Owly: A Time To Be Brave by Andy Runton - Book Review

Owly: A Time to Be Brave is the fourth in a series of wordless graphic novels by Andy Runton. The entire Owly series will appeal to any age with simple black and white drawings that glow with kindness. The premise is one of those hard to describe things where there’s something more hiding just below the simplistic surface. It would be best to call that something, uncomplicated joyfulness.

This simplistic format doesn't mean that Owly is a simple read. Owly's message and format are actually quite complex and it is exactly that complexity that makes the wordless format overflow with possibility. Each panel is a singular instance of expression with interpretive discussions just waiting to be had.

After reading Owly, both young and old will carry away a smile. From the smallest of smiles on a reluctant reader’s face to a more profound understanding of the core messages by the stronger reader, Owly holds something for all students. And Owly also succeeds at leaving teachers smiling at the numerous opportunities for practicing prediction making, detail finding and sequencing. Owly is an absolutely perfect addition to classrooms from elementary through secondary.

Highly recommended by this reading educator. A wordless book! Who knew?

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Genre: Graphic Novel. Age: All. Pages:120.

Themes: Cooperation, Friendship, Courage
Thank you to The Picnic Basket.
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions. Date: December 2007.
ISBN-10: 1891830899 / ISBN-13: 978-1891830891

Buy Owly: A Time to Be Brave Here

Educators and Home Schoolers: Here's a link to the teaching resources page from Andy Runton's site. He has 30 pages with 12 lesson plans for the Owly series.

You can learn more about how Andy Runton followed his heart by visiting his really fantastic website. It is an amazing wealth of fun with coloring pages, desktop wallpapers, a store and even a video showing us how to draw Owly.
© 2007-2009 Cheryl Vanatti for www.ReadingRumpus.com
Review also posted as National Reading Examiner.

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Goblins by Royce Buckingham - Book Review

What makes a good book for teen boys? How do you get a reluctant reader invested in a story? Which factors will entice the most challenging reading student to pick up a book?

With Goblins!: An UnderEarth Adventure, author Royce Buckingham has answered some of these dilemmas.

He begins with an action-filled opener – a goblin has escaped the UnderEarth. He features identifiable protagonists - twelve-year-old Sam on the brink of juvenile delinquency and seventeen-year-old PJ, stuck in a nowhere small-town while he visits his policeman father. These two form an unlikely, but appreciable, dynamic duo as they follow the Guardians of UnderEarth on a battle to keep the goblins from finding the tunnel that leads to our world.

Additionally, author Buckingham, propels the reader from one battle scene to the next. Goblins! action not only begins fast, it is spooned out in small doses. Chapters are kept short and descriptive language is limited. There are bloody battle scenes, bravery and death. Still, before the story ever gets a chance to venture into a weighty realm, the author throws in a few laughs.

And though the telling might flow easily and prove enticing to even the most reluctant of readers, Goblins! hides some decent themes within it. PJ and Sam demonstrate fortitude and make the right choices when making the right choices count most.

Goblins!: An UnderEarth Adventure, aimed toward the middle-grade male – even though the cover art appears to be too juvenile for that crowd, is a story many reluctant and action-adventure story enthusiasts will devour.

Confetti Girl by Diana Lopez - Book Review

Apolonia (Lina) Flores lives in Corpus Christi, Texas with her father. She has a best friend and a would-be boyfriend. She enjoys science, playing volleyball on her middle school team and collecting socks. She’s also Mexican–American, has recently suffered the loss of her mother and grown frustrated with her widowed father who has literally, and metaphorically, buried himself in books.

Navigating the wearisome waters of change alongside Lima is her best friend Vanessa, whose recently divorced mother has developed her own coping mechanism – making confetti filled eggs called cascarones. Lima’s boyfriend isn’t immune to difficulty either. He must deal with a speech impediment and the taunting that accompanies it. Confetti Girl features characters who are all dealing with life’s struggles.

But hidden within the individual problems of the characters lies a positive message. A story filled with as much heartache as Confetti Girl might easily venture into the melancholy. It never does. Confetti Girl is a story of happiness. Happiness after losing a loved one. Happiness after divorce. Happiness for friendship and love. Ever so quietly, author Diana Lopez, fills the story with significant moments of authenticity.

These moments are hammered out through plot devices that meld seamlessly within the telling. Lima use the keen dichos her mother has taught her to navigate the difficult as the author uses them to highlight chapter themes. Lima ends up writing her own reflective life’s synopsis when she’s supposed to be writing a synopsis of Watership Down for the English class she’s failing. But the most significant device is the cascarones – confetti filled eggs bearing good luck wishes. The fragility of the egg mixed with the flamboyancy of the confetti makes for a superb and poignant addition.

The author’s style is light and often humorous. She writes the best sort of multicultural story: an authentic one. Confetti Girl is the tale of family that happens to be Mexican-American. It never ventures into stereotypical or seems culturally didactic. This gives added meaning for both Latino readers, who might find added elements with which to identify, and Non-Latino readers, who might learn something new or find something in common with Lima and her family.

The ending scene, where a celebration in confetti filled cascarones ensues, is priceless and provides a perfect ending to an uplifting tale of overcoming the fragile parts of life with confetti joy.

Recommended for 5th - 8th grade girls who enjoy multicultural tales, realistic fiction about overcoming adversity or stories about friendship and family.

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Genre: Realistic Fiction. Age: 9-12. Pages: 208.

Themes: Friendship, Family, Overcoming Adversity, Multicultural
Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers. Date: June 2009. ISBN-10: 0316029556 / ISBN-13: 978-0316029551

Buy Confetti Girl Here

A list of teaching ideas can be found here.

Diana Lopez began her love of reading with Mother Goose and fell in love with writing through The Diary of Anne Frank. She collects refrigerator magnets and sometimes wears crazy socks. You can read more about her on her website. She is available for school visits.

© 2007-2009 Cheryl Vanatti for www.ReadingRumpus.com

Join Preisdent Obama's Call By Reading To A Child

On June 17th, President Obama called on Americans to join a summer program he's titled United We Serve. As part of that initiative, he's especially asking Americans to volunteer to help critical crises our country is facing. The challenge runs from Today, June 22nd through September 11th.

Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life by Rachel Renee Russell - Review & Giveaway!

I don’t want to compare Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life to Diary of a Wimpy Kid. All the reviews are doing that. It’s not really fair because the only things the two books have in common are the cartoon diary format, middle school setting and engaging voice of an authentic protagonist. I always feel like comparing books is a cop-out and besides, Dork Diaries stands on its own merit.

Dreaming of Catching Fire

© 2007-2009 Cheryl Vanatti for www.ReadingRumpus.com

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The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams - Book Review

Who am I to define normal? In The Chosen One, protagonist Kyra grows up in the love of a large family. Her siblings are many and close in age. Her parents are not divorced and fighting over custody or child support. She has a humble, but comfortable, home. She has a much more stable and loving environment than many students who will read The Chosen One.

Is it wrong that Kyra has so many siblings? Is it wrong that she has three mothers? Is it wrong that her parents want to protect her from the ever-growing openly sexual and violent world? Does the ‘wrong’ start when she is chosen to marry her sixty-year-old uncle? Can there be any ‘right’ in a place where woman are made especially by God to be a man’s obeying plaything? Where, exactly, does the wrong start? I cannot stop the lingering questions much as I couldn’t stop reading The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams.

From the moment I read the opening line, I was enthralled. Williams's writing is tight, well edited and plotted to near perfection. Her economy of words boosts the climactic pace. The undertone of sexual abuse/child abuse is ever present, yet not overblown for dramatic effect. There were a few faults in the telling (easily contrived romance, unnecessary death of a supporting cast member, an ending that falls a bit too quickly), but The Chosen One is certainly a novel offering enumerable chances for discussion and dissection in any secondary classroom. Themes of personal freedom, sexism, societal norms, religion/cultism and overcoming adversity… are but a few jumping off points.

Recommended for all secondary libraries and classroom use for students enjoying deep themes and suspense-styled stories.