Lucian's Books

A comprehensive annotated bibliography of high quality children's literature.

Permalink Title: The Report Card
Author: Andrew Clements
Publisher/Copyright: Simon and Schuster: New York  (2004)
Genre: Realistic Fiction                       Format: Novel
Awards: Blue Hen Book Award, 2006 Winner
Parents’ Choice Award, 2004 Silver Fiction
Summary: The main character in this book, Nora Rowley, is a genius but pretends to be like her classmates because she just wants to be average. This works well for her until 5th grade when a friend and a test will reveal her true potential. Her friend’s self-esteem is being trampled by his low test scores and Nora believes that her school’s testing system is seriously flawed. She purposefully performs poorly to bring attention to the flawed system with hope that those in charge will change things and, with the help of her friend, persuades others to fail the test on purpose. This book tackles a touchy subject with a outrageous but plausible scenario.
Personal Response: I really likes the first person narrative style of the book and thought it was an interesting plot. I also like how it touches on the subject of testing from the perspective of two very different students. I think children would be able to make connections with the characters and situations in this book.
Classroom Connection: The topics discussed in The Report Card can be used to open up discussions for children to express their own thoughts and feelings about personal ability and testing. The book has large print and short chapters for readers beginning to delve into chapter books.
Relevant Websites:
Permalink Title: Dead End in Norvelt
Author: Jack Gantos
Publisher/Copyright: Farrar Straus Giroux: New York (2011)
Genre: Historical Fiction            Format: Novel
Awards: John Newbery Medal, 2012 Winner
Notable Children’s Books, 2012 ; ALSC American Library Association
Summary: Dead End in Norvelt is a gripping and witty story about a young boy from a small town in Pennsylvania. When he gets grounded for the summer, the only reason he is allowed to leave his house is to help his elderly neighbor write obituaries or dig a bomb shelter in their field. He will get some detailed history lessons from his neighbor during his visits and is eager to help after he learns of her wealth of knowledge about the town and the country. Little does he know that this will be one of the most exciting, dangerous, and mysterious summers this small town has ever experienced, and he is directly in the middle of the entire situation. Death, fire, girl scout cookies, tricycles, an airplane, and a biker gang all play intricate roles in this wonderful book. 
Personal Response: The characters were my favorite part of this book. I think the author carefully and cleverly created a story that is compelling through the creation of the characters and the dynamics between them. The main character is easy to relate to and has humorous and meaningful conversations through his interactions in the story. I actually laughed out loud at some of the dialogue in this book because it reminded me of the kind of jokes made in my own family.
 Classroom Connection: This is a great coming-of-age book to have in an older elementary classroom. I think it could be a good book for a read aloud because of the intertwined history references and interesting plot.
Relevant Websites:
Permalink Title: Lon Po Po
Author/Illustrator: Ed Young
Publisher/Copyright: Philomel Books: New York   (1989)
Genre: Traditional                          Format: Picture Book
Awards: Randolph Caldecott Medal, 1990 Winner
Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature, 1990 Winner
Summary: As the cover states, this is a Red-Riding Hood story from China. Three young children are left home by their mother when a wolf shows up claiming to be their grandmother. When the oldest child figures out that this is not their grandmother, the children run up a tree to get away. The clever children trick the wolf into getting in a basket by saying they will pull him up to the branch. The children let go just as the wolf is reaching the top and he tumbles to his demise. The story and illustrations are dark and sometimes frightening but the universal message of good triumphing over evil persists.
Descriptions of Illustrations: This book uses watercolor and pastels to create a dark and frightening atmosphere around the wolf. The illustrations help drive the anticipation and suspense of waiting for the wolf to be discovered.
Person Response: I like this version of the story of a disguised wolf because the children save themselves through being clever. I think the dark qualities of the story and illustrations contribute to the appeal because it deviates from what is expected of a children’s book but mirrors the dark side of the European traditional literature of which I am familiar. 
Classroom Connection: This is a great addition to a classroom library because it is important to have traditional literature from many cultures. This book is a little scary for younger readers but older elementary readers may like the darker side of it.
Relevant Websites:
Permalink Title: One Hen
Author: Katie Smith Milway
Illustrator: Eugenie Fernandes
Publisher/Copyright: Kids Can Press: Toronto   (2008)
Genre: Nonfiction            Format: Picture Book
Awards: Children’s Africana Book Award, 2009, Winner Best Book for Young Children 
Cybil Award, 2008, Finalist Fiction Picture Books 
Summary: This is a story about a small loan making a big difference for a young boy growing up in Ghana. He experiences loss, poverty, and hunger but one hen will change things for him and his family. The boys name is Kojo, and this entrepreneurial young man figures out how to turn one chicken into a profitable farm by selling the eggs. He grows up and strengthens his community by giving other people the same opportunity he was given. The repetitiveness of the format and sequential time line help create a wonderful story about overcoming hardships and giving back to the community.
Description of Illustrations: The acrylic artwork in this book creates a bright and welcoming feeling with its warm and vibrant colors.
Personal Response: I enjoyed reading this book because it is a feel-good story about working hard and being part of a larger community. The eye-popping illustrations added to the heart-warming feeling of the story. 
Classroom Connection: This book is great for introducing basic business models in math and discussing the theme of community. It tells an inspiring story in which children can relate to through the main character who is a young boy in the beginning. The book also gives a positive perspective on life in Africa.
Related Websites:   (warning: wonderfully loud, upbeat and inspirational music)
Permalink Title: Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters
Author/Illustrator: John Steptoe
Publisher/Copyright: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Book: New York   (1987)
Genre: Traditional Literature, Fairy Tale         Format: Picture Book
Awards: Randolph Caldecott Medal, 1988 Honor Book
 Coretta Scott King Book Award, 1988 Winner
Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature, 1987 Winner
Summary: In this book, two sisters from a small African village will have the opportunity to marry the king, but only if they are deemed worthy. One sister is kind and gentle and the other one is very mean and selfish. When they learn of the kings intentions, the selfish sister sneaks out ahead of the scheduled time so she can be the first to meet the king. She ignores a hungry boy, a warning from an old lady, and an old man in her rush to be first. What she doesn’t realize is that these figures were actually the king testing her to determine if she was worthy and she failed. The kind sister’s demeanor leads her to pass all of the tests without effort and she arrives at the city to discover that the king was also her friendly snake from the garden she would sing in. They will marry and live happily ever after.
Description of Illustrations: The watercolor painting and ink details create textured and realistic characters and settings in this book. The life-like qualities of the the illustrations make the story feel real.
Personal Response: I love the illustrations, especially the the body language and facial expressions of the characters. I also really like the message about being kind and humble. I felt like I was in an old village in Africa when reading this book.
Classroom Connection: I think this book belongs in a classroom library because it has a positive moral theme wrapped in an enchanted African folktale. The award winning illustrations bring this world to life on the pages and enhance the text. It should be an addition to any traditional literature collection.
Relevant Websites:
Permalink Title:Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride 
Author: Andrea Davis Pinkney
Illustrator: Brian Pinkney
Publisher/Copyright:  Disney/Jump at the Sun Books:New York (2009)
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography     Format: Picture Book
Awards: Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, 2010 Honor Book
Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Award, 2009 Platinum Early School Year
 Summary: This is a very big story of a very strong woman named Sojourner Truth. Her original name was Belle and she was born a slave in the South. She runs away to the North when the slave owner refuses to keep his promise and set her free for working extra hard. She gets paid for the work she does when she is not a slave and begins preaching against injustice. She changes her name to reflect her journey to spread the truth about woman and slavery by stomping through the country and preaching with her big presence.
Description of Illustrations: The unique watercolor and ink techniques used in the illustrations depict Sojourner Truth as larger than life. She looks big and fierce and you can see the emotion on her face when she is preaching the truth.
Personal Response: This book is a powerful retelling of this woman’s life. The illustrations really popped out at me with the saturation of warm colors and bold images. I was previously unfamiliar with the story of Sojourner Truth and found it fascinating. I also had the pleasure of hearing the author recite the first few lines and will forever have her strong, booming voice in my thoughts as I read this book.
Classroom Connection: This book would need to be carefully introduced to children in a classroom because of the heavy references to God and the preaching of the main character. I definitely think it belongs because of the historical and inspirational impression Sojourner Truth left on America. The book is wonderfully crafted and supports the need to incorporate more historical references to the important struggles and contributions of African Americans.
relevant Websites:
Permalink Title: Boycott Blues : How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation 
Author: Andrea Davis Pinkney
Illustrator: Brian Pinkney
Publisher/Copyright: Greenwillow Books :New York (2008)
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography     Format: Picture Book
Awards: Cybil Award, 2008 Finalist Fiction Picture Book
Anne Izard Storytellers’ Choice Award, 2009 Winner 
Summary: This is a soulful and poetic story of an African American woman named Rosa Parks and her refusal to give up her seat on a bus to a white person. The story is narrated by Dog Tired, a guitar playing dog that wants to sing the blues about the bus boycott during the civil rights movement that went on for many months. This book talks about Rosa Parks’ inspirational action that supported a major boycott that would help lead to desegregation of buses and other public places and services.
Description of Illustrations: Alternating warm and cool colors of ink on clay board are artfully crafted to help the reader see and feel the moods of the people and time period. Contrasting colors are used to make certain people or objects pop on the page.
Personal Response: I love the bluesy feel and rhythm of this book. The illustrations are so intricate that I enjoy looking over them multiple times because I keep finding new and interesting nuances. I also think it has an important theme about standing up for equality and doing so in a non-violent way.
Classroom Connection: This book conveys information about a tumultuous time period in American history in a way children can understand and appreciate the meaning of the story. This book is one of several by the Pinkney’s about historical and inspirational African American figures that should be included in a classroom because of the significance of their contributions.
Relevant Websites:
Permalink Title: Llama Llama Misses Mama
Author/Illustrator: Anna Dewdney
Publisher/Copyright: Viking: New York  (2009)
Genre: Fiction, Fantasy      Format: Picture Book , Predictable
Awards/Best Books: Best Children’s Books of the Year, 2010 ; Bank Street College of Education
Summary: This a story for younger children about a llama going to school for the first time and is very shy. He misses his mama when she leaves and is refusing to try anything new, even when his teacher tries to show him all of the fun things he can do at school. He is eventually persuaded to try to have fun and then his mama shows up to take him home. He is very excited to see her and now loves school too. This is a predictable book with repeated phrases, rhymes, and a consistent pattern.
Description of Illustrations: The simple, soft, and warm oil paintings are very colorful and support the flow of the story.
Personal Response: I like this book because of the rhymes and patterns. I think it a great book for younger children and is fun to read aloud. The illustrations help by showing the emotions the little llama is feeling.
Classroom Connection: This book is the perfect book to read to a kindergarten class on the first day. It is fun and relatable to children who may be experiencing the same feelings on the first day of school.
Relevant Websites:
Permalink Title: Q is for Duck
Authors: Mary Etling & Michael Folsom  
Illustrator: Jack Kent
Publisher/Copyright: Clarion Books: New York (2005, orig.1980)
Genre: Nonfiction                  Format: Picture Book, Alphabet 
Summary: Children are urged to guess why each letter is for an animal whose name does NOT start with that letter in this alphabet book. You may have guessed that Q if for duck because ducks quack. The entire book follows this pattern, with each letter representing something about the animal. The simple illustrations and large print make this a good book for engaging children in thinking about the alphabet and animals. A majority of the riddles are predictable enough for even younger readers, like M is for cow and B is for dog.
Description of Illustrations: The newer publication has full color and the bright illustrations add to the appeal of this book. The original has simple, duller colors but is still just as fun.
Personal response: I found myself anticipating the next page and it is fun to see the reaction of children when they know the answer. I like how this book requires a little bit of thought, unlike other alphabet books that have predictable formats.
Classroom Connection: This is a wonderful book for supporting letter knowledge, prediction skills, and other thinking skills. This is a perfect book for a read aloud because it has an interactive format.
Relevant Websites:
Permalink Title: A Ball for Daisy
Author/Illustrator: Chris Raschka
Publisher/Copyright: Schwartz & Wade Books: New York  (2011)
Genre: Realistic Fiction                 Format: Wordless Picture Book
Awards: Randolph Caldecott Medal, 2012 Winner 
New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books, 2011 
Summary: A dog named Daisy is as happy as can be while playing with her red ball. This wordless picture book shares the story of how Daisy’s ball is ruined by another dog and she is left utterly depressed without it. However, the next day she returns to place where her ball was popped and meets a new dog and a new ball. She couldn’t be happier when she gets to take her new blue ball home.
Descriptions of Illustrations: Wonderfully simple but expressive ink, watercolor, and gouache painting grace the pages of this wordless book with panels that tell the story of Daisy and her ball.
Personal Response: I really enjoy reading the story through the illustrations in this book. The dog’s emotional responses are interesting to see play out without accompanying text. I thought it was a simple and fun picture book.
Classroom Connection: Wordless books are great for building comprehension because you have to deconstruct the images to decipher the story. This award winning book should be in a classroom because of the quality of the illustrations and the fun that can be had when sharing it.
Relevant Websites:
Permalink Title: The Man Who Walked Between the Towers
Author/Illustrator: Mordicai Gerstein
Publisher/Copyright: Roaring Brook Press: Brookfield, CT   (2003)
Genre: Nonfiction, Biography        Format: Picture Book
Awards: Randolph Caldecott Medal, 2004 Winner
Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature, 2004 Winner
New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books of the Year, 2003 Winner
Summary: This book recounts the death-defying tight rope walk between the original World Trade Center towers accomplished by a French aerialist. The illustrations make you feel like you are on the tight rope with this law-breaking daredevil as he carefully inches his way across the wire high above the city streets. He is captured by the police and charged, however, his sentence is to perform for the children of the city, to his delight. At the end of the book the author reminds us that these towers no longer exist with a surreal, ghost-like image of the towers with a wire and daredevil strung between them.
Description of Illustrations: The illustrations give a dizzying perspective in ink and pen on oil painting backdrops. The colors help drive the mood of the story, especially when he is performing his fantastic feat for almost an hour in the early morning.
Personal Response: I think this a fascinating way to tell a story about the great towers and an interesting man. I loved the way the illustrations captured the intensity of this act and think it is important to remember what once was the biggest part of the New York skyline.
Classroom Connection: This book is perfect for introducing young people to the history of the World Trade Center by exploring a small part of its past while recognizing what took place on September 11, 2001. This book is engaging, suspenseful, and contains extraordinary illustrations.
Relevant Websites:   
Permalink Title: All the World
Author: Liz Garton Scanlon
Illustrator: Marla Frazee
Publisher/Copyright: Beach Lane Books, New York : 2009
Awards: Randolph Caldecott Medal, 2010 Honor Book
New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books of the Year, 2009 Winner
Summary: “All the world is all of us” is the last line of this book and encapsulates the meaning behind its beautifully illustrated story in rhyme. It starts at the beach and continues on to talk about how we all fit together in this world, regardless of place or time. The book tells of how the world can be hectic for all of us but can sometimes stop on a dime. Within this book, the illustrations and words are nothing less than sublime.
Descriptions of Illustrations: The award winning illustrator created the vibrant, detailed, and emotion-stirring pictures with color pencil and watercolors.
Personal Response: I love this book for many reasons, including the beautiful illustrations. The words evoke an emotional response for me because of the way they connect people and the world, making it feel small. I think it is important to think about the big picture and how we are all on this crazy planet together.
Classroom Connection: This is a good book for a classroom because of the message of a worldwide community. It is important to expand the perspectives of children with literature that touches on ideas about the world and each individuals’ place within it.
Relevant Websites:
Permalink Title: The Lion and the Mouse
Author/Illustrator: Jerry Pinkney
Publisher/Copyright: Little, Brown and Co., New York, 2009
Genre: Traditional folktale              Format: Picture Book
Awards: Randolph Caldecott Medal, 2010, Winner, United State 
Parents’ Choice Award, 2009, Gold Picture Books, United States
Notable Children’s Books, 2010 ; ALSC American Library Association; United States
Summary: This is a tale of an unlikely encounter told without words through the magnificent and vivid illustrations of Jerry Pinkney. Based on a classic Aesop fable, the lion and the mouse make a deal that will have benefits for both of them in the story. The story has a themes of respect and honor.
Description of Illustrations: Extremely detailed pencil and watercolor illustrations fill the entire page. Close ups such as the cover give emotion and depth to the illustrations.
Personal Response: I was fascinated by the illustrations and how they drive the story effortlessly without words. I am familiar with similar versions of this fable but think this is my favorite one because of the tone and emotions I felt from the illustrations.
Classroom Connection: I think any winner of a Caldecott Medal deserves a place on a classrom book shelf. This book in particular gives a unique tool of a wordless picture book for older children that could be used to examine the pictures, make predictions/interpretations, and strengthen comprehension skills.
Relevant Websites:
Permalink Title: Cousins of Clouds: Elephant Poems
Author: Tracie Vaughn Zimmer
Illustrators: Megan Halsey & Sean Addy
Publisher/Copyright: Clarion Books: New York  (2011)
Awards: Cybil Award, 2011 Finalist
Genre: Poetry                        Format: Picture Book, Specialized Collection
Summary: This is a fascinating collection of poems that share mythical and factual information about elephants. The story of the elephant’s fall from the skies to become what they are now is told through this mix of fact and myth, with sidebars included to showcase the facts and history of different elephants. Different styles of poetry are used by the author, like haiku and sonnet, adding variety to the collection.
Description of Illustrations: The illustrators used mixed media collages to help set the tone and mythical qualities expressed by the poems. The illustrations add to the feelings within the words of the poems.
Personal response: Elephants happen to be my favorite animal because of some of the qualities this book includes. For example, the way they die and the structure of their herds fascinate me. I really enjoyed how the poems weave myth and fact together, while telling an interesting tale about why the elephants are “cousins of clouds.”
Classroom Connection: Poetry books are a great addition to any classroom library and this one has several reasons for why it should be included. It contains facts about elephants but also interesting myths to peak interest in the subjects. It also has intricate and enchanting illustrations to engage readers. I think many of the poems would be great for reading aloud with the simple purpose of enjoying poetry.
Relevant Websites:
Permalink Title: Olde Tyme Mother Goose: Nursery rhymes and Folk Tales
Editor: Louise Gikow
Illustrator: Frederick Richardson
Publisher: Dalmatian Press, LLC   Copyright: 2004
Genre: Traditional Literature                Format: Picture Book, Specialized collection
Summary: This book contains pages and pages of nursery rhymes and folk tales. The traditional Mother Goose rhymes (Humpty Dumpty, Jack and Jill, etc.) are included with many other lesser known nursery rhymes. Seven folk tales are included, like “3 Billy Goats Gruff” and “The Little Red Hen.” Olde Tyme Mother Goose is an extensive collection of traditional literature.
Descriptions of Illustrations: Traditional and realistic medieval settings and characters created with watercolor and ink complement the accompanying tales on the gilt edged pages.
Personal Response: I really enjoy this collection because it has many rhymes and tales that are unfamiliar to me, as well as all of my favorites. It is well organized with a table of contents for the folk tales. I really like format and design of the book and think is a great collection of nursery rhymes.
Classroom Connection: I would have this book in a classroom because it is a wonderful source for all things Mother Goose. Younger children can really benefit from the rhymes and rhythms and this book has large, clear print for developing readers. I also like how this book includes some lesser known tales for children to explore.
Relevant Websites: