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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.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Pipsqueaks, Slowpokes, and Stinkers: Celebrating Animal Underdogs. Written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Stephanie Laberis. Peachtree, Fiitzhenry & Whiteside, 2018. $23.95 ages 6 and up

"It takes a Galapagos tortoise
almost six hours to travel a
mile. What a slowpoke! Most
people can walk that far in
just twenty minutes.

Why don't these creeping
critters get a move on?
Because tortoises don't
need speed."

Lucky me! I have been reading a number of excellent animal information books recently, and have been happy to share them with you. Today I want to add this one to your list of books you will want to add to your classroom, school library, or for a child you know who loves animals and wants to know everything there is to know about them.

These are not the animals often featured in the books we share with children. In fact, Melissa Stewart lets readers know that on the first page.

"But this book isn't about animals we admire. It's about the
unsung underdogs of the animal world. Don't you think it's time
someone paid attention to them?"

You won't find elephants and cheetahs here. You might, however, find some truly fascinating and often unfamiliar creatures whose ability to adapt and thrive make them worthy of attention. Ms. Stewart begins with the 'pipsqueaks'. After introducing a few, she informs readers about a few of their ways to avoid capture by their enemies. And she goes on to relate information about many creatures that have been able to adapt to their environment and ensure their place in the animal world. I appreciate her inclusion of her readers with the questions she asks to get them thinking critically.

"What's the world's clumsiest creature? Probably
the western fence lizard. As it skitters along tree
branches, it sometimes loses its balance and falls
to the forest floor. Thud. 
Why does the little lizard run so fast that
it stumbles over its own feet? Because it needs
speed to catch quick-crawling spiders and
insects. Wouldn't you rather take a tumble
once in a while than starve to death?"

The text is personal, accessible, and spirited. That makes for a fun read while learning a great deal. The research, as always, is precise and admirable. The digital illustrations add humor, and match the tone and text perfectly. Backmatter offers further tidbits that add context for info already provided. Then readers are on their own to do some of their own research.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Night Out, by Daniel Miyares. Schwartz & Wade, Penguin Random House. 2018. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"A boy  alone.

A mysterious invitation.

And an extraordinary
bedtime adventure
       begins ...  "

A young boy, sitting all alone at a table where other boys sit - removed from his melancholy and loneliness. It's the same at night in a room filled with side-by-side dormitory beds, he is the only one awake. His face is swathed in moonlight; his pet turtle appears to be bent on escaping its bowl.

Noticing with alarm the empty bowl, the boy is surprised to find an invitation leaning there. The message reads: "The honor of your presence is requested ... "

The full moon beckons him outdoors. Dressed, with his bicycle at the ready, he is off on an adventure that includes a long and winding path, a lantern, a bridge, and a familiar (if larger) friend. He climbs up on the turtle's back and they move forward with their journey. It leads to rejoicing with new animal friends, and ends with sunrise. The two (turtle included) scamper back into their bedroom. Feeling more confident now, he shares his dream with the other boys, and brings a heartwarming end to his feeling of being alone.

The text is spare, leaving the extraordinary artwork to tell a visual story that contains many of the essential features of other folkloric tales. The imagination is a wonderful thing. This story is a search for a connection and is perfect at bedtime, or anytime.

Friday, November 2, 2018

we don't eat our CLASSMATES, written and illustrated by Ryan T. Higgins. Disney Hyperion, Hachette. 2018. $18.99 ages 5 and up

"It as NOT the best way
to start school.

Still, Penelope was determined to have a good first day. She tried hard to make friends at recess. She finger-painted some of her best work."

I am sorry that I didn't have this book for you near the opening of this school year. No worry! It is perfect for reading at any time of the year, as it shares a message of acceptance and understanding that we need our kids to hear.

Penelope Rex is not like the other children. Why? She is a T. Rex! Imagine her surprise when she attends school for the first time and realizes that her classmates are CHILDREN. There is one thing Penelope knows about said kids - they taste delicious!

So, she's not off to a good start. But for eating her classmates, Penelope is pretty much the same as them. She's nervous about starting school, she wonders about the others who will be there, she has a backpack and a lunch.

"Penelope's mom bought her a new backpack
with ponies on it.
Ponies were Penelope's favorites.
Because ponies are delicious.
Penelope's dad packed her a lunch of three hundred
tuna sandwiches
and one apple juice."

Her teacher is not impressed with the disappearance of her students and tells Penelope to spit them out! She does so, leaving the children covered in dinosaur goo .... ewwww! Readers will love it! She spends the rest of the day trying, but finds little acceptance there. Her report to her father at the end of the day results in some gentle parental advice. Try as she does, they are just too tempting. Then, she meets Walter, the class goldfish. Walter teaches the lesson Penelope needs to learn.

Everything changes for the better!

Ryan Higgins' characters are charming in every way. They freely show their feelings, as Penelope struggles to find a way to be a friend. The background colors are muted, while diverse characters are bright spots of color. The tone is humorous and optimistic, and the ending is a wonderful surprise.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

The Dinosaur Expert, written by Margaret McNamara and illustrated by G, Brian Karas. Schwartz & Wade, Random House. 2018. $23.99 ages 6 and up

"She's a plant eater. And the small, fierce one is an Allosaurus. The Allosaurus can move very fast. But the Barosaurus has a super-powerful tail," continued Kimmy. "She'd use it to protect her baby." "You know a lot about dinosaurs," said Jake. "I love fossils," Kimmy said. "I want to be a scientist when I grow up." "Girls aren't scientists," Jake said. And Kimmy stopped talking."

This is the fourth book in the Mr. Tiffin series about his classroom and the experiences they share.

Kimmy loves fossils and all there is to learn about them. She is especially fond of dinosaurs and has much to offer when the class goes on a trip to the museum. Kimmy is extremely knowledgeable and more than willing, in a very kind and fitting way, to tell her school mates what she has learned. Jake's unkind treatment and his assertion that 'girls aren't scientists' hurts Kimmy's feelings as one might expect. She makes the decision not to say anything more.

If you have already met Mr. Tiffin, you will know that he is the kind of teacher all children should have at some point in their school life. He quickly realizes that something has gone wrong. He introduces Kimmy to an exhibit which displays the Gasparinisauria, a dinosaur named for famed paleontologist Zulma NĂ©lida Brandoni de Gasparini. Jake is taken aback, but recognizes it as pretty amazing. Kimmy is thus encouraged to share everything else that is pertinent to their visit and the specimens they are seeing. She readily admits that she would like to follow in Ms. Gasparini's footsteps. Mr. Tiffin is certain she will do that.

Brian Karas uses gouache, matte medium, and pencil on paper to create his signature artwork. The pages are filled with expressive, appealing characters and lively action. Dinosaur fans will be thrilled to see some of their favorite creatures up close and personal, and are likely to help Kimmy as she shares her expertise, by adding what they know as well.  The endpapers are sure to garner attention, as will the two-page addition of a list of Kimmy's 'favorite paleontologists', beginning with Mary Anning and all female.

This is a terrific addition to the series that includes: How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin? (2010), The Apple Orchard Riddle (2013) and A Poem in Your Pocket (2015).  All are published by Penguin Random House, and worth a close look.