Hank Zipzer: The Cow Poop Treasure Hunt

Hank Zipzer: The Cow Poop Treasure Hunt

Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver, Authors

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Nov. 13, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 7-10

Pages: 144

Themes: Underachiever, Survival Camp, Comical, Adventure

Synopsis:

Underachiever Hank Zipzer goes on an unfortunate school camping trip in a comical, kid-friendly novelization of the popular BBC series based on Henry Winkler’s best-selling books.

What will it take for Mom and Dad to trust Hank to go to the mall unsupervised with his friends? Cooking a family dinner — er, disaster — doesn’t exactly say “responsible.” But what if Hank signs up for the school’s legendary survival camp and makes it through the whole weekend? Maybe he should factor in being teamed up with his nemesis, McKelty, in a leaky tent, not to mention a desperate search for a cell phone in a field of cow pies. . . . The amiable character originated by Henry Winkler — inspired by his own childhood — comes to life in a humorous adventure set in a font designed to boost readability for kids with dyslexia.

Why I recommend this book:

The title is a sure giveaway that this book is a hilarious adventure for reluctant readers. Many kids will identify with Hank, who really wants to prove that he is responsible and gain the trust of his helicopter parents, but somehow he can’t stay on task. He really tries, but is easily distracted. He also can’t resist a good prank and his antics get him in trouble. Hank is a well-developed character that readers will cheer because he is so real and lovable. This story has heart!

Hank’s best friends, Frankie and Ashley, accept Hank for who he is — you never know what’s going to happen when they are together. They are also a nice balance for Hank, even though he convinces them to sign up for the survival camp.  Papa Pete is the only one who seems to understand Hank and encourages his parents to “let go.”

This series offers hope to children who learn differently. Based on Henry Winkler’s own struggle with dyslexia as a child and teen, he has taken special care to make sure that the book has been set in a OpenDyslexic font that has been created to increase readability for readers with dyslexia.  He continues to invite readers to comment on the font so that improvements can be made. What a gift for children!

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by publisher.

Double Dutch by Sharon Draper

Double Dutch

Sharon Draper, Author

Atheneum Books, YA Fiction, 2003

Suitable for: Grades 5 to 9

Themes:  Dyslexia, Bullies, Friendship, Secrets, Sportsmanship

Synopsis:  Three eighth-grade friends prepare for the International Double Dutch Championship jump rope competition  to be held in their hometown, Cincinnati.  Delia, who is the main character, loves Double Dutch.  She is the fastest and best jumper on her team, and  has a shot at the championship.  But, Delia, has a secret she has kept from everyone, including her mother.   She can’t read.  In order to compete, she must pass the state proficiency tests.  This could jeopardize her chance to participate in the competition.  Even her best friend and team member, Yolanda, “Yo Yo” doesn’t know for a while.  Yo Yo, specializes in telling very tall tales, and no one can believes a word she says — she’s the comic relief in the story.

Delia isn’t the only person with a secret.  Randy, whose father is a truck driver, has been missing for weeks.  Randy is close to his Dad and can’t understand why he can’t reach him.  Randy assists the Double Dutch coach, Bomani, and helps with practices — a great distraction for Randy.  He also has a crush on Delia.  Randy is running out of money to pay the rent and electricity.   He doesn’t have enough to buy food.  He’s afraid to tell anyone because he’s doesn’t want to be put into a foster home.  He always makes excuses to Delia about his dad, but deep inside he’s scared and worried.

One thing is for sure, all three friends share a fear of the new Tolliver Twins, the school  bullies.  Especially Yo Yo, who is shoved into a locker when the Tolliver’s pass her in the hall.  They dress in black, wear skull caps, only interact with each other and angrily storm the halls.  They seem to follow Yo Yo around at Double Dutch meets and practices.  Out of fear, she spreads a rumor that the Tolliver twins are going to blow up the school.  Even the teacher’s are intimidated when the twin’s mother goes onto a television program and asks for help for her sons.   This causes a stir at the middle school.  Will there be violence?

What I like about this book This is a good novel for 6th graders, and not too young for eighth graders.  There are no inappropriate scenes and the language is clean.  Author Sharon Draper has skillfully woven together the lives of three middle grade students and all the angst that accompanies their drama-filled teenage years.  She has created a diverse group of characters, a great theme about friendships, and a strong plot with a few twists and turns.  I enjoyed reading Double Dutch, because I used to jump it as a girl.  But not at the competitive level of the characters in the book.  I was amazed at what athletic skill, talent and focus is required of its jumpers.  This book was a great read and will certainly appeal to middle grade girls.

Sharon Draper has also won the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent for Fears of a Tiger.  She won the Coretta Scott King Literary Award for her novels Copper Sun, and  Forged by Fire, and the Coretta Scott King Author Honor for The Battle of Jericho.  For more information about all the books she’s published, resources, activities, interviews and information on school visits, click here to visit Draper’s website.  I reviewed Draper’s latest novel, Out of My Mind,  Jan. 23, 2012, and Copper Sun on Mar. 12, 2012.

The Art of Miss Chew

The Art of Miss Chew

Patricia Polacco, Author and Illustrator

G.P. Putnam’s Sons,  April 2012, Fiction

Suitable for: Ages 5 and up

Theme: Artistic Expression, Autobiographical, Learning Disabilities, Self-esteem

Opening/Synopsis:  “I discovered how much I loved art the summer I spent with my grandmother and father in Michigan.  Grandma was an artist; she drew and painted so beautifully!  Grandma even told me that I was a natural artist, so I couldn’t wait to take Art at school next fall when I got home to California.  I only had one problem left –tests.  I just couldn’t seem to pass them.”  Trisha loves school, but she has a lot of trouble reading.   Her new teacher, Mr. Donovan, recognizes that she is smart, but needs more time taking test.  He gives her that time and she begins to pass them.  He also discovers her artistic talent when he sees one of her drawings.  Since there isn’t an art program in her school, Mr. Donovan arranges for Trisha to study art with Miss Chew, head of the high school art department, twice a week.  Miss Chew inspires Trisha “to see” an object before she draws.  Trisha carries her sketch book with her everywhere.  One day Mr. Donovan’s father dies and he has to leave for Ireland.  The stern substitute teacher sees no value in art and attempts to derail Trisha’s art classes.  But, Trisha and Miss Chew have a plan to outsmart the new teacher.

What I like about this book:   This is a heartwarming  autobiography of author/illustrator Patricia Polacco and the people who nurtured her artistic abilities, including two real teachers she names in the book.  This book is a lovely tribute to the educators who spotted her talent and encouraged her in that direction.  Patricia Polacco is an outstanding storyteller.  Her story is an important read for young aspiring artists, and for kids who have trouble reading.   Her colorful and bold illustrations evoke a lot of emotion and fun.  She has created over 50 picture books.  In a note to her readers, Polacco says “The tragedy is that today, too often monies are no longer available in many public schools to support art, music, drama, or descriptive arts programs.  How could this be?  Art teaches us to speak a language that originates in the heart, the soul and earliest memories.  How could any course be more important?”  Click here to visit Patricia Polacco’s website.

Activities:  Encourage your children to do art projects at a young age.  Introduce them to a variety of art supplies, crayons, colored pencils, chalk, paints, drawing pads and molding clay.    Many recreation centers, YMCA’s and art galleries have art and craft programs throughout the summer and year.  Visit art galleries, topiary gardens and concerts.  Create a space in your home to showcase your child’s artwork and let your child know how much joy his/her drawing brings you.

Additional Resources:  Colleague Beth Stilborn featured the “Arts and Books on Vacation” series on her blog last summer.  She focused on a variety of art programs for youth in New York City, Los Angeles, Canada and London.

To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.  Or click on the Perfect Picture Book Fridays  badge in the right sidebar.  Perfect Picture Books will be going on vacation after today’s posts,  and all the contributors will resume again September 7.    I will continue to publish book reviews and do some interviews throughout the summer, perhaps with some breaks.

Horatio Humble Beats the Big “D”

Horatio Humble Beats the Big “D”

Margot Finke, author

Ellen Gurak, illustrator

Guardian Angel Publishing, Inc., 2010, Fiction

Suitable for:  Ages 5-10

Themes:  Dyslexia, Learning Disabilities, Differences

Opening/Synopsis:  “When Horatio Humble read words out loud/There were snorts and giggles from the classroom crowd./The teacher would frown and say, “‘Tut, tut!’  And Horatio’s mouth would close –tight and shut.”  Horatio is a bright student.  He gets A’s in Math and in History.   English and reading are a challenge.  He wants to read books, “But something was wonky within his poor head, so words in his books stayed a mystery instead.”   He and his parents meet with the teacher and Horatio learns he has dyslexia.  Horatio is told that he will attend a special class.  He is upset!  “Special class is for nitwits,” he whined.  “Every one of my friends will think that I’m dumb!”  After working with a teacher things begin to look brighter for Horatio.

Why I like this book:  First of all, Margot Finke beautifully wrote this book in rhyme.  The book is simple, compassionate and packed with hope.   Ellen Gurak’s bold and colorful illustrations are engaging  and show Horatio overcoming adversity.  This book should be in every school library.   It is fun and upbeat.  You can visit Margot Finke by clicking on her website.    She wrote a grade school rhyming book for dyslexic children

Resources:  There is a helpful parent-teacher guide included at the end.   Margot Finke also wrote a grade school rhyming book for dyslexic children.  If dyslexia is caught early it can be overcome according to the Mayo Clinic.  Did you know that Oprah, Bill Gates and Daniel Radcliffe had dyslexia?  To learn more about dyslexia contact the International Dyslexia Association and The Dyslexia Foundation.

To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books.  Or click on the Perfect Picture Book Fridays  badge in the right sidebar.