Tag Archives: Classics

Spot Light • July 2014

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OliverTwistOliver Twist

adapted by Juliette Saumande from the novel by Charles Dickens, illustrated by Daniela Volpari (Auzou, 2013)

Publisher Summary  This is an illustrated adaptation for children of the famous novel by Charles Dickens. In nineteenth-century England, a young boy named Oliver Twist is driven out of his orphanage. Placed with an undertaker who mistreats him, Oliver escapes and travels to London in search of happiness. There, he discovers the meaning of living in the streets as he becomes entangled with a gang of thieves, but he never loses his will to find a family.

Make Way for Books  Rich, sumptuous illustrations alone make this book an instant favorite. But, it is the noble traits cloaked in warm tones that redeem the retelling of an otherwise very cold tale. This adaptation wisely portrays what is essential for good storytelling without sensationalizing dark details. Age-appropriate first-person narrative emphasizes the reality of good times and bad, and that daily circumstances occupy a small piece of a very large picture.

Oliver, small, alone, and suffering, still dares to hope. He chooses wisely, flees oppressive treatment, and is given opportunity to experience the healing power of compassion. Readers feel his sadness, exhaustion, resolve, and joy, making this read a complete and meaningful experience for all ages. Beautiful!

Additional titles by Auzou publishing with equally stunning illustrations and strong adaptation/storyline:

SnowQueen Cleopatra

The Snow Queen adapted by Natcha Godeau,
illustrated by Giorgio Baroni (Nov 2014)
Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile by Marie de Prémonville,
illustrated by Daniela Volpari (Sep 2013)

LemoncelloEscape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

by Chris Grabenstein (Random House, 2013)

Publisher Summary  Kyle Keeley is the class clown, popular with most kids, (if not the teachers), and an ardent fan of all games: board games, word games, and particularly video games. His hero, Luigi Lemoncello, the most notorious and creative gamemaker in the world, just so happens to be the genius behind the building of the new town library.

Lucky Kyle wins a coveted spot to be one of the first 12 kids in the library for an overnight of fun, food, and lots and lots of games. But when morning comes, the doors remain locked. Kyle and the other winners must solve every clue and every secret puzzle to find the hidden escape route. And the stakes are very high.

In this cross between Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and A Night in the Museum, Agatha Award winner Chris Grabenstein uses rib-tickling humor to create the perfect tale for his quirky characters. Old fans and new readers will become enthralled with the crafty twists and turns of this ultimate library experience.

Make Way for Books  Gamers, sleuths, and bookworms will revel in the sheer genius of this tale. Grabenstein cleverly weaves the nostalgia of actual board games and today’s electronic gaming strategies with well-known children’s book titles, sprinkles rebus clues throughout, and adds a dose of fantastical reality-suspension to concoct a brilliant mystery.

But if that wasn’t enough, themes of accomplishment and kindness clinch this as a forever-favorite in our list. Readers see how failure may precede success and how hard work and resilience reap rewards. The contrast of choices characters make throughout the story shows how teamwork often results in stronger, more effective strategies, and that caring about others is more important than winning. And finally, but no less important, the inner-narrative of some characters challenges readers to use lessons from past experiences to help make wise decisions in the present, and that may include some outside-the-box thinking.

Reminiscent of The Westing Game, every detail may hold a clue, so the reader is drawn to attend carefully, to solve this masterfully-orchestrated challenge as if a character in this grand game. A rich, delightful work.

Title_IncapacitatedThe Case of the Incapacitated Capitals

by Robin Pulver, illustrated by Lynn Rowe Reed
(Holiday House, 2013)

Publisher Summary Capital letters are being so neglected in Mr. Wright’s classroom that they are nearly incapacitated, and a medical team must be summoned to perform CPR—Capital Posture Repair.

Make Way for Books  This is an extremely entertaining way to explain proper use of upper- and lowercase letters. As the letters commiserate their misuse, the students’ strive to write a proper Teacher Appreciation Day request. Soon, CPPR—Capital Position and Posture Repair—causes the story lines to collide. Hilarious drawings dramatically eliminate all boredom from this Language Arts lesson!

We’ll look forward to reviewing more by this author/illustrator duo. In the mean time, check out one of our long-time Robin Pulver favorites, Axle Annie.

AxleAnnieAxle Annie by Robin Pulver, illustrated by Ted Arnold
(Penguin, 2002)


Hunter MoranHunter Moran Saves the Universe

by Patricia Reilly Giff (Holiday House, 2012)

Publisher Summary In this hilarious novel by two-time Newbery Honor winning author Patricia Reilly Giff, twins Hunter and Zack must save their town from a diabolical dentist. But first they have to hold a funeral for an incriminating report card, hide a cello that has been demolished, and keep their father from finding out what they did to his laptop.

Make Way for Books  An overly imaginative set of twins, exaggerated family dynamics, and a good dose of slap-stick humor make this a laugh-aloud read that even reluctant readers will enjoy.


Hunter Moran Hangs OutEnjoy its sequel, Hunter Moran Hangs Out (new in paperback), another laugh-out loud tale of imagination and exaggeration! (Holiday House, 2013)