Monday, April 29, 2013

Humpty Dumpty Jr. Hardboiled Detective the Mystery of Merlin and the Gruesome Ghost

I finally had the chance to read The Mystery of Merlin and the Gruesome Ghost (Humpty Dumpty, Jr., Hardboiled Detective)and it was not quite the sequel I had hoped to find. What made The Case of the Fiendish Flapjack Flop (Humpty Dumpty Jr., Hard Boiled Detective)a fun read was the focus on fairy tale characters and lots of humor.

This second novel has Humpty's investigating a mysterious ghost that has hurt his client's father at Merlin's Institute for the Knowledge of Everything. The beginning starts out with the same kind of fun old style detective movie introduction as the first book, which gave me hope. However, we quickly lose momentum. Humpty goes undercover at the school as a janitor and Merlin enrolls Rat as a student thinking he is the next King Arthur.

While many fairy tale mysteries employ characters from other literature successfully, this one flopped. I cannot help but think that the authors were perhaps thinking of another early chapter series that has been working the Merlin/Mordred story line to a very successful financial gain. I think the authors would have had a much more successful series had they stuck to nursery crimes that made the first book so much fun.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Under Over, By the Clover What is a Preposition?

Under, Over, by the Clover: What Is a Preposition? (Words Are Categorical)is another great book in Brian Cleary's Words are Categorical series. This series is great for teaching children parts of speech.

In this book, Cleary starts with a definition of a preposition. From there he breaks down the types of prepositions children might encounter into sections, where, time and place, and direction. In each category, he provides examples with illustrations that will appeal to both young and older students.

Cleary addresses the myth of ending sentences with prepositions, which I was surprised to find in a child's picture book. Here his explanation is a bit vague and since he calls it a myth, I would think clarifying the rules regarding appropriate use at the end of a sentence would be wise. His rhyme does give an example, but many children will miss it and not understand what he means beyond saying that it is a myth.

He ends with a reminder to children that prepositions tell us when, where, and how.

This book is an entertaining way to introduce prepositions to younger children and review it with older elementary students. For children struggling with dry textbook definitions, this provides some light humor and may provide a connection to the material not available in traditional English language sources. I encourage teachers, homeschooling families, and parents to check out Brian Cleary's series. It is a great way to introduce young children to the parts of speech and to engage older children in remembering or relearning what they might not remember.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Who Pushed Humpty Dumpty?

I found another nursery rhyme detective picture book in Who Pushed Humpty Dumpty?: And Other Notorious Nursery Tale Mysteries written by David Levinthal and John Nickle.

This is one of those wonderful stories both adults and children can appreciate together. The opening line "There are eight million stories in the forest. This is one of them." will draw in the adult readers familiar with the classic mystery movie genre. The nursery crimes will appeal to adult and child alike.

Binky the Frog works in Pinecone's robbery division. As the story begins, he is working on the case of a burglary involving the Bear family. After he works through the Goldilocks’ situation, he moves on Hansel and Gretel. After the first case, we are left wondering, will he side with the witch or the children. With the Hansel and Gretel's situation resolved he hears terrible news from Harry Wolf, Humpty, the lead drummer of All the King's Horses and all the King's Men band was discovered in pieces. As an old friend, Binky feels obliged to take a bus into the city to discover the fate of his friend.

After locating Humpty's killer, Binky takes on the Queen from Snow White and the fate of Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk.

This is the authors first trip into nursery rhyme crime and I hope it is not the last time we see Binky working his way through nursery rhyme and fairy tale crimes. This is a great way to open up discussions about fairy tales children have read. For older children it is a way to discuss crime and punishment as it relates to fairy tales and nursery rhymes. I used to use fairy tales and nursery rhymes as a great introduction to debates. Was Humpty pushed? Was Little Boy Blue overworked or lazy? Should Goldilocks have been arrested for breaking and entering or just forced to make restitution for her destruction?

This book works better after children have read the original tales. It is harder to understand the fun of the stories if you do not know the original tales.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Too Hot to Hoot

I am continuing to search for picture books that combine educational concepts with fun approaches to learning. Too Hot to Hoot: Funny Palindrome Riddleshas an interesting approach to palindromes. As with most of this style of books, the author begins by defining for the reader what a palindrome is so the reader will be able to engage in the riddles. The riddles begin with three letter riddles, move to four and five letters, than multiple words. From there it progresses to phrases, sentences, and even numbers.

The format is simple and the answers are provided at the end of each chapter. If a child does not understand the riddle or just does not know the answer, he/she can refer to the answer key. It is a way to engage children in learning new vocabulary as well as introducing the concept of palindromes. I like the idea of including math in a language arts book. I think it is always important to combine the two when possible.

I think this would be a great book to add to a book box of Language Arts titles. For parents, it could be a great idea to check out library titles that share a common theme and explore some of these concepts at home. I do believe that the more children explore language outside of textbooks, the more they will understand it.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Humpty Dumpty Jr. Hardboiled Detective: The Case of the Fiendish Flapjack Flop

If you have read any of my previous reviews, you know I love alternate nursery rhyme and fairy tale stories. I am also a huge fan of detective stories for children. I think they help developing readers with comprehension skills like predication, sequencing, timelines, and a range of other important skills. Students who are reluctant to read, sometimes can be drawn into mysteries, especially those that combine mystery with a bit of humor.

The Case of the Fiendish Flapjack Flop (Humpty Dumpty Jr., Hard Boiled Detective) is the first book in what appears to be a two book series. I have the second one from the library to review later. I was hoping the authors had produced more, because the characters and the premise of an egg detective were promising.

Humpty's detective character is based on the old movie detectives, right down to his trench coat and hat. Humpty's eggshell creates a bit of a challenge most of the movie PI's never had to work around, but Humpty manages. In the opening pages we learn that Humpty has been a rather successful detective working with some of literature's great characters including Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz and Christopher Robin from Winnie the Pooh. However, we soon learn that he has one unsolved case, the death of his father that still haunts him. He also has a nemesis Johnny Cakes whom he has captured and jailed more than once who has escaped from prison and has plans for chaos.

Against the backdrop of Johnny Cakes escape Humpty gets a case, Patty Cakes is in trouble. He grabs his magic wand, which to most of us resembles a very familiar kitchen instrument, and heads off to help his friend. He finds evidence of a struggle, but no Patty Cakes. His clues lead him to the Knave of Hearts where the reader is reminded of Alice's experiences with the Queen of Hearts.

Humpty picks up a human teenage sidekick and continues to encounter nursery rhyme, fairy tale, and children's classic literature characters along his path to discovering the fate of Patty Cakes. The story does have a few twists as Humpty follows the clues to their logical conclusions. We learn about the origins of one of the characters, which explain the reason for Patty's situation. She ultimately demonstrates forgiveness and the story is resolved. I am looking forward to reading The Mystery of Merlin and the Gruesome Ghost (Humpty Dumpty, Jr., Hardboiled Detective)so I can review it as well.