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Saturday, July 11, 2020

William's Getaway, written by Annika Dunklee and illustrated by Yong Ling Kang. Owlbooks, 2020/ $18.95 ages 3 and up

"William wanted some time
by himself.
All by himself.

And the only place for William
to get that was ...

In his hot-air balloon.

William loved his hot-air balloon.
He loved being up high, looking
down at the world."

No matter how much one loves a younger sibling ... there are days! Need I say more?

Edgar is the younger brother. Edgar loves being with William. He wants to play with him all the time. William does his best to be patient. Then comes a day! No matter what Edgar suggests, William is NOT interested. He just wants to be alone.

Knowing that his little brother is scared to climb up into the balloon, William assures himself of peace and quiet. When Mom reassures Edgar that he will be fine riding along with his big brother, Edgar expresses a keen interest in climbing aboard. But, first ...

Edgar needs a lunch, and a water bottle. All the while, William is sure Edgar will chicken out. As he waits, Edgar finds a jacket to keep him warm and a toy in case of boredom. To say William is frustrated would be an understatement.

"Edgar was finally about to start up the ladder when ...

"What if ... what if .... I get scared, William?"


With William's quiet and patient reassurance, Edgat is able to climb the ladder on his own, with no props. All he really needs is his brother's quiet voice and extended hand.

Yong Ling Kang chooses watercolor-and-colored-pencils for the artwork that accompanies this heartwarming family story. The images attract and inform readers about the power of a child's imagination. The house's interior is transformed into another world to explore. The bunk bed becomes a world to share.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Federico and the Wolf, written by Rebecca J. Gomez and illustrated by Elisa Chavarri. Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. 2020. $723.99 ages 4 and up

"He filled the basket on his bike
with romas, herbs, and limes,
jalapenos, onions,
and a peck of Anaheims.

He added garlic, pickles, bread,
and other market goods,
then pedaled through the city park
and deep into the woods."

While teaching, I loved to read new versions of old fairy tales. This charming tale is a Mexican-American retelling of the Red Riding Story, with a twist. Federico is tasked with making a trip to the market to find each of the ingredients on his Abuelo's grocery list. It is an important job and Federico takes it seriously. He happily gathers every item on the list and is ready to travel on to his grandfather's shop (la tienda). 

He isn't far along the path when a fallen branch stops him - and a wolf asks him to share the goods in his basket. Rico refuses to be interrupted, as his mission is clear. 'Un lobo' is wily, and takes another path. Upon arrival at la tienda Rico is suspicious, then astonished at what he sees.

"Abuelo?" whispered Federico,
pulling off his hood.

"Yes, it's me, but I can't see.
Come closer, if you would."

"Ay! I think you need a shave.
Your beard has grown so thick!"

"You think so?" said el lobo.
"Steady grooming does the trick."

Rico makes all the arguments for how different his granfaather looks. El lobo has all the answers, while trying to keep his rising hunger from hastily ending their conversation. As he unloads his basket, Rico proves he can hold his own. Poor el lobo! He definitely has his work cut out for himself if he thinks the young boy will be his next meal. He is sadly mistaken.

Federico has saved the day! After a light lunch, grandfather and grandson prepare a bottle of Wolf's Bane Salsa. 

Photoshop illustrations blaze with the vibrant colors of Mexico. Young readers with a sharp eye will note welcome details. The Spanish vocabulary adds interest, and will be much appreciated by those children who speak the language.

Backmatter includes a recipe for The Perfect Pico, and a challenge to find each of the listed words within the story's text. Pronunciation and translation are also provided.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

The Truth About Wind, written by Hazel Hutchins and Gail Herbert and illustrated by Dusan Petricic. Annick Press, 2020. $21.95 ages 4 and up

"He runs faster than any horse in the world so I have named him Wind." Wind raced across the tabletop prairie and up and over the rolling cauliflower hills while Jesse ate supper. He leaped deep canyons and sailed above tall waterfalls while Jesse had his bath. "Jesse is having a wonderful time with the horse ... "

Jesse is outside playing in the backyard when he spots people passing by, and notices something has fallen out of their wagon. He sneaks a peek at a small black horse that appears to be looking right back at him. What a find!

When his mother makes an inquiry about it, Jesse tells her it is a gift from Grandma. He sings the praises of his new acquisition, and allows his mind to conjure daring feats for Wind. Almost caught in his first fib, he tells another. That night, Jesse feels a twinge of regret ... quashed as he and Wind spent a full week together. Each day brings new imagined delight, and a growing love.

The uneasiness becomes more noticeable. A little girl searching with her brother, and a 'lost horse' poster have him hiding behind library shelves. He avoids looking at any other poster. Still, he cannot admit the truth.

"At supper, Jesse found it hard to
swallow the spaghetti he loved.

All evening, his stomach was sore."

After a night filled with disturbing images, Jesse knows exactly what he must do. Hugging Wind for a final time, he passes him through the fence into the arms of the small boy who has been so diligently searching. 'Midnight' goes home.

This is an admirable story, told well and with heart. The pencil-and-watercolor artwork is perfectly suited to the adventure, the joy, and the crisis of conscience. Filled with movement, expression, and a change in chosen colors as Jesse faces the truth in what he has done is very effective.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Kamik Takes the Lead, adapted from the memories of Darryl Baker and illustrated by Ali Hinch. Inhabit Media, Fitzhebry & Whiteside. 2019. $10.95 ages 4 and up

"In the summer, when the
weather was warm, Jake and
his uncle took the dogs out on the land.

"Summer is the best time to exercise dogs. Running in the heat will make them very fit and strong," Akkak said. Jake let the dogs run with his ATV. He made sure to give the dogs lots of rest and water."

This is the fourth book in the Kamik series, and continues the story of Kamik's life as a sled dog. It follows Kamik: An Inuit Puppy Story, Kamik's First Sled, and Kamik Joins the Pack. These books are adapted from memories shared by Darryl Baker. Fans of the first books are sure to enjoy seeing Kamik again, and learning how his training has made him the leader of the pack for his first race around town. Jake knows the odds, as there are other young mushers who want to win as badly as he does.

The two had put in a lot of hard work to get to this point, Kamik was ready, and so was Jake. Akkak had offered advice about the amount of work it would be to give Kamik his best chance for success. Summer and fall they had worked every day to ensure that the dogs would have the stamina and strength to pull a heavily loaded sled over long distances.

"Dogs need to be taken care of all the time," Akkak told him. "You have
no choice but to get the work done!"

Through summer, fall and winter Jake was a good student and Kamik a strong leader. Jake had listened intently to his uncle's advice and teaching. He spent much time with his dogs, letting them know how felt about them. He fed them well in preparation for their race, and all were ready with the arrival of spring.

Readers are left to wonder how the team does in their first challenge!

Learning about the traditional ways of the Inuit in Nunavut makes this a worthy addition to classroom and school libraries. Training practice and useful lessons concerning patience, hard work, respect for the dogs, and taking responsibility over a long period of time are valuable. The illustrations are appealing, giving attention to the people, the dogs, the seasons, and the northern setting.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The Panda Problem, written by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Hannah Marks. Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin Random House, 2019. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"Psssst ... this is a story!

 I'm the narrator.

And YOU are the main

The main character? 
That sounds important!" 

I have no idea how I missed telling you about this endearing and humorous tale when it was published last year. For that I am sorry. However, we do know that good stories are good stories whenever we hear about them, and it will be easy to find a copy. So, here's my take on this one.

The narrator introduces the panda as a creature who has a BIG problem. The panda is having none of it. Replying with a definitive Nope, he surprises the storyteller. In fact, the panda asserts:

"I don't have any problems. 
Lovely view, lots of bamboo to eat, 
sunny day - what could be better?"

In trying to show the panda how stories work, the narrator is stonewalled with a barrage of questions and comments from the protagonist. A problem cannot be found. In frustration, the narrator yells at the panda, who appears cool as a cucumber swinging on a hammock while wearing sunglasses, apparently unconcerned about the narrator's consternation. The panda, in fact, turns the tables.

Maybe you are the main 
character and I am YOUR 

What? Ridiculous!

You're right. 
How could a sweet little 
panda like me be a problem? 

Unless ... "

Creating chaos with its many inane ideas and suggestions, the panda befuddles the narrator completely. Kids will be hooting at the craziness. Suddenly, all action comes to a stop when the panda realizes there IS a problem. Can it be solved?

Exhaustion brings an end to the storytelling, and takes the story full circle.

This is a great deal of fun for two children to read as the voices are so distinct. Just a head's up, they may need a bit of additional character help as the story moves forward. Reading it together is easy, as voices are shown in different fonts. Witty, with terrific artwork, this story will be shared numerous times and is an appealing read aloud.


Monday, July 6, 2020

Butterlies Belong Here: A Story of One Idea, Thirty Kids, and a World of Butterflies. Written by Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated by Meilo So. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2020. $24.99 ages 8 and up

"When summer came,
I felt sure I'd see monarch
butterflies. I knew what to
look for: large black and orange wings with a border of small white specks. I wanted to see them flit from flower to flower sipping nectar. But though I looked hard - in parks, fields, and the community gardens ... "

Here is a positive and uplifting tale concerning a community working together to affect change for all. It begins in spring with a  class picture and the acknowledgement that the young girl sharing her story does not like being the center of attention. Moving to a new place, not speaking English, and counting on a librarian to help with book choice, she has learned much about monarch butterflies from one of the chosen books.

Before her story moves on to summer, a two-page spread of informational text concerning the monarchs is provided. A turn of the page, and the story moves on. The narrator is sure she will soon be seeing the beautiful creatures flitting from flower to flower sipping nectar. In fact, she does not. She compares the butterfly to herself.

"I wondered if monarch butterflies
belonged here. Sometimes I
wondered if we did, too."

Another inserted two-page spread describes the monarch's life cycle. Fall arrives with the child finding the familiar butterfly book again. Easier to read now, she makes a discovery that concerns her. There is a reason there are no butterflies. It's a big problem. The librarian adds new butterfly books to her reading agenda and tells her that she has been growing milkweed in her garden. Hmm! What about that sunny spot outside the library window?

With the encouragement of her friendly librarian, further learning about the butterflies she so loves, and time in winter to make a plan, all it will take is the courage to propose a plan for her classmates. Will they want to help? Of course, they will. After much work and many presentations, a plan is set in motion that goes beyond school boundaries. Spring brings success, and shows how important it is for just one person to care enough to do the preliminary work that will impact a community.

The writing combines storytelling with effective informational text. It will be appreciated by young people wanting to make a difference in their own communities. Meilo So's art, as always, is captivating and full of the details that hold attention and encourage action. In back matter, an author's note expresses concern for the dwindling monarch butterfly population. Ms. Hopkinson offers a quick guide for getting started on a garden, and adds numerous additional facts about the monarch. A list of books and internet resources provide incentive to learn even more.

What a treat!

Sunday, July 5, 2020

I'm Sticking With You, written by Smriti Prasadam-Halls and illustrated by Steve Small. Godwin Books, Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2020. $24.99 ages 2 and up

"Like peas in a pod,
you and I fit.

Like strawberries and cream,
we are a hit.

Whatever the game,
I'm on your side.

No mountains too tall,
no river too wide."

I can't wait to have a FaceTime visit with my granddaughters. I want to share this buoyant book with them. I know they will want to hear it numerous times. The delight for the sharing is in the exuberant rhymes and the wondrous expression-filled spreads that expose every meaningful moment of their love for each other. Real friends stick together through thick and thin; not always without problems, but always with loyalty and endless love. Now, there's a message for each of us.

Bear and Squirrel could not be more different in appearance. One is tall, one is small. One is heavy, one is light. One is wide, one is narrow. They do everything together, despite it all. Mood doesn't matter, small accidents are forgotten, harrowing journeys are undertaken, though uncomfortable.

"We sit by the cliff top.
We sit by the lake.
We sit by the ice cap.

I eat all the cake."

That might be the last straw for Squirrel. Recognizing a need to be alone, Squirrel decides to part ways. Because Bear loves Squirrel, an agreement is reached and the two take their leave. Squirrel is pleased with this newfound peace and quiet, an abundance of space, and the carefree feeling of being alone ... for a time.

Something must be done. Squirrel is off at a quick pace to make things right.

"Me without you?
It just doesn't work.

Me without you?
I'd just go berserk."

Bear lets love be the guide after listening to all of his best friend's cajoling. Life together is much better!  Drawn with pencils and watercolor, the artwork is both humorous and affectionate. It affords an abundance of white space throughout to keep the focus keenly on the two best friends.

We will read it many times.