Postcard from Planet Esme|
by Esmé Codell
Planet Esmé (www.planetesme.com)
Teaching is an extreme sport come Spring, when a young man's fancies turn to thoughts of recess. Nothing short of bungee jumping will capture the attention of your resident daydreamers, so may I suggest…bungee jumping! Vicariously, that is, using Gary Paulsen's wild new read-aloud, How Angel Peterson Got His Name And Other Outrageous Tales About Extreme Sports. Another harrowing writing feat from the Ernest Hemingway of children's lit, we are forewarned early on, "…None of what we did should be done by anybody except heavily insured, highly trained professionals under adult supervision on closed courses with ambulances, doctors and MedEvac choppers standing by." So put on a helmet and begin reading this memoir of Paulsen's 13th year, in which boys wrestle bears in an effort to impress girls, a penny-pinching young lad inadvertently takes up hang-gliding in an effort to protect his investment, and a confident troupe sets out to break the world speed record on skis in the flatlands of Minnesota. Ouch, these stories are so good they hurt, and should be considered gut-wrenchingly funny until some kid decides to imitate one of the stunts. Paulsen optimistically dedicates the book "to all boys in their thirteenth year; the miracle is that we live through it." Pray for such a miracle and recommend this book which will perform the equally miraculous stunt of getting pre-teen reluctant reader boys turning pages fast enough to break a world record.
Primary students will find the pace is picked up in Zoom! by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Michael Martchenko (published by Scholastic). In this picture book, Lauretta has decided that her wheelchair is too slow, and her mother obliges to take her shopping for a new one. Unfortunately, none of the choices suit the young hot-rodder, until the saleswoman kindly offers to let her test drive a particularly soup-ed up model for a day. Lauretta's need for speed lands her a ticket from the local police along with a scolding from her mother, but when her brother cuts his finger, it's up to deliver him to the emergency room in a hurry. Robert Munsch is a master of combining completely outlandish situations with completely realistic dialogue, mercilessly tickling the funny bones of any listener; this title is one of his most exciting as well (Munsch fans, you know this is saying a lot!). The surprise ending and completely over-the-top illustration is guaranteed to end any story time with a wheely big laugh.
And finally, be sure to add the new Scholastic Visual Sports Encyclopedia to your permanent reference collection. From synchronized swimming to BMX biking, rules, equipment and plenty of play-by-play are illustrated in glorious 2-D. The variety and clear explanations are sure to inspire even your most ravenous bookworms out into the Spring sunshine to stretch their motor skills. Grab a ball, jump in a pool or strap on an on-line skate and join them; you'll do the season, your students and your system justice if you treat "spring" as a verb as well as a noun!
Rooting for you as you head for the finish line!
Happy reading always,
Esme Raji Codell
PlanetEsme.com: A Wonderful World of Children's Literature!
Also of interest:
Meet Esme in person!
This month's "postcard from PlanetEsme.com really is a postcard, as I'm on the road! My schedule for the book tour for my new novel for 9-12 year olds, Sahara Special, is now posted at
Hope you find that the book makes the grade, and I also hope I will be able to meet you in person if I come through your town!
Great new gardening books!
Pick any of these from your picture book shelf and watch a love of reading blossom!
- Pick, Pull, Snap! Where Once a Flower Bloomed by Lola Schaeffer, illustrated by Lindsay Barrett George
- Fold out pages and elegant illustrations carry readers from seed to bloom.
- Mirabelle by Astrid Lindgren, illustrated by Pija Lindenbaum
- A mysterious stranger gives a mysterious seed to a lonely little girl. What will grow from it? From the author of Pippi Longstocking!
- The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil Ering
- A young boy builds a monster out of parts he finds in the junkyard to protect some precious seeds. A quirky environmental parable.
- Flora's Surprise by Debi Gliori
- A little bunny plants a brick, with surprising results. A fresh choice for fans of Ruth Krauss's classic, The Carrot Seed.
- Muncha, Muncha, Muncha! By Candace Fleming, illustrated by G. Brian Karas
No matter how high Mr. McGreely builds the garden wall, three clever rabbits manage to sneak in. Your students will enjoy finding them in their hiding places! Lots of refrains for joining-in and a strong story about problem solving will give you plenty to harvest in story-time discussion.
For many more books about gardening and things that grow (besides your lovely students), please visit
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