Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Lady Hahn and her Seven Friends (by Yumi Heo)

Summary of Lady Hahn and her Seven Friends (by Yumi Heo):
"Long, long ago when tigers still smoked pipes, there lived Lady Hahn."  Her job was to sew shirts and skirts with the help of her friends--Mrs. Ruler, Newlywed Scissors, Young Bride Needle, Young Bride Red Thread, Old Lady Thimble, Young Lady Flatiron, and Little Miss Iron.  One day, they each boasted about their talents, declaring "I am the most important of all."  After being scolded by Lady Hahn, they hid from her. Lady Hahn wisely brings them all back together--but not until she learns an important lesson herself.    

                                 Evaluation:
This folktale tale comes from a classical Korean essay.  While the story creatively personalizes the essential items needed to sew, it teaches some important lessons about human nature.  First, the characters begin with self-centered and boastful attitudes which are reflected in Lady Hahn’s response as well. She declares they are all silly because she is the most important.  Without her hands, they would all be superfluous. Next, the story illustrates how quickly people can turn to fussing and complaining when things don’t go their way or when they feel unappreciated.  Finally, Lady Hahn and her sewing friends realize that each one of them is necessary to successfully create a new garment. She states:  “I forgot how important all of you are.  A shirt cannot be made if one of you is missing.”  Ultimately, everyone’s input and cooperation are necessary for success and harmony.  

The illustrations, created with rich oil colors and pencil drawings, primarily use playful shapes and patterned backgrounds.  A range of emotions is captured well to reflect the narrative.  For instance, when Lady Hahn is attempting to sew a sleeve without her seven friends, her face is distressed in various stages of the process the circular shapes and random placement of figures effectively portray frustration.   When the friends return, everything on the page is orderly and cheerful. 

I recommend Lady Hahn and her Seven Friends for ages 4 and up.   The story is multicultural, educational, and entertaining.  

Monday, January 21, 2013

NonFiction Monday: The Story of Snow (by Mark Cassino & Jon Nelson)

We are in the month of January, the middle of winter.  We had our first little bit of snow last week, so this NonFiction Monday selection is the perfect tie in for many teachers and parents around the country. 

The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder (by Mark Cassino with Jon Nelson):
Part narrative, part science lesson Cassino and Nelson reveal the secret life of a snow flake.  I say “secret” because it is largely microscopic.  The story commences on “a winter day, high up in the sky, in a cloud that is very, very cold.”  Interestingly, snow begins with a speck—but not of water.  These specks are much smaller than the eye can see.  They are common things like sea salt, plant pollen, volcanic soot, and, even, leave bacteria that float high in the sky from the winds below.  This speck becomes the center of the snow crystal.  Drawings help depict the process the flake goes through until it is fully “born.”  The authors’ provide close up pictures of snowflakes to illustrate their text on the types (stars, plates, or columns) and variations (twins, rimes, and clumps).  The book concludes with instructions and tips for catching and observing snowflakes. 

Evaluation:
The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder is a fascinating read!  A vast majority of the information in the book was new to me.  Cassino and Nelson do well to explain the concepts in a way that is relatable to people of all ages.  The close up shots of the various glittery and graceful snowflakes are spectacular.  Best of all, the book encourages children’s own scientific exploration of nature and the world around them.  I recommend this book for ages 7 and up. 

Visit The LibrariYAn for more wonderful non-fiction recommendations from around the blog-o-sphere.


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Middle Grade Monday: Lawn Boy (by Gary Paulsen)

Summary of Lawn Boy (by Gary Paulsen):
This first person narrative chronicles the summer the protagonist (unnamed "Lawn Boy") receives an old riding lawn mower for his twelfth birthday.  Though his parents are good, hard-working people, they are just barely getting by financially.  The boy wants to get a new inner tube for his bike tire, but they cannot afford the $10 it would cost.  When a neighbor asks him to mow his lawn, the boy is happy to make a little cash to fix his bike.  One mowing request quickly spirals into dozens of requests.  The poor kid can’t even keep up with them all! 

Things change dramatically with a business proposal by Arnold, a stock broker, who offers to invest a little money for him.  Arnold also gives the boy business advice and helps him network with others.  In a matter of weeks, Arnold has multiple employees, a growing stock portfolio, and a serious bullying problem.  With the help of some key adults, the Lawn Boy is able to manage everything. 

Evaluation:
I have mixed thoughts on this story.  The protagonist is a hard working, good kid.  Unfortunately, he hides the money he is making and even the escalating trouble from his parents for a large portion of the novel. There is a sense of not trusting his parents, though he does not appear to have a reason not to.  In the end, his parents do pull through for him and have his best interests at heart—which is a huge positive.

I like that this book does bring out some important economic principles, such as supply and demand, business planning, and investment income/stocks.  As a teacher and/or parent, there are lots of opportunities for discussion and enrichment.  Sometimes, though, the story seems to be more about teaching these principles than being character or plot driven.  In addition, the Lawn Boy's business grows a little too easy and fast without any real efforts on his part.  Really, he just seems to be sitting there allowing everything to happen to him and for him, not pursuing and working for it--which is unrealistic.

I read this book out loud to my 12 year old son, who urged me each night to read it to him (which is a definite vote of confidence for the book).   It did prompt some good questions from him too.  As a result, I would recommend this book for ages 9-12.  Lawn Boy is a short, engaging read—ripe with opportunities to teach business and economic ideas.  

For other Marvelous Middle Grade fictions, head over to Ramblings of a Wanna Be Scribe.