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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Waiting, written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes. Greenwillow, Harper. 2015. $21.99 ages 3 and up

"Once a visitor arrived
from far away. He stayed
a while,


I cannot wait until Sicily is old enough for us to share the Kevin Henkes collection on my library shelves! He does everything with such a gentle voice and has an uncanny ability to capture the essence of childhood. I have long been a fan. So, I was thrilled to receive a copy of Waiting.

As I said, he knows young children. In this new book, he helps them understand the idea of waiting ... a most difficult concept when you are young and not inclined to want to wait. His characters are tiny toys, sitting comfortably on a window ledge, each one waiting for something - except the rabbit who 'just liked to look'.

The text is just right. The full-colored artwork is beautifully rendered in brown ink, watercolors and colored pencils. He carefully creates the secret world where toys reside, without interference from the human world. As their waiting is rewarded, each of the toys is happy, including the rabbit who just likes looking out their window.

They live quiet lives, sleeping and waiting. When a visitor arrives and subsequently leaves, we learn why it will never return. Their days are filled with new discoveries and much enjoyment. When a cat joins them, she seems to have nothing on her mind. Wrong!

Never impatient with their lot in life, they happily spend time together in preparation for always being happy. It is a lofty goal. Emotional in its simplicity, and beautifully drawn, don't 'wait' to add this book to your collection.


Monday, October 5, 2015

Little Robot, by Ben Hatke. First Second, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2015. $19.50 ages 6 and up

"You can come
out now.
Hey! Come on.
Come see.
You're not


Oh, you are going to love the little girl you meet in Ben Hatke's terrific new graphic novel. If you know his other work, you will have met Zita the Spacegirl. Now, you have a new heroine to admire, and you don't even know her name. It matters not!

A beautifully detailed and wordless forward allows readers to discover the single event that sets the story in motion. A box is bumped from a delivery truck, bounces off a bridge and lands in the waters below. It floats lazily along a meandering river.

When we meet the wee girl, she is furtively making her escape from her trailer park home by climbing out a side window. She makes her way to the bus stop to watch all the children leave for school. A hole in the fence allows a romp in a nearby backyard where she swings happily until the owner comes to the window. She flees. We are quick to learn this is her pattern for the long, lonely days on her own. She fishes a tool belt from a hiding place, and is on her way to new exploits.

Lo and behold, she sees the floating box, fishes it out and makes a new friend - a shiny robot who matches her in size. She helps as it struggles to find stability on land. Then, off they go. As she shows her new friend her world and fixes him when he needs to be fixed, the two don't realize that his absence has been noted, or that a seek-and-recover robot has been sent to find him. This pushes their story forward at a pace that will have young fans racing to find out what happens.

It is virtually wordless, and totally captivating. Full of the kind of adventure that every young child longs for, and understands. There are many lovely, quiet moments. They are made sweeter by the frenzied action that results with the addition of the much bigger robot bent on doing its job and bringing the little one back to the fold. It will be read again and again, as young 'readers' savor its story.

Here's an independent heroine with a heart and a longing for a new friend. She is feisty, capable and
worthy of our attention. I do hope we meet her in some future adventure.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Tree of Wonder: The Many Marvelous Lives of a Rainforest Tree. Written by Kate Messner and illustrated by Simona Mulazzani. Chronicle, Raincoast. 2015. $22.50 ages 8 and up

"LEAFCUTTER ANTS live in underground colonies that range from several dozen to more than three or four million. These ants don't eat the leaves they collect. Instead, the ants take them to their nests, chew them up and use them to feed the fungus they grow from their own meals."

It is tremendous fun to visit the rainforest with Kate Messner in her new book! She focuses attention on the Almendro tree, which is its own ecosystem.

"A single ALMENDRO TREE can produce more than a million flowers when it blooms. Later, animals will come from all over the forest to eat the fruit that it bears. Many others are already here, hidden in the shadows and leaves, and depend on the tree not just for food but for a home. In all, more than a thousand different living things depend on this tree."

I had no idea! Once again, I am fully attentive to learning about something that is brand new to me. With each turn of the page readers discover some of animals that find shelter and sustenance within the branches of this 'wonder'ful tree. Macaws (2) and Toucans (4) eat the fruit. Howler monkeys (8) often take the fruit with them when they move, thus distributing seeds to other parts of the forest floor where new trees will grow. Fruit bats (16) do the same thing, and use the tree for shelter while they sleep away their days.

Those fruit bats may become prey for the Fer-De-Lance vipers (32) that can also be found in the almendro. Agoutis (64) live on the forest floor and forage for food there. They collect the seeds, bury them in places that they sometimes forget and thus also help to replenish the forest with new growth. Also included are the blue morpho butterfly (128), the poison dart frog (256), the rusty wandering spider (512), and the above-mentioned leafcutter ant (1,024). All are an integral part of the tree's life and survival.

I hope you noticed the numbers following the names of the tree's inhabitants. Kate Messner uses those numbers to encourage her readers to try some math problems in information that follows her informative text. She also adds further information about the tree itself, and offers websites to access if you would like to help with sustainability within the rainforest.

Simona Mulazzani uses acrylic and pencil on paper to create the gorgeous scenes that are full of detail. She provides an eye-catching glimpse at the beauty of the forest and its diversity.


Saturday, October 3, 2015

Where Did My Clothes Come From? Written by Chris Butterworth and illustrated by Lucia Gaggiotti. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2015. $16.00 ages 8 and up

"What is your sweater made of?
Your sweater is made of wool -
the long hair from a sheep. The
sheep's wool is cut off once a
year (it doesn't hurt the sheep -
she's probably glad to be cool
again).  Raw wool is dirty and
greasy, so it's taken to a mill
and washed well. This is
called scouring."

As he did with the companion book, How Did That Get in My Lunchbox? The Story of Food (2011), Chris Butterworth writes a very appealing book that offers information about the clothes we wear. We all have favorites, don't we? I know that many of the clothes that I wear daily at home are not suitable for wearing when I go out, or when the weather changes. But, they are so comfy! He suggests that we need all types of clothes, and we know he's right!

He tells his readers how jeans, sweaters, party dresses, team uniforms, fleece jackets, and finally, boots are made. It's all so well designed and organized that it makes the reading easy for those who want to know more. The author realizes that the two young people who are the recipients of his teaching will have different interests and wear different outfits. So, he does his best to ensure that they will learn about some of their own favorite clothing. His conversational tone is humorous at times, and very informative while explaining exactly how the clothing is made.

The illustrations are created in mixed media and show Lucia Gaggiotti's love of color and charming detail. In back matter, Mr. Butterworth adds a reminder to consider recycling efforts when the clothes no longer fit, or are not needed. Notes about the writing and artwork, a short list for further reading and an index are welcome.

Friday, October 2, 2015

A Chicken Followed Me Home, written and illustrated by Robin Page. Beach Lane Books, Simon & Schuster. 2015. $21.99 ages 5 and up

"What will my chicken eat?

Chickens in the
wild eat seeds,
nuts, fruit, insects,
and small animals.
A domesticated
chicken usually eats
chicken feed, a
mixture of seeds and

What a terrific format to mentor young researchers in presenting their new learning! This is Robin Page's first book both written and illustrated on her own. She has often collaborated with her husband Steve Jenkins to bring exceptional nonfiction learning to young readers.

Her introduction to chickens is beautifully designed to provide plenty of informative text for her audience, while keeping their attention fully concentrated on the Rhode Island Red that is the subject of her book. A question is asked and then answered in an accessible and enjoyable format. Digitally created in Adobe Photoshop, her familiar collage artwork is boldly colored and uses variety in perspective. Spot pictures, informative labels, uncomplicated explanations and a logical sequence for questions asked make it just right for her target audience.

The author adds a useful two page section in back matter that asks and answers other questions that might crop up, and a list of books that will help add to a child's knowledge concerning chickens. Now, your family is prepared to take on the task of raising some chickens on your own, with the goal of fresh eggs for yummy meals in mind.

If you need a mentor text to help your children with writing clear and practical reports, this is the book for you!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

This is Sadie, written by Sara O'Leary and illustrated by Julie Morstad. Tundra Books, Random House. 2015. $19.99 ages 4 and up

"Sadie's perfect day is spent
with friends.
Some of them live on her street,
and some live in the pages of books.

Sadie has been a girl who lived
under the sea.

She has been a boy raised by

Oh, Sadie! What a lovely and imaginative young lady you are! I so enjoyed reading about your days. I could see you inside that box when we first met. Well, I thought it was a cardboard box. You tell me that it is really a big boat. That mat I thought it was sitting on is really an enormous sea?! I turned the page and there you were, aboard a sailing ship under sunny skies and thoroughly enjoying yourself.

Sadie is a quiet adventurer. As she builds in the early morning, she knows she should be quiet ...

"... because old people need a lot of sleep."

She is a girl after my old heart, that's for sure. Her room reminds me of the days when our kids decided that every manner of material needed to be moved from their rooms into the living room so that they might build 'forts' and have grand adventures. There are many things that Sadie can imagine herself being, including the hero role in a fairy tale world. Armed with a bow and arrows, and sitting astride a magnificent steed, she moves forward with purpose.

Her days are filled with new pursuits, and they pass much too quickly. She does gravitate toward her favorite thing at the end of her busy, satisfying day:

"She likes to make boats of boxes
and castles out of cushions.
But more than anything she likes stories,
because you can make them from nothing at all."

Julie Morstad's fanciful artwork is created using gouache, watercolor and pencil crayon. Each image is detailed and adds charm to the story of a little girl whose real and imaginary world delight all readers.

Sadie, I do hope to see you again!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Friend or Foe: The Whole Truth About Animals That People Love to Hate. Written by Etta Kaner and illustrated by David Anderson. Owlkids, 2015. $17.95 ages 10 and up

"Enter any bat cave and you'll step in globs of guano. Guano is bat poop, which piles up on the floor of a cave or any other place where bats roost. Guano in a crowded cave could be as high as a seven-story building! In warmer parts of the world, guano contains histoplasmosis, a fungus disease that can make people very sick."

There are ten animals here, none that assure our warm, fuzzy feelings toward them. Some are revolted by them, others are scared silly, and still others will be acutely aware of the danger they present. That is the joy of sharing such books as this one. They have an effect, and cause us to pause and want to learn more. You might not know, because of your previous perceptions, that each one also has decided benefits to humans.

In her introduction, Etta Kaner talks about differing points of view concerning the creatures that are part of this book. Bees sting; they also produce delicious honey. Both sides of the argument are presented. It is left to the reader to decide which of those truths mean the most when determining friend or foe.

Rats are first up. I know how I feel about them. A double page spread explains why we see them as disgusting, dangerous and decidedly deceptive. They cause damage to crops, spread disease, destroy wildlife and steal! 'On the other hand', they are tremendously athletic, and very smart, and love to cuddle when they sleep. Aww! or Eww!?

Others included are: cockroaches, snakes, leeches, bats, sharks, spiders, wolves, mosquitoes, and
vultures.  I couldn't wait, I went straight to page 38 - mosquitoes. I was prepared to quash any single argument made for choosing friend when discussing those annoying, whiny, pesky bugs! First, I was reminded of only a few of the reasons for hating them: kill people in some parts of the world, cause others to deal with pain and suffering, suck blood and annihilate certain bird species, drive caribou mad, and are attracted to the hum of a power station causing it to break down. What's the other point of view, you wonder. Well, not all of them suck blood. Their proboscis design has been used to create medical needles that don't hurt. They eat honeydew, also know as insect poop. They are dinner for many beneficial creatures. The even clean up water ecosystems. Enough to change my mind .... well, NO! But I understand the argument.

Cartoon-like illustrations add to the entertainment! This is a book that is sure be a starting point for further research into the up and down sides while determining an answer to the question: Friend or Foe?