Rappaport, Doreen, and Taveres, Matt. Lady Liberty: A Biography
May 13th 2008 by Candlewick Press
Copy received from Young Adult Books Central and reviewed there.
Told from multiple viewpoints in free verse, this slim volume covers a lot of little known and interesting facts about the design and implementation of the Statue of Liberty. Starting with Eduoard de Laboulaye, a Frenchman who wanted to thank the US, on the occasion of our 100th birthday, for setting France on their own road to independence, this book considers the points of view of workers, people who donated money, and people who saw the statue upon their arrival to the US. Accompanied with illustrations, this brings to life the importance of this national landmark.
Strengths: This is a topic that is good for students to know about, and this is a good length and reading level for a wide range of younger students.
Weaknesses: Like One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin, this suffers from horrible formatting. The words are crammed on one side of a two page spread in maybe an 8 point font. The pictures are okay, but not fantastic enough to crowd out the text. This would have benefitted significantly from being a larger format book with larger type, or even from giving an entire page to the text. It may sound ridiculous, but students base a lot of their choices on the size of the text. I have not been able to get anyone to check out the Charles Darwin book, which is a shame. Good text should not have to suffer from bad formatting choices.
Brown, Jennifer. Life on Mars
August 5th 2014
by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Nominated for the Cybils by Bibliovore
Arcturus Betelgeuse (Arty) and his friends Tripp and Priya are working on the Clandestine Interplanetary Communications Module (CICM) that might allow them to talk to Martians. Arty's dad works at a planetarium, and the whole family is nuts for space, except for sisters Vega (who is more interested in her boyfriend) and Cassie (who is more interested in cheerleading). When their father loses his job and finds a new one in Las Vegas, Arty is mortified because the skies will have too much light pollution for him to continue his work. When the parents have to look for houses in Las Vegas, they leave the children with a pregnant aunt, who of course goes into labor. The sisters go visit friends, but Tripp and Priya are busy, so Arty goes to the home of a new and shadowy neighbor, Cash. His parents don't even know Cash's name, but it turns out that Cash was in the space program but never got to space. He and Arty start hanging out together before the family has to move, and Arty tries to make his peace with leaving his friends and his home.
Strengths: Lots of nice curriculum tie ins and good details on the friendships both with the children his age and with Cash. It was nice to see a story about a boy with a particular interest and passion for a topic. Good cover.
Weaknesses: Found it hard to believe that Arty's mother would send him to be with a neighbor she didn't even know, and the beginning of the book was a tad science heavy. I'll encourage students to struggle through the odd family names and get to the story.
Side note: Even I was not crazy enough to name my children Aurelia and Zenobia, which I was tempted to do. That's just mean, to give your children weird names.
It's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday at Ramblings of a Wannabe Scribe and What Are You Reading? day at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.