Saturday, October 27, 2012

Peck, Richard. (2002). Fair weather. New York: Penguin.

Thirteen-year-old Rosie Beckett has never strayed further from her family's farm than a horse can pull a cart. Then a letter from Aunt Euterpe arrives, and everything changes. It's 1893, the year of the World's Columbian Exposition -- the "wonder of the age" -- otherwise known as the Chicago World's Fair. Tucked inside the pages of the letter are train tickets to Chicago, because Aunt Euterpe is inviting the Becketts to come for a visit and go to the fair! For Rosie, it's a summer of marvels -- a summer she'll never forget.

Just the opposite of A Year Down Under, this book has the country mouse going to the city. I enjoyed this book as much as the other books by Richard Peck, especially because of the historical names and places interwoven throughout the story and the hysterical characters.

Peck, Richard. (2005). The river between us. New York: Penguin.

The year is 1861. Civil war is imminent and Tilly Pruitt's brother, Noah, is eager to go and fight on the side of the North. With her father long gone, Tilly, her sister, and their mother struggle to make ends meet and hold the dwindling Pruitt family together. Then one night a mysterious girl arrives on a steamboat bound for St. Louis. Delphine is unlike anyone the small river town has even seen. Mrs. Pruitt agrees to take Delphine and her dark, silent traveling companion in as boarders. No one in town knows what to make of the two strangers, and so the rumors fly. Is Delphine's companion a slave? Could they be spies for the South? Are the Pruitts traitors? (Barnes and Noble overview)

When I was in junior high and high school I read mostly historical fiction for pleasure. Witch of Blackbird Pond and Withering Heights were two of my favorites. If this had been around during that time I would have picked this as one of my favorites as well. The plot of mystery, history, and love story all interwoven was intriguing. I can see recommending this book to those students who enjoy historical fiction or enjoy reading about the civil war era.

Peck, Richard. (2006). The teacher's funeral. New York: Penguin.

Russell Culver is fifteen in 1904, and he's raring to leave his tiny Indiana farm town for the endless sky of the Dakotas. To him, school has been nothing but a chain holding him back from his dreams. Maybe now that his teacher has passed on, they'll shut the school down entirely and leave him free to roam.

I enjoyed the twist this book provided by having Russell's sister Tansy become the new teacher. I work in a rural school district and many of the students are familiar with having an older sibling be the caretaker for various reasons.  Wish I had read this book when I was teaching older kids though as I think they would have connected to the plot and characters. I work in a second and third grade school library and I think this book is a little above their reading ability and appreciation.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Peck, Richard. (2006). Here lies the librarian. New York: Dial.

Peewee idolizes Jake, a big brother whose dreams of auto mechanic glory are fueled by the hard road coming to link their Indiana town and futures with the twentieth century. And motoring down the road comes Irene Ridpath, a young librarian with plans to astonish them all and turn Peewee's life upside down.

Besides being a book involving librarians as characters, this quirky book was a fun read. I especially enjoyed the historical tidbits strewn throughout the book about librarian school, the beginning of the automobile industry, and then the end where car racing was weaved into the main characters life. I had a third grade student tell me he enjoyed reading this book due to the "car parts". It is definitely a book that has something for everyone.

Stevens, Janet and Susan Stevens Crummel. (1999). Shoe Town. New York: Harcourt.

Little mama mouse dreams of a hot bath and a long nap. Her babies have grown up and moved away from their snug shoe-home. Mama imagines settling into a quiet life, until Tortoise, Hare, and other storybook strangers turn up in search of a home. Soon Mama has a busy life—and lots of new friends—in glorious Shoe Town.

With characters from other stories and a twist on "There was an old woman who lived in a shoe", this book would be another great introduction and comparison to classic nursery rhymes and stories. I enjoyed reading it and having the unexpected ending. Students could even continue this story as a writing activity with other characters from other stories wanting to live in Shoe Town and drawing what shoes they live in.

Crummel, Susan Stevens. (2000). New York: Harcourt.

Jack Rabbit says it's a great day to make tumbleweed stew, but who wants to eat that? With a bit of ingenuity, Jack soon has everyone from Armadillo to Vulture adding something to his delectable stew.

This is a Texas (or prairie) twist on the classic Stone Soup. I enjoyed it and think that many students in Texas will enjoy it as well since they will be familiar with all of the characters.  Tumbleweed Stew would be a good introduction to comparing classic stories that aren't set in familiar places or involve familiar characters.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Peck, Richard. (2010). A season of gifts. New York: Penguin.

Relates the surprising gifts bestowed on twelve-year-old Bob Barnhart and his family, who have recently moved to a small Illinois town in 1958, by their larger-than-life neighbor, Mrs. Dowdel.

After reading the other two Peck books involving Mrs. Dowdel, I was glad to know there was one more book with this whimsical and forthright character. The chapter involving the Christmas pageant/wedding reminded me of the book The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. I think that if those characters could meet they would feel as if they were looking in a mirror.

Crummel, Susan Stevens and Dorothy Donahue. (2004). City dog, country dog. New York: Marshall Cavendish.

A spin on the classic Aesop fable—spiced with French phrases, Impressionist art, and canine style
Two French dogs, Henri and Vincent, meet at art school and become good friends despite their differences. 

I liked the illustrations and spent more time looking at the details on each page than I did the story line. If read aloud to a class, you would definitely need to brush up on your French accent and phrases so that you wouldn't stumble over them as your read. I have several students who enjoy this book and have asked for it as it they like the simple story about two friends who just happen to be dogs.

Stevens, Janet and Susan Stevens Crummel. (1999). Cook-a-doodle-doo! New York: Harcourt.

Four animal friends set out to bake a strawberry shortcake. Rooster, tired of pecking for chicken feed, remembers that his famous great-grandmother (the Little Red Hen) wrote a cookbook, and in it he finds the recipe. Turtle, Iguana and Pig volunteer to help him. (Publishers Weekly, 1999).

Being an avid cook and having a ever growing collection of cookbooks this was one book I wasn't going to pass up. I liked the twist on Little Red Hen and Amelia Bedelia, which is one of my favorite books to read aloud. Having cooked with my children and grandchildren, I think this book would be a great tool to use before engaging in a first time experience in the kitchen. The information on each page explains basic cooking terms without being boring. I can't wait to try the recipe at the back. Now should this book be on the book shelf or the cookbook shelf?

Stevens, Janet and Susan Stevens Crummel. (2003) Jackalope. New York: Harcourt.

Never seen a jackalope? Not even sure what one is? Well, you've come to the right place. You'll get the whole wild story right here in this book. You see, the jackalope didn't start out with horns. First he was a plain old hare. You know, a jackrabbit. The horns came later, along with a corny fairy godrabbit and a cranky coyote. And the trouble those horns brought--hoooo-wee! (

The way that this book starts out on the front end pages gives you a glimpse into the crazy story that is about to unfold. I enjoyed reading this book and was glad to be enlightened as to how a jackalope was brought into being and is now extinct. This is a good book to read to students of all ages due to the puns sprinkled throughout the story. I especially liked the illustrations which are lively and capture your attention.

Crummel, Susan Stevens. (2003). All in one hour. Tarrytown, NY: Marshal Cavendish.

In a rhythmic pattern similar to "The House That Jack Built," a mouse leads a wild chase through a town as the minutes tick by. From 6 o’clock a.m. to 7 o’clock a.m., various animals, a dogcatcher, a robber, and a policeman join the chase. Just before the hour is up, a slippery encounter with a pile of banana peels sends everyone home.  (

I thought this might be just a boring telling time book when I first picked it out to read. But the illustrations are very creative and intriguing, making you linger over each page to not miss a single item. While reading the text I was caught up in the action of what happened so that the time issue was forgotten. If I read this to younger students I probably would read it twice--once for entertainment and then again to capture the time element. I think this would be a good book for story time as the pictures lend themselves to a lot of discussion as does the story line.

Stevens, Janet and Susan Stevens Crummel.(2004). Plaidypus lost. New York: Holiday House.

Snippity snip. Stitchity stitch. Buttons for eyes. Surprise! Grandpa's old plaid shirt is now my new Plaidypus! Tag along with a lively young girl and her constant companion as they find adventures wherever they go--the park, the lake, or the supermarket candy aisle! And don't forget to keep an eye on Plaidypus, as there's always a chance he'll find himself astray--stuck in the sand, high on a shelf...But no need to worry: Plaidypus lost, Plaidypus found. (

I enjoyed the different costumes of the little girl in the story as she went about her day with her new stuffed friend. The rhyme and repetitive phrases would make this a good book to read to and with a young child who is just starting to learn to read. The pictures were large, colorful, and action packed which would make it a good selection for younger children.

Peck, Richard. (2000). A year down yonder. New York: Puffin.

Mary Alice's childhood summers in Grandma Dowdel's sleepy Illinois town were packed with enough drama to fill the double bill of any picture show. But now she is fifteen, and faces a whole long year with Grandma, a woman well known for shaking up her neighbors-and everyone else! All Mary Alice can know for certain is this: when trying to predict how life with Grandma might turn out . . . better not.  (

This book didn't disappoint me. After reading A Long Way From Chicago, I was looking forward to getting to know more about the Dowdel family. The way that Grandma Dowdel quietly gets things done for people she cares about really is a lesson in itself. She may have an odd way of doing things, but the end result shows her love for her family and friends.

A Long Way from Chicago

Peck, Richard. (1998). A long way from Chicago. New York: Puffin.

A rollicking celebration of an eccentric grandmother and childhood memories. Set in the 1930s, the book follows Joe and Mary Alice Dowdel as they make their annual August trek to visit their grandmother who lives in a sleepy Illinois town somewhere between Chicago and St. Louis. A woman with plenty of moxie, she keeps to herself, a difficult task in this small community. However, Grandma Dowdel uses her wit and ability to tell whoppers to get the best of manipulative people or those who put on airs. (School Library Journal, 1998)

I thoroughly enjoyed this book as it reminded me of my childhood days of visiting my grandparents (they didn't have a gun or a corpse like Grandma Dowdel). The characters were full figured and easy to imagine as I read this book. Since this was my first chapter book by Richard Peck I can't wait to read the rest. This is a good book to be read outloud as the escapades are too funny to not share with others.