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Friday, February 24, 2017

What Will Grow? Written by Jennifer Ward and illustrated by Susie Ghahremani. Bloomsbury, Raincoast. 2017. $22.99 ages 3 and up

"Shiny, brown.
Bumpy crown.

What will grow?

Oak Tree.

Very tiny.
Then so viny!

What will grow?"

There are signs all around us that spring is coming! We will have to endure more cold weather, perhaps a return of snowfall ... but, spring is coming. After all, February is almost a thing of the past!

To that end, I wanted to tell you about this lovely book that concerns seeds and growing. If you know about it now, you will have it ordered and arriving in time for spring planting. Maybe your school has decided to plant a community garden, or your children are old enough now to plant and water the seeds, and benefit from watching their food grow in their own back yard. How exciting is that?

The endpapers offer an apt invitation by showing the seeds included. There are twelve different kinds. The simple, descriptive text provides the information needed for children to learn about them. There are the familiar pine cones, sunflower seeds and even dandelion fluff, and others.

In rhyming text, accompanied by art created with gouache on wood, we learn about those things that will grow from the seeds we plant. There are hints in the words and in the illustrations to help answer most riddles. Some encourage young readers to take a very close look. Cleverly designed gatefolds provide the answer to four of the riddles in images absolutely appropriate to the answer. An upward unfolding one answers the riddle stripy black/crunchy snack/what will grow? with a tall and perfectly placed sunflower!

It is an elegant design - the content is carefully chosen, the warm spring colors offer quiet contemplation, and the thick, naturally recycled papers give it a satisfying feel. Endnotes provide a closer look at each of the seeds presented.

"Acorn (oak tree seed)

Sow: fall

Steps: Gather acorns and remove the caps; soak
acorns in water overnight, then discard the
ones that float; bury acorns in soil about 1 inch
deep, providing plenty of space for growth

When will it grow? In the spring, a sapling
(baby tree) will sprout, maturing to a shade
tree in about 20 years"

The four stages of plant growth are also described. Useful and entertaining, this is a perfect book to add to any bookshelf.

Now, I am going to see if I can find a copy of  What Will Hatch? (2013) by the same team.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

When Grandad Was A Penguin, written and illustrated by Morag Hood. Two Hoots, Pan Macmillan. Publishers Group Canada. 2017. $22.99 ages 3 and up

"Perhaps he was just
getting older,
but I kept finding
him in the strangest

It was all a bit

Then one day the zoo

One of the teachers in my school loved to share penguin books with her first grade students. They learned a lot, and grew to love the little tuxedoed birds. So, I know Sheila would have loved to share this funny, imaginative book about swapping places.

A little girl is invited to stay with her granddad, a visit she usually loves. This time, however, she is a bit perplexed by his appearance. They sit together on the sofa - she keeps her distance while he drinks his coffee. Their conversation is filled with talk about fishing. His has great difficulty finding clothes that fit, spends a lot of time in the bathroom, and his resting places are quite strange. When she appears to be at her wit's end, a call comes in from the zoo. It explains why this visit is so bizarre!

Every turn of the page offers up an alternative to the written text. Told simply, I would read it first to kids without showing them the illustrations and let them imagine what is happening to cause her discomfort with the visit. Then, I would read it again with the art, and listen to their hoots of laughter and exclamations at the real reason for her observations. What about that hilarious surprise ending!

If you like this one, be sure to have a look at Morag Hood's other book that I loved, Colin and Lee, Carrot and Pea (2016).

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Mighty Mighty Construction Site, by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2017. $23.99 ages 2 and up

"Skid Steer's nimble,
small, and quick.
She turns,
she spins -
she does a trick!
Bulldozer's heavy,
wide, and grand.
He'll push and plow
to clear the land ...
but even he can use a hand!"

Is there someone in your life who just loves to meet up with the mail carrier every day? My granddaughter Sicily, who is two and a half, has always loved having a visit with the carrier, and then bringing in the mail. So when I told her last night about a new package of books, she wanted to know all about them. She loves Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site (Chronicle, 2011) and was pretty excited to learn that she would be meeting those favorite vehicles again the next time she comes for a visit. I promised I would put it away in her book cupboard! But first, I want to tell you about it.

They get an early start, and have the plans at the ready. It's a big building - and there are only five of them. Can they do it alone? Cement Mixer doesn't think so. He calls in a larger team.

"Mighty trucks all hear the call -
they start up in no time at all!
Out on the road, they drive full steam.
They rush right in to join the team."

They are ten of them now - double the power to get the job done!

Ms. Rinker is quick to share just what each vehicle brings to the mix. Her rhyming text keeps the action going and Tom Lichtenheld uses lively, earth-toned oil pastels to create detailed spreads showing the work at hand and the joy with which each of the vehicles contributes to the overall results.

"Just like the plan - the job's complete!
This awesome team just can't be beat.
Cooperation got it done;
teamwork made it fast - and fun!"

She's going to love it! And, I am going to love sharing it with her, and her little sister.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Frank and Lucky Get Schooled, written and illustrated by Lynne Rae Perkins. Greenwillow Books, Harper. 2016. $21.99 ages 5 and up

"Both of them were just pups. They had a lot to learn. First they learned about each other. Then it was time to learn about other things. So off they went to school. Lucky went to his school ten times. Frank went to his school thousands of times ... "

I have a son. He has two English bulldogs. They are perfect for each other. Together, they have learned a lot. Their similarity to Frank and Lucky ends there. Percy and Ed don't learn a lot from outdoor exploration; they prefer home and hearth. They have not experienced the many scenarios which lead both Lucky and Frank to new learning; they are content with that. But, they are loved and have learned to love. Isn't that the most important thing of all?

Now, I want to introduce you to a young red-headed boy and his curious and active black pup. When they meet, they are both coming to the end of an awful day. Lynne Rae Perkins lets us know so, beginning on the copyright page. She draws a series of panels depicting the many accidents and annoying events in Frank's day. Life has not been kind. A turn of the page adds panels that may, in fact, change his perception of the day itself. We also see the kind of day Lucky has experienced and how he came to be at the very shelter Frank's parents choose for a new dog for their son.

"One day when Frank could not win for losing, he got Lucky.
And one day when Lucky was lost and found, he got Frank."

The story from there shows just how perfect a picture book can be. Together, they learn about each other and about their world - the Science, the Reading, the Math, the History, the Art, the Geography, the Foreign Languages, and even an alternate fact or two.

"Not so long ago, a dog named Lucky jumped up onto a chair and ate an entire birthday cake that was on the table. At least, the evidence suggests that's what happened. Sometimes in History there are different versions of what really happened, depending on who is telling the story."

Learning together is what makes these two happy, and what gives us a glorious book to share and then share again. Filled with numerous opportunities to take learning into the real world, and written with great skill and enthusiasm for such an education, Ms. Perkins fills her pages with subject matter that is sure to entice and entertain. Her watercolor and pen-and-ink artwork is filled with ever-changing perspectives, thought and speech balloons, maps, labels, thumbnail sketches, and a multitude of panels and full page spreads meant to draw attention to all that is happening in this full of heart story of a boy and his dog.

One of my favorite scenarios is the math that is nighttime, when Lucky and Frank share space on the same bed. I wish I could show it to you. I guess you will just have to head to the library or your favorite local bookstore to get yourself a copy.

"When it's nighttime, how much of the bed is Lucky's, and how much is Frank's?
This is fractions and percentages. The answer changes throughout the night."

Innocent curiosity, clever writing, gentle love, humor, useful facts, and the discovery of and wonder at the world we live in make this an in-demand book at home and in the classroom. It definitely ups my admiration for Ms. Perkins' writing. I have not missed one of her books yet, and I don't think you should miss this one!                                                                               

Fish Girl Blog Tour ... courtesy of Raincoast Books, March 2, 2017

Be on the lookout for my post for Fish Girl (Clarion Books, 2017 from Raincoast Books). I will tell you all about this exceptional graphic novel next week! Can't wait to share it. Thanks for reading!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Water's Children, written by Angele Delaunois and illustrated by Gerard Frischeteau, with translation by Erin Woods. Pajama Press, 2017. $18.95 ages 4 and up

"For me, water is the ocean:
the gray waves that break on the sand,
the damp air where the gulls soar,
the boat that carries my father into the horizon,
the hold heavy with fish when he returns to port.

For me, water is a sea star."

You know those days when the water must be turned off because of problems in the system, or when a water heater leaks. Only then are we aware of how much we depend on water for our daily activities. So many moments in each day when we turn to water for hand washing, cooking, drinking, making ice cubes, showering, etc. As a teacher I often asked my students to keep a list of the many times they reached for water on an ordinary day. They were always surprised at how much it mattered in their lives.

In this book about water in its many forms, we are introduced to twelve children of the world, quick to share what it means to them. They have been invited by the author to share their thoughts. They do so in their own language, and their answers will inspire those children who share it to voice their own thoughts and may lead to valuable discussion about its importance to every one of us.

Written in poetic form, and accompanied by light-infused illustrations that are full of life and detail, it is a book that will be appreciated in classrooms and at home. Water is our most precious resource, and each speaker honors that.

"For me, water is everywhere:
the tap that I turn on without thinking,
the bathtub full of bubbles,
the sprinkler that greens the grass,
the lake that summons us for vacation fun.

For me, water is a burst of laughter."


"For me, water is the rice paddy:
the sparkling grid of flooded fields,
the green islets full of young shoots,
my mother and my father planting out the seedlings,
the children and the ducks wading in the mud.

For me, water is a bowl of rice."

Indeed, water is life.

Translators and their countries are included in an accompanying list following the text. 

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Hotel Bruce, written and illustrated by Ryan T. Higgins. Disney Hyperion, Hachette. 2016. $18.99 ages 5 and up

"He turned them out of the house and headed to bed. That's when the trouble started. It was a long night.
Can I have a glass of water?
You're hogging the sheets.
I want to snuggle.
I need to pee."

Oh, my! Poor Bruce ... those geese are at it again. What is a Papa Bear to do now? As he did in Mother Bruce (Disney-Hyperion, 2015), this burly bear continues to chaperone four geese as they migrate to Florida every winter. He has, after all, been adopted as their mother and he sees it as his duty.

Upon returning one spring, he is more than grumpy to find mice living in his house. They have turned it into a hotel! Bruce is quick to rid himself of the unwelcome rodents. He hasn't considered the overnight guests in need of his care.

The morning is no better. As the day goes on, his troubles multiply. The mice mak a return visit, and his geese become bellhops. The manager does not respond to his request for an audience, the cook's turtle soup is a disaster, and the kitchen has been dismantled. Bruce is ready to explode! And then, it gets worse. It is all he can take -


Kids and adults will love everything about this book - the textured images that fill its pages, the often scathing and oh, so funny facial expressions, the wonderful telling, and the chaos exhibited as Bruce tries to overcome his tired grumpiness and be the epitome of parental understanding and support.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Girl With the Parrot on Her Head, written and illustrated by Daisy Hirst. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2016. $22.00 ages 4 and up

"So when she found the biggest box she'd ever seen, the girl with the parrot on her head called out, "Aha! This box is perfect for the wolf."
However, something was already inside. "Oh," said Isabel. "Is this your box?" "Sort of," said the boy. "I was going to use it for a den." "
Why not a castle?" asked Isabel. "Why not an ostrich farm? "

I wonder if you know a child who seems to march to a different drummer; who is resilient, self-reliant, occasionally scared, very imaginative, and willing to look at new possibilities. If not, you have not yet met Isabel.

Isabel is fine, just as long as Simon is close and they can do things together. Then, Simon moves away and Isabel is left to deal with the fall-out after losing a best friend. At first, she deals with it all hatefully. When that happens, the parrot that is usually on her head finds another place to be. Isabel adjusts to her loss by assuring herself that she will be fine on her own. She has no need for friends. She has the parrot back on her head ...

" and ...
she had a system."

Her system has to do with sorting ... bears, hats, castles, monsters, the dark, ducks and a hula hoop, wolves, broken umbrellas, houses, etc ... Everything has a place, and everything is in that place. You get the picture. The parrot worries most about the wolves. In fact, Isabel is a tad worried herself. What if one of the wolves is too big for that box? Finding a huge box on the sidewalk might be just the ticket. Wait a minute! What (or who) is inside that box?

You will want to know, and so will the kids who share this book. They will also want to take a closer look at the wonderful illustrations that accompany this child-centered, unique tale. Bold colors, witty endpaper images, impressive characters, and a totally engaging look at Isabel's world will make it a story time favorite and invite conversations concerning friendship, fears and being independent.