Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Summary and Review

Harry Potter Books: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by J.K. Rowling, cover art
Title: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6)Harry Potter books: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by J.K. Rowling
Author: J.K. Rowling
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Age Category: 14 to 19 years +

I plan to review the seventh and last of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter booksHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7)Harry Potter books: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling—before the release of the seventh Harry Potter movie in November, 2010.  But, I can’t review the seventh book before I review the sixth, right?  So, here’s my take on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6)Harry Potter books: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by J.K. Rowling.  While I will not divulge here any important plot twists or outcomes of this book, I will talk about the plot of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Book 5)Harry Potter books: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by J.K. Rowling, so if you are worried about spoiling that book, stop reading!

Harry Potter Books: Summary

In the previous installment of the Harry Potter booksHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Book 5)Harry Potter books: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by J.K. Rowling—Voldemort and his minions tried to steal a prophecy (i.e., a crystal ball that preserves prophetic words previously spoken) about Harry and the Dark Lord, to help them in their wicked bid for power over the wizarding world.  With help from members of the Order of the Phoenix—a secret society formed to counter Voldemort’s forces—Harry and his friends foiled the plot in dramatic “shoot-em-up” style. (For my review of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, click here.) Continue reading

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Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Summary and Review

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling, cover art
Title: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Book 5)Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling
Author: J.K. Rowling
Age Category: 12 to 16 years +
Genre: Young Adult Fiction

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix: Book Review and Summary

Today I present a Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix book review and summary.  This fifth installment in J.K. Rowling’s masterful juvenile fiction series about Harry Potter picks up where the fourth book left off.  The Dark Lord Voldemort—having been restored to power at the climax of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Book 4)Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J.K. Rowling—and his minions are covertly at work, preparing for outright war.  They seek something Voldemort “didn’t have last time” (p. 96), i.e., when Harry was a baby and Voldemort last launched his campaign for power over the wizarding world.  But, what exactly is Voldemort seeking? This question drives the plot of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Book 5)Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling forward on the deepest level.  Harry’s consistent experience of visions hinting at Voldemort’s activity and emotions help him and his friends in their efforts to understand and foil Voldemort’s plans.

In Rowling’s trademark style, the path toward answering the central question of the novel has many twists, turns, and subplots.  One significant subplot is Continue reading

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Children’s Books for Earth Day: One Child, One Planet

Children's Books for Earth Day, One Child One Planet, by Carl R. Sams II and Jean Stoick, cover artTitle: One Child, One Planet: Inspiration for the Young ConservationistChildren's Books for Earth Day, One Child One Planet, by Carl R. Sams II and Jean Stoick
Author: Bridget McGovern Llewellyn
Photographs: Carl R. Sams II and Jean Stoick
Age Category: 3 to 5 years +
Genre: Picture Books

Children’s Books for Earth Day

One Child, One PlanetChildren's Books for Earth Day, One Child One Planet, by Carl R. Sams II and Jean Stoick is an attractive children’s book for earth day that conveys the message and importance of resource conservation to children aged three-to-eight-years-old.  The book conveys this message via loosely rhyming verse and photographs of children and animals interacting with stunning natural landscapes and habitats.

This children’s book for earth day begins by briefly describing the earth and the trouble it faces due to global warming, and then focuses on what people—and especially children—can do to help counter global warming via conservation.  Specifically, the book points to familiar practices such as reducing the consumption of water, planting trees, conserving electricity, recycling, reducing the use of electronic devices, and generally squashing greedy consumer habits. Continue reading

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Easter Stories for Children: Petook, by Tomie dePaola, Caryll Houselander

Petook: An Easter Story, by Tomie dePaolaTitle: Petook: An Easter StoryPetook: An Easter Story, by Tomie dePaola
Illustrator: Tomie dePaola
Author: Caryll Houselander
Age Category: 3 to 5 years +
Genre: Picture Books

Creating good traditional Easter stories for children is difficult for a couple of reasons.  First, the traditional story is quite violent, so a graphically illustrated version of the story could be quite shocking or disturbing for a young child.  Second, the deep significance of the story can be pretty complicated for a young child, and so creating a picture book that tells the story in a way that is both true to New Testament theology and understandable for a young child is challenging.

Some picture books navigate these challenges by simply presenting the text from one (or several) of the Gospels along with illustrations that are not overly detailed.  I think Easter: The King James VersionEaster: The King James Version, by Jan Pienkowski, by Jan Pienkowski is a tasteful example of this approach.  As the title suggests, Pienkowski just presents relevant parts of the King James text, which she illustrates using silhouettes so the pictures are not too gory.

However, as I see it, the trouble with Easter stories for children that take this approach is that Continue reading

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When You Reach Me: Summary and Review

When You Reach Me by Rebecca SteadWhen You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Title: When You Reach MeWhen You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Author: Rebecca Stead
Age Category: 9 to 12 years +
Genre: Middle-grade Fiction

When You Reach Me: Summary

Miranda—the protagonist of the 2010 Newbery Medal-winning juvenile fiction book When You Reach MeWhen You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead—is a twelve-year-old latchkey kid living with her single mom in New York City in the 1970s. She’s smart, she’s funny, and she reads only one book: A Wrinkle in TimeA Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle by Madeleine L’Engle.  Her mother—a would-be lawyer with a keen sense of justice—was forced to drop out of law school when she had Miranda. Now she works unhappily as a paralegal and dreams of winning the game show The $20,000 Pyramid so she can quit her job.

Miranda has lost her best friend, Sal, who lives in her apartment building. One day, while the two of them were walking home from school, a neighborhood kid named Marcus punched Sal, and from that day on Continue reading

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Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Summary

diary of a wimpy kid summary book review jeff kinney
Title: Diary of a Wimpy Kiddiary of a wimpy kid summary book review jeff kinney
Author: Jeff Kinney
Age Category: 9 to 12 +
Genre: Comic Juvenile Fiction

With the March 19th release date of the movie based on Diary of a Wimpy Kiddiary of a wimpy kid summary book review jeff kinney fast approaching, I thought I would write a review of this madly popular book.  Although it was first published in 2007, it remains on the New York Times Bestseller List (for children’s series books) and has been there for 57 weeks (!).  In this review I will take a somewhat contrarian view of the book: I do not like it as much as it seems most everyone else does.  “Why,” you ask? Read on fair reader.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Summary

Diary of a Wimpy Kiddiary of a wimpy kid summary book review jeff kinney is the first in a growing series by Jeff Kinney.  In the book we get collected episodes from a year in the tragicomic life of the book’s protagonist—Greg Heffley—presented in journal form (Heffley: “First of all, let me get something straight: This is a JOURNAL, not a diary”). Continue reading

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The Lion and the Mouse, Caldecott Medal Winner

picture books the lion and the mouse caldecott medal Jerry Pinkney
Title: The Lion & the Mousepicture books the lion and the mouse caldecott medal Jerry Pinkney
Author: Jerry Pinkney
Age Category: 3 to 5 years +
Genre: Picture Books

The Lion and the Mouse Book

Jerry Pinkney’s 2010 Caldecott Medal-winning picture book, The Lion & the Mouse,picture books the lion and the mouse caldecott medal Jerry Pinkney is a retelling—or, rather a re-showing—of Aesop’s traditional fable by the same name.

As the story is traditionally told, a mouse is caught by a lion and pleads for her life by arguing that one day the lion might need her help. Although the lion scoffs at the thought that a tiny mouse could ever help such a mighty beast as a lion, he releases the mouse. However, the lion subsequently gets caught in a hunter’s net, and the mouse—hearing the lion’s distressed roar—ends up freeing the lion by nibbling a hole in the net. The traditional moral: “Little friends may prove great friends.” Traditionally, then, the story is meant to embolden the meek (“You may be a great friend one day!”) and to encourage the proud to look out for the little guy.

However, in Pinkney’s picture book, the moral is not so tightly constrained, largely because the only words Pinkney uses are onomatopoeias—i.e., words that Continue reading

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Multicultural Children’s Books by Ezra Jack Keats

In this post I will highlight the work of one of my favorite children’s authors, Ezra Jack Keats.  In particular, I will focus on a six-book series of multicultural children’s books by Keats that features a single character—a boy named Peter—and that includes two of Keats’s most celebrated books, The Snowy Daymulticultural children's books and Whistle for Williemulticultural children's books.  All six of these multicultural children’s books are appropriate for 3-to-5-year-olds.
multicultural children's booksmulticultural children's books
Title: The Snowy Daymulticultural children's books
Author: Ezra Jack Keats
Age Category: 3 to 5 years
Genre: Picture Books

Life of Ezra Jack Keats: Multicultural Children’s Books Author

The following brief account of Keats’s life and career is excerpted from the website for the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation:

“Ezra Jack Keats was born on March 11, 1916, to impoverished Polish immigrants of Jewish descent in East New York, which was then the Jewish quarter of Brooklyn, New York. He was the third child of Benjamin Katz and Augusta Podgainy, and was then known as Jacob (Jack) Ezra Katz.”

From early on it was evident that Keats was gifted as an artist.  He won several awards for his art in junior high and high school, including a national contest run by the Scholastic Publishing Company.

“Keats entered the service of the United States Army on April 13, 1943…After World War II, he returned to New York… Two years after the war, Jack, in reaction to the anti-Semitic prejudices of the time, Continue reading

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Children’s Books on Martin Luther King Jr: I Have A Dream

children's books I have a dream speech martin luther king jrchildren's books I have a dream speech martin luther king jr
Title: I Have A Dreamchildren's books I have a dream speech martin luther king jr
Author: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Foreword: Coretta Scott King
Age Category: 9 to 12 years +
Genre: Picture Books
Our Rating (out of 5): children's books I have a dream speech martin luther king jr

This post is a review of the second of two books I recommend for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  Click here for “Children’s Books for Martin Luther King Jr. Day: Martin’s Big Words, my review of the first book.

I Have a Dream Speech: Martin Luther King Jr.

The idea behind this children’s book is simple: publish the text of Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech—delivered in the 1963 March on Washington—accompanied by illustrations by fifteen African-American artists whose work has featured in children’s books that have received the Coretta Scott King Award or Honor.  The result is a moving and beautiful remembrance of this historic moment in the American story, a worthy tribute to the visionary Dr. King who delivered the speech, and a powerful call to renew the work of forgiveness, justice, and love that Dr. King pushed forward so forcefully in his day.

I Have a Dream: Subjective Appeal

Two things will draw young readers to I Have A Dream.  At the top of the list, of course, is the power of Dr. King’s words.  At least three things moved me in re-reading these amazing words.  First, King’s laser focus on Continue reading

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Children’s Books on Martin Luther King Jr: Martin’s Big Words

children's books for martin luther king jr day, Martin's Big Words
Title: Martin’s Big Words
Author: Doreen Rappaport
Age Category: 6 to 8 years
Genre: Historical picture books
Our Rating (out of 5):

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day—coming up on January 18th—we will be featuring some children’s books about Dr. King and others who have contributed to the long and continuing fight for the equality of African-Americans in the United States.  The first book is Martin’s Big Words, the Caldecott honor and Coretta Scott King award-winning book by Doreen Rappaport (illustrations by Bryan Collier).  The book tells the story of Dr. King’s life and work in a brief accessible format.

Martin Luther King Children’s Book: Subjective Appeal

This compelling children’s book about Martin Luther King Jr. will appeal to kids in several ways.  First, the moral themes of justice, equality, and love on which the book focuses connect with the process of moral formation occurring in 6-to-8-year-olds.  Children at this age are developing instincts about right and wrong, and good and bad, and Martin’s Big Words will engage children in this part of their experience.

Second, the simple disarming style of the book draws the young reader into the story.  Although the themes that Dr. King’s life and work evoke (e.g., rights, freedom, justice, equality, etc.) can be somewhat abstract for children, Martin’s Big Words portrays them in an accessible way.  For example, this children’s book opens with the following line: “Everywhere in Martin’s hometown Continue reading

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Clap Hands, by Helen Oxenbury

Board Books, Clap Hands Helen Oxenbury
Title: Clap Hands
Author: Helen Oxenbury
Age Category: Infant to 2 years
Genre: Baby Board Books

Helen Oxenbury: Clap Hands

Clap Hands—one of Helen Oxenbury’s beloved board books—is a simple tribute to activities that young children delight in.  The words of the board book are as follows:

“Clap hands, dance and spin;
Open wide, pop it in;
Blow a trumpet, bang a drum;
Wave to daddy, wave to mum.” Continue reading

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Bad Children’s Books: The Adventures of Captain Underpants

Bad Children's Books
Title: The Adventures of Captain UnderpantsBad Children's Books
Author: Dav Pilkey
Age Category: 6 to 8 years
Genre: Juvenile fiction
Our Rating (out of 5):

George Beard and Harold Hutchins, the main characters of The Adventures of Captain Underpants, are pranksters of the first order.  In this installment of Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series, George and Harold pull an outrageous set of pranks at their elementary school football game.  However, unbeknown to them their mean principal Mr. Krupp has caught all of their antics on videotape and he proceeds to use the tape to blackmail them into behaving well in school and serving his every whim.

After a few days of following Mr. Krupp’s rules, the boys remember a comic-book advertisement for a “3-D Hypno-Ring” that will allow them to hypnotize Mr. Krupp and lay hands on the incriminating videotape.  George and Harold follow through with their plan, and in the process have some fun with Mr. Krupp, making him believe Continue reading

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