August 28, 2012


I'll be taking a break for the next two weeks. Look for new posts beginning Sept. 11th.

August 23, 2012

Running a business

The Lemonade War
by Jacqueline Davies

Jessie and her brother Evan were going to open a lemonade stand together. But now he’s mad at her and she doesn’t know why. Jessie has just skipped a grade, and will be in Evan's class when school starts. She thinks it’ll be fun. Evan, on the other hand, worries about looking stupid in front of his younger sister. Hence it fuels his sense of competition with her. So instead of being business partners, they're now hostile rivals trying to be the first to sell more than a hundred dollar’s worth of lemonade. 

Entertaining and useful, The Lemonade War not only shows children engaged in work and managing moneybut also about the dynamics of sibling relationships. Plus it also shows readers how to run a business while raising interesting questions about the ethics of competition, as demonstrated when Jessie sabotages Evan's lemonade and Evan steals her money. 

With chapters like Underselling, Negotiation, Crisis Management, and Reconciliation, the book is a fun way to teach kids how to run a successful lemonade stand. And they'll enjoy the story too!

August 21, 2012

Getting unstuck

11 Birthdays
by Wendy Mass

Amanda and Leo were born on the same day. Ever since they accidentally celebrated their first birthday together (when their parents rent the same hall), they've been having joint birthday parties. Until they turn ten. That's when Amanda hears Leo telling some boys that she has no friends. She flees the party, not speaking to Leo for an entire year.

So for their eleventh birthday, they've planned separate parties. And Amanda's day goes very wrong. She doesn't make the gymnastics team, her mother gets fired, and all her friends leave her house early to attend Leo's much grander celebration. She's relieved when it's finally over, though shamed that she'll never live it down.

But then the reader and Amanda get a big surprise. The next day, she turns eleven again, with a repeat of the day's events. In fact, Amanda is going to turn eleven, eleven times. And so does Leo. As Amanda makes different choices on her do-over days, she begins to see how some actions are better, or worse, than others. But the main choice involves Leo. Not until they start talking again, join forces, forgive the past, and become best friends again does their curse lift. (hint: It involves a strange sort-of fairy godmother.)  

A fun take on Groundhog Day, with a much more meaningful twist.

August 16, 2012

Smart rats invade town

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents
by Terry Pratchett

Everyone knows about the Pied Piper of Hamelin, where the rats are piped out of town and drowned in a river. But it's not true. Rats can swim and Pratchett's rats can think. How they became educated is cause for speculation. Maybe it was something they ate. Whatever it was, it affected Maurice the cat as well. 

Smart and conniving, Maurice has engineered the perfect scam. Get a stupid-looking kid with a pipe and a bunch of intelligent rats and you've got an easy way to de-rat a town. The problem, however, is that once you start thinking, you can't stop thinking, and Maurice's rats are beginning to question the ethics about the whole scheme. They'd rather settle down on a nice island with no humans to bother them. The town of Bad Blintz, they decide, will be the last con. But there's something not right about Bad Blintz. There are rat traps and poisons, but no rats. A lot of fear though, and a voice that can control both rats and humans alike. 

Part fantasy, part horror, part philosophical essay, this is a thoroughly engrossing tale that can only spring from the inventive mind of the incomparable Terry Pratchett.

August 14, 2012

Mechanized fun

How Dogs Really Work
by Alan Snow

Snow uses humorous diagrams to explain the dog's inner workings, which involve lots of gears, cogs, bolts, and switches. Adding further to the absurdity, these mechanics are operated by little dogs within the big one. Snow then offers insights into dog maintenance and communication in a fun spoof of dog-training manuals.

For all dog lovers.

Other mechanical animals abound in Chris Tougas' Mechanimals.  In this fanciful tale, a farmer makes do after a tornado sweeps away all his animals. Deciding to turn disaster into a masterpiece, he creates a rooster-bot loud enough to wake people up in China. He then makes other bots to help run the farm. The chick-bots are especially cute.


August 9, 2012

Sire of greatness

King of the Wind: The Story of the Godolphin Arabian
by Margeurite Henry

When Sham was born, he had a white spot on his heel, which was the emblem of swiftness. But he also had the wheat ear on his chest that foretold evil. Yet he was a handsome colt, so he was sent, with six other Arabian horses, as a gift to the King of France. Sham was accompanied by his handler, a mute boy named Agba.

The King of France, being a spoiled boy at the time, was not interested in Sham, who had been greatly starved during the long voyage across the seas. Sham was put to work as a cart horse and later sold to a succession of owners, some of whom treated him cruelly. Sharing in all the misfortune is the loyal Agba.

Fans of Black Beauty will enjoy Henry's book, which is the highly fictional story of how Sham's noble pedigree was finally recognized. Although he never raced, Sham went on to sire many fine racehorses, most notably Man o' War.

August 7, 2012

Paean to wild horses

Ancient Thunder
by Leo Yerxa

The magical exuberance of wild horses are celebrated in this wonderful picture book by Leo Yerxa. His extraordinary artwork - on handmade watercolour paper - and poetic words beg for multiple readings. A book to be treasured.

August 2, 2012

Be a choreographer

Learn to Speak Dance: A Guide to Creating, Performing, and Promoting Your Moves
by Ann-Marie Williams
design and illustrations by Jeff Kulak

A handy how-to book for creating your own moves and forming your own dance groups. Good chapters include Making Dances, which has tips about choosing the music and teaching the steps, Performing Live, which shows how to make sets and costumes, and On the Scene, which provides ideas about promotion and fund-raising.