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Module 12: The Boy on Fairfield Street

The Boy on Fairfield Street

Product Details

Image Source Page: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_1_11/179-3233434-3322431?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=the+boy+on+fairfield+street&sprefix=the+boy+on+


Krull, K. (2004). The boy on Fairfield Street: how Ted Geisel grew up to become Dr. Seuss. New York, NY: Random House.


In The Boy on Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel Grew Up to Become Dr. Seuss, we see a very different side of the famous author and illustrator. This book begins with his birth and childhood in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1904. The book tells of his love of reading, animals, and wild imagination. He had an active and colorful childhood, but begin to struggle to fit in as he grew older.

His love of drawing never ceased even when discouraged by his art teacher. It wasn’t until after college that Ted Geisel found success first by selling drawings to magazines. He moved to New York, began drawing full-time, and began signing his work “Dr. Theophrastus Seuss” or “Dr. Seuss” just because it amused him. These drawings led to complaints and fan mail. One of the first pieces of fan mail came from a 12-year-old boy. This gave Ted Geisel the idea to create works specifically for children.

My Impression

The illustrations in this book do not disappoint. They are whimsical and yet thoughtful. I felt as though I went on an emotional roller coaster as I learned of the ups and downs in Ted Geisel’s life. I found the book inspiring and I think children will also. The picture book only covers the first 22 years of his life, however, a factual appendix in the back covers the rest of his life. I think children will best relate to these first 22 years and may appreciate their own individuality more after reading it.


Once upon a time, there lived a boy who feasted on books and was wild about animals.” So begins this young biography of Dr. Seuss. Taunted at school because he was German, his escapes were drawing, the comics he loved, and the zoo, where his father was the parks superintendent in Springfield, Mass. His high-school art teacher warned him he’d never be successful at art; in Dartmouth he was voted “Class Artist and Class Wit,” and he left Oxford to draw and write verse. Truly only about his youth, the narrative ends at age 22, when Seuss goes to New York City to launch his career. Four following pages provide a synopsis of his life and a timeline up to his death in 1991. Bordered, full-page oil-on-gessoed-paper illustrations evoke pertinent scenes, while spot art of Seuss drawings dot the opposite pages. Some of these original images are absolutely haunting; the magic of his name will make this a huge hit, but it’s the lively writing that puts the hat on the cat. (bibliography, citations, Web sites) 2004, Random, $16.95. Category: Picture book/biography. Ages 7 to 11. Starred Review. © 2003 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.

Kirkus. (2003, December 15). [Review of the book The boy on Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel grew up to become Dr. Seuss, by K. Krull]. Kirkus Reviews 71(24). Retrieved from http://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/kathleen-krull/the-boy-on-fairfield-street/#review

Kathleen Krull presents a touching view of the life of Ted Geisel from early childhood visiting the zoo to his young adult years at Dartmouth College, as well as the poignant events that shaped his life. Geisel’s unique view of the world while growing up in Springfield, Massachusetts marked him by many members of the community as a dreamer, but his imagination and supportive German-immigrant parents enabled him to create fanciful creatures that reflected positive and negative human behaviors. Although most teachers and peers considered him a mediocre student, he proved to his detractors that he could be a successful author and illustrator, which encouraged children to read. The book is liberally peppered with illustrations of the whimsical characters found in many of his children’s books, as well as beautifully soft images portraying Geisel’s personal life. At the book’s conclusion, an addenda includes a biographical sketch providing additional information for older readers who want more detail about Seuss’ life. A list of books by Dr. Seuss is provided, as well as a brief bibliography and six pertinent Web sites featuring this beloved author. This book would be a wonderful addition to a library program celebrating the “Seussentennial” and beyond. Recommended. 2004, Random House Children’s Publishing, 45pp., $16.95 hc. Ages 8 to 12

Schulz, C. (2004, October).  [Review of the book The boy on Fairfield Street: How Ted Geisel grew up to become Dr. Seuss, by K. Krull]. Library Media Connection. Retrieved from http://www.librarymediaconnection.com/

Uses in the Library

This book could be displayed with other biographies to show the variation that exists in the books that are in this genre. Not only is the biographical book interesting, but creative as well.  The lesson for the display is that biographies do not have to be boring. They come in all sizes: short and long, with and without illustrations, and can be about anyone, not just historical figures.


Module 11: George Washington’s Teeth


                George Washington’s Teeth

George Washington's Teeth

Image Source Page: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/152499.George_Washington_s_Teeth


Chandra, D. and Comora, M. (2003). George Washington’s teeth. New York, NY: Farrar Straus and Giroux.


This rhyming book recounts major events of George Washington’s life beginning with the Revolutionary War. Alongside these facts, a count down begins as George Washington slowly loses his teeth. caricature style watercolor artwork add humor and emotion as the teeth come out. At the time that George Washington is elected president, he only has two teeth left. Soon after, he has only one tooth remaining and attempts to wear false teeth for the first time. The first set on false teeth knock out his last tooth. Later, George Washington actually helps the dentist create his pairs of false teeth by using some of his old teeth to make the molds.

Following the story, a factual timeline of historical events and George Washington’s dental history is provided. Through this timeline it is learned that he was in pain a great deal of his adult life due to his dental problems. He also was very involved in developing more advanced sets of false teeth and spent a large amount of money on dental expenditures. It is suspected that untreated dental infections contributed to his death.

My Impression

This picture book offers information about George Washington that may be new to most adults and children. The rhyming words and humorous illustrations make the book fun while it is teaching factual information. The timeline in back of the book details just how serious George Washington’s dental problems really were. Yet, I expect that the story itself would engage young readers and work well in a storytime also.


Second only to kids’ curiosity about George Washington and the cherry tree may be their interest in his teeth. Did the prez wear wooden dentures? Chandra and Comora set the record straight with wit, verve, and a generous amount of sympathy for poor Washington and his dental woes. Unfurling smoothly against a backdrop of Washington’s career as soldier and president, the tale goes forward in sprightly, read-aloud rhyme that never falters: “Poor George has two teeth in his mouth / The day the votes came in. / The people had a President /But one afraid to grin.” And illustrator Cole is at his absolute best here, totally at ease with human gesture and expression. Each spread is a tableaulike scene (or scenes) filled with costumed characters busily engaged in humorously visualizing the actual history. The color palette and energy of the art harks back to Cole’s Buttons (1999), but there’s much more detail and movement in these pictures, which work well as amusing preparation for the more sedately illustrated, annotated time line of George’s dental decay that precedes a full roundup of historical sources the authors used in telling the tale. This is history for youngsters that will stick; it’s wild and fun and factual, without a trace of mockery. Category: Books for Middle Readers–Nonfiction. 2003, Farrar, $16. K-Gr. 3. Starred Review

Zvirin, S. (2003, Jan 1). [Review of the book George Washington’s teeth, by D. Chandra and M. Comora]. Booklist Online. 99(9).  Retrieved from http://www.booklistonline.com/

Now It Can Be Told: that severe, square-jawed look that the Father of Our Country flashes in his portraits reveals not only strength of character, but also his struggle to hide the fact that he was nearly (entirely, later in life) toothless by keeping a succession of spring-loaded false teeth in place. Drawing information from Washington’s own writings, the authors deliver a double account of his dental tribulations: first in sprightly rhyme-Martha “fed him mush and pickled tripe, / But when guests came to dine, / He sneaked one of his favorite nuts. / Then he had only nine“-followed by a detailed, annotated timeline. Cole’s (Larky Mavis, 2001, etc.) freely drawn, rumpled-looking watercolors document the countdown as well, with scenes of the unhappy statesman at war and at home, surrounded by family, attendants (including dark-skinned ones), and would-be dentists, all in authentic 18th-century dress. Contrary to popular belief, Washington’s false teeth were made not of wood, but of real teeth and hippo ivory; a photo of his last set closes this breezy, sympathetic, carefully-researched vignette on a note that will have readers feeling the great man’s pain-and never looking at his painted visage the same way again. (source notes) 2003, Farrar Straus & Giroux, $16.00. Category: Picture book/nonfiction. Ages 7 to 9. Starred Review. © 2002 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.

Kirkus. (2002, December 15). [Review of the book George Washington’s teeth, by D, Chandra and M. Comora].  Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved from  http://www.kirkusreviews.com/.

Uses in the Library

This biographical book is short enough to be read aloud. The humorous illustrations and short simple sentences make it a great choice for most school age children. George Washington is described as a regular person who we can all relate to. This book could enforce that books teach us history, but also often teach us lesser known facts about historical figures. This makes us better understand and relate to historical figures and the choices they made.

Module 11: Leonardo’s Horse

            Leonardo’s Horse

Image Source Page: http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1312387018l/418887.jpg


Fritz, J. (2001). Leonardo’s Horse. New York, NY: G.P. Putman’s Sons.


Leonardo’s Horse is an engaging story about a little known fact about Leonardo da Vinci. Although he was an amazing artist who accomplished many great things, there was one goal he did not achieve. In the late 1400’s, Leonardo da Vinci was asked to create a large, magnificent sculpture of a horse as a gift from the ruler of France to the duke of Milan. Due to many circumstances, he never finished this project.

In 1977, an American named Charles Dent heard of the unfinished project and decided to complete it for Leonardo da Vinci. Charles worked the rest of his life too on the sculpture project, but did not complete it. On June 27, 1999 the horse sculpture was finally completed by artist, Nina Akamu with the help of Charles Dent’s family.

Soon after the sculpture was unveiled in Milan in from of a joyful crowd of Italians and Americans. At last, the horse sculpture was complete on behalf of Leonardo da Vinci and Charles Dent. A peaceful and joyful sense of unity was shared by the two nations.

My Impression

Leonardo’s Horse is a wonderful story full of entertaining and little known facts. The reader learns about Leonardo da Vinci as a person and is reminded that all people have set backs and misfortunes. The story teaches a great deal about art, specifically the sculpture making process. It provides a great example of how with determination, a person or group of people can accomplish great things.


The first part of this unusual book presents the life and work of Leonardo da Vinci, highlighting his work on a monumental statue of a horse, which, despite many sketches and the making, in 1493, of a 24-foot-high clay model, was never cast in bronze as planned. The story begins again in 1977, when American art lover Charles Dent read about Leonardo’s Horse. He dreamed of completing the statue and presenting it to the people of Italy from the people of America. Although Dent died in 1994, the work went on until sculptor Nina Akamu completed the statue, which was unveiled in Milan in 1999, 500 years after the destruction of the original clay sculpture. Combining biography, history, and art, Fritz’s absorbing text is both a lively introduction to Leonardo and a tribute to Dent. The curious shape of the book–rectangular at the bottom and rounded at the top–is reminiscent of the silhouette of a domed building, and illustrator Talbott makes good use of the irregularly shaped pages in his pleasing and occasionally dramatic illustrations, which are done in watercolor, pen-and-ink, colored pencils, and collage. A memorable choice for reading aloud. Category: Books for Middle Readers–Nonfiction. 2001, Putnam, $16.99. Gr. 4-7. Starred Review

Phelan, C. (2001, October 15). [Review of the book Leonardo’s horse, by J. Fritz].  Booklist Online 98(4). Retrieved from http://www.booklistonline.com/

A veteran writer of lively biographies has turned her attention to quite an engaging story: the biography of an equine sculpture. She starts with Leonardo da Vinci and his fascination with everything-drawing, sketching, writing, and musing-and with making: sculpture, weapons, even party tricks. He made a 24-foot-high clay model of a horse for the Duke of Milan, but before it could be cast, French archers and rain destroyed it. This haunted Leonardo for the rest of his life. It haunted American Charles Dent in the 1970s, also, and he vowed to produce Leonardo’s horse as a gift from the American people to the people of Italy. He died in 1994, but sculptor Nina Akamu and a host of others kept his promise. In typical Fritz (“Why Not, Lafayette?”, 1999, etc.) fashion, her story is filled with engaging details of Leonardo’s personality and his world. Likewise, the contemporary process by which the horse was created and cast is described with enough detail to fascinate but not to bore. Talbott (“Forging Freedom”, 2000, etc.) uses mixed media and collage to create his illustrations, which range from utterly recognizable scenes of Florence to the ghostly horses at Leonardo’s deathbed. The contemporary images are drawn with as much spirit and vitality as the Renaissance ones. An unusual biography for young people, and one well worth poring over, its format is also noteworthy. It has a rounded top, giving the artist ample opportunity for the dome under which the horse was built as well as a chance to explore a unique way of picturing a unique world. Together, Fritz and Talbott have forged an extraordinary tribute to two dreamers 500 years apart. (author’s note, Web site) 2001, Putnam, $16.99. Category: Biography. Ages 7 to 12. Starred Review. © 2001 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.

Kirkus. (2001, September 15). [Review of the book Leonardo’s horse, by J. Fritz].  Kirkus Reviews 69(18). Retrieved from http://www.kirkusreviews.com/

Uses in the Library

Leonardo’s Horse would be a great book to use to teach about main characters and supporting characters. This book is unique in that the main character is not a living being, but rather a sculpture. This book demonstrates that the main character of a book does not have to be a person or an animal.

After reading the book, ask the students who the main character is. Many may incorrectly say Leonardo da Vinci. This could open the open door for a discussion about what is and is not a main character in a story.               

Module 10: Al Capone Does My Shirts


                Al Capone Does My Shirts

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Choldenko, G. (2004). Al Capone does my shirts. New York, NY: Puffin Books.


This historical fiction takes place on Alcatraz island in 1935. 12-year-old Moose Flanagan is not overly excited about his family’s recent move to the island, but he tolerates the change as it is in his family’s best interest. Moose has typical relationships with his peers and a sometimes strained relationship with his mother. However, he is surprising good with his older sister who appears to suffer from autism in a time period when people did not understand the condition or know how to treat it.

Moose and his friends are fascinated by the criminals on the island and like to brag about their connections to them. One friend, Piper, is always scheming and Moose has to balance this in addition to the pressures of his family. In his quest to find a “convict” baseball he puts his disabled sister in real danger. His sister is ok and surprisingly the biggest help the family receives for his sister’s care comes after some help from the most famous convict of all, Al Capone.

My Impression

I felt this book used very age appropriate dialog and believable characters. Moose has an amazing amount of patience with his sister and I wonder whether this would be the case for most 12-year-old boys in this situation. It is a heartwarming story and I was surprised about how much of the story centered around the sister, Natalie’s, condition. The historical facts were interesting. I think the reader comes away with a real understanding of what it would have been like to live on Alcatraz in the 1930’s.


Twelve-year-old Moose moves to Alcatraz in 1935 so his father can work as a prison guard and his younger, autistic sister, Natalie, can attend a special school in San Francisco. It is a time when the federal prison is home to notorious criminals like gangster Al Capone. Depressed about having to leave his friends and winning baseball team behind, Moose finds little to be happy about on Alcatraz. He never sees his dad, who is always working; and Natalie’s condition– her tantrums and constant needs–demand all his mother’s attention. Things look up for Moose when he befriends the irresistible Piper, the warden’s daughter, who has a knack for getting Moose into embarrassing but harmless trouble. Helped by Piper, Moose eventually comes to terms with his new situation. With its unique setting and well-developed characters, this warm, engaging coming-of-age story has plenty of appeal, and Choldenko offers some fascinating historical background on Alcatraz Island in an afterword. Category: Books for Middle Readers–Fiction. 2004, Putnam, $15.99. Gr. 5-8.

Sullivan, E. (2004, February 1). [Review of the book Al Capone does my shirts, by G. Choldenko]. Booklist 100(11).  Retrieved from www.booklistonline.com

Moose’s world is turned upside down when his family moves to Alcatraz Island where his Dad has taken a job as a prison guard. Super-responsible Moose, big for 12, finds himself caught in the social interactions of this odd cut-off world. He cares for his sister who is older, yet acts much younger due to her autism and he finds his life alternating between frustration and growth. His mother focuses all of her attention on ways to cure the sister; his dad works two jobs and meekly accepts the mother’s choices; his fellow island-dwellers are a funny mix of oddball characters and good friends. Basing her story on the actual experience of those who supported the prison in the ’30s-when Al Capone was an inmate-Choldenko’s pacing is exquisite, balancing the tense family dynamics alongside the often-humorous and riveting school story of peer pressure and friendship. Fascinating setting as a metaphor for Moose’s own imprisonment and enabling some hysterically funny scenes, but a great read no matter where it takes place. (lengthy author’s note with footnotes to sources) 2004, Putnam, 240p, $15.99. Category: Fiction. Ages 11 to 14. Starred Review. © 2004 Kirkus Reviews/VNU eMedia, Inc. All rights reserved.

Kirkus. (2004, March 1). [Review of the book Al Capone does my shirts, by G. Choldenko]. Kirkus Reviews 72(5).  Retrieved from www.kirkusreviews.com/

Uses in the Library

I would love to build a display of historical fiction books with a “Through the Decades” theme. This book could represent the 1930’s and be an interesting change from the usual focus on the Great Depression when discussing the 1930’s.

Module 10: Fever 1793

                          Fever 1793

File:Fever 1793.jpg

Image Source Page: http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=fever+1793&view=detail&id=C62867B163A8DB36E3E87C5810E1D72BBAC4CF35&first=0&FORM=IDFRIR


Anderson, L. H. (2000). Fever 1793. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.


Anderson opens each chapter with a historical quote from the time period. This sets the mood for the tumultuous mood of the book. The main character is a teenage girl named Matilda. Matilda is a typical teen living a somewhat happy and content life in the city Philadelphia. She helps run the family coffee-house with her mother and grandfather. Her world takes a shocking turn when Polly, their serving girl, dies unexpectedly of a fever.

Over the next 4 months Matilda faces unimaginable struggles as her mother falls ill, in an attempt to flee the city she and her grandfather are abandoned on the roadside, and then she catches the Yellow Fever. Luckily, she recovers and Matilda and her grandfather return to the coffee-house to find her mother gone. They try to begin rebuilding their lives, but another tragedy occurs as Grandfather dies suddenly after a struggle with would be robbers.

While struggling to survive, Matilda finds a young orphaned child, Nell, and her mother’s black friend, Eliza. By living together and operating as a family they survive and eventually reopen the coffee-house. Matilda’s mother does eventually return, but she is disabled from the fever and Matilda’s life will forever be changed as she now has a major role in running the coffee-house and caring for the family.

My Impression

I absolutely loved this book! I think it is a direct and graphic portrait of life during this time period. Middle school students, high school students, and adults may get a new appreciation for life, health and immunizations after reading and this book. Matilda is easy to relate to as she experiences typical teen emotions of laziness, confusion, and a crush on a boy. After reading this book, I plan to read more by Laurie Halse Anderson.


Sixteen-year-old Matilda Cook, her widowed mother, and her grandfather are eking out a living running a coffeehouse in the middle of bustling Philadelphia when they learn that their servant girl has died of yellow fever. Thus begins Matilda’s odyssey of coping and survival as the disease decimates the city, turning the place into a ghost town and Matilda into an orphan. Anderson has carefully researched this historical event and infuses her story with rich details of time and place (each chapter begins with quotes from books or correspondence of the late-eighteenth century), including some perspective on the little-known role African Americans played in caring for fever victims. The dialogue in Fever is not as natural sounding as it was in Anderson’s contemporary novel Speak (1999), which was a Printz Honor Book. But readers probably won’t be disappointed by Anderson’s writing or by her departure from a modern setting. Nor will teachers, who will find this a good supplement to their American History texts. Anderson tells a good story and certainly proves you can learn a lot about history in good fiction. An appended section gives more background. Category: Books for Older Readers–Fiction. 2000, Simon & Schuster, $16. Gr. 7-10.

Zvirin, S. (2000, October 1). [Review of the book Fever 1793, by L. H. Anderson].  Booklist Online 97(3). Retrieved from http://www.booklistonline.com/

The best historical fiction is the kind that immerses you in the time period through the mindset of a primary character. Anderson’s Mattie Cook does just that. In this diary based novel, we entire the harrowing experience of a yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia in 1793. Mattie dreams of turning the family coffeehouse into a booming business and struggles to cope with her strict mother. But those issues are pushed aside when yellow fever strikes. Then Mattie has to fight for her life and the lives of her family. The city is turned upside down. Mattie struggles through it all. Readers will applaud her heroism and learn a lot about post-Revolutionary War Philadelphia in the process. 2000, Simon and Schuster, $16.00. Ages 10 up.

LaFaye, A. Ph.D. (2000).  [Review of the book Fever 1793, by L. H. Anderson].  Children’s Literature. Retrieved from http://childrenslit.com/

Uses in the Library

I would like to offer Fever 1793 to the middle or high school American History teachers at my school. I would like to have it introduced with a book trailer before the students begin studying this time period. This may encourage students to read it for pleasure while they are studying the time period.


Module 9: Cam Jansen and the Chocolate Fudge Mystery

Cam Jansen and the Chocolate Fudge Mystery

CAM Jansen: The Chocolate Fudge Mystery #14

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Adler, D. (1997). Cam Jansen and the chocolate fudge mystery. New York, NY: Scholastic Inc., by arrangement with Viking Penguin.


Cam Jansen is no ordinary little girl. She has a photographic memory and a knack for solving mysteries. On this afternoon, Cam and her friend Eric are going door to door selling chocolate bars and rice cakes to raise money for a charity. Cam notices a suspiciously dressed woman and a yellow house that appears to be vacant. After further investigation, she sees evidence that someone is possibly hiding in the house.

Soon Cam, Eric, her dad and the neighbors to the yellow house see a suspicious man on the porch of the house. At first they think he may be a writer, but then after reading a crime bulletin in the newspaper, they think he may be a bank robber! They call the police and then notice the suspicious woman again and begin following her. The police and Cam chase her into a supermarket where she admits to being an accomplice to the robbery. The suspicious man is then arrested too. Eric and Cam are commended by the police and they are amazed by Cam’s photographic memory.

My Impression

This is an amazingly simple, yet entertaining mystery for young readers. I think there is series would only hold a child’s interest for a little while as they might quickly outgrow it. However, it does make a great introductory mystery book. It is safe and fun for all children.


Cam (short for Camera) Jansen and her faithful companion, Eric Shelton, encounter yet another mystery as they try to raise funds for charity by selling fudge bars and rice cakes. (They never do explain the mystery of that unlikely combination.) This time Cam spots a woman behaving suspiciously in the vicinity of a supposedly vacant house. It requires only Cam’s photographic memory (which she activates by saying “Click” constantly), deductive reasoning, and a short surveillance for the duo to ascertain that a criminal is hiding out and to alert a grateful police force. Cam satisfies the childhood fantasy of being smarter than adults and dealing successfully with mystery and danger, and young readers seem to be able to tolerate the clicks and to suspend reality in order to marvel at her wonderful ways. Another fix for the beginning readers who demand mystery books. Category: Middle Readers. 1993, Viking, $11.99. Gr. 2-4.

O’Hara, S. (1993, October 15). [Review of the book Cam Jansen and the chocolate fudge mystery, by S. O’Hara]. Booklist 90(4).  Retrieved from www.booklistonline.com

Jennifer a.k.a. Cam (short for “The Camera”) Jansen is a detective with a photographic memory. Like a pit bull with a Porterhouse, Cam won’t let go of a mystery until she gnaws it to the bone and bares the truth. In this book, the fourteenth in the “Cam Jansen Adventure” series, our sleuth and her friend, Eric, (under the watchful eye of Mr. Jansen) sell fudge bars and rice cakes door-to-door to raise money for a local charity. En route, they spy a mysterious woman walking alongside a seemingly deserted yellow house. She hurries past them, deposits a bulging trash bag into someone else’s garbage, then disappears into the house across the street. Upon closer examination, they discover that other strange things are going on at the yellow house. With a click of her mental camera, Cam records them all. Her determination, fast thinking, and unique ability enable her to solve this mystery and help the police capture an elusive thief. 1999 (orig. 1993), Penguin/Puffin Books, $15.99 and $3.99. Ages 7 to 10.

Braaf, E. (1999, orig. 1993). [Review of the book Cam Jansen and the chocolate fudge mystery, by S. O’Hara]. Children’s Literature.  Retrieved from http://childrenslit.com/

Uses in the Library

I would introduce this book when introducing mystery books to the youngest patrons. It would be fun to explain what clues are and what a photographic memory is. Then play a short game where one student looks at the library class then turns around. Each student then changes something small about themselves; such as tucking in a shirt, removing a bracelet, or parting their hair on the other side. Have the first student turn around and see if they can spot any of the changes. This may spur their interest in reading mysteries and seeing how good of a detective they can be.

Module 9: The Face on the Milk Carton

The Face on the Milk Carton

Image Source Page: http://www.paperbackswap.com/Face-Milk-Carton-Caroline-B-Cooney/book/0440220653/


Cooney, C. B. (1990). The face on the milk carton. New York, NY: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.


Janie is a typical suburban teen living in an upper middle class neighborhood. She has many friends and loving parents. She has enjoyed a happy childhood. One regular school day everything changes. She almost instantly recognizes the face on her friend’s milk carton. She remembers the dress the little girl is wearing. Janie keeps the carton and goes through numerous emotions as she tries to figure out what to do. Her boyfriend is supportive, but has his own issue on his mind too. She begins to see the clues all around her.

Eventually, she turns to her parents and they tell her about her childhood as they honestly believe it happened. They believe they are her grandparents. However, it still does not add up. In the end, with the encouragement of her mom(grandmother), Janie gets the courage to call the number she suspects to belong to her birth parents. We are left in suspense as to how the conversation goes and how this will change Janie’s life.

My Impression

I have never been a mystery book reader, but I did enjoy this book. It has richly developed characters and is suspenseful throughout. The relationships seem natural and Janie’s emotions are believable. Some of dialog and scenes reinforce this book’s place in the Young Adult section of the library. Due to the sexual content and the serious topic of kidnapping, I would recommend this book for high school students only.


Gr 7-10 The message on the milk carton reads, “Have you seen this child?” Three-year-old Jennie Spring was kidnapped 12 years earlier, but Janie Johnson, looking at the photo, suddenly knows that she is that child. Fragments of memory and evidence accumulate, and when she demands to know about her early childhood years, her parents confess what they believe to be true, that she is really their grandchild, the child of their long-missing daughter who had joined a cult. Janie wants to accept this, but she cannot forget Jennie’s family and their loss. Finally, almost against her will, she seeks help and confides in her parents. Her mother insists that she call the Spring family, and the book ends as she calls them. Many young people fantasize about having been adopted or even kidnapped, but the decisions that Janie must face are painful and complex, and she experiences denial, anger, and guilt while sorting her way toward a solution. Janie’s boyfriend-sensible, funny, with problems of his own-is an excellent foil for her intensity. Their romance is natural and believable. Cooney again demonstrates an excellent ear for dialogue and a gift for portraying responsible middle-class teenagers trying to come to terms with very real concerns.

Castleton, T. (1990).  [Review of the book The face on the milk carton, by C. Cooney]. School Library Journal 36(2). Retrieved from http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/

Uses in the Library

I think this book could possibly be controversial in a school library setting. I would not recommend it for everyone and therefore probably would never display it. I might work for a book club made up of the oldest students who enjoy mysteries. They could discuss how they would handle Janie’s situation. Also, could this situation even still occur in our current environment of technology aided information sharing?

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