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Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Truth About Bears: Seriously Funny Facts About Your Favorite Animals. Written and illustrated by Maxwell Eaton III. Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast. $20.99 ages ages 6 and up

"Bears like to eat ...

Watch out!
We're hungry! 

mostly nuts and berries.

Ooh, raspberries. 

A bear can eat 
thousands of berries 
in a day." 

Oh, my! Young readers are going to love this series - The Truth About ... 

They will love the information provided, as well as the silly statements meant to entertain and make them laugh. The author recognizes that children will get the humor, and recognize the real goods  being shared. 

The pages are designed to grab attention, and they do so with great success. Early readers will have no difficulty reading the text provided. When they are not reading the amusing observances of the bears, they will learn about the variety in species, where they live, what they eat, how they behave and what makes them special in terns of adaptation.

"Polar bears have thick fur and small
ears to protect them from the cold."

Meanwhile, the animals' conversations also offer up useful information while making readers giggle.
The text boxes are clearly delineated so kids can see the real truth, and nothing but the truth.

"Some bears sleep all winter.

What happened to my pillow? 

Bears sleep, or hibernate, in dens dug under large 
rocks and roots, in caves, and inside hollow trees."

Back matter includes tips on bear safety, followed by a bear file. The file provides a list of habitats, a look at a set of tracks, field notes, a world map that shows where bears are found, and a list for further research.

Other books in the series provide 'seriously funny facts' about Elephants, Hippos, Dolphins, and Crocodiles. What terrific additions they will make to a classroom collection, or to the personal library of young kids who always want to know more about animals of the world.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Sleepy, the Goodnight Buddy, written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Scott Campbell. Disney Hyperion, Hachette. 2018. $17.99 ages 3 and up

"Thanks for the water. 
You're welcome, Sleepy.
I don't think you're that 
freaky looking anymore. 
That's nice. I don't think
you are either. Now go to
I can't. 
Why not?
I have to pee ... you know 
from all that water.
So go."

Speaking of turning the tables, or were we? Just the same ... that is exactly what Sleepy does in this story about Roderick, a child who 'hated going to bed." He uses many excuses - you have likely heard every last one of them. His parents cannot figure how to make bedtime easier, so they buy him a stuffed toy in hopes that Sleepy will do the trick.

Sleepy, with his eerie and unblinking eyes bewilders his new owner.

"Roderick decided to hide Sleepy.
He tried stashing him
on the bookshelf ...
behind the curtains ...
and even under his pillow ...
But no matter where Roderick put him,
he could FEEL Sleepy looking at him.
Finally, Roderick picked him up and
tossed him into the closet."

That's when he discovers that Sleepy has a voice. Readers will find Sleepy to be funny, and very sneaky - with his constant demands for water, the bathroom, brushing his teeth, a story or two. You see where we are going with this, right?

In the end, Roderick is just too tired to continue complying with Sleepy's demands. Mission accomplished!

With terrific dialogue and appealing text, this is a book that is going straight to my 'keepers' shelf. Cannot wait to share it! Scott Campbell ups the charm with his digitally enhanced watercolors that keep the humor and the many expressions up close and personal. Readers will get a real charge out of the relationship developed between Roderick and Sleepy, and the results when adding Sleepy to the bedtime routine.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Tiger vs Nightmare, by Emily Tetri. First Second, Macmillan, Raincoast. 2018. $23.50 ages 7 and up

"Sure, but make sure 
your "monster" doesn't 
leave a mess, or you'll 
be cleaning up monster
messes in the morning. 

Thanks! My monster
never leaves messes.

Oh, they're so cute at 
that age!"

Now, here's a story of bravery that kids will appreciate and want to emulate. Tiger often lets her parents know about the monster that lives under her bed. In fact, she asks for food every day after supper to feed that monster. It has been there since Tiger was a baby; at that time, Monster decided it would not be fair to scare someone so small and new. Instead, Monster chose to chase away any  nightmares that might appear.

The two spend every evening in exactly the same manner. Tiger brings favorite foods, Monster eats, they play games together, Tiger goes to sleep, and Monster keeps watch through the night. All nightmares get their comeuppance from a brave and brash Monster. It works well, until Monster meets his match. A toothy, terrifying apparition with no fear, and Monster is unable to send it away. Instead, he sadly cowers under the bed. The next day Tiger remembers the nightmare, and must wait until bedtime to ask Monster what happened.

"I had a nightmare last night.
And you keep those away.
Where were you?

I, umm ...
don't know. 
I guess one slipped 
through somehow. 

Don't worry; it
won't happen again."

But it does - and Tiger takes charge. Monster is impressed, and Tiger is elated. Bravo!

This is a terrific graphic tale. Ms. Tetri uses deep blues and grays for the nighttime scenes, then switches to warm oranges and yellows for daytime action. The details are sure to capture attention. It is beautifully rendered to make this story a sure winner for children who love their books full of action and admiration. Brimming with heart and the joys of friendship, all readers will find much to admire here.                                                                     

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Mary Who Wrote Frankenstein, by Linda Bailey and illustrated by Julia Sarda. Tundra, Penguin Random House. 2018. $21.99 ages 10 and up

"Mary is angry and unhappy at home, and she shows it. By the time she's fourteen, she has become a Big Problem. Her father sends her away to live with a family of strangers in Scotland. The family is kind. Mary likes them. As she wanders the barren hills, she can let her imagination roam free. But at sixteen, when she returns to her family, she is still a Big Problem. And what does she do next? She becomes an even Bigger Problem."

It has been 200 years since a young girl with many difficult life experiences sat to write her first novel ... Frankenstein. The fact that it had to be published without the author's name was testament to the times. The works of women writers were not acknowledged. In fact, it wasn't until 5 years later, when a second edition was published, that Ms. Shelley was given full credit for her work.

This has been a year for books about Mary Shelley, and I have posted a few. In this book, Linda Bailey aims attention at the events in Mary's life that led to her writing such a story. From the beginning, she was a 'dreamer'. She was a writer as well, and she wanted her stories to reflect the daydreaming that she did while wandering alone. Much of her time was spent at her mother's grave. Mary Wollstonecraft was herself a writer and a champion of women's rights. Her daughter wants to follow in her mother's footsteps.

Unhappy at home, she elopes with Percy Bysshe Shelley, taking her sister Claire with them. Their life together is not an easy one. A meeting with Lord Byron leads to a conversation on a fearsome, stormy evening. A challenge to write a ghost story is put forward. The others in the group get to work; Mary takes some time to bring her monster to life. She is only 18, and about to embark on the most famous work of her life.

Linda Bailey does a wonderful job of bringing Mary to her audience. Her writing is filled with fascinating detail and succinct text, which makes it  very accessible. Julia Sarda's digital artwork is a perfect complement to the telling. She uses dark brooding tones to create a perfect mood for the story shared. It is a haunting, while also exciting, complement to Ms. Bailey's well-told tale.

This is a terrific introduction to a writer whose first novel remains a perennial favorite. Though many of the children for whom it is written will not yet have read Shelley's work, they will have some knowledge of Frankenstein. Back matter adds a lengthy and pertinent author's note, as well as a list of sources used to write this worthwhile book.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

If Polar Bears Disappeared, written and illustrated by Lily Williams. Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2018. $23.50 ages 6 and up

"Although they're the apex predators in the frozen north, polar bears are still vulnerable to threats like pollution and habitat loss. But the biggest threat to polar bears and other animals in their ecosystem is
the melting of the sea ice ..."

We know the sea ice is melting. Do we know what would happen if polar bears disappeared? It is a question posed by Lily Williams in this new informational picture book, written as a companion to her earlier book, If Sharks Disappeared, (Roaring Brook, 2017).

Should the sea ice continue to melt until polar bears can no longer exist in the Arctic environment they now inhabit, how would that loss affect the rest of that ecosystem and spread beyond it to the rest of the world? The more the ice melts, the more changes are seen in the Arctic. When there are no polar bears, the numbers among their prey would rise until the lack of ice also affected them in a more serious way.

"However, because ringed seals also rely on sea ice to mate, fish,
rest, and give birth, they would also struggle to adapt to the changing
environment, too."

And so it goes, affecting plants and causing the animals in the food chain to seek new homes where adaptation is more difficult. Such patterns would change all ecosystems. Have you considered the full impact of the loss of polar bears? Scientists have and they are working tirelessly to discover ways to find solutions and to teach all of us the connections between ecosystems and the life they support around the world.

A glossary, information about the Arctic and the impact climate change is having there, a list of things we all can do to help, an author's note, a bibliography for the research done and additional sources are included in backmatter. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

All Are Welcome, written by Alexandra Penfold and illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman. Alfred A. Knopf, Penguin Random House, 2018. $21.00 ages 3 and up

"Gather now,
let's all take part.
We'll play music,
we'll make art.

We'll share stories
from the heart.

All are welcome here."

It is always time to celebrate diversity and to embrace the message of this book. In a school classroom, filled with a varied group of children from many cultures and with different abilities and interests, it is made clear that every single child is welcome.

The endpapers are an invitation for observation and discussion. Here, a child may see a family similar to their own - a mom and dad walking with two little girls, a biracial couple pushing their child in a wheelchair, a pregnant mom walking with her son who's waving to the child behind them, a caregiver walking with a math whiz, a Muslim family, a little boy with his two dads, a little girl arriving in a cab driven by her father - what a joyful scene!

Every glimpse into this classroom is filled with the joy of being together, of sharing experiences, of learning about the world, of enjoying music, reading, art, and of listening to stories. I found myself noting the shy children, the apprehensive parents, and I was always checking to learn more about each of the children by watching them throughout their day. What fun is that!

"We're part of a community.
Our strength is our diversity.
A shelter from adversity.

All are welcome here."

These kids know we are all the same on the inside, and how we look on the outside or how we dress does not matter. It is a worthy way to look at this world we live in. Their personalities shine through, in artwork created with acrylic, ink, crayon, collage and Photoshop, as we follow them from page to page right up to the final gatefold which shows the school community gathering for a potluck dinner, while also celebrating the learning that is happening in the classroom.

Don't miss the inside poster on the book's cover!

Monday, November 5, 2018

The Eleventh Hour, written and illustrated by Jacques Goldstyn. Translated by Anne Louise Mahoney. Owlkids. 2018. $19.95 ages 8 and up

"Europe divided into two enemy

And Canada was at war with

Jules and Jim didn't understand
all the news reports about
treaties and alliances, but they
understood that their country
needed them."

Jacques Goldstyn, an acclaimed Canadian cartoonist, has written a powerful and heartbreaking story of war and friendship. It is written 'In memory of George Lawrence Price, the last Canadian soldier to die on November 11, 1918. He was killed at 10:58 a. m., two minutes before the armistice ended the First World War.'

This emotional story is told of two boys who grow up together in the town where they are born. Jim is first, and Jules is two minutes late. They have much in common, with Jim always leading the way. It is no surprise that they enlist together when war is declared in Europe. They are some humorous moments for Jules while the two are in training.

Their 'jubilant welcome' in Europe is quickly forgotten when they get to the front lines.

"Jules and Jim had imagined war to be full
of epic battles and glorious charges.
They were surprised to find muddy trenches
surrounded by barbed wire instead."

And it gets much worse.

"But for the two friends, the slaughter continued with weapons
that were more and more terrible:
fighter planes, poison gas, tanks ...

The war was like a huge cauldron
that kept devouring men."

There is such dignity in Mr. Goldstyn's portrayal of loyalty, friendship, and war, and such sadness in portraying the realities of the conflict. The writing is direct and honest; the pencil and watercolor artwork is detailed and offers moments of humor, and others of total devastation. He tells a first-rate visual tale, start to finish.

The Great War ended 100 years ago. Today, fighting rages on around the world. Reading it with older students today is sure to spark conversations concerning the current conflicts that bombard them in daily news reports. I wish I were working in a classroom today. It is a story full of impact, and needs to be read.