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Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Three Billy Goats Gruff, by Jerry Pinkney. Little, Brown and Company. Hachette, 2017. $23.49 all ages

"It's only I," the littlest billy goat squeaked. "I'm heading up the hillside to make myself fat." "I'm going to gobble you up!" declared the troll. "Oh, no, don't eat me!" cried the littlest goat. "Wait until the next billy goat crosses. He's much bigger than me."

Wait! There are two things I want to share before I tell you anything else about this newest book by the incomparable Jerry Pinkney. One: if you have never read one of his author's notes, please do so this time! He makes them so darned fascinating and thoughtful. They always give me pause. Two: If you want your kids to know what a troll really looks like, I cannot imagine a more accurate creature!

Now, to the tale itself. I am hoping that you know it, and that you have shared it with your kids. It is a trickster tale if they have ever heard one. Three members of a goat family can see that the grass truly is greener on the other side of the bridge. They are willing to take a chance with the menacing troll living under that bridge to satisfy their need for it. They know him to be heartless and cruel.

The littlest goat is also the hungriest. He is old enough to read the BEWARE sign; he is also brave. His tiny hoofs capture the troll's attention, as we knew they would. He uses his size to allow a safe crossing. And, so it goes for the second troll. While the littlest trotted, the second troll stomps, is allowed to pass after some threatening bravado on the troll's part.

Finally, he meets his match. The biggest goat storms the gate that offers a warning to those who dare to pass through it and onto the bridge. A fearful contest ensues. The troll is dislodged as is familiar to young readers. Then, Mr. Pinkney adds his own twist to the traditional tale - a less violent, and perhaps even more hopeful, conclusion.

There is little to be said about his glorious artwork, except that it is glorious! 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Thirsty, Thirsty Elephants, written by Sandra Markle and illustrated by Fabricio VandenBroeck. Charlesbridge, Random House, 2017. $19.99 ages 4 and up

"Another dry day follows.
There have been many in
this long drought. Grandma
keeps the herd close to the
river. But each day, the
water level drops.

Finally, there's barely
enough for the gazelles,
zebras, and giraffes."

Children who cannot imagine being without life-sustaining water for themselves will clearly be very concerned for the herd of elephants described in this striking new book by noted author Sandra Markle. She chronicles their search for water during a time of severe drought on the savannah.

In an author's note she tells her audience about an matriarch leader, Big Mama. In 1994 in Tanzania, a years long drought made finding any water virtually impossible. A researcher at the time was interested in Big Mama who had lived through two such droughts. One, as a calf, and the current one. He believed her memory of the first search helped her lead her family to a new source of water.

Sandra Markle has a penchant for finding inspiration in real animals. So, we meet Grandma! She smells water and leads the way. Mother elephant follows with Little Calf in tow. Finding that first river offers some relief. Many other animals share what is there. The herd moves on, keeping close to the water even as its level drops. Soon, there is not enough for their needs. They must find water elsewhere. Lead on, Grandma.

Fabricio VandenBroeck's stunning artwork is done in acrylics and watercolors. The illustrations allow readers an up close and personal trek alongside the elephant herd, almost tasting the dust and feeling the energy-zapping heat. The landscapes are as detailed as the elephants themselves. Little Calf, so cute and learning all the time, adds just the touch of humor needed to allay fears for the herd as it makes its way, finally to WATER.

The author's note, further facts about elephants and a list of resources bring the book to a close.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Claymates, written by Dev Petty and illustrated by Lauren Eldridge. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2017. $22.49 ages 4 and up

"You definitely shouldn't do

Why not?
I can fix it.

Don't I look loooovely?

You look like you're
going to get us in

Where do your ideas come from? That is one of the first questions kids want answered when they have a chance to talk about the books they love with artists and writers they admire. I can just hear their questions after reading this extremely funny book for the first (and not the last) time.

Two blobs - one is gray, one is brown - await their fate. They are slightly concerned, but also hopeful. A pair of hands painstakingly sculpts them into two brand new objects. A gray wolf and a brown owl now face one another, relieved that the work is done.

"Finally, she's gone.

That took a really long time.

And it was SOOOOO boring.

But look at us ...
we're perfect.

Hey, watch this!"

From then on, it is a constant contest between the two. Who can recreate themselves in the most astonishing way possible? It is quite the game they play, and will certainly hold the attention of readers and listeners as they go back and forth, their expressive googly eyes showing every emotion they are feeling. The funny business continues until footsteps are heard nearby, and the two realize they are about to be discovered.

"Uh-oh. I think she's coming
back! What should we do?

I don't know! This
was your idea ... and
it was a BAD one.

Let's just fix ourselves.

What do you think?"

The artist returns, squishes them back into shape, completes her planned work, and then returns the two to their original condition. Do you think they will be happy with that?

The dialogue is spot on, and the sculptures give each character a terrific personality to match. Photographs of the artist's table provide the setting, and page panels help tell their story. Wonderful!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

My Pictures After the Storm, by Eric Veille. Translated by Daniel Hahn. Gecko Press, Thomas Allen & Son. @017. $26.99 ages 5 and up





boiled spinach


And after lunch, those pictures take on a completely new look and meaning.

In this before and after look at variety in situations, Eric Veille draws cartoons on facing pages, meant to show the changes that can occur when something takes place. Before lunch, and after lunch. Before the baby and after the baby. Before the storm, and after the storm. Each view is full of fun and surprise and causes those sharing it to stop for a moment and take a closer look at what they are actually seeing.

A storm wreaks chaos and even embarrassment. An elephant changes the landscape in mere seconds. Lunch occasions changes in what is meant to be part of it ... well, not for every single thing. A swim not only changes the child's demeanor, but results in a big mess of soggy togs.

It looks like a book geared toward little ones. There is much more to consider here. The contrast from one page to another will cause readers to giggle, and think on what has caused the changes wrought. The language is rich and enlightening, the expressions droll, and the imagination extended to new heights.

Your kids, no matter their ages, will want to share it again, and you won't mind that a bit. You will share many happy moments as you find new things to tickle your fancy each time you sit down to have another look. Mischievous and very clever, this is a book for the 'keepers' shelf.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Poor Louie, written and illustrated by Tony Fucile. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2017. $23.00 ages 5 and up

"Oh. Hello.

You're probably wondering
what I'm doing here in the dark.
By myself. With all this stuff.

If you guessed that I tried to run
away tonight, you're right.
I did.

Why? Well, it's a long story."

It may be long. Louie's right about that. But, it's such fun to read. You will never feel the slightest inkling that it's too long. In fact, you will likely be sad when it's over. You will surely want to know more about Louie and his brand new life. Wait! I am getting ahead of myself. Louie wants to share his turmoil and troubles. So, let's give him the stage.

In a most winsome voice, Louie shares just exactly what has happened to get him to this place and time - and to his decision to run away from home. In the beginning, there is nothing wrong with his life. In fact, it's great. He is walked, adored, fed well, clothed, and pampered in every way. He doesn't even mind being a part of the friendly dates his mistress shares with others. Then, things begin to change dramatically.

Those dates suddenly take on a new look. First, one baby. Then, more and more. Louie is the center of attention for their grabbing and pulling and squeezing. Luckily, they do eventually go home. Life returns to perfect. Until it isn't! Every day brings new changes, and a shopping spree. Louie begins to understand that two of everything cannot be good for his future.

"One of those creatures I could handle.
But two? No way.

Then Mom and Dad just rushed off and left me all
alone. Not even a kiss good-bye!

Well, that was the last straw. I got all my things
together and ran away. Forever."

Or does he? And should he?

I am a big fan of Tony Fucile's pencil and watercolor artwork. He is able to convey such emotion on every page, changing perspectives and sharing humor that will have listeners (and readers) enjoying the total experience. Then, they will want to share it all over again ... and again!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Wake Up! By Helen Frost and Rick Lieder. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2017. $22.00 all ages

"That might be an ant -

but look -

it flies!

At the edge of the pond,
where frogs croak and kiss,
look into the water -
what is this?"

In their fourth book together, Helen Frost and Rick Lieder turn to the little ones - the young and awesome. It is a fabulous invitation to our own young ones to get outside and see what's there. The remarkable photographs and lively text encourage careful attention, and a whole lot of wonder!

What an exploration they offer from the comfort of our chairs! Just imagine what else might be out there for our pleasure and observation. There are familiar babies here - and they are close enough that we can really concentrate on everything that is so special about them. If you get outside to see them, you will be adding the sounds, the smells, and the beauty of capturing nature through our own lenses and senses.

Mr. Lieder catches a tadpole as it ascends through water, a fawn in sunny repose, a cygnet finding its way into the world, a hungry baby bird awaiting sustenance. The sunlight and shadows cast are captured beautifully.

Ah, spring ... you bring such marvels.

For readers wanting just a bit more, end matter provides thumbnails of each glorious photograph and names their subject, with just a touch of added interest.

"White-tailed deer babies, called
fawns, have white spots, which
makes them harder to see in the
dappled sunlight on a forest floor."                                                   

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Amazing Bees, by Sue Unstead. DK Canada. 2016. $4.99 ages 5 and up

"The honeybee lives in a big
family group. Each bee has its
own special job to do. Beekeepers
provide a home for the bees called
a beehive. They can keep their bees
safe and collect the honey.

Beekeepers always leave enough
honey for the bees to eat."

I thought this would be a valuable addition for today's post, as Gerald Kelley introduced hard-working bees in Benedict's story.

In Amazing Bees (a beginning to read book) from DK, little ones will get the scoop on the work and wonder of being a bee. Bees are busy as you know ... and they play a very important role in the way the world of nature works. In brief, accessible text, readers learn what makes bees so special, what they are and their anatomy, their life cycle and the work that they do for us.

There is also a selection of amazing bee facts:

Honey bees build honeycombs
with perfect six-sided cells.

Bees must visit two million
flowers to make one jar of

A worker bee makes about one-twelfth
of a teaspoon of honey in its lifetime.

A bee will only sting if you disturb it,
and only female bees have a stinger."

And that is not all you will learn in this well-designed book, filled with pertinent information and colorful photographs. Now, you know the rest of the story.

Bravo, bees!

Don't forget to check out

Please Please the Bees, by Gerald Kelley. Albert Whitman and Company, Thomas Allen & Son. 2017. $24.99 ages 3 and up

"Benedict became
deeply discouraged.
Just then he heard
someone say, "Hey,
you! In the fur coat!"
It was a very small
bee with a remarkably
loud voice. "We need
to talk!" said the bee.
"Talk? Hmmmph!"
grumbled Benedict."

Oh, my! Benedict loves nothing more than honey. It is on his toast in the morning and in his tea at bedtime. He is one content bear when there is honey on the menu. He loves it when his days go from one familiar thing to the next. He is ill-prepared for a life-changing event.

On the day when NO honey is delivered, and a visiting bee carries an important message about a strike, Benedict's life changes in an instant, causing great consternation for the overindulged bear. Not one thing goes right all day long. He is unimpressed when another bee comes to plead their case. He has no need for talk, until ...

The bee explains that having Benedict's yard to live in is not enough. Their hive is a mess.

"It's all we can do to keep the walls from falling in!
The roof leaks. Winds blow through the cracks.
The last three queens up and quit on us because
of the lousy working conditions."
And that is not all! The yard is overgrown with weeds, no flowers in sight. To strike is the only feasible result of the neglect. It gets Benedict to thinking on how he might help to make things better.
He is a quick study and the results of his work are quite remarkable.

The pace for the story is perfect for little ones, the characters are engaging, and the artwork is often funny, and full of emotion. There is much for readers to see and to learn as they share this plea to please the bees!