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Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Lion and the Bird, written and illustrated by Marianne Dubuc. Enchanted Lion Books, Publishers Group Canada. 2014. $22.50 ages 4 and up

"Let's bandage you up,"
says Lion.

"That will help."

"Oh, no! They're
flying away."

Don't worry!
You won't be cold here."

Before I tell you about this heartwarming pair, I want to say that I think you should be on the constant lookout for books published by the stellar Enchanted Lion Books. They continually publish remarkable examples of books that we need to be sharing with our children!

On we go! This story concerns a dapper lion who is out working in his fall garden when he spots an injured bird. An attentive individual would never leave the bird in its sorry state. So, the lion applies a bandage; but, it's not soon enough for said bird to join his flock on their migration.

The lion, ever accommodating, takes the bird home and provides warmth, food and friendship throughout the fall and winter. With the advent of spring, the bird's flock returns. Off they go...which is just as it should be.

"And so it goes.
Sometimes life is like that."

Through the long, slow summer the lion goes about gardening and living a lonely life. As flocks pass overhead in the fall, the lion is hopeful...and then disheartened. Wait! What is that melodic note?

Marianne Dubuc uses a quiet color palette to capture mood, and only deepens the soft tones when the two spend the long, cold winter together. It is very effective. She provides warmth and quiet understanding for the two, and children will be charmed by the many details of the home life they share.

This book is a treasure, and to be treasured for its tale of steadfast friendship.

Telephone, written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jen Corace. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2014. $19.99 ages 4 and up

"Tell Peter:
Hit pop flies and homers.

Tell Peter:
Prop planes are for flyers.

Tell Peter:
Put your wet socks in the
dryer."

Leave it to Mac Barnett to take an old game and make it new again!

Our first glimpse shows a street filled with colorful houses, children playing and telephone poles and wires that provide a place for a long line of birds to sit and ponder their surroundings. A casserole-toting, aproned pigeon passes a message to a nearby bat-carrying cardinal (sorry, St. Louis fans!). Her message is clear:

"Tell Peter: Fly home for dinner."

The game begins with the cardinal passing the message, changed and having a baseball theme. Each message is passed with resultant changes, and on it goes down the wire. Depending on how each bird sees its world, the message moves forward, a bit funnier each time and according to their particular view of things.  

Jen Corace uses watercolor, ink, gouache, and pencil on paper to give us a aviator goose, an ostrich maid, a rock star bluebird, a snoopy, binocular-toting toucan, a hoarding pelican, a writer duck, a terrified turkey...all the way down the wire to Peter Pigeon and his baseball team. Luckily, the owl who prides himself on being informed gets the tongue-tied chicken's message:

"Tell Peter: There's a giant monster lobster named Homer!
He smells like socks and he breathes red fire!
His eyes blaze like stars and he rides a crocodile that flies
and he's coming to this wire!
Tell Peter to fly!
Fly far far away!
He's too young to be
somebody's dinner!"

The owl passes his own wise interpretation...and Peter heads home for dinner.

Too funny for words, clever, and worthy of more than one look to ensure that you 'get it' all.

                                                                               

Wednesday, written and illustrated by Anne Bertier. Enchanted Lion Books, Publishers Group Canada. 2014. $21.95 ages 3 and up

"Pine tree, house!"

"Stop, Big Square,
I can't do it!"

"Look at me, Little Round,
I'm the color of the sky
and the sea!
It's so great! I'm waves
and mountains."

When I opened this book, I was immediately reminded of one of my old 'favorites' -  Little Blue and Little Yellow (1959) by Leo Lionni, an author whose work I shared with my own and my kindergarten children over many years.

Using shapes, size and color, Anne Bertier invites her readers to take a close look at friendship and disagreements. It's Wednesday, and Big Square and Little Round are set to play their weekly game!
It goes like this:

"As soon as one of them says a word,
they transform themselves into it."

All goes well, as it has done before, until Big Square wants to make bigger and bigger images, ignoring his friend's ability at transformation. Circle is adamant that Square is showing off, and refuses to play. Being alone isn't much fun; Circle suggests a compromise:

"What if we both think of things together?"

It works:

"Little Round becomes cheeks,
wheels.

Big Square becomes a hat and a coat."

Friendships aren't always easy. Often it is in compromise that a new reality is found. Anne Bernier uses two vibrant colors, strong graphic detail, and understated emotion to help young listeners open a discussion about conflict and cooperation.

Imaginative and entertaining, you won't want to miss it. Now, get out the paper and scissors and let their imaginations soar!
               

Here Comes the Easter Cat, written by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Claudie Rueda. Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin. 2014. $18.00 ages 3 and up

"Well, of course
everyone loves the
Easter Bunny.

Why? Because he's nice?

He delivers chocolate
eggs to millions of kids.

It's a hard job."

Gosh, I don't know how I missed this in the spring! I do know that I don't want to wait until next spring to tell you all about it. Besides, it is a book that you can read at any time, in any place, and as many times as your young listeners are willing to hear it.

A cheery cat is taken aback when he notices an Easter Bunny poster. In that moment, a new Easter symbol is born: the Easter Cat. Now decidedly bad-tempered, the cat is willing to respond to an unseen speaker about the problem...it's the Easter Bunny. Using hastily drawn placards and easily recognisable facial expressions, the cat makes his point while the narrator attempts to help him understand the dilemma.

Would being an Easter Cat work? Why on earth not? This cat is not done with being annoyed at the Easter Bunny; at every turn, he lets the audience know it! He would deliver chocolate...chocolate bunnies! Why, bunnies? The page turn shows a chocolate headless bunny, and a gleeful, tummy-rubbing cat holding the illustrated version of it. How to get all the deliveries made? Simple, a motorcycle! That should make outpacing the Bunny easy...

Entirely too funny for words, your audience will be mesmerized by the antics displayed. Their hearts will melt when the Cat, wearing his heart on his sleeve, realizes that the Bunny does have a tough job and might need some welcome help. Once their deliveries are made, and the two have cemented their friendship, there is only one thing left to do.

Ta da! Another surprise ending that ensures a future visit with this sparkling personality.

Ms. Underwood's humorously told tale is captured on two page spreads that allow Ms. Rueda to interpret (in ink and colored pencil) the Cat's nonverbal gestures to our great delight. So much can be shown in her imaginative renderings for the tale being told. It is a flawless collaboration!

                                                                          


 

You Are (Not) Small, written by Anna Kang and illustrated by Christopher Weyant. two lions, Amazon. $19.99 ages 2 and up

"They are just
like me.
You are small.

I am not small.
See?

They are just
like me.
You are big."7


Does size really matter?

Apparently it matters enough to this husband and wife team to consider it as a subject for their debut venture.

Two creatures: one big, one small; one purple, one orange. They meet on a grassy field, and a conversation is initiated. It is a back and forth about size, and the discrepancies between the two. Not to be deterred by the other's argument, the conversation continues...and finally, SHOUTING erupts! It could go on forever...

UNTIL -

a giant blue foot stomps down with a BOOM! and separates the two feuding groups. A tiny pink parachutist drifts softly to earth. Both put an end to a seemingly eternal discourse concerning size.
Tired, satisfied that each is both big and small, and hungry, the two satisfied groups gather for lunch, leaving the newest two to themselves.

Leave it to the smallest to have a final say, and to leave the audience hooting!

It is written with just the right touch for young listeners! The cheery watercolor and ink artwork provides a perfect visual interpretation, leaving the audience with a smile and a warm, fuzzy feeling!
Don't miss both front and back covers.

Have you got a toddler on your Christmas list? You can't go wrong with this book!

                                                                           

brown girl dreaming, written by Jacqueline Woodson. Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin. 2014. $18.99 ages 8 and up

"When I tell my family
I want to be a writer,
they smile and say,
We see you in the backyard
with your writing.
They say,
We hear you making up all
those stories.
And,
We used to write poems."

That beautiful poem goes on to say:

"And,
It's a good hobby, we see how quiet it keeps you.
They say,
But maybe you should be a teacher,
a lawyer, 
do hair...

I'll think about it, I say.

And maybe all of us know

this is just another one of my
stories."

I have read this book twice now...and I know I will read it again, and then again. That is the power of words written brilliantly by one of my forever favorite authors! I think that you should share it with your children, your grandchildren, your friends, your students. It is a celebration of childhood, of family, of history and of story.

Written in free verse, it begins with her birth in 1963:

"I am born on a Tuesday at University Hospital
Columbus, Ohio, USA -
a country caught

between Black and White."

There is so much here to love! It is Ms. Woodson's homage to her family, her upbringing, her life in Ohio, in South Carolina and in Brooklyn. As she grows, so does her need to write the stories that she hears, and then to create stories of her own. She is influenced by all that surrounds her, and by memories and stories from her childhood. Her voice is powerful and lyrical, honest and candid.

Gifts throughout her life allow her to explore her own gift - her passion for words. Her first notebook is a warm and lasting memory:

"I don't know how my first composition notebook
ended up in my hands, long before I could really write
someone must have known that this
was all I needed...

Nothing in the world is like this -
a bright white page with
pale blue lines. The smell of a newly sharpened pencil
the soft hush of it
moving finally
one day
into letters."

Finding John Steptoe's Stevie at the library is a revelation:

"If someone has taken
that book out of my hand
said, You're too old for this
maybe
I'd never have believed
that someone who looked like me
could be in the pages of the book
that someone who looked like me
had a story."

Her love of Langston Hughes' poetry is an inspiration to her writing self, and a push to follow her own dreams. What a blessing for us that she speaks what is in her heart and hones her skills by penning 10 picture books, seven middle-grade novels, and 10 YA novels!

Take the time to savor the richness of her words. And, please listen to what the author has to say about her newest book in the following:

http://youtu.be/-2YJPGea94E

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sebastian and the Balloon, written and illustrated by Philip C. Stead. A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2014. $19.99 ages 4 and up


"He charted a course.
He checked the breeze.
He cut the strings...
and floated free.

Soon it was time
for a snack.
Sebastian landed his
balloon beside a
leafless tree."

Poor Sebastian! He is one dissatisfied boy...atop his house, he looks out upon his neighborhood and sees nothing to spark enthusiasm in his head, or his heart. Well, if that is to change, it's going to be up to the small unsmiling boy. He makes the decision to change the course of his days and nights.

Using his grandmother's afghans and quilts, and packing every single thing he might ever need, and accepting a bright red cardinal as his travel companion, he sets off on a journey that will lead to new friends, worthy adventure, and endless excitement. Once the strings are cut and the balloon flies freely, Sebastian is at the whim of the wind.

A much needed pickle sandwich snack means a brief stop, where he meets a bear, shares his snack and is happy to welcome his new friend aboard. A foggy sky means trouble when they fly too close to a 'very tall bird'. The balloon pops. As luck would have it, their emergency landing brings them in contact with three sisters whose skill with knitting needles have them all airborne in quick time.

The journey continues....

You know that I am an avid fan of Philip Stead. He never disappoints. His talking animals, his adventurous journeys and his appealing, well-realized characters are only a small part of what leads me to admire his work. Using pastels, oil paints and pressed charcoal, he gives us beautiful images that beg for slow observation and an unhurried read. Young listeners are sure to appreciate the comfort that comes when friends share such beautifully imaginative travels. Don't be surprised to be asked to read it again, and then again!

I would love to make a place in my house for this:
                                                                                

Monday, October 20, 2014

Do You Know Komodo Dragons? Written by Alain M. Bergeron, Michel Quintin and Sampar and illustrated by Sampar. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2014. $9.95 ages


"Komodo dragons often hunt by lying in wait. They can wait for hours before suddenly attacking prey that pass by. Despite their large size, these reptiles are fast and swift. They can run faster than 20 kilometres (12 miles) an hour for short distances. They are also excellent swimmers."

This is the third set of four books in the Do You Know series, and they are as funny and informative as the first eight were. Each is 64 pages long, and includes a glossary and index. Both will help interested readers to get back to any information needed.

The cartoon images add fun, while the text is often fascinating and just gross enough to hold the attention of avid fans. There is much to learn, as was the case in previous books. There are absorbing facts about how the animal looks, what it eats, reproduction and also how prey is hunted.

My favorite double page spread in the book about Komodos has the dragon smiling nonchalantly at a passing wart hog. The hog is unconcerned, the dragon's hunger intensifies. At just the wrong moment the Komodo's cell phone rings loudly, frightening the wart hog and sending it scurrying away. The Komodo answers the call with a sneer, and an admonition:

"Stop calling me when I'm grocery shopping!"

Haven't we all been in a grocery line when our own phone rings? Too funny!

While imparting information about an animal that we don't know well, the authors do not soften the facts about its eating habits, or its violent ways when capturing its prey. The gore is made easier to stomach with the fun that is created in the cartoon drawings and the pointed barbs placed in speech bubbles.

They will be loved by some, and not by others. I love that they offer an unusual format for learning about Komodos, praying mantises, hyenas and dinosaurs, and I find myself really appreciating the bizarre humor.


Did you catch me to save my
life or to eat me?


If it's crunchy on the outside,
it must be creamy on the inside.
  


Hey, guys! Look!
I can make my head disappear.

 



Sunday, October 19, 2014

Animal Antics, written by Derek Harvey. DK Publishing, Tourmaline Editions Inc. 2014. $15.99 ages 7 and up

"A Gentoo penguin loves nothing better than surfing the waves as it returns from a feeding session out at sea. Speed is important for catching fish and escaping predators - but also when launching out of the water for a quick landing on the beach. The Gentoo's torpedo-shaped body is perfect for these antics -..."

I love it when I get a new box of books from Chris at Tourmaline. The exceptional books from DK that are part of the shipment make me want to sit right down and learn!

So, that is exactly what I did when this last box arrived; and the first book that I looked at was this one. Who could ignore that amazing cover? Each double or single page spread has a full color photograph and a titled paragraph to describe what is happening in that photo. As happens with well-done nonfiction books, readers can page through them at random, stopping to read anything that captures their interest.

I found myself going from page to page; not doing any flipping at all. The text boxes are not overwhelming, the information shared is accessible and encourages readers to always move forward learning as they go.

I didn't even know what bee-eaters were, but I stopped quick when I saw a branch sporting nine identical birds, all snuggled up:

"Snuggle up!

Company is especially important when you need it to keep you warm. On their own, little bee-eaters would find the early morning too chilly - so they huddle together to keep warm.

As new ones land on the perch they do little side steps until they are tightly packed together, all facing the same way - but with one keeping lookout at the other end. Many birds in the row belong to the same family group. Sometimes they do this when the weather turns dull and cloudy."

Now, I need to know more about t bee-eaters. So, I am off to check it out and see what I can find! It didn't take long, and I learned a lot. Isn't that the best thing about reading books? What you learn makes you want to learn more!

Billy goats in treetops, frogs using toe disks for traction, a turtle traffic jam, lions dancing, elephants playing in the mud...need I say more? Don't you just want to get your hands on this book, and take a look for yourself.

An index will help you make a quick return to your favorites!

Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes, written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Emily Sutton. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2014. $18.00 ages 6 and up

"And a teaspoon of soil can have as many as a billion microbes. That's about the same as the number of people in the whole of India. Microbes live everywhere - in the sea, on land, in the soil, and in the air. They live in places where nothing else does, like in volcanoes, or inside rocks, or at the back of your fridge."

In a book meant to help young children understand just how tiny a microbe is, and what it is, Nicola Davies uses all of her incredible talent to bring that world to her readers. Her size comparisons even helped me to put it all in perspective. Each is a pretty amazing creature!

"Right now there are more microbes living on your skin than there are people on Earth, and there are ten or even a hundred times as many as that in your stomach."

EWWWWW!

"(Don't worry! Although some microbes make you sick, the ones that live in you and on you all the time help to keep you well.)"

OK...that's encouraging, right? They may be small, but they have a huge impact in our world. We need to know about them so that we can be thankful for all that they do for us. As you may know, if you are a regular reader of this blog, I do not consider myself scientific in any way. I believe that my brain goes sideways whenever talk turns to science. In books like these, I begin to think that even I can learn scientific material without overextending my brain. Thanks to such informative text, and to a writer who knows how to share it with her audience, I have a sense of the immensity of the job these microbes do and a better understanding of what they are!

Emily Sutton's winning illustrations perfectly complement Ms. Davies' words. I love the way she shows how the E. coli microbe reproduces so quickly, giving children a real sense of that growth over a twelve-hour period. Astounding! The book's design is very appealing and is sure to garner second looks.

They may be invisible to the human eye, but there is no doubt that they have a tremendous impact. This book is sure to be useful when trying to help young readers understand germs, fermentation and composting for enhanced garden growth. It is not a subject often discussed with this age group. Now, teachers and parents have help in bringing it to a child's attention. Well done!
                                                          
7

The Ultimate Construction Site Book, by Anne-Sophie Baumann and Didier Balicevic. Editions Tourbillon, Chronicle. Raincoast, 2014. $21.99 ages 9 and up

"To make the ground beneath the road more stable, the workers add lime and cement. The road reclaimer pulverizes the material into an even layer.

When a busy road is built through an area that is filled with wildlife, the animals need a safe place to cross to the other side. Sometimes a special tunnel is built..."

I opened the cover to the title page and made a complete stop to take a look at the many different building materials the children pictured were using in their own special constructions...blocks of all kinds, a wagon, a dump truck, a crane, hard hats, even a barrier for safety. I can hear the talk as young listeners share stories of the things that they build when they have the chance; and they haven't even begun to explore this stellar book!

Moving beyond that, we have access to a variety of sites...from start to finish we watch as a building goes up, view a nighttime scene of cranes at work, see all the work that goes into building a brand new road, a subway, bridges, a roller coaster, an airplane, a ship and finally, to a child's great delight, a traveling circus tent.

The spreads take up two pages, and are filled with so many details they will never all be seen at one sitting. That just ensures it will not be a book that is pushed aside for something more interesting. If that should happen, a child will miss the delight of lifting flaps, opening folds, helping things rise up and come down, pulling tabs and going back to do it all again. All of those actions bring life to the sites being explored, and are not to be missed.

It won't take long to find a favorite page and set yourself to exploring each and every interactive bit of it. Many young children will spend endless time outside watching those places where new things are being built. Here there are more than 60 interactive parts to help them see what happens behind the scenes of some of the best and most fascinating construction sites. There's color, there's action and many questions will be asked and answered in an exploration of its ten incredible spreads.

You might also want to check out its companion book,  The Ultimate Book of Vehicles, which was published earlier this year.  

http://youtu.be/PVSBq72zuR0

Giant Vehicles, written by Rod Green and illustrated by Stephen Biesty. templar books, Candlewick Press, Random House. 2014. $18.00 ages 5 and up

"The biggest type of submarine ever built was called the Typhoon, and six of them were made for the Russian navy in the 1980s. Ten times as wide as a bus, the Typhoon was as long as a 17-bus traffic jam..."

Take a good look at that cover, and you are sure to start thinking about the readers who will want to have it in their hands. Giant vehicles is right...eight of them!

The coal car is the first to make an appearance, in its place behind a locomotive on the super-train. The two page spread stretches from corner diagonally to the opposite corner and shows readers all the parts of the train that is wending its way across the two pages. The train cars are endless, and all contain coal. It takes three engines to haul the attached cars:

"One locomotive is strong enough to pull a normal train, but some trains are so huge they need seven! The locomotives are not always grouped together, a train might have some at the front, some in the middle, and some at the back."

Other vehicles described are the giant jumbo, the whopper chopper, rocket to the moon, the mighty dumper, the floating hotel, and finally a sub sandwich (as described above). Each of these mammoth means of transport were designed to haul huge loads on land, in the sea and through air and space. You cannot help but be impressed.

Stephen Biesty does his usual incredible job when illustrating these amazing machines. The details are precise enough that we are able to see workers and passengers. The captions and labels provide just enough information to intrigue without overwhelming readers, and the cross-sections and small flaps offer a close look at their inner workings. The extra small images that surround the main illustration provide for further study.

Accessible and endlessly fascinating, this is a book that will long be appreciated for those who have a love for engineering and immensity. WOW!
                                                                            

Voices From the Wild, written by David Bouchard and illustrated by Ron Parker. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2014. $24.95 ages 6 and up

"We are drifters in the night.
You have trembled at our moon call.
In a pack we roam the woods,
And we know that you are present,
Yes, we know you by your scent.

If you're looking for the proof,
Our sense of smell is legendary.
There are those who could convince you
Who aren't hear to tell the tale."

I am thrilled to see a re-issue of this marvellous book, aptly subtitled An Animal Sensagoria. I still have my original, well-loved and somewhat tattered copy. While I was teaching, I shared it often in classrooms and in a library setting. Children were blown away by the discoveries they made about animals they clearly recognized, and were often astounded by the true nature of their powerful senses.

I first heard it read when David came to our school to share his love and excitement for reading. It was great fun to listen, and to guess along with those eager listeners the animal he was describing in his poems. David held their attention time after time. He also worked hard to keep them from shouting out their guesses until he had finished reading the poem. The excitement to share ideas would build, and he would ask them what they thought. Every child was immersed in the experience as they paid close attention to the words of each of the poems.

This new smaller format will be much appreciated, as it is easier to hold for reading to a group, and easier for young hands to carry home. Ron Parker's impressive wildlife paintings of  twenty-five international animals won a new fan for him the first time I saw them. They are quite extraordinary, allowing readers a chance to see each of the animals in their natural environment, and close-up. The book is divided into five sections, one for each of the senses. The animals vie for the artist's attention by touting their own brilliance in their quest to be included here. Their voices are compelling and telling.

A question about humans is asked at the end of each section, concerning that particular sense:

"What about us? What's the reason
That we've not been featured here?

What's happened to our sense of touch,
That doesn't seem to serve too much,
Unless we're seeking comfort
In a world that's filled with things?

What about us as you see it?
What happened to our touch?"

An appendix includes thumbnail sketches and additional useful information to help readers learn more about these animals, and page numbers offer a quick trip back to reread their plea for acknowledgement as the most unique in this verbal battle of senses.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

What's So Yummy? All About Eating Well and Feeling Good. Written by Robie Harris and illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2014. $18.00 ages 3 and up

"Eating many kinds of food helps us feel healthy and good. So each day it's important to eat plenty of vegetables and fruit. It's also important to eat some fish, or eggs, or chicken or other meat - or tofu, beans, peas or nuts. Some brown rice, or whole-grain breads, cereal or pasta..."

This is the fourth in the series called Let's Talk About You and Me, and its format follows a winning pattern. Meant to serve up information for young children, it is plain talking and provides information about staying healthy because of the foods eaten and the activities enjoyed.

On the first page a bold statement is shared, and the two kids comment by way of speech balloons:

Everybody everywhere needs to eat and drink.

Hey, Gus, it's picnic day! What I love about picnics is all the good food we get to eat. It's so yummy!

Nellie, what I love is running all around the park with our puppy, who loves to run, too. It's so fun!"

Cartoon art allows readers to journey along with the family as they set about visiting their community garden plot, add to their purchases at a farmer's market and make their final stop at the grocery store to get the rest of the items on their list.

As they make these stops, they also take time to have a healthy snack and some much needed water. At home, they unpack their many foods. All the while the two are providing a running commentary on the benefits of eating the right foods and getting enough exercise. They also discuss those foods that do not provide for healthy living. They talk about their likes and dislikes, not always agreeing:

"I never liked green peppers, but I tasted one every day this week. Now I think they're delish!

I love food, Nellie. But only SOME kinds of food. So I eat red peppers every day, but never green."

The children talk, the author explains, and the illustrator creates colorful, appealing digital visuals to help young children understand the connections between shopping for good foods, creating wholesome and delicious meals and sharing them at a picnic in the park. It's all good!

                          

Friday, October 17, 2014

True or False: The Book of Big Questions and Unbelievable Answers.Written by Andrea Mills. DK Publishing, Tourmaline Editions, Inc. 2014. $20.99 ages 10 and up

"True or False? Robots will take over the world. The modern world has been revolutionized by robots - automated machines programmed to perform tasks. At least 10 million robots exist, but world domination is beyond them. Robots cannot show initiative or react spontaneously. They are always ultimately following human instructions."


Here's another of those books from DK Publishing that is sure to keep kids reading for hours, in an attempt to find out what is true or false about their world and some of the strange and funny things they have been told.

The table of contents tells us that the book is divided into 6 sections - human body, nature, science and technology, space, earth, and history and culture. Readers can skip straight to the page that holds the most interest for them, and just read on. I found myself reading through the statements and heading to the one that I had not heard, or that I wanted to see if what I thought was right. There were many statements I had never even considered.

The format is familiar, and satisfying. The section is introduced and followed up with double page spreads that open with a true or false banner, the statement is made, and then answered with the real deal about it. The spread also includes other facts that have to do with each of the parts of that section. We are left with a question to consider. For instance, the robot page asks: "How many car production workers are robots?" Just prior to the index, the answer is given: 'One in every 10 car production workers is a robot."

Of course, there are the trademark colorful photos, clear illustrations and credible infographics we have come to expect that this exemplary publisher. There is much to learn here. You will know exactly the reader who will benefit from finding this book in the classroom or home library.

The Farmer and the Clown, by Marla Frazee. Beach Lane Books, Simon & Schuster, 2014. $21.99 ages 3 and up

"Home.

You know where it is
when you're there.

But sometimes you
get separated from home,
and you may need a little
help finding your way back."

In this tender story of community and connection, and without a word being said, Marla Frazee will open your heart to the possibilities of new friendships. In a recent interview at Horn Book magazine, she talked about 'emotional engagement'.

"I try to play it out in my mind to see whether there's something there to follow - what I would call the beating heart of that idea. If I can't find it, I won't be engaged in the idea anymore."

The heart of this idea is brilliantly portrayed in the engagement that comes when a stern, hardworking farmer stops his work to watch a circus train pass on nearby railway tracks. As he watches, he is surprised to see a small form fall from the back of the train. He goes to investigate and finds a tiny clown, sitting and holding his toes. In pantomime, the clown shows the farmer what has happened and ends his pantomime clinging to the farmer's thin legs.

Standoffish, but not unreasonable, the farmer grasps the little one's hand and they walk off together. A farmhouse offers conversation, food, washing up and a dilemma. Bedtime is fraught with worry for the unmasked clown. The farmer sits with him through the night. Morning brings unfettered delight, a sustaining meal and much work. They do it together!

When a lunchtime picnic is in order, the two take their rest under a shady tree - just in time to see the circus train's return. Off they go! We are left with conflicted feelings about the reunion...and a very funny and satisfying ending.

Black Prismacolor pencil and gouache are used with great skill to show readers a lot about changing mood, about the characters themselves, and the real pleasure to be found in new friends. I love the trade they make at the end. It is sure to provide a constant and happy reminder of their day together.

This book is an outstanding work of art...and story! So much is conveyed without saying a word. Its many nuances are carefully constructed to ensure that readers have full access to its timeless tale of friendship. Surely it will be a Caldecott contender. Bravo, Ms. Frazee!
                                                                          

BEFORE AFTER, by Anne-Margot Ramstein & matthias Aregui. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2014. $23.00 ages 4 and up


"Everyone knows that a tiny acorn grows into a mighty oak and a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. But in this clever, visually enchanting volume, it's also true that a cow can result in both a bottle of milk and a painting of a cow, and an ape in the jungle may become an urban King Kong. No words are necessary... (from the back cover)"

There is not much to tell you about this new book from two French artists...but to say that I think it just beautiful, and thought-provoking, and that the words related to it will come fast and furiously from those who share it!

It is a study in two words only...before, and after. They are only shared on the front cover. The conversations that it will spark are sure to be countless and inspired. As you turn  from one digital image to the next, you will note their connections; you will be entertained; you will laugh; and you may even stop to carefully reflect on what is being presented to you and those who are looking at it with you.

What happens over time to pink spring blossoms that invite and welcome bees, and a bird looking to build a nest, to their tree? Could it be that tree grows larger leaves, its blossoms turn to apples, and the parent bird feeds its young fledglings a worm from one of those apples? It could be!

Not every pair (or more) of images conjures an easy answer. There are times when careful consideration must be given to the passing of time, and its results. The images are simply constructed to make it accessible for young readers, while also being inviting enough for older readers to take the time to investigate its many natural and seasonal changes.

There are few humans in sight. But, there are connections made that are sure to evoke talk about how they relate to familiar tales. It is not an ongoing story. The artists have just provided an invitation to talk and honor memories for the parents and children who share it.
                                                                     

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Cat at the Wall, by Deborah Ellis. Groundwood Books, 2014. $9.95 ages 10 and up

"...although no one calls me Clare anymore. No one calls me anything anymore. I died when I was thirteen and came back as a cat. A stray cat in a strange place, very far from home. One moment I was walking out of my middle school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. There there was a period of darkness, like being asleep. When I woke up, I was in Bethlehem - the real one. And I was a cat."

This is a most interesting book to read. It is unlike any that I have read from Deborah Ellis; and yet, it is not. It is a compelling story from Bethlehem, Israel about a sly and vocal cat, two soldiers, a young boy and a mission. The cat speaks because it was once a girl named Clare. Its voice is unique and totally believable due to Ms. Ellis' impressive writing skill. As she has so capably done before, she is able to introduce her readers to an ongoing war that they may know only from news headlines.

The girl Clare died (while texting) when hit by a truck as she left her middle school. Reincarnation came in the form of a cat, and in a land far from her Pennsylvania home. Today, she forages for food, always wary of other cats and only wanting a place to rest. Tensions are high for all who live in the West Bank. Clare is not immune to the conflict.

The underlying theme of the entire book is conflict...and is shared by Clare from both perspectives. Chapters move back and forth from her previous life to her present one. In both places, Clare is mostly concerned with herself, and only learns to care about others due to the circumstances of the story. Her wry sense of humor offers readers an occasional respite from the ongoing and escalating disputes between student and teacher, and between soldiers and civilians.

Clare the cat escapes certain death when two Israeli Defense soldiers enter a Palestinian home. She is in the right place at exactly the right time, and scrambles indoors with them. She learns that they are using the home to spy on others. They do not know that a child is hiding inside. Clare discovers Omar first, and listens to him as he relentlessly recites the poem Desiderata. The words bring back memories of Clare's former life and a teacher whose detention assignment was to write the words of that same poem...once for every detention. Clare, the middle grader, is adept at putting herself in spots where detention is the result. As she writes and rewrites the poem, she pays no attention to its meaning. There is power in its words for both the young lady and the cat.

I think that the best thing about this book is that Deborah Ellis quietly and with the greatest care nudges us to realize that we can make a difference in our world. Her dedication 'to those who bring kindness to chaos' is a reminder that I want to be in that procession!