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New in November

November 12, 2008

Some of the new books in the Meeteetse library and a few thoughts on how you might use them.

Angel Girl by Laurie Friedman with illustrations by Ofra Amit — Monica Edinger, a fourth grade teacher in New York and one of my favorite education bloggers, has some reservations about teaching the Holocaust to young children. I mention this by way of warning you that although Angel Girl is ultimately a hopeful story, it is also a very dark book. As always, I think that choosing books for children requires us to consider the individual child. You will know whether the topic is appropriate for your classroom or for a particular student. Angel Girl is based on the true the story of a boy imprisoned at a concentration camp and a girl who brought him apples. Decades later, long after the war was over, the two met in New York and are now married.

Duel!: Burr and Hamilton’s Deadly War of Words by Dennis B. Fradin with illustrations by Larry Day — I swear has gotten more interesting in the past few years — or at least the books written about it have gotten more interesting. This book chronicles how Aaron Burr, Vice-President of the United States, and Alexander Hamilton, former Secretary of the Treasury, went from being friends during the war to deadly rivals. It’s a gripping story, but it’s also a good primer on how a lot of things about politics haven’t changed. Pick up this handsome volume to find out who survives!

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson — We tend to think of history in a rather orderly fashion, with people neatly divided into Loyalists and Revolutionaries, Northerners and Southerners, freedom fighters and evil empires. Anderson takes on some of those groups in this story about slaves owned by Northern Loyalists at the time of the Revolutionary War. Though the book is steeped in historical research, the story itself is gripping. Check it out to see if Isabel and her sister Ruth escape to freedom. There are some great resources for teaching the book on Anderson’s website.

One of the things that has been most interesting to me as a librarian and a reader is the development of graphics in literature. Graphic novels — stories that are told as much in pictures as they are in words — have really come in to their own in the past few years. Visual story telling is not just for superhero comics any more. All kinds of stories, for all kinds of readers, now get graphic treatment. We’ve known for a long time that there are different styles of learning, and more and more we have the materials to meet those different styles. Two particularly great — and very different — graphic stories arrived in the library this month.
Thoreau at Walden by John Porcellino and Henry David Thoreau — Porcellino is a comic book artist in Denver who was approached by the Center for Cartoon Studies (yes, there really is such a thing) about doing some kind of life of Thoreau for a series they were planning. He spent quite awhile reading and taking notes on Thoreau’s works, and the result is this combination of text from Thoreau and drawings from Porcellino. It’s categorized as a children’s book, but I think almost anyone of any age would get something from it. Of course, I am also a Thoreau fanatic, so I may be somewhat biased.

Into the Volcano written and illustrated by Don Wood — I’ll let author and illustrator Wood tell you about this book himself.

The Red Tree by Shaun Tan — If you picked this up right after finishing Angel Girl, you might conclude that this is Depressing Picture Book Month.

Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve — Another retelling of the Arthur story, with starred reviews from Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and Kirkus, a confluence almost always guaranteed to mean a great book.

Toot and Puddle written and illustrated by Holly Hobbie
Fanny written and illustrated by Holly Hobbie — A patron recently asked if we had any of Holly Hobbie’s Toot and Puddle books. As it happens, we did not, so I thought it was high time to get one. Toot and Puddle are pigs — probably among the most charming pigs you have ever met –and they are also friends, though their tastes are very different. As I was looking through reviews, I discovered her new book, Fanny, which is about a girl who wants a very specific kind of doll that her mother will not buy her, and what kind of a doll she makes instead.

Monster Goose by Judy Sierra with illustrations by Jack E. Davis — Devilish takes on familiar nursey rhymes.

In a Blue Room by Jim Averbeck with illustrations by Tricia Tusa — Alice claims she can’t go to bed unless everything in her room is blue.

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things by Lenore Look with illustrations by Leuyen Pham — A beginning chapter book about a boy who can’t seem to speak at school, though he is smart and funny on the page.

Steinbeck’s Ghost by Lewis Buzbee — A few years ago, the public library in Salinas, California, John Steinbeck’s old stomping grounds, almost had to close due to budget cuts. In this novel, Buzbee introduces 13-year-old Travis Williams, who gets involved in the fight to save the library and gets some help from several of Steinbeck’s characters.

Minn and Jake by Janet S. Wong with illustrations by Genevieve Cote — A novel in verse about the emerging friendship between 5th graders and outsiders Minn, who just lost her best friend, and Jake, who is teased mercilessly for being short.

Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson — A prequel to Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series.

The Hunger Games by Suzane Collins — It’s the near future, and the United States has been replaced by a dystopic North American conglomerate called Panem. Every year, Panem chooses two teens — a boy and a girl — to participate in the Hunger Games, a fight to the death. Think 1984 meets Survivor.

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