Sunday, June 30, 2013

Kaline Klattermaster's tree house by Haven Kimmel illustrated by Peter Brown

To be honest when I started this book the voice of Kaline ANNOYED me but after a few pages I was so caught up in his life I found myself ENJOYING all his antics and misunderstandings.  I have put in these capital letters because that is how this book is written.

Kaline's dad has left.  We don't know why but it is  clear early on that dad suffers from an obsessive compulsive personality while his wife, Estelle and son Kaline simply find these behaviours confusing.

With the help of his mother, his neighbor Mr P and two wonderful imaginary brothers, Kaline slowly makes sense of his new life.  Kaline even feels confident enough at the end to tell Mr P about the bullies who are tormenting him and also about his brothers.

"Kaline got to hold Maestro's leash as they walked down the street, and Mr P. asked him question after question.   ... Mr P. asked him if he had any brothers or sisters.  'Yes! as a matter of fact, I have two brothers who live in a tree house, along with their one hundred puppies and their motorcycle and their Santiago Zepplin, which is one of the fastest cars in the world.'  Mr P. clapped again,said, 'Tell me about them! Are these imaginary friends?' Kaline felt a tug behind his ribs. But Mr Putnaminski had said it with such excitement and understanding that Kaline felt like it was okay to say, 'Yes they're imaginary, which is as you know a very perfect kind of thing."

This book reminded me of The curious incident of the dog in the night time but for a younger audience.  It also reminded me of O'Diddy and if you enjoy Kaline Klattermaster's tree house you might like to look for Swashbuckler by James Maloney.

One fun aspect of this book is the invented language words like pangemonia, rememorize, precisedly and diffimult.  Also Kaline loves the old television program The Waltons and so do I.  Finally Kaline finds numbers and dates very confusing and these little moments were quite hilarious.  The cover is also a delight.

Here is a thoughtful review and here is a very detailed review.

Kaline Klattermaster, fresh out of third grade, is one of those kids who TALKS IN CAPITAL LETTERS, has a crazy mother and moves between his imaginary world and the real world with breathtaking frequency.

Spunky tells all by Ann Cameron illustrated by Lauren Castillo


"I lay on my belly and pulled myself forward, creeping toward Ralph's socks.  My fur caught loudly on the rough places of the rug. Ralph couldn't hear a sound. His ears were not good enough.  This is another question I must put to the ancestors.  Why do humans have such big ears when they can hardly hear anything?  What exactly is the point? But right then I had work.  I had reached the socks.  I dropped my head. I sniffed deeply. A sweet, ripe scent filled my nostrils. I opened my jaws. The socks  went into my mouth! Thousands of tiny lights flashed in spangled colors!"

Spunky is a middle aged dog (he is fourteen in human years) who lives with the Bates family.  While he can understand human language the family cannot speak dog.  In Spunky tells all, Spunky himself tries to make sense of his family all the while bemoaning their daily lack of understanding of his needs and habits.  The whole book is told from his point of view which is so funny.

Everything is going well until this incident with the sock.  After a long discussion, in which Spunky tries unsuccessfully to contribute his point of view,  the family decide Spunky needs a friend.  The friend will be a cat!  They go to the animal shelter and select Fiona - she is a cat who smells of foolish.

Somewhat like the relationship between Stuart Little and Snowbell the cat.  These two disparate souls have to find a way to live together.  Actually Spunky demonstrates amazing heroism when Fiona places her self in two life threatening situations.  Once in the toilet and later in the freezer drawer.

This is a perfect book.  It made me smile from page one to page 105.  It would be brilliant to read aloud or give to a young child who is ready for chapters.  Read this review if I have not convinced you that this book is special.  Here is a link to the author web site.

I have discovered that this is a book in a series by Ann Cameron about all the members of the Bates family.  We only have one of the ten titles in our school library Julian Secret Agent but I plan to add more.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Lulu and the Hedgehog in the rain by Hilary McKay illustrated by Priscilla Lamont

Ever since I read Hodgeheg by Dick King Smith I have had this little obsession with hedgehogs which is why I picked up Lulu and the Hedgehog in the rain.  This is a charming little story slightly reminiscent of The Little Red Hen because Lulu asks everyone to help her care for the little lost hedgehog she finds washed up one day after torrential rain but ultimately this task falls to Lulu herself.

Lulu is determined to let the little hedgehog live a free life.  She feels the hedgehog should not be treated as a pet.  To do this she needs the co-operation of everyone in her neighbourhood so she can be sure when the hedgehog burrows under the fence he will still be safe in the next garden and the next and the next.

She needs Charlie to remember to shut his gate, the new old lady to stop using snail and slug poisons and the bossy man must not burn the piles of leaves he rakes up in his garden.  Lulu and her cousin decide to form a hedgehog club complete with special badges and instructions.

This is a easy book to read with just six short chapters and delightful illustrations.  It would be fun to read aloud or give to a newly independent reader.

Here is a little extract that made me smile :

"We still need a name.  What have you thought of?'  ...  
Mellie lifted up the shoebox lid and looked at the hedgehog. 
 'Pineapple,' she said.  
'Pineapple!' 
'Or Prickles.' 
'Nearly every hedgehog in the world is called Prickles,' objected Lulu. 
There was a pause while Lulu and Mellie patted hay and leaves into a comfortable bed and tried to think of a name that no hedgehog in the world had yet been called.  
'Bubbles!' said Lulu.  
'John' said Mellie.  
'John? John! are you mad?' 
'John Cherry Bubbles Pineapple Prickles,' said Mellie. 'Five names, like the queen!"

There are six books in this series and we have all of them in our school library.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Joe and Sparky, Superstars! by Jamie Michalak illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz

Here is another joyous beginner book - Joe and Sparky, Superstars!  Joe Giraffe is a man with ideas.  Sparky, the tortoise, is somewhat reluctant to try new things but he is a loyal friend.

The friends, who live in cageless zoo, see a show on television about Talented Pairs and immediately Joe can see fame and glory.  The problem comes when they try to discover Sparky's talent.  Nothing seems right :

"I am done!' said Sparky.  'I cannot dance or tell a joke.  I cannot run, slide, or stand on one foot.  I cannot be Sparky the Star.  Just for you Joe, I have tried.  But we will never be a talented pair."

Of course this is not quite true and at the end of the day Joe and Sparky make a surprising and wonderful discovery.  This is, however, not the end.  The last page is perfect.  Joe sees a poster advertising positions for movie extras and it is clear the whole process will begin again.

Here is the web site for the author.  There are three books in this series. We definitely need to add all of them to our library collection.  You can read an excellent review here.

This book reminds me of the Minton series by Anna Fienberg so if you are a Minton fan you should look for Joe and Sparky.




Sunday, June 23, 2013

Annie and Simon by Catharine O'Neill

If you have read my blog lately you might have seen the inclusion of some terrific easy books perfect for very young children who are just developing confidence with reading.  Here is another one.  Annie and Simon is a colourful little book with four chapters which explore the special relationship between Annie and her ever patient brother Simon.  The School Library Journal reviewer said :

"Anne's frenetic pace is right on for a young child, but the something special here is Simon."

Chapter One is The Hairdo.  Little Annie has decided to be a hairdresser when she grows up but for now she needs to practice.  There is only so much she can do with Hazel, her short haired dog, so she asks Simon to volunteer.  Annie creates a spectacular hairstyle for Simon and then she experiments with her own hair.  Predictably this has disastrous results but luckily Simon is able to come to her rescue.

My favourite is chapter three where Annie is desperate for rain so she can try out her new large polka dot umbrella.  While playing in the garden she is bitten by a bee.  Once again the patient Simon saves the day and even though there are no clouds in the sky Annie's wish for rain comes true.

The other joy in this book is the mention of a loon.  When I lived in Canada I was desperate to see a loon - they look and sound so spectacular.

I now discover there is a second book about these special siblings so I will be adding that to my shopping list tonight.  This book comes from the Sparks series.  We already most of these including the very special Houndsey and Catina.





See Saw girl by Linda Sue Park

We have begun collecting books for our school library to link with the Asian Focus of the new English Curriculum.  We have collected a large number of picture books and now we are adding short novels.

Set in Korea See Saw girl is a perfect Middle Primary novel  Jade Blossom lives a protected a closed life inside the walls of her home.  Boys are allowed outside but not girls.  Jade longs to see the mountains and to visit her cousin Willow who has recently been married so she contrives a way to sneak out of the Han house using the market cart.

Jade is successful but she has not considered how her clothes and status will stand out in the poor market square.  She befriends a beggar child and is able to rub dirt all over her fine clothes and get directions to the home of her cousin.  Alas protocols will not allow Willow to see Jade and she is forced to return home in disgrace.  The only reward for her enormous efforts has been a glimpse of the wonderful snow covered mountains that surround the city.  Jade longs to see these mountains again.  She makes three important discoveries.  She finds joy in painting, she sees images of her beloved mountains in the school room (an area forbidden to girls) and she makes a see saw. Historical information at the back of the book explains the significance of this and other Korea traditions.

The ending of this little book did seem rushed but in just 86 pages Linda Sue Park crafts a very authentic feel of Korea and of Jade herself. You can read some reviews here. I have been a huge fan of Linda Sue Park ever since I read A single Shard.

This book reminded me of In the Shadow of the Palace so you might like to look for this one in our school library too. You should also look at the picture book Ruby's wish by Shirin Yim Bridges.  The image below comes from the illustrator web site.


The High-Rise Private eyes series by Cynthia Rylant illustrated by G. Brian Karas

The hot topic among my second grade students (boys and girls) right now is spies.  I am not sure why but this is a topic that seems to arise from time to time.  The two little books in this review are about spies or perhaps detectives but sadly they are not going to meet the expectations of my second graders because they want 'how to' guides. They want to be spies!

All that to one side these are two little fun beginner books where the spying is more often a case of setting straight a misunderstanding or righting a tiny wrong.  There are eight books in this simple series and we now have two - The case of the Missing Monkey and The case of the Climbing cat.

Bunny Brown and Jack Jones are the High-Rise private eyes.  In the first book a glass monkey goes missing from a diner.  Bunny and Jack stake out the joint at breakfast and review the suspects. There is a fox eating chocolate chip pancakes, a crow eating powdered doughnuts and a sheep with a lunch box but it is Bunny who sees the truth.  The fox is reading a book about trains - he likes machines not delicate monkeys and the lunch box owned by the sheep is badly dented - he is too clumsy to want a glass ornament. Suspicions must fall on crow who has a large tote bag.

What is in this bag?  Is crow the real thief?  Why did he take the glass monkey?

The setting for the second book, The case of the Climbing cat, is the high-rise apartment building where our two intrepid heroes live but Jack lives on the ground floor because he is afraid of heights.  This is a problem because Miss Nancy lives on the twentieth floor and her binoculars have been stolen.
If you enjoy this little episode you might like Andy Shane and the Barn Sale Mystery by Jennifer Richard Jacobson.

These two little books are perfect for beginner readers because they contain satisfying stories that can be read easily in one or two sittings, they have loads of colour pictures and Bunny and Jack themselves have a happy jokey relationship.

Be sure to look for other books by Cynthia Rylant in our library including the marvelous Mr Putter series.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

True (sort of) by Katherine Hannigan

Before you read about True (sort of) you might like to read my review of Ida B also by Katherine Hannigan.

True (sort of) is even better.  Delly Pattison is bursting with wonderful ideas about how to have fun and how to have adventures but sadly for Delly every  single time things back fire and Delly ends up in trouble.

"Delly Pattison was tiny.  Her hair curled tight to her head, like a copper halo.  Her voice was raspy, as if a load of gravel lined her throat.  And Delly Pattison was trouble, little trouble on the way to big TROUBLE, and getting closer to it every day."

There are six kids in the Pattison family - Dallas, Tallahasse, Montana, Galveston, Dellaware and RB but it is the mother I loved the most.  She loves her kids and she especially wants happiness for Delly.

While Delly is trying hard to stay out of trouble while still enjoying special dellyventures and waiting for a surpresent a new kid arrives in town.  Her name is Ferris Boyd and there are two things you need to know about her : "Here is the information I shared with the class, before Ms Boyd arrived, which you need to know,' ... 'First, Ms Boyd does not speak.' ... 'She can hear, but she does not speak.  In addition, she must not be touched."  What the teacher (he always addresses the children as Ms and Mr) fails to mention in this strange introduction is that Ferris Boyd is a girl of great patience, wisdom and she has brilliant basketball skills.  It is these skills which bring her to the attention of the third important character in this complex story - Brud Kinney another local boy who lives for basketball.

There are some holes in this story - we never meet the mother of Ferris Boyd and it is very disturbing the way the adults in the town and school seem completely oblivious to the reasons why Ferris is mute.  That to one side I loved Delly and the tender love of her little brother RB.

This is a book for senior students.  It does deal with very sensitive issues but it is also an uplifting story and I am sure these characters will linger with you for a long time.


If you enjoy True (sort of) you should also look for Camo Girl.

Ling and Ting Not exactly the same! by Grace Lin

I have been reading reviews of Ling and Ting for many years (this book was first published in 2010) and now we have this fun little book Ling and Ting Not exactly the same! in our school library.

When you are a twin I imagine you would be quite fascinated by the behaviour and reactions of other twins.  When you are not a twin (I am not a twin) it is equally fascinating to see how two people who look so much alike behave in such individual ways.

Grace Lin is the author of Where the Mountain meets the moon which is a much longer and far more complex novel for middle Primary students and yet with Ling and Ting, even using a very controlled vocabulary, she still makes a very satisfying set of short stories perfect for a newly confident reader.

In the first story of six the two little girls are having their hair cut.  Ling is able to sit still but Ting fidgets and squirms.  The scissors slip and Ling and Ting are not exactly the same anymore.  The final story is a recap (sort of) of the preceding five stories but Ting mixes up the events and this will make young readers smile.

Here is the author web site with some activities.  Here is an excellent detailed review in the New York Times.




Unicorn Wings by Mallory Leohr illustrated by Pamela Silin-Palmer

There are some topics that children regularly ask about - Mermaids, Horses, Dogs and Unicorns.

Unicorn Wings is a perfect book for a beginner.  The illustrations sparkle and the text, while very simple, is also satisfying.  I especially like the way Mallory Leohr has written a story and not a 'reader'.

"Once there was a unicorn.  He was white like the moon.  And his horn was magic.  It could make rainbows.  It could make muddy water clear.  It could fix cuts and broken bones.  But the unicorn did not care about his magic horn.  He wished he had wings!"

The unicorn talks to a series of animals with wings - butterflies, a blue bird and a swan but it is an act of kindness that finally makes his wish come true.

Young unicorn fans will love this special little book.  This is one title from the Step into reading series.  We have a small collection of these in our school library.

Ellray Jake walks the plank by Sally Warner illustrated by Jamie Harper

The first thing I want to do with this book Ellray Jakes Walks the plank is find a teacher or a parent who will read it aloud to a child or a class.  This book is so funny and so real.

Ellray brings home the class goldfish during their one week April holiday.  This goldfish belongs to his teacher Ms Sanchez.  "Ms Sanchez's boyfriend won Zip for her at a church festival two weeks ago when he tossed a ping-pong ball into a bowl of water the size of a softball. Ms Sanchez says this is a lot harder to do than it looks."

As you might expect there is a disaster with the goldfish.  I loved the way Ellray's little sister wants to call him Swimmy after the Leo Lionni character.  Perhaps you are wondering about the name Ellray?

"Mom writes fantasy books for grown-ups. That's why she loves castles. That's also why Alfie and I have such weird names.  "Alfleta", which means 'beautiful elf' in old Saxon,  and 'Lancelot Raymond' for me. Lancelot was a guy in a famous old story."

This is actually the third book about Ellray Jakes but it can stand alone. There is so much to enjoy about this book. The wonderful teacher, the school Principal, the other kids in the class and most especially the relationship between Ellray and his irresistible little sister Alfie.

Here is a web site for the author.

The EllRay Jakes stories are just right for his real-life peers; short enough to be read by kids getting comfortable with chapter books and also enjoyable and authentic.

If you enjoy this book you should also read Keena Ford and the second grade mix-up in our library.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Visconti House by Elsbeth Edgar


This book The Visconti House arrived in our school library last year while I was away. I bought it home because the cover made me wonder if this book might be better suited to a High School library.  I am happy to report that, no, this book is absolutely perfect for a senior Primary student.

When I blog about a book I do several things.  I like to search for thoughtful reviews and I also like to find a copy of the cover.  For this book I am posting a duo cover - our copy is the one with the face of a girl - why are her shoulders bare?  I much prefer the blue cover with the black silhouette.  When looking for a review I found that the amazing Jen Robinson had also read this book (she features in my sidebar).  This is especially terrific when you consider this is an Australian book by a fairly new author. As far as I can discover Elsbeth Edgar only has two other published novels.

Laura is in Year 8 and has just moved with her artist mother and freelance journalist father to a small country town.  They are living in a very special house.

"The first time Laura saw the house she thought it was enchanted.  Looking up at the long elegant windows, with their small balconies and intricate wrought-iron decoration, she thought she had never seen anything so beautiful."

Laura discovers the house was built by a wealthy Italian man called Mr Visconti.  "He was an Italian gentleman. ... Some people said that he had been an ambassador or a consul and that he had travelled all over the world. Others said he was a professor.  No one really knew.  He lived in the big house on his own."

So now we have the ingredients for a mystery that needs solving.  Laura, with the help of her new friend Leon, set out to discover the truth.  Why did Mr Visconti build this house with a ball room, painted murals and a magical garden?  Why did Mr Visconti come to live in Australia all those years ago and why did he make his home in this little town?  And who is the mysterious Veronica?

I enjoyed this book with its old fashioned style so much I read it in one day.  I actually put aside things I needed to do so I could sit and keep reading The Visconti House.

If you enjoy The Visconti house you might also enjoy Rain May and Captain Daniel by Catherine Bateson, The three loves of Persimmon by Cassandra Golds or The Medici Curse by Matt Chamings

" the two kids try to figure out the story of Mr. Visconti, who tried to make his house as much like a beautiful little bit of Italy as he could, but who lived and died there alone. His is a sweetly melancholy story, and it echoes the theme of the book--that difference is not something to be afraid of, and that convention should not get in the way of life and love."


Iris and Walter by Elissa Haden Guest illustrated by Christine Davenier

I am always looking for simple beginner level books with the magic ingredient of a satisfying story.  Tonight I read Iris and Walter and I am happy to say I have found another perfect book for someone who is just beginning to gain confidence with reading.

Iris has spent her whole life living in the city.  From the illustrations it looks like it might even be New York City.  Iris loves so many things about city life - the noise, the front step of her building, playing baseball on the street, the rumble rumble of the subway under the ground and listening to tango music coming from the upstairs apartment.

Her family have moved to the country.  Mum and Dad try to show Iris all the fun she could be having. They demonstrate cartwheeling in the grass and playing monkeys in the trees but it is Grandpa who comes to the rescue.  He introduces Iris to Walter.  Country life changes completely for Iris.

"In the country there were red-tailed hawks and starry skies.  There were pale roses. And there was cool grass beneath her feet.  There was a wild horse names Rain and a sweet pony named Sal. And across the meadow, over the stream, high in a tree, was a little house.  And inside there was a new friend ... Walter."

This book has 42 pages of large print and bright water colour illustrations but more importantly this simple little book made me smile.  Looking at the web site from the author I can see there are eight more books in this series and I am keen to collect them all.  Here is a terrific review which includes some other series you might enjoy such as Mr Putter, Henry and Mudge and  Pinky and Rex all of which you will find in our school library.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Ida B and her plans to maximize fun, avoid disaster and (possibly) save the world by Katherine Hannigan

There were times when I almost could not keep reading Ida B.  Having said that I will also say this is a very powerful book and I am keen to put it into the hands of a sensitive reader.  I wonder if the little girl who donated this book to our school library last year, read it.

I loved the voice of Ida B :
 "Daddy'd hand me a dish, I'd sprint to the cupboard and put it away, race back again and put my hand out for the next one, with my right foot tap, tap, tapping the seconds that were ticking by. 'Hold your horses, Ida B,'  Daddy told me.  'There's plenty of time to do whatever you're planning,' And he passed me a plate, slow and easy.  Well that stopped me in my tracks.  Because what Daddy said might have seemed all right to him, but it was sitting about two miles beyond wrong with me.  I wasn't going to be able to put away another tiny teaspoon till I set things straight. 'Daddy,' I said, and I waited till he was looking at me before I went on.  'Yes Ida B,' he answered..... And staring right into his eyeballs I told him, 'There is never enough time for fun."

Ida B lives with her mother and father on a farm somewhere in America.  She has an idyllic life and a special relationship with her caring parents and also importantly with the trees and environment on the farm.

The trees are very wise.  The trees do give Ida B some advice but it is confusing and then disaster overtakes the family and Ida B's world is turned upside down and worst of all Ida is forced to betray her beloved trees.  She is also forced to go to school and this is a horrible experience.  Her resentment towards her parents is such an awful thing to behold but as a reader I had to trust Katherine Hannigan to help me (and Ida B) through the turmoil.

Here is the web site for the author.  By coincidence I have another book by this author on my current reading pile so watch this blog for my thoughts about True (... sort of).  Here are some teaching ideas for Ida B.


Here are two more covers.  It is so interesting to see the way different editors and publishers interpret this book.  The one on the right is in German.



Letters from Rifka by Karen Hesse


I picked this book up for two reasons. The cover appealed to me and I know Karen Hesse is a wonderful storyteller.

Letters from Rifka is based on a true story told to Karen Hesse by her Great Aunt Lucy.  This book is a series of letters from Rifka as she travels from Russia to America with her mother, father and two brothers.  The letter format gives this book a very authentic feel.  Also last year I visited Ellis Island and so I could easily see with 'my minds eye' the exact place where Rifka spent many months, alone, waiting to be allowed to enter America.

In Australia we seem to constantly struggle with the idea and ideal of immigration and immigrants.  For this reason I think Letters from Rifka is an important book for senior students.  This book gives an historical context to migration along with a deeply personal account of the complex reasons for leaving homeland and the hardships and confusion felt by children living through this time of transition.

You could introduce this book using this video.  Here is a set of teaching notes.




Textless picture books or wordless books or stories without words

I bought home a collection of a dozen textless picture books this weekend.  I did this because I had the idea that these books might be used by teachers as they address the learning objectives of the new English Curriculum in the strand of speaking and listening.

One of my favourite wordless or textless picture books is The Tooth Fairy by Peter Collington.

On the opening pages we see a young girl has lost her tooth and as her mother comes in to kiss the girl goodnight she puts the tooth into a small box which they place under her pillow.  Meanwhile in a large tree nearby we see the magical tooth fairy open her door and fly away - not toward the house but through the forest to a secret trap door.  The intrepid fairy walks down an enormous underground staircase into a silver mine.  She hits at the mineral seam with a pick and then we see her smelting the ore, pouring it into a mold and eventually producing the coin that will later be given in exchange for the tooth.  The real magical pages come right at the end when we see the fairy transform the tooth into a single piano key.

There is so much to see and talk about in this wonderful book and the marvel is that not one word is printed on any of the pages yet this is a complex and immensely satisfying book.

Another older book in this category is The Gift by John Prater.  The opening pages show the classic idea that the box used a package a gift might be more fun than the gift itself - in this case two small chairs.  The children play with the box and then if you look closely you can see them wishing and in the next frame the box lifts off the ground and takes the brother and sister on a gentle adventure through the town, down the the seaside, under the ocean with the dolphins, meeting a whale and into the tropical jungle.   Finally the sister remembers the promise of delicious and so the box transports them home where we see the two children sitting on their new chairs enjoying drinks and cake.  The final frame, though, is a little disturbing and open to a good discussion and perhaps another story as we see dad put the box outside with the recycling - something the children appear to have missed seeing.

Other books I looked at for this project were :

  • The Chicken Thief by Beatrice Rodriguez
  • The Fishing Trip by Beatric Rodriguez
  • Free Fall by David Wiesner
  • Fly, little bird by Tina Burke
  • The secret box by Barbara Lehman
  • The Red book by Barbara Lehman
  • Sidewalk circus by Paul Fleischman and Kevin Hawkes
  • The Adventures of Polo by Regis Faller
  • Bear Despair by Gaetan Doremus
  • More by Peter Schossow
  • The flower man by Mark Ludy
  • Midsummer knight by Gregory Rogers



Saturday, June 1, 2013

The No. 1 Car Spotter and the Firebird by Atinuke illustrated by Warwick Johnson Cadwell

Here is a very different and terrific book for children who are just beginning to develop confidence with reading - especially boys.

I am always on the look out for simple chapter books that move students beyond "reader-style" books onto real books with satisfying stories and luckily I have found another one.

No. 1 (his real name is Oluwalase Babatunde Benson) is a boy who lives in poor village in Africa.

"In my village we do not have television, or even electricity. We do not have shops or even traffic lights. We have compounds, where we live. We have farms, where we work.  We have the river where we play. And best of all we have the road that runs past the village, carrying buses and lorries and cars from one city to another."

No. 1 is a car spotter - the best in his village.  All his friends and family have delightful (nick) names like Uncle Go-Easy,Coca-Cola, Nike and Emergency.

Each chapter in this short book is a self contained story but the stories are all linked so that by the final chapter it seems No. 1 might finally get to see his favourite car close up and perhaps even go for a ride.  In the meantime there are problems to overcome such as when a leopard is bothering the goats, Mama Coca Cola needs to attract new customers to her akara stall and the river is in flood and people going to a wedding are desperate to get across.  No. 1 is not just a car spotter he is a thinker and problem solver.

We have two books from this series in our library.  The No. 1 car spotter and the car thieves and The No. 1 car spotter and the Firebird.  It would be fun to read these aloud in a family.  They remind me of the writing of Alexander McCall Smith.  I can see we still need to buy the first book The No. 1 car spotter.

Here is some information about the author.  We also have the Anna Hibiscus books in our library.


Granny Torrelli makes soup by Sharon Creech

Granny Torrelli is a wise woman and a great cook.  This is the perfect combination to help Rosie when she and her best friend Bailey have had the most awful falling out.

If you have ever read my blog you will know I am a huge fan of Sharon Creech.  While Granny Torrelli makes soup is not a verse novel like Love that dog but it is a book of enormous warmth and wisdom and should be read by anyone - child or adult - who has ever felt jealous, or hurt or confused by the twists and turns of relationships.

"Bailey, my neighbor my friend, my buddy, my pal for my whole life, knowing me better that any body, that Bailey, that Bailey I am so mad at right now, that Bailey, I hate him today."

"My Granny Torrelli says when you are angry with someone, so angry you are thinking hateful things, so angry you want to punch them, then you should think of the good things about them, and the nice things they've said, and why you liked them in the first place."

Over delicious meals of soup, home-made pasta, meatballs and spareribs Granny Torrelli gently guides Rosie to a deeper understanding of herself and of Bailey.


This book was a present from our pen pals in Pennsylvania.  We have had a copy in our library for a long time and I thought I had read this wonderful book long ago but now I discover I had not.  If you are in middle Primary or older step into your library and borrow this book.  Sit in your favourite chair, turn on some very soft music and sit back for an hour or two and read, read, read.

Here is a detailed review.  Her is a literature circle plan.  Sharon Creech has written some discussion questions herself. Finally here are a series of book talks you might use after you read this book.

It is interesting to see the various covers for this book.  Which one do you like?