Monday, March 10, 2008


This was a book review I did for class:

AVI. Crispin: The Cross of Lead. 262p. Hyperion Books for Children. 2002. ISBN 078680828-4.

Gr 6-9—Crispin begrudgingly goes on a journey of self-discovery when, after the death of his mother, his life becomes very dangerous. The town priest, after promising to tell him about the father he never knew, is mysteriously killed, and Crispin is accused of crimes he didn’t commit. On the road, he meets a man called Bear, who, traveling around England as a juggler, collects information for a brotherhood that hopes to make their 14th century world better. Avi employs the oft-used premise of an unknown heir learning his true heritage to good effect, but could have spent more time developing the characters. Crispin feels true-to-life, but Bear’s actions and speech are sometimes so out of character one wonders if he is manic-depressive; several minor characters seem to never establish a true identity because of their out-of-sync actions. The book may be frustrating for young readers, as the author uses an older speaking style in an attempt to add a historical feel. In addition to being historically inaccurate, the style feels forced, and will likely alienate the readers who would otherwise be the best audience for this book. Other historical information feels accurate, however. Recommended as a secondary purchase.

These books reviews will appear in the March edition of the Slissard Line Newsletter:

SOMERVILL, Barbara A. The History of the Library. 32p. The Child’s World, 2006. ISBN 1-59296-438-9

Gr 5-8—This nonfiction work covers the early development of libraries, including the Library of Alexandria, early public libraries in America, and the Library of Congress, and discusses the future of libraries, mentioning several digital libraries. At the bottom of each page is a timeline of the events discussed on the page; each library event is paired with a non-library milestone, supposedly to generate interest and encourage the reader to go to the library to learn more about these events. This book is most appropriate for older grade school to middle school students: the sentence structure is simple, but the vocabulary is fairly advanced, and the book is very text-heavy, with some pages having no pictures at all; although it looks like a picture book, it is not. Also, the parallel events mentioned (the illustrations are often for the parallel event, not for the library event discussed) touch on topics more appropriate for older readers: Theodosius declaration of Christianity as “the only acceptable religion” (pg. 13), the founding of the American Anti-Slavery Society, the sinking of the Titanic, World War I, the Great Depression, the desegregation of schools, and the tearing down of the Berlin Wall all make appearances. There is a glossary of a few terms in the back of the book, along with further reading suggestions and web links. This book is recommended as a primary purchase.

KNUDSEN, Michelle. Library Lion. illus. by Kevin Hawkes. unpaged. Candlewick Press, 2006. ISBN 076362262-1

Gr Pre-2—When a lion starts coming to the public library, patrons are very nervous at first. But they soon become used to this helpful creature, who uses his tails to dust the encyclopedias and lets children lean against him during story hour. The lion throws himself out the library after he breaks the no-roaring rule, trying to get the attention of a librarian to help someone who has fallen. He is allowed to return, since he broke the rule for a very good reason. Librarians are likely to have mixed feelings about this book: the book portrays a comfortable modern library, where patrons feel welcome and part of a community. The soft illustrations show people of all ages and ethnicities using books, resources and computers. The two featured librarians, however, are portrayed in the text as strict, rule-obsessed, and not very social or personable. The illustrations show librarian stereotypes—Mr. McBee in a bow tie, a sweater, and hitched up pants, and Miss Merriweather in a long skirt and matching jacket, flat shoes, and a bun; both have glasses. There is some character development, unusual for a picture book, on the part of the lion and both librarians. The story has a good pace and would be good to read aloud.

WILLIAMS, Susan. Library Lil. illus. by Steven Kellogg. unpaged. Dial Books for Young Readers, 1997. ISBN 0-8037-1699-0

Gr K-4—Lil, an avid reader, grows up to become the librarian in a small town. Her hard work and passion help the citizens learn to love reading as well. When a group of tough bikers come to town and can’t find a TV to watch because of Lil’s successful book campaign, they go to see her, parking their motorcycles in the way of the bookmobile. They bet that Lil can’t move the bikes, but she is amazingly strong because of lifting so many heavy books. The bikers follow through and go into the library to read, where they quickly become just as excited about books as Lil and the rest of the town. Although not a very realistic story, this book does librarians the service of portraying someone outside the stereotype of “mousy little old ladies” (unpaged). Lil is given a true personality and a history. The illustrations, pencil, ink, and watercolors, are amazingly colorful and add real depth to the story, dark for the bikers, vibrant for Lil. Action and motion are clearly portrayed and give the story life. This book is recommended for all libraries.

CUMMINS, Julie. The Inside-Outside Book of Libraries. illus. by Roxie Munro. unpaged. Dutton Children’s Books, 1996. ISBN 0-525-45608-2

Gr 3-6—This non-fiction work discusses 13 different individual libraries or types of libraries. Several pages are devoted to each, and cover everything from the New York Public Library to the library aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, from the one-room public library on Oracoke Island, NC to the Berkeley Public Library Tool Lending Library in California. Other reviewers have placed this book’s audience at a lower level, probably because about ninety percent of each page is devoted to illustration. However, the advanced sentence structure and vocabulary may make this a bit difficult for readers below 3rd or 4th grade. Though detailed and interesting, the illustrations do not add action or emotion to the story; the text is small and packed with information. An illustration for the Andrew Heiskell Library for the Blind and Physcially Handicapped includes a section in Braille (with translation provided); other descriptions of libraries and their communities give technical information—the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln makes 185,000 gallons of fresh water every day—or other snippets of information—inmates who work in San Quentin’s Folsom State Prison Library get their sentences reduced by one day for each day they work in the library—that readers are not likely to come across in other sources. This book would be good for high-interest low-level readers as old as late middle or early high school. A must-have for every library, and a must-read for all SLIS students!

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