Archive for January 6, 2014

Follow Your Money: Who Gets It, Who Spends It, Where Does It Go?

Written by Kevin Sylvester and Michael Hlinka
Illustrated by Kevin Sylvester

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The times they are a changing. In today’s world selling and buying has become as easy as turning on the computer and going to any of the hundreds of online merchants — Amazon being the largest and best known of them all. Although there are built-in safeguards, theoretically even young children can make purchases on the net (log into their parent’s account, for example.) This book’s purpose is to empower its readers with the knowledge to understand the whole money cycle.

In easily comprehensible language the authors explain the complex web that starts with the creation of a product and ends with its final dissemination. The book is a series of examples of everyday goods and produce, organized under headings that sixth graders, and up can relate to. The first study is an analysis of a breakfast consisting of bacon, eggs, bread and juice, and the numbers are eye-opening.

On a $3.00 packet of bacon the farmer’s profit is just 10c. Of course all numbers are estimates, but the ratio of total cost to profit remains about the same. The authors start the journey by advising us that the “prices in the book are only estimates…so don’t go into your local store and say ‘Sylvester and Hlinka tell me this apple should only cost 10c.’”

And it is a journey of discovery as the readers learn of the various costs at each stage: creation, distribution, retail to the customer. Why does the price of gas affect the price of every other thing? What is the gold standard? These are interesting discussion points, leading easily into economic theory. For the younger readers teachers can build reading activities around the chapters dealing with things they are familiar with, like milk, and juice, and books and backpacks.

Worth and value, credit and debit cards, bank operations, the readers gets an overview of all elements of everyday life, and becomes a more informed consumer. Definitely a book for school and library reading lists.

Additional Resources:

  • Follow Your MoneyTitle: Follow Your Money: Who Gets It, Who Spends It, Where Does It Go?
  • Author: Kevin Sylvester and Michael Hlinka
  • Illustrator: Kevin Sylvester
  • Publisher: Annick Press, 2013
  • Reviewer: Anjali Amit
  • Format: Paperback, 56 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-55451-480-9
  • Genre: Nonfiction, Social Studies
  • Lexile Score: 1120

Dreary & Naughty: The ABC’s of Being Dead

Written by John LaFleur
Illustrated by Shawn Dubin

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It’s tough out there for a teen, especially when your dad’s the Grim Reaper. In this short story, written as a quatrain poem, we meet Dreary, a skeleton who frets about his future. He’d rather die than grow up to be like his dad, waving a scythe and ushering the dead to the underworld. He commiserates with his friend, Naughty, the daughter of Hade’s Gatekeeper. Dressed in a crop top and low-slung mini (to show off her devil tail), she rejects her laid-out future as well; she’s not convinced she wants to rule Hell. But, unlike Dreary, she has already broached the subject with her father, and she nudges her pal to do the same.

Mr. Death isn’t an easy sell, however. He reminds Dreary that he’s part of an important legacy and reviews the many facets, the A,B,C’s, if you will, of this grim job.


A is for arsenic, quite subtle you know.

B is for band saw, no new head will grow.

C is for cudgel, for striking a blow.

D is for dungeon, a process that’s slow.


And so on, all the way to Z. Dreary can’t be convinced; he wants no part of this Reaper business. Later, when he meets up with his friends, War, Famine, and Pestilence, it turns out they all suffer from the I-gotta-be-me blues (Famine whines to his dad that he just wants a chimichanga). Whether Mr. Death ultimately gives Dreary his blessing is left a mystery, but the overall message, albeit heavy-handed, is clear: life is short, so follow your heart.

LaFleur injects a lot of camp into this macabre tale, while Dubin breathes life into the ghoulish characters with his sufficiently creepy black and white watercolor illustrations. Reluctant readers may find the book’s brevity and subject matter appealing, while the poem’s rhyming scheme can bolster their comprehension and literacy skills. This is the third title in the Dreary & Naughty series. For other titles, see the publisher’s website:

  • ABCs of Being DeadTitle: Dreary & Naughty: The ABC’s of Being Dead
  • Author: John LaFleur
  • Illustrator: Shawn Dubin
  • Publisher: Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 2013
  • Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • Hardcover: 72 pages
  • ISBN: 978-0-7643-4496-1
  • Genre: Fiction / Poetry / Horror / Dark Humor

Gods and Goddesses in Greek Mythology Rock!

Written by Michelle M. Houle
Illustrated by William Sauts Bock

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A different take on the Greek myths.  This book supplements Greek myths with history, archaeology, and psychology for an interesting explanation of many common stories.  The well-known story of Prometheus bringing fire to humans is told with more detail.  The fire incident was not his only intervention between the gods and humans, thus making Zeus’s punishment a little more understandable.  Each chapter has a section of “Expert Commentary.”  In the chapter on Prometheus, the experts emphasize how much Prometheus has inspired people as humankind’s best and earliest benefactor.  The preface includes useful information about Greek culture and religion.  By showing how the myths played a part in a Greek’s everyday life, their approach to festivals and worship is clarified for modern-day readers.  Other stories include a creation story, the Titans, Pandora, Demeter and Persephone, Dionysus and his followers, Baucis and Philemon, Echo and Narcissus, and Helius and Phaethon.  Special features include a chart of the gods and goddesses, a map of the ancient Greek world, a question and answer section for each story, a glossary, chapter notes, further reading, internet sites and an index.

For students who can’t get enough mythology, this gives them more than simply a collection of stories.  The illustrations give it a graphic novel look.  Yet, it has a rather scholarly tone, so the recommended level of 6th grade and higher is accurate.  The publisher’s website provides a reading level of 7.8 so it could even appeal to high school students taking world history.  The question and answer section could provide a literacy activity but, since the answers are given, the questions would need to be used in a discussion or retyped into a reading worksheet.  With all the history that is included, a book trailer or PowerPoint would be a fun way to approach reports.


  • Greek MythologyTITLE: Gods and Goddesses in Greek Mythology Rock!
  • AUTHOR: Michelle M. Houle
  • ILLUSTRATOR: William Sauts Bock
  • PUBLISHER: Enslow, 2012
  • REVIEWER: Risa Brown
  • FORMAT: Paperback, 128 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-59845-329-4
  • GENRE: Mythology, Classics, Ancient Greece
  • LEXILE: 1130, Reading level 7.8