April 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Archives for March 2012

Winner of the 2012 Undead Poll and Kid Commentator Picks!

After two consecutive years of blowouts, this year was much more competitive. That’s not to say OKAY FOR NOW didn’t jump out to a healthy lead and maintain it throughout, but that healthy lead was often a single digit number.  CHIME and DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE trailed early, then CHIME pulled away for a clear second place until an eleventh hour push by WONDERSTRUCK.  Meanwhile, A MONSTER CALLS joined DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE in that third tier. Undead winner OKAY FOR NOW will make lots of people happy and it should be a real threat to win the whole thing.  It’s also the only viable juvenile option in the final round as both BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY and LIFE: AN EXPLODED DIAGRAM are more YA.

– Commentator Jonathan Hunt


The two official Kid Commentators want to share with everyone what THEY think should win this year’s top BoB Prize. Do you agree with their picks?


Okay For Now, Between Shades of Gray, and Life: An Exploded Diagram. Three fantastic novels have all conquered their competitors, survived in a rather brutal battle, and have made it to the final round of the 2012 Battle of the Kids’ Books. Which for any book, picture or prose, is the highest honor one could be awarded. These three books will fight in the ultimate brawl of the battle until one book alone departs from the battle victorious. This …

» Continue Reading: Winner of the 2012 Undead Poll and Kid Commentator Picks!

Round 3, Match 2: Drawing from Memory vs Life: An Exploded Diagram

  Drawing from Memory by Allen Say Scholastic Life: An Exploded Diagram by Mal Peet Candlewick Judged by Ron Koertge

Pen vs. Brush

I drop two books on the table in the Turf Club. No big surprise. Bobby and I are always bringing things to read. We’re at the races four days a week, but we’re not degenerate gamblers. Sometimes an hour goes by before there’s something worth betting.

 Sammy, another regular, picks the books up. Weighs them. The cover of Mal Peet’s Life: An Exploded Diagram features a lethal-looking rocket. On Allen’s Say’s Drawing from Memory, a dreamy boy in a blue sweater and blue socks appears to be flying.

“What’s the deal?” Sam asks.

“I have to decide between them,” I tell him. “It’s like a match race.”

“Doesn’t seem fair. One of them is thin like a pizza; the other’s fat like a sandwich.”

“Mal Peet’s book starts during WWII and goes to 2001. That’s more like a five-course meal.”

“And the other one?”

“Allen Say’s life in 62 pages.”

Sam flips through Drawing from Memory. “It’s got pictures,” he says. “Has the other one got pictures?”

I shake my head.

Sam says, “Doesn’t sound fair to me.”

“They’re both really good.”

Sammy grunts. “So, do you like anybody in the first race?”

Just then Bob shows up. He drops his copy of Daily Racing Form, picks up Life: An Exploded Diagram and flips through it. “Bold historical sweep, epic in scale with keen insight …

» Continue Reading: Round 3, Match 2: Drawing from Memory vs Life: An Exploded Diagram

Numbers All Around: Math

Math is everywhere. Sometimes it’s obvious-on a test, counting money, etc.-but other times students don’t even realize they’re using it. When they get wrapped up in the topic, they can begin to appreciate the importance and beauty of math and become motivated to learn more. There are times when the basics have to be covered (see Enslow’s “Ace Your Math Test” for a great series for that), but there should also be opportunities for students to get interested in a […]

Let the Fun Begin! | Series Made Simple Spring 2012

Nonfiction series spur the imagination. While going over our article on new biography and career titles, I contemplated how different life would be if I had decided to become a Hollywood stunt double or an international spy instead of an editor. Reading Donna Cardon’s piece on arts and activities, “Making Movies, Music, & Magic,” made me wonder for the first time ever if maybe I should film a documentary or plant a garden on my Brooklyn stoop. It could happen.

Yes, […]

Across the Dewey Verse: Mixed Categories | Series Made Simple Spring 2012

Though the current educational and economic climates create pressure to produce informational titles that have clear applicability to curriculum-based assignments, venturesome publishers still, from time to time, throw out some bones to attract browsers. Often ephemeral and at times predictably shocking (even though the topics covered are wide-ranging), the stronger series reviewed here contain at least some easily absorbed educational content as well as juicy bits to share with delighted and/or grossed-out listeners. Eye-catching illustrations, bright designs, and energetic texts […]

When I Grow Up: Biography & Careers | Series Made Simple Spring 2012

This season’s crop of career books continues the trend of highlighting extreme jobs, with new series about the U.S. military and other dangerous pursuits, including movie stunts and mountain rescues. In biographies, there are, of course, titles about star athletes, famous Americans, and celebrities. With the exception of Rosen’s “Great Women of Achievement,” the overall focus of these sets is on hooking reluctant readers with adrenaline-fueled texts, pop-culture appeal, and/or excitement. None of this season’s series were especially outstanding, but […]

Past to Present: World History | Series Made Simple Spring 2012

This season’s history series feature warfare, moon missions, and information about the Titanic, among other subjects. They range in coverage from ancient Egypt to the present-day conflicts in the Middle East. All but one of these series are highly illustrated, giving readers the chance to learn about World War II and life in ancient civilizations in graphic-novel formats. A bit of humor enlivens Picture Window’s “The Way It Was” series, while first-person quotations give the perspective of real individuals in […]

United States Magnified: American History | Series Made Simple Spring 2012

Visionaries that they were, when the Designing Dads orchestrated the colonies’ rebellious hatching from an English egg more than 200 years ago, even they could not have imagined the astounding future in store for their fledgling country. What started as 13 colonial underdogs has grown into a world power. One of the most fascinating aspects of America’s story is the striking diversity its of people and geography. Through geographic expansion, population growth, and life-changing innovations, America remained a nation governed […]

Community Awareness: Social Science | Series Made Simple Spring 2012

Students have places to go, people to see, and things to do when they get there. Some of the series in this diverse collection might just be what they’re looking for to help them on their way. Several sets introduce young children and beginning readers to new activities, places, and/or ways to get around. Others emphasize the roles individuals play in society and offer advice and assurance, encouraging readers to become better communicators, leaders, and citizens. Most of the books […]

Gods & Monsters: Myths | Series Made Simple Spring 2012

It’s hard to find a library in which mythology and the supernatural aren’t in high demand, with younger patrons devouring the “The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids” series, middle grade readers glued to the latest “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” installment, and teens clamoring for more vampires and zombies. Librarians who want some nonfiction to pair with these popular titles will find several resources listed below. Though most of these series have serious kid appeal due to their subject […]

Wild & Domestic: Animals | Series Made Simple Spring 2012

These series deliver information about various creatures and explore how people connect with them in many different ways. School classes and individuals establish caring relationships with animals such as dogs, hamsters, or horses; members of the military partner with dolphins and other animals to carry out missions that they couldn’t accomplish on their own, etc. Other sets document the lives of familiar and unusual creatures on land, sea, and air. From insects to pet goldfish to bald eagles, there are […]

Rare, Strange, & Scary: Animals | Series Made Simple Spring 2012

Along with the usual introductions to lions, tigers, bears, snakes, and dinosaurs that make up animal-themed series every year, this season offers a few surprises—from insect detectives to tree kangaroos to colossal squid. Even the sets that cover the same predictable topics are marked by invulnerable bindings, crisply reproduced color photographs, cogent presentations of information, and useful back matter—including multimedia resource lists in either print or on publishers’ websites. More volumes than ever are also available in digital editions, which […]

Questions & Answers: General Science | Series Made Simple Spring 2012

Where does our garbage go? Why do we breathe faster when we run? What is cloning? Kids are full of questions and the titles in this season’s crop of science series are full of answers. The sets encourage readers to question, explore, and experiment and run the gamut from basic investigations of our natural world to explorations of some of the more complicated scientific and ethical issues facing society today.

Preschool-Grade 4

ALLYN, Daisy. Where Does the Bathwater Go? ISBN […]

Wild Weather & Living Things: Life Science | Series Made Simple Spring 2012

Since the Greek philosopher Aristotle penned his seminal works Meteorology and History of Animals, weather studies and “natural philosophy” have enjoyed a long tradition of being effective starting points for scientific inquiry. With few exceptions, the series below will strengthen students’ knowledge of and interest in natural phenomena, animals, the human body, and much more. Informative illustrations and texts, strong back matter, and interesting activity suggestions allow the best of these series to excite as much as they inform. Overall, […]

Numbers All Around: Math | Series Made Simple Spring 2012

Math is everywhere. Sometimes it’s obvious-on a test, counting money, etc.-but other times students don’t even realize they’re using it. When they get wrapped up in the topic, they can begin to appreciate the importance and beauty of math and become motivated to learn more. There are times when the basics have to be covered (see Enslow’s “Ace Your Math Test” for a great series for that), but there should also be opportunities for students to get interested in a […]

Things That Go: Machines & Technology | Series Made Simple Spring 2012

Reflecting the enduring allure of war and the military, many of these series offer eye-widening images of gear, vehicles, and weaponry designed to inflict maximum harm at maximum speeds. The better titles have well-chosen, captioned photos that show off each machine’s particular features and texts that provide specifics about capabilities without burying readers in opaque acronyms and minor details. As these series seem largely intended for quick and casual browsing, the absence of bibliographies in most of them is not […]

Menu for Well-Being: Health | Series Made Simple Spring 2012

Health is not the most glamorous or exciting topic out there, but fortunately publishers are creating vibrant, well illustrated, and informative wellness titles for kids. With the obesity epidemic in full swing in this country, we need to ensure that kids have access to facts about fitness, nutrition, and mental health as well as volumes that will encourage them to think about wellness as a lifelong goal. A few of the titles here cover the USDA’s new MyPlate nutritional guidelines; […]

Making Movies, Music, & Magic: Arts & Activities | Series Made Simple Spring 2012

The trend in arts and activities books this year is slim and sleek. Information that in the past might have been put into one large volume is now divided up into several short titles, each with its own narrow focus. This is unfortunate for libraries that have to spend more to buy more books, but there are benefits as well: to start, the slim volumes are less intimidating to young do-it-yourselfers. Plenty of visual aids, steps that are broken down […]

For the Love of the Game: Sports | Series Made Simple Spring 2012

Sports books are a mainstay for reluctant readers. How perfect, then, to be able to put high-quality, high-interest titles in their hands. Whether students are interested in learning about a sport that they play, following a favorite team, or discovering some of the up-and-coming trends, they’ll find much to enjoy in these books. Many of the series cover familiar ground: popular teams, improving one’s game, and, in this Olympic year, the latest on past Summer Olympic Games. However, this spring’s […]

From Learning Letters to Online Literacy: Language & Literature | Series Made Simple Spring 2012

These series tackle different facets of literacy: reading, writing, researching, and evaluating information disseminated by the mass media. Beginning with the basics, three series subsets from Teacher Created Materials Publishing are designed for early childhood learners just starting to identify letters, sounds, sight words, and short sentences. Next, Heinemann’s “Getting to Grips with Grammar” introduces the building blocks of writing before readers move on to penning pieces with Capstone’s “First Facts: You Can Write” collection for elementary school students. For […]