Tag Archive for comprehension

A Bird on Water Street plus an interview and a GIVEAWAY!

When my friend Elizabeth Dulemba (aka e) asked if I wanted to read her novel, I jumped at the chance. I knew it would be worthwhile because of her dedication to quality children’s literature. I did not know how much I would enjoy reading it.


Elizabeth Dulemba

These are the questions I had for her:

You mentioned this project occurred over ten years. Can you share why you never let it go?

I never let it go, partly because I never chose to write the story in the first place.

I was sitting in a meeting between miners and the Company about a potential scenic railway routed to go north from town around a rare switchback. They Company said it would fund the train by reopening the chemical plant and sending out one shipment of sulfuric acid per week. The miners stood up in denim and plaid flannel like old, gnarled oak trees. They told heart-wrenching stories about all their family and friends they’d lost to cancers they attributed to the mines. They made thinly veiled threats that the tracks would be sabotaged if the plans moved forward. I sat in shock, a recent transplant to the area, wondering what I’d stumbled into.

That was when the Muse took hold of me. I suppose it could have been any writer, but it happened to be me. I was needed to tell the story. It wasn’t about me, but it became my responsibility. After I interviewed dozens of townspeople about the history of growing up in the area, it became about them. I was the keeper of precious documentation. When I thought the book might never get published, my sense of failure was immense. I felt responsible to the citizens of the Copper Basin to get the story right and get it shared. Giving up was never a real option.


The emotions of Jack certainly ring true. How were you able to put yourself in his place?

I’m so glad you think so! I suppose I was a little like Jack. I was a nature lover, a reader, a curious kid reaching for things beyond my borders. I share his love of trees—the wonder and holy sensation he got from them, as if they were speaking to him. And I think everybody shares his feelings of connection and yet of not fitting in. They are universal emotions.


As I mention in my review, you are careful to show both sides of most issues. For example, Jack’s dad was proud to be a miner even though the mine was killing the land. Was this on purpose and how hard was it to find the good in some of the situations?

It was quite intentional. When I started researching the book, I thought everybody shared the negative reactions to the environmental destruction. But then I met people who preferred the Red Hills. They liked not having bugs and snakes and the less desirable aspects of nature. They resented the allergies they suffered when nature returned. I quickly realized that even the most seemingly obvious issues were riddles with ambiguous grey areas, which is where I love to swim as a creator anyhow. I also didn’t want to impress my views upon the reader. I wanted to present the issues and let the reader decide for him or herself. I’m sure my biases snuck through, but I tried to be nonjudgmental.


What one thing do you want kids to take away from this book?

That’s easy – hope. It’s so easy to see the environmental damage in Coppertown (framed on the very real Copperhill, Tennessee) as irreparable, too big for any one person to do anything about – certainly a young boy. And yet I’ve seen the reclamation first-hand. These days, it takes driving down abandoned dirt roads to find evidence of the once denuded landscape. Every person who planted a seed, a tree, or worked with the wetland efforts played a part in returning the land to its natural state. It’s taken years, decades, but it has happened. And in our world of climate change and global warming, I think the idea that one person can make a difference is an important lesson.


What are you reading?

Oh gosh. I have several books going on at any given time – hardcover, kindle, audio, etc. I help choose titles being considered for the Georgia Center for the Book’s “10 Books All Young Georgians Should Read” list, so I try to read books by regional (Georgia) writers. I read fantasy as my brain candy, hot new titles, and books by my talented friends. I also interview picture book creators on my blog each week, so I’m constantly reading picture books that publishers send. It would be lovely to have more time to read it all!


Lightning round. For you, is it:

Macaroni and cheese or burgers?

I used to claim mac-n-cheese as the base to my food pyramid before I went gluten free. So Jack eats a lot of it because I can’t anymore. (Biscuits too.)

Fairy crosses or frogs?

Fairy crosses!

Barefoot or shoes?

Fuzzy slippers or barefoot.

Quilting or sketching?

Sketching for sure. I did make a quilt once. It was embarrassingly bad.



Southern Independent Book Sellers (SIBA) Okra Pick

Gold Mom’s Choice Award Winner

The 2014 National Book Festival (Washington DC) Featured Title for the state of Georgia


And now for my review:

Written by Elizabeth Dulemba

Buy on Amazon

With heartfelt passion, Dulemba takes the reader into a world few people knew. Set in 1986 in the Copper Basin, at the intersection of Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina, the story follows a bright thirteen-year-old boy as his family and his town struggle to survive. Jack’s father is understandably proud to be a copper miner. He’s good at it and it provides a good living for his family. Plus, it’s a family tradition. But Jack sees the other side. Dad is always in danger, he’s always at risk for disease, and the chemicals from the mine have killed all the trees, animals, and birds. Dulemba’s approach isn’t completely balanced, but she does a great job of bringing in alternative issues. With each event, she is able to show the good and the bad. A cave in kills some miners, but not Jack’s dad. The union strikes. The family has tough times, but Jack’s dad is no longer underground. Christmas is sparse, but the family becomes closer. The area floods, but that allows frogs to hatch at a pond. The mine may close permanently, but a sparrow is spotted on Water Street. Is Mother Nature making a come back?


By taking the reader directly into the lives of the beautifully crafted characters, the author shows how the environment impacts everyone involved. Fifth graders, especially, will learn about life after copper mining and the resilience of nature, if given half a chance. Literacy skills and comprehension are furthered when the reader cares about Jack and his community. Many reading activities are suggested, including clean-up of a local area, establishment of a community garden or terrarium, and learning about trees, insects, and frogs. The publisher’s website, http://www.littlepicklepress.com/, provides support for the environmental message from the book’s pages. The author’s website, http://dulemba.blogspot.com, is also fantastic.

  • Bird on Water StreetTitle: A Bird on Water Street
  • Author: Elizabeth O. Dulemba
  • Publisher: Little Pickle Press, 2014
  • Reviewer: Sue Poduska
  • Format: Paperback, 270 pages
  • Genre: Historical fiction, nature, environment, mining
  • ISBN: 978-0545035330



Elizabeth will provide an autographed and dedicated copy of A Bird on Water Street to one lucky reader. Leave a comment, complete with your name and email address. I will pick a winner at random on Tuesday, May 27, 2014.

Prettiest Doll

Written by Gina Willner-Pardo

Buy on Amazon

A coming-of age story and a story of self-acceptance and acceptance of the world are all packed into this novel. Teens and preteens will appreciate its ease of comprehension.

Liv, Olivia Jean to her Mom, has grown up in the world of beauty pageants. She entered her first pageant when she was three years old. She is thirteen now, a ten-year veteran of the pageant universe, and tired already of its incessant demands and restrictions. This is not how she wants to spend her life.:


Then I stared at the mirror some more. It was the weirdest thing. I wasn’t there. I had disappeared. Suddenly I couldn’t catch my breath. It was like being underwater or buried in the ground, the feeling I had — that I was invisible, that I could scream and no one would hear.


She recognizes her mother’s struggles, but does not want to live her mother’s dreams. Into this world comes Danny, a seventeen year old who looks like he is ten. Danny’s mother also has dreams for her son’s life, whether he shares those dreams or not. He leaves home, hoping to make his way in the world.

Liv sees that as a way to escape her mother’s demands. She leaves a note for her mother and joins Danny on his journey. But running away is not the only answer. What the two learn about the world, and about their own strengths and capabilities is what gives this book its depth.  Sure to bolster the reading skills of young readers.

Additional information:

Author Bio: http://ginawillnerpardo.com/bio.shtml

  • Prettiest DollTitle: Prettiest Doll
  • Author: Gina Willner-Pardo
  • Publisher: Clarion Books, 2012
  • Reviewer: Anjali Amit
  • Hardback:  240 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-547-68170-2
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Lexile Score: 680

Navigating Early

Written by Clare Vanderpool

Buy on Amazon

When Jackie’s mother dies unexpectedly, the father he barely knows comes from active Navy duty to take him from Kansas to a boarding school in Maine. Not surprisingly, he has a difficult time adjusting and befriends a most unlikely student. They both have the pain of loss in their backgrounds and the love of adventure in their veins.

This Newberry winning author of Moon Over Manifest, has put together another exciting adventure that fifth grade readers as well as sixth and seventh grade readers will enjoy whether they are male or female.

She uses the boys’ knowledge of the outdoors and particularly of the stars to guide them along their way. While one boy shows signs of being autistic, it is an underlying awareness that comes to the reader, and not an, in your face description. He sees things differently, but he is still understandable to the others around him once they stop and consider what he is saying. It provides a good lesson for us all to stop and seriously consider what people are actually saying when they are talking to us.

Literacy skills enhanced by this book include: comprehension, cause and effect, setting, character development and plot. As a read aloud, it could be effective when studying about autism, the outdoors, dealing with death and separating fact from fiction.

Even though this is a fiction book, Clare has done a great deal of research to make sure the setting, and time period are correct. It is told with a great deal of action and excitement that are sure to keep the reader turning pages late into the night.

  • Navigating EarlyTitle: Navigating Early
  • Author: Clare Vanderpool
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press, 2013
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 300 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-385-74209-2
  • Genre: Fiction, Adventure
  • Lexile: 790

Lincoln’s Grave Robbers

Written by Steve Sheinkin

Buy on Amazon

This true crime thriller will amaze fifth grade readers interested in American history. It tells about the conspirators as they plan how to steal Lincoln’s body out from under the Lincoln monument in Springfield, Illinois, as well as when and why they would even try such a thing.

On the other side of the story are the Secret Service agents following their trail but wanting to catch them in the act rather than just prevent the theft. They have placed an undercover double agent in the middle of the works that causes the tension to rise as readers expect him to get caught many different times.

These are the very earliest days of the Secret Service and readers will be interested to read how much of their decision making in catching criminals was left up to each individual detective.

Beside the main crime at hand, these conspirators are also involved with counterfeiting plates of American currency. When one of their main leaders gets sent to prison the rest first try to think of a way to get him out; then devise a plan for keeping up the counterfeiting ring without him.

As a diversion, they plan the theft for election night of 1876 to be sure all the neighbors are off the roads and in town.

Several different literacy skills can be strengthened by use of this book including, reading for details, sequencing, comprehension, vocabulary, context clues, plot and cause and effect.

Boys and girls in the third grade and beyond would benefit from having this book read aloud or assigned in a book club setting where it can be discussed and enjoyed with others.

The story is smoothly written and moves the plot along at a brisk pace keeping young readers interested. It contains several photographs from the time as well as diagrams of the Lincoln Monument and maps of the surrounding grounds to help readers get drawn into the tale.

Author information: This book is written by the same author that wrote the nonfiction Newberry Honor Book, BOMB. BOMB also received the 2013 Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Medal.  http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/sibertmedal

Extras: Glossary, Source Notes, Index, Authenic Photos from the Library of Congress and the Lincoln Monument Site, maps of the site and diagrams of the Lincoln Monument in Springfield, Illinois.

  • Grave RobbersTitle: Lincoln’s Grave Robbers
  • Author:  Steve Sheinkin
  • Publisher: Scholastic, NY, January 1, 2013.
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover/ 207 p
  • ISBN:  978-0-545-40572-0
  • Genre: American History 1875, true crime thriller
  • Lexile: 930


Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address

Written by Abraham Lincoln

Illustrated by James Daugherty

Buy on Amazon

Four score and seven years ago……..Do you know the rest?  The Gettysburg Address is probably one of the most famous speeches made in history.  Everyone is at least familiar with some of it or the president who spoke it.  In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln stood under a November wintery sky and delivered a two minute speech that changed history.   James Daugherty has created wonderful pictorial interpretation of this infamous speech.   Each page contains a part of that speech with  an interpretation of that particular part of the speech.   Students with higher reading skills will be the target for this book, while the illustrations will appeal to many others.

I remember having to memorize this speech in 5th grade. Oh what a joy it would have been to have a book such as this in which to do the memorizing.  The illustrations bring the book to life, capturing the events in bright, bold colors.  The illustrations also help the reader with comprehension.   After the speech is finished the author has added descriptions of his paintings and his interpretation.  This book would be a wonderful tool in teaching the Gettysburg Address.

Along with the speech itself, there is a bit of added history from Daugherty.  President Lincoln was not informed until just a few days prior, that he would be speaking at all.  It is rather remarkable that Lincoln felt his speech was a “flat failure”, yet here we are 100+ years later and it is still remembered as a turning point in our progress as a nation.  The most poignant line that we as a nation should strive for is still as relevant today as it was back then – “a government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth”.

  • Gettysburg AddressTITLE: Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address
  • AUTHOR:  Abraham Lincoln
  • ILLUSTRATION: James Daugherty
  • PUBLISHER: Albert Whitman and Company
  • REVIEWER: Cheri Liddy
  • ISBN: 978-0-8075-4550-8
  • GENRE: History