Friday, November 19, 2010

Module 13: Babymouse: Our Hero by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm

In this installation of the Babymouse graphic novel series, we see Babymouse face one of her greatest fears: playing dodge ball. The book gives us context for Babymouse’s fear of dodge ball as we see her previous exploits in the game. We are also given a portrait of her ultra intimidating dodge ball competitor, a bully cat. Babymouse faces her fears with the help of her friend Wilson. In the end Babymouse not only plays dodge ball, but is the hero of the game.

Babymouse: Our Hero was the third graphic novel I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. After training my eyes and brain on how to read graphic novels with the previous two that I read, I was prepared to fully enjoy this book. Babymouse is a character that I think a lot of young readers can identify with. Babymouse is admittedly far from perfect, her every flaw shows. She likes to sleep late, misses the bus, and forgets her gym shoes— the list goes on. I like that this character, flaws and all, is able to prevail with a bit of courage and help from her best friend. This book perfectly illustrates how to show kids that you don’t have to be perfect to do something right or to do something well. Beyond a well told story, the illustrations in this book are really fun and entertaining. Like a well illustrated traditional picture book, the panels in this graphic novel give us further insight into the story beyond what is offered by the text. The illustrator draws your eye to key points of the illustration by highlighting them in pink against an otherwise black and white picture. This is a fun book that offers a great story accompanied by exciting illustrations, its sure to appeal to many young readers.

Review: Booklist
Our Hero, the first of two books in an energetic comics series created by a brother-sister team (Jennifer's Our Only May Amelia was a Newbery Honor Book), introduces Babymouse, a young rodent possessed of an admirably gender-bending array of interests and plagued by typical school traumas. The main confrontation takes place on the harrowing battlefield known as the dodge-ball court, the site of an earlier trauma for Babymouse. At the end of a furious match, arrogant class idol Felicia Furrypaws (a cat, of course) gets a satisfying comeuppance and Babymouse faces her fears. In Queen of the World, Babymouse, the wise-cracking rodent stand-in for your average, adventure-seeking nine-year-old, strives to capture Felicia's goodwill, finally achieving her end at the expense of Wilson Weasel, truest of friends. But, wouldn't you know it, Felicia's world has little to offer a smart, fun-loving mouse, after all.

The Holms spruce up some well-trod ground with breathless pacing and clever flights of Babymouse's imagination, and their manic, pink-toned illustrations of Babymouse and her cohorts vigorously reflect the internal life of any million-ideas-a-minute middle-school student

Suggested Activities
This book would be a great cross curricular material for a gym class and language arts class. At times students are sick or injured and cannot fully participate in gym. Having Babymouse: Our Hero on hand could be a great way to engage students in at least reading about dodge ball if they’re not able to participate in class.

Holm, J.L. & M. (2005) Babymouse: Our Hero. New York: Random House. ISBN: 0375832300.

Karp, J. (2005, December) [Review for the book Babymouse: Our Hero by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm]. Booklist, 102(7), 48-48.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Module 12: The Road to Oz: Twists, Turns, Bumps, and Triumphs in the Life of L. Frank Baum by Kathleen Krull, Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

The Road to Oz follows the life of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum. Baum is born into a wealthy family, but struggles to find his place in life. To support his wife and four children Baum tries acting, sales and eventually begins to work in the newspaper industry. As Baum raised his children, he became known for inventing compelling stories for them. He eventually decides to turn his passion for storytelling into a book for children. He writes The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the bestselling children’s book.

As I was reading this book I knew Baum would eventually write The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Still, Kathleen Krull manages to create a wonderful sense of suspense. I kept thinking, “Will he get his life together so he can write the book already?” I think that beloved authors like Baum can be immortalized because of their works. This book shows his humanity as he struggles to find a vocation and support his family. Many artistic and literary greats are charged with a long road to success. This book uses Baum to illustrate the merits in continuously striving to do something you love. At the same time Krull shows the reader how Baum’s struggle affected his wife and family. Kevin Hawkes’s use of acrylic paint creates a vibrant picture that captures the Victorian setting beautifully. The characters on each page have life and motion which helped to keep me engaged in the story. The Road to Oz is a great read for anyone who loves The Wonderful Wizard of Oz or the film it inspired, The Wizard of Oz.

Review: Library Media Connection
Once upon a time, there was no Dorothy from Kansas and her little dog, Toto. There was no tornado that whirled them to a magic world named Oz--Someone had to make it all up.’ Author Kathleen Krull skillfully tells young readers precisely how an interesting man named Frank L. Baum did so. Through vivid anecdotes and strong research, Baum comes to life as not only the author of these beloved stories, but also as a human, who failed time and time again in a variety of pursuits. Persistence and heart are characteristics of Baum that shine through thanks to Krull. Kevin Hawkes’s skillful illustrations add much to the text, making this biography a delicious visual feast.

Review: Kirkus Review
With customary vivacity and a fine sense of irony, Krull portrays her subject as a genial family man who suffered reverse after reverse thanks to a bad combination of deep-seated optimism and zero business sense--but pulled through when his love of storytelling and sense of audience at last led to a novel that instantly became (she notes) the Harry Potter of its day. She does mention Baum's anti-American Indian screeds, but in general tells a brisk, admiring tale that mirrors the tone of his talespinning--aptly illustrated by Hawkes's scenes of a frail, dapper looking gent, generally sporting a smile beneath a bushy mustache and gazing abstractedly into the distance. An admirable companion to Krull's Boy on Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel Grew Up To Become Dr. Seuss (2004), this profile not only provides a similarly illuminating peek beneath the authorial curtain, but leaves readers understanding just how groundbreaking The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was, as an adventure story with both a female protagonist and no overwhelming Moral Lesson.

Suggested Activities
I would include The Road to Oz in an Oz reading list. After reading each selection on the list, readers would be rewarded with a ticket to a screening of The Wizard of Oz complete with candy and popcorn.

Krull, K. (2008) The Road to Oz: Twists, Turns, Bumps, and Triumphs in the Life of L. Frank Baum. New York: Alfred A. Knopf ISBN: 0375832165.

Coleman, J. (2008, November) [Review of the book The Road to Oz: Twists, Turns, Bumps, and Triumphs in the Life of L. Frank Baum by Kathleen Krull] Library Media Connection, 27(3), 83-84.

[Review of the book The Road to Oz: Twists, Turns, Bumps, and Triumphs in the Life of L. Frank Baum by Kathleen Krull] Kirkus Reviews, 76(15), 230-230.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Module 11: Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki, Illustrated by Dom Lee

Baseball Saved Us tells the story of a Japanese boy living in an internment camp during World War II. In an effort to liven up the bitter experience of the camp, the boy’s father initiates the creation of a baseball field where adults and children can engage in baseball games. Men, women and children across the camp do their bit to make the baseball field. In a crucial baseball game the boy makes the game winning hit. We see him return to his home at the end of the book. He tells of how he faces discrimination from neighbors and classmates, but also how baseball helps him to find acceptance.

As a baseball lover, I was very excited to read Baseball Saved Us. This book is a fantastic example of non-fiction information being conveyed in a way that is interesting and accessible to the reader. The text is succinct, understated and easy to read. The illustrations not only show the story, they set the mood of the book. I think that this book is a must read for children interested in World War II. The Japanese internment camps are an under taught section in American History. This book is a great tool for introducing the topic.

Review: Horn Book Magazine
Mochizuki's moving story opens with a note telling readers about the internment camps the United States government established in 1942 to house, against their will, people of Japanese descent. The author's parents were sent to the Minidoka camp in Idaho; this story, told in the first person, is inspired by actual events. A young boy and his family are prisoners, living in crowded barracks in a dusty camp surrounded by a barbed-wire fence. His father, in response to the growing boredom and resulting bad humor of the camp's residents, decides to build a baseball field. Everyone in camp contributes, and soon bleachers, bases, and uniforms are ready. The narrator, teased back home for his lack of ability in the game, now has the opportunity to shine, since he is the same height as so many of the other Japanese-American boys. The normally impassive guard From Grandmas at Bat. C) 1993 by Emily Arnold McCully. in the tower gives him a grin and a thumbs-up sign when he hits his first home run. When he returns home, the boy again feels insecure: "Nobody on my team or the other team or even anybody in the crowd looked like me." The racist taunts of the crowd spur him on to another homer and acceptance by his teammates. The story effectively conveys the narrator's sense of isolation, his confusion about being a target of prejudice, and the importance of baseball in his life. Dom Lee's pictures, executed in a scratchboard and oil paint technique, are highly accomplished. At first glance they seem monotonous and depressing, since they are suffused with the brown dust that was ever-present in many of the internment camps, located in the middle of deserts. In fact, these somber scenes provide a telling contrast to the last few pages in which the sky, as well as the boy's world, brightens as he is welcomed to his team. A suitable introduction to Sheila Hamanaka's The Journey: Japanese Americans, Racism and Renewal(Orchard), which deals with the same subject for slightly older readers.

Suggested Activities

I would include Baseball Saved Us in a display of sports books with the aim of introducing the book to readers who enjoy reading about sports.

Mochizuki, K (1993). Baseball Saved Us. New York: Lee & Low books, Inc. ISBN: 1880000199.

Fader, E. (1993, August). [Review for the book Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki]. Horn Book Magazine, 69(4), 453-454.