Review: Wings

WingsWings by Christopher Myers

Scholastic Press (2000)

ISBN 9780590033770

Books like this are simple – and profound – and they make a real impact on young readers as well as older ones. Ikarus Jackson is the new boy at school – and he is different. His strength to be himself and embrace his diversity in face of intolerance is inspiring, especially to lower grade students who are just learning what it means to be tolerant of others and at the same time experiencing the first stings of self-consciousness as they begin to recognize differences in themselves.

Quantitative: Lexile Level: 400 (Adult Directed); ATOS 3.4

Qualitative: Lower Grades (K-3) with adult directed reading recommended. This picture book contains themes more mature than the quantitative reading level and should be read and discussed with very young readers to allow them to understand the meaning behind the words.

Content Area: English; Social Science – Equality/Diversity

Common Core Standards: SL.1.1, SL.1.2, SL.1.3, RL.1.1, RL.1.3, RL.1.4

Additional/Digital Content:  Meet Christopher Myers in this interview from Reading Rockets

Awards: ALA Notable/Best Books; Booklist Editors’ Choice; Publishers Weekly Best Book; Charlotte Zolotow Award/Honor Book

Personal Note: Christopher Myers is the son of  award-winning young adult author Walter Dean Myers. Both strong voices for young people – highly recommend.

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Review: There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly

There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a FlyThere Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly by Simms Taback

Viking Juvenile (1997)

ISBN 9780670869398

This old familiar rhyme about this poor old lady has been with us for generations – but it is really the amazing die-cut illustrations of Simms Taback that give this version it’s truly new and amazing power for readers of this version. Everything from the crazy look on her face (she LOOKS like a lady who would swallow all those things!) to the wonderful use of colors and his own handwritten font used for the text of this story, brings this book to life and gives young readers (and old ladies) a reason to laugh and howl as they go along with the ever-expanding contents of the story and her stomach.

A vert strong book for read-along use in the library, this book is also great to use with older students who want to read to younger groups of students. The familiar verses bring everyone into the reading and the climax is always exciting, no matter how many times it is read!

Quantitative: No Lexile or ATOS available.

Qualitative: This is a great book for lower grades (K-3) as it follows a rhyming, sin-song verse form through out the book. The illustrations are great to use with older students for both art and graphic design samples, as the author used his own handwriting to create a font to use for the text.

Content Area: English; Art – Graphic Design

Common Core Standards: W.K.3, L.K.1, L.K.5, 

Additional/Digital Content:

Simms Taback official website:

Awards: Caldecott Honor Book (1998)

Personal Note: Simms Taback was a long-time resident of Ventura County and much of his original artwork is often on display in various locations throughout the county. He created illustrations for his other books such as Joseph Had a Little Overcoat and I Miss You Everyday and they are amazing to see in their original form. Simms Taback also created the first artwork for McDonald’s when it launched its “Happy Meal” boxed meals back in 1977. Sadly, he passed away Christmas Day 2011.

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Review: Etched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and Poet

Etched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and PoetReview: Etched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and Poet

by Andrea Cheng

Lee & Low Books: NY (2013)

ISBN: 978160060451

This is the story of the life of Dave, a slave whose owner’s family own Pottersville Stoneware. When Dave learns the craft, his natural ability leads him to become a renown potter in the south who inscribed his works with sayings and short poems in spite of the slave anti-literacy sentiment in South Carolina in the years leading up to the Civil War. 

The pages contain a variety of voices and verses presenting the views of life from the perspectives of not only Dave, but also those who see him as their property, his two wives, his admirers, his champion (the owner’s wife who teaches him to read) as well as his adversaries. The prose is succinct and plain, much like the language and words exchanged in the time of Dave’s life. The power of brevity is beautifully displayed and subtly pressed into the pages using wood block illustrations. This is a song that shows young readers how a slave named Dave became an extraordinary man, a skilled craftsman with clay and wheel, and a literate man who found a way to share his messages of hope with the world.

Quantitative: Lexile Level 790; ATOS 5.0

Qualitative: Middle grades 4-8; YA biography written in verse.

Content area: English; Social Studies, Biography, Poetry, History-Slavery, Civil War

Common Core Standards: RI.4.1, 4.3, 4.5, 4.6;  RH.6-8.4-RH.6-8.9

Additional/Digital Resources:

Personal Note:  There are so many things to love about this book it is hard to know where to start. This book was a pleasure from cover to cover. This “narrative biography, told in verse” uses words the way Dave used his sharp stick – to carve words that seem simple but hold great power. The wood block illustrations are carved as well giving this collection an “etched” feeling in every way.

Andrea Cheng combines the words left behind by Dave (Drake) on the pottery he shaped as a slave in the early nineteenth century with the imagined musings, “dramatic extensions” of truth and reflections of the people around him. This book is a treasure and illustrates the internal conflicts of those who believed in the mid-1800’s that slaves should be educated and that the human spirit will always find a way to make its mark on history. This is a book to buy, to share and to aspire to. As Dave says “… when I write, I am a man.” These are words you don’t want to miss

Subjects/Themes: Slavery, Civil War, Biography, Poetry

Includes bibliography and maps.

Review: Won-Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku

Won-Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku
Won-Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku by Lee Wardlaw
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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