelsey (Greenwillow Books). Fiction. "The summer I turned eleven, my daddy, Earl Leon Wisher, took a gun and robbed the Henderson County Bank in Millerstown, Indiana." So says Billie Wisher, who is determined to find her bank-robbing daddy before the police do and convince him to give the money back. It won't be easy to evade the watchful eyes of her mother, her stepfather, and...well, pretty much the entire town, but Billie is a feisty and resourceful girl. This rollicking story addresses some serious family issues with a healthy dose of humor. If you liked the fantasy novel Savvy and also enjoy realistic fiction, get Tracking Daddy Down -- you won't be sorry.

Alabama Moon, by Watt Key (Farrar Straus Giroux). Fiction. Ten-year-old Moon Blake has lived his whole life in the woods with his father, a Vietnam veteran who strongly distrusts the government and has withdrawn from society. Pap has taught Moon how to survive in the wilderness, and as he is dying, he tells Moon to head for Alaska, where people still live independently off of the land. But when he tries to make his way north, Moon is nabbed and sent to a home for wayward boys. He can make his own clothes from deer hide, build a fire without a match, and protect himself from wild animals...but can he learn to live indoors and make friends? If you liked Gary Paulsen's Hatchet or Clay Carmichael's Wild Things, be sure not to miss Alabama Moon.

The Wild Girls, by Pat Murphy (Viking). Fiction. When Joan moves to California in 1972, she becomes friends with her new neighbor Sarah, who calls herself "Fox." Joan quickly becomes "Newt," and the two of them explore the woods between their houses and compare their families' woes. Sarah's mother left her family years ago (her father, a science-fiction author, claims that she transformed into a fox to keep an eye on Sarah), and Joan's parents fight constantly. After they write a short story together about a pair of wild girls who have adventures in an enchanted forest, the two friends get the chance to attend a special summer writing workshop that will change both of their lives.

Second Fiddle: Or, How to Tell a Blackbird From a Sausage, by Sioban Parkinson (Roaring Brook Press). Fiction. Twelve-year-old aspiring writer Mags Clarke has just moved to rural Ballybeg, Ireland, with her mother. While exploring the woods near her new home one day, Mags hears music, follows it, and finds a girl named Gillian playing the violin. Before long, Mags is obsessed with helping Gillian track down her missing father to ask for plane fare to London, where she wants to audition to attend a prestigious music school. Mags (who talks directly to readers) claims that this is not a story in which "an awful lot of dreadful things happen to the same one or two people," but the friends' quest isn't all smooth sailing. Quirky characters and humorous narration make this touching story a winner.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Ancient myths & some tales old and new

Mythology makes for great storytelling! Ancient tales about gods and goddesses, heroes and villains have entertained people for thousands of years. Here are some exciting and colorful recent books that use old myths in new ways. Look for them using the World Catalog and search boxes here on BookBag.

Medusa Jones, by Ross Collins (Arthur A. Levine Books). Fiction. Medusa Jones can top anyone's bad hair day--she's got snakes on her head instead of hair! Medusa and her friends (Mino the minotaur and Chiron the centaur) are known as The Freaks and get picked on at school by the perfect, popular students, who call themselves the Champions. Medusa's parents won't let her turn anyone to stone, so she can't fight back. But when the Freaks and the Champions are teamed up on a class trip to Mount Olympus and disaster strikes, Medusa gets a chance to be the hero for a change. If you think it would be fun to imagine what gods and goddesses might be like as kids, you'll love this quick, funny read.

Walking With the Dead, by L.M. Falcone (Kids Can Press). Fantasy/Adventure. Twelve-year-old Alex has plenty to worry about; he can't get the time of day from the girl of his dreams, and he has to pay the local bully not to beat him up. But when Alex's dad brings home a mummy to add to his museum of "oddities" and a freak lightning strike resurrects the corpse, Alex and his friend Freddie find themselves journeying to the Underworld to clear the mummy of an ancient murder charge. Bullies are nothing compared to monsters from Greek mythology! Packed with action, humor, and suspense, Walking with the Dead is a must-read for fans of Jon Scieszka's Time Warp Trio series.

It's All Greek to Me, by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith (Puffin Books). Humorous Fiction. This 8th entry in the zany time-travel series that began with Knights of the Kitchen Table finds buddies Joe, Fred, and Sam transported to Hades just as they're about to go on stage for their school play on ancient Greece. Facing Cerberus, the three-headed dog that guards the Greek underworld, the three friends are certain they're about to be eaten--but they are only at the beginning of their adventures on Mount Olympus. If you like wacky stories that don't take long to read, be sure to check out the whole Time Warp Trio series. (This volume has a glossary of gods, goddesses, and monsters that will help you get all of its jokes.)

The Pig Scrolls, by Paul Shipton (Candlewick Press). Fiction. After he was turned into a talking pig by the sorceress Circe, Odysseus' former crewman Gryllus decided

to remain in pig form (it's easier than being human). Pie-loving, sarcastic Gryllus is perfectly happy as a pig...until pushy prophetess Sibyl nabs him and insists that he must help her save the world! Full of crazy antics involving gods, monsters, and really bad puns, The Pig Scrolls is a hilarious adventure story that Greek mythology buffs are sure to enjoy. Gryllus, who narrates the book, continues his epic tale in The Pig Who Saved the World.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

English as a Second Language guides and online resources

English as a Second Language is an important part of classroom learning. There are many English-language resources that can be used for ESL K-8 language learning as well. The range of language skills that young ESL learners need to acquire extends from basic speaking skills to expressing themselves in writing. These books focus on providing young ESL learners with all the skills they will need to succeed at school in an English-speaking environment. Search for these books at your local library using the World Catalog search box, or purchase a copy using the search box also here on BookBag.

Ready-To-Use ESL Activities for Every Month of the School Year by Carol A. Josel approaches the ESL classroom based on themes. There is a wide range of activities including stories which help students explore the English speaking world around them.

Reading, Writing, & Learning in ESL: A Resource Book for K-8 Teachers, by Suzanne F. Peregoy gives more in-depth information on young learner language acquisition and literacy development for ESL students. The book presents excellent background material and provides activities to put theory into practice.

101 Bright Ideas by Claire M. Ford provides a wide variety of helpful ideas and activities that can be easily applied to any classroom or learning situation. This book is for teachers and parents who want to enhance their lesson plans.

ESL Teacher's Activities Kit by Elizabeth Claire is a well-organized resource book. Activities are listed by subject as well as level. The activities employ a wide-range of modern teaching techniques, and should interest anyone who is looking to bring a more innovative style to their classroom teaching.

Suggested links for additional ESL practice

There are not many websites designed especially for elementary-age English language learners. In order to provide ESL students with extra practice in English, it is necessary to examine sites intended for English native speakers. Here's a short list of sites in English, grades K-8, that can be used for language and spelling practice in addition to ESL courses. For more information and other links, visit the Everything ESL website of Judie Haynes, co-author of four books on ESL. Reading instruction and reading games for students in Pre-K-1.

Reading is Fundamental.This site has many stories for Pre-K-Grade 2, and writing activities for students in Grades 2-5.

Kid's Lab -Great site with tons of terrific activities. Try the reading comprehension section. There's also a science vocabulary section. -a site with online stories and activities.

Reading-A-To-Z - This is a commercial site with free books that you can download and print. Grades 1-4.

Tumblebook Library - Click on "stories." A large collectionof stories from the Los Angeles Public Library. All grades.

MadLibs for Advanced Beginners in Grades 3-5.

Grammar Gorillas for Advanced Beginners in Grades 3-5

Stories for Kids for Advanced Beginners in Grades 3-5 -This site has multicultural children's stories told by famous storytellers. Be sure to click on "Listen to a story." For Grades 2-5

Arthur -Games from Arthur. Grades 2-5.

Scholastic - A program for kids to make flashcards. Grades 3-8.

Surfing the Net with KidsSite with games and puzzles in different subject areas.

Spelling Wizard - Use spelling words to make a word search or sentence scramble. Grades 3-6.

Word Game Intermediate students in grades 5-8.

Owl online This is a good grammar site for 6-12

FunBrain reading Intermediate students in grades 5-8.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

So you think you know dogs?

Some folk are cat people, others are dog people. Which are you? Here are books about "man's best friend" -- they may be furry and all have tails, but they're not all cuddly! Look for these here on BookBag: find a copy at your local library by searching on the WorldCatalog box, or use the Amazon search box to buy a copy.

A Dog for Life, by L. S. Matthews (Delacorte Press) Fiction. Brothers Tom and John are so close that they sometimes dream the same dream at night, and they also share a telepathic connection with their dog, Mouse. When Tom becomes ill and the doctor forbids the family from having any pets, both brothers are horrified by the prospect of losing Mouse. John sets out on a wild and crazy journey, with Mouse in tow, in an attempt to find their dog a temporary home with a long-lost uncle. Full of rollicking adventures, this funny, exaggerated, and magical "tail" shows what lengths a couple of boys will go to in order to keep a beloved canine.

Wild Dogs: Past & Present, by Kelly Milner Halls (Darby Creek) Nonfiction. If you're only acquainted with Pekingese, poodles, or other pets, you've met merely a twig's worth on the family tree. Wild dogs of today and their ancestors, who have traversed the planet since right after the dinosaurs, are the subject of this book filled with pictures, fascinating facts, and even a bit of folklore. Taking a close look at the various sorts of dogs living in habitats all over the world--from wolves to dingoes to coyotes and more -- Wild Dogs will give you an appreciation for your pampered pooch's untamed relatives.

Waggit's Tale, by Peter Howe; illustrated by Omar Rayyan (HarperCollins) Fiction. After running frantically all day around the big city park where his owner abandoned him, a small white puppy is taken in by a pack of wild dogs who live there. Learning how to survive from pack-leader Tazar and the rest of the strays, Waggit also earns a name when he can't seem to stop wagging. It's a hard life in the park; food is scarce, and Tazar's crew competes with another pack for it. But as long as they steer clear of the park rangers who want to send them to the Great Unknown (the pound), Tazar and his hardscrabble pack are, at least, free. If you like tales of adventure and survival, this dog story is the one for you.

White Star: A Dog on the Titanic, by Marty Crisp (Holiday House) Fiction. Twelve-year-old Sam Harris is sailing on the Titanic to America, where he is to see his mother for the first time in six years and meet his new stepfather. He's understandably nervous about his new life--but luckily, there are dogs on board the ship, and Sam spends most of his time hanging around the kennels and wishing that one special Irish setter named White Star could be his. But then disaster strikes--and amid the watery chaos, Sam is determined not to leave White Star behind. With bits of little-known history woven into its story, White Star is a gripping tale of survival for dog lovers and adventure fans alike.

City of Dogs, by Livi Michael (G.P. Putnam's Sons) Animal Fantasy. When Sam gets a puppy from Auntie Dot on his birthday, he has no idea that his new companion has been charged with saving the universe. As it turns out, Jenny, the scared little dog that Sam's aunt nearly ran over with her car, had just been fleeing the end of the world in another dimension. Now the peril of Jenny's former world threatens this one, and she must recruit help--a raggedy bunch of neighborhood dogs--to prevent the ultimate destruction of all Nine Worlds. With many wonderful canine characters, a dizzyingly complex plot, and elements of Norse and Greek mythology woven into its story, this exciting book is a sure bet for dog-loving fantasy fans.

Hachiko Waits, by Lesléa Newman; illustrated by Machiyo Kodaira (Henry Holt) Fiction. Every day, Professor Elizaburo Ueno tells his dog Hachi the same thing: "Hachi, you are the best dog in all of Japan." And every day, Hachi follows Professor Ueno to the train station, returns home, and later shows up promptly at three o'clock to greet his master and walk home with him. After the professor dies suddenly at work one day, Hachi is at the train station at 3:00 pm as always. Although friends of Professor Ueno's try to take Hachi in, he is unswerving in his loyalty and his hope that his master will return--so much so that he waits at the station every day for ten years. This fictional version of a true story, while heartbreaking, is also a great tribute to one very noble and faithful dog.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Escape with brand-new adventure stories for March

Here are stories to help you get away from it all! Travel back to the wild west, cross through France on a wild adventure, get tangled up in a spy caper with a clairvoyant pooch ... check out these chances to escape the winter blues by using the WorldCatalog and Amazon search boxes here on BookBag.

Calamity Jack, by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale; illustrated by Nathan Hale (Bloomsbury) Graphic Novel. In the authors' Wild-West retelling of the Rapunzel story, Rapunzel's Revenge, Jack (of beanstalk fame) helped the braid-whipping heroine in her quest to save her mother. This equally witty and exciting continuation of their story goes back to Jack's humble beginnings in the American city of Shyport, where the young scalawag gets into a heap of trouble and leaves town after tussling with the power-hungry giant Blunderboar. He later returns with Rapunzel, intent on freeing his own mother--and the entire city--from the giant's stranglehold. Fans of steampunk or humorous fantasy will love this "gleeful mix of fairy tale, adventure and romance" (Kirkus Reviews) which features bold, expressive artwork that brings the rambunctious story to life.

The Crimson Cap, by Ellen Howar (Holiday House) Historical Fiction. It's 1687, and 11-year-old Pierre Talon lives in a squalid French settlement in the New World with his mother and siblings. When famous explorer La Salle invites him to join an expedition to find the Mississippi River, Pierre accepts and departs with nothing more than the clothes on his back, a few hard biscuits, and the crimson cap that belonged to his father. The expedition party soon meets with trouble, and most of its members (including La Salle) are killed ... but Pierre is taken by the Hasinai Indians. This fast-paced and moving tale of Pierre's life with the Hasinai is based on a true story and will fascinate history buffs and adventure fans alike.

The Death-Defying Pepper Roux, by Geraldine McCaughrean (Harper) Adventure. Because his devout (and jealous) aunt was told so in a dream, everyone in Pepper Roux's family, including him, is convinced that he's going to die on the day that he turns 14. So when Pepper wakes up and finds himself both 14 and alive, he high-tails it out of town believing that the grim reaper must be on his heels. This rollicking and hilarious story follows Pepper's adventures -- at sea, wrangling horses, posing as a journalist, and more -- all across early-20th-century France, and it's sure to charm anyone who likes plenty of action and fascinating characters.

A Whole Nother Story, by Gerry Swallow writing as Cuthbert Soup; illustrated by Jeffrey Stewart Timmins (Bloomsbury) Humorous Adventure. Inventor Ethan Cheeseman is working on a time machine, and as a result, he and his three "smart, polite, and relatively odor-free children" are on the run from the CIA, several corporate agents, and a couple of international super-spies. With help from their clairvoyant dog and various colorful characters they meet along the way, the Cheesemans manage to stay one step ahead of their pursuers...for a while. Madcap misadventures, groan-worthy jokes, and irrelevant asides and unsolicited advice from the narrator make this hilarious romp a great pick for fans of Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events books.

I So Don't Do Spooky, by Barrie Summy (Delacorte Press) Mystery. Despite her reluctance, 13-year-old Sherry Holmes Baldwin (from I So Don't Do Mysteries) has another case to crack. Sherry's mom, a ghost, is trying to figure out who is stalking Sherry's stepmom, and she needs help. If Sherry can find the stalker and her mom can win first place at the Ghostlympics, the two of them will be granted five minutes of "Real Time" together, which means that Sherry's got to "get involved in a creepy, freaky mystery." But she so doesn't do spooky. This funny, clever novel does a great job of blending the everyday with the supernatural and also works in a touch of romance. Fans of Michele Jaffe's Bad Kitty graphic-novel mysteries should be well pleased.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Stories about history and far-away places

People read for a lot of different reasons -- but some people read because they like getting a mental picture of different places or times. The books below all have strongly-described settings that will make you feel like you've traveled to another world. Look for them at your library using the WorldCatalog link, or find copies in the Amazon search box, both here on BookBag.

The Falconer's Knot: A Story of Friars, Flirtation and Foul Play, by Mary Hoffman (Bloomsbury USA) Historical Fiction. Star-crossed lovers! Lies! Crimes of passion! Friars! Peril! And ... pigments! If you thought the Italian Renaissance couldn't possibly provide the setting for a rip-roaring romp of a mystery, think again. When gorgeous and wealthy Silvano is accused of killing a sheep farmer--the husband of the woman Silvano loves--he flees to Giardinetto, where the monks grind and mix pigments for a renowned fresco painter. But when people start dropping dead at the monastery, Silvano must find the true culprit and clear his name. Rich with detailed descriptions of medieval Italy (and about the process of making paints), this suspenseful tale will transport you back in time.

The Star of Kazan, by Eva Ibbotson; illustrated by Kevin Hawkes (Dutton Children's Books) Fiction. Instead of her birthday, Annika marks her Found Day, when Sigrid the housemaid and Ellie the cook discovered her abandoned in a church and took her home with them. Despite her happy life with Sigrid, Ellie, and many good friends, Annika still longs to meet her long-lost mother. When a glamorous, fine lady appears and claims Annika as her daughter, the girl is only too happy to be whisked off to her new-found family's estate...which turns out to be a big mistake. This richly imagined, suspenseful story is brimming with great characters and paints a vivid portrait of early-20th-century Vienna.

Lost Boy, by Linda Newbery (David Fickling Books) Fiction. Matt Lancaster is out riding his bike when a speeding car, nearly killing him, runs him off the road...where he finds a memorial to Martin Lloyd, a boy who was killed in a hit-and-run at the very same spot. Then Matt starts seeing Martin's ghost and meets the elderly man said to have been responsible for the boy's death, and the more questions Matt has about the past, the more complicated a puzzle it becomes to solve. This creepy and gripping mystery has a touch of the supernatural and gives readers a strong sense of its setting in the hills of Wales.

Over a Thousand Hills I Walk with You, by Hanna Jansen; translated from the German by Elizabeth D. Crawford (Carolrhoda Books) Historical Fiction. Eight-year-old Tutsi Jeanne d'Arc Umubyeyi lived a normal, happy enough life in Rwanda until the day in 1994 that her Hutu neighbors murdered her family and razed her home (Tutsis and Hutus are two groups of Rwanda's native peoples). This story details the unimaginable horrors that she witnesses and survives before being adopted by a German family. Descriptions of the time before the genocide give a clear picture of daily life in Rwanda, and accounts of the violence make Jeanne's experience painfully clear. Written by Jeanne's adoptive mother at the young girl's insistence, Over a Thousand Hills I Walk with You is an emotional and absorbing fictionalization of a true story.

Westminster Abby, by Micol Ostow (Speak) Fiction. Sheltered 16-year-old Abby Capshaw is traveling from New York City to London, where she hopes that her summer of study abroad will help her forget about her overprotective parents and her cheating boyfriend. Abby, who sees herself as "a little vanilla" (sweet, yet plain and not very exciting), hopes that the summer will be her chance to become more like a hot-fudge sundae. This 1st of 13 novels in the fun-and-fabulous Students Across the Seven Seas (S.A.S.S.) series brings the sights and sounds of London to life; readers who like to experience new places through reading will enjoy the rest of the books, in which students travel to places such as Italy, France, Spain, and China.

Night of the Howling Dogs, by Graham Salisbury (Wendy Lamb Books) Fiction. Dylan is excited about going camping with his scout troop at Halape, one of the most remote beach spots on Hawaii's Big Island, just beneath the Kilauea volcano. But when he learns that Louie Domingo, a thuggish older boy, will also be going on the trip, his excitement turns to worry. Louie is definitely intimidating--but he's no match for the earthquake and tsunami that strike after the boys reach their destination. Based on an actual 1975 disaster that the author's cousin experienced, this riveting survival tale incorporates Hawaiian legends and, with its vivid descriptions of the setting, makes readers feel as though they are on the Big Island right along with the characters.

Monday, March 8, 2010

March books for young readers

March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb, so they say, but here's a selection of books for young readers that feature ghosts, dogs, and sorcerers ... and outlaws, too. Fans of Dyamonde Daniel will enjoy her latest adventure,
Rich. Look for these books using the WorldCatalog and Amazon search boxes here on BookBag.

Shampoodle, by Joan Holub; illustrated by Tim Bowers (Random House) Easy Reader. It's picture day for dogs at the park, and a boy and girl take their seven pooches to the Shampoodle doggie salon to get them ready. But as soon as the dogs are bathed, a couple of cats slip in the pet door -- and the dogs all go crazy! With easy-to-read rhymes, very funny pictures (especially of the pups' hairdos), and slapstick action, Shampoodle is a book that will make younger readers howl with delight.

Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal, by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson; illustrations by R. Gregory Christie (Carolrhoda Books) Picture Book. Bass Reeves was born a slave but grew up to be one of the most feared and respected deputy U.S. marshals in late-1870s Indian Territory. This exciting biography starts with a bang--a shoot-out--before going back to tell Reeves' story from his childhood. Some of the lawman's escapades sound unbelievable, such as his tangle with a skunk or his frequent use of disguises to help him catch bad guys, but Bad News for Outlaws is the true story of a real American hero. Want to spend more time in Marshal Reeves' world? Check out the fictional book that Gary Paulsen based on his life, The Legend of Bass Reeves.

Over My Dead Body, by Kate Klise; illustrated by M. Sarah Klise (Harcourt) Fiction. In Dying to Meet You, readers met Seymour Hope, a boy who lives with a 190-year-old ghost named Olive C. Spence and a cranky children's-book author named I.B. Grumply. Seymour's negligent parents left him behind in order to travel abroad, but he's doing fine with the ghost and the writer--until Mr. Grumply gets carted off to an insane asylum. Then Seymour is sent to live in an orphanage, and it's up to Olive the ghost to free her housemates. Told in letters, newspaper clippings, and the like, Over My Dead Body is a quirky, hilarious read that fans of the authors' "Regarding the..." series will love.

Rich: A Dyamonde Daniel Book, by Nikki Grimes; illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (G.P. Putnam's Sons) Realistic Fiction. Dyamonde Daniel and her best friend Free (from Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel) are back in Rich, and a shy new student, Damaris, has joined their class. Dyamonde talks Damaris into entering the poetry contest that Free is so excited about--the one with 100 dollars as first prize--and Damaris' poem reveals a secret that she's been keeping. If you like stories about friendship and true-to-life characters facing real, everyday problems, you'll
enjoy getting to know Dyamonde and her pals.

The Blue Shoe: A Tale of Thievery, Villainy, Sorcery, and Shoes, by Rod Townley; illustrated by Mary GrandPré (Alfred A. Knopf) Fantasy. When the mayor of Aplanap imprisons Hap Barlo's father in the mines of Mount Xexnax, 13-year-old Hap is taken in by kindly village shoemaker Grel. Grel's shop, The Blue Shoe, is named for the remarkable, gem-encrusted shoe that sits in its window, custom-made for a mysterious stranger who never returned to claim it. When a jewel from the shoe goes missing, Hap is accused of the theft and sent to the mines...where a revolt against the greedy and ruthless mayor is brewing. The Blue Shoe is a book of fantastic adventures, with magic, great characters, a complicated plot, and a bang-up ending.