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Monday, October 20, 2014

Do You Know Komodo Dragons? Written by Alain M. Bergeron, Michel Quintin and Sampar and illustrated by Sampar. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2014. $9.95 ages

"Komodo dragons often hunt by lying in wait. They can wait for hours before suddenly attacking prey that pass by. Despite their large size, these reptiles are fast and swift. They can run faster than 20 kilometres (12 miles) an hour for short distances. They are also excellent swimmers."

This is the third set of four books in the Do You Know series, and they are as funny and informative as the first eight were. Each is 64 pages long, and includes a glossary and index. Both will help interested readers to get back to any information needed.

The cartoon images add fun, while the text is often fascinating and just gross enough to hold the attention of avid fans. There is much to learn, as was the case in previous books. There are absorbing facts about how the animal looks, what it eats, reproduction and also how prey is hunted.

My favorite double page spread in the book about Komodos has the dragon smiling nonchalantly at a passing wart hog. The hog is unconcerned, the dragon's hunger intensifies. At just the wrong moment the Komodo's cell phone rings loudly, frightening the wart hog and sending it scurrying away. The Komodo answers the call with a sneer, and an admonition:

"Stop calling me when I'm grocery shopping!"

Haven't we all been in a grocery line when our own phone rings? Too funny!

While imparting information about an animal that we don't know well, the authors do not soften the facts about its eating habits, or its violent ways when capturing its prey. The gore is made easier to stomach with the fun that is created in the cartoon drawings and the pointed barbs placed in speech bubbles.

They will be loved by some, and not by others. I love that they offer an unusual format for learning about Komodos, praying mantises, hyenas and dinosaurs, and I find myself really appreciating the bizarre humor.

Did you catch me to save my
life or to eat me?

If it's crunchy on the outside,
it must be creamy on the inside.

Hey, guys! Look!
I can make my head disappear.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Animal Antics, written by Derek Harvey. DK Publishing, Tourmaline Editions Inc. 2014. $15.99 ages 7 and up

"A Gentoo penguin loves nothing better than surfing the waves as it returns from a feeding session out at sea. Speed is important for catching fish and escaping predators - but also when launching out of the water for a quick landing on the beach. The Gentoo's torpedo-shaped body is perfect for these antics -..."

I love it when I get a new box of books from Chris at Tourmaline. The exceptional books from DK that are part of the shipment make me want to sit right down and learn!

So, that is exactly what I did when this last box arrived; and the first book that I looked at was this one. Who could ignore that amazing cover? Each double or single page spread has a full color photograph and a titled paragraph to describe what is happening in that photo. As happens with well-done nonfiction books, readers can page through them at random, stopping to read anything that captures their interest.

I found myself going from page to page; not doing any flipping at all. The text boxes are not overwhelming, the information shared is accessible and encourages readers to always move forward learning as they go.

I didn't even know what bee-eaters were, but I stopped quick when I saw a branch sporting nine identical birds, all snuggled up:

"Snuggle up!

Company is especially important when you need it to keep you warm. On their own, little bee-eaters would find the early morning too chilly - so they huddle together to keep warm.

As new ones land on the perch they do little side steps until they are tightly packed together, all facing the same way - but with one keeping lookout at the other end. Many birds in the row belong to the same family group. Sometimes they do this when the weather turns dull and cloudy."

Now, I need to know more about t bee-eaters. So, I am off to check it out and see what I can find! It didn't take long, and I learned a lot. Isn't that the best thing about reading books? What you learn makes you want to learn more!

Billy goats in treetops, frogs using toe disks for traction, a turtle traffic jam, lions dancing, elephants playing in the mud...need I say more? Don't you just want to get your hands on this book, and take a look for yourself.

An index will help you make a quick return to your favorites!

Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes, written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Emily Sutton. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2014. $18.00 ages 6 and up

"And a teaspoon of soil can have as many as a billion microbes. That's about the same as the number of people in the whole of India. Microbes live everywhere - in the sea, on land, in the soil, and in the air. They live in places where nothing else does, like in volcanoes, or inside rocks, or at the back of your fridge."

In a book meant to help young children understand just how tiny a microbe is, and what it is, Nicola Davies uses all of her incredible talent to bring that world to her readers. Her size comparisons even helped me to put it all in perspective. Each is a pretty amazing creature!

"Right now there are more microbes living on your skin than there are people on Earth, and there are ten or even a hundred times as many as that in your stomach."


"(Don't worry! Although some microbes make you sick, the ones that live in you and on you all the time help to keep you well.)"

OK...that's encouraging, right? They may be small, but they have a huge impact in our world. We need to know about them so that we can be thankful for all that they do for us. As you may know, if you are a regular reader of this blog, I do not consider myself scientific in any way. I believe that my brain goes sideways whenever talk turns to science. In books like these, I begin to think that even I can learn scientific material without overextending my brain. Thanks to such informative text, and to a writer who knows how to share it with her audience, I have a sense of the immensity of the job these microbes do and a better understanding of what they are!

Emily Sutton's winning illustrations perfectly complement Ms. Davies' words. I love the way she shows how the E. coli microbe reproduces so quickly, giving children a real sense of that growth over a twelve-hour period. Astounding! The book's design is very appealing and is sure to garner second looks.

They may be invisible to the human eye, but there is no doubt that they have a tremendous impact. This book is sure to be useful when trying to help young readers understand germs, fermentation and composting for enhanced garden growth. It is not a subject often discussed with this age group. Now, teachers and parents have help in bringing it to a child's attention. Well done!

The Ultimate Construction Site Book, by Anne-Sophie Baumann and Didier Balicevic. Editions Tourbillon, Chronicle. Raincoast, 2014. $21.99 ages 9 and up

"To make the ground beneath the road more stable, the workers add lime and cement. The road reclaimer pulverizes the material into an even layer.

When a busy road is built through an area that is filled with wildlife, the animals need a safe place to cross to the other side. Sometimes a special tunnel is built..."

I opened the cover to the title page and made a complete stop to take a look at the many different building materials the children pictured were using in their own special constructions...blocks of all kinds, a wagon, a dump truck, a crane, hard hats, even a barrier for safety. I can hear the talk as young listeners share stories of the things that they build when they have the chance; and they haven't even begun to explore this stellar book!

Moving beyond that, we have access to a variety of sites...from start to finish we watch as a building goes up, view a nighttime scene of cranes at work, see all the work that goes into building a brand new road, a subway, bridges, a roller coaster, an airplane, a ship and finally, to a child's great delight, a traveling circus tent.

The spreads take up two pages, and are filled with so many details they will never all be seen at one sitting. That just ensures it will not be a book that is pushed aside for something more interesting. If that should happen, a child will miss the delight of lifting flaps, opening folds, helping things rise up and come down, pulling tabs and going back to do it all again. All of those actions bring life to the sites being explored, and are not to be missed.

It won't take long to find a favorite page and set yourself to exploring each and every interactive bit of it. Many young children will spend endless time outside watching those places where new things are being built. Here there are more than 60 interactive parts to help them see what happens behind the scenes of some of the best and most fascinating construction sites. There's color, there's action and many questions will be asked and answered in an exploration of its ten incredible spreads.

You might also want to check out its companion book,  The Ultimate Book of Vehicles, which was published earlier this year.

Giant Vehicles, written by Rod Green and illustrated by Stephen Biesty. templar books, Candlewick Press, Random House. 2014. $18.00 ages 5 and up

"The biggest type of submarine ever built was called the Typhoon, and six of them were made for the Russian navy in the 1980s. Ten times as wide as a bus, the Typhoon was as long as a 17-bus traffic jam..."

Take a good look at that cover, and you are sure to start thinking about the readers who will want to have it in their hands. Giant vehicles is right...eight of them!

The coal car is the first to make an appearance, in its place behind a locomotive on the super-train. The two page spread stretches from corner diagonally to the opposite corner and shows readers all the parts of the train that is wending its way across the two pages. The train cars are endless, and all contain coal. It takes three engines to haul the attached cars:

"One locomotive is strong enough to pull a normal train, but some trains are so huge they need seven! The locomotives are not always grouped together, a train might have some at the front, some in the middle, and some at the back."

Other vehicles described are the giant jumbo, the whopper chopper, rocket to the moon, the mighty dumper, the floating hotel, and finally a sub sandwich (as described above). Each of these mammoth means of transport were designed to haul huge loads on land, in the sea and through air and space. You cannot help but be impressed.

Stephen Biesty does his usual incredible job when illustrating these amazing machines. The details are precise enough that we are able to see workers and passengers. The captions and labels provide just enough information to intrigue without overwhelming readers, and the cross-sections and small flaps offer a close look at their inner workings. The extra small images that surround the main illustration provide for further study.

Accessible and endlessly fascinating, this is a book that will long be appreciated for those who have a love for engineering and immensity. WOW!

Voices From the Wild, written by David Bouchard and illustrated by Ron Parker. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2014. $24.95 ages 6 and up

"We are drifters in the night.
You have trembled at our moon call.
In a pack we roam the woods,
And we know that you are present,
Yes, we know you by your scent.

If you're looking for the proof,
Our sense of smell is legendary.
There are those who could convince you
Who aren't hear to tell the tale."

I am thrilled to see a re-issue of this marvellous book, aptly subtitled An Animal Sensagoria. I still have my original, well-loved and somewhat tattered copy. While I was teaching, I shared it often in classrooms and in a library setting. Children were blown away by the discoveries they made about animals they clearly recognized, and were often astounded by the true nature of their powerful senses.

I first heard it read when David came to our school to share his love and excitement for reading. It was great fun to listen, and to guess along with those eager listeners the animal he was describing in his poems. David held their attention time after time. He also worked hard to keep them from shouting out their guesses until he had finished reading the poem. The excitement to share ideas would build, and he would ask them what they thought. Every child was immersed in the experience as they paid close attention to the words of each of the poems.

This new smaller format will be much appreciated, as it is easier to hold for reading to a group, and easier for young hands to carry home. Ron Parker's impressive wildlife paintings of  twenty-five international animals won a new fan for him the first time I saw them. They are quite extraordinary, allowing readers a chance to see each of the animals in their natural environment, and close-up. The book is divided into five sections, one for each of the senses. The animals vie for the artist's attention by touting their own brilliance in their quest to be included here. Their voices are compelling and telling.

A question about humans is asked at the end of each section, concerning that particular sense:

"What about us? What's the reason
That we've not been featured here?

What's happened to our sense of touch,
That doesn't seem to serve too much,
Unless we're seeking comfort
In a world that's filled with things?

What about us as you see it?
What happened to our touch?"

An appendix includes thumbnail sketches and additional useful information to help readers learn more about these animals, and page numbers offer a quick trip back to reread their plea for acknowledgement as the most unique in this verbal battle of senses.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

What's So Yummy? All About Eating Well and Feeling Good. Written by Robie Harris and illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2014. $18.00 ages 3 and up

"Eating many kinds of food helps us feel healthy and good. So each day it's important to eat plenty of vegetables and fruit. It's also important to eat some fish, or eggs, or chicken or other meat - or tofu, beans, peas or nuts. Some brown rice, or whole-grain breads, cereal or pasta..."

This is the fourth in the series called Let's Talk About You and Me, and its format follows a winning pattern. Meant to serve up information for young children, it is plain talking and provides information about staying healthy because of the foods eaten and the activities enjoyed.

On the first page a bold statement is shared, and the two kids comment by way of speech balloons:

Everybody everywhere needs to eat and drink.

Hey, Gus, it's picnic day! What I love about picnics is all the good food we get to eat. It's so yummy!

Nellie, what I love is running all around the park with our puppy, who loves to run, too. It's so fun!"

Cartoon art allows readers to journey along with the family as they set about visiting their community garden plot, add to their purchases at a farmer's market and make their final stop at the grocery store to get the rest of the items on their list.

As they make these stops, they also take time to have a healthy snack and some much needed water. At home, they unpack their many foods. All the while the two are providing a running commentary on the benefits of eating the right foods and getting enough exercise. They also discuss those foods that do not provide for healthy living. They talk about their likes and dislikes, not always agreeing:

"I never liked green peppers, but I tasted one every day this week. Now I think they're delish!

I love food, Nellie. But only SOME kinds of food. So I eat red peppers every day, but never green."

The children talk, the author explains, and the illustrator creates colorful, appealing digital visuals to help young children understand the connections between shopping for good foods, creating wholesome and delicious meals and sharing them at a picnic in the park. It's all good!


Friday, October 17, 2014

True or False: The Book of Big Questions and Unbelievable Answers.Written by Andrea Mills. DK Publishing, Tourmaline Editions, Inc. 2014. $20.99 ages 10 and up

"True or False? Robots will take over the world. The modern world has been revolutionized by robots - automated machines programmed to perform tasks. At least 10 million robots exist, but world domination is beyond them. Robots cannot show initiative or react spontaneously. They are always ultimately following human instructions."

Here's another of those books from DK Publishing that is sure to keep kids reading for hours, in an attempt to find out what is true or false about their world and some of the strange and funny things they have been told.

The table of contents tells us that the book is divided into 6 sections - human body, nature, science and technology, space, earth, and history and culture. Readers can skip straight to the page that holds the most interest for them, and just read on. I found myself reading through the statements and heading to the one that I had not heard, or that I wanted to see if what I thought was right. There were many statements I had never even considered.

The format is familiar, and satisfying. The section is introduced and followed up with double page spreads that open with a true or false banner, the statement is made, and then answered with the real deal about it. The spread also includes other facts that have to do with each of the parts of that section. We are left with a question to consider. For instance, the robot page asks: "How many car production workers are robots?" Just prior to the index, the answer is given: 'One in every 10 car production workers is a robot."

Of course, there are the trademark colorful photos, clear illustrations and credible infographics we have come to expect that this exemplary publisher. There is much to learn here. You will know exactly the reader who will benefit from finding this book in the classroom or home library.

The Farmer and the Clown, by Marla Frazee. Beach Lane Books, Simon & Schuster, 2014. $21.99 ages 3 and up


You know where it is
when you're there.

But sometimes you
get separated from home,
and you may need a little
help finding your way back."

In this tender story of community and connection, and without a word being said, Marla Frazee will open your heart to the possibilities of new friendships. In a recent interview at Horn Book magazine, she talked about 'emotional engagement'.

"I try to play it out in my mind to see whether there's something there to follow - what I would call the beating heart of that idea. If I can't find it, I won't be engaged in the idea anymore."

The heart of this idea is brilliantly portrayed in the engagement that comes when a stern, hardworking farmer stops his work to watch a circus train pass on nearby railway tracks. As he watches, he is surprised to see a small form fall from the back of the train. He goes to investigate and finds a tiny clown, sitting and holding his toes. In pantomime, the clown shows the farmer what has happened and ends his pantomime clinging to the farmer's thin legs.

Standoffish, but not unreasonable, the farmer grasps the little one's hand and they walk off together. A farmhouse offers conversation, food, washing up and a dilemma. Bedtime is fraught with worry for the unmasked clown. The farmer sits with him through the night. Morning brings unfettered delight, a sustaining meal and much work. They do it together!

When a lunchtime picnic is in order, the two take their rest under a shady tree - just in time to see the circus train's return. Off they go! We are left with conflicted feelings about the reunion...and a very funny and satisfying ending.

Black Prismacolor pencil and gouache are used with great skill to show readers a lot about changing mood, about the characters themselves, and the real pleasure to be found in new friends. I love the trade they make at the end. It is sure to provide a constant and happy reminder of their day together.

This book is an outstanding work of art...and story! So much is conveyed without saying a word. Its many nuances are carefully constructed to ensure that readers have full access to its timeless tale of friendship. Surely it will be a Caldecott contender. Bravo, Ms. Frazee!

BEFORE AFTER, by Anne-Margot Ramstein & matthias Aregui. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2014. $23.00 ages 4 and up

"Everyone knows that a tiny acorn grows into a mighty oak and a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. But in this clever, visually enchanting volume, it's also true that a cow can result in both a bottle of milk and a painting of a cow, and an ape in the jungle may become an urban King Kong. No words are necessary... (from the back cover)"

There is not much to tell you about this new book from two French artists...but to say that I think it just beautiful, and thought-provoking, and that the words related to it will come fast and furiously from those who share it!

It is a study in two words only...before, and after. They are only shared on the front cover. The conversations that it will spark are sure to be countless and inspired. As you turn  from one digital image to the next, you will note their connections; you will be entertained; you will laugh; and you may even stop to carefully reflect on what is being presented to you and those who are looking at it with you.

What happens over time to pink spring blossoms that invite and welcome bees, and a bird looking to build a nest, to their tree? Could it be that tree grows larger leaves, its blossoms turn to apples, and the parent bird feeds its young fledglings a worm from one of those apples? It could be!

Not every pair (or more) of images conjures an easy answer. There are times when careful consideration must be given to the passing of time, and its results. The images are simply constructed to make it accessible for young readers, while also being inviting enough for older readers to take the time to investigate its many natural and seasonal changes.

There are few humans in sight. But, there are connections made that are sure to evoke talk about how they relate to familiar tales. It is not an ongoing story. The artists have just provided an invitation to talk and honor memories for the parents and children who share it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Cat at the Wall, by Deborah Ellis. Groundwood Books, 2014. $9.95 ages 10 and up

"...although no one calls me Clare anymore. No one calls me anything anymore. I died when I was thirteen and came back as a cat. A stray cat in a strange place, very far from home. One moment I was walking out of my middle school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. There there was a period of darkness, like being asleep. When I woke up, I was in Bethlehem - the real one. And I was a cat."

This is a most interesting book to read. It is unlike any that I have read from Deborah Ellis; and yet, it is not. It is a compelling story from Bethlehem, Israel about a sly and vocal cat, two soldiers, a young boy and a mission. The cat speaks because it was once a girl named Clare. Its voice is unique and totally believable due to Ms. Ellis' impressive writing skill. As she has so capably done before, she is able to introduce her readers to an ongoing war that they may know only from news headlines.

The girl Clare died (while texting) when hit by a truck as she left her middle school. Reincarnation came in the form of a cat, and in a land far from her Pennsylvania home. Today, she forages for food, always wary of other cats and only wanting a place to rest. Tensions are high for all who live in the West Bank. Clare is not immune to the conflict.

The underlying theme of the entire book is conflict...and is shared by Clare from both perspectives. Chapters move back and forth from her previous life to her present one. In both places, Clare is mostly concerned with herself, and only learns to care about others due to the circumstances of the story. Her wry sense of humor offers readers an occasional respite from the ongoing and escalating disputes between student and teacher, and between soldiers and civilians.

Clare the cat escapes certain death when two Israeli Defense soldiers enter a Palestinian home. She is in the right place at exactly the right time, and scrambles indoors with them. She learns that they are using the home to spy on others. They do not know that a child is hiding inside. Clare discovers Omar first, and listens to him as he relentlessly recites the poem Desiderata. The words bring back memories of Clare's former life and a teacher whose detention assignment was to write the words of that same poem...once for every detention. Clare, the middle grader, is adept at putting herself in spots where detention is the result. As she writes and rewrites the poem, she pays no attention to its meaning. There is power in its words for both the young lady and the cat.

I think that the best thing about this book is that Deborah Ellis quietly and with the greatest care nudges us to realize that we can make a difference in our world. Her dedication 'to those who bring kindness to chaos' is a reminder that I want to be in that procession!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sam & Dave Dig a Hole, written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2014. $19.00 ages 4 and up

"When should we stop
digging?" asked Sam.

"We are on a mission,"
said Dave.

"We won't stop digging
until we find something

To complete today's trifecta of stunning new picture books, I want to tell you about the newest collaboration from this stellar team. Sam and Dave Dig a Hole is a wonder, and sure to spawn conversation and repeated readings.

Lucky we are to get so much more than the two boys get in their quest to find something 'spectacular'! Their story begins with an apple tree, placed carefully in front matter and then shown again on the title page, as the boys set out on a new adventure. Their dog accompanies them while the cat watches furtively from the porch step. It's Monday, and the two have a plan.

The digging is tedious, and slow going. But, Dave reminds that they are 'on a mission.' Deepening the hole results in no great discovery. As we in the listening audience look on, we can see just how close they are to success. Their dog seems to sense it, too. They just keep digging! Determined in their quest, they have no idea how close they come before they veer off in another direction. Can you hear your young listeners giving unscripted advice to where they should be looking?

When they run out of food and drink, they make the decision to rest. Luckily, that resting spot is very close to 'something spectacular' for their intrepid companion. While they sleep, he digs down and unwittingly causes a rupture in the ground beneath them. They all take a tumble down, down, down...back to where they started. Or is it?

Full of wry humor, and accompanied by mischievous artwork in the restrained color palette we have come to expect from Jon Klassen, this lively new book is sure to attract the attention of the Caldecott committee...again!

Once Upon An Alphabet: Short Stories for all the LETTERS, written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. Harper, 2014. $26.99 ages 5 and up

"You can do all sorts
of things with jelly.
You can eat it.
You can throw it.
You can make stuff out of it.
That's what Jemima did.
She made her front door
out of jelly. That way, if she
ever left home without her
keys, she could just reach
in and grab them."
As is typical of Oliver Jeffers, this is not your conventional look at the 26 letters that make up our alphabet! He loves to surprise, and takes pleasure (I hope) in creating books that are remarkable in their nonconformity. This time he uses the letters of the alphabet to create short stories:

"If WORDS make up STORIES, and LETTERS make up WORDS, then  stories are made of letters. In this menagerie we have stories, made of words, made for all the LETTERS."

Got that? On we go then. In this brilliant collection we read tales that tell of wishes and dreams, of anger and angst, of accidents and danger. They are sure to make you smile as you recognize familiar faces from earlier books, and find delight in the recurring characters found within. I love that Edmund the astronaut is first up, and last as well; while we've been reading, he has found the spot-on solution to his acrophobia. 

Funny, well paced and exuding charm, this is a book that ups my admiration for the work that Oliver Jeffers is doing. His illustrations are recognizable, loose and full of humor. Black and white with bits of color and some collage, they perfectly match the tone of each of the stories and add to the pure delight of sharing them with anyone who will listen. I have read some pages over the phone to my daughter, ensuring that a copy has been added to her ever-growing wish list of books for her five-week-old daughter. Ah, the pleasures of the alphabet will not escape that wee sweet girl!

I do not YET have a favorite, but I hope you will indulge me in sharing a few with you!

"I i

There once lived an ingenious
inventor who invented many
ingenious things.

His latest invention allowed
him to observe iguanas in their
natural habitat...


Your imagination is not likely to take you to the island, that spot in the ocean where a periscope might be placed, or the covert operation that allows the inventor to spy on the island iguanas. Trust me, it's a hoot!


Q q

"This story is supposed
to be about a question.

But I can't find it anywhere.

Do you know where it is?"

Typical? Not in the least! Whimsical? You betcha! Intelligent and imaginative? Oh my, YES!
Thanks to Oliver, and to Oliver's Dad to whom the book is dedicated: Thanks for never making us get a real job. Love Oliver and Rory"                                                                 

Shh! WE HAVE A PLAN, by Chris Haughton. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2014. $18.00 ages 3 and up

up there

hello, birdie



we have a plan."

Oh my! What a truly delightful book this is...I can't wait to share it in a classroom! Kids will be skulking along with the 'planners', and helping me read it in no time flat! It is one terrific picture book.

Three hunters (and a much smaller tagalong), dressed in dark clothing and sporting nets, make their way along a forest path. When their keen (and googly) eyes spot a brightly colored bird on a nearby branch, the tiny follower offers a warm hello. He is told, in whispered threats, to be quiet as they have a plan!

Staying behind, he watches as the three tiptoe toward their prey, nets at the ready. At the moment of capture each falls over the other in a jumble of arms and legs; the bird flies off. Rats! Next, they spot that same bird on a much higher branch, leading to the need for a ladder. The little one is again happy to just say hello. The ladder gets them to a more realistic height for success...but, you guessed it. Foiled again, by their own ineptitude. Still, they are ready for a third attempt.

What do YOU think...a log on a stream and a bird in the water? Nope! The bird flies to shore where the fourth 'hunter' is waiting with a tiny bread crumb, and then more. The tender morsels attract a gathering flock. The hunters are tempted, and intent on capture. They do not see the strength in bird numbers until it's too late. Off they run, empty nets in hand. They do not, however, know the word defeat. NEVAH! 

Distinctive, graphically rendered, and humorous artwork is what I have come to expect from the very talented Chris Haughton. He does not disappoint! In bold blues and blacks, with touches of brilliant color for the birds, he has created a perfect picture book for young readers. The words are spare and repetitive, creating the tension needed. It is a book that must be added to your ever-expanding shelf of anytime readalouds. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Goodnight, Darth Vader, by Jeffrey Brown. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2014. $17.95 ages 5 and up

"When Jar Jar puts on
his PJs for bed
He always ends up
with a bonk on the head.

`Dexter's diner is quiet,
with few patrons in sight
Soon it'll be time
to turn off the light.

I'm on a roll with graphica today! In his latest book for Star Wars fans, Jeffrey Brown shows his readers just how tough it is to get little ones to bed...even for the great Darth Vader! He may rule the galaxy, but putting his young twins to bed proves an almost impossible task.

"Luke! Leia! Join me,
and I will complete your
Why do we have to go to bed?
If only you knew the power of sleep...
Read us a story.
As you wish."

As they enjoy their  bedtime story, many familiar characters from the Star Wars series are also preparing for sleep. Three of our favorite movies when the kids were young were the Star Wars trilogy. We watched them numerous times, collected figurines, spaceships, and every other bit of paraphernalia that was available. Our family shares wonderful memories of that time. So, I was happy to read this new book from Mr. Brown that includes many of the iconic figures that played a very important role in our lives. It helps if you know some of the characters to get the most from this humorous, rhyming tale of the need for a restful sleep. But, it is not essential. Each scene is full of fun, and sure to entertain. In the end, Darth succumbs to sleep before his children, as happens in so many houses worldwide. Good night, Darth!

It is not the first book about these characters. Be sure to look for the others...Darth Vader and Son (2012), Vader's Little Princess (2013), Jedi Academy Books 1 and 2 (2013 and 2014). You won't want to miss them!

Benny and Penny in LOST and FOUND! a TOON BOOK by Geoffrey Hayes. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2014. $15.00 ages 4 and up

"In this fog?
You'll get LOST!

GOOD! Then Mommy
will be sorry!

What if it's in the house?

I looked ten times! I bet
it's in the sandbox."

I'm so happy to welcome Benny and Penny back to the blog. They are off on another adventure, and you know that things will not always go well for the two at-odds sibling mice. This time, Benny is on a quest to find his pirate hat! He has looked everywhere...or so he says! I lived with two men for a long time, and know how often what they are looking for is right in front of their noses. Never mind!

Benny's BAD mood is a direct result of losing his pirate hat...again! Mommy sends him outside until the grumpiness passes, and Penny decides to join him. The fogginess of their backyard is the perfect place for two young mice to get lost. It doesn't take long. Penny manages to find her 'lost' jump rope, while Benny worries that he has lost his little sister. Admonishing her to stay close, they are soon off in search of the errant hat.

As Penny becomes more wary in their foggy environs, Benny shows bravery and even sends his bad mood packing. The ploy works, as soon they are home and all is well. Emotional and funny, this is an early reader that is sure to warm the hearts of those who have met Benny and Penny prior to this new tale. They manage to evoke many of the feelings felt by young children. I only hope that Geoffrey Hayes has many more adventures in mind and that his wonderful characters never grow up!

Sisters, by Raina Telgemeier. Scholastic, 2014. $11.99 ages 8 and up

"Ha Ha! I love this creepy elf!
Look, I made this one at school!
You know we can't afford to buy
too many presents this year,
It's okay, Dad.

Just have SANTA
bring them all!"

For fans of Smile and Drama (and anyone else who has sister issues, loves graphic novels, or just longs for a good story), Raina Telgemeier has returned with a realistic and entertaining autobiographical tale about a three week family road trip from California to Colorado,  and back home again...with three kids, a mother, and a snake that is presumed dead or just lost in their van! It's full out fun for those who are reading their story...a nightmare if you have experienced anywhere close to the same thing!

I was very happy that I didn't have a sister when I was younger than I am now. I watched my friends fight with their sisters day after day...always at odds over clothes, hair, name it, they fought about it. Raina and Amara are not much different from those memories I have from childhood. Raina was sure she wanted a sister when she learned that her mother was going to have a baby. Amara did not live up to the expectations of her older sister.

They are very different, love to bicker about almost every little thing and are not looking forward to time spent in the car on their way to a family reunion. Raina loves the solitude of listening to music, headphones on and the world at bay. Amara is gregarious, loves animals and can't wait to be on the road. The trip is long, with some unforeseen difficulties. In the end, the two are able to take care of themselves when the car breaks down and their mother goes in search of help, young brother in tow. Together, they deal with some serious questions and a surprise visit from the much dreaded snake!

Their tale is both funny and serious...told in present and past. The yellowed frames for the time changes make the transitions easy to follow, and the scenarios play out well. Memories play a huge role in the storytelling, giving it a charm that we have come to expect from this talented artist. It is an honest account of the many highs and lows of family life, looking carefully at the challenges families face...together.

It's a story that doesn't take long to read; readers will, however, linger over the many details drawn on every page. Her family life is familiar, and uncomfortable in places. It's a very true depiction of life when you share the ups and downs of everyday living.
 Now, what's your story?