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Monday, January 15, 2018

The Heart's Song, written by Gilles Tibo and illustrated by Irene Luxbacher. Scholastic, 2017. $16.99 ages 5 and up

"Miss Matilda would open
her suitcase. Inside were
perfect rows of shiny tools:
hammers, pliers, screwdrivers of all shapes and sizes.
On sunny days, Miss Matilda
repaired toys, and sunglasses, parasols and sun hats. On cloudy days, she fixed toys ... "

Miss Matilda loves her park bench. She spends her days there waiting for children who live in her community to come to her with their broken things. She is a fixer of toys, and a fixer of hearts.

While some children bring their toys to be mended. Miss Matilda is a listener, and a very good one. Her large suitcase is with her every time she says goodbye to her canary and its early morning music. Inside there are those things she needs to help the children who make their way to her bench.

Hearing Jeremy cry with 'unseen hurt' leads her down a new path ... to a pain that none of her shiny tools can fix. Perhaps a song will help, and a hug.

"They stayed that way for a long time.
Whenever a child came to her with a broken
toy, she whispered, "Come back later, dear.
Right now, I'm mending a broken heart."

Miss Matilda has found another way to help children with what is broken. And, when her heart is broken, she gets a lovely surprise from those beloved children.

The artwork for this book was rendered in acrylics, graphite, charcoal and found papers and assembled digitally. If you have seen other books by Irene Luxbacher, you will not be surprised by her beautiful spreads filled with warmth, love and detail. I have pored over them again and again. So very special!

Elmore, by Holly Hobbie. Random House, 2018. $23.99 ages 3 and up

"He'd always had trouble
making friends. What was
the problem? After all, the
"L" in Elmore's name, his
mother once explained,
stood for "love."

He put up a sign:

Friends wanted."

Porcupines are not often the first choice for friendship in the forest. Elmore knows that, first hand. Few of his neighbors have any interest in getting close enough to be a friend. It is the way in Elmore's world.

It makes him very sad. He's not sure why they don't like him. He likes them! When he puts up a sign seeking new pals, he learns that he is not 'easy' to be around ... too prickly! He has lived and loved his life in the magnificent maple that offers peace and comfort. Nighttime forays for food are fun, but he is happy to climb his tree when done and enjoys his own company. Not always, it seems. Sometimes he feels decidedly lonely.

His uncle has a suggestion when Elmore finds himself wishing he were without quills.

"Your quills are quite beautiful.
You should treasure them."

Taking his uncle's advice to heart, Elmore gathers his many dropped quills, packages them, and posts a different sign. What an idea!

Holly Hobbie's gentle and affecting images are rendered in warm watercolors. She creates a wondrous atmosphere, and empathy for the lonely, yet competent, Elmore. Expressive and charming, this will touch young readers in just the right place.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

The Book of Gold, written and illustrated by Bob Staake.Schwartz & Wade, Random House. 2017. $23.99 ages 5 and up

"It was a strange store filled floor to ceiling with curious things. There was an elephant head hanging on a wall, and a suit of armor. There was even a dinosaur bone displayed beneath a fancy glass dome. While his mother and father looked at the dusty knickknacks, Isaac sat down on the cold tile floor and waited."

I meant to do this post when I was sharing 'books about books' earlier this week. My mind wandered, I guess!

Isaac Gutenberg was extremely lucky. He had parents who loved to read, and who spent their days trying to encourage their young son to take a leap of faith and find a passion for books, too.

Isaac was not in the least interested. When they made a trip to the New York Public Library, he was unimpressed and reluctant to go inside. While they read, he moped. Their trip home led them to a store that promised a gift idea for Isaac's Aunt Sadie. They looked, Isaac moped. The shopkeeper shared a story that finally piqued the young boy's interest.

"There is a legend," she explained, "that somewhere in the world there is one very special book that's just waiting to be discovered. It will look like any other book, but it holds all the answers to every question ever asked, and when it is opened, it turns to solid gold."

To be fair, Isaac's interest lay in the fact that the book was gold, and might be worth a lot of money!
But, it was the beginning of a quest for a young boy. He spent a great deal of time looking at, but not reading, any book he could get into his hands. Until one day ...

The perfect book at the perfect time is what parents, teachers, and librarians want for our kids. It will take time, and patience, and we might grow tired. Isaac did not, and in time, he found one book, then another, then another - until he was spending his days and nights learning everything he could learn.

Isn't that the real beauty to be found in a book? Let's keep passing the shopkeeper's story forward.

Bob Staake's digital artwork takes us from the past to the present, from New York to India, and on a journey that results in a love of books we hope each child discovers. He moves his readers from the sepia tones of Isaac's reticence to the bold colors of discovery and love for books of all kinds.
                                                                             

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Leap! Written by JonArno Lawson and illustrated by Josee Bisaillon. Kids Can Press, 2017. $18.99 ages 4 and up

"LEAP!
into the path
of a little grasshopper
and that sets her jumping -
no one can stop her -

glide, land,
leap and glide -
tilting a little from side to side
down and up to ... "

If you are looking to keep kids active on these freezing cold January days, get this book and read it to them! They will be on the go from the time you begin reading until you close it. They are likely to ask you to read it again.

Using poetic prose JonArno Lawson introduces readers to a variety of animals and describes for them the wondrous ways that they make their way from one place to another. His language is lively and creates images that will have kids imagining themselves as adept as the animals being showcased. He has them leap adroitly from one place to another, each time in ways that will entertain and engage his audience.

LEAP!

and splash
right back down
to knock off a bullfrog's
lily-pad crown.
The pond prince shows
his inflatable frown -

trudgening lightly,
croaking and nervous,
over the top of the
rippling surface - 

webbed fleet flatten,
cheeks re-fatten,
legs stretch long to ... "

And so another animal leaps to the next page!

As you might expect Josee Bisaillon's mixed media images are full of movement and detail. Looking carefully, you can see the diagonal lines and soft edges that add context for a young audience. They match the text perfectly. The creatures start out small - a flea let loose from a leaping dog as he welcomes us to the story's start. As we go they get increasingly larger until the frog startles a horse that, in turn, causes that same dog to try to keep up. The ending ensures a welcome bedtime tale ... and sleep! And the flea? You will have to see for yourself.
                                                                         

Friday, January 12, 2018

Many: The Diveristy of Life on Earth, written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Emily Sutton. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2017. $21.99 all ages

"Everywhere you look,
there are living things.

In deserts ...
on islands far out at sea ...
under the feathers of birds
and on the backs of beetles ...

Lichen beetles have
tiny plants growing on
their backs, which help ... "

In a book about the amazing world we share, Nicola Davies helps her young readers see there is life everywhere we look. She starts with one, and then moves on to the idea of 'MANY', inviting them to look carefully around them and see the living things that make their home here.

We have met this little girl before - in Ms. Davies' previous Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes
(Candlewick, 2014). She carefully considers her target audience while helping her readers see what lives and thrives in a wide variety of habitats. Emily Sutton ensures they have a clear connection to the earth's many places that sustain this life. Her watercolor spreads are detailed, inviting and filled with diversity. As she has done in previous books, Ms. Davies writes with a clear, conversational tone in one font, adding further relevant facts in an italicized font.

On one double page spread we are told:

So far, human beings have
found and counted almost
two million different kinds
of living things."

That text is surrounded by labeled illustrations of 31 living things that have been discovered in the past 50 years. Further on, in another such spread, we are shown some of the many living things already lost to us - they number 21. She tells readers that life is a complicated pattern; one thing depends on another to sustain it. Humans are part of that whole big pattern, and must do our part. We do not want the 'many' to become just 'one'.

This is perfect fare to introduce young children to science, biodiversity, and the role we all play in maintaining a healthy world. As she does again and again, Ms. Davies ups their interest, adds to their knowledge base, and does so impeccably.
 

A Bear''s Life, by Ian McAllister and Nicholas Read. Orca Publishers, 2017. $19.95 ages 6 and up

"Indigenous people say that Raven, the creator of the rainforest, flew among all the black bears and turned every tenth one white. This was done as a reminder of the last ice age, which ended about twelve thousand years ago."

Raven also made a promise:

"After turning the bears white, Raven promised they would best fishers on the coast and that they would live in peace and harmony in a forever-green rainforest."

Promise kept - so far! We have talked about the Great Bear Rainforest in other posts ... all by this talented and impressive pair whose glorious nature photography and impeccable research have given us other books to admire and inspire. 

Following Wolf Island (Orca, 2017), this second picture book is perfect for younger readers. This time we follow bears of the rainforest as they move from late winter through to fall. Cubs must be prepared to learn a lot as soon as they emerge in the spring. The older bears know how to take care of themselves, and will now spend time teaching the cubs what they need to know.

The text is accessible for young children and offers up all the information needed for them to learn about the bears, their environment, the lessons they are taught, and their food and eating habits.

"All bear cubs have to pay close attention to their mothers when they're young, because if they don't, they won't know how to survive as adults. Mother bears start teaching their young the day they leave their dens. They teach them where, when, and how to find food."

We are provided with pertinent information about the spirit bear, an amazing sight in the only place such bears live. They live alongside black bears, and grizzlies. No one knows exactly how many bears live there, but protecting their environment ensures their numbers remain high. Fall brings a need for fattening themselves up to survive the winter. The description of their fishing styles is of special interest.

"Some plunge their heads into the water and grab the fish in their jaws. Others sit on the river's edge and scoop the fish up like ice cream. Some pin the salmon against the rocks with their long claws. Others jump on top of them and crush them between their elbows and stomach."

The photographs are stunning, taken from a variety of perspectives and providing a close look at the bears of the rainforest as they go about doing what they do naturally from the arrival of the young until they are ready to make their dens high in the mountains for a long winter's nap.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Read the Book, Lemmings. Written by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by Zachariah OHora. Little Brown and Company, Hachette. 2017. $23.49 ages 4 and up

"Foxy sighed. "Sir?" he
asked. "May I borrow
your bucket?" "Fine,"
said Captain PB. "But
your lemmings better
not eat my fish."
Foxy pulled.
Foxy dumped.
Foxy gave his lemmings
names - and hats - so
he could scold them ... "

Foxy obviously loves learning. He is reading Everything About Lemmings, and is fascinated to know that lemmings don't jump off cliffs. As he reads that particular tidbit to his captain, three lemmings hear what they want to hear ... 'jump off'! Overboard they go. Foxy saves them from a freezing watery fate, and gives them a lecture about themselves. They, once again, ignore his counsel and jump off the S.S Cliff! Obviously, they have not read the book. When the jumping happens again and again, with no regard for the danger it evokes, Foxy sets about making amends for their lack of reading skills. A full afternoon's practice teaches them needed literacy lessons; the jumping overboard stops. Will knowing how to read information about themselves affect the choices they make? I think you know the answer to that.

In this, their third hilarious book together, Ms. Dyckman and Mr. OHora create another perfect book to read aloud. Listeners will beg to hear it again, and it will not lose its appeal even after repeated readings. They will still be chuckling!

There is so much crazy comedy in both words and illustrations. Our first indication is a sign stuck on an iceberg prior to the title page:

"lemmings: small, furry
illiterate rodents who share the
icy North with arctic foxes and
polar bears. People used to think
lemmings jumped off cliffs.
Now we know they don't."

A boat that is a whale, the boat's name is S.S. Cliff, Captain PB is a polar bear who loves fishing and reading the newspaper, his first mate is an arctic fox with a penchant for protection, and the three lemmings are named Jumper, Me Too and Ditto. Geronimo is the lemmings' mantra as they constantly find their way over the side of the ship. The spreads, sporting bold colors, appealing characters, and constant action are a perfect match to the fun the words inspire. The surprise ending is just right!

Even the author's note is full of fun:

"When I was little, I saw a movie that showed lemmings
jumping off cliffs. Years later, I learned that, except is very
rare cases, lemmings DON'T jump off cliffs. My first thought
was, "OH. NO! DID ANYONE TELL THE LEMMINGS?!"
So, we made this book. You're welcome, lemmings."

Too funny by far!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

WELCOME: A Mo Willems Guide for New Arrivals. Words and art by Mo Willems. Hyperion Books for Children, Hachette. 2017. $17.50 ages birth and up

"PLEASE
 ENJOY YOUR STAY

Many activities are
available for you to enjoy,
including, but not limited to:

SLEEPING and WAKING,
EATING and BURPIING
POOPING and MORE POOPING."

I trust you are always on the lookout for a baby shower book. What better way to start parents and their newborn on a path to lifetime literacy. The close feeling felt when sitting together to hear the words and see the illustrations, the cadence of a parent's voice, the language development, are all part of the shared experience. The earlier the habit begins, the greater the benefits for the future.

This is a book meant to be handled by the babies who will be the recipients of your gift. It has a heavy cover, mirrors at the front and the back, and it is filled with all of the joys and awesome responsibilities of parenthood. There will be bumps, but they will also be many high points.

"REST ASSURED

We will endeavor to seek tears of HAPPINESS,
supply WARM EMBRACES,
and SHARE OUR ICE CREAM.

We are happy to report there are people working
day and night to make this a better place.

I believe this is already a better place,
now that you are here with me ...

while we read this book together."

Be sure to put this on your list for any upcoming newborns. Parents will love it!

Mo Willems, you have done it again! 

HAVE a LOOK, says BOOK. By Richard Jackson with illustrations by Kevin Hawkes. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Simon & Schuster. 2016. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"I am wooly
says Sock.

I am wet
says Mitten.

We are fleecy
says Flock
(stock-still
on a rock)."

Just as Henry became consumed by a book in the previous post, a little girl and her papa take flight into a book that is a ride for the senses. The book itself begs a look and a listen, and even an invitation to touch the words it shares.

 Working in gouache, Kevin Hawkes creates both single and double page spreads that will remind readers of many common experiences - the wetness of mittens, the softness of a mother's touch, the inflexibility of ice, the squish of cooked peas. Sure to conjure sensory memories for those who read it, and stories to share.

Interesting vocabulary, appealing images, and the book joy felt by a father and daughter make this a winner for lap reading. Dad suggests a break for cocoa and cake in their 'comfy' chair, leading to a leave taking, out through the back cover of the book. The book itself is ever so grateful for their visit.

"Thanks for the listen,
thanks for the touch,
thanks for the look,
thank you so much."

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Book or Bell? Written by Chris Barton and illustrated by Ashley Spires. Bloomsbury, Raincoast, 2017. $22.99 ages 5 and up

"It was incredible.
Amazing.
Simply stupendous.
Who knew?
Whoever would have
thought?
Who -

BBBBRRRIIINNNGGG!"

Retirement has brought some remarkable changes in my life. The lack of the dreaded school bell being one of them. No more buzzers letting me know when the workday starts and ends, or when I can take a bathroom break. Since I live across the street from a K-8 school, I can still hear them ... if I really listen! Rarely does that happen anymore. The school bell no longer rules my week days!

Though he usually follows the rules, finding a perfect book changes Henry. He is so consumed by its story he can ignore the distractions (including the school bell) that are part of every school day.  Why?, you ask. It's because Henry is reading a book that allows him access to another place and time; nothing interrupts his escape from what is going on around him. When he 'stays put' at lunch time, at recess, during P.E, things at school go awry. No one else has ever done what Henry is doing.

The adults want to help. The teacher lets the principal know. The mayor makes the suggestion that a bigger bell is all that is needed. That bell affects everyone else - but it doesn't have any effect on Henry. As Henry reads, school life continues its downward spiral with Henry not taking his place in usual activities. In steps the governor, and even a visiting senator to offer solutions that do not work. What's the real solution?

Ashley Spires adds her signature humor in 'art created with watercolor, ink and - due to the interference of kitten paws - some digital adjustments' that will garner full attention for all that is happening on this book's pages. As it becomes sillier and sillier, laughs from readers will get louder. I love the chain reactions and they will, too.

Cheerful and engaging, this is a terrific read aloud.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Flashlight Night, written by Matt Forrest Esenwine and illustrated by Fred Koehler. Boyds Mills Press, Highlights. 2017. $21.99 ages 4 and up

"Shines a path
where waters rush,
reveals a hole in the
underbrush.

Casts a glow upon
a wall
down a dark and
ancient hall."  

Three kids, a teddy bear, a sleeping bag, a stack of books to read, a flashlight and the promise of adventure for the anticipated sleepover will have readers fascinated from start to finish. Wherever that light is focused, attention is drawn to exactly that point. So, what is real is right in front of us, or is it?  On the path from the house to the nearby tree house, our narrator prepares to tell his story.

That story begins, and the children are caught up in the imagined scenes evoked by the beam of the flashlight and the wonder of the imagination. Fence posts become tree trunks, a cat on a fencepost becomes a tiger fleeing into the surrounding woods, and on it goes. A series of rhyming couplets offer up a story replete with an ancient tomb, a country far away, a pirate's treasure, an ocean voyage and a giant sea monster, and a hot air balloon escape. WOW!

Every spread captures the contrast between light and dark, created with digitally colored pencil artwork that show what's real in the muted darkness, while the beam exemplifies the power of the imagination in the story being told. Listeners will be fascinated by the fabulous storytelling. In the end, as the three snuggle in to read from the stack of books carried over, a feeling of simple joy is evidenced. The flashlight's beam allows them to go on another fictional adventure in the pages of their book. Then, the light goes out!

                                                               
  

Sunday, January 7, 2018

How To Be An Elephant: Growing Up in the African Wild. Written and illustrated by Katherine Roy. David Macaulay Studio, Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2017. $ 21.99 ages 8 and up

"With every sniff, a baby elephant samples the air, breathing in the details of an acacia or an aunt. Unlike humans, elephants have poor vision, so a calf  "sees" the world around her by following her nose. A bouquet of aromas made of tiny odor molecules travels a few feet up her extra-long nasal cavaties to land on supersized nasal folds ... "

I so eagerly anticipated the publication of Katherine Roy's second book that I worried I might be disappointed. Why? I had been absolutely fascinated by Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands (David Macaulay Studio, 2014). So, when I heard How To Be An Elephant: Growing Up in the African Wild was to be published this past September, I could hardly wait to see it. Thanks to Fernanda at Raincoast, I received a copy. I have had it for a while, and have read it a number of times. I am., in no way, disappointed! I am sorry that I didn't tell you about it sooner. It is a book to savor.

It is an incredible book to share with kids, as it gives a close-up look at how a baby elephant finds its way from complete dependence on the herd to being a mature, contributing member. In breathtaking illustrations Ms. Roy provides a clear look at that baby's journey. Her birth is highly anticipated by female members of her herd, and her growth and development are watched over carefully. It is a steep learning curve, but guidance is given every step of the way ... with a perfect family of teachers.

The author looks at multiple topics as they pertain to the calf ... birth, family, travel, senses, anatomy, and the process of maturation. It is an intriguing and informative design, and allows readers to see that every member of the herd helps to raise the newcomer. Her stunning and detailed artwork is incredibly appealing. She switches perspective from daily life with the herd to diagrams that show the way an elephant's body works. She leaves nothing out as she chronicles, through scrupulous research and gorgeous art, the many aspects of newborn's life from birth until she is ready to take on all aspects of being a contributing member of her family.

What remarkable animals these giant pachyderms are! Their survival in the wild is paramount if we are to continue learning more about them. Back matter includes a note detailing Katherine Roy’s visit to Kenya to learn about elephants and the threats to their existence (with appended map) as well as selected sources, both print and film.       

"They are born wearing wrinkles. They are friendly, but also 
fierce. They talk in deafening rumbles, and move around on 
soundless feet. Their noses have fingers, and they wave hello 
with their ears. They are wild, majestic, unmistakably 
marvelous, and - in many ways - so much like us."                                                                   


Saturday, January 6, 2018

I'm Just No Good at Rhyming And Other Nonsense For Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-Ups, written by Chris Harris (without William Shakespeare) and illustrated by Lane Smith, Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2017. $25.99 ages 8 and up

"The Little Hurts

Learn to love the little hurts
That lesser folks have dreaded.
For every wrong
Will make you strong
If you will only let it.
The slips, the trips,
The busted lips
The tendon rips
The painful grips ... "

Oh. my! If I start sharing some of my favorite poems from this inviting new collection, I will still be sharing them with you TOMORROW. When I was teaching in early years classrooms I had Dennis Lee, Shel Silverstein, and Jack Prelutsky to make my kids giggle and guffaw. Enter the madcap world of Chris Harris, artfully accompanied by the fantastic Lane Smith. You will be glad you did.

Nonsense, yes! But, there is an element of truth to many of the shared ideas. Hasn't every parent longed to follow through on this?

"Why should I make my bed?" I said.
"It just gets messed up again."

My mother said, "I understand,"
Picked up my eggs and raisin bran,
And tossed them in the garbage can.

"Why should I serve you food?" she said.
"You just get hungry again."

I really could go on and on. Every turn of the page offers up something else to make readers think and respond, question and enjoy. There are more than one hundred poems here, each enticing and worthy of sharing. Give this book to partners to read together and they are in for nonstop fun. Kids will love the wild irreverence, the hilarious scenes, the ongoing missing page numbers. Even the dedication is a back and forth between the author and illustrator sure to evoke a smile!

Chris Harris lets us know from the get-go we should not be expecting a book of rhyme:

"I'm just no good at rhyming.
I'm sorry but it's true.
I'm just no good at rhyming,
And that's why I'm so sad.

I'm pretty good with meter,
And with spelling and with timing.
But I'll never be a poet,
'Cause I just can't rhyme words at all."

What a superb debut collection of silliness! There are riddles and jokes for the eyes, the ears, and for everyone who ever thought they would love to find a new poet to share at home and in the classroom. Lane Smith brings a strong sense of absurdity in his mixed-media artwork that adds perfect punch to the messages imparted in the words. It's sad that the author is not impressed.

"I must confess that I don't like my poems' illustrator.
They told me, "Lane is great!" but man, I really think I hate her!
I swear that I drew better when I was a second-grader!
You won't believe my endless list of reasons to berate her ...

But I've been smart - for as of now, I haven't even paid her.
(I wonder what she'll draw right here? I guess I'll find out later.)"

Or now:
                                                                         

Don't miss the Index which is alphabetized, or the Outdex which includes titles that 'did not make the cut'. The acknowledgements are worthy of reading out loud to anyone willing to listen. Full out energy and fraught with original ideas, this is a collection that deserves a place in every library, classroom and home. Get ready to smile, and smile and smile again!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Through With The Zoo, written and illustrated by Jacob Grant. Feiwel and Friends, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2017. $23.99 ages 3 and up

"He would find a
space out there just
for him.

He tried living
with a clingy koala.

He tried living
with a noisy elephant."

We've all had those days! You know the ones when you just want to be alone, and you need to find a place of solace. For me, it happens when too many days in a week have been too busy. I just need a quiet space to think my own thoughts, to bask in the quiet, to recharge and be ready for another day.

Same thing happens for a goat whose 'home' is a petting zoo. He loves it there - most days. A petting zoo is a busy place most days. Parents looking for a place to spend time with their kids; kids looking for something fun and entertaining to do. You know the allure of a place where hugging and petting and grabbing at adorable animals provides just that.

Today proves too much for this little fellow. He has a yearning desire to be like other zoo animals that do not have to endure the constant and close attention given the animals that live in his part of the zoo. He wants to retreat to his own private place where he has a chance to breathe on his own, without little hands clinging to him. He wants his own space!

Off he goes. He finds other zoo animals that  prove clingy, nosy, and attentive to a fault. They want his company, too. It isn't until he stands under a large tree with no other animal in sight that he finally feels peaceful. His place to be alone.

"He looked all around and knew that no one could
get near him anymore.

No little faces, no little hands, no little hugs."

Perfect - or is it?

Using charcoal, crayon and digital coloring, Jacob Grant provides the perfect setting to help young readers understand how confining Goat finds the petting zoo pens. Small square illustrations are set in surrounding white space where there is little room for him to move. His view of the zoo beyond widens out and allows for escape, where the wider spreads offer the feeling of freedom he is trying to capture. There is lots of emotion on display here, and it will not be missed by those who share it.

We all need space and time on our own, and Goat manages to find it for himself - whenever he needs  it. For the rest of the time, he accepts that a hug and connection with others are necessary for a happy, fulfilled life.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Deadliest! 20 Dangerous Animals, and Trickiest! 19 Sneaky Animals, by Steve Jenkins. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. 2017. $$8.50 ages 6 and up

"Ocean-going predator
The saltwater crocodile is the
largest reptile in the world.
It is also one of the most
dangerous. This man-eater
has attacked the boats of
sailors in the open sea
hundreds of miles from land.

The saltwater crocodile can
weigh as much as 1,500 pounds ... "

Steve Jenkins does it again! In his new Extreme Animals series, he begins with danger. Kids want to know about any animal meant to scare them, and Mr. Jenkins gives them just enough information to satisfy that need to know, as he does every time he sets out to create a new book.

The design is exemplary - an intriguing title, a short paragraph of needed facts, a text box showing where in the world the animal in question is found and what it eats, perspective on its size in relation to a human, and one further piece of information. Never overwhelming for its target audience, it also encourages further investigation of the included animals concerning the danger they present.

"The king cobra is the largest
venomous snake in the world. It avoids
humans when it can, but will strike if
it feels threatened. In Asia, king cobras
are responsible for hundreds - perhaps
thousands - of human deaths every
year."

But mosquitoes - wait till you read their death toll!

Published at the same time is:


"Ready, aim, fire!
The archerfish squirts a jet
of water from its mouth to
knock down insects. It can
shoot down a moth or fly
that is several feet away. It
gulps down its prey the
moment the insect hits
the water. It is 4 inches
long (10 centimeters)."

In this companion book, we learn about some of the smartest animals on the planet. Needing to catch food, or keep out of the way of a predator, these animals have adapted to using their own tricks of the trade to fool other animals around them. It is what keeps them alive.
They have interesting traits in common ... blending in, setting a trap, even playing dead.

The format is the same, the information as intriguing, and the design much appreciated. Because they are found throughout the world, readers will not necessarily be familiar with each one presented. That only ups the wonder of this book. Mr. Jenkins' paper collage artwork will be familiar to fans, and offers carefully detailed illustrations for each animal included.

A table of contents prepares readers for what is to come, and back matter includes a two-page review of the 19 animals described and how they are connected by a certain characteristic, a glossary, and a bibliography to show the author's research and to point readers toward further reading.

Watch for Stinkiest! and Speediest in the spring! This is a terrific, and much appreciated series.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Days with Dad, by Nari Hong. Enchanted Lion Books, Publishers Group Canada. 2017. $21.99 ages 4 and up


"One day, Dad says,
"Sweetie, I'm sorry
I can't go skating with
you."

"Don't worry, Dad,"
I tell him.
"Ice fishing together
is more fun."

In her debut book, Nari Hong shares stories from her childhood concerning her relationship with her dad. By making her audience immediately aware that her father is unable to walk, she sets the stage for the many wonderful experiences they can share. Although he is often apologetic for the things he is unable to do with his daughter because his legs don't work, his heart works overtime. He forgoes one thing by replacing it with something equally enjoyable.

As she tells her story, Ms. Hong uses gentle repetitive language, allowing readers to understand she does not feel any regret for those things they can't do together; rather, she loves what they can.

'One day, Dad tells me,
"I'm sorry I can't play soccer with you."
"So what?" I say.
"What I really love is singing
along with your ukulele."

At every turn, the two are is sync for the way they spend their time together. The child is totally accepting of the things her father cannot do, and perfectly content with the many things he can!

In warm colored-pencil artwork, done with childlike emotion, she grants her readers understanding for the joy she feels just being with her father, no matter how they spend their time. Though the wheelchair is rarely seen, readers are always aware of the father's immobility. This does not downplay his ability to bring joy and happiness to his little girl. Endpapers match the jacket her father wears in our official meeting with him, and then again later. A lovely touch!

Assured and cheery, readers will know the love and respect the two have for each other. It's a perfect way to begin a conversation with little ones concerning the things they like to do with their parents and family.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

I Am Canada: A Celebration, by Heather Patterson, with illustrations by thirteen Canadian illustrators. Scholastic, 2017. $19.19 all ages

"I stay out late
and see the northern
lights.

I have time.

I watch.
I touch.
I listen.
I make up my mind."

In Canada, we have said farewell to our 150th anniversary, a year of great celebration in every part of the country. In 2006 Scholastic published the first version of this book with photos showing children across the country as they lived their lives daily.

In this new edition, some of Canada's most illustrious artists in the field of children's literature have brought their talent to the celebration of Canada and what it means to many. The text is unchanged, the artwork has changed dramatically. There is diversity in the children, as well as in the style of the illustrations and the design of each spread. The artists were given a piece of text, and used their own life experiences and setting, and given leeway for interpretation of that piece. Every scene is set in the open air, in seasonal splendor, and filled with the joy and wonder of a Canadian landscape for children. It is a magical collaboration.

Canada means much to many, including the artists whose works evoke memories of people, places, seasons, and events. Following the free verse text, each participant is given a chance to tell what makes Canada so unique for them. A photograph and the line that inspired their contribution is included.

"Jeremy Tankard
I am Canada.

I love that Canadians celebrate our diverse population as much as
our varied landscape. This piece was an opportunity to celebrate
both. I wanted an image that invites us into the book but also into
the remarkable place we call home. And as a bonus I got to draw
children hiking - one of my favourite activities."


Monday, January 1, 2018

LOVE, written by Matt de la Pena and illustrated by Loren Long. G.P. Putnam's Sons, Penguin. 2018. $23.99 all ages

"You wake with a start
in the arms of a loved one
who bends to your ear
and whispers,

"It's okay, it's okay,
it's love."

And in time you learn
to recognize a love
overlooked."

Love has many facets, and is often difficult to describe to others. With this book, we are given a gift. It is a testament to love in its many forms. Matt de la Pena uses second person voice and magical prose to share with his readers the variety that comes with loving others. It is often sunny, sometimes sad and scary; it happens wherever people are and whatever they are doing together. It is shown in a myriad of ways.

There are children and adults of racial diversity, facing situations that are both wonderful and challenging. Each is shown in a quiet, enduring voice that offers understanding and warmth.

"Stars shine long after they've flamed
out," she tells you, "and the shine they
shine with is love."
But it's not only stars that flame out, you discover.
It's summers, too.
And friendships.
And people."

The author does not omit scenes of sadness and worry. Each presents a moment for reflection and will help to open discussion for those who share this superb book. No matter the scene shown, it is evident that love surrounds us in untold ways. We are not always sure it is there, but this book assures us that it is. You will want to share it again and again, not only for the honest, reassuring and uplifting words.

Loren Long has created his eloquent and diverse artwork using collaged monotype prints, acrylic paint and pencil to great effect. Each spread accompanies the text perfectly with expressive facial and body postures that convey comfort and the many dimensions of love. They are mirrors to lives lived. including:

"And the face staring back
in the bathroom mirror -
this, too, is love."

What a celebration for a new year, at a time when love for ourselves and others is paramount.

https://youtu.be/fFuNhwAI8oE
 
 
 
 
 



             LET'S BEGIN THIS NEW YEAR  WITH LOVE!