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Archive for August, 2009

One-Handed Catch

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

one-handed-catch-mary-jane-auch-paperback-cover-artby M. J. Auch  p. 246  Grades: 5-8

The summer before sixth grade,  Norm loses his left hand when it gets caught in a meat grinder.  Poor kid!  His mom’s not cutting him any slack, and his dreams of making the baseball team seem hopeless–until he hears about a one-handed major league baseball player and a customer gives him a right-handed baseball mitt.  Now it’s up to Norm.

Connections:  Here’s some other great baseball fiction:  Hang Tough Paul Mather by Alfred Slote;  Some Kind of Pride by Maria Testa; Choosing Up Sides by John Ritter; High Heat by Carl Deuker; and Hard Ball byWill Weaver.  Browse 796.357 for baseball nonfiction and search baseball biography in the catalog for famous players.

Lang Lang: Playing with Flying Fingers

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

lang langby Lang Lang with Michael French.  p. 215  Grades 5-8

Would you think that watching Tom and Jerry cartoons could inspire you to become one of the world’s greatest pianists?  Well, that’s what happened to famous pianist Lang Lang.  When he was three years old, he loved watching cartoons, especially Tom and Jerry.  In one cartoon episode, Tom, the cat, is dressed up in a tuxedo and playing a concert piano.  He awakens little Jerry, the mouse, who has been sleeping on the strings, and then the mischief begins with Jerry jumping out of the piano and onto the keys.   The cartoon made young Lang Lang realize how much fun playing the piano could be, and in his imagination, he was Tom one minute and Jerry the next.  By the time he was five years old, he was winning major competitions.   His memoir not only tells of his passion for music, but also of the very long hours of practice and work.  He was born in Shenyang, China to poor parents.  His father was determined that Lang Lang would be a famous pianist and put tremendous pressure on his son to excel.  At times heartbreaking, this memoir is a must read for any aspiring musician.

Connections:  You might also enjoy these music biographies:  John Lennon:  All I Want Is the Truth; The Voice that Changed a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights; Lives of the Musicians:  Good Times, Bad Times (And What the Neighbors Thought); and Johann Sebastian Bach:  And the Art of Baroque Music.   To see a video of Lang Lang performing, check out this link.  We apologize for the brief commercial.

Sea Queens: Women Pirates Around the World

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

sea queensby Jane Yolen, p. 92  Grades 4-7

Ahoy matey!  Pirates bring to mind Blackbeard, peg legs, eye patches, the Jolly Roger, stolen treasure, and not women.  Women were generally considered bad luck on a ship.  Yet, Yolen shares the history and legend of several infamous female pirates.  The beautiful Alfhild from Denmark was protected from unwanted suitors by a pet viper.  The fierce Grania O’Malley from Ireland gave birth to her son aboard ship and climbed out of bed the next day to shoot at the leaders of a Turkish ship that had attacked.  Madam Ching of China “commanded a total of two thousand boats and seventy thousand men, the most any pirate in the world ever led.”  So hop on board and enjoy the tales.

Connection:  For another title telling tales of women in a role typically held by men, check out I’ll Pass for Your Comrade:  Women Soldiers in the Civil War by Anita Silvey.  Check out this video interview with Jane Yolen.

Child of Dandelions

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

child of dandelionsby Shenaaz Nanji, p. 210  Grades: 7-10

What do you do when your whole world seems to be falling down around you?  Do you deny that it is happening?  In 1972, when President Idi Amin of Uganda gave all foreign Indians 90 days to leave the country, fifteen year-old Sabine didn’t think that included her family, as they were all Ugandan citizens.  When her uncle disappears mysteriously, she convinces herself that he will turn up soon.  When her best friend, Zena turns against her, Sabine hopes she will come around eventually.  But, when the soldiers come looking for her father . . .

Connections:  Some other stories that deal with conflict between different groups within one country include Girl of Kosovo by Alice Mead, Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata, or Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.