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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Eat your greens reds yellows and purples, edited by Sadie Thomas. DK Canada, 2016. $15.99 ages 6 and up

"HOWDY, ALL! First up, there's bold broccoli, then there's amazing avocado, followed by luscious lime, powerful peas, great green beans, and last, but not least, strong spinach! Greens are good for your overall health and, in particular, your blood and heart ... I'm high in antioxidants, which help to slow down wear and tear on your body's cells."

If you want to up the vegetables and fruits that your family is eating, it's so important for kids to buy into the idea. What better way than to have them help prepare a family meal? To that end, I want to tell you about this wonderful new book from DK Publishing. You know how much I love their books!

As you can tell by the title, this one gives guidance in getting more greens, reds, yellows, purples and oranges into your diet. There is a section carefully prepared for each of the colors, and each of those sections begins with the reasons for eating that color, and then introducing those fruits and vegetables that will be used in the delicious recipes to follow. The recipes are presented in double page spreads, each with a numbered method for preparation, a list of the ingredients that will be used and clear, colorful photographs meant to make your mouth water.

In the green section, I chose first to try the green bean stir-fry (AMAZING!) and then the Black Bean and Guacamole Quesadilla (sure to a favorite for my soon-to-be-visiting granddaughter). Both will become part of my meal plan. With sections on reds, yellows, purples and oranges to go, I'm sure you will find some family favorites as well. Red Pepper Hummus, Layered Berry Cheesecakes, Sunshine Rice, and Carrot and Orange treats are next up for my taste buds!

The opening section presents safety rules, a key to the symbols used, the equipment used for preparation of the 25 vegetarian recipes included, the health benefits that come from including each of the colors in a balanced diet, the many fruits and vegetables available for our use, and help in preparing some of the basic ingredients used. Then, on with the collection of deliciousness ... so many appealing and appetizing new meals to try. I know you will find something here to please every member of the family.

A clear table of contents and an index are helpful.
                                                                            

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Who Broke the Teapot? Written and illustrated by Bill Slavin. Tundra Books, Random House. 2016. $19.99 ages 4 and up

"Says Brother,
spinning in the air,
"If I'm up here
I wasn't there."

Says Papa, sitting
in his chair,
"I'm only wearing
underwear!
Reading here without
a care!"

Mom is furious, and bound and determined to get to the bottom of the 'mystery' of the broken teapot. Someone is responsible and she wants to know who that is!

"This was my very best teapot!
It was my favorite of the lot!
It poured and did not spill a drop.
And kept the tea so nice and hot.

I used it for my ladies lunch,
special days
and Sunday brunch -
And now it's lying here all
CRUNCHED!

WHO BROKE THE TEAPOT?"

The search for the culprit ramps up as mom does the same. Each and every family member denies culpability. They admit they were in the vicinity, but they each have an iron-clad alibi - except the baby. Could it have been the baby? Poor Mom! Will she ever discover how her teapot got broken?

I'm not telling!

Bill Slavin has created a tale that will be read again and again - even when listeners know exactly what happened to the teapot. The text is rhythmic and spare, but the story is told with flare. And the artwork! You will surely be entertained by the action and antics, the facial expressions and the chaos of the kitchen. The bold colors, the subtle and not-so-subtle details on each page will have readers howling with delight. Done in acrylics on gessoed board, the illustrations are textured and varied  in perspective. As well, variation in font and letter size offers the reader a chance to impact the drama when reading aloud - this book is just perfect for that.
                                                                        
                                                                      

Monday, June 27, 2016

Circle, by Jeannie Baker. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2016. $24.00 ages 5 and up

"The flock flies high
above the clouds,
chattering at times
to help stay close together.
Each bird takes a turn
to lead the way.

They follow an ancient,
invisible pathway
for six nights ... "

We meet the young boy before the story begins ... and learn something about him: he is in a wheelchair, he is an interested reader, and he has a wish to fly like the godwits in his book.  Then, on the title page we are told: "In its lifetime a godwit will usually fly farther than the distance from the earth to the moon."

He and his mother visit the beach in time to see a flock of godwits take to the sky. Binoculars in hand, he watches as one particular bird (with white wing patches) joins the others as their lengthy and gruelling journey north begins.

The reader is witness to that flight, watching as the godwits travel for days before making their only stop along the way. Their need to stop is stymied by the loss of habitat that once provided food and safety, making the trip even more exhausting. Success in their search replenishes their bodies and provides needed sustenance for the rest of their migration to the Arctic where finding a mate is the order of the day. Chicks are born ... four of them; only one will survive. As the chick grows, the pair know that the time has come to prepare for the journey back. The chick is left behind to follow at a later time.

Soon, the flock takes to the air once more .. this time there is no rest stop. As they return from the  northern reaches of Alaska to their home on the Australian beach, so does the boy return to the nature reserve that is protected for them ... this time, with crutches and obviously much healed. Both have endured difficulty with courage and resolve.

Lovely text is placed on incredible collages, Ms. Baker's signature artwork. She creates the most wonderful images of the two worlds that nurture the godwits, and everything in between. We get a bird's-eye view for much of the trip, while also seeing their stops from our own perspective. I love reading such books for their informative and intriguing content, and for the new learning. I had no knowledge of the godwit and its incredible migration.

An author's note is a reminder that all living things are connected, and any large-scale changes may threaten what is 'an age-old, wondrous circle of life'. Three websites are included for those readers wanting to know more, as well as a migration map and a list of the other migrating creatures shown in the book.                                          

Sunday, June 26, 2016

My Heart Fills With Happiness, written by Monique Gray Smith and illustrated by Julie Flett. Orca Books, 2016. $9.95 ages 2 and up

"My heart fills with
happiness when ...

I hold the hand
of someone I love

I listen
to stories ... "

Would that we all take the time each morning to think about what it is that makes us happy. Wouldn't that be the perfect start to each new day?

Dedicated in part to 'the former Indian Residential School students and their families', Monique Gray Smith writes a quiet song of celebration for those simple things that bring so much pleasure to our lives. Julie Flett's strong cast of aboriginal children and adults savor the daily joys brought by family life and being in the company of the people we love.

The textual phrasing is concise and meaningful, inviting readers to think clearly about what makes a heart fill with happiness. The feelings evoked by being with family and taking part in common events are fully on display in the bold colors and familiar surroundings of young children from all over the world. Whether it's walking barefoot in the grass or watching bannock bake, listeners will feel the warmth of the words and relish the memory of the moments that bring joy.

What fills your heart with happiness?
                                                                      

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Beach Baby, written by Laurie Elmquist and illustrated by Elly MacKay.Orca Books, 2016. $9.95 ages 2 and up

"Sand dollars

A seal
peering out of the waves

A sandpiper whose peep
startles your dreams

The castle waits for you
with its turrets and shells"

There are so many of the day's experiences to recall as this tiny child is quietly put to bed for the night. When he wakes, the chance to revisit all those wonderful things will be there once more. A day at the beach, with the calm of the ocean waves as background music. Idyllic, is it not?

Elly MacKay uses paper, ink, light and photography to create the absolutely gorgeous, and dreamy, artwork. She captures the beauty of the beach and the ocean environment in close-up images that are detailed and soothing. The morning and evening views of the house atop a nearby hill are both welcoming.  Children listening will succumb to the assurance that tomorrow offers another chance for a visit to familiar places and to the warmth and beauty of the seaside. The soothing illustrations are sure to remind them of their lovely day full of wonder.
                                                                            

Friday, June 24, 2016

This is not a picture book! By Sergio Ruzzier. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. $23.99 ages 5 and up

"A book!"

Hmm ...
There are only words in
this book?

Where are the pictures?!

This is not  a picture
book!"

Brilliant! I have been raving about this wonderful new book from Sergio Ruzzier for months, it seems. I am not sure why it has taken me so long to tell you about it. I have such admiration for this gifted author and his books that make children their focus. He seems to know exactly how they think and respond to variety in circumstance, always creating wondrous books that anticipate that response.

I will not belabor the point that this is a book that needs to be shared, and then shared again and again. But, I will tell you a bit about it. Then, you can get out and find a copy for yourself. You need to do that.

A young duckling finds a book, notes that it has no words and, as the story begins, disgustedly throws it away. Love of books hastens an apology and the book is picked up once more. Making headway with the difficulty that is early reading, the duckling finds that visualizing what is being read is authentic and real. What joy children find in reading meaningful books that offer such pleasure!

As children do when allowed to read what matters, the duckling literally enters the world of words - this one is pure Sergio Ruzzier. It is filled with wonderful spreads that show the meaning the duckling is making for the words he recognizes. Playing with light and shadow, the artist evokes an emotional response to the joy felt by the ducking. The landscape changes with each success in recognizing familiar words. If you know other books by the very talented Mr. Ruzzier, you will recognize this new world - lovely hues, lively action, quirky characters, and a wonderfully distinctive style. Do NOT miss the endpapers!

Please read the following before you leave this page ...

https://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/2016/05/10/let-kids-read-by-sergio-ruzzier/

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Truth About Jellyfish, written by Ali Benjamin. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2015. $20.50 ages 12 and up

"One day, she showed us a video in which a scientist described what he called "the most astounding fact," which was that all living things are composed of the atoms of collapsed stars. The stars themselves were inside us. We are made out of stardust. And that reminded me of what Mrs. Turton had told us about how we were all walking around with bits of Shakespeare inside us."

For Suzy, it is as if two deaths have occurred. First, the end of her friendship with Franny and then, Franny's death by drowning while on vacation.

The girls are going to be in seventh grade; things have been changing big time. Franny has been choosing not to spend time with the talkative, slightly awkward Suzy, once her best friend and now, not so interesting in comparison to boys and the popular girls. Suzy's outward response to truly losing her best friend and to her parents' divorce is to become invisible - she no longer speaks. Inwardly, she is searching for answers to why a first class swimmer like Franny could lose her life in the calm water she loved, and to her confusion over her family's new reality. She becomes adamant that a venomous jellyfish she sees on a school field trip must be to blame - after all, a jellyfish sting happens to people 23 times every 5 seconds.

Wanting to confer with an expert, Suzy makes an attempt to visit with a jellyfish scientist in Australia. The plan is risky, its realization impossible. Her tenacity and intelligence stand her in good stead, her age is a barrier to so much that she would like to accomplish. Everything unravels for her, and her silence is broken. Our chance to listen to her very real voice as she thinks critically about her friend's death and the possible reason for it will encourage discussion and response from middle grade readers.

This debut novel is filled with heart. Ali Benjamin tackles important issues: divorce, death, drama, diversity, scientific discovery and research, the natural world, grief, friendship, social isolation, and ultimately, healing. She works so seamlessly to create a place for Suzy in our hearts and to allow adolescent readers a chance to find themselves within its pages. Bravo!