Tag Archives: Courage

Spot Light • December 2014

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The RumorThe Rumor

by Monique Felix (Chronicle, 2011)

Publisher Summary  Word travels quickly through a peaceful village when a hungry beast is spotted in the hills. Some say he has ears that can hear a potential meal from a mile away! Others declare that his stink is enough to kill you with just one whiff! Still others report that his snout is stronger than a vacuum cleaner! The threat compels friends to warn one another and in humorous fashion turn hearsay into an increasingly inaccurate rumor. Uncertainty abounds, but by the time the villagers are safely gathered together out of harm’s reach, one thing is for sure readers young and old will be charmed by The Rumor!

Make Way for Books  When a well-intended, simple warning adopts dramatic changes with each retelling, even youngest readers can predict the dangerous, even ironic impact a rumor may have. A clever tale that uses humor and cause and effect to convey an important concept.

Darling Mercy Dog of World War IDarling: Mercy Dog of World War I

by Alison Hart, illustrated by Michael G. Montgomery (Peachtree, 2013)

Publisher Summary  This action-packed and heartwarming story of a dog in World War I is the first book in the exciting new Dog Chronicles Series. At home in England, Darling is a mischievous but much-loved pet to Robert and Katherine. But when the British military asks families to volunteer their dogs to help the war effort, they send Darling off to be trained, even though it is very hard to say goodbye. Darling is ultimately used as a mercy dog, seeking out injured soldiers on the battlefield and leading the medics to them. After saving the lives of numerous soldiers, Darling is faced with a major challenge.

Make Way for Books  Uniquely told from a dog’s point of view, this book is both authentic and inspiring. While readers witness Darling’s transformation, from spoiled, carefree pet into self-sacrificing war hero, her journey provides a new perspective on World War I and allows readers to think about the kind of character necessary for thinking of others first in moments of life and death. Written with engaging characters and just the right amount of action, this story shows the change that love and loyalty can bring to one’s character. The story’s conclusion includes the history behind the story, along with an extensive bibliography of print and digital resources. (There are some very descriptive battle scenes, and while they are not inappropriate, the death depicted may warrant some discussion prior to reading.)

MurphyAlso Available:
Murphy: Gold Rush Dog (Peachtree, 2014)



Winter SkyWinter Sky

by Patricia Reilly Giff (Random House, 2014)

Publisher Summary  Sirens! A scary sound, especially to Siria, whose brave pop is a firefighter. Siria loves everyone at Pop’s city firehouse. She also loves to study the stars. Her mother named her after the brightest start in the winter sky.When Siria hears sirens, she sneaks out to chase the trucks, to bring Pop and the other firefighters luck. She’d be in big trouble if she ever got caught. Good thing her best friend, Douglas, is always by her side.As Christmas approaches, Siria suspects that someone in the neighborhood is setting fires. She has to find out who’s doing it. When clues point to a surprising suspect, she realizes that solving this mystery will take all kinds of courage. Patricia Reilly Giff, the author of many beloved and award-winning books, is at her best in this action-packed story.

Make Way for Books  “The rescue is everything,” explains Siria’s firefighting father. While watching her courageous father chase sirens through city nights, Siria worries she will lose him, her only parent. Enter a stray dog, suspicions about a close friend who may be an arsonist, and the caring love of several adults, and Siria soon learns despite danger, courage can lead to extraordinary outcomes. As Christmas and her New Year’s birthday approaches, Siria must bravely face her own mistakes and relax in the love that surrounds her. With her usual focus on developing memorable characters, Giff once again provides a story that is poignant and believable.

(paperback available January 2015)

The Right Word The Right Word

by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet (Eerdmans, 2014)

Publisher Summary  For shy young Peter Mark Roget, books were the best companions—and it wasnt long before Peter began writing his own book. But he didn’t write stories; he wrote lists. Peter took his love for words and turned it to organizing ideas and finding exactly the right word to express just what he thought. His lists grew and grew, eventually turning into one of the most important reference books of all time.

Readers of all ages will marvel at Roget’s life, depicted through lyrical text and brilliantly detailed illustrations. This elegant book celebrates the joy of learning and the power of words.

Make Way for Books  “The use of language…[functions] as an instrument of thought; not being merely its vehicle, but giving it wings for flight.” – Peter Mark Roget

Roget’s delight with language oozes from these pages. Illustrations, mostly hand-drawn give the sense Roget is telling his own story—how curiosity and wonder drove his search to capture a moment or thought or concept with just the right word. His vast experience as doctor, inventor, and author both entertains and inspires, showing readers the noble value of inquiry paired with humility. A masterful presentation and a must for lovers of language!

The Book That Gave My Reader Wings


When my middle daughter Liberty was 7 years old, she wanted to read more than anything. She spent hours looking at books and tried so hard to decode them, but she literally couldn’t see. Born a preemie, her vision was weak and reading real books was HARD, even with very strong glasses. The more time passed, the more she wanted to read real books and the more her frustration with “baby books,” basic decodable readers with bigger font sizes, grew. We were homeschooling at the time and I made the decision to back off a bit. We took a look at the unique way she learned and decided we needed some very active learning. We did sight word hopping, ABC dancing and a lot of word art. As her phonemic foundation solidified, her confidence soared until it came time to read a book. She had the skill, she was ready to read, but seeing it was literally such hard work that she just couldn’t bear it.

In the months that followed, I was determined to help her enjoy reading, even if she couldn’t read the words herself. I let her choose much of what we read and we instituted a system where I would read and she would “help” me. We would look through the book and mark a selected sight word with highlighter tape and then when we came to those words she would read them. Before long, she was choosing a sentence to read on each page. We were making real progress, and she was enjoying great books but she longed to read them on her own.

Elsies Bird

Then came Elsie’s Bird by Jane Yolen. It was nominated to win our state’s children’s book award so our public library had an awesome display with many copies. The cover is gorgeous, done in watercolor and full of life and it literally drew her in. “Mom,” she said, “I need to read this book.”  She checked it out and began to devour the illustrations. On the way home from the library, I could hear her reading, really reading it to her little sister. I had read the book previously and knew that in places the font was small and almost cursive-like. I couldn’t believe she was reading it! My amazement grew as she was willing to lay aside her frustration and work to blend the words she didn’t know. It was in this book that I realized she needed to say the letters out loud in order to blend them, because she needed to hear them since seeing them was very difficult. I cried as I drove and witnessed the breakthrough we had been praying for. When she finished she said, “Hey Mom, this book is awesome.”  She read it over and over and renewed it to read over and over again.

Elsie’s Bird was indeed the book that freed Liberty to become a reader. It gave her a reason to read and the courage to try, even when it was hard. She owns her own copy now and still chooses to read it often. It is often the book she recommends to others, and it is always her answer to the question, “What is your favorite book?” When I think of my own struggling reader and her experience with Elsie’s Bird, I am reminded of how powerful choice is to a reader. I am also reminded that especially struggling readers deserve to have the opportunity to read high-quality literature to build their skills, so that when they find their favorite book, they too will be prepared to take flight as a reader.

Jami Spaulding is the elementary librarian at Lincoln Christian School in Lincoln, NE. She loves spending her days connecting great kids with great books and helping them develop the skills to become lifelong learners. Jami and her husband are blessed to be raising their own three readers. You can follow her adventures in the library at http://jamilovesbooks.blogspot.com/ or on twitter @jamibookmom

Spot Light • October 2014

Spot Light Books of the Month

Courage by Bernard WaberCourage

by Bernard Waber (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2002)

Publisher Summary  What is courage? Certainly it takes courage for a firefighter to rescue someone trapped in a burning building, but there are many other kinds of courage too. Everyday kinds that normal, ordinary people exhibit all the time, like “being the first to make up after an argument,” or “going to bed without a nightlight.” Bernard Waber explores the many varied kinds of courage and celebrates the moments, big and small, that bring out the hero in each of us.

Make Way for Books  This thoughtful collection of courage-facets sparkles like new, even though it was published more than 10 years ago. In a most delightful, instructive way, the illustrations are of equal importance to the descriptive text that underlines them. Picture a roller coaster at its final descent (with a few green faces) and its caption: Courage is going on it again; and, a car full of riders followed by: Courage is a scenic car trip and being stuck in the middle during the best part. These enduring wisdom bytes show an expansive courage that includes self-control, responsibility, humility, confidence, trustworthiness, and more.

Wing DingWing Ding

by Kevin Markey (Harpercollins, 2012)

Publisher Summary  When the windiest weather in Rambletown history blows in a horde of hungry grasshoppers, the only thing the chomping insects devour faster than the grass is the Rounders’ chance to host the midseason all-star game. Unfortunately, their shortstop’s arm has gone haywire. Balls used to disappear into Stump’s glove as if he were a one-man Bermuda Triangle, but since the infestation, he’s jumpier than the grasshoppers. Will the Rounders find a way to rid Stump of the yips—and their home field of insects—before the hated Haymakers hijack the all-star game?

Make Way for Books  There is nothing ho-hum about this young-reader sports tale! Nicknames — Flicker Pringle, Walloper, Stump Plumwhiff, Pepper McGraw — personify each player, preparing readers for the delightfully descriptive story that follows:

“For one thing, rings the size of donuts encrusted her fingers..”; “…the deafening roar that greeted us…sounded more like some terrible orchestra made of up of chain saws, dirt bikes, and snowmobiles”; “The base runners were coiled like Olympic Sprinters waiting for the starting gun.”

Markey masterfully blends tall tale-style storytelling and a storyline replete with competitive camaraderie to show the true meaning of All-Star. Additionally, he weaves a somewhat complex science concept into the text and shows its meaning as a critical component of the story’s climax. And (perhaps a teacher’s dream) incorporates student news articles to show what well-crafted summaries look like. End material includes a graphic organizer of the story’s teams, along with wacky facts from baseball history. An undeniable home run!

SlumpbustersMore Super Sluggers: Slumpbuster
(Harpercollins, 2010)



Wind DancerWind Dancer

by Chris Platt (Peachtree, 2014)

Publisher Summary  Having lost her beloved pony in a traumatic accident, thirteen-year-old Ali is reluctant to help her parents care for a neglected, malnourished Appaloosa, but working with Wind Dancer is a good distraction from problems surrounding her brother, who recently returned from Afghanistan with a missing leg and PTSD.

Make Way for Books  Courage abounds in this tale of putting others first, learning to accept change, and overcome adversity. Honesty, strength of family relationships, and a deep commitment to doing the right thing drive the characters to grow even when it is hard. The complex plot calls for difficult decision making and invites readers to think about what is right and why. A beautiful tale of love, courage, and valuable life lessons. Recommended for ages 9-11, grades 4-6, a little higher than publisher recommendation.

A Tangle of KnotsA Tangle of Knots

by Lisa Graff (paperback – Penguin, 2014)

Publisher Summary  Told in multiple viewpoints, A Tangle of Knots is a magnificent puzzle. In a slightly magical world where everyone has a Talent, eleven-year-old Cady is an orphan with a phenomenal Talent for cake baking. But little does she know that fate has set her on a journey from the moment she was born. And her destiny leads her to a mysterious address that houses a lost luggage emporium, an old recipe, a family of children searching for their own Talents, and a Talent Thief who will alter her life forever. However, these encounters hold the key to Cady’s past and how she became an orphan. If she’s lucky, fate may reunite her with her long-lost parent.

Make Way for Books  A National Book Award Nominee for 2013, A Tangle of Knots is a beautiful story about Cady, an orphan who has a special talent for seeing people and knowing the perfect cake for them. Told from many different perspectives and with many different characters, it takes a little while for the “knot” to be tied, but with a touch of magic, a little mystery, a lot of warmth and humor, and even some great recipes, the author succeeds in weaving together a delightful story about relationships and how they are woven together.

“If you don’t know the trick, it’s a muddled predicament. But in fact each loop of every knot is carefully placed, one end twisting tight into the other in a way you might not have expected.”

This story will appeal to fans of fantasy, mystery, and stories about family. It may be a little too complex for struggling readers, but would make a perfect read-aloud.

Searching for Sarah RectorSearching for Sarah Rector: The Richest Black Girl in America

by Tonya Bolden (Abrams, 2014)

Publisher Summary  Sarah Rector was once famously hailed as “the richest black girl in America. Set against the backdrop of American history, her tale encompasses the creation of Indian Territory, the making of Oklahoma, and the establishment of black towns and oil-rich boomtowns.

Rector acquired her fortune at the age of eleven. This is both her story and that of children just like her: one filled with ups and downs amid bizarre goings-on and crimes perpetrated by greedy and corrupt adults. From a trove of primary documents, including court and census records and interviews with family members, author Tonya Bolden painstakingly pieces together the events of Sarah’s life and the lives of those around her. The book includes a glossary, a bibliography, and an index.

Make Way for Books  Reading this book is like sitting under a studied historian who shares facts culled from myriad sources with care. The museum-like quality of the book’s page design and archived photographs lend authenticity to the telling of how a girl, born as a black member of the Muscogee tribe, whose history included forced relocation and the Trail of Tears, became wealthy. Bolden weaves an economics lesson into a colorful tapestry of Oklahoma expansion, land allotments, investments, lending, guardianships, greed, money, and race. The way events are explained and influential people are introduced gives readers time to digest important information. It is evident this was a painstaking work, as confirmed by a comment in the author’s note: “Better to rest on research and reason than on scuttlebutt.” This is as much about the lessons within the story as it is about how the author chose to craft it. A quality work.

Spot Light • September 2014

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Lost in BermoodaLost in Bermooda

by Mike Litwin (Albert Whitman & Co., 2014)

Publisher Summary  Bermooda has no “outsiders,” and most prefer to keep it that way. That is, until Chuck ventures into the boneyard alone and discovers a young human boy who has been washed up unconscious on the sandbar! The young boy’s name is Dakota and doesn’t seem as scary as Chuck thought humans should be. Chuck decides to “cowmouflage” Dakota to pass as a bovine in town. Dakota and Chuck become fast friends, but trouble is brewing and Dakota’s true identity is at risk of being discovered.

Make Way for Books  This delightful first written work by illustrator Mike Litwin introduces readers to Bermooda, the island home to talking cows and a host of other colorful characters – a ‘flying’ pig, a plump gray cow whose yellow shirt is as bright as his personality, and an orange manic monkey, to name a few. When adventure-loving Chuck discovers Dakota (a hu’man) washed ashore, he offers help, protection, and a way back to hu’man civilization, almost. Word play and outlandish humor enfolds this budding-friendship tale that helps readers see the destruction of lies and the strength and hope of trust. And, through age-appropriate high-flying drama, Litwin shows how fearing the unknown leads to cowardice, not courage. Perfect for reluctant readers and for reading aloud.
Crown CowibbeanDon’t miss the recently-released sequel, Crown of the Cowibbean (Albert Whitman & Co., 2014), another delightful adventure that unfolds like a Pixar movie, complete with stormy seas, tight spots, and close calls, all on the waves of humorous narrative!


Extra CreditExtra Credit

by Andrew Clements (Simon & Schuster, 2011)

Publisher Summary  It isn’t that Abby Carson can’t do her schoolwork. She just doesn’t like doing it. And consequently, Abby will have to repeat sixth grade—unless she meets some specific conditions, including taking on an extra credit project: find a pen pal in a distant country. But when Abby’s first letter arrives at a small school in Afghanistan, complications arise. The elders agree that any letters going back to America must be written well, but the only qualified English-speaking student is a boy. And in this village, it’s not proper for a boy to correspond with a girl. So, Sadeed’s sister will dictate and sign the letters for him. But what about the villagers who believe that girls should not be anywhere near a school? And what about those who believe that any contact with Americans is…unhealthy?

As letters flow back and forth—between the prairies of Illinois and the mountains of central Asia, across cultural and religious divides, through the minefields of different lifestyles and traditions—a small group of children begin to speak and listen to each other. And in just a few short weeks, they make important discoveries about their communities, about their world, and most of all, about themselves.

Make Way for Books  Anyone who has struggled to conquer something seemingly impossible can relate to Abby’s challenge—in order to avoid being held back in school, she must move from lazy indifference to responsibility. This timeless tale of conquering obstacles and personal growth is just a small part of this story’s appeal. This is the story of two children who must learn who they are and what to believe. Their newly-forged friendship allows them to ask hard questions and to find the courage to influence their own communities. It is a story of the delicate balance between tradition and respect and making room for new people and ideas.

We enjoy many Andrew Clements’ titles. Be sure to check out the Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School series and the Jake Drake series.

We the Children Jake Drake Know-it-all

We the Children (Simon & Schuster, 2010)
Jake Drake Know-it-all (Simon & Schuster, 2007)



Going PlacesGoing Places

by Peter and Paul Reynolds

Publisher Summary  A go-cart contest inspires imagination to take flight in this picture book for creators of all ages, with art from New York Times bestselling illustrator Peter H. Reynolds.

It’s time for this year’s Going Places contest! Finally. Time to build a go-cart, race it—and win. Each kid grabs an identical kit, and scrambles to build. Everyone but Maya. She sure doesn’t seem to be in a hurry…and that sure doesn’t look like anybody else’s go-cart! But who said it had to be a go-cart? And who said there’s only one way to cross the finish line?

This sublime celebration of creative spirit and thinking outside the box—both figuratively and literally—is ideal for early learners, recent grads, and everyone in between.

Make Way for Books  Bright, colorful illustrations match the buoyant spirit of this story’s optimistic theme where the limitations of rules and instructions suddenly become a framework for creative opportunity. This endearing story is a unique challenge to inside-the-box thinking and helps readers discover freedom in understanding the intent of an instruction versus mindless adherence for the sake of adherence.

Share this for all ages. This is one of those unique children’s books that inspires adult readers to become childlike for a moment and consider this mindful freedom. Indeed, going places requires it.

BeamLightOn a Beam of Light

by Jennifer Berne, illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky

Publisher Summary  A boy rides a bicycle down a dusty road. But in his mind, he envisions himself traveling at a speed beyond imagining, on a beam of light. This brilliant mind will one day offer up some of the most revolutionary ideas ever conceived. From a boy endlessly fascinated by the wonders around him, Albert Einstein ultimately grows into a man of genius recognized the world over for profoundly illuminating our understanding of the universe. Jennifer Berne and Vladimir Radunsky invite the reader to travel along with Einstein on a journey full of curiosity, laughter, and scientific discovery. Parents and children alike will appreciate this moving story of the powerful difference imagination can make in any life.

Make Way for Books  “He wanted to discover the hidden mysteries in the world.” How is that done? Author, Jennifer Berne beautifully, almost methodically, unfolds Albert Einstein’s insatiable appetite for learning. He imagined the uncharted, he asked questions-questions-questions, he read, studied, and wondered. He thought and figured. A cohesive text-illustration marriage introduces readers to this unbounded, creative thinker through scrawl-like pictures and fun-loving trivia. Somehow, this brilliant individual becomes as down-to-earth as the rest of us, making us wonder if we too, could imagine the uncharted. A powerful and accessible biography for all ages.

Spot Light • August 2014

Day the Crayons QuitThe Day the Crayons Quit

by Drew Daywalt (Penguin, 2013)

Publisher Summary  Poor Duncan just wants to color. But when he opens his box of crayons, he finds only letters, all saying the same thing: His crayons have had enough! They quit! Beige Crayon is tired of playing second fiddle to Brown Crayon. Black wants to be used for more than just outlining. Blue needs a break from coloring all those bodies of water. And Orange and Yellow are no longer speaking—each believes he is the true color of the sun.

Make Way for Books  By giving voice to Duncan’s crayon box, Daywalt challenges kids to think about art and why they pick the crayon they do. What if they tried a different color? Duncan’s creative answer to the “overused, underworked, too short, and naked” crayon complaints is uplifting and vibrant. A clever, entertaining way to show how working differently within the limits of available tools can either be a restriction or an opportunity to create something extraordinary. An important lesson for all ages.

Behind the Scenes: What If? by Drew Daywalt

Marty McguireMarty Mcguire Digs Worms!

by Kate Messner, illustrated by Brian Floca (Scholastic, 2012)

Publisher Summary  Marty McGuire’s third-grade class has a special assignment: Save the Earth! Even more exciting, the best project wins a special award. Marty’s pretty sure her classmates’ ideas won’t stand a chance against her plan to turn the garbage from the school cafeteria into fertilizer. All she needs is a little help from her teammate and best friend, Annie—and the worms in her grandma’s garden. But, it turns out that worms are awfully SLOW eaters. And when the critters escape, the whole class starts grumbling. Can Marty save the Earth without losing her friends? A funny, accessible chapter-book about an irrepressible third grader.

Make Way for Books  A witty, determined Marty compels readers to join her quest: to win the school’s Save the Earth science contest award. Author, Kate Messner masterfully grows and develops Marty’s character, showing readers that reaching a goal requires patience and determination; and, while it lacks the glamor and excitement of the beginning and end, the middle is where the most important work is accomplished. Readers swell with pride as they witness her choosing to share ideas and work together to help others accomplish their goals while waiting for her own project to come to fruition. Her humble, honest approach to learning hard lessons allows readers to empathize and cheer as she overcomes each obstacle. This universally-appealing character uses a relatable story to teach a lesson in patience and teamwork for readers of all ages.

Capture the FlagCapture the Flag

by Kate Messner (Scholastic, 2013)

Publisher Summary  Anna, José, and Henry have never met but they have more in common than they realize. Snowed in together at a chaotic Washington, DC airport, they encounter a mysterious tattooed man, a flamboyant politician, and a rambunctious poodle named for an ancient king. Even stranger, news stations everywhere have just announced that the famous flag that inspired The Star-Spangled Banner has been stolen! Anna, certain that the culprits must be snowed in too, recruits Henry and José to help find the thieves and bring them to justice. But when accusations start flying, they soon realize there’s even more than a national treasure at stake. With unexpected enemies lurking around every corner, will the trio solve the heist before the flag is lost forever?

Make Way for Books  Lovers of history, adventure, and the underdog will devour this fast-moving tale of three unique characters who embark on a journey to save the Star Spangled Banner and their families’ honor. Readers enjoy front-row seats as these characters put aside selfishness and learn to accept, embrace, and utilize their differences in order to become an unbeatable, mystery-solving team. Readers cheer the creative problem-solving, quick thinking, and courageous trio to victory as they battle bad guys and learn that appearances are often not a reliable way to judge a person’s trustworthiness.

This tale of duty and determination is brilliantly paced and leaves readers breathless until they learn the fate of the beloved flag and the unlikely team resolved to rescue it. Full of fantastic detail, this story is one that begs to be read time and time again.

Why Did the Whole World Go to War?Why Did the Whole World Go to War? And Other Questions About World War II

by Martin W. Sandler, illustrated by Robert Barrett (Sterling, 2013)

Publisher Summary  Why Did the Whole World Go to War? helps children understand one of the 20th century’s most tragic conflicts. It answers their most basic questions, including: What started World War II? How did Hitler take over so many countries so quickly? What happened at Pearl Harbor? Where were the fiercest battles fought? What ended the deadliest conflict in human history? A fascinating look at a complex topic.

Make Way for Books  Well-structured text and accompanying graphics unravel the intricacies of this difficult time in history, making it accessible for younger readers.