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Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Cookie Fiasco, written and illustrated by Dan Santat. Hyperion Books for Children, Hachette. 2016. $$10.99 ages 6 and up




Stop that!
Show us the cookies!"

We all knew how much we would miss Elephant and Piggie, didn't we? So, I was very happy to receive this first book in a new series, Elephant and Piggie Like Reading. Even better to know that Dan Santat was responsible for the laughs, the learning and growing the love of little ones for independently connecting with a picture book.

Gerald and Piggie provide an introduction:

"I want to read this funny book!
Me, too!
But how can the 2 of us read this 1 book?
We can read it 2-together!"

Perfect premise for a book that is filled with grand voices and an even grander problem. There are four friends here, and only three cookies. It is Crocodile notes the dilemma and shares his discovery with great consternation.


The rest of the book is spent with the friends trying to deal with the untenable situation ... all with great drama and much hilarity. Kids are going to love reading it together. To say that Hippo, Crocodile, and the two Squirrels have a math deficiency is stating the obvious, and readers will be wanting to help them sort through their problem. What a fun way to learn about sharing, fractions and problem solving!

The color-coded speech balloons will help a group of four reading friends as they share the book, and would provide a great drama to be acted out for their classmates. Now, that is loving reading! The surprise ending simply ups the enjoyment.

Piggie and Gerald bring closure to an auspicious beginning for this brilliant new series.

"That was a fun book!"
"But now I am hungry for a cookie!
Now I am thirsty for milk!
Good books make me feel big things ... "

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

I DON'T WANT TO BE BIG, written by Dev Petty and illustrated by Mike Boldt. Doubleday, Penguin. 2016. $21.99 ages 4 and up

"You can't stay small forever.
An ant stays small forever.
So now you want to be an ant?
Not really.
Don't you want to be tall?
I have you to be tall for me.
You can just carry me around. That will work out great."

I hope you recognize this incredibly expressive frog from his first rant about not wanting to be one. In 2015's I Don't Want To Be A Frog, he provided a glorious voice for reading out loud to groups of little ones who understood exactly why he had that particular complaint. Kids would often like to be something other than themselves.

This time he has decided that he has no interest in getting any bigger. Should he do so, it is bound to change his life as he lives it. His father tries to appeal to what he believes his son ultimately should want - to be bigger! Wrong! Dad offers up a few reasons; all are pooh-poohed by the youngster. He doesn't care to meet the bulgy-eyed tree frogs. He doesn't care how high food is placed. After all, he has friends big enough to help him when he needs help.

He does have some strong arguments for remaining the same ... leg and head room, being able to find a good hiding place for hide-and-seek. On a 1-10 scale for being sure about remaining as he is, he sits at 11. It is not until Pig comes along to help him really understand the value in being bigger than he is, and to recognize that being big doesn't mean you have to grow up.

Mike Boldt keeps the facial expressions absolutely in line with each personality. The concerns on each frog's part are clear and comical. This new adventure is funny and certainly great fun to read aloud. Now, I just have to find a classroom where I can share it! I will be sure to take their first book along ... just in case I have some extra time.

Oh, and there is a surprise ending that just might provide a clue to Frog's next complaint!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Narwhal, written by Solomon Awa and illustrated by Hwei Lim. Polar Bear, written by William Flaherty and illustrated by Danny Christopher. Inhabit Media, Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2016. $15,.95 ages 8 and up

"Narwhals usually travel in groups of about 10 to 20 whales. A group of narwhals is called a "pod." In the winter they live in deep water that is covered in ice. In the spring, narwhals move toward land, and by the summer they live in shallower water closer to land."
Kids will learn about how narwhal raise their young in the cold Arctic Ocean, what they eat, and where they can be found, along with other interesting information, like the fact that a narwhal’s long tusk is actually a tooth!
"Most bears are land animals, but polar bears are unique! They live on the land, the sea ice and in open water. Polar bears are very adaptable. In the summer months, they can be found on land and along the shoreline. During the winter they can travel great distances out onto the sea ice, and they use the sea ice to hunt from." 
In the book Polar Bear, kids will learn how polar bears raise their babies, what they eat and how they hunt, where they can be found and other interesting information, like the fact that polar bears actually have transparent fur and black skin!

In this new nonfiction series from Inhabit Media, called Animals Illustrated, young readers will learn many facts about the featured animal. These books about animals living in the Arctic include first hand accounts from the authors who live there, and many interesting facts concerning behavior and biology. The accompanying illustrations are detailed and give evidence for the natural northern beauty of their habitat.

Each has a useful table of contents, and welcome notes on their authors and illustrators.   

Monday, October 24, 2016

Blocks, written and illustrated by Irene Dickson. Nosy Crow, Candlewick. Random House, 2016. $20.00 ages 2 and up

"Ruby has red blocks.

Ruby builds with her red

Benji has blue blocks.

Benji builds with his blue

All is well until Benji reaches across the book's gutter to take one of Ruby's red blocks. Ruby cannot hide her concern and amazement at his audacity. What is he thinking?

Toddlers know exactly what Benji is thinking, while also understanding just exactly how Ruby is feeling about it. You have heard the word "Mine" often if you are living with, or have lived with, a toddler who has not quite learned the concept of sharing and its value to play. Both children are bent on keeping hold of the red block in question ... that is, until there is a catastrophic CRASH!

What to do? As so often happens, without adult intervention, the problem is quickly solved when the two use blocks of both colors to build a collaborative project together.

An opportune turn to the final page adds a new dimension. Here comes Guy, his wagon filled with green blocks. Now, what? It is left to young listeners to decide for themselves what happens next.

Oh, my! The illustrations are beautifully designed to give context to this wonderful evolving story. The front endpapers feature red and blue blocks of all shapes. The children are center of attention as they are introduced, one working on one side of the book (verso), the other working on the facing page (recto). Both are happy and engaged until ...

Check out the back endpapers. They may give a clue that will add to any follow-up discussion.

Simple, yet stunning!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Best Man, by Richard Peck. Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin. 2016. $22.99 ages 10 and up

"So then it was fifth grade with all the same crowd plus a new kid. Our big teeth were in, and our faces were catching up. Now I was fourth tallest behind two of the Joshes and the new kid, Raymond Petrovich, who was Gifted. Except for a girl named Esther Wilhelm, who was taller than everybody and never said anything. Fifth grade was the year we had three different teachers and a lockdown ... "

Today I want to tell you about the absolutely incomparable Richard Peck's new novel. I have not yet read all that he has written but I am on a continuing quest to change that.

When The Best Man arrived I set aside everything else that I was reading to get to know Archer Magill and the amazing men in his life. His story begins with a wedding when he is 6, and ends with another when he is 12. He is an integral part of both. Being a ring bearer at 6 came as a big unwanted surprise, and he did his best to avoid being there. He was found and his trip down the aisle was the stuff legends are made of - ripped pants and no underwear underneath them, he became the star of the show and the 'butt' of a host of jokes.

In fifth grade he is living the unenviable life of many ... all the drama, the changing body and voice, challenging friendships, and coming of age. The school lockdown which hilariously welcomes a new student teacher to Archer's class brings change.Warrant Officer Ed McLeod's arrival is obviously full of drama; very soon, his good looks and skill at teaching make him a celebrity to his students. The fact that he is gay is eventually revealed when bullying becomes an issue at their school. Add to that the fact that Ed is attracted to Archer's much admired and loved Uncle Paul. When their wedding date is set, who is asked to be best man? Why Archer, of course! No untoward incidents this time. And so, the book ends as it began ... with a wedding!

The years between weddings are shared through admirable writing, and filled with the humor that I so love about Mr. Peck's stories. Archer's voice is exceptional; his view of the world is sincere, yet impossibly innocent at times. He has remarkable role models to help him navigate his ever-changing world. His father and grandfather love him and assure that he has support and advice when it is needed. Uncle Paul and Ed, and their developing relationship, help him navigate a new social climate. He learns about being a man through his many interactions with the wonderful men in his life, and about what love is.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

A Child of Books, by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2016.$22.00 all ages

"Some people have
forgotten where I live

But along these words
I can show you the way.

We will travel over
mountains of make-believe

Discover treasure in the
darkness ... "

If you have not yet returned to some of the classic stories that your family read together, or that you read on your own after you scanned lists of books worthy of your time and attention, this might just be the ticket you need to inspire you to take that step back and reread some of them.

Two artists have merged their equally impressive talents to produce a book that pays homage to the power of story to impact and change lives. Sam Winston's fine art is displayed in museums and galleries around the globe. Oliver Jeffers has written and illustrated a number of much-loved books for children. Their collaboration is unique, detailed and full of color and action. Mr. Winston has designed wordy ingenious landscapes, while Mr. Jeffers has hand-lettered the text and added the characters and other fine details. The excerpts taken from many classic books, nursery rhymes, and fairy tales are cleverly placed to have a real impact. Together, they provide a journey sure to captivate all readers.

The child of books is keen to lead her traveling companion on a voyage of discovery across the seas, through forests, and over mountains as they navigate the adventures that books provide. Their joy manifests itself in colorful and vibrant images and words. I love the final transformation from a row of varied colorless homes into a bright gathering of real books.

There is much for the audience to read as lines from a number of works make up the landscapes - clever and inspiring. The titles of all books excerpted are listed on the endpapers in endless repetition. I have a smile on my face every time I read it. What a celebration!

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill. Algonquin Young Readers, Thomas Allen & Son. 2016. $25.95 ages 10 and up

"She closed her eyes and laughed. Antain stepped backward. He felt a shiver at the sound of her laugh, as though someone was slowly pouring a tin of cold water down his back. He looked up at the paper birds hanging from the ceiling. Strange, but all of them were suspended from what looked like strands of long, black, wavy hair."

The people of the Protectorate have been brainwashed to believe that the Day of the Sacrifice (the abandonment of the community's youngest baby) is the only way to keep themselves safe from the evil clutches of a fearsome witch who makes her home in the nearby forest. Indeed, a witch does live there. She is not in any way as she is portrayed by the elders.

In fact, she is appalled by the elders' actions, and cares for those abandoned babies by feeding them starlight and taking them to loving homes on the other side of the forest where they will be happily adopted. Captivated by the beauty in her dark eyes, her crescent moon birthmark, and her obvious delight in the world, Xan accidentally feeds this baby both starlight and moonlight.

"There is magic in starlight, of course. This is well known. But because the light travels such a long distance, the magic in it is fragile and diffused, stretched into the most delicate of threads. There is enough magic in starlight to content a baby and fills its belly, and in large enough quantities, starlight can awaken the best in that baby's heart and soul and mind. It is enough to bless, not to enmagic. Moonlight, however. That is a different story. Moonlight is magic. Ask anyone you like."

Xan cannot, in good conscience, find Luna a home with an unsuspecting family. So, she returns home to raise Luna along with the bog monster and dragon who are already part of her family. Luna is happy, and has no idea of the powerful magic that is hers. Xan tries to protect her with a spell meant to keep the magic in check until Luna is 13, and can better understand what it is and how to control it.

Always overwhelmed with sadness after the loss of another child each year, the people of the Protectorate feel the effects of Luna's emerging magic and they begin to change, which does not make the elders happy. Bereavement has held them captive and kept them controlled by their leaders. There are many twists and turns as the story unfolds; each strand of this somewhat complicated tale has love at its heart, and the author is able to weave those strands together in a way that is sure to satisfy readers and leave them wanting to know more about the characters they have come to know, love, and admire. There is, after all, magic involved.