A Tour of the Planets. O.

Berger, Melvin. A Tour of the Planets. O. 1994.

Kids interested in the solar system will be interested in this book, although outside knowledge will have outstripped what’s in it.  This book predates the naming of Pluto as a dwarf planet and the discovery of the Oort cloud of dwarf planets and comets beyond it.

Outer space, nonfiction, planets, solar system, o

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Strange Creatures. O.

Cartwright, Pauline. Strange Creatures. O. 1999.

Tarek and Zimm of the starship Astra have crashed on a strange planet with poisonous flowers and helpful, telepathic two-legged badgers.  This book is part of a series, but does not mention the fact on the outside; some of the story may seem non-sequitur-ish without knowledge of who the characters are and how they relate to each other. Fairly simple language (and very simple structure) for a level O book, aside from some jargon outer space/science fiction terms. Chapters are 4-6 pages long.

TAGS: fiction, chapter, science fiction, outer space, aliens, O

Good Grief Third Grade. O.

INFO: McKenna, Colleen O’Shaughnessy. Good Grief Third Grade. O. 1993.

DESC: Another one in the perpetual 90’s craze for “3rd grade dramas,” McKenna sets her Good Grief Third Grade in a New Jersey Catholic school. Here, we meet our hero, Marsha Cessano, who starts us off by swearing that 3rd grade is going to be a good year. She’s written out her goals and made agreements with her parents and everything. That’s a high bar to set, after all, because poor, spirited Marsha has herself an enemy – the equally spirited Roger Friday, who’s dead-set on making her life a misery. When the hateful dynamic rears its ugly head in the first weeks of school, Marsha changes her plan, and starts scheming up ways to get rid of Roger. THEN, enter beautiful Ms. Murtland – student teacher extraordinaire, Southern belle, and Marsha’s crush for most of the novel. Ms. Murtland, with some help from the alphabet, has broken the class into “buddy” pairs to help her complete her year-long research project – and Marsha, poor Marsha, is stuck with … you guessed it. The Friday kid. Will Marsha and Roger learn to make-love-not-war? Will Marsha be able to “turn it around”? Was 3rd grade really this crazy, for everybody!? What reads as a bit dramatic to the adult eye probably reeks of verisimilitude for our young charges. This book seems to be a popular hit – even as the antics between Marsha and Roger escalate, and become somewhat predictable in their annoyance – and is highly recommended for our Americorps kids!

TAGS: 3rd grade dramas, catholic school, feuds, boy-girl wars, 3rd grade wars, misbehavior, impressing teachers, O, chapter, fiction, popular

Staying Nine. O.

INFO: Conrad, Pam. Staying Nine. O. 1988.

DESC: Heather adores being nine – and, suddenly, on the eve of her 10th birthday, she’s got a mortal terror of turning any older. With the help of her mother, and her uncle’s girlfriend, Heather is set on finding a way to remain nine. A cute look at the rather bittersweet themes of growing up and aging, Staying Nine is most notable in its portrait of mother-daughter life in a single-parent household.

TAGS: growing up, birthdays, mom & daughter, staying the same, changes, dreams

Saving the Yellow Eye. O.

INFO: Darby, John. Saving the Yellow Eye. O. 1999.

DESC: An exceptional – and rare – higher-level non-fiction book, written by a conservation biologist who devoted his life to working to protect the rare Yellow Eye penguins of New Zealand from extinction. Perfect for animal lovers and science & ecology buffs alike (or anyone, truly), the volume chronicles Darby & Co.’s attempts to protect the penguins in a series of four short chapters. Text features such as graphs,  diagrams, maps and a glossary abound. Saving the Yellow Eye especially lends itself towards writing and reflection activities, since so much trial & error, inference, and scientific method guides Darby in his conservation efforts. A truly incredible portrait of the life of a working scientist actively involved in saving animals, habitats and heritage – so grateful that Darby took the time to write this wonderful book for kids!

TAGS: conservation, ecology, extinction, penguins, animals, protecting animals, biology, biologists, scientists, working with animals, jobs with animals, new Zealand, rare animals, non-fiction

Tornado. O.

INFO: Byars, Betsy. Tornado. O. 1996.

DESC: Classic later-period Betsy Byars! This charming tale is a must for any who are fans of the “boy-and-dog” genre. Interestingly, like Bunnicula, it also features a fairly complex frame narrative structure which keeps readers on their toes, and can be the source of many good orienting conversations about which story we are “inside” of at each moment. The story begins with a boy and his family gathered into their storm cellar with Pete, their farmhand, as a twister descends on their farmstead. Our narrator’s father, “Link” Lincoln, is trapped outside in his fields as the tornado hits. To calm everyone’s nerves, Pete begins to tell a series of interwoven stories about his time on his own farm down tornado alley – and the time he found a dog, doghouse and all, plopped down in his yard by a twister! The saga of Pete and “Tornado” that ensues is by turns funny, witty, original, and heartbreaking. This is an unforgettable and highly engaging story full of both enduring human themes and strong regional flair – and it will have even stronger resonance as students turn their eyes to the aftermath of the tragedies in Oklahoma this year.

TAGS: tornados, storms, farmlands, rural, pets, dogs, boy and dog stories, historical fiction, folktales, tall tales, storytelling, complex narrative, frame narrative, families, farming, farms, Oklahoma, O, fiction, chapter, humor