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Teachers and parents, are you looking for a great read aloud that will
stimulate, motivate, challenge and entertain your 10 and older child?
"Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo", by Greg Leitich Smith, is a story that has
all of the great elements needed to stretch a mind while reading!  It has
humor, an interesting storyline, wonderful use of vocabulary and rich
characters that kids will immediately like.
The story is written like a diary with a first person approach depending
upon which of the 3 main characters you are reading about.  However, it's
easy to know when the characters change because there is a heading with the
name of the person you about to read about.  Furthermore, each chapter is
fairly short with at least 2 viewpoints included.
The story takes place at an exclusive and gifted school in Chicago.  Three
seventh graders, who have become a trio working, studying and enjoying each
other, are very different from each other. Yet, they are still very good
friends. Elias is very anxious about having to compete in the highly
competitive Science Fair that his dad is expecting him to enter.  He selects
an old experiment that an older brother entered and is hoping that his
science teacher, Mr. Eden, will accept it. When Mr. Eden does accept it,
Honora is surprised. She's the second member of this little club. She has
decided on an unusual experiment to see if "...you can teach a piranha to
eat a banana." She's very intelligent and likeable and likes Shohei.  Shohei
is the final member of the group. He's Japanese and was adopted by his
Caucasian parents and Honora thinks he looks a bit like Keanu Reeves. Shohei
doesn't realize that she likes him, probably because he know that Elias
likes her. As you can see, there's an interesting "crush" triangle going on
here and this aspect alone sets up some very funny moments in the book.
Shohei has some of the funniest "lines" in the book.  Just the fact that his
parents are pushing his native food, language and culture into his life
seems to be just too much for him. Every time his mom packs him sushi, he
gladly trades it to Elias for a regular roast beef sandwich. His parents had
a natural child after adopting Shohei and this younger brother runs around
the house dressed in a ninja costume. This also makes for some funny
moments.
But the climax of the story, as well as the events leading up to this
pinnacle, is what happens at the Science Fair, and immediately following the
fair. Suffice it to say, that this page turner is so well written that the
characters jump off the page with a creative force! The style in which the
story is written reminds me of some of K.S. Konisburg's books because of the
intelligent and witty writing. This is a great read aloud - or a read alone!

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And now ladies and gentlemen, the "Sidewalk Circus" is about to begin right
on your own street corner!  Award winning author, Paul Fleischman, has
combined his writing talents with the highly acclaimed Kevin Hawkes, to
create a most unusual, death defying and action packed picture book about a
corner of a downtown street.
This remarkable book has no text except for the signs, markers and
billboards hung on buildings, storefronts, and marquees across the street.
One sign says "Fantastic Feats of Juggling". Through the window of a
restaurant adjacent to this sign, a lady is throwing and turning pancakes in
the air. Another sign says "Goliath the Strongman". Next to the sign, a
strong looking man is carrying a huge side of beef on his back into a
butcher shop.
My favorite part of this extraordinary book is how a young girl is sitting
waiting for a bus while all of these amazing feats are occurring just across
the street. There are many metaphors throughout, like the adults drawn in
shades of gray who seem completely oblivious of their surroundings. At the
end of the book, when her bus finally arrives, a boy sits down in her place
and the circus begins again.
The pictures are beautifully painted with a distinct feeling of a downtown
street. There are so many subtleties throughout the book that you'll want to
revisit it again and again. So let the circus begin! This is great for all
ages and both of these books are sure to be award winners!
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