Friday, June 29, 2012

Review of Who Were the Accused Witches of Salem?

This series of books attempts to explain notable historical events in America by answering six basic questions: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? Who Were the Accused Witches of Salem? focuses on the Salem Witch trials of the 1600s. At the end of the book, readers are encouraged to answer the same questions as a reading comprehension exercise.

The language of the book is easy to understand. They even altered the spelling of some of the Old English words, to make it easier for kids to read. I have mixed emotions about that. Yes, I agree with making a text easy to read, but there is something to be said for the historical aspect of reading the original English.

Another attempt to modernize the story for today's generations is including little factboxes within pictures of smartphones and other modern technology. For example, a map showing where Salem can be found is illustrated on a GPS screen.

Vocabulary words have definitions right on the page, next to the text in a little blue box. Each vocabulary word is outlined in blue, with a line leading to the little fact box. While this is helpful in drawing attention to the definitions, I personally found it distracting to have all of the lines in the middle of the text. I would have preferred to have the vocabulary word bold-faced, even in the blue color. The definition could still be in the small blue box in the margin, but also include the vocabulary word so as to not confuse them.

I do love the real paintings and drawings from the time that are included in the book. Suggestions for further reading and research follow the index at the end.

I felt the books was quite informative. I learned a few tidbits about which I wasn't aware prior to reading this book, though I have read about the trials before. It is a great resource for upper elementary and up.

I received a complimentary set of galleys in exchange for my honest review.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Review of Tall: Great American Folktales

Graphic novels are becoming more and more popular as a method of enticing young readers to engage in a story. Donnie Lemke has edited a book called Tall: Great American Folktales, that consists of four popular tall tales, told in a comic format. Stories include those of Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, John Henry, and Johnny Appleseed. These legendary tales have been passed down from generation to generation in a variety of formats. This is the first time that I have seen them in a graphic format. I read that these four stories were previously available as individual titles; this is an omnibus.

I admit that I struggle with reading graphic novels. It is not my preferred format. I do acknowledge, though, that it is becoming much more popular and entices kids to read things that they otherwise would have never picked up. For some of them, it is more appealing because they have difficulty reading. Others simply enjoy this format better. It definitely caught the attention of a 10 year-old boy I know!

As a whole, the book is cute, with some great illustrations. I felt like the first two stories, about Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill, got a little more silly than I remember those stories being. The mood of the stories was altered for me.

My favorite was the last one about Johnny Appleseed. I felt that it really held true to the tale. It told a good story without being too goofy.

Graphic stories are much more difficult to read out loud. This would be best as an individual reading activity. Perhaps it would be best used after reading the original tales out loud.

I received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.