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Monday, November 19, 2018

Who Eats Orange, written by Dianne White and illustrated by Robin Page. Beach Lane, Simon & Schuster. 2018. $23.99 ages 3 and up

"Turkeys, too.

NO! Turkeys don't
eat red.

They eat ...


Who else eats yellow?"

Little ones love books that help them with new learning, and that provide a guessing game for them as they go. This entertaining book helps them with both of those interests. The pattern is set early with the question on the front cover.

"Who eats orange?
Bunnies in their hutches do.
Chickens in the henhouse too.
Who else eats orange?
Gorillas too. Gorillas?

Gorillas eat a different color when choosing their foods. And so the book goes. Providing 'food for thought' for the little ones who will share it. Soon, they will be reading along and letting others know all they have learned about colors, about animals who choose food by color, and about the foods themselves. Fun, indeed.

The animals chosen to answer the color question are diverse, and not always well known. This adds another level of learning. The Adobe Photoshop illustrations are boldly colored, realistic and  very
appealing. Their bright eyes invite close observation and give a playful feel to the book.

The final question involves the reader and the fact that they eat all colors when choosing their foods!

Back matter provides further information about the habitats visited, the animals presented and the foods they consume.


... Yellow-bellied marmots are
generally herbivores that like to
feed on the leaves and blossoms
of a variety of grasses and forbs,
such as alpine forget-me-nots,
which are some of the first flowers
to bloom on the tundra. They also
eat fruit, grains, and sometimes

Fun, and full of information.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Anna at the Art Museum, written by Hazel Hutchins and Gail Herbert, and illustrated by Lil Crump. Annick Press, 2018. $21.95 ages 4 and up

"In the next gallery, she
pulled out her snack.
But why was the attendant
looking at her that way?
"Are you hungry?" she
asked. "We can share."
He was not hungry.
"No eating," he said
with a firm voice. She
could only drink at the
water fountain in the hall."

Anna speaks for me when visiting art galleries. It can be a chore and a challenge. She and her mother are on an anticipated visit when Anna begins to display what are very natural behaviors for a young child. As she sits and waits for her mother to pay, she decides that she will have to make the best of it. Roaring at a lion is fun until the attendant requests quiet. Playing peek with a baby from behind a free-standing exhibit gets a 'Careful!' warning. A talk with her mother is the result of her antics.

"No shouting. 
No running. 
No climbing. 
No touching."

When she touches a painting and sets off an alarm, she is embarrassed and finds herself a quiet place to sit while her mother continues her tour. Knowing the little girl is in need of something special, the kind guard (who has been doing his job) provides a diversion not often initiated. He offers a peek at the work being done behind the scenes. Here, Anna finds art that speaks her language. She begins to  recognize that art is a reflection of life ... and she finds inspiration in the rest of the art seen as they finish their tour. 

I read the text first and then went back to concentrate on the gorgeous reproductive artwork created by Lil Crump. Real life is explored on every page; visitors to the museum reflect much of what is found in the accompanying works of art. Humor is evident at every turn, the artist showing her audience real life reflected in the art pieces ... or the other way round. Connection is at the heart of this story and those connections are shown with joy and understanding. Anna is not the only child struggling to meet the expectations of the adults present, and that is encouraging and uplifting for those who might find a visit to the art museum difficult. Lovely!

A much-appreciated key to the works displayed is provided in back matter.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

The Poet X, written by Elizabeth Acevedo. Harper, 2018. $21.99 ages 14 and up

"I should be used to it.
I shouldn't get so angry
when boys - and sometimes
grown- ass men -
talk to me however they want,
think they can grab themselves
or rub against me
or make all kinds of offers.
But I'm never used to it.
And it always makes my hands shake.
Always makes my throat tight."

I really don't need to say much more than Elizabeth Acevedo just said about her brilliant debut  ... but, I will! I don't want you to miss reading this important, powerful, meaningful and courageously written novel which just won the 2018 National Book Award for Young People's Literature. Lucky I am to share it with you. It is a book I read in the summer, and it continues to find its way into my heart and my head. It certainly does not speak to my own experience; rather, it informs, enlightens, and opens my heart to Xiomara Batista and the amazing young woman she is, and the many other young women she represents through her compelling, poetic voice. . 

Although a twin to Xavier, the two have little in common but their love for each other. X is tough, outspoken, and 'one who is ready for war' (as is the meaning of her given name).  Her controlling parents wish it were not so. As she nears her confirmation in the Catholic church, she begins to ask questions - it is not a popular stance with her parents, her brother, or her best friend. She must constantly reject attention from her male peers and the older men in her neighborhood. She is intrigued by her lab partner Aman. His interest in X has little to do with how she looks. The two are attracted to one another, and keep it a secret.

It is only through poetry that X is able to clearly express her thoughts, feelings, hopes and dreams. Readers will be drawn to her story through that poetry, and will feel the undeniable emotions she is able to share there. There is so much love - for her parents, her brother, her best friend and for Aman. Her story is also awash with misunderstanding, secrets, rebellion, a growing sense of self. A teacher's invitation to join the poetry club is enticing, but fraught with difficulty. If she joins, without her mother's approval, will she ever be able to share the poems that speak to her heart and who she really is. 

"Every Day after English Class

Ms. Galiano asks me to read her something new.
With five minutes between classes,
I know I need to pick the best and shortest pieces in advance.
But every day I pick a new poem and I have learned:
to slow down, to breathe, to pace myself, to show emotion.

The last day before winter break
Ms. Galiano tells me I'm really blossoming."

Brilliant, forceful, heartbreaking, and full of impact on every page, you should read this book and then share it with others.

 “It almost feels like
 the more I bruise the page
 the quicker something inside me heals.”

Bravo and congratulations!

Friday, November 16, 2018

Carmela Full of Wishes, written by Matt De La Pena and illustrated by Christian Robinson. G. P. Putnam's Sons, Penguin Random House. 2018. $23.99 ages 5 and up

"Carmela followed as he cut back into the street at Freedom Boulevard, past the crowded bus stop and fenced-off repair shop, past the old folks' home where two hunched old women waved smiles, past the huge home improvement store where her dad used to stand around weekend mornings, waiting for work."

It's a pretty important day for Carmela, as birthdays are for most small children. Because she is now old enough, Carmela is allowed to go with her brother as he runs his errands for the day! They venture out together; Carmela is proud and happy, her brother does not feel the same way. Still, she perseveres and follows him through their neighborhood.

Seeing a single dandelion growing up through a crack in the sidewalk Carmela picks it up and prepares to blow its showy seeds into the world. Her brother is quick to make her feel silly.

"Did you even make a wish?
You're supposed to make a wish. Everyone knows that."
"Of course I made a wish," she told him.
But it was a lie. Carmela didn't know."

Because she doesn't know what her wish should be, Carmela keeps careful hold of the dandelion as they work to complete their route. Her imagination works overtime with wishes for herself and others. One is personal, one is humorous, others are poignant:

"... imagining her mom sleeping in one of those fancy hotel beds
she spent all day making for fancy guests.

... imagining her dad getting his papers fixed
so he could finally come home."

The flower is even more important when she internally voices those wishes - until she falls, and the dandelion lies crumpled on the sidewalk. With love and compassion, her brother comes to her rescue. Only then do they head home again.

As they did so beautifully in Last Stop on Market Street (G. P. Putnam's, 2015), these exceptional artists create another perfect story to cherish and share. Matt De La Pena's sensitive and meaningful words are accompanied by Christian Robinson's superbly constructed scenes of Carmela's community 'using acrylic paint, collage, and a bit of digital manipulation'.  The result is increible!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Door, by JiHyeon Lee. Chronicle, Raincoast. 2018. $25.99 ages 4 and up

"What's on the
other side of the

There's only one
way to find out:

you'll have to go
through it."

An antique key, a tiny flying bug, and an inquisitive boy - all that is needed to begin a journey. Walls and doors hold special appeal for most of us; for little ones, who have few fears, they are an invitation to experience something brand new. The boy in this book does exactly what we might expect of him.

Key in hand, he walks through a drab and colorless world, awash with apprehensive, gloomy people. The door looks unused, with numerous spider webs providing cover. Not to be deterred, the boy walks through it and into a world of ever-increasing color - and welcome. As he walks and meets the inhabitants of this unfamiliar world, he begins to smile. There is great variety in their appearance and he has no knowledge of the language they speak. He knows only that he is happy and comforted.

As he wanders, he is greeted with friendly smiles. The creatures' company is refreshing. He happily follows where they lead - from swings to tree branches, and finally to an open space with a collection of many doors that lead to new adventures. One of the doors opens to a wedding, and the party that follows: a delicious feast, some dancing and a group photograph. Finally, the key he does not know he lost is returned. The time to leave this fantasy world has come. But, why close and lock the door?

As she did in her earlier book, Pool (Chronicle, 2015), Ms. Lee creates a world of imagination and good will. The illustrations, in pencil, are full of fun, innocence, magic, and understanding. It is worth celebrating.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Click, written and illustrated by Kayla Miller. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. 2018. $15.50 ages 9 and up

"Hey guys! What's up?
Wanna go to the park and
play touch football?

Sorry, Olive. We really 
want to work on our dance
routine for the show. 

Oh ... Okay."

Olive enjoys her friendships, and she has many at school, in the neighborhood, and on the bus. When an announcement concerning the fifth grade variety show leaves her without a partner, she begins to worry. Everyone else has a part to play in the show; she does not. Did they not want to be with them? Her mother notices her sadness and asks about it.

"Nobody wants to do an act with me
for the school variety show.
No one? 
None of the kids from your class? 
The kids from the neighborhood. 
Your friends on the bus?
The girls you sit with at lunch? 
You asked all of your friends
to be in an act with you and they 
all said no? 
Well, not exactly."

Her mother has a suggestion; it is not acceptable to Olive. Instead, she begins to wonder about her place in the world. She has nightmares, is anxious, talks with her aunt who offers advice and is grouchy with her family. She doesn't want to ask to be part of an already formed group. It takes some introspection and a serendipitous sleepover with her aunt to help her decide what her part in the show could be. 

As her friends offer her a place with them, she remains confident that she has found the perfect role. Recognizing that her friends had no intention of leaving her out on purpose gives her even more confidence. The night of the show she proves she made the right decision.

Ms. Miller's artwork extends the premise of her story, and makes it easily accessible for readers from 9 to 12. Emotional and telling, she accurately portrays fifth graders as they attempt to come to terms with issues at school, in families and for their future.

The title is grand, the action engaging, and the story sure to find favor with many readers.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The Forest, by Riccardo Bozzi. Illustrated by Violeta Lopiz and Valerio Vidali. Translated from Italian by Debbie Bibo. Enchanted Lion Books. Publishers Group Canada. $25.95 all ages

"In this part of the forest,
the explorers usually
realize they are not alone
after all. And that they are
surrounded by other travelers.
From these encounters
grow friendships, rivalries ...
sometimes even loves.

From early on, the explorers
develop a curious habit. "

What an absolutely gorgeous book this is! Not only that, it has a message that is mysterious and slightly puzzling. The beauty of the design from its Mylar encased, boldly colored front cover to its final blank white page is worthy of attention and praise.

The text is essential, while sparse.

"It is said that the forest has a certain limit
if you look straight ahead, but the sides are boundless.
Here is where the explorers can venture with enjoyment
and curiosity."

As the reader travels through the forest it becomes ever more difficult. On alternating embossed pages, the observant reader will note that the human image is ever-changing, and a peep-hole invitation to move forward, despite any concern. The face matures and changes as the story continues. It is a story told with emotion, and it invites additional opportunities to share ideas and opinions through ongoing discussion. Each time it is read, it adds more meaning and then encourages another visit.

The pattern is evident, and the growth and depletion of the forest as well. So much happens from that small grove of trees, through the verdant abundance of  forest life, to the lack of life seen anywhere in the forest. In the final white spread, readers are unable to find a discernible human presence. Then, as nature is wont to do, there is regrowth. Ah, the mystery of life and death.