Category Archives: Young Readers

The Book Whisperer Chooses 4 Picture Books for Crime Stoppers


During the month of September, the Tulsa Press Club is collecting books for readers age 8 – 14. The Tulsa Press Club,, will give the books to Tulsa Crime Stoppers for distribution through revamped Tulsa World dispensing boxes; the boxes will be in various places around Tulsa. Children are then encouraged to take a book from the box and read. Also, Tulsa Police officers will be reading to children in a variety of places around the city. People are invited to donate new and gently used books for readers age 8 – 14. These locations are accepting donations of books: Tulsa Press Club, Tulsa Crime Stoppers, and City Vet.

Since I have always enjoyed reading, I like to promote reading among all ages. When I learned of the book drive, I wanted to contribute. I purchased four picture books from the South Broken Arrow Library’s book sale to donate.

The middle picture is of Diana Cohn and the third picture is of Amy Cordova.

Namaste! by Diana Cohn and illustrated by Amy Cordova is a beautiful book about Nima Sherpa, a little girl who lives in Nepal where Mt Everest looks down on her village. Nima’s father is a tour guide for many foreign visitors who come to see Mt. Everest, called Chomolongma by the villagers.

Namaste! follows Nima on her journey through the village. As she meets people, she “brings her hands together with her fingers almost touching her chin, bows her head slightly, and says ‘Namaste!’”  Namaste means “the light in me meets the light in you.”

Through Nima’s journey, readers see other villagers and learn about life in Nima’s village. Amy Cordova’s illustrations are colorful and delight the eye.

At the end of the book, readers will find information about Nepal, the Himalayas, the Sherpa people, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, and preserving mountain cultures. Namaste! is truly a book to savor and from which to learn.

Diana Cohn has published seven books for children and has received awards for her work. She continues to have a strong interest in social justice and environmental issues.

Amy Cordova is an artist and art educator. She has won awards for her work as well.

John Stadler’s Catilda takes readers on a journey to find a lost toy, a stuffed bear. Father tucks Catilda into bed and leaves her singing “a song about Ollie,” her bear lost on a trip to the city. Stadler illustrates the book as well. The drawings are whimsical and inviting. The colors are muted shades on one page and darken on another.

Catilda misses Ollie and wants to find him. Unbeknownst to her mother and father, she goes on a night-time journey to find the lost bear. Through the story, we see Catilda being bandied about by a giant wave only to land on a flagpole. She finally reaches The Statute of Liberty and then we see her clutching Ollie to her heart and smiling as she floats on a cloud. See more about John Stadler at this link:

Haircuts at Sleepy Sam’s by Michael R. Strickland and illustrated by Keaf Holliday portrays three brothers off to get a Saturday haircut. Mother gives them money and hands them written instructions for the barber: “Trim. Keep the hairline natural. Clean back of neck. And please – not too short on the top!” Mark and Randy beg for a different cut saying, “We’re tired of Afro cuts.” Mom is not budging, though.

Before the boys reach the barber shop, they look across the street at the candy store and debate the merits of going there first. They decide, however, they should get to the barber shop first.

Sam calls Mark to sit in the barber’s chair. Sam wants to give the boys a different cut, but they remind him of their mother’s instructions.  However, “Sam smiles to himself and goes to work.” When all three boys have had their haircuts, they return home.

Mom looks at her sons and “a slow smile appears. She laughingly says, “That Sam…. He gave you guys just what you wanted!” The boys have “a bald fade” hair cut and all of them are happy.

Keaf Holliday has created realistic pictures of the three boys and the people they meet on their way to the barber shop. The colors are soft. Each boy is distinctive, but share features as brothers would.

Do All Bugs Have Wings? And Other Questions Kids Have About Bugs by Suzanne Slade and illustrated by Cary Pillo will thrill young readers with information about bugs. The format is simple. On each page, we see one or more questions posed by children whose first names and ages appear with the questions. This touch add realism to the questions.

The pages are full of facts, but not so overwhelming that readers will become bored. For example, in answer to the question “how many insects are on Earth today?” readers will discover this answer: “Too many to count! Scientists think there are about 10 quintillion (10,000,000,000,000,000,000) insects in the world. There are about 6.8 billion people on Earth. This means there are 1.5 billion insects for each person!”

The book is one to be read and reread. Cary Pillo has illustrated the book with drawings of a wide variety of bugs. The drawings are fun and yet fit with the information on each page.

Suzanne Slade has written a number of children’s books—more than 100! Her background is in mechanical engineering; she wishes to share her passion for science with young readers. See more of her work at this link:

Cary Pillo is an award-winning illustrator.


The Book Whisperer Reads a New Take on an Old Favorite


Troy Wilson, writer, and Ilaria Campana, illustrator, teamed up to create a new version of Little Red Riding Hood: Little Red Reading Hood and the MISREAD Wolf. I have always loved the story of Little Red Riding Hood and even played Little Red Riding Hood in an elementary end-of-school-year play once upon a time. I still have the red hood attached to a cape along with the green apron I wore with it to prove it!

With the word reading in Little Red’s name, one might guess that reading and books will play an important part in the story.  That assumption would be entirely correct. Part of the fun of reading any book involves anticipation.

How many of us look at a title and start to speculate on the book’s contents? The cover art also has a great deal to do with our anticipation of the story as well. Just today, I was reading about some novels and the cover of one, which shall remain unidentified, was so creepy that I knew I would never the read the book. And last week for our library book club, one of my friends put a sticky note over part of the cover because she did not like the picture even though she did read the book.

The cover of Little Red Reading Hood and the MISREAD Wolf gives readers many clues. Books anchor two corners, upper left and lower right. The wolf is in the upper right corner behind a vine and Little Red Reading Hood’s basket is in the lower left corner. In the middle, we see Little Red Reading Hood wearing her hood and sitting cross-legged doing what? Reading a book, of course!

The back cover is equally intriguing. We see Little Red Reading Hood holding her basket and walking up the path to grandmother’s cottage. The mailbox, stuffed with letters, reads Grandma. Campana has made the woods prominent by drawing tall, slender trunks towering over the house.

Regardless of age, readers do anticipate contents from looking at the cover and the title. That’s part of the fun of reading the book too. Then once we have completed the book, we can think about how closely we imagined the story from the title and the cover or how far off the mark we might have been.

Little Red Reading Hood and the MISREAD Wolf follows along with the original story including Little Red Reading Hood making a treat for her grandmother who is ill and encountering a wolf in the woods as she walks to grandmother’s house. The wolf is even in grandmother’s bed.

However, the story deviates from the original Little Red Riding Hood all the way through as well.  Readers must discover for themselves what those differences are between Little Red Riding Hood and Little Red Reading Hood and the MISREAD Wolf. That discovery will be a pleasure to experience over and over as one reads alone and to others.

Troy Wilson has written seven books. Many of the adjectives used to describe Wilson’s books include fun, ridiculously entertaining, sensational, playful, and imaginative. See his other books and more about Wilson at this link: The item below is from Wilson’s Web site and gives a hint into his sense of humor.

Be sure to look up Ilaria Campana’s Web site too: Her artwork is astounding.

The Book Whisperer Reviews an Exciting J Detective Story


I discovered Mac Barnett,, when I watched him deliver a TED Talk titled “Why a Good book is a Secret Door.” It is located at this link:

After watching the TED Talk, I sought out several of Barnett’s books, specifically Billy Twitters and His Blue Whale Problem, a picture book, and now The Brixton Brothers: The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity, a chapter book. Adam Rex illustrated both books.

Like many kids, I read Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys when I was growing up; kids today still look for such mysteries. Steve Brixton, age 12, is no exception. He has read and reread all of the books in the Bailey Brothers Mysteries. The Bailey brothers, dark-haired Shawn and blond Kevin, solve mysteries. Even better, they have written The Bailey Brothers’ Detective Handbook which Steve has memorized; he has also acquired a Bailey Brothers’ detective license for which he paid “twelve cereal box tops plus $1.95 for shipping and handling.”

In Chapter II, “An Exciting Case,” Steve uses The Bailey Brothers’ Detective Handbook on “how to size up suspicious characters” to figure out his mom’s new boyfriend, Rick. The Bailey Brothers say that “there are really only three types of criminals, and once you’ve got their distinguishing features memorized, you’ll be an unstoppable crime-solving machine!” See below for the three types.

“Type 1: The Tough: greasy hair, scars on face, stubble, tattoos, loud necktie, cheap suit, poorly concealed knife or gun, and LIMP.”

“Type 2: The Ringleader: red hair (the Book Whisperer objects to this one), shifty eyes, uses gel or pomade, well-trimmed mustache, turtleneck, tall, slender build, mysterious pinkie ring, dressy trousers, and LIMP.”

“Type 3: The Hermit: long white hair, wrinkly, crazy gleam in eye, missing teeth, large beard, uses an anchor as a weapon, torn shorts, and LIMP.”

Readers will quickly notice that all three thug types limp, a telltale sign.

On Friday in social studies, Steve draws a terrible assignment: to write an 8-page report, due Monday, on early American needlework while his buddy Dana draws the topic that should have been Steve’s: detectives! And Ms. Gilfeather said, “Your essay should be at least eight pages long. No playing with fonts. No swapping topics. Cite your sources. Papers are due Monday.”

By the luck of the draw, literally, Steve is landed in the middle of a rollicking adventure in which he is mistaken for a treasonous and dangerous detective. The story spirals out of control from the moment Steve locates An Illustrated History of American Quilting by J.J. Beckley. Steve plans to use the book as a reference for his essay. However, as soon as he hands the book to Ms. Bundt, the librarian, so he can check it out, pandemonium breaks loose.

Steve and later his chum Dana find themselves hunted by a secret society of librarians, the police, dangerous thugs working for the mysterious Mr. E., and Steve’s mom and her boyfriend Rick, who is also a police officer.

Can anyone be trusted? Steve must rely on his wits and his memory of the advice found in The Bailey Brothers’ Detective Handbook. Luckily, he also has the book for reference in his backpack. But is the book helping him?

Barnett is an inventive writer and the constant action will keep readers turning pages. The Brixton Brothers: The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity takes readers on an amazing adventure of suspense and intrigue.

The Book Whisperer Reviews a Touching Story of WWI


I read about all sorts of books and I should try to keep track of where I read about a book when I request it from the library, but that would involve a system and discipline. Instead, I simply put in the request and wait for the book to arrive at my branch. Recently, I read an article about a variety of children’s books, picture books and juvenile titles. One of those books was Captain Rosalie by Timothee de Fombelle, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault, and translated into English by Sam Gordon.

De Fombelle has written several novels for young adults as well as plays, even designing and building his own sets for the dramas.  Critics describe de Fombelle’s writing as “powerful, exciting, unusual, and beautiful.”

Margaret Kennelly, writing for School Library Journal, says, “Readers are quickly drawn into the world Rosalie describes through first-person perspective.” Kennelly goes on to praise Captain Rosalie as “a great hi-lo reader to introduce the destructive aftermath of WWI and to learn how to deal with loss.”

Isabelle Arsenault’s elegant drawings enhance de Fombelle’s text. She uses mostly shades of gray with splashes of color, especially for Rosalie’s red hair.

While Rosalie’s father is away fighting in WWI, Rosalie and her mother live simply in a two-room house. Rosalie’s mom works in a factory, so she takes Rosalie to the nearby school where Rosalie waits for the teacher to arrive. Rosalie’s mother has arranged with the teacher to allow Rosalie to sit in the back of the room while the older children have their classes.

Rosalie tells readers on page one that “I have a secret. The others think I’m drawing in my notebook when I’m sitting on the little bench underneath the coat hooks at the back of the classroom.” Then she explains her secret: “I am spying on the enemy. I am preparing my plan. I am Captain Rosalie.”

Though she is disguised as a five-year-old girl, Rosalie has a mission and knows she will receive a medal for her accomplishments. She keeps quiet and tells no one of her mission. She knows that she must work in secret.

Timothee de Fombelle has created a moving story of a little girl and her mother waiting for news from a soldier father and husband. The war creates surprising heroes and puts Rosalie on a mission of secrecy. Captain Rosalie is a touching story, not just for K-grade three readers, but for all readers. Isabelle Arsenault’s drawing add another depth to the story.

The Book Whisperer Reviews a Juvenile Book


Rumple Buttercup: A Story of Bananas, Belonging, an Being Yourself by Matthew Gray Gubler is a story for children and adults. Rumple Buttercup lives alone “hiding underground in a rain drain right by a garbage can in the middle of town.” It’s a story of belonging.

Why does Rumple Buttercup live in hiding? Well, the answer is simple. He is a monster with “5 crooked teeth, 3 strands of hair, green skin, and his left foot was slightly bigger than his right.”  Rumple fears that if anyone ever sees him, the person would “be scared, run away, or throw rocks at his head.”

To avoid any and all of these reactions, Rumple stays hidden, but he watches everything that goes on above ground from his rain drain. Rumple often pulls a banana peel from the garbage can and puts it on his head so he can lie partially exposed by the garbage can looking like more of the garbage.

Rumple looks forward to the 17th Saturday of summer because that is the Annual Pajama Jam Cotton Candy Pancake Parade. It’s the one day he can come onto the street because with all the activity of the parade, no one will notice him. Still, he wants his banana peel disguise.

When he reaches into the garbage can to find a banana peel, what does he discover? The can is EMPTY! Now, what will he do? He looks forward to this day each year and now he is reduced to remaining underground watching from his rain drain.

To avoid spoiling the story, I suggest that you read Rumple Buttercup: A Story of Bananas, Belonging, an Being Yourself. Rumple may be weird, but aren’t we all a bit weird in our own ways?

Matthew Gray Gubler’s Web site offers viewers great fun: It opens to an animated page with “Greetings from Gubler Land.”

In the back of Rumple Buttercup: A Story of Bananas, Belonging, an Being Yourself, readers can learn more about Gubler: “Matthew Gray Gubler writes, directs, paints, acts, and knows magic. He has a squeaky left knee, the posture of an earthworm, and he looks like a noodle when he dances.”

The Book Whisperer Took a Chance on a Dollar Tree Book


Interested in a fable which promotes “the power of kindness, generosity, compassion, and community”? George Saunders, author, and Lane Smith, illustrator, have teamed up to give readers, old and young, a fable for our times: The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip.

Now, this Dollar Tree find fits the bill for those looking for a little encouragement in a world too often dark and full of grief and bad news. I must admit, too, The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip, 84 pages, is the first Saunders’ book I have read all the way through even though I own copies of his short stories, Tenth of December, and his novel, Lincoln at the Bardo.

Frip is a seaside village; only three families live there: the Romos, the Ronsens, and Capable, a little girl, and her father. Frip’s economy is totally reliant upon goats, their milk and cheese, for its survival. As we know, agricultural communities thrive and decline with the farmers’ success or failure.

The problem the Romos, the Ronsens, and Capable and her father face with their goat economy lies in the persistent gappers, nasty, round, little orange beasts which move by wriggling on their bellies—which, to me, sounds very snake-like except that gappers are round.

The gappers love goats and if left undeterred, the gappers will cause the goats to fall over and stop producing milk. Thus, the town would be left bereft. Every day, the children, Capable, Gilbert and Robert Romo and Beverly and Gloria Ronsen must snag the gappers by brushing them off the goats and into their gapper bags. Then the children empty the bags of gappers into the sea.

The children return to their homes, falling into bed exhausted, and the gappers sink to the bottom of the sea only to wriggle their way back to the shore where they infest the goats once more. Then one of the gappers who has a slightly larger brain than the others declares that they would have less distance to cover if they all converged at Capable’s home because it is closer to the shore than the other two houses.

Thus, all the gappers then infest Capable’s goats, much to her dismay. The Romos and the Ronsens, however, are delighted that they are now safe from gappers. In fact, Bea Romos hires strong men to move her home to the edge of her property closer to the Ronsens’ home and further from Capable’s home. Below, a goat is covered with gappers.


Readers can quickly see where this story is headed. Capable is exhausted all of the time trying to protect her goats so that she and her father can survive. After trying all she can and without success, Capable writes letters to the Romos and the Ronsens asking for their help. Both families tell Capable that she must work harder so she can be safe the way they are. They do not acknowledge that the distance from their homes to the shore is the difference in their good luck and Capable’s bad luck.

In the picture on the left, Capable tries to protect her goats by covering them. On the right, readers see what happens when gappers overwhelm the goats: they fall down and stop giving milk.

In desperation, Capable devises a new plan. Her father is reluctant to go along with her plan because it involves CHANGE! He likes things to stay the same. Still, Capable persists and makes a big change in their lives. Her big change also results in the gappers re-infesting the goats which belong to the Romos and the Ronsens. Now, who is not working hard enough?

Read The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip in order to learn about Capable’s solution to her problem and how she treats the Romos and the Ronsens despite their unkindness to her and her father.

George Saunders graduated from college with a degree in exploration geophysics from the Colorado School of Mines. So how did he become a best-selling writer? While working in Sumatra, he filled his suitcase with books so he could read during his two weeks off work. He worked four weeks and then was off two weeks. After working for a year and a half in the oil fields, he returned home and worked at a number of menial jobs until he read an article in People Magazine which profiled writers Jay McInernry and Raymond Carver. In that article, Saunders learned about an MFA program, so he applied to Syracuse and began studying with Tobias Wolff and Douglas Unger. Saunders maintains a Web site at this link:


Illustrator Lane Smith received a Caldecott Honor award in 2012 for Grandpa Green. Two of my favorite books by Smith include Math Curse and The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs. See more of Smith’s art work and more about him at his Web site:


The Book Whisperer Discovers Another Middle-Grade Winner


Jasmine Warga has written three books: My Heart and Other Black Holes, Here We Are Now, and Other Words For Home. Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, Warga now lives in Chicago with her husband, two daughters, and dog and a cat. Other Words For Home is her debut novel for middle grade readers. Discover more about Warga from her Web site:

Warga has written a moving story about Jude and her mother who leave Syria, the only home they have known to move to America to live with Uncle Mazin, Jude’s mother’s brother, and his family. Jude is reluctant to leave her father and her brother, Issa behind, but her father knows the family is not safe. He remains to run his store. Issa is involved in activities which worry his parents and Jude, but he feels he must do what he can to restore order to his country.

Jude’s mother is expecting another baby, so the family decides the safest place for Jude, her mom, and the unborn child is America. Uncle Mazin and Aunt Michelle welcome Jude and her mother. Jude’s cousin Sarah, Jude’s age, is not so welcoming even though the family has a large house which easily accommodates the extra family.

Warga’s style of writing Other Words For Home is poetic. Visually, the words on the page look like poetry. This style lends itself to Jude’s first-person narrative because she is describing her feelings and reactions to her new environment along with her fears for her brother and father left in Syria. See the sample below.


Jude experiences the normal feelings of being an outsider. As she becomes better acquainted with her classmates and feels more practiced speaking English, Jude adjusts to her new home. She makes friends with Layla whose parents own a middle east restaurant within walking distance of Uncle Mazin’s home. Layla is a year older than Jude, but they become fast friends.

Jude is also in an ESL class with three other immigrant children: Grace from Korea, Ben from China, and Omar from Somalia. Mrs. Ravenswood, the teacher, is kind and welcoming. Jude recognizes that this ESL class will be important to her even though she already spoke English before arriving in America. Grace, Ben, and Omar become her friends through shared experiences.

Jude takes a leap of faith and auditions for a part in the school play. She wins the part of a feather duster! It is a speaking part while her cousin Sarah is part of the chorus. As part of the audition, Jude has had to give a monologue and sing a song. She immediately chose Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” as her song because of her loving memories of singing it with Issa, her brother. She thinks to herself, “when I sing it, alone in the upstairs room, staring at those old plaster beige walls that are becoming more and more familiar, I do not feel like I am singing it alone. I hear my brother’s voice in my head, filling in the melody.”

For her monologue, she chooses from Notting Hill, a movie she and her best friend Jasmine loved watching in Syria. Jude picks “the part where [Julia Roberts’] character is explaining that her life has not been as charmed as everyone at the dinner party thinks it has been.”

Other Words For Home is a story for our time. As immigrants come to the US, we need to welcome them, for most of us were immigrants ourselves!





The Book Whisperer Praises a Treasure



Emily Dickinson: Poetry for Kids is illustrated by Christine Davenier and edited by Susan Snively, Ph.D. While the title suggests the book is for kids, I would argue that it is for anyone! Davenier’s beautiful illustrations enhance Dickinson’s spare poems. Certainly, Dickinson’s poem stand on their own, requiring no illustrations, but Davenier has provided a world of color and animals to accompany the poems.


Purchase Emily Dickinson: Poetry for Kids for yourself and another one to give to a child. It is a charming book that you can read over and over, always finding new pleasure in the poems themselves and the illustrations.


Snively has also included definitions for words children might not recognize. They are discreetly placed at the bottom of the page so they do not interfere with the words or the illustrations.

Susan Snively is a Dickinson scholar and has chosen the poems well. The poems she chose are ones children will remember as they continue to read Dickinson. Snively maintains a Web site at


See more of Christine Davenier’s work on her site:

The Book Whisperer Loves Ban This Book!


I am an eclectic reader as I have mentioned before in this blog. In college, I took a course in children’s literature, a library science course where I went to college. Later, I had the opportunity to teach children’s literature in the English Department at MO State, Springfield. I have continued to enjoy reading picture books, chapter books, juvenile books, and YA books ever since. When my children were in school, I tried to read along with them to keep up with what they were learning and enjoying.

Recently, I discovered Ban This Book by Alan Gratz. As an advocate of having the freedom to read books of one’s choice without restriction, I wanted to read Gratz’s book to see what happened. I have always been a voracious reader. When I was a thirteen, I wanted to read a book my mother thought was “too old” for me. My dad, himself a reader, said, “Let her read it. If she doesn’t understand it, then she will put it down. If she does understand it, she is old enough to read it.”

Amy Anne Ollinger is in the fourth grade and loves to read. Amy Anne is quiet, studious, and obedient. Readers soon learn that Amy Anne is the older of three girls.  Angelina and Alexis, the younger sisters, have very different interests from Amy Anne. Alexis is obsessed with ballet and she practices in the room she shares with Amy Anne, thus shutting Amy Anne out of the room. Angelina loves ponies and often pretends to be a pony, “galloping on all fours.” She has a room of her own which she spreads with shredded paper to form the paddocks for her horses.

Amy Anne has been carrying a secret from her parents: she tells them she stays after school to participate in a variety of clubs. The truth is she reads in the library until the second bus arrives because she has no quiet place of her own at home. At home, she’s reduced to using the bathroom as her place of escape to read at home, but often, she must leave it too.

One day, Amy Anne does into Shelbourne Elementary Library to check out her favorite book: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg. Mrs. Jones, the friendly librarian, tells Amy Anne the school board has banned the book and removed it from the library shelves because a parent, Mrs. Spencer, has complained about it. Amy Anne is baffled. What could Mrs. Spencer find offensive in Konigsburg’s book? Amy Anne soon discovers Mrs. Spencer believes the story encourages children to lie and run away from home.


Then much to her horror, Amy Anne learns Mrs. Spencer, “a pillar of our fair community,” has only begun to have books removed from the library. At first the list is limited to Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz, Matilda by Roald Dahl, Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, Wait Till Helen Comes by Mary Downing Hahn, It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie H. Harris, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg, all of the Junie B. Jones books by Barbara Park, all the Captain Underpants books by Dav Pilkey, The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, and all the Goosebumps books by R.L. Stine.

But the list continues to grow as Amy Anne discovers when she visits the library and sees Mrs. Jones reluctantly taking more books from the shelves.  Amy Anne gathers her best friend Rebecca Zimmerman and Danny Purcell to form the Banned Books Locker Library (BBLL). Amy Anne, Rebecca, and Danny will acquire the banned books and Amy Anne will check them out to other students from her locker; the BBLL is born.

Of course, readers recognize that this method will work only for a time until a teacher or parent discovers the banned books. However, Amy Anne and her friends are clever. They engage a fifth-grade student who is a whiz with computer graphics to create fake covers for the books. That, too, works for a time. The BBLL group has fun thinking up funny, engaging fake titles, and by this time a few other students have joined the BBLL.

As one might expect, the whole plan come crashing down when Principal (Banana) Banazewski discovers the Banned Books Locker Library. Amy Anne, who has never, ever been in trouble, is suspended for three days! Mr. and Mrs. Ollinger are disappointed in Amy Anne for lying to them about her extracurricular activities and they are upset about her checking out books to others even though they support her desire to stop the banning of books.


Amy Anne sees Trey McBride, Mrs. Spencer’s son, and her arch enemy, carrying a sheaf of forms used to identify books to ban and the forms give Amy Anne an idea. In the process of developing her idea, she learns that she has been mistaken about Trey and he becomes part of the plan along with many other students at Shelbourne Elementary. Read Ban This Book in order to discover the children’s grand plan and to see if it works!

Amy Anne and her friends’ courageous actions will inspire readers. I wanted to cheer at the end of the book.


Learn more about Alan Gratz at his Web site:




The Book Whisperer Reads a Middle-Grade Book: Ivan the One and Only


I was unaware of Katherine Applegate until a few weeks ago when I discovered Wishtree and purchased it on an impulse. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and thought it would be a good choice for one of my book clubs that includes some friends who speak English as a second language. Then I was looking for a book to give a friend’s six-year-old daughter and saw The One and Only Ivan, so I purchased it.

The One and Only Ivan won a Newberry Award in 2013, so I knew it had to have substance and be worthy of reading. Still, I wanted to read the book before giving it to my friend’s daughter. It will be made into a motion picture soon, so that was another draw because my friend’s daughter might enjoy the movie after she has read the book.

Ivan is a silverback gorilla who is sometimes called “the Freeway Gorilla. The Ape at Exit 8. The One and Only Ivan. Mighty Silverback.” Ivan lives “in a human habitat called the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade.” Mack, the proprietor, conducts shows at two, four, and seven every day of the year.


In addition to Ivan, Mack also has Stella, an elephant, Ivan’s dearest friend. Bob, the homeless dog is also Ivan’s dearest friend; he is not part of the show. Mack does have a dog who performs in the show. Thelma, the blue and yellow macaw, is another member of the cast.

Ivan tells readers right away that he can understand human words, but he cannot speak to humans. He also says that “understanding human speech is not the same as understanding humans.” How true.

Mack’s business is waning. People are not coming often or in large groups as they used to do. In fact, the attractions have lost some of their luster after 9,855 days. In addition, Stella hurt her foot and it is not healing properly. She rarely complains, but Ivan knows she is often in pain. That sore foot does not stop Mack from demanding a show out of Stella, even to the point of using the sharp stick to prod her.

Then Mack brings Ruby, a baby elephant, into the existing group. He thinks Ruby’s presence will draw the crowds once again. Stella is happy to mother Ruby, but she is saddened by Ruby’s imprisonment and Stella understands what is in store for Ruby.

Julia accompanies her father George as he cleans the mall every day. She is supposed to work on her homework while her father works. She prefers to draw pictures. She slips crayons and paper into Ivan’s enclosure and he imitates her in drawing what he sees, mostly banana peels and apple cores. He says he usually eats his subjects before he can draw them.

Mack discovers the drawings and takes them from Ivan to sell in the gift shop for $25 each, $35 with frame. The drawings give Ivan an idea of how he can save Ruby and send her to a zoo to live with other elephants and to have open, fresh air. What he doesn’t realize is that he will also be saving himself when his idea takes wings with a little help from Julia and her dad.

Readers will have to read the full story to see Ivan’s idea come to fruition and learn about friendship and love for one’s fellow creatures.

Katherine Applegate has written a number of books middle-grade readers. Some of those titles include Home of the Brave, The Buffalo Storm, and Sometimes You Fly. On her Web site, readers can discover where Applegate will be signing books across the US: