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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Great Gran Plan, written by Elli Woollard and illustrated by Steven Lenton. Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2019. $23.50 ages 5 and up

"But just as he came to the edge
of the wood,
he stopped most abruptly ...

... as there the wolf stood!

"Red Riding Hood's granny?
Well, how do you do?
Strangely enough. I've been
searching for you. Although,
I admit that it's quite a surprise!"

It worries me that fairy tales are not often read in classrooms these days. They have much to teach us about right and wrong, empathy, justice, manners, patience, and pure enjoyment. I have many fairy tales in my book collection; they include a number of books that take the original tale and turn it on its head.

The third little pig in this new tale lives in a very sturdy brick house, and worries not about the wolf blowing it down. Upon sending the threatening wolf packing, he discovers a plot that dismays him. First on the wolf's list was 'eat the three little pigs'. First plot thwarted, it leaves only one other plan - 'Gobble Red Riding Hood's gran nice and hot!' 

The second part of that wolf's plan provides a challenge for the pig. Off he goes in his rusty old van to get the provisions he needs to stymie the wolf and his despicable plan. Pig needs a cape, binoculars, and rope. When none are available, he makes do with a shawl, some specs and a basket of wool.

The repetitive refrain that accompanies his journey to each of the shops will soon be echoed by young listeners:

"Then he ran to the wheel of his rusty old van,
crying, "Pig to the rescue -

SAVE THAT GRAN!"

The wolf, never too bright, greets the pig with surprise when they happen to meet up in the wood; he is convinced he has found RRH's gran. Now, the pig is concerned. The chase is on! Luckily, Gran has a plan. The wolf's nefarious ways earn him his just rewards. Time to celebrate!

The jaunty rhythm in the words is matched with colorful, imaginative artwork by Steven Lenton. Many small details add humor and characters familiar to those who have experienced other fairy tales in their reading lives.

Monday, April 29, 2019

How To Read a Book, written by Kwame Alexander and illustrated by Melissa Sweet. Harper, 2019. $21.99 ages 4 and up


"Next,
dig your thumb
at the bottom
of each juicy section
and
POP
the words out
piece
by
piece ... "

Oh, my! Kwame Alexander gives guidance for reading a book you love, while Melissa Sweet adds to the magic in the words with her incomparable collage and watercolor illustrations. It is the best kind of advice to give all readers. Savor the reading! The words and art work beautifully together to offer a perfect description for the joy to be found in reading as a worthwhile pursuit.

Mr. Alexander suggests finding a tree, a stoop, a comfy chair - a place that is just right for time spent with a book. Unfurling its pages as you would peel a clementine will allow joy to be found in the brilliant color, the fresh scent, the explosion of the sweetness found in the words.

"SURPRISE!

It's a book party
stacked with all
your favorite
friends:

A picnic of
words + sounds
in leaps + bounds."

Reading has an effect on each of our senses and elevates the imagination with which we take in those words. As creative as the words that invite every reader to find and read what is personal and meaningful to them, Ms. Sweet's magical images bring the joy found in books to full life on every spread, every gatefold, each half page and diecut. New readers will appreciate the guidance; experienced ones will understand the joy.

In an author's note, Kwame Alexander explains how this wonderful guide to reading came to be.

"Every parent knows there is always one book that the kid wants to hear over and over again. For mine, it was Miffy. We read it in the mornings, at naptime, in the car, and at bedtime. She simply never wanted it to end, and each time, she smiled and laughed and wriggled and ahhhed, like it was always the first time. I think writing the poem that became this book was my way of capturing our family reading experience on paper. Of painting a picture of the journey readers take each time they crack open a book, get lost in the pages, and wander through the wonder."

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc, by David Elliott. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. 2019. $23.99 ages 14 and up

"I endured the scorn of Baudricourt,
his contempt, his mocking laughter, and
the rank hostility of all
the men who came after. Though assailed
by their derision, I prevailed.
My vision never faltered. I
stood in front of them unafraid,
unaltered, until gradually
their privilege and their power
began to fade and weaken like
a flower in the time of drought."

Here's another brilliant novel in verse from David Elliott. The story of Joan of Arc is told in the 'voices' of the people and objects in her life. Those voices are incredibly diverse, and resounding.
The author notes, before you read it:

"Much of what we read about Joan of Arc comes from the transcripts of her two trials. The first, The Trial of Condemnation, convened in 1431, found Joan guilty of "relapsed heresy" and famously burned her at the stake. The second, the Trail of Nullification, held some twenty-four years after her death, effectively revoked the findings of the first. In both cases, the politics of the Middle Ages guaranteed their outcomes before they started."

Using poetic forms that evoke the writings of the time, Mr. Elliott gives voice to Joan as she prepares for being burned at the stake.

" ... What
more the dying know it seems I
am about to learn. For when the
sun is at its highest, a lusting torch
will touch the pyre. The flames will rise.
And I will burn. But I have always
been afire. With youth. With faith. With
truth. And with desire."

It is an auspicious introduction to the Maid of Orleans. I read it months ago, but wanted to wait until closer to its publication date to tell you about it. I can tell you there is nothing about it that I found forgettable. The words are compelling, the story is heartbreaking and awe-inspiring, the voices strong, and Joan's first person voice emphatic. The author writes a credible and brilliant story, using only the very best of words chosen for sharing in poetic verse.

The voices are many ... the saints, those who bore witness to her life and work, her family, the politicians who accused and those who defended her, the fire, and many other objects of circumstance. There are quotations included that come directly from the two trials. Those who read it will make connections from Joan's time to their own contemporary ones. It is sure to provide for moments of careful thought and, perhaps, discussion of issues that are relevant to their own lives.

Joan's story is brought into clear light, and elevates the sadness that surrounded her death. It is an exceptional portrait of a woman of history, and the fire within that brought her to the fire without.

The author's note explains his process for finding Joan's voice and choosing the poetic forms that would tell her story. Finally, he lists each of the entries in a list of the forms he chose for the telling.

"But I made no such confession.
It seems to me my only real
transgression was to invade and
triumph in the sacred land of
men., a woman in their landscape
was a repugnant, mortal sin,
unless she were a loving wife
or kneeling nun or knowing
prostitute. They would have hated
me far less if I had been a
girl of ill repute instead of
what I was and who I am: a
girl who dared to live the life of
a brave and honest man."

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Never Trumpet with a Crumpet, written by Amy Gibson and illustrated by Jenn Harney. Boyds Mills Press, Highlights. $23.95 ages 3 and up


"Sit up straight.
Don't slump.
Don't slouch.
Lay your napkin
on your pouch.

Have patience.
Let your hostess pour.
One lump or two -
not three or four."

What are the chances of being invited to tea with the Queen? Few, I would guess. So, what happens when the invitation is scooped from a windy sky by an elephant at the zoo. Of course, all of his animal friends are thrilled and delighted to attend. We can see from the young prince's face that the feelings are mutual. The Queen - surprised at their arrival would be an understatement!

Gracious she is, and the expectations for perfect manners are high.

"No wolfing food or snapping jaws.
Use your fork and not your paws.

Resist the urge to lick you chin.
Choose silverware from outside in."

The rhyme is lively, the antics predictable. As the place gets messier and messier, the Queen's response reaches a fever pitch. The prince? Not in the least disturbed by the merriment and chaos, he roars with delight and encourages the animals in their enjoyment of the feast.

"Oh, do sit still. Refrain from spills.
Mind your antlers. Watch your quills.

No reaching, grabbing - mercy me! -
however long your tongue may be."

You can picture it, can't you? If not, you have Jenn Harney to thank for providing the hilarious interpretation of the lack of manners here displayed. In double page spreads, with animals and royalty filling every space, she shows each and every suggestion for behavior in terms of how 'not' to behave when accepting such an invitation. Young readers are sure to enjoy the mayhem, while also learning a lesson in manners.

The advice is delivered, the attempts for proper etiquette clearly shown, and the results too much fun for everyone in attendance. Should all advice be followed, another invitation is likely.

What are their chances now?

Friday, April 26, 2019

Lion of the Sky: Haiku for All Seasons. By Laura Purdie Salas and illustrated by Merce Lopez. Millbrook Press, Lerner. Thomas Allen and Son, 2019. $$23.99 ages 6 and up



"I'm a WRIGGLING tube,
soft underground tunneler -
I fear early birds

I'm red, delicious -
with a quick twist of your wrist,
I'm free from the tree "


This is a book for those who love haiku poetry, the passing of the seasons, and a chance to solve a riddle - or - 24! Laura Salas again does what she does so well - working at wordplay that is sure to entice and entertain her readers.

Beginning with spring (which makes it a perfect book to share in the moment, and for Poetry Month), the author pens delicate haiku poetry, written in the first person and offering clues for the solution.

"I am a wind bird,
sky skipper, diamond dipper,
DANCING on your string"

Kids will be delighted to have that answer pretty quickly. But, what about this one?

"colorful flowers -
we sprout on stems of people,
bloom only in rain"

There are six poems for each season. Knowing the season may make the guessing a bit easier. The language is wonderfully descriptive, and worthy of attention and deconstruction. This is a ideal book for reading first without illustrations. Once guesses have been made and recorded, go back to share it again. This time, show the visual interpretations created by Merce Lopez with acrylic on paper and finished digitally. Colors change as the seasons do, creating a strong connection. The beauty in the words is definitely enhanced by the equally captivating artwork.

In an author's note, Ms. Salas explains how her book came to be. Five years ago, during National Poetry Month, she 'combined riddles with haiku and mask poems' in what she calls the 'riddle - ku.' She offers step by step advice to readers for trying to write one, read it to friends, and revise as needed. Further reading includes other books of haiku, riddle poems, and seasons. And ... there is an answer key, just in case.

I wonder if you will solve this one (no visual):

"I'm a yellow train,
CARRYING thoughts from your brain
to the waiting page"

                                                                   


Thursday, April 25, 2019

Tomorrow Most Likely, written by Dave Eggers and illustrated by Lane Smith. Chronicle, Raincoast. 2019. $23.99 ages 2 and up

"Tomorrow most likely

you'll see something strange.

You'll hear something odd.

You'll touch something gooey.

You'll meet Cousin Todd.

You might ride a whale."

We know from Lane Smith's quiet and soothing title page that the young boy we will be watching throughout the course of this book is in bed, smiling and listening to a parent. The conversation proves to be promising and uplifting. It begins with what tomorrow 'most likely' will bring to the child's life.

"...
there will be a sky.
And chances are it will be blue."

True enough. They are playful assumptions. As they are made, Lane Smith provides visual context for the statements. We watch as the boy awakens in the morning to his usual breakfast, then makes his way into the outside world. There he finds people, traffic, music, a plane in the sky. Those sights are spoken in rhyme ... until 'something won't rhyme'. There is no word for the creature found at the end of a long walk through town, with only its striped and snake-like body as a clue to follow. Their meeting causes no concern for the young boy.

On he goes. There are so many new and delightful discoveries to be made.

"You might ride a whale.
You could eat a cloud.
You might write a song
and sing it too loud."

Kids will like the 'tomorrow most likely' repetitive phrase as it provides a sense of expectation for  interesting scenarios. Parents like to spend time with children before bed thinking back on the events of the day that has passed. Dave Eggers turns the conversation to the many amazing possibilities when night is done. Although some parts will be the same, there is much to discover in each new day.

The child's stroll through an urban landscape is created by the exceptional Lane Smith, using oil paint, pen and ink, paper collage, and digital work. The constantly changing perspectives, the variation in spreads and sequenced panels, the fabulous textures, as well as the visual context given to each imagined scene are a perfect complement to the often humorous text.

Read it once, then read it again. There is much to discover in text and art, and you don't want to miss anything.
                                                                           

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Be A Maker, written by Katey Howes and illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic. Carolrhoda Books, Lermer. Thomas Allen and Son. 2019. $23.99 ages 3 and up


"Make a mess,
or make, instead,
a universe inside your head.

Make a rhythm -
drum and pound.
Ears make out another sound.

Make a telescope from toys.
See what's making all that noise."

Using rhyming verse and an abundance of inspiration, Katey Howes creates the perfect invitation for those children who can't wait to start making a difference in their world. It begins as soon as eyes open in the morning.

'in a world of possibilities, today, what will you make?'

Imagine! She encourages taking the world by its shoestrings, and making it a better place. There are no limits to using the talents the young girl has to find purpose in her world. Whether it's building an amazing tower that collapses and makes a big mess, or instruments that encourage musical interpretation, the intrepid explorer moves from one passion to another as the day passes. A telescope fashioned from readily available materials and a drafting desk for making plans galore only up her imagination.

And, what about making a friend? A homemade spaceship, a personal map, and a chance meeting with a boy whose interests mirror her own leads to a great deal more adventure than one might have imagined on even the best of days!  One thing leads to another, and the two soon join a community filled with people working together to change their own small place in a much greater world.

Using mixed media and a lively imagination of her own, Ms. Vukovic fills her pages with the true beauty of an imaginative and caring mind. Her childlike drawings, and her lovely details on every page up the appeal and beauty of this book for those who want to change the world. Bravo!
                                                                             

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Before You Were Born, written by Deborah Kerbel and illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo. Pajama Press, 2019. $21.95 ages 2 and up

"The sun on our faces,

The full moon at night,

The tiniest murmur of
tender delight.

You were ...

A curve in the road, up

ahead out of view, "

In this welcome lullaby for a new baby, Ms. Kerbel links nature with the patience needed for parents anticipating its arrival. She shows how everything in nature spoke to them ... a song in the moonlight, the moon in the sky, the smiles lovely weather can bring, and the warmth of the sun.

As the parents await the spring birth, the animals of the forest are welcoming their young under the same sky, and with the same happiness. Little readers will see foxes, hummingbirds, deer, bears, woodpeckers, chickadees, and a blue whale with her calf.

The artwork is created in polymer clay, acrylic paint, and other media with the same skill that Ms. Del Rizzo has shown in her previous works. They are exceptional in color, texture and design. The double page spreads show a seaside cottage, the surrounding forest, pond, meadow, and the wide expanses of sky at night and during the day. The animals and settings are detailed, realistic and beautiful to see.

"Light of the world,
                      Curled into our palm.
Where Father Sky
      meets Mother Earth.,
A new family dawns
        in the glow
              of your birth."
                                                                           

Monday, April 22, 2019

Up Verses Down: Poems, Paintings, and Serious Nonsense, by Calef Brown. Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2019. $23.50 ages 6 and up

"My aunts all have warts
and my uncles have wrinkles.
My numerous cousins
have dozens of pimples.
My brothers are balding
with scars on their chins.
My parents have ear hair
and so do their twins.
It may not be gorgeous,
my family tree,
but I love all the leaves -
they look perfect to me."

I am a fan of nonsense verse and wordplay. Calef Brown is adept at both. I have read these poems a few times in preparation for writing this post today, and found myself laughing out loud at some of them. I definitely have favorites. I know that kids who have the same propensity for fun poetry will find much to please them here.

"The kid who ate the gooey paste
and so enjoyed the chewy taste
back in elementary school
became eventually cool.
He's now a famous baker -
the finest in the South.
His pastries are awesome
(but stick to the roof of your mouth)."

He begins with an intro, ends with an outro ... and in between, Mr. Brown divides his work into five categories ... People are People, Foodstuffs, Sleepy Time, Oddments, and Animal Life. 

He offers a clear reason for penning this collection in The Intro:

"Welcomeeveryoneeverywhere! 
I'm overjoyed that I can share
this, my thirteenth book so far.
I did my best to raise the bar.
The poems within, they widely range
from purely fun to very strange."

And range they do - in topic, form, rhyme, and meter. Each page is illustrated for enjoyment and to grab and hold attention. Readers will be delighted with the range in color, the many details, and the always evident humor. He expresses the notion that nonsense is serious to him, and in a postscript adds 'I hope you like the art.'

"My favorite place
on the face of the earth?
Undoubtedly Simile Park.
As vast as the sea
and as precious to me
as a diamond aglow in the dark.
The trees are like steeples,
the rivers like glass.
The wind sounds as sweet as a lark.
My mind is at rest
like a comfortable guest
relaxing in Simile Park."

In The Outro, he encourages his readers to give poetry a go ...

"Try any, or all. Answer the call!
And now for a few more (un-asked-for) suggestions.
Please let me know if you have any questions.

Following is a list that offers guidance for thinking, drawing and writing as complementary devices, recalling, writing, choosing, counting and composing. 'Okay, I'm done. Have fun!'
                                                                             

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Predator and Prey: A Conversation in Verse, written by Susannah Buhrman-Deever and illustrated by Bert Kitchen. Candlewick Studio, Penguin Random House. 2019. $24.99 ages 8 and up

"Today
you may have won
but there will be a time
when the first
hint
of me
will be
the feel
of my talons
as they strike
your fluttering ... "

Predator and prey both fight for survival. It is the way of the natural world. Predators must have food to live; prey want to avoid capture at all cost. The predator and prey presented as partners in this amazing book of poetry use their voices to defend themselves.

A poem for two voices opens the book - an assassin bug and spider both have what it takes to turn the table on the other. One or the other will come out the winner. They both proclaim to be hunter, and in unique voice express their own reason for an expected triumph. Bert Kitchen uses watercolor and gouache to bring the two to what could prove to be an impasse. They face off on a delicate, but intricate, web on the verso page that mirrors their conversation. The author adds an information box at the bottom of the recto to inform her readers:

"One species of assassin bug from Australia hunts spiders. Spiders "listen" to the movements of their webs to learn when prey has been caught. The assassin bug takes advantage of this. The bug plucks the silken threads of the spider's web with its front legs to mimic the movements a trapped insect would make. The spider goes in for the kill, but the assassin bug is the one to get the meal."

Conniving little beast!

Bats and frogs are next, pictured on a double page spread showing the bats scooping frogs from the water. Gatefolds open on both sides to reveal another poem for two voices, and an information box with three short paragraphs that describe the combative pair. Such encounters fill the pages, with Mr. Kitchen providing stunning art for each.

I really like the first person voice for each of the pairs, as it makes the battles more personal and
dramatic. Each of the paired prey-predator creatures give readers a sense of the unique skills they bring to the match.

Patience of a Snake

I am patient.                                 
I am primed.
I am coiled muscle,                HOT-TEMPERED 
expertly designed.                  SQUIRREL 
I am loaded spring
I am ...                                     I'm hot
               LIGHTNING!             and bothered.
                                                 I'm hot
                                                 under the collar.
                                                 I'm fur - rious
                                                 FURIOUS!
                                                 Flag waving.
                                                 I boldly scold:
                                                 "Hey, you! Get off my lawn!!"

What wonderful teamwork for a book that combines, poetry, science and brilliant design!

Saturday, April 20, 2019

The Donkey Egg, by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. 2019. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"Not YET - but it WILL be,"
said Fox. "It's a donkey egg!
A genuine, certified donkey
egg! Still green - has to ripen
and hatch. That's where you
come in. Keep it warm, safe,
and happy, like a little mama
bird in her nest. It will take
time - minutes, hours, days,
weeks, months - so be
patient. Then VOILA!"

Little kids are not likely to fall for Fox's scam about a donkey hatching from an egg (when it is perfectly obvious they are looking at a watermelon), but Bear falls for it!

We know Fox to be a wily character. So, when he drops by with a proposition for Bear, it isn't surprising that he convinces Bear to part with $20 in exchange for a 'donkey egg'. Bear is a tad cynical; Fox is very persuasive.

"As you know, Bear, lots of animals come from eggs -

Dinosaurs.
Chickens.
Platypuses.
Alligators.
And DONKEYS! It's the truth!"

A donkey will be a great help to Bear in his quest to establish a fine farm, but ... Fox will not be thwarted, and Bear becomes the proud parent of a donkey egg. Hare comes by and tries to persuade Bear that sitting on the egg will not help it hatch. Unconvinced, Bear keeps sitting and Hare returns to racing. Bear spends a great deal of time (all dealt with in sidebars describing its passage) warming, rocking, telling stories, and playing with the egg.

"Did You Know?

1 hour = 60 minutes = 3,600 seconds

It takes a spider about an hour to spin a fancy web.

You blink your eye over 1,000 times in an hour!

Your heart beats over 5,000 times in an hour!"

Bear proves to be a fine parent. Despite all the attention given, there is no donkey.

"Rockity - rock. 
Tickety - tock.
Clickety - clock. 
Days passed. 
No donkey."

Full of purpose and positive thoughts, Bear refuses to give up on his egg. When fatigue overwhelms, a terrible accident reveals the truth. Disheartened, but pragmatic, Bear sees promise in the seeds he finds in the demise of his egg. Bear and Hare work together to till, weed, plant and water. In the end, the sale of the watermelons grown result in a big surprise for Fox.

The farm setting, and these lovable, familiar characters (Tops and Bottoms, 1995) have me hoping that sisters Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel might return with another story about Bear and Hare, sooner than later. It is lovely to meet up with them again in this endearing and humorous tale of friendship, tomfoolery, and poetic justice.

The short rhymes and the overall rhythm of the telling have me including it for today's post. The joyful mixed media artwork is sure to capture kids' attention as it is read. From the cantankerous, lazy Bear and the energetic, helpful Hare to the sly fox and the mysterious 'egg', they will be captivated.
                                                                           

Friday, April 19, 2019

No More Poems!: A Book in Verse That Just Gets Worse. Written by Rhett Miller with art by Dan Santat. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2019. $23.49 ages 10 and up

"Nose hairs are gross hairs
We all know it's true

Ear hairs are weird hairs
They're pretty gross too

But ...

When one long hair grows
From a mole on your nose
Man, I feel sorry for you "

Some people are going to love this book; others will not. With its irreverent humor and broken rules concerning grammar and punctuation, it will find favor with middle graders who love to scheme, and who see many adults as not quite as flawless as they would like kids to think.

They will surely capture attention. Rhett Miller starts with a boy who uses a type of 'secret karate' to deal with flushing the toilet.

"My secret karate is practiced in private
In public bathroom stalls
I don't mean to brag but my balance is awesome
I never touch the walls

I don't have a name for my potty karate
I might call it Tae Kwon Doo
Or maybe I'll say I'm a third degree black belt
In the top secret art of Kung Poo"

He goes on to consider an alarming case of purple pox, brotherly love, the lure of the 'device', nose hairs, weirdos, twins, bathtub space, a plea for a dog, homework, baseball, stinky mouths, wrestling, a disco bath party, nighttime blues  ... and so on. All subjects you might think of interest to a middle grade audience.

Dan Santat ups the appeal at every turn, with brilliantly expressive mixed media art. He creates unforgettable characters who bring each and every poem to life. From the girl trying to convince her parents that she needs a dog by using a projector and a 55 page presentation, to the terrifying visage of an over-zealous baseball coach whose kid finally puts him in his place, to the mysterious 'bubbles' in a bathtub full of boys, Mr. Santat uses every inch of space to entertain and delight readers.

Here’s “My Device” read by Dan:

https://youtu.be/Rj4ugFHXiPc

I laughed out loud on numerous occasions, and have gone back to read some of my favorites. Some adults who read the book will be offended, and surprised by the dark humor. So, read it yourself before you read it to others. Kids will love it! It is from their perspective ...
                                                                       

Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Undefeated, written by Kwame Alexander and illustrated by Kadir Nelson. Versify, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Raincoast. 2019. $24.99 all ages

“This is for the unflappable.
The sophisticated ones
who box adversity
and tackle vision

who shine
their light for the world to see
and don't stop 
'til the break of dawn. 

This is for the unafraid."

What a collaboration! It should come as no surprise. Kwame Alexander has penned a poem that walks his readers through the history of the African-American experience. It is an astonishing and heartbreaking tribute to those artists, athletes, leaders who have accomplished so much; it also assures that the pain and suffering endured will not be forgotten.

"This is for the unforgettable.
The swift and sweet ones
who hurdled history
and opened a world
of possible."

Kadir Nelson's incomparable portraits leave the reader feeling as if they have just walked the halls of an art gallery. They reflect members of a larger community whose triumphs are too often accompanied by tragedy. It doesn't stop them; in Mr. Nelson's beautiful art we are able to see the determination, the pride, the joy felt.

"The Wilma Rudolphs
The Muhammad Alis
The Althea Gibsons
The Jesse Owenses
The Jordans and The LeBrons
The Serenas and the Sheryls
The Reece Whitleys
and the undiscovered."

An afterword provides context for the genesis of this brilliant poem he wrote and performed because he wanted his daughters 'to know how we got to this historic moment', and to be awed by the work, persistence, heartbreak, honor, promise, and talent of so many. He wants all who read it to know that Black. Lives. Matter. 'Because we are Americans. Because we are human beings.'

"Keep rising." 

Finally, a annotated list of notes on the figures portrayed is included.
                                                                         

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Bunny Band, written by Bill Richardson and illustrated by Roxanna Bikadoroff. Groundwood, 2018. $16.95 ages 4 and up

"Lavinia watched, astonished,
as the silent, silvery moon
shone its light on mandolins,
on banjos and bassoons,
on harps and ukuleles -
it was bright, as bright as day -
trumpets, bagpipes, fifes and drums,
the band began to play.

Their music was enchanting,
not a clamor, nor a din ... "

Lavinia is a vegetable-loving badger, not impressed when she wakes one morning to mayhem in her garden. The spuds and beans are gone. She knows just what she needs to do: set a trap to catch the thief! It works. Out she goes to confront the intruder, and finds a frightened white bunny. Rabbit stew is on her mind when the tiny bunny pleads for leniency, with a promise to reward her for his release.

"I'm not your basic bunny.
I've got magic up my sleeve.
And I will help your garden grow,
if you'll just let me leave."

Has Lavinia been duped? Will the bunny return as promised? Lavinia cannot be sure; and she cannot sleep. So, she climbs into a nearby tree and waits. What a surprise when he returns with a bona fide bunny band! The talent is exceptional, the instruments many, and the music magical indeed. They leave at dawn and return at dusk, keeping the little one's promise.

"That bunny kept his promises -
her garden grew and grew.
Their serenade, enchanted, made
her onions huge, like moose.
Zucchinis, far from weeny,
were the size of a caboose."

It's a bounteous season for Lavinia, with a grand reward for the bunny band who promise to return in the spring.

Kids will enjoy the lilting rhymes of this happy story; it is well told. They will be particularly interested in detailed illustrations that bring life to Lavinia's home and garden, and the bunny band itself. Awash with light and shadow, the images created fill every delightful double page spread.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

BOOM! BELLOW! BLEAT! Animal Poems for Two or More Voices. Written by Georgia Heard and illustrated by Aaron DeWitt. Wordsong, Highlights. 2019. $23.95 ages 6 and up

"We bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
from vegetable
                       to vegetable
lacy onion orb,
                       pale celery parasols
yellow-petalled broccoli.
We bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
back to our hive.
                       We bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz
We bzzzzzzzzz"


Lots of practice is needed before reading this sound-filled book of poetry aloud. I can only imagine the fun when sharing it in classrooms, and having students fill the room with the sounds of the mammals, reptiles, birds, insects and fish that are featured in the 13 poems included here. Cacaphony in its purest form!

A 'performance key' provides guidance for reading. A choice needs to be made prior to performing the pieces. Two voices, two groups ... there are no rules about that. All words in blue are read by all readers. On we go!

The style of piece is constantly changing, and sound is the permanent connection. They are written in two colors to give focus for those reading them ... and as mentioned, blue invites participation for all voices.

The first poem, Animal Songs, sent me to the Internet to see if I could find examples of each. I did not, for example, know that kangaroos chortled or that scallops coughed. It was fun to check them out, and I'm sure that kids would love to do the same. I think it would make an awesome performance piece. Lots of collaboration for making it work, with a perfect ending for any group of young readers.

Listening to the Canada Geese passing over as they return to the north for the summer, We Call to Each Other would be fun. I taught in a grade two classroom for a long time; my students would have loved to share Song Thief. If rattlesnakes hold fascination, some might like to try Rattlesnake Warning. This sound bite is beneficial.

https://youtu.be/vaSeSIZ9Fgw

I appreciate the many fine details provided in the digital collage images created by Aaron DeWitt. They are sure to invite careful observation as the poems are read together. Occasional notes are provided to suggest directions for furthering the experience. The Nature's Notes in back matter will be useful to parents and caregivers who share this book. I found much of the information to be new to me.

"How can an animal the size of a small paper clip fill the air
with song? Peepers can be heard on spring evenings calling
for a mate from a mile or two away. The male frogs are the
singers; vocal sacs under their chins blow up like balloons,
letting loose a "peep" when they blow out the air. Peepers
typically perform in trios, and the one with the deepest voice
usually starts the round."

https://youtu.be/MnGE4e_ZC7g

Monday, April 15, 2019

Dear Wandering Wildebeest and Other Poems From the Water Hole, written by Irene Latham and illustrated by Anna Wadham. Millbrook Press, Thomas Allen and Son. 2014. $$23.95 ages 8 and up

"Wander with me,
meander with me.

Come, be my companion
in this wildebeest sea.

We'll drink when we can,
stampede when we must.

We'll storm the savanna,
create waves of dust."

Come visit the African grasslands and wander with the wildebeest and the many other creatures who find sustenance and shelter within this amazing environment. Irene Latham writes a celebratory and poetic tribute that is sure to entice readers and encourage their learning about animals they are not likely to see in their natural habitat.

The blurb on the back cover explains that Ms.Latham was inspired by the impressive wildlife photography of Greg du Toit who spent years at a Kenyan water hole capturing images of the animals that made their way to it. After much research, and an abiding interest in the creatures seen in the photos, she turned her exceptional writing talent to sharing her thoughts and abiding interest in poetry with her readers.

The 15 poems are placed on illustrations that attest to both the warmth and the importance of the water hole to life on the grasslands. The double page spreads feature a clear look at the animals who find their way to this oasis where they find the water needed to survive. They venture forth despite many dangers; it is vital to their survival during the dry season. 

The creatures featured are diverse. There is humor in the poems, as well as an honest depiction of the creature itself.

"Dung beetle at work 

With hard-hat shell
and shovel claws
Dung Beetle doesn't
ask for applause.

She rolls and scurries,
scurries and rolls -
no break, no water
till ball reaches hole.

African sun beams;
roller birds swoop.
Dung Beetle lays eggs
in elephant poop.

Eggs keep warm;
grass seeds grow.
Busy Dung Beetle's
a recycling pro!"

In an accompanying information box, Ms. Latham explains how elephant dung provides moisture for butterflies, a place for beetles to lay more eggs, and the replenishing growth of grass around the water hole.

Kids love books about animals, known and unknown. This one is entertaining and enlightening. It checks all the boxes.
                                                                       


Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Night The Forest Came to Town, written by Charles Ghigna and illustrated by Annie Wilkinson. Orca Book Publishers, 2019. $19.95 ages 5 and up

"The street began to shimmer
with a sudden rush of green
that spread throughout the city
like a swirling figurine.

It twirled beneath the moonlight
down to the city park,
spreading seeds ... "

The children can see it coming! Their adults are too busy with electronic devices to notice. The animals are playful in their response to it. Night is falling, and soon darkness will afford a chance for that distant wind to work its magic.

The dreariness of their city will soon know the power of nature. The wind brings with it the seeds needed to fill the nooks and crannies of the concrete city streets, rooftops, parking lots. As rabbits watch, owls chase, squirrels scamper and birds fill the air, the seeds are further scattered. And then, the rain.

"A steady rain began to fall   
upon the town in sheets
as saplings started taking root
along the city streets."

When the rain subsides, there is still time for moonlight to shine down and for interested readers to see the beauty of the burgeoning natural world. At sunrise, families appear and look with awe at these new surroundings. Electronic devices have disappeared and children hold hands with surprised adults. Careful observers will note the animals also inspired by the sight.

The rhyme and rhythm of Charles Ghigna’s poetry and the wonder of nature shown in impeccably rendered digital artwork are worthy of celebration and close observation. The world created by Annie Wilkinson moves seamlessly from dusk until dawn, changing the urban backdrop from dull and dreary to lively and vibrant.

How disconnected are we from the world we live in: its beauty and its sustenance for our spirits? Books like this one bring an awareness, and ache with promise. It's up to us!

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Our School Garden, written by Rick Swann and illustrated by Christy Hale. Readers to Eaters, Publishers Group Canada. 2012. $14.50 ages 6 and up

"The garden sleeps in winter
But not our class.
We learn about victory gardens

By studying war posters from the past.
I use their slogans
For my "found poem":

We eat because we work.
Grow vitamins at your kitchen door."

I think this book about community building, gardening and friendship hits many of the right notes. It is a lively and informative introduction to the kind of things that happen when schools decide to grow a garden to care for and share.

Michel is new to the school. Jesse is asked to show him around, and does. Jesse saves what he considers the best until the last.

"I open double doors expecting
Playfields, courts, or jungle gyms
But stop in place, amazed.

By what? A living space
With vibrant greens, fruits and flowers
And hum of bees ...

Out school garden!"

Christy Hale fills the pages that surround the poetry with detailed scenes which show the children at work, inside and out. The colors are vibrant, the children expressive, and the work they do impressive. Rick Swann adds a paragraph of information that is in keeping with the poem being showcased on each double page spread.

A poem about a scavenger hunt shows Julie and Michel on their knees in the garden ... attempting to find a leaf to eat. When Michel only recognizes lettuce, Julie questions him about taste; together they find a 'spicy' mustard leaf for Michel to taste and enjoy. Rick Swann adds this to that scene:

"A school garden is a
wonderful place to learn about
the environment and our local food system.
But did you know that it's also a great place to explore
science, math, social studies, art, and writing? A garden can
be as small as a few containers of soil or as large as a playfield.
All you need is an idea and some dedication. Let's get started!"

Much benefit comes when a school decides to grow a garden together - lasting friendships, work ethic, laughter, history, seasonal changes, and extended learning. If you are considering a garden for your school, this book would be an awesome place to begin.

Friday, April 12, 2019

The Home Builders, written by Varsha Bajaj and illustrated by Simona Mulazzani. Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House. 2019. $23.99 ages 3 and up


"Do you see the builders work? 

Burrow and hide,
Tunnel and creep,

Nibble and gnaw,
Explore and keep.

Shovel and plow,
Construct and flit ... "

Readers will instantly be attracted to the warmth of the surroundings and the abundance of wildlife from the first lovely double page spread. Keen, observant eyes will spot the diversity in the creatures about to be featured as home builders. The tranquility of this first scene encourages a quiet voice while reading the simple, poetic words that sit unobtrusively alongside it. The animals are safe in their homes, and sharing the forest space in peace.

Each section of the book begins with a question that encourages young readers to look carefully at the builders themselves, the work they do to construct their safe places, the completed homes, the babies as they are welcomed, and finally, the families who share 'our earth'.

The forest denizens will be familiar to most children. The work they do to provide for their families a safe harbor is sure to invite conversation. And the babies .... ah, the babies! Who can resist those tiny creatures that are totally dependent in their early days for the protection and safety provided for them by their doting parents?
                                                                 

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Hello, I'm Here! By Helen Frost and Rick Lieder. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2019. $22.99 ages 3 and up


"I'm out in the world -

I don't know where.

Mama? Papa?

Hello, I'm here!


This is the fifth book in a stunning series created by poet Helen Frost and photographer Rick Lieder. Each has been a clear and  wondrous look at the beauty to be found in nature.

This book tells the story of the early life of a sandhill crane, and its family. The marsh setting is a gorgeous backdrop for the nest built on water, the parents caring for their two eggs, the hatch, and the first busy weeks of discovery.

One of the chicks is the narrator, and asks questions and makes comments on those things that concern and intrigue a newborn. From the crowded space inside the shell, to the pecking that releases it, readers watch in awe. Once hatched, it finds its footing, spends time with its mother, and discovers there is another one just like him. Taking steps, feathering out, discovering delectables and swimming as they encounter their surroundings are beautifully presented in stunning up-close photographs.

Little ones sharing this book will be happy to know that the parents are constantly caring for and in contact with their offspring. It reassures while teaching. This is another perfect collaboration. I am up for more!

Back matter notes on sandhill crane families add quality information concerning these very distinctive birds, their habits, and their life cycle.
                                                                         

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Climbing Shadows:Poems for Children,written by Shannon Bramer and illustrated by Cindy Derby. Groundwood, 2019. $18.95 ages 8 and up

"Little Yellow House
Poem 
lives
inside 
a little  ... "

Having spent many of my teaching years in a kindergarten classroom I can definitely attest to the scenes and moments captured in this inspired collection of 20 poems. Sharon Bramer spent time as a lunchroom volunteer with kindergarten children. She shares her many observations in varied poetic forms that speak to the nature of these matchless young learners.

"Being a lunchroom supervisor in a
kindergarten room involves container
opening, orange peeling, snowsuit detangling
and mitten hunting. It is a social time for
the students, where tender and hilarious
conversations abound."

Using her skill as a writer, the time they spent sharing poetry, and the children's genuine interest in creating a poem that reflected their feelings and their thinking, Ms. Bramer hones in on what really matters to a five-year-old. Family stories, wishes, feelings, animals, toys and special interests all find their way into the chosen poems.

Everything is varied, in keeping with the children whose ideas are shared: length, subject, poetic form, conventional writing essentials, and the way of thinking. Each was inspired by one of the children in the class, and is fully expressive of the way they presented their ideas.

"Eleanor's Poem

This poem doesn't like wearing shoes,
just like Eleanor.

This poem would rather eat the cookie before the carrot,
just like Eleanor.

This poem has had a sore throat all week,
just like Eleanor.

This poem is tired of wearing a pink snowsuit,
just like Eleanor.

This poem will not sit on the carpet,
and Eleanor won't either.

This poem is funny and determined
(to make you smile),
just like Eleanor."

If you have worked with kindergarten kids, you know Eleanor! 
Illustrations created using watercolor, India ink, and digital collage are full of the whimsy and imagination evoked by the author's words. They offer up feelings, dreams, family outings, scares, celebrations and concerns, and perfectly match the poems.                                                                        

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The Day The Universe Exploded My Head: Poems to Take You Into Space and Back Again, written by Alan Wolf and illustrated by Anna Raff. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2019. $23.99 ages 8 and up

"I'm one part theoretical.
I'm one part hypothetical.
I'm one part mathematical.
They call me Planet X,

I'm one part supercilious.
Another part mysterious.
One part you-can't-be-serious.
They call me Planet X.

I'm one part speculation.
I'm another part sensation."

If you want your space science to be fun, entertaining, and educational, you have come to the right place when choosing to read this book. With poems about planets, moons, stars, the sun, space travel, astronauts and numerous other space-related 'stuff'; Alan Wolf provides some pretty delightful surprises.

Up first are two poems about the sun, our solar systems's 'burning heart'. The sun sonnet is quite the introduction, written in first person and taking a lot of credit for the galaxy we call home.

"I lit the fires that made you what you are.
When times were dark, I rose above it all.
Next time you want to wish upon a star,
you need not even wait for night to fall.

The simple truth may come as a surprise:
the closest star is right before your eyes."

From the sun, he moves to the moon, a meteor, a meteorite, and then each of the planets we know (and their moons). Full of scientific information presented in accessible and accomplished language, chosen perfectly, readers will come away having learned something new, or echoing some of what they already know.

The poetic forms are many; a number meant to be read by more than one voice. In that case, the reader takes a cue from the color of the penned lines. Anna Raff ups the entertainment with wonderfully spacey backgrounds and expressive galactic images. Digitally assembled color collages made from sumi ink washes, salt, pen and pencil,  the illustrations capture the mood throughout and add touches of humor in keeping with the poetry itself.

Back matter includes notes on the subject of each of the poems, and the poetic forms used.  There follows a glossary of selected terms, and a list of internet resources that can be used to expand knowledge.

Read it aloud, over and over again. Your kids will it appreciate it more each time they hear these wonderful poems.

https://youtu.be/G-eU0y37dao
                                                           

Monday, April 8, 2019

Poetree, written by Shauna LaVoy Reynolds and illustrated by Shahrzad Maydani. Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin Random House. 2019. $23.99 ages 5 and up

"Sylvia's heart did a somersault.
She never imagined a tree
might write back.

In class, Sylvia daydreamed
about her new leafy friend.

"SYLVIA, please pay attention,"
said Ms. Oliver.

"Yeah, Sylvia," whispered Walt,
the boy sitting behind her."

Spring puts Sylvia in the mood for writing poetry. With her first poem complete, she and her dog Shel walk to the park to read it to the birch tree she loves. She ties it to the tree when she has finished.  On her way to school the next day she notices her poem is still there. Upon closer inspection, she finds it is a completely different poem than the one she left.

Wow! She did not know that the tree would leave her a message. That poem is on her mind all day, causing some problems with inattention at school. Later in the day she is fully attentive as her teacher teaches about haiku. Sylvia is up to the task of writing one. The praise given for her first attempt does not make Walt happy. Unperturbed, Sylvia rushes to her tree and tucks the haiku in.

Returning on the weekend, she finds the haiku has disappeared, and no other writing is to be found. Then, a folded ninja star does fall from a branch with a poem inside. Sylvia is astonished.

"I never thought that I would see
Such lovely poems from a tree.
I wish that I could climb and live
Among the words you love to give.
But if I lived up in a tree
I sure would miss my family.
    (Especially Shel)."

Walt appears at the tree and notices the ninja star in Sylvia's pocket. Realizing that the poems have not been written by the tree is a shock to the two poets. Once recovered, they find something special in each other.

Well-told, and charming in its look at the naivete of a young child, this book will be welcomed for its tale of friendship, poetry, and days spent outside. Ms. Maydani's tender pencil and watercolor images  support the tone of the book and offer a hint of spring that we are longing to experience.

Two kids who love to write poetry, spring, and friendship - there's a winning combination.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

The Proper Way to Meet a Hedgehog and Other How-To Poems. Selected by Paul B. Janeczko and illustrated by Richard Jones. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2019. $23.99 ages 9 and up


"How to Bird-Watch 
A Tanka

be very quiet
and amazingly patient
until finally
a shy dove thinks your green shirt
is part of a shady tree

Margarita Engle "

This is the 25th time that Paul Janeczko has sought and selected poetry for one of his remarkable anthologies. I am betting that those contemporary poets he approached to contribute were thrilled to be part of it. Others come from beloved poets of the past, and have stood the test of time. Sadly, Paul passed away in February, ahead of its release. He will be missed by many.

The how-to poems chosen for this book are as brilliant as they are varied. I have read and reread them, and will read them again. Charles Ghigna's contribution is the perfect introduction to the power of poetry and the words that make poems so memorable.

"How To Build a Poem

Let's build a poem
made of rhyme
with words like ladders
we can climb,
with words that like
to take their time,

words that hammer,
words that nail,
words that saw,
words that sail,
words that whisper,
words that wail,

words that open
window   door,
words that sing,
words that soar,
words that leave us
wanting more."

Reading it ensures a deep dive into the rest of the book. No reader will be disappointed in all it has to offer. There are instructions meant to be followed on many topics, all familiar to those that will share them. Each entry is very special and will find fans who want to read, remember and share it.

The accompanying illustrations are painted, then digitally edited to add interest and color. These  images are heartwarming additions to the poems they represent. Quiet and soothing, they evoke a joyful serenity throughout.

If you are looking for how-to do something, this might be a wonderful place to start. It is sure to encourage young poets, their parents and their teachers to take time to consider a how-to poem of their own. What fun for all!

The final poem is a splendid bookend for Mr. Ghigna's welcome.

"How to Pay Attention 

Close this book.
Look.

APRIL HALPRIN WAYLAND" 

Splendid!

Saturday, April 6, 2019

In The Middle of the Night: Poems From a Wide-Awake House. Written by Laura Purdie Salas and illustrated by Angela Matteson. Wordsong, Highlights. 2019. $23.95 ages 4 and up

"Revenge of the Lunchbox

I shuffle softly.
Sneak up.
Pause.

There's that monster
ball of claws.

I unzip teeth
and open wide ...

Do kids think of such things? What do toys and other objects do when everyone in the house is sleeping? Who might be having all the fun? Do they wait for children to be tucked in and dreaming before they venture out on their own? These short poems will give young readers pause as they consider what could be happening while they sleep.

"After Hours 

Sun and moon have traded places -
Time for games! Time for races!

We wait,
we wait,
we wait

              all

                                      day

for you to sleep, so we can play!

Your breathing settles, slow and deep.
Finally! You're fast asleep.

Shhhhhhh ... "

This series of 26 short poems is written for the 'stuffies', and then for a variety of other articles that make up  a young child's day: a marker, a piece of paper, a comb, kleenex, a baseball cap, a book, even a jeans pocket.

"Empty Pocket

I'm an empty spot -
         a vacant lot.
I'm alone
         with nothing to do.

Come button, toothpick, pebble, gum -
I'm nothing without
            you!

I'm a treasure chest
            or a robin's nest.
You are jewels
            or eggs, bright blue!

Come nickel, sticker, piece of string
I'm nothing without
            you!"


This list goes on, offering numerous items for consideration. The points of view are equally varied, giving voice to objects that are very familiar to children as they go about their day. Using a number of poetic forms, Ms. Salas entertains with energetic fun.

It is evident that Ms. Matteson’s paintings, using acrylics, gouache with colored pencil on wood board, were created 'mostly in the hours after dark'!  Blue is the predominant color, evoking all the nighttime action. Readers are sure to enjoy taking a close look as the changes in perspective, the expressions, and the imaginative activity.

Who knew that dental floss is much more than a tooth cleaner?

"Not Just Dental Floss

A bracelet.
A dog leash.
A jump rope!

The truth is
          I have
more fun
          without
a tooth."

Enjoy!

Friday, April 5, 2019

HOME RUN, TOUCHDOWN, BASKET, GOAL!: Sports Poems for Little Athletes. Written and illustrated by Leo Landry. Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2019. $23.50 ages 4 and up

"Ice Time
My skates are laced.
I've got my stick.
The ice is very cold and slick.

The goalie stands
Inside the net.
He wants to block my shot I bet.

I pass the puck.
You pass it back."

It is not easy to find sports poetry meant to be read by young children. Leo Landry has changed that with this poetry collection that is accessible and entertaining for little ones. He covers a wide variety of the sports that are available for childhood participation.

He begins with gymnastics, in a poem that hits all the high notes for kids who love being in the gym and trying activities that require stamina, balance, and team work. He moves on to lacrosse, karate, cycling, hockey, basketball, swimming, football, tennis, skating, soccer, and baseball. Nope, he doesn't cover all those sports that kids might choose in their time away from school. That makes the chance of penning a similar book realistic for the future.

The poems give a quick look at the way the sport works, while encouraging cooperation and team building.

"Brrr!

I love to glide upon the ice
And dance upon my skates,
From axels, quads, and spirals
To amazing figure eights.

I dream about a perfect "10"
And taking home the gold.
But now I want my sweater
For I'm getting rather cold!"

Fairly simple poetry, accompanied by watercolor and pen-and-ink images of familiar and simply drawn athletes in particular surroundings, never mentions the name of the sport itself. This leaves readers the opportunity to decide for themselves what it might be. If they can't figure it out, there is another opportunity for learning.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Clackety Track: Poems About Trains, written by Skila Brown and illustrated by Jamey Christoph. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2019. $22.99 ages 5 and up

"Dinner Train 

You tell the crew,
"Table for two,"
unpack your appetite.

You sip and chew,
drink in the view;
the sunset's such a sight.

Try something new ... "

Kids who love trains are going to be impressed with the witty poems that introduce the variety to be had when considering this mode of transportation. They will have read their fair share of other train books ... there are many. But, they haven't seen one like this, I would be willing to bet.

The poet starts with the train yard itself, and the preparations for a day of work. Readers are encouraged to identify each one as it makes its way to the track it will take.

"Let's see how many we can name
as they depart from where they're stored.
Come on! Hop on now. All aboard!"

What a journey awaits ... from freight train and the tracks it runs on, to the bullet, the steam engine, the train snow plow, the zoo train, and on we go! Each is shared in descriptive, accessible text on double page spreads, accompanied by digital images full of color, detail and variety in settings. The verses differ in form and style meant to complement the train being described.

In the Train Facts section of back matter, the author provides further factual and much-appreciated  material that is sure to please young readers and fans alike.

"The world's longest-ever passenger train had
70 cars pulled by one engine. It was more than
a mile long."

"Until the 1980s, cabooses were the final car
on every freight train. Inside, the conductor
had a desk for paperwork, a sleeping bunk, a
cast-iron stove for cooking, and a toilet that
sometimes emptied straight onto the tracks."
                                                                         

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

A Place to Start a Family: Poems About Creatures That Build, written by David L. Harrison and illustrated by Giles Laroche. Charlesbridge. Penguin Random House, 2018. $21.99 ages 6 and up

"White-spotted 
Pufferfish

Tiny sculptor
thinks grand,
builds a nest
out of sand
forty times
his own size,
trying to
attract a prize."

There are twelve poems here for readers to enjoy and share. The homes that the included creatures build are as varied as those that build them. They are not built for one reason only. While they certainly are built to provide shelter and a home for the family, they are often also built to attract a mate.

The final verses for the featured poem go like this:

"With tail and fin,
hoping he
will soon charm
a willing she,
he works hard
day and night.

Will he win
a mate?

He might."

In back matter, the pufferfish is described in a section called Builders in Water:

"To attract a mate, a male pufferfish may work for a
week shaping sand and shells into a colorful design on
the ocean floor. If it works, a female will lay eggs on it.
The male fertilizes and guards the eggs, blowing water
over them to keep them healthy. When the eggs hatch,
the male leaves the young to fend for themselves.
When danger threatens an adult pufferfish, it swallows
water and blows up into a ball with venomous spines
sticking out in every direction. The pufferfish is one
of the deadliest poisonous creatures in the world."

The poems provide plenty of information concerning the spiders, insects, mammals, birds, fish and one reptile included in the collection. Each is presented on a double page spread, and sorted into four sections: underground, on land, in the water, and in the air. Back matter is categorized in the same way.

The artwork was created using 'cut-paper relief on a variety of hand-painted papers', and lend accuracy to the settings, and to the information shared by Mr. Harrison. As well as the informative paragraphs included in back matter, there are suggestions for further reading.

This is another fine book that uses poetry to enhance science learning.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Snowman - Cold = Puddle, written by Laura Purdie Salas and illustrated by Micha Archer. Charlesbridge, Penguin Random House, 2019. $19.99 ages 5 and up

"nest + robin = jewelry box

Robins lay dazzling blue eggs in spring. Some scientists believe that the most vivid blue eggs have the healthiest chicks inside. The blue shells might act as a sunscreen, protecting the chicks ... "

We have not lost hope that spring is on its way, despite snow flurries today. Winter will eventually bid us goodbye. Our thoughts will turn to new growth, spring showers, birdsong, and everything else that hints at the changing of the seasons.

Ms. Salas mixes her spring poetry with scientific fact in this welcome and information-filled new book. She explores a wide variety of topics through equations that link science with those subjects that speak to the magic of this new season: the return of birds from warm climates, the awakening of animals that sought a long winter's sleep to escape the snow and freezing temperatures, the tapped sap of maple trees, the budding of leaves and flowers as the sun warms the earth and encourages new growth, the gentle (or not so gentle) return of spring breezes, and the birth of wild and tame babies of all species.

"maple trees x buckets + boiling = sticky smile

Maple syrup starts with trees. When spring
days warm up but nights still freeze, sugary
sap flows beneath maple trees' bark. People
collect the sap and boil it down until it is
thick and sticky and perfect for pancakes."

The mathematical poem is concise. The short paragraph that follows the equation helps young readers to understand exactly what the poetic lead-in means. It brilliantly describes what children are seeing at their explore the natural world.

Illustrations are completed 'in oils and custom-made collage papers on gessoed paper, then manipulated in Photoshop.' The colors exemplify the beauty of the season, from deep blues and greens, to the soft pastels of new blooms. The textures and details will prompt careful looks and words of wonder.

Back matter offers a note from both author and illustrator, a list of those changes that suggest spring has arrived, and a list of resources for further reading.

"1 dandelion x 1 breath = 100 parachutes"

Close your eyes and think on that for a minute. 

Monday, April 1, 2019

National Poetry Month Is NOW!




I have been gathering new books of poetry to share with you during the month of April! I know you will find some wonderful surprises among them. Please do you best to read at least one poem every day for the entire month, either for your children or for yourself. 

Here's mine for today:

Rules 

Do not jump on ancient uncles.

Do not yell at average mice.

Do not wear a broom to breakfast.

Do not ask a snake's advice.

Do not bathe in chocolate pudding.

Do not talk to bearded bears.

Do not smoke cigars on sofas.

Do not dance on velvet chairs.

Do not take a whale to visit
Russell's mother's cousin's yacht.

And whatever else you do do
It is better you
Do not.

- Karla Kuskin