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Archive for January, 2014

January 08, 2014


★ Ophelia is a grieving 11-year-old who only believes in things that science can explain. Following her beloved mother’s death, her father takes a job at an enormous museum in a city where it constantly snows. There Ophelia discovers the imprisoned Marvelous Boy, who discloses to her that in three days the Snow Queen will discharge her wretchedness on mankind. He further reveals that he must save the world before that happens and that only Ophelia can help him. As the boy tells his story, Ophelia accepts the challenges required to release him from his three-hundred-year captivity. She faces magical snow leopards, child ghosts, a Spanish conquistador, and a monstrous misery bird—none of which, like the boy, can be scientifically explained. Nevertheless, Ophelia learns there are truths she never dreamed of and that courage is less about bravery than about the decision to help people in need. Loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, this clever story-within-a-story reads easily yet offers deep lessons about trust, responsibility, and friendship. – Booklist


★ Eleven-year-old Ophelia faces her fears to help a nameless boy imprisoned in a surreal museum by the evil Snow Queen in this contemporary fairy tale.

An asthmatic girl who believes in science and eschews fantasy, Ophelia’s curious but admittedly not very brave. Grieving her mother’s recent death, Ophelia arrives in a snowy “foreign city” with her father and sister. While her curator father organizes an exhibition of swords, Ophelia wanders the vast museum until she discovers “The Marvelous Boy,” trapped by the Snow Queen for three centuries in a hidden room. A spell preventing the Snow Queen from killing the boy expires in three days, when he will die and the world will freeze unless Ophelia can free him, locate his magical sword and identify the “One Other” to defeat the Snow Queen. Though she’s unsure she believes the boy’s fantastical story, Ophelia gradually heeds an inner voice urging her to follow her heart. Alternating between Ophelia’s bizarre quest to save the boy and the retelling of his story, the intense plot moves Ophelia beyond grief to fulfill what she realizes is her destiny. Armed with her inhaler, practical Ophelia proves a formidable heroine in a frozen landscape.

A well-wrought, poignant and original reworking of Andersen’s “The Snow Queen.” – Kirkus Reviews


★ In this appropriately frosty take on The Snow Queen, Foxlee (The Midnight Dress) introduces 11-year-old Ophelia Jane Worthington-Whittard, who’s asthmatic, pragmatic, curious, and braver than she realizes. Ophelia’s family, shattered after her mother’s death, is visiting an unnamed snowy city so her father can curate an exhibition of swords. Exploring the strange, icy, and nearly empty museum, Ophelia discovers the long-imprisoned Marvelous Boy, who recruits her to help him save the world from the Snow Queen; she also turns up a cluster of deadly “misery birds” and a roomful of the ghosts of numerous girls. Foxlee’s writing is elegant and accessible, with a pervading melancholy; this is as much a story of loss as it is an adventure. Certain elements, such as the identity of the Snow Queen, aren’t really surprises, but it’s in Foxlee’s evocation of the museum’s unsettling dangers, as well as Ophelia’s eventual willingness to reconcile what she knows in her mind with what she feels in her heart, that this story shines.   – Publishers Weekly

January 08, 2014

January: Fresh Start

by Pat Scales

The New Year is a time when people look for a fresh start.  It may mean a move, a major decision, an improvement in behavior, or a vow to do better in school.  Sometimes a fresh start is necessary because of a change within the family, or emotional needs within a person.   No one’s fresh start should be considered frivolous because any fresh start comes from the need to change.

  • Ask readers to make a list of their own New Year’s Resolutions.  Then have them make a written plan for accomplishing their goals.  Which “Resolution” is the easiest to change?  Which is the most difficult?
  • Have children and teens read about the immigrant experience and discuss how coming to this country was a fresh start for them.  Such books from Random House include:

All the Way to America (picture book) by Dan Yaccarino

The Name Jar (picture book) by Yangsook Choi

A House of Tailors (middle grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff

Nory Ryan’s Song  & Maggie’s Door (middle grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff

The Red Umbrella (middle grade) by Christine Diaz Gonzales

The Tia Lola series (middle grade) by Julia Alvarez

Enrique’s Journey (young adult) by Sonia Nozario

After reading one of the above books, ask readers to write a letter from the main character to someone in their homeland that describes their first few months in the new land.  Begin the letter with “My Fresh Start Began…”

  • Suggest that readers select books about main characters that are struggling to make a fresh start. Books from Random House include:

The Invisible Boy (picture book) by Trudy Ludwig & illus. by Patrice Barton

Child of the Mountains (middle grade) by Marilyn Sue Shank

Gingersnap (middle grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff

Flightsend: A Summer of Discovery (middle grade) by Linda Newbery

Laugh with the Moon (middle grade) by Shana Burg

Liar and Spy (middle grade) by Rebecca Stead

The Great Trouble (middle grade) by Deborah Hopkinson

The Mighty Miss Malone (middle grade) by Christopher Paul Curtis

Navigating Early (middle grade) by Clare Vanderpoole

Pictures of Hollis Woods (middle grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff’

Whittington (middle grade) by Alan Armstrong

Wonder (middle grade) by P. J. Palacio

Orchards (young adult) by Holly Thompson

The Language Inside (young adult) by Holly Thompson

Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature (young adult) by Robin Brande

Hattie Ever After (young adult) by Kirby Larson

It’s Not the End of the World (young adult) by Judy Blume

            Revolution (young adult) by Jennifer Donnelly

            Small Steps (young adult) by Louis Sachar

            The Beet Fields (young adult) by Gary Paulsen

Suggest that readers write a paper that discusses who or what helps the character make the journey toward a fresh start.

  • Have readers write a plan for a fresh start for the following main characters:

Daniel in Gone From These Woods (middle grade) by Donny Bailey Seagraves

Mickey in Feels Like Home (young adult) by E.E. Charlton-Trujillo

Jason in My Chemical Mountain (young adult) by Corina Vacco

Shavonne in Something Like Hope (young adult) by Shawn Goodman

Boaz in The Things a Brother Knows (young adult) by Dana Reinhardt

  • Finally, suggest that readers write a monologue  from the point of view of a main character that has experience a fresh start.



January 07, 2014

Celebrating Seuss’ Caldecott Honors

There’s no doubting the impact Dr. Seuss’ wonderful stories have had on the lives of millions, enriching them with memorable characters and imaginative wordplay, but, amazingly, his award credentials often seem to play second fiddle to his commercial successes.  We’re happy to say that these three stellar titles have been given some love, and have been reissued with the shiny medals front and center.  If you haven’t read these delightful tales, or haven’t added them to your classroom and library collections, now is a great time to dive into the fun.

P.S. Did you know that your favorite Seuss titles are now available as ebooks?