Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, by Eleanor Coerr

Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. By Eleanor Coerr.  Illustrated by Ronald Himler.  Puffin, 1999.  80 pages. $5.99

Plot/Content: Sadako loves to run.  Fast.  Her father once asks her mother, “`…Did you ever see her walk when she could run, hop, or jump?’  There was pride in his voice because Sadako was a such a strong, fast runner.”  Sadako trains hard to become the fastest runner she can be.  She approaches life with a zeal and joy that make all those around her smile.  Sadako was a baby in the city of Hiroshima during World War II, when the United States Air Force dropped an atom bomb on the city.  She had seen many people in her city become ill with leukemia, what many call “atom bomb disease.”  When Sadako starts having dizzy spells, she first keeps them secret, but when falls down while running, she can keep the secret no longer.  In the hospital, ill with leukemia, Sadako’s best friend, Chizuko, brings her a paper crane and reminds her of the legend that if a person is ill and folds 1,000 cranes “the gods will grant her wish and make her healthy again.”  So, Sadako sets her mind on folding 1,000 cranes with the same determination that she put into her running.

Review: Based on a true story, Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes is a moving, beautiful story of hope, love, and inner strength.  Written in language accessible to younger tweens, this book is readable and appropriately simple, yet the concepts are deep and multifaceted.  Delicately rendered black and white illustrations depict a few of the key scenes in the book.  An epilogue tells the story of what happened after Sadako’s death.  The book also includes instructions on how to fold an origami crane.

Genre(s): Realistic Fiction, Historical Fiction

Reading/Interest Level: 8-10 years

Available in: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook, Audiobook

ISBN: 0698118022

Similar Books: Kira-Kira, A Taste of Blackberries

Subjects: family, love, illness, World War II


How to Save the Planet by Barbara Taylor

How to Save the Planet. By Barbara Taylor. Illus. by Scoular Anderson.  Scholastic, Inc., 2001.  96 pages. $16.00

Content: “So, why does the Earth need saving?  Well, to put it bluntly, because of us!”  But, don’t despair, because How to Save the Planet is HERE!  This book provides answers to WHAT the problems facing the earth are, things like pollution of the earth, sky and oceans, destruction of natural habitats, and depletion of natural resources.  It explains WHY these things have happened, and it explains WHO can do something about it – US!  In easy to read, accessible text and cartoon-like illustrations, this book breaks down a serious topic into digestible parts.  Entertaining and informative, How to Save the Planet meets younger tweens at their level about a topic both interesting and important to many of them.

Review: Written in an informal style that tweens can easily understand, How to Save the Planet a great way for younger tweens to learn about the, potentially overwhelming, topic of the environment.  With wit and playfulness Taylor gives tweens knowledge, insights and, perhaps most importantly, information about what they themselves can do to make a difference. Chapters cover the ozone layer, global warming, air pollution, water pollution, energy, transportation, garbage and recycling, and habitats; and each chapter ends with a “Go for Green” section, which starts: “Here are some things you can do to…” There are also “Be an Earth Scientist” experiments to help demonstrate some of the concepts in the book, “Check Acid Levels in Your Rain” and “Make Recycled Paper” for example. Taking a huge topic and summing it up in fewer than 100 pages is a big job, and How to Save the Planet manages to do it quite well.

Genre(s): Non-fiction, Science

Reading/Interest Level: 8-10 years

Available in: Hardcover, Paperback

ISBN: 9780531146408

Similar Books: The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming, 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth, Earth Explained

Subjects: environment, ozone layer, global warming, air pollution, water pollution, energy, transportation, garbage, recycling, habitats, conservation, wildlife, earth science


Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs #1: The Buried Bones Mystery

Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs #1: The Buried Bones Mystery.  By Sharon M. Draper. Simon and Schuster, 1994. 94 pages. $4.99

Plot: What do you do when it’s a nice summer day just after 5th grade, you and your three best friends go to the basketball court to shoot some hoops, and you find that someone has taken a chain saw and cut down the basketball poles?  Well, when one of your friends is already training himself to eventually work for what he calls, “the FB of I,” you start a club, a club that solves mysteries, and you call it the Black Dinosaurs.  Rico, Ziggy, Jerome, and Rashawn built a clubhouse in Ziggy’s backyard and in the process of digging found another mystery, a box full of bones.  Are the bones human?  Dinosaur?  And are they somehow related to the basketball court mystery?  If anyone can find out it’s the Black Dinosaurs, and they are on the case.

Review: An easy to read mystery with a simple plot, Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs would be a good choice for younger tweens as well as reluctant readers.  The four main characters are likable and friendly, if somewhat one-dimensional.  The boys’ relationships with each other are charming and appealing; they demonstrate great teamwork and camaraderie as they build the clubhouse and solves the mysteries.  Sprinkled with references to African American history, the clubhouse’s first password is “Tuskegee,” this mystery provides cultural diversity to a genre that lacks it.  The back of the book contains an 11-page study guide with questions for each chapter.

Genre(s): Mystery

Reading/Interest Level: 8-10 years

Available in: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook

ISBN: 978-0689879104

Subjects: friendship, dinosaurs, clubhouse

Series Information: The Buried Bones Mystery is #1 in a six-book Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs Series

Character names

Rico: lives with his mom, loves the excitement of Ziggy’s house compared to the relative quiet of his own, wears his shirts tucked in and doesn’t like to break the rules

Ziggy: adventurous and full of creative ideas, lives with his mom and several members of his extended Jamaican family, aspires to one day be a spy for the “FB of I”

Jerome: lives with his grandmother and two little sisters, often helps take care of his sisters

Rashawn: lives with his mother and father, has a dog Afrika, is a vegetarian, likes dinosaurs