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Saturday, October 21, 2017

now, written and illustrated by Antoinette Portis. Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2017. $24.99 ages 3 and up

"This is my favorite mud.

This is my favorite worm.

This is my favorite cloud
because it's the one I
am watching.

This is my favorite rain.

That was my favorite boat."

Oh, I love watching little ones as they share discoveries and ideas about the world they live in. Antoinette Portis is so in tune with them, and shares their childlike view of the world in the books she writes. She knows their ways, their feelings, their wonder.

This little girl is attuned to everything that surrounds her, and she is able to speak to her feelings about what makes the world special for her. She happily shares many well-loved  moments in clear, and simple text. Her time is NOW!

With each turn of the page, she explains that she delights in those things that make life wonderful for her ... a breeze, a leaf, a hole, mud, a worm. She appreciates each moment as much as the next thing that attracts her attention and allows readers to appreciate her enthusiasm for life and its many delights.

By repeating each simple declarative sentence Ms. Portis allows for a rhythm that will soon have little ones reading independently. Meaningful and filled with familiar joys, readers move with her through her day, both inside and outside the house. The illustrations, created using sumi ink, brush, and bamboo stick, then colored digitally, beautifully match the textual tone.

Charming and meaningful, it is sure to become a favorite and encourage young children to reflect on the joys in their own environment, and the freedom to be. As adults, we can definitely take a lesson from our children  ... slow down, and be present for every wonderful moment we have.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Magic for Sale, written by Carrie Clickard and illustrated by John Shelley. Holiday House, Thomas Allen & Son. 2017. $24.95 ages 5 and up

"It's a GHOST!"
"It's ALIVE!"
"Run awaaayyyyyy!"
Georgie giggled,
"Wait! You can't be scared.
You're the reason
I got double-dared!"
The ghost poked out his head.
"I can't help being dead.
But scary? Not me!"
he declared."

Has anyone ever dared you to do something that terrified you? Did you do it? It seems the perfect setup for a story to be shared at Halloween, doesn't it?

Georgie McQuist is on the receiving end of a double dare, and he is brave enough to take it.

"And though all the town's children had tried,
the shop specter had never been spied.
Georgie'd been double dared
so he came well prepared ...
He was going ghost hunting inside!

Creeaaakkk ... "

It is magic after all. Could you resist seeing what might be inside a magic-filled shop? Georgie, apparently, cannot. He sneaks in, hides until the place has closed down, and promptly falls through a trap door into a hidden room or two. There he meets the ghost whose job it is to count 'every treasure and tomb'. The awful, gloomy place! So, Georgie offers aid to the inept and disorganized specter. Together they count countless things:

"Tarot cards and crystal balls,
a ghost to haunt your
castle's halls,
snakes pulled from Medusa's hair,
a map to find a pirate's lair,
freeze-dried ghoul
and dragon drool,
a kraken for your swimming pool ..."

The list goes on, until they have finally completed the task. Happy, Georgie is ready to head for home when Miss Pustula Night, the store's owner, arrives with dinner on her mind. What happens next will be much appreciated by readers, and by Georgie himself.

Every spread is enhanced by John Shelley's detailed full color items mentioned in the text. Kids won't know where to look first, and will not be sorry to spend a good deal of time poring over the store's contents. Full of fun, a rhyming text and adventure, kids will enjoy wrapping their tongues around the names of the necessary items that fill the shelves, and watching a boy and a ghost work together to make things happen. Then, they will be delighted with the surprise (and scare) at the end.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

the Wolf the Duck & the Mouse, written by Max Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2017. $22.99 ages 5 and up

"The meal was delicious.

"Where did you get the jam?"
the mouse asked.
"And a tablecloth?"
The duck munched a crust.
"You'd be surprised what
you find inside of a wolf."
"It's nice," said the mouse.
"It's home," said the duck.
"You live here?"
"I live well! I may have
been swallowed, but I have
no intention of being eaten."

Poor little mouse! What injustice it is to be swallowed whole by a wolf. The wolf is only doing what is natural to him, while the mouse is not happy to be looking death in the face. Wait! What is that voice he hears?

And so begins another wild and wondrous tale by two of my favorite creators. Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen have a way of sharing with great joy and panache their humor, their love of story and their exceptional talents. It is not always the way that book collaboration works. For them (and for their fans), it works beautifully every single time.

Turns out a duck is making its home in the wolf's stomach; and is very happy with the path his life has taken. In fact, he has been sleeping. When the mouse makes its entrance, they share a meal and a conversation about the great happiness the duck now feels. His life before was filled with the fear of being eaten.  The mouse is fascinated by the duck's stand on his new home.

The wolf is not so comfortable, definitely feeling the weight of his inhabitants luxurious lifestyle in his belly. Ill and vulnerable, he is perfect fare for an intrepid marksman. When that hunter threatens the tranquility, the two insiders must decide how to keep the status quo. That decision garners gratitude from their host; he promises that their wish is his command. Ha! Who knew?

Obviously, there is great fun in the storytelling. Jon Klassen (as he always seems to do) is adept at the details that will bring readers back again and again to read it, to notice even more, to want to discuss it, and to laugh each and every time it is shared. Funny, full of charm, and sporting a perfect ending, you want it for your collection. I will surely find a place for it on our 'keepers' shelf.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

the scariest book ever, written and illustrated by bob shea. Disney Hyperion, Hachette. 2017. $17.99 ages 5 and up

"Now I have nothing
to wear.

I guess you'll have to
go into the scary dark
woods without me.

You go check them out,
and I'll meet you in a
couple of pages."

Ghost is not one of the brave ones! Sure there is a terrifying forest just outside the door, it does its best to convince readers to stay inside and not risk the imminent danger beyond.

Thinking fitfully about what must be faced, the ghost accidentally spills orange juice on its nice white ... and spends the rest of the book naked and unable to explore the woods. Encouraging the reader to go and investigate, it will await news. With each assurance that there is nothing scary out there, the ghost finds new excuses for not taking part. Cleaning the bathroom and sharing doughnuts do nothing to encourage readers to stay put.

We are witness to all discoveries made beyond the ghost's house ... in the endlessly frightening forest where a rabbit doles out party invitations to the creatures and other inhabitants of the forest itself. There are crafts, food, and pumpkin harvesting. What fun! Will the ghost finally be cajoled into joining them?

I will leave that for you to find out!

Bob Shea's digital spreads, in bright and colorful geometric images, show the action on bold backgrounds. Compared to the crisp black and white interiors, young readers realize how much the tiny ghost is missing. Keeping up with the naked ghost makes for a laughter-filled and most enjoyable story. You are sure to read it more than one time.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

I WANT to BE in a SCARY STORY, written by Sean Taylor and illustrated by Jean Jullien. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2017. $22.00 ages 4 and up

"Would you rather
something else jump out,
instead of the witch?


How about a ghost?

A ghost."

Don't all kids love the thought of 'scary'? It sounds like fun, but is it? In this interactive story, a little monster begs to be part of a 'scary' story. The unseen narrator offers choices concerning the where of the scare. A dark and scary forest? Well, maybe not. A spooky house? Maybe ...

The next choice has to do with who will do the scaring in the little monster's story. Will be a witch? Nope! A ghost? Even that proves too much.

'HOLD ON! This is too scary!
Well, you did say you wanted to be
in a scary story.
I know. But I want to be in a
scary story where I do the scaring!
Oh, you want to be the scary one?
OK then. You can creep up the stairs,
sneak over to the door and then ...
All right!"

But is it? Perhaps a funny story would be better after all. After a few shared ideas, the little monster turns the tables on the spooky house's inhabitants and provides both a scary and a funny story for readers to enjoy.

Enjoy it they will as they follow the antics and respond to the emotions felt by the little purple protagonist with the big head, yellow eyes, missing teeth and a penchant for stories. The tale moves along quickly, told completely in interactive dialogue. Jean Jullien provides a suitably scary backdrop for the creepy tone of the tale. The colors are striking, the double page spreads filled with expression and detail.  White space on alternating pages alert readers to the upcoming results of his requests and keep attention on the little monster who is creating the action for the book.    

Funny and just on the edge of frightening, this will be enjoyed by listeners as classrooms prepare for the Halloween festivities. It is perfect for paired or shared reading as the dialogue is controlled by contrasting colors. One reader reads the black text, the other the purple. Definitely two voices. I have shared other books that I feel would make terrific performance pieces. Add this on to the list.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Herbert's First Halloween, written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Steven Henry. Chronicle, Raincoast. 2017. $21.99 ages 3 and up

"Herbert's father measured
Herbert from head to toe.
He measured him for ears.
He measured him for a tail.
He measured him for paws
with claws.

Herbert asked, "Can I roar?"
The answer was yes!
Herbert would roar on

My kids, when they were quite small, thought they would love Halloween. We decided on a costume, I got it done,and we were ready! As a mom who didn't much like Halloween (well OK, I thought the candy part was great!) and absolutely did not like dressing up ever, I should have known. Genes do run deep! They thought that the costumes were wonderful until it was time to put them on, and head out for the candy collection. Then, it was no thanks! Off we went in warm coats and a little face paint to gather the goodies being offered by friends, family and neighbors. It was mostly like that until they decided they had had enough of the whole thing.

Herbert is not sure about Halloween and how it works. His father, an aficionado, encourages his son to share the holiday with him. Herbert wonders if he might be a tiger. Of course! The delighted dad gets right to work while encouraging his son to help with the costume, the decorations and practicing his tiger persona. It is a warm and winning tale of togetherness.

When the big night arrives Dad dresses as a cowboy, emulating the little boy he was in a picture shown to Herbert. They walk from one place to another in their neighborhood, note all the other costumes being worn, collect candy, and call it a success. We leave the two as Herbert considers next year's costume.

I love the tone created by Ms. Rylant's carefully chosen text. The storytelling is thoughtful and reassuring for our youngest readers who share Herbert's uneasiness about the unknown. The father patiently encourages Herbert and listens carefully to his concerns. Steven Henry does a fine job with  digital illustrations to keep to the calm tone of the words, using soft lines, muted colors and inviting scenes.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

How To Make Friends With A Ghost, written and illustrated by Rebecca Green. Tundra, Random House. 2017. $21.99 ages 4 and up

"Once the ghost knows you
are friendly, it will most likely follow you.
Welcome the ghost into your home. If it is reluctant, a simple blow will get the ghost inside.
Warning: Never ever put your hand through a ghost. It can cause a serious tummy ache."

It is not a certainty in life that you WILL meet a ghost. No one is ever sure that it will happen. However, it might! If it does, you want to be prepared. That is the premise of this debut book by Rebecca Green. Her contention is that, should you be lucky enough to come face to friendly face with such a spirit, you should know what to do.

She does her best to assure your success. In a step-by-step handbook, she offers up her advice for making the best of a very rare occurrence. She begins with an introduction, telling her audience that few people will ever meet a ghost:

"A ghost is nearly impossible to find.
You can look till your face turns blue.
But if you're a person who is sweet, warm, and kind,
a ghost may come out and find you."

Wouldn't that be something? Ms. Green follows up with Ghost Basics, Ghost Care, and Growing Together. Each section offers helpful tips in a well-laid out plan for maintaining your ghost's health, happiness and friendship throughout the many years you may spend together.

"Then your friendship will last
for it knows no bounds -
you'll be friends even after the end."

Written in hand-lettered text, with images created in gouache and colored pencil and edited digitally, it is a book that will appeal at any time of year. I was always on the lookout for picture books to help young writers develop skill in nonfiction writing. They were not always easy to find. This book will work brilliantly. Told with humor and imagination, it will find fans in every library and classroom.