Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Ghost of Greyfriar’s Bobby

Written by: Ruth Brown

First line: “How long until we meet Mom and Dad?” Tom moaned.

Why you should read this book: Inspired by the true life story of a little dog’s devotion to his master, this charming picture book shows two modern children, bored of sightseeing, becoming interested in the history of Bobby. This faithful mutt spent fourteen years guarding the grave of his master, living in the churchyard, and being fed and cared for by the people of the village. A wonderful tale for jaded children, dog lovers, and history buffs.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: More of a cat person, really.

I Like Cats

Written by: Patricia Hubbell

First line: I like cats.

Why you should read this book: It’s full of delightful cats doing delightful (and sometimes not so delightful things). Simple rhyming couplets and bright cozy pictures comprise this list of kinds of cats that a person might like. The narrator, and presumably the reader, likes all of them.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: More of a dog person, really.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Nothing's Fair in Fifth Grade

Written by: Barthe DeClements

First line: Mrs. Hanson, our fifth grade teacher, was sitting at her desk grading papers.

Why you should read this book: Elsie Edwards is a fat, lying thief, and as far as Jenny Sawyer and her friends are concerned, that's three strikes against her. Nobody is willing to have anything to do with Elsie, until it turns out she's really good and math and Jenny can't understand fractions at all. When Elsie becomes Jenny's tutor, she learns to see Elsie through unclouded eyes, and as Elsie helps her, she begins to wonder what she can do to help Elsie.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Some of the ideas about weight in this book seem hopelessly quaint thirty years after its original publication.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


 Written by: Brian Selznick

First line: Something hit Ben Wilson and he opened his eyes.

Why you should read this book: Wonderstruck comprises two beautiful, intersecting storylines: Rose’s story, communicated mostly in Selznick’s wonderful black and white drawings, shows the journey of a deaf girl who runs away from home in pursuit of an actress in 1927; while Ben’s story, set in 1977, tells of an orphan who also runs away in search of the father he never knew. The two children’s tales share remarkable similarities, with each character initially finding disappointment in New York, followed by the wonder of discovering the American Museum of Natural History. With vast attention to detail, historical accuracy, and the real and tempestuous emotions of childhood, followed by a long bibliography on related content, this notable book makes for a satisfying read.

Why you shouldn’t read this book: You think of museums as cold, sterile, dead places.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Octopus: The Ocean's Intelligent Invertebrate

Written by: Jennifer A. Mather, Roland C. Anderson, and James B. Wood

First line: Octopuses are amazing animals.

Why you should read this book: Indeed, octopodes (not octopi, we learn) are amazing, and while much evidence of octopus intelligence is anecdotal, this book brings together peer-reviewed, experiment based evidence of the intellectual capacity of this short-lived, long-armed cephalopod, along with detailed information about the animal's physiology, neurology, hunting and mating behaviors, and other little-known data about these fascinating creatures. The three co-authors have spent decades studying octopuses (the preferred plural) in the ocean, the aquarium, and the lab, and have brought together the results of their findings: that they are indeed highly intelligent, easily adaptable problem-solvers with individual personalities and preferences. The book includes a lovely selection of color plates depicting various species engaged in a variety of behaviors, along with an appendix discussing how best to keep an octopus alive and healthy in captivity.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Reviewing evidence of animal intelligence might clash with your diet or your religious beliefs.