Friday, October 17, 2014

Reading Together Project

The Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans and the Minnesota Humanities Center have jointly published this series of four picture books.  The Reading Together Project seeks to address the lack of children's books that speak to the experience of being an Asian Pacific Islander child or youth in the United States.  The project supports the development of English literacy skills while recognizing cultural heritage, and allowing children to learn about their cultural background.

The four books are:

Link and the Red Envelope (Hmong)

The lunar new year is here, and Linh wants to help her mother prepare for the big celebration, but she keeps making mistakes.  Can she fix the messes in time to earn a lucky red envelope?
Author: Diane Tran
Illustrator: Alex Patrick Shimkus

Tawan; The Sun Girl (Laos)


 A child's name is carefully chosen and the child must strive to live up to that name. If the child fails, it can bring sadness and misfortune.  Each of the characters in this story have been given a special name.  When a true test knocks on their door, will Tawan, Din, Nom, and Prince Jaiboun be able to live up to their names?

Author: Chay Douangphouxay
Illustrator: Alex Kuno

Night Breeze (Philippines)

Ian loves to look at the night sky, and wants to know the story of his birth mother, and his adoption from the Philippines.  Who is his mother and why did she leave him at an orphanage?

Author: Stephen Wright
Illustrator: Ilhwa Gloria Kim

Melody of the Qeej (Hmong)

Hengxue was too busy playing soccer and being with his friends to take an interest in the ancient qeej.  But one day his two best friends become curious about the instrument, and their curiosity took them to visit Grandfather, who taught the boys about the importance of the qeej during Hmong funerals.  Phengxue realizes he might want to learn the play the qeej.

Author: Mai Kou Xiong
Illustrator: Vang Lee

Friday, October 3, 2014

Fat Boy vs. The Cheerleaders

Addicted to Mountain Dew Code Red, sixteen-year-old Gabe is angry when he learns that the cost of pop from the school vending machine has gone way up.  Furthermore, the funds being raised are no longer going to the school band (of which Gabe is a member), but to the cheerleaders.  Gabe is in for a learning experience -- from personal weight control, to improving relations with his father, to leading a small rebellion against the change, and feeling the first twinges of romance with a Goth girl. Funny, with food for thought for teen readers, this latest book from Geoff Herbach is a fast read, but could spark class discussion of several teen issues.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

It's an Orange Aardvark

 A group of carpenter ants live in a tree stump.  One day, an ant decides to drill to the outside of the stump to see what's there.  The other (more pessimistic) ants think that's a bad idea.  What if there's an aardvark out there?  Everybody knows that aardvarks eat ants. The first ant drills the hole anyway, and sees something orange (could it be an orange aardvark?). This delightful read-aloud story for young children will introduce the colors of the rainbow.  Add some mystery and word play, and this is fun for all (even adults reading the story).
Minnesotan, Michael Hall, author of My Heart is a Zoo, Cat Tale, and Perfect Square, is the creator of this color fest.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Gifts from the Gods: Ancient Words and Wisdom from Greek and Roman Mythology

Victory, echo, fate, mortal, furious, Grace, grateful, janitor---these are just a few everyday English words that take their origin from ancient Greek and Roman mythology.  The brief stories in this collection introduce readers to the ancient myths, and explain how the stories are related to today's common words.  It's a wonderful introduction to Greek and Roman mythology for intermediate and middle school readers, and is a great resource for the English classroom.  Lise Lunge-Larson is the Minnesota author behind this clever book, and the action-filled illustrations by Gareth Hinds bring the stories to life.

Monday, August 4, 2014

West of the Moon

Astri is a thirteen year old Norwegian girl who has been lent (sold?) to a cruel goat
herder. She is determined to escape and travel to America to join her widowed father.  The story is told in three parts:  service to the goat herder; the daring escape to the coast; and travel to America.  Several Norwegian folktales are woven into the story, and they inspire Astri to hold onto hope despite her dire circumstances. The story is conceived from a statement in the diary of the author's great-great-grandmother.  Minnesota author Margi Preus, has written another winner for intermediate and middle school readers.  It might be a good read-aloud to accompany immigration units.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Water Can Be...

Water is an important part of the earth's environment.  This picture book by Laura Purdie Salas uses poetry to explore the many things that water can be -- from garden soaker, to thirst quencher, to drink cooler and fire snuffer, among others.  Illustrations by Violeta Dabija add to the mood of each page.  Back matter including a glossary and explanatory material for each water property add to the usefulness as a classroom resource for primary science units on the forms of water.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Plant a Pocket of Prairie

The author/illustrator team of Phyllis Root and Betsy Bowen have produced another winner about Minnesota ecosystems--this time the native prairie of southern and western Minnesota. Readers are encouraged to plant a pocket of prairie to help reestablish that rich ecosystem of birds, insects, flowers, grasses and other features that we have nearly lost.  Back matter includes more information on the plants and animals featured, as well as the prairie ecosystem in general.  A great classroom resource for intermediate level science or social studies units studying Minnesota ecosystems.