Review: Wings

Wings by Christopher Myers

Beautiful and lyrical, this poem by Christopher Myers follows the flying wings of Ikarus Jackson who is new in the neighborhood and new at school. When his wings, which he uses to soar and swoop and touch the sky, are met with sneers and laughter, Ikarus begins to lose his confidence and his love for his wings. Only through empathy and the courage of a classmate, someone who also feels the scorn of intolerance around her, does Ikarus remember who he is and lets himself spread his wings and fly high again.

A truly inspirational short verse on the power of intolerance and the even greater power of acceptance and love for the unique qualities we each possess. This book makes the heart soar.

ISBN13: 9780590033787

Published January 1st 2002 by Scholastic, Inc. (first published October 1st 2000)

Price: $2.50


Someone with wings should fly – should want to fly – but that isn’t always easy to do when your beauty is unique. Ikarus must learn to overcome his fear intolerance and let his wings spread; and, with the help of a classmate, those around him learn to accept and appreciate the beauty if his flight.


Resource of Interest:


Review: India Unveiled

India Unveiled
India Unveiled by Robert Arnett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Considered a pictorial essay, this book is like a walk through all of the amazing and varied regions of India. Seeing the world through the eyes of Robert Arnett gives readers the feeling that they are seeing daily life unfold before them and the cultural diversity within the country is organized and displayed in a way that lets readers really gain knowledge of the people in that country.

As coffee table or travel books go, this is top-shelf. The images are unique and vivid, not tourist-oriented but revealing and true works of art. The information, going from region to region, and details regarding the people of India in their homes, in their school and in their individual lives illustrate beautifully the many facets of the people who call themselves “Indian.”

Hardcover, 216 pages
Published July 1st 2006 by Atman Press (first published January 1st 1999)
ISBN 0965290042
ISBN13: 9780965290043
Price: $71.00 (through Baker & Taylor)
Literary Awards:
Independent Publisher Award for Best Travel Book of the Year; Benjamin Franklin Award for Best Travel Essay of the Year
Annotation: Take a walk through India with one of the best guides around. See what life is like for the people of this beautiful country, steeped in cultural diversity, spirituality, and wonder. An amazing visual feast for the eyes, India Unveiled will show you things you will never forget – and you will never want to forget!

Review: The Tale of Despereaux

The Tale of DespereauxThe Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

Adventure, passion, love, devotion, bravery, tragedy and excitement are the stuff of this story. It does not matter that our knight in shining armor is a romantic mouse named Despereaux Tilling and his love is for a lovely princess named Pea. We cheer for him and cry with him and, along with his comrades, go on a quest that takes us to dark dungeons, castle walls, and love – pure and blind. Destiny has a lot in store for this hero and readers will not be able to put it down once they set off. Will he get the girl? Will the other characters find what they seek? Will they survive the dangers and perils of their quest together? Only one way to find out – and author Kate DiCamillo does an excellent job of motivating readers to turn the page.

Candlewick Press (2008)

ISBN 9780763625290

Quantitative: Lexile Level: 670; ATOS 4.7

Qualitative: Middle Grades (4-8)

Common Core Standards: RL.6.2, RL.6.3

Additional/Digital Content:

Awards: Newbery Medal (2004)


A brave mouse, a princess who needs saving, an evil rat and other characters weave a tale that is treacherous and heartwarming at the same time. Our hero Despereaux learns that “stories are light” and readers will find this story very bright!

Review: American Born Chinese

American Born Chinese  American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Mac Millan Publishers – First Second (2006)

ISBN 9781596431522

Price: $12.00

This graphic novel is an intriguing thing to consume. It is actually three seemingly unrelated stories woven together into a tale of the struggle for identity, acceptance, honor, and heritage from very different Chinese experiences and perspectives. It is one part modern fable, one part coming of age story and one part identity crisis. Gene Luen Yang has set the bar high for what a graphic novel can be: smart and visually provoking in the same way words on a page can be if they are arranged well. You may think you know what to expect but you don’t; if you think you got the whole story, you’re wrong. Read it again!

Quantitative: Lexile Level: 530 (Graphic Novel); ATOS 3.3

Qualitative: Middle/Upper Grades (7-10). Mature themes and some graphic depictions may not be appropriate for younger readers.

Content Area: Social Science – Chinese-American

Common Core Standards: RL.9-10.2, RL.9-10.3, RL.9-10.5, 

Additional/Digital Content:

Author resource from Kennedy Center:

Awards: National Book Award Nominee for Young People’s Literature (2006), Printz Award (2007), ALA’s Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults (2007), James Cook Book Award Nominee (2007), Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards for Best Graphic Album – New (2007) .


Three stories, one Chinese, one American, the third a struggle between the two cultures to find meaning in identity. A graphic novel that clashes cultures together and in the end, fuses them into one life story.

Personal Note: This is a graphic novel that can be used in a variety of settings with upper-middle grade classes. It is suitable not only for grade-level readers, but also has great appeal for struggling readers as well as advanced readers. A complex graphic novel can be a valuable  differentiation tool and this book is a great example.

Review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: #1-4

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: #1-4
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: #1-4 by Jeff Kinney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This series is a terrific romp inside the mind of a tween. The “Wimpy Kid” is Gregory, who reluctantly takes up a pen and journal (not a DIARY) on his mom’s suggestion in exchange for getting out of a Saturday chore. Gregory approaches the journal writing with a perfect middle school attitude: my mom is not going to read it, so I can write whatever I want to. As any 7th grader might, he is frank in his observations and by incorporating stick-figure cartoon drawings throughout the books, Gregory’s perspective of his world is pretty funny.

Author Jeff Kinney really touches a nerve for kids in the characters he has created in the Wimpy Kid stories. There are bullies, dorks, geeks, jocks, and of course cute girls. Through Gregory’s point of view, readers see the ineptitude of teachers, lack of empathy from parents, sibling rivalries, and awkward situations with friends in his every day life. Basically, every page is a sketch of the social minefield that is the treacherous existence of middle school life.

Gregory is in the middle of everything: the middle of middle school, the middle between little kid and teenager, the middle child, and the middle of trying to be a nice kid but not being too nice. Gregory’s biggest fear is to be a perceived as a wimp by his peers, a fear shared by readers his age. His struggles and small victories (at home and on the school yard)give hope and inspiration to readers who wonder how they will survive middle school, even if they never get struck with the ‘Cheese Touch.’ Gregory usually ends up doing the right thing in the end, but reading his own version of how things usually went very wrong is half the fun of these books. The other half has to be the cartoon drawings. Jeff Kinney has captured the spirit of tweens in these line scribbles and speech bubbles, making them part of the diary.

The Wimpy Kid series, now consisting of eight books, brings readers a character that speaks their language. Gregory must deal with parents who don’t really see him as an individual the way he would like to be seen and appreciated. He follows the legacy of an older brother, who has left a wake of unhappy teachers and wise-to-your-kind school administrators. Gregory seems to know all the secrets of survival for tweens as he suffers the same trial-by-fire and for all of his embarrassments and humiliations, he is a hero to most middle school kids (my 12-year-old son included!).

Because it is a series, readers become very attached and invested in the characters. They empathize with Gregory but they also learn all his secrets and develop an understanding of the motivation for his choices. Gregory becomes part of the family and he grows up (a little) with readers following along. Jeff Kinney’s character documents his success and failure in the middle school jungle very honestly, and tween readers appreciate that. They can laugh about Greg’s mishaps even when they cannot laugh about their own.

Age Range: 7 – 13 years
Grade Level: 2 – 8
Lexile Measure: 950-1010

Series: Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Book 1)
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Amulet Books; US Ed edition (April 1, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0810993139
ISBN-13: 978-0810993136

Series: Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Book 2)
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Amulet Books (February 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0810994739
ISBN-13: 978-0810994737

Series: Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Book 3)
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams; First Edition edition (January 13, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0810970686
ISBN-13: 978-0810970687

Series: Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Book 4)
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams; 1 edition (October 12, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0810983915
ISBN-13: 978-0810983915

Awards: Borders Original Voices Award for YA or Independent Reader (2007), West Australian Young Readers’ Book Award (WAYRBA) for Younger Readers (2009), Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award (2009), ALA Teens’ Top Ten (2008)

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