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Philosophy for Middle Graders

Ping Poo, the Astronomer: A strange discovery

Written by Pierre Moessinger

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Interesting essay of nine pages which presents a discussion of discoveries by Ping Poo, an ancient Chinese astronomer who lived during the Zhou Dynasty in China around 550 A.D. Ping Poo believed that stars held on to the sky like flies on a ceiling. His colleague Li Fu argued that they hung from the sky with strings. One day Ping Poo sees a red glow in his white jade ball. Following a dream, Ping is determined to journey to Mount Yugo to investigate. His friend Li decides to accompany him, When Ping disappears, some peers believe he was pursued by a dragon and drowned in the Yellow River; others theorized that he stole the elixir of immortality and fled to the moon in an effort to escape the anger of the gods. As time passed the two scholars were forgotten. Years later in 1830, two children Lou and Wang discover a linen bundle of paper inscribed with calligraphy. They turn it over to their father, a professor of ancient Chinese. Turns out to be the journals of Ping Poo in which he set forth the hypothesis that the earth is a sphere turning around on its own axis, the first astronomer to do so. At the end of the essay, Moessinger offers some questions for his readers to ponder and answer. As a footnote, the author briefly explains Piaget’s ideas and suggests this book as an introduction to philosophy for children.

Recommended for readers in the eight to thirteen age range, this book is an interesting way to introduce philosophical thought to middle grade children. While the historical backstory is certainly worthwhile, the audience for this book is geared toward the child who likes to apply critical thinking skills to her reading. Youngsters who are looking for a quick read will probably not find this book appealing. Best suited for readers in the ten and up age range.

Barbara Ann Mojica

LittleMissHistory.com

Problem Solving Knights of the Square Table

Knights of the Square Table: Book 1

Written by Teri Kanefield

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Six precocious teenagers from different backgrounds share one thing in common; they are all members of the San Francisco All Star Chess Club. The ninth graders are on the way home from Germany after a sixth place finish in an international competition when their plane goes down due to an avionics failure. They land on a remote island in the North Atlantic in the subarctic. More than sixty passengers face freezing conditions and lack of food supplies to survive. These six teens take charge and prevent disorder, using their multiple talents to create a source of heat, trap food in the ice, and calm the fears of panicked passengers. They even figure out a way to handle Veronica, a kleptomaniac who keeps stealing food from the other passengers. Thanks to their efforts, the survivors are eventually rescued.

But the story does not end there. These six friends gather together to figure out a solution to a nuclear missile crisis. When an Asian dictatorship threatens to fire a nuclear missile, the teens figure out a way to break into that country’s computer system and bribe them into entering peace negotiations to save face. I am sure the world is in for lots more from these indomitable teens in the next two books of the trilogy. This series is targeted for ages nine and older. While the inevitability of the solutions seems too simplistic in some instances, the characters are well-developed, each having strengths and flaws. Middle grade and young adult readers will find much in common with them. Plot is fast paced and I felt compelled to keep reading. Recommended for readers who enjoy adventure stories with clever protagonists and plots containing thought provoking issues.

Barbara Ann Mojica,

LittleMissHistory.com

The Wonders of Ancient Greece for Elementary and Middle Graders

If You Were Me and Lived in …Ancient Greece

Written by Carole P. Roman

Illustrated by Mateya Arkova

ancientgreece,picThis book is part of a new series which looks at the cultures and customs not of individual countries but about civilizations throughout time. Ancient Greece is the topic of the first release. The author begins by describing the geographical location of Greece and how Greece may have looked in the past contrasting it with the present. Unlike the other series, this book covers a much broader time period, and the author chooses to stage her character as a child living around 350 B.C. in classical Greece. There is no mention of the previous Greek Archaic Period, the rule of the aristocracy or the tyrants which eventually evolved into the establishment of democratic city states. Much of the book discusses everyday life, food, dress, education, family structure, occupations, and religion. Roman ends her discussion with the military conqueror Alexander the Great who established an empire, and whose death would usher in the end of the classical period and the beginning of the Hellenistic Age.

There is a great deal of information simplified and condensed for the elementary school and middle school reader. I would have liked to see more detailed maps showing locations and some actual photographs, though the simple, soft pastel illustrations are lovely and appealing for a younger reader. The glossary and list of gods and goddesses are helpful because readers will need to reference these to keep track of all the information. No doubt this book will open a child’s eyes to the vast legacy of ancient Greece and provide an excellent starting ground for future explorations on the political, social, religious,scientific and educational contributions of ancient Greece.

Barbara Ann Mojica, Author
P.O. Box 112
Craryville, NY 12521-0112
Tel/Fax: 518-325-5199
www.LittleMissHISTORY.com

Middle Grade Magical Power!

Benjamin Dragon: Awakening (Chronicles of Benjamin Dragon Book 1)

Written by C.G. Cooper

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Ten year old Benjamin Dragon is a very bright child who has already skipped two years in school. He is the son of Tanya and Timothy Dragon, a powerful lawyer and businessman. Their frequent moves plus Benjamin’s small statue and last name provide fertile ground for bullies. On the first day of a new school Benjamin is bullied on the playground. Egging him on to fight, Nathan lies on the ground bloodied and injured. But Benjamin is puzzled because he never even touched the boy.

When his parents urge him to go to the hospital to apologize, Benjamin discovers that he and Nathan have a lot in common. They become good friends, but Nathan is just as puzzled about what happened. When Benjamin is at the scene of a close-call car crash, and the car swerves away to avoid hitting a young girl, Benjamin begins to suspect he had something to do with it. Weird things begin happening. Benjamin swears Nathan to secrecy.

A strange old man named Kennedy pays a visit to Benjamin and explains that there are certain special people in the world. Some have the gift of healing, some the gift of growing, and others the gift of destruction, which roughly translates to telekinesis. He informs Benjamin that he will be trained in his gifts.

Benjamin is scared, but he is elated that he will be attending Camp Walamalican with his friends Nathan and Aaron. There he meets another gifted one named Wally who is a healer. On the other hand, Benjamin will come face to face with a destructor who threatens to corrupt him and destroy people that he loves. Will Benjamin learn how to use his powers? How can he adjust to living a normal live, while coping with extraordinary power?

Recommended for a middle grade, young adult and adult audience. The characters and plot are well developed. Addresses lots of issues pre teens and teens face like bullying, fitting in with peers, being gifted, and getting along with parents. Look forward to more in the series.

Barbara Ann Mojica, Author
P.O. Box 112
Craryville, NY 12521-0112
Tel/Fax: 518-325-5199
www.LittleMissHISTORY.com

Science, Mystery and Mayhem!

Frankie Dupont AND THE SCIENCE FAIR SABOTAGE (Frankie Dupont Mysteries Book 3)

Written by Julie Ann Grasso

Illustrated by Alexander Avellino

FRankieScienceFair,picEleven year old Frankie Dupont’s parents are off for the day to attend an awards ceremony. Frankie’s dad leaves him in charge of his detective agency. Sounds strange? Well, Frankie has already proved his mettle in assisting his father in previous investigations.

Shortly after they leave, Frankie gets a call from his cousin Kat and her friend, Amy Appleby, to assist in solving a mystery at the science fair being held in Enderby Manor. Seven kids are competing in a science contest in which all the entries must be made from recyclable materials. The winner will receive $300 and a ticket to science camp. Seven contestants have employed creativity in projects such as a musical instrument made from drinking cans, Lego blocks made from Stevia, a balloon recycling center and cloned blue salmon. Upon his arrival, Frankie discovers that Angus and Archie Appleby’s robotic chip has been stolen while they were arguing over how to assemble their robot made from household items. Frankie has the scene secured and methodically proceeds to interview each of the contestants in order to collect clues and solve the mystery.

Middle school readers will enjoy the adventure as the clues are revealed by Frankie as he investigates. But things are not as they appear on the surface. Readers may be surprised by the end result of the investigation and the just rewards that follow. Recommended for Encylopedia Brown fans in the eight to twelve-year-old age range.

Barbara Ann Mojica, Author
P.O. Box 112
Craryville, NY 12521-0112
Tel/Fax: 518-325-5199
www.LittleMissHISTORY.com

Hippie Happening

What Was Woodstock?

Written by Joan Holub

Illustrated by Gregory Copeland

Woodstock

This book is part of the Who, What, Where series of books written largely for the beginning reader and pre-teen audience. Woodstock is one of the most famous events in the 1960’s, one of the most tumultuous decades in American history. Not only does this book portray in words, drawings and photos, the Woodstock music festival, but it furnishes a birds-eye view of the history of the 1960’s. Well-written concise profiles of the Vietnam War, political and social change, and sixties slang are included. There are timelines of the sixties for the United States as well as one of events happening around the globe. An age appropriate bibliography for additional reading on these topics is also included.

Music promoter, Michael Lang conceived the concert idea. Desiring to open up a recording studio for young artists in Woodstock, about 120 miles north of New York City, he convinced Artie Kornfield of Capitol Records that this was a good idea. While playing a game of pool one night, they decided to raise money for their project by having a giant outdoor music concert. They needed a large space, security, lighting, outdoor toilets, food, water, a stage and lots of music bands. Problem after problem arose. Their plans fell through and the location was changed three times. Eventually, they contracted with a local farmer, Max Yasgur in Bethel, NY. They planned for 50,000 people, but 500,000 came. The roads were so clogged that people had to walk ten miles from their cars, and bands had to be flown in by helicopter. A thunderstorm threatened to destroy it, but the three-day event in August, 1969 became a message of peace and hope for people young and old. Well-known artists like Jimi Hendrix and Joan Baez played as well as then unknowns like Santana and Credence Clearwater Revival. The organizers made no money. Despite its success, organizers wound up letting everyone in free because they could not manage to collect tickets.

Young pre-teen readers will love this book. History, music and popular culture are woven together into a mesmerizing look at sixties people, places and things. Readers absorb a great deal of knowledge without even realizing it. Highly recommended for students, teachers, parents and all those baby boomers who lived through or have heard about Woodstock.

Magical Manhattan!

Magical Manhattan

Written by Gregory Hoffman

MagicalManhattan,pic

An intriguing urban fantasy tale that will appeal to young adult and adult audiences, but one that might be enjoyed by children as young as ten who will “grow into” the meaning of these fantasies as they mature.

Fourteen-year-old Sam has just received a bad report card. On Saturdays, he has a ritual of accompanying his mother to her job in an antique store on 80th street in Manhattan. Once there, he leaves to spend the day walking down to the twin towers in Lower Manhattan and back again. As they leave their apartment, Sam ponders how to break the bad news. He places the report card on the console after they cross the Brooklyn Bridge. Little does he know that he will experience an adventure that changes his life on his walk today.

Sam will meet a homeless man named Elijah who asks Sam for his shoes. Subsequently, they will meet a bicycle messenger a human antenna, a talking train, spirits of artists in the Metropolitan Museum , a princess cloud and many others. The streets of Manhattan are transformed into a water paradise filled with lush vegetation. What does it all mean? Will anyone else believe Sam’s story? Does the experience have an impact on Sam’s future?

The adventure is magical on several levels. It is a wonderful walking tour of Manhattan; the author expertly captures the essence and spirit of New York City. The imagination and allegories presented by the author to the reader as food for thought have many layers of meaning. Clever and creative with no objectionable content. This book could be used for so many topics as a classroom discussion or starter for creative writing assignments.

Hieroglyph: Time Travel with a Twist

Hieroghyph (TC’S ADVENTURES BOOK 1)

Written by WJ Scott

Illustrated by John Helle-Nielsen

Hieroglyph,pic

I will be honest in saying that this book was different from what I expected. The cover is a bit of a mystery and the table of contents lists numbers only with no word clues. Once into the book, the reader is quickly drawn into the narrative. Thirteen-year-old TC is sitting in the Vice-Principal’s office trying to explain how she knew where a stolen ring could be found. TC lives with her Aunt Letty in New Zealand since her archaeologist parents were killed in a cave in. Aunt Letty is off on an environmental expedition, and TC will be going off to spend a weekend with her uncle in Australia.

Here is where the book takes a dramatic departure. The reader learns that TC has a special gift. She is able to time travel and connect with past history when she touches hieroglyphs. Her uncle Max is trying to get funding for an archaeological expedition to prove that ancient Egyptians traveled to Australia in search of gold.

I will not reveal details of the plot, but Scott seamlessly takes the reader back and forth as TC alternately explores the shipwreck and explorations of Prince Setka and Prince Kanefer in ancient times and back into the present with TC, her Uncle Max, her friends and enemies who seek to undo their discoveries. Characters are well developed and the narrative carefully written to make the plot believable. TC is a strong-willed female who faces modern problems and crises, while longing to solve the mysteries of the past.

Targeted for readers nine and older, the book will appeal to younger and older audiences. Promises to be a good series for lovers of ancient Egypt, adventure, mystery and intriguing characters.

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Barbara Ann Mojica, Author
P.O. Box 112
Craryville, NY  12521-0112
Tel/Fax: 518-325-5199
www.LittleMissHISTORY.com