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The Tandem Library Books' Collection Development Team blogs about wise book choices for your library. The books featured on this blog are chosen by the librarians and teachers on the Collection Development Team. Publishers have no say in which books we blog about. The Sales and Marketing Departments have no say in which books we blog about. We write about the titles we think will appeal to the librarians and teachers who read this blog.
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1. Sometimes You Just Need a Vacation

Pictures_2   House_takes_2   Bestweekever

Everyone needs a break from the routine once in a while. But sometimes you’re so busy, all you can do is read about it. 

Take a good, old-fashioned cross country road trip with a family in Pictures From Our Vacation by Lynne Rae Perkins, author of the Newbery award-winning Criss Cross. Mom gives the kids instant cameras and notebooks, and off they go to document their travels. Some of it is typical road trip stuff and lots of things don’t go exactly the way they’d like on the vacation, but it all comes together at the end in this charming story. 

A great picture book from 2007 has a whole house going on vacation. The door, windows, chimney, and other parts of the house get together to decide where to go when their family leaves in House Takes a Vacation by Jacqueline Davies. 

Another new picture book featuring a summer vaction is A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever, by Marla Frazee. Inspired by her son's trip to "nature camp" with his best friend, this is a tongue-in-cheek look at how adults and kids sometimes have different definitions for the nature of "fun."

Whether you're planning an actual vacation or just yearning for a break, these picture books will transport you and leave you feeling refreshed!

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2. Frog Round Up

April is National Poetry, Garden, Humor, and Math Education month.  But did you know that April is also Nation Frog Month?  Here are a few titles that will get your readers jumping out of their seats.

Nic_bishop_frogs Nic Bishop Frogs, photographed and written by Bishop, is a companion to the 2008 Sibert Honor-winning book Nic Bishop Spiders.  With clear, informative text and vivid photos, this book about agile amphibians does not disappoint.  Readers will enjoy the author’s note at the end of the book which explains that some of these photos were taken in Bishop’s own backyard.  To get certain shots, he even trained a frog to catch food right in front of him!

Fun_facts_about_frogs_3 Great for beginning readers, Fun Facts about Frogs is another book full of wonderful  frog  photographs.  Author Carmen Bredeson teaches readers about frogs in a question-and-answer format.  Complete with a glossary and life-cycle diagram, Fun Facts about Frogs is a great pick-up.

Frogs_in_danger In more of an environmental twist, learn about how the environment affects frogs in Frogs in Danger by Jim Whiting.  Topics of mutated frogs, global warming, and the future of frogs are explored in this photo-filled title.  Readers will get information about what they can do to help the earth and the frog population.

Happy National Frog Month!

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3. Book of the Week: Knock, Knock!

Knock, knock!
Who’s there?
Gorilla who?
Gorill-a my dreams, I love you!

Knock_knock If you like this knock-knock joke by Tomie dePaola, you’ll be even more tickled and delighted when you pick up Knock, Knock!, the companion title to Why Did the Chicken Cross the RoadKnock, Knock! features fourteen well known children’s illustrators and showcases their take on the classic knock-knock joke.  Contributing artists/comedians include Chris Raschka, Peter Reynolds, Yumi Heo and David Small.  Children of all ages will be in suspense when reading the setup page and then laugh out loud when turning the page to reveal the funny and sometimes punny punch line.  Not only are the jokes comical, but the creative illustrations and pictures will send readers rolling on the floor laughing.

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4. Featured List: Money

Making_centsSmart_girls_guide_to_money_how_to_m High_school_money_book

For years financial education experts have asked for our schools help to improve students’ understanding of money matters.  Well today is no different!  There are so many great books out there with the sole intention of giving kids a leg up on preparing for financial decisions from the everyday to the more complex.  Here’s a list of books to help K-12 students with some basic financial skills that are- dare I say- fun as well as empowering.

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5. Wild West Round Up

Talesgizzards_2 Dirty Cowboys come in all shapes and sizes. There’s the lady-sheriff and the rest of the townspeople of Fiasco in Tales From Gizzard’s Grill by Jeanne Steig who have all sorts of adventures in this tall-tale-esque story. Ridin’ Dinos With Buck Bronco is another tall tale featuring a rancher who gets more than he bargained for with some strange eggs that turn out to be dinosaur eggs.

Catch a case of the cowboy sillies with The Toughest Cowboy by John Frank or the Dirty Cowboy by Amy Timberlake. The visual humor and nuance of these books will have kids wanting to read these books again and again.

Cowgirl_2  Cowboys aren't always boys, either. Erica Silverman has published four early chapter book so far about Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa, her horse. The newest title in the series is out this month: Cowgirl Kate and Cocoa: Rain or Shine.

Then there’s Cowboy Slim by Julie Danneberg. Slim wants to be a cowboy, but he writes poetry. What kind of cowboy writes poetry? At least, that’s what the other cowboys say, but little do they know the power of words. 

Pair these titles with some great nonfiction to tie it all together. Cowboys_wild Try classics like Cowboys of the Wild West by Russell Freedman or Cowboy Country by Ann Herbert Scott for a look at life in the wild west that will fascinate your primary grades audience.

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6. Book of the Week: The Little Rabbit Who Liked to Say MOO

The_little_rabbit_who_liked_to_say_ After spending time with quite a few bunny rabbits over the years I was pleased to meet Jonathan Allen’s Little Rabbit.  Knuffle Bunny, Bunnicula, Little Bunny Foo Foo, Peter Rabbit, Roger Rabbit, Edward Tulane, Runaway Bunny, and Velveteen Rabbit never left me wondering “What sound does a rabbit make?”; The Little Rabbit Who Liked to Say MOO by Jonathan Allen did. 

In the same style of computer animated artwork which brought to life Owl and Owly in I'm Not Scared! and I'm Not Cute!, Allen introduces us to Little Rabbit and his crew of farmyard friends. 

With simple, large text, students in grades PreK through 1 can easily join in a shout-out-loud storytime.  Readers will appreciate Little Rabbit’s individuality as he helps the other baby animals realize that they are not limited to their own language and can enjoy making other animals' sounds. 

Why not keep the silliness rolling with another animal picture book?  Lila Prap’s multilingual Animals Speak is a fun way to introduce how animals "speak" in other lands.  And in this book, they speak 41 different languages including English, Afrikaans, Farsi, and Romany.

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7. Classroom Connections: The Power of Words

Muck Journalists History hot off the presses! 

Warwomen Muckrakers by Ann Bausum takes us into the story of investigative journalism—sometimes called the “unofficial fourth branch of government”—and the reporters who used their medium to change America. History teachers covering the early twentieth century will want to use this book in their classrooms particularly for the more than 50 archival photos it contains.  Pair this with War, Women, and the News by Catherine Gourley and Journalists at Risk by George Sullivan for a history lesson with a focus on journalism.

English teachers reading The Jungle by Upton Sinclair or The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck with their classes may want to use Muckrakers to give students some historical context to these works of fiction that began with investigative journalism and ended with some big changes.  Bring it all together by showing your students how words are still making a difference in the way we live our lives today with books like Fast Food Nation (or the adaptation aimed at young people, Chew on This) or An Inconvenient Truth.

Jungle Grapes_2 Fastfood_2 Inconvenient

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8. Promoting Peace

Tastingthesky_2 “Singking in the sea
Of forgetfulness
I reach for the raft
of remembering.”

Wars might end, but they do not go away.  Many try to forget what they have experienced and move on from there, but others, like Ibtisam Barakat in the poem above, have chosen to remember.  To tell their stories.  To inspire a solution for the conflicts that have touched their lives so painfully.

On that note, you might want to pair Barakat’s memoir with more books about the Middle East

Lightyears_4 Shadows_4 Wheniwas_3

Or perhaps you can direct readers to other stories of war and conflict that may inspire them to come together for peace.

Memories_2 Overathousand_2 Priestsgrotto_3

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9. Book of the Week: Tasting the Sky

Tastingthesky “The small girl
I once was
Sings out this story.”

To three-year-olds fear is darkness or strangers or thunderstorms.  For three-year-old Ibtisam Barakat, fear was felt in every inch of her small body as her family had to suddenly evacuate as war broke out.  She ran barefoot with her family, friends, and neighbors to safety, but in a time of such upheaval, she never really felt safe.

Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood tells of the fear of living in Palestine in the 1960’s from the perspective of a very young child who, at the time, had little knowledge of why her life was suddenly so different.  The politics stay in the background of this memoir.  Instead we focus on life—childhood, culture, language—in spare and moving prose that sheds new light on what it means to grow up surrounded by war.  What it means to remember when everyone keeps telling her to forget.

View this book in the Tandem Library Books online bookstore.

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10. Pi Day: March 14th

Go_figure   Mathdict   Great_number

Is your school celebrating Pi, the famous and beloved number, this week? Many classrooms take a break at 1:59 pm on 3/14 to acknowledge Pi, affectionately known as “3.14159.” Of course, there are those who have memorized decimals beyond that, but here at Tandem Insights we’re content to carry it to the standard five decimals. Math teachers aren’t the only ones with ideas on how to celebrate this special number! Schools are finding many creative ways to commemorate Pi, including Pi poetry, Pi webquests, and Pi trivia games. Looking for books about Pi and other interesting math concepts? Here’s a list of books to help you celebrate Pi Day.

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11. Warmer Weather Round-Up

Spring  Planting_3 Tobelikesun

It’s been a long, cold winter. Finally, longer days and brighter sunshine are heralding some warmer weather! The vernal equinox that officially launches the spring season isn’t till next week, but we’re ready to get an early start with these picture books about springtime.

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12. Book of the Week: Lady Liberty

LadylibertyIn March of 1885, the newspaperman Joseph Pulitzer launched his second fund-raising campaign to help erect the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. The French government was prepared to donate the statue, but a pedestal needed to be built and the U.S. Congress had rejected a proposal to publicly fund it. You can discover the fascinating story behind the Statue of Liberty in Lady Liberty: A Biography. First-person prose poems give insight into the many people who were involved, from the French designers and engineers to the American contractors and advocates like Pulitzer who raised awareness of the project. Through the eyes of those who were there, readers learn how the massive statue was constructed and what its symbol of freedom meant to immigrants, then and now. A helpful timeline and bibliography will encourage readers to learn more. This book is a great picture book choice for older readers. View this book in the Tandem Library Books online bookstore.

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13. Fashion Design Round Up

The fourth season of Project Runway just wrapped up this week. To stave off any withdrawal symptoms, here are a couple fantastic fashion design books.

Vera_wang Fashion_design_the_art_of_style Fashion Design: The Art of Style by Jen Jones is a highly photographic, behind-the-scenes peek at fashion design and designers, past and present. And, taking a more in depth look at one designer, Vera Wang by Anne M. Todd delves into her design roots as well as what motivates and inspires her to create today.

Sew_subversive_2 Trendsetter_2 Interested in becoming a designer yourself? Check out these two tomes. Trendsetter: Have You Got What It Takes to Be a Fashion Designer? by Lisa Thompson looks at just what the title asks. And get started yourself by transforming clothes you already have with the ideas in Sew Subversive: Down and Dirty DIY for the Fabulous Fashionista by Melissa Rannals.

Poseur_2 Fashion can be fiction too. From the publisher of Gossip Girl comes Poseur by Rachel Maude. Four Hollywood Hills sophomore girls couldn’t be more different, so when a school class forces them together to create a fashion label, the sparks fly.

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14. Don’t Not Read These Books!

With Leap Year Day last week, we encouraged everyone to get out there and do something. This week, we’re featuring books about do not-ing. We dug around and found some wonderfully amusing and informative titles, all starting with Don’t or Do Not.

How could any list of Don’t books be complete without Mo Willems’s hilarious, perfect-for-reading-aloud Pigeon books: Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! and Don't Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!?

Dont_let_the_pigeon_drive_the_bus     Dont_let_the_pigeon_stay_up_late     Dont_squash_that_bug     Do_not_open

On the informative side, Don't Squash That Bug!: The Curious Kid's Guide to Insects by Natalie Rompella introduces insects through colorful photos, spreads, and sidebars, while Do Not Open: An Encyclopedia of the World's Most Intriguing Mysteries from DK is full of enigmas from the Mona Lisa's hidden past to the history of Area 51, from lost worlds to secret codes.

Don't forget to check out thist list of more great Don't books!

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15. Book of the Week: The Willoughbys

Willoughbys The tag along the bottom of the front cover—A Novel Nefariously Written & Ignominiously Illustrated by the Author—piqued my curiosity.  I was hooked by the end of the first chapter. The discussion therein of what to name a baby found on the Willoughby’s front porch sealed the deal. The baby is named Ruth because, as the oldest Willoughby child notes, they “are the ruthless Willoughbys.”

Hand this hilarious book about four children trying desperately to become orphans—while at the same time their parents try desperately to become childless—to fans of Lemony Snicket.

Author Lois Lowry pokes fun at various conventions found in orphan-heavy children’s books, even providing a bibliography at book’s end with amusing annotations for a handful of such books. Her Glossary is also not to be missed for those seeking to suck every last morsel of humor from this book. The nanny she has conjured up is a delight; instead of the horrid, mean type the Willoughby parents were seeking, this nanny is kind and an excellent cook to boot. Naturally, Lowry uses the nanny to take aim at yet another famous character: Mary Poppins. When asked if she is like the sugar- and song-dispensing caregiver, Nanny sniffs back, “Not one bit like that fly-by-night woman. It almost gives me diabetes just to think of her: all those disgusting spoonfuls of sugar! None of that for me.”

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16. Take a Leap Round Up

Happy Leap Day to all and especially happy birthday to everyone who was born on this special day!  Since Leap Day occurs only once every four years, take this opportunity to step out of your comfort level and try something new.

Hip_hop_2 Interested in joining the dance buzz and learning a few moves of your own?  Hip-Hop Dancing by Joan Freese will take you through hip-hop history, explain what type of clothing you should wear, and show how to do a few basic moves.  Once you get the hang of it maybe you (or your middle to high school-aged student) can form your own crew and win a few battles!

Dancing not your thing?  Try your hand in the kitchen with Spatulatta Cookbook by theSpatulatta_cookbook Gerasole sisters,  Olivia and Isabella (hosts from www.spatulatta.com).  Written for grades 3 and up, this creative cookbook is full of bright photographs, easy recipes, and sections that explain basic cooking skills and measurement.  Delicious and fun recipes like “Mashed Potato Ghosts” and “Yumbo Gumbo” really make this cookbook stand out from the rest – there’s even a section for snacks and another for vegetarians!

Strike_a_poseIf dancing and cooking are too stressful for you, then a relaxing activity like yoga may be what you are looking for.  Strike a Pose: The Planet Girl Guide to Yoga by Karen Birkemoe casually explains how yoga can be incorporated in your everyday life.  Organized for grades 5 and up, it covers a variety of poses, breathing, and meditation.  Simple illustrations will help readers execute and understand beginning yoga positions.

Take your leap today, unless you can wait until Leap Day 2012!

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17. Classroom Connections: Calendars

Clocks_and_calendars_2What has 366 days and happens every four years?  That’s right- it’s a leap year which  means 2008 has an extra day instead of the usual 365!  Curious little minds are bound to wonder why?  Help your students learn the answers by teaching about the history and concept of calendars.  Click here!

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18. Book of the Week: What Pet to Get?

Growing up in a pet-less house, except for the occasional goldfish, I always wondered what it would be like to have a pet, especially an exotic one.  As a child, my top three picks consisted of the following: an orangutan, a dolphin, and a tiger.  A little boy named Jack also has a pet wish list of his own in the book What Pet to Get? by Emma Dodd. 

What_pet_to_get Excited that his mom agreed that he may have a pet, Jack explores his endless pet possibilities.  Jack suggests that potentially an elephant, polar bear, or even a T-Rex may work.  His mom simply replies that an elephant “might squash the car,” the polar bear may not like the central heating, and the T-Rex wouldn’t be an option because it “has been extinct for sixty-five million years.”  What pet did both mom and Jack agree on?  Well, let’s just say that Jack’s “little” pet named Fang has a fold out page all to his self.  This fun and humorous story with bright, larger-than-life illustrations is a book that young children will enjoy.

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19. Book of the Week: House Takes a Vacation

Housetakes Ever wonder what’s going on at home while you’re sunning yourself at the beach?  Would you believe that your house is having an adventure of its own?  Hey, who says you get to have all the fun? 

When the Peterson family leaves for their vacation, their house decides that this might be a good time for it to get away from it all.  There is a bit of discussion about this.  Trying to get all the parts of a house to agree on a vacation destination is like getting all the members of a family to agree on where to go.  But eventually, they come to a consensus and take off.  All except the basement, who refuses to rise to the occasion.

The adventure ensues from there, full of puns and silly scenes with a house among oblivious vacationers.  Kids will love the silliness, especially if they are old enough to get the plays on words.  House Takes a Vacation by Jacqueline Davies is sure to be a hit at storytimes.

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20. Words and Wordplay for Kids

Zooswho I’ve been told I have the sense of humor of a five-year-old.  All the better to do my job, I reply.  And I must admit that I really do laugh at the silly stuff in all the picture books I see.  I still love the word play in Douglas Florian’s books of poetry.  My particular favorite line is from a poem about penguins in Zoo’s Who, which talks about “penguinter vacation.”  It never fails to get a chuckle from me.

Boldumbrellaphant Fans of silly poetry like Douglas Florian will not want to miss Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant by Jack Prelutsky in which animals are put with regular objects with unusual outcomes, much like in Scranimals.  I love the collage art by Carin Berger in this fun book poems.

Momanddadare Get to know words backwards and forwards in Mom and Dad are Palindromes by Mark Shulman.  This zany story has Bob freaking out after he learns about palindromes because it seems that palindromes are everywhere.  He can’t get away from them.  It’s fun to look for the hidden palindromes in the illustrations—there are over 100 to find in the book!

Whether you’re talking about homonyms and parts of speech or reading silly poems, these books will be sure to convince your students that language is fun.

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21. Featured Lists: Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone from Tandem Library Group!  In the spirit of the holiday we've put together three title lists to inspire you and your students to celebrate Valentine’s Day all year long.

Hug_time Id_tell_you_i_love_you_but_then_id_


Celebrate Valentine's Day K-5

Celebrate Valentine's Day 6-8

Celebrate Valentine's Day 9-12

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22. Tattoo Tomes

Tattoos…  They seem to be everywhere these days, especially on the arms of athletes. They’ve also made their way into books.  Here are a couple of our favorite tattooed tomes.

Black_tattoo_pb My favorite work of tattoo fiction is The Black Tattoo by Sam Enthoven. It tells the story of Jack and his super-cool friend Charlie, who wakes up one day with a super-cool, moving black tattoo. The tattoo gives Charlie super powers. Or so they think. The tattoo is actually the mark of the Scourge, an ancient demon out to destroy the world. And it’s up to Jack to stop it.

Foundling The Monster Blood Tattoo series by D.M. Cornish begins with Foundling. It follows the life of orphan Rossamund Bookchild, an orphaned boy stuck with a girl’s name, through a fabulously imagined fantasy world filled with incredible characters. Humans here fight a constant battle against the monsters, with the tattoos being the mark of a monster killer. Look for Lamplighter, the second book in this exciting series in April!

Bar_code_tattoo Another set of tattoo books is Suzanne Weyn’s Bar Code Tattoo and its sequel Bar Code Rebellion. In the world of these books, it’s 2025 and the government, controlled by a shadowy corporation, starts requiring bar code tattoos on everyone. Seventeen-year-old Kayla resists, especially after the tattoo drives her father to commit suicide, and becomes part of a rebellion.

Body_type One of the ALA Quick Picks in 2007 also featured tattoos: Body Type: Intimate Images Etched in Flesh by Ina Saltz. This one looks at typography, as it is used in tattoos, which might sound dull, but results in fabulous photos of tattooed messages that range from the hilarious to the deeply touching.

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23. Book of the Week: Oggie Cooder

Oggie_cooder In the past, comments from teachers on Oggie Cooder’s report cards have included words such as “unique,” “quirky,” “one-of-a-kind,” and “marching to his own drummer.”  His peers have been satisfied calling him “weirdo,” “dork,” “doofus,” “dweeb,” and “loozer.”  One description for Oggie readers of Sarah Weeks delightful middle-grade novel won’t be able to deny is leader.  But it isn’t until partway through Oggie’s fourth-grade year that anyone would dare follow this natural-born leader.  What turns things around?  He doesn’t begin to care about the clothes he wears or the games he dreams up.  He’s not suddenly interested in being friends with only the most popular kids in school or what all the people in Hollywood are doing.  It is Oggie’s unusual talent for charving cheese that unknowingly puts him on the path to fame and fortune.  Suddenly he’s the star of Truman Elementary School, his home town of Wauwatosa, and beyond--just being himself.

Oggie’s zany lust for life, along with an interesting story with true boy appeal, will strike a goofy chord with readers in grades 3-6 who have encountered changes and new experiences, as well as worries about friends and friendship.  After spending some time with Oggie, we all can look to the beat of our own drummer for inspiration.

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24. The Cybils 2007 Awards and Honors Announced

As you may remember from last year Tandem Library Books was eager to promote the Cybils’ freshman year to our customers, including the fact that one of our own, a longtime book blogger Mindy, was involved as a panelist and an administrator. 

Mindy and the entire Cybils Team did it again and we are thrilled to highlight this year’s Cybil winners, which were announced February 14, 2008.

The 2007 Cybils Winners are:

Boy Toy
Young Adult Novels Winner

The Professor's Daughter
Graphic Novels Winner--Young Adult

Artemis Fowl: The Graphic Novel
Graphic Novels Winner--Elementary/Middle Grade

Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood
Nonfiction Middle Grade/Young Adult Books Winner

A Crooked Kind of Perfect
Middle Grade Novels Winner

The Chicken Chasing Queen of Lamar County
Fiction Picture Books

Nonfiction Picture Books Winner

The True Meaning of Smekday
Fantasy & Science Fiction Winner--Elementary/Middle Grade

Book of a Thousand Days
Fantasy & Science Fiction Winner--Young Adult

This Is Just to Say
Poetry WinnerArtemis_fowl_the_graphic_novel_2 A_crooked_kind_of_perfect Book_of_a_thousand_daysBoy_toy_2 Lightship    

                                                                                            Don't miss your chance to be involved with this one-of-a-kind award by nominating your favorite titles of 2008 this Fall at www.cybils.com!

Tasting_the_sky_a_palestinian_chi_4 Professors_daughter_3The_chickenchasing_queen_of_lamar_4 This_is_just_to_say_3 True_meaning_of_smekday_3

                                                                     Here  are  all  62   honored   titles  from   2007.

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25. Polar Bear Day Round Up

Lonesomepolarbear On February 27th, Polar Bear Day celebrates the world's largest carnivore.  It may be a big, meat eater, but somehow it often looks a bit cuddlier in children’s books than it might in real life.  Just look at how cute the little polar bear is in Lonesome Polar Bear by Jane Cabrera.  All the little cub wants is a friend to play with, but it’s hard to find a friend when all the other animals think of you as a big, scary predator as described in Sandra Markle’s Polar Bears in her Animal Predators series from Carolrhoda, which features a photo of a mother and cub feasting on a bloody carcass on the very first page.    Two very different depictions of the same animal.  One will appeal to storytime audiences and the other will be perfect for your reluctant readers looking for something a bit graphic.

Polarstar_3 Polarbearsare_3 Polarbears_3 Facetoface_3

Polar Star by Sally Grindley is an accurate yet gentle look at the polar bear as a hunter that blends fact and fiction as it follows a mama bear searching for food with her cubs.  Polar Bears are Hungry by Carol Carrick has a similar story, but a slightly different focus.  In spare text, the point is put forth that our warming temperatures are making it difficult for polar bears (and other animals) to find food.  This is a good choice for talking about the environment, global warming, and endangered species possibly paired with Polar Bears in Danger by Helen Orme and Face to Face with Polar Bears by Norbert Rosing for the latest facts on the polar bear population.

Pairofpolar Knut_2 Make friends with real polar bears in Pair of Polar Bears by Joanne Ryder and Knut: How One Little Polar Bear Captivated the World by Carig Hatkoff.  Both are filled with vivid photographs of baby bears that will capture your heart.

Happy Polar Bear Day!

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