The House That George Built

The House That George Built, written by Suzanne Slade and illustrated by Rebecca Bond, is a nominee for the 14-15 South Carolina Picture Book Award.

If you take the familiar story of “The House That Jack Built” and combine it with the history of America’s most famous home, you’ve got The House That George Built. This book tells readers about the building of the White House, and how George Washington, the only president who never actually lived in the house, oversaw its construction.

The House That George Built takes us through the early days of our nation, the selection of site for the president’s home, choosing a design, and into the actual building of what would become the White House. The explanations of those events are coupled with charming rhymes reminiscent of the familiar poem mentioned above.

Readers see that, even though he held the highest office in the country, George Washington didn’t hesitate to lend a hand wherever it was needed. He assisted with the actual design, he pounded in stakes, and he made important decisions so that the house would be finished on time and budget.

An afterword and author’s note provide more information about the building of the White House, including some of the changes that have been made over the years.

This book is an ideal fit for studies of Washington, DC, George Washington, or even architecture. It could also be used as a read-aloud for Presidents’ Day. In any event, The House That George Built is a welcome addition to any library collection, and I think both students and teachers who read this book will have a new appreciation for the White House and the man ultimately responsible for building it.

Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus

Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus picks up where Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue ended, and the kids from McQuarrie Middle School are in for yet another adventure…one without Origami Yoda!

Now that the FunTime Menace is no more, the students of McQuarrie Middle now get to enjoy things like elective classes and, of course, their highly anticipated field trip to Washington, DC. But what will they do when Rabbski, their principal-turned-math-teacher declares that origami–especially Origami Yoda–is off-limits? How will these seventh graders survive without the sage advice of Origami Yoda?!

Have no fear! Dwight is here…with a bunch of Fruit Roll-Ups he folds into Fruitigami Yodas. Unfortunately, the vile Harvey also comes prepared with EMPEROR PICKLETINE, the most evil, sour, and smelly being in the galaxy! Harvey and Emperor Pickletine seem bent on ruining this field trip, and the Dark Side may be more powerful than anyone realized. Is Fruitigami Yoda strong enough to fight this new threat?

As the seventh graders of McQuarrie Middle explore Washington, DC (and get into a fair amount of trouble), a battle is brewing between the Dark and Light Sides of the Force.

Who will win? Will Yoda come through for the Origami Rebellion one more time? Well, I can’t say. But I can tell you that this final battle is full of mischief-making, fisticuffs, space food, and even a little bit of smooching! I’ll leave it to you to find out who does what!

To learn more about all things Origami Yoda, click here. May the Force be with you!

Capture the Flag

Capture the Flag by Kate Messner  is a contemporary mystery that is an excellent read for upper elementary and middle grade readers. Any young (or older) readers intrigued by the Indiana Jones or National Treasure movies will find something to enjoy in this first installment in what is sure to be a gripping new series.

A flag has been stolen from the Smithsonian, but this is not just any flag. It’s the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Who would dare to take such a priceless piece of American history? What could the possible motive be? It’s not like this would be something that could be easily sold, so why would someone take something that means so much to so many? That’s what a few curious kids are going to find out…

Anna, Henry, and José are snowed in at the airport in Washington, DC, and, when they hear about the theft of the newly restored flag, they become convinced that whoever took the flag must be snowed in as well. What starts as a way to pass the time soon becomes a quest to uncover a mystery with the potential to shake the nation. Along the way, they’ll encounter a man running for president (who has an odd fondness for Tootsie Rolls), tuba players from Pakistan, a guy with a snake tattoo, and a really large poodle.

They’ll also discover that they share a common bond. Anna, Henry, and José are all descended from artists or artisans who’ve sworn to protect the world’s artistic treasures. So what choice do they really have?! They must find the stolen flag before someone points the finger at the wrong person. But what can three kids do in a crowded airport with tight security? A whole lot, apparently. (As it turns out, airport security–at least in this story–isn’t designed to thwart three pre-teen detectives.)

As these three kids attempt to reveal the truth, they’ll step into a mess with huge ramifications. Can they get out of this safely and still uncover who’s behind the flag theft? And will they be prepared for what they eventually find? Who really captured the flag? Find out when you read this exciting tale of mystery and adventure by Kate Messner!

I look forward to sharing this book with my students. It has lots of literary allusions that I think many of my students–particularly fans of Harry Potter–will enjoy. I also know of several of my male students who will love this book simply because it’ll remind them of National Treasure. This book, while predictable for many adult readers, will keep younger readers enthralled from the first page. Even younger readers may think they know who is behind the theft, but it’s still a bit thrilling to read how this mystery reaches its inevitable conclusion. I will say, though, that the adults in this book were totally oblivious to what was going on around them. As a fine, upstanding adult (*snicker*), I was a little perturbed by how little these grown-ups noticed what these kids were doing. Young readers, though, will enjoy that a group of kids got up to all of these shenanigans right under adults’ noses.

If any of this has piqued your interest, I urge you to give Capture the Flag a try. You can visit the author’s website or check out her Twitter feed to learn even more.