Thursday, March 8, 2012

SPL Shelf Life [kids]


Miss Martin is a Martian, by Colleen Murray Fisher, 30 pages.
Is it possible that Melvin Eugene Baxter’s teacher, Miss Martin, is actually a Martian?
Melvin thinks it’s very possible indeed.   
Having just watched a movie about Martians taking over Planet Earth, Melvin considers himself to be quite knowledgeable about aliens, and there’s no doubt in his mind that his teacher has some super-natural abilities. For example, how did she know that Melvin ate a chocolate cupcake at “healthy snack time” when she didn’t see him do it (and he had so carefully disposed of the evidence)?  Does she have a super-Martian sense of smell?
How did she know what he and Billy were up to in the next room when she wasn’t there – can she see through walls?
How does she always seem to know what is going on behind her back when she is writing on the blackboard? Does she have eyes in the back of her head, or does she have extra-terrestrial hearing?
Incredibly, Miss Martin seems able to read minds too. When Melvin offered yet another excuse for not doing his homework, she didn’t believe it! How did she know his excuse wasn’t true?
Miss Martin even seems to have the ability to brainwash students – she’s been making learning fun for her students – and Melvin has never known a teacher who did THAT for him before!
The sly humour in this story, the conclusion and the illustrations add up to a winning book for the younger school-aged crowd.
** Recommended for ages 5 to 8 years.
 
School for Bandits, by Hannah Shaw, 30 pages.
Mr. and Mrs. Raccoon were worried about their son, Ralph Raccoon.
Ralph wasn’t a typical raccoon. He was kind and helpful. He was polite. He didn’t like to cause mischief or make messes, even in neighbours’ garbage cans. He was clean and tidy. He didn’t throw food around, and he even brushed his teeth each night.
Mr. and Mrs. Raccoon were alarmed by Ralph’s excellent behaviour – so much so that they sent Ralph to bandit school to learn some bad manners. (How else would Ralph ever become a great raccoon bandit like Grandpa Cutlass or Uncle Whiskers?)
On his first day at the School for Bandits, where “no niceness was allowed”, Ralph could see right away that he wasn’t going to fit in. And he was correct. Ralph didn’t enjoy or do well in any of his classes, such as Bandit Behaviour 101, Bad Manners 101, Mischief & Messes 101, and Raccoon Science. In fact, he was hopeless!
One day, his teacher, Mrs. Mischief, announced a competition: the Best Bandit in the School Competition. Who could fill their bandit sack with the most pilfered treats over the weekend?
All the students were excited, except Ralph. He was so certain he’d lose that he didn’t even try.
When Ralph headed back to school on Monday morning, he continued his usual helpful behaviour. He gave directions to someone who was lost. He rescued a kitten stuck in a tree. He swam out to the middle of a pond to retrieve the wind-blown belongings of an entire outdoor orchestra. Each time, Ralph was rewarded with treats that went into his bandit sack.
By the time he arrived at school, the sack was so full that Ralph won the Best Bandit in the School Competition!
His teacher was surprised, but his parents were very proud of Ralph. “Just like Grandpa Cutlass!” said his father.
When the other raccoons begged Ralph to tell them his secret, he did. “Helpfulness and politeness are the best!” he said … and his classmates had to agree!
Children will very much enjoy this witty school story and its relevant message.
** Recommended for ages 4 to 7 years

These reviews appeared in The Stratford Gazette on March 8, 2012. Written by Sally Hengeveld, Librarian.

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