Archive for May 22, 2015

The Impossible Voyage of Kon-Tiki

Written and Illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray

Publishers are starting to reveal fall titles, and fall is looking good!

Scientists agree that the people of the world began in one region and slowly scattered across the globe. But there is very little agreement how the scattering occurred. Just a lot of theories and speculation. After spending a year living among the Polynesians on Fatu Hiva, Thor Heyerdahl speculated that Polynesians crossed the vast Pacific on rafts from Peru. The folk stories and similar names were enough to make him wonder. Of course, few people believed such a journey was even possible. Heyerdahl and his crew proved it was possible. They lashed together balsa wood with hemp rope and fashioned a single mast and a bamboo cabin. Navigation was by sextant, and much of their food was from the sea. Rogue waves and a storm were nearly enough to cause them to issue a distress call from their radio, but they stuck with it and reached Polynesia. No one will ever know for sure that ancient people made this voyage, but Heyerdahl proved it could have happened.

The story so fascinates readers that Heyerdahl’s original account of the voyage was translated into seventy languages and is still in print sixty years later. Ray’s beautiful illustrations give the reader the feeling of being there for the voyage and encourage the desire to travel to the places mentioned.

Second graders will learn about anthropology, Polynesia, and rugged travel. They will also get a chance to hone literacy skills and learn that the seemingly impossible may not be.

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  • Kon-TikiTitle: The Impossible Voyage of Kon-Tiki
  • Author/Illustrator: Deborah Kogan Ray
  • Published: Charlesbridge, October 13, 2015
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Hardcover, 40 pages
  • Grade Level: 2 to 5
  • Genre: Nonfiction, anthropology
  • ISBN: 978-1-58089-620-7


The Whodunit Detective Agency: The Circus Mystery

Written by Martin Widmark
Illustrated by Helena Willis

Kids love to solve mysteries and this third mystery in The Whodunit Detective Agency series is a fun one. Circus tents and balloon sellers bring excitement to town that can only be topped by a backpack wearing money who bows at his costumers.

Stolen cell phones and lost wallets raise crowd tensions between shows and get the local sheriff involved. His friends and sometimes crime stopper helpers, Jerry and Maya, come to the show intent on solving it.

Newly independent grade three and grade four readers will enjoy this mystery they can solve on their own to solve the crime. Clues are cleverly placed and details explained. Large font on clean white paper make the book approachable. Full color sketches keep the readers entertained and take them right into the circus tents.

Readers will enjoy getting to know Jerry and Maya and will look forward to more crime solving with them in their town of Pleasant Valley as the series continues.

Maps of the town as well as a gallery of characters who will appear in the story are presented in the beginning pages inviting readers to jump in and get to know them even before the story begins. Parents, teachers and librarians can get reluctant readers involved in this series by reading a chapter or two aloud. Or by using the technique, you read a page and then I’ll read a page.

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  • Circus MysteryTitle: The Whodunit Detective Agency: The Circus Mystery
  • Author: Martin Widmark
  • Illustrator: Helena Willis
  • Publisher: Grosset Dunlap/Penguin
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Paperback, 2015
  • ISBN: 978-0-448-48070-1
  • Genre: Fiction, Mystery
  • Grade level: 2 to 4