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Saturday, August 31, 2019

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise, written by Dan Gemeinhart. Henry Holt, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2019. $22.50 ages 10 and up

"Out of nowhere, tears came stinging into my eyes. I just wanted everyone to be happy. Lester and Tammy and Salvador and his mom and his aunt and Val and me and Rodeo. It's hard, though, when everyone carries around a heart inside them that it so loud and so strong and so easily broken. I stood up and headed back toward my bedroom. I was tired. And something else, too: I was almost home. And I was terrified."

Packed full of amazing and memorable characters, Coyote's story will have you laughing, angry, heartbroken, hopeful, scared and in awe of the endless events that fill her and her father's life.

Coyote and her father, Rodeo, have been on the road for five years. Coyote is only 12; the circumstances that compelled the two to find adventure and anonymity in travel are agonizing. The tragic car accident that killed Coyote's mother and two sisters was too much to bear. Her father could not stay in their hometown any longer. He opted for spending time traveling together on a converted school bus, telling stories and ignoring the grief they are feeling by not talking about it.

A phone call with her grandmother, who still lives in their hometown in Washington state, informs Coyote that their neighborhood park is going to be torn down. Coyote panics. Her mother, sisters and Coyote have buried a memory box beneath a tree slated for removal. It contains many cherished items each one of them has included. Coyote must retrieve it.

In order to do so, she has to trick her father into going back home - all the way from Florida. They only have a few days to get there. Coyote is desperate and resolute, but cannot talk to her father about it as he has vowed never to return. He wants no reminders of all they have lost.

On the road, the two have managed to help a number of people needing a ride to somewhere important to them. This trip is no different. As they meet, and invite an engaging and friendly group of travelers to join them, they forge new and satisfying friendships - and compatriots in assuring that Coyote gets where she wants to go. The trip is not without incident, obstacles, or deep emotions.

Coyote is a marvelous narrator: wise, gracious, observant, courageous and intuitive. She voices her understanding for those who are sharing their bus, offers opinions and candor when appropriate, and finally lets her father know what she needs. She has accommodated his needs for too long.

You won't forget Coyote!

Friday, August 30, 2019

The Book Hog, by Greg Pizzoli. Disney-Hyperion, 2019. $17.99 ages 3 and up

"He came to a long, low
building, and he smelled
some books inside.

He snuck through the
stacks, adding several
books to his pile.

But then a soft voice said,
"Would you like to join us
for storytime?"

I am a bit like The Book Hog. I, too, love books; like him, I have too many. Is that even possible, I ask as I write that sentence? I'm not sure. The difference between us is that I do know how to read. I do it all the time, and wish I had more time in a day so that I could actually read even more.

The Book Hog just loves books. He loves how they smell and feel. He really likes the ones that have pictures. He keeps collecting and collecting: yard sales, garbage cans, book stores. His secret is something he NEVER wants to reveal.

The Book Hog does not know how to read. He never learned how to do it. It makes him sad. One day, while out on a search for more, he discovers the library. He smells the books inside, enters and picks some from the shelves. Luckily, he also meets a librarian. An invitation to read with said librarian causes some fear; it also sparks a grand plan. Off he goes. 

Miss Olive is delighted with his willingness to share his books; she reads him story after story. Imagine The Book Hog's surprise that listening to those books and watching Miss Olive read them results in an even greater love of books. Finally, he knows their many wonderful stories.

There is much enjoyment to be found in a careful look at the illustrations. Watch as squiggly lines on book spines change to words once the Book Hog learns to read. A timely homage to the library and those who work within its walls ... and to reading itself.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Camp Tiger, written by Susan Choi and illustrated by John Rocco. G. P. Putnam's Sons, Penguin Random House. 2019. $23.99 ages 5 and up

"We take our stuff out of the
car and talk about all the things
we'll see. The eagle fishing for
its dinner in the pond. The
salamander with red spots on
its back. And the chipmunks
that come to steal food while
we sit by our campfire.

The air feels cool.
I find a red leaf on the ground."

It's hard to believe how quickly August has passed us by! We are two days away from the long weekend, and I wonder how many families are planning a final camping trip before packing up all their equipment until next year.

The family in this picture book debut by Susan Choi are doing just that. They are on their way to a isolated campsite at Mountain Pond where they plan to enjoy the final days of summer on this annual trip to a favored spot.

School starts as soon as they get back. The narrator lets readers know that he is not too excited about first grade. He would prefer what is familiar to him - kindergarten. He is keen to have this camping trip last beyond its planned time. The family loves this annual trip. He and his brother quickly find things to keep them busy as their parents set up camp.

A sudden movement in the woods has a tiger stepping quietly into their space. Surprisingly, that tiger talks! The boy is not afraid, and asks for a second tent for the cold feline. While they work, the tiger preens. Once clean, the tiger asks for help to get into the smaller tent. The boy goes in, too. The two settle in, comfortable with each other. Throughout the weekend, the tiger accompanies the family on every outing.

On the last night, the boy has some requests for final things he would like to do. Only the tiger hears. Off they go on a nighttime adventure, the boy proving he is capable and confident. Back at the campground, his parents tuck him into the family tent. In the morning, the tiger is gone.

Learning to navigate the unknown is just one step for children as they grow and change. This young boy is learning just how capable and independent he can be when given the opportunity.

John Rocco's illustrations are brilliant, bold, and dramatic. Realistic and fascinating, they are filled with quiet wonder, luminous light, and beautiful details.
                                                                             

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Lawrence in the Fall, written by Matthew Farina and illustrated by Doug Salati. Disney/Hyperion. Hachette. 2019. $17.99 ages 3 and up

"Lawrence and Papa spotted
beautiful rocks that the river
had collected on its sandy
floor.

But the rocks were too hard
to reach, so the foxes kept
going.

As they trotted along, tiny
droplets began to fall ... "

Poor Lawrence! His teacher has asked he and his classmates to bring a collection to school and to talk about it. The rest of the children (turtle, lamb, duckling, kitten, piglet) are beside themselves with excitement, and can't wait to show their valued collections: playing cards, coins, silk ribbons, combs, marbles. Lawrence has nothing. What will he do?

His tears and worries inspire his father to suggest day trip to the nearby forest. Lawrence is not convinced they will find anything there. He follows his father deep into the forest's darkness, always looking carefully for something that might make an appealing and unusual group of materials to call a collection. During a sudden rainstorm, he falls behind and loses sight of his father. Alone, he finds himself in a quiet clearing.

A tree makes the only noise Lawrence can hear: a soft rustling of leaves. When those leaves begin to fall, Lawrence is stunned by the beauty in their colors. By the time his father finds him, Lawrence has made a decision about a worthwhile collection. His turn to share at school is a huge success as Lawrence tells his classmates about his collection and what he has learned about the trees in the forest; he offers to let each and every one pick a favorite leaf to keep.

Accompanying artwork is drawn with pencil and digitally colored, and it shares the beauty of the forest in fall with readers. The color palette is done in muted greens, blues, and browns, with hints of brighter colors when the autumn leaves begin to fall. Emotional and expressive, young children will understand the importance of finding a collection to share. Front endpapers show the collections that are important to Lawrence's classmates, while the ones at the back show labelled outlines of the leaves Lawrence has collected on the trip with his Papa.

If his friends want to find more leaves, Lawrence is now the perfect guide.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

A Stone Sat Still, written and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel. Chronicle, Raincoast. 2019. $23.99 ages 3 and up

"and the stone was bright

and the stone was loud

and the stone was quiet

and it sat where it sat
with the water, grass, and dirt

and it was what it was"

Happy birthday to A Stone Sat Still!

In this new look at the natural world, Brendan Wenzel puts things in perspective for those who have the great pleasure of reading it. As he did in They All Saw A Cat (Chronicle, 2016), he chooses one object. This time it's a stone. The featured creatures experience that stone is as varied ways as the creatures themselves are distinct. Not one of them feels the same about the stone as any of the others. That is the book's charm, and its beauty.

It matters not the creature that pays a visit, the stone is always the same. It is simply there. It is dark in the early morning, and bright in the moonlight. It is both loud and quiet. It is rough, and it is smooth. Depending on each singular circumstance, its sensory features are noted by the animal visiting. 

While the stone is ever the same, its surroundings change just as the perspective does. The water rises over time until the stone becomes an island, then a wave and a finally, a memory. But, it is still there, on the sea floor, where it is climbed by yet another snail.  This picture book will cause readers to think deeply about the natural world we share. It is quite the astonishing place when we take time to sit quietly and take note of what is going on around us. 

Each new spread invites careful observation and quiet attention. Through an animal's perspective we get a clear look at this one object. The mixed media images range from tranquil to energetic, from muted to brilliant - and are always stunning.
                                                                           

Monday, August 26, 2019

What Is Given From the Heart, written by Patricia McKissack and illustrated by April Harrison. Schwartz & Wade, Penguin Random House. 2019. $3.99 ages 4 and up

"Just as we always do, we'll
be delivering love boxes to
needy folk in our community,"
he said. "Irene Temple and her
little girl have lost everything
in a fire. We must add them to
our list. Next week, bring
whatever you think might be
useful to them. Remember,
what is given from the heart
reaches the heart."

James Otis and his mama don't have much - unless you count bad luck and sorrow. There had little before James' father died suddenly, leaving them with a farm they could not farm. A move to a rundown house was tough, and made worse when a rainstorm flooded that house and James's dog disappeared. Mama is ever optimistic, telling James Otis they are lucky to be healthy and strong. Her sentiment doesn't change things for the better, but they endure.

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, their minister reminds them about the love boxes to be delivered to families in need. Everyone is asked to contribute what they can. James and his mama talk about it on their way home from church. James is not sure there is anything to spare. But, when mama gives up her beautiful white tablecloth to make an apron for Mrs. Temple, James Otis begins to think deeper about what he has to share.

Finally, after much consideration, he comes up with an idea that might work for the little girl. He works tirelessly to have it done. When the time comes, he is happy to hand it to Sarah. Her reaction lets James know just how much she appreciates it. A gift from his heart to hers.

In her final book, published posthumously, Ms. McKissack pens a story that should be a staple in all family and school libraries. It is testament to the power of the heart to mend, and to bring joy to others.

This is April Harrison's first picture book. It will not be her last, unless she wants it to be. Her artwork, done in mixed media that includes acrylics, collage, art pens, and found objects, is warm and stunning. There is such sadness, joy, concern and love conveyed on every spread. This is a blessed community, sharing from their hearts what they have to give to all of those in need. Beautiful.
                                                                               

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Hawks Kettle, Puffins Wheel: And Other Poems of Birds in Flight. Written by Susan Vande Griek and illustrated by Mark Hoffman. Kids Can Press. 2019. $18.99 ages 8 and up

"Here in the Arctic
on a barren shore,
the nesting, noisy -
kee-kee-kar!
kee-kee-kar! -
arctic terns
go quiet,
lift up
in a rapid swoosh.

A sudden dread."

This is quite the combination of information concerning birds, shared in both poetry and text. The author begins with a quick introduction that explains to her readers that most birds are built to fly - everything about their bodies help them to ascend into the sky.

"Air rushes over the top of their curved wings and creates lift - the force that
keeps them aloft. Their tail feathers control steering, speed and balance as the
birds maneuver through the air."

She then uses double-page spreads to include a poem about the way they move, faced by a short, informative passage about each of the 12 bird species presented. Many of these words are new to me - both interesting and enlightening. She also includes learning about their specific behaviors.

"Peregrine falcons fly high,
scanning above and below
for prey with their very sharp
eyesight. When the falcon spots
its prey, usually a smaller bird,
it rises up and then drops down
in a steep, fast dive called a stoop.
Tucking wings and feet in close, it
streamlines its body to plunge and
make its kill."

The poems are varied in rhythm, shape, and repetition. Read aloud, as poetry should be read, they introduce listeners to some terrific new language. Mark Hoffman's gouache and digital illustrations provide contextual settings, perspective, and powerful, energetic images of the birds in motion.

In backmatter, Ms. Vande Griek provides additional notes on each species, their global location, and a glossary. Mr. Hoffman adds detailed drawings of the feathers that keep them aloft.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Saturday, by Oge Mora. Little, Brown and Company. Hachette. 2019. $24.99 ages 3 and up

"They paused, closed their
eyes, and - whew! - let out
a deep breath.

"Don't worry, Ava," her mother
reassured her.
"Today will be special.
Today will be splendid ... "

"TODAY WILL BE RUINED
IF WE MISS THE BUS!!!"

Ava and her mother don't have much opportunity to spend quality time together. Her mother works six days a week; they must carve out time on SATURDAY to do those things they love to do. They embrace everything about this very special day of the week.

Most weeks, they have a stick-to-it plan - storytime, salon time, picnic time, and one other very special time. Today their day will end with a 'one-night-only-puppet show'. They can't wait. As can happen when life gets in the way, this particular Saturday does not go according to their plan.

They are more than disappointed to arrive at the library and learn storytime has been cancelled. But, things are sure to be okay because it's SATURDAY. Off they go to get their hair styled. Just as they leave the salon, a splash of water from a puddle and a passing car proves disastrous to their new looks. Not to worry - it's SATURDAY, and it's going to be all right. A quiet picnic is turned on its heel when the park is filled with people, animals and too much noise. Another setback, but not to worry. Nothing is going to ruin this day they decide, as they dash for the bus. They will not miss the puppet show.

But, where are the tickets? Oh dear, what will Ava and her mother do now? Ava has learned a lesson in reassurance and patience from her mother, and uses that lesson to ensure that the end to their coveted day ends well.

What a wonderful story to read aloud. The repetition for each phase of the family outing, the relaxed way the dilemma is handled, the love shared during a day together brings calm and wonder to those reading the book. The gorgeous collage artwork, created with “with acrylic paint, china markers, patterned paper, and old-book clippings,” is filled with color, action, and wonderful moments. Each scene beckons a young child back for a more careful look. Be attentive to the endpapers. They are telling and perfect.
This is definitely a 'keeper'.

Friday, August 23, 2019

A Place for Turtles, written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Higgins Bond. Peachtree, Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2019. $7.95 ages 6 and up

"Because plastic bags look
like jellyfish, sea turtles
sometimes eat them by
mistake. The plastic can
clog the turtle's stomach,
causing it to starve to death.

When people stop using
plastic shopping bags, turtles
can live and grow."

Kids love learning about animals; in this book, that learning begins with the endpapers where range maps are shown for 12 species. Each turn of the page shows the beauty of their habitats and provides accessible information about the species presented. A sidebar adds further data concerning turtles, and shares some of the many problems turtles face in the natural world.

Those double-page spread introduce the turtles from the endpapers, and one of the problems it has faced. Ms. Stewart  explains what is being done to alleviate the many dangers. She offers simple solutions when appropriate; some are more complicated and immediately needed. All spark interest and offer positive solutions that can be addressed to provide better environments for turtles.

"LEATHERBACK TURTLE

In the mid-1980s, stores across
North America switched
from paper shopping bags to
plastic ones. Because plastic
never breaks down, millions
of shopping bags have ended
up in the ocean where they
can harm leatherback turtles.
Today many families bring their
own reusable cloth bags to the
grocery store. Small changes
like this can help save sea turtles."

Detailed acrylic illustrations will certainly attract readers to the beauty of the environments, and to the fact that children can make a difference. This helps each of us understand the need to do what we can to ensure that turtles thrive in the natural world. A list of ideas for helping is included on the final spread.

Back matter includes further facts about turtles, selected sources, and a list of recommended reading for those who want to know more.

Other books in the A Place For ... series include bats, birds, butterflies, fish and frogs. Written and illustrated by a sensitive and informed collaborative team, this is an excellent series for classrooms and budding naturalists.
                                                                                 

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Yogi: The Life, Loves, and Language of Baseball Legend Yogi Berra. Written by Barb Rosenstock and illustrated by Terry Widener. Calkins Creek, HIghlights. 2019. $23.95 ages 10 and up

"Lawdie made people laugh,
but he wasn't trying to be
funny, just honest. Later, he
was known for the way he
talked. But in the 1930s, folks
on The Hill knew him as a
short, big-nosed, funny-looking
kid - one of the neighborhood
boys who went pazza!- crazy-
for baseball."
"WE WERE OVERWHELMING UNDERDOGS."

Ask any die-hard baseball fan and they will be able to quote Yogi Berra. I am sure of that. Barb Rosenstock uses some of his more famous ones throughout this terrific homage to the man, and the legend he became.

Yogi did not look like a ball player, but he had the heart and a love of the game that began when he was very young. Lawdie's (a nickname for Lawrence) heart was full of love for his family, his community, his friends ... and sports. He wasn't good at school, and didn't mind admitting it. He did love to make people laugh, and he loved baseball.

Lawdie wanted a chance to play ball; his father agreed that he could quit school and give it a try. With his friend Joe Garagiola, he joined a travel team, while holding  down a variety of jobs. Baseball always won out over a steady income. His play was not always appreciated by his coaches, but Yogi was a student of the game. He watched tirelessly from the sidelines. When Joe was offered a major league contract, Yogi was not. Finally, the Yankees gave him a chance. Following service in the war, he had to work back up through the minors, always with his sights on the Yankees. When his chance came, he did what he knew he could do ... play a great game. He was jeered by many, and hurt when told he didn't look like a Yankee. In true Yogi fashion, he had a witty comeback.

"So?" Yogi said. "I don't hit with my face."

And hit he did. He made many teams nervous when he was up to bat. While he loved baseball, it wasn't always easy for him. Still, he just kept getting better.

"Between 1947 and 1963, Yogi's Yankees won the American
League pennant fourteen times. He earned a World Series ring for
each finger, more than any other player in history! He played nineteen
seasons in the majors and was named MVP three times."

When his playing career was over, he continued coaching or managing teams for twenty-nine years. What an accomplishment!

Terry Widener’s acrylic artwork gives readers a historical perspective and a real sense of the man we remember for his dedication, his love of the sport, and his endearing humor.

Those who love baseball already, or are showing an interest, will appreciate the back matter which includes an informative author's note, archival photos, stats, his many accomplishments, a link to his museum, an extensive bibliography, a note about yogi-isms, a variety of quotes about him, and a list of source notes. Bravo!

"IT AIN'T OVER TILL IT'S OVER."

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Baking Class: 50 Fun Recipes Kids Will Love To Bake, by Deanna F. Cook. Storey, Thomas Allen & Son, 2017. $28.95 ages 8 and up, with adult help

"Did you know that all
baking is basically kitchen
chemistry? Baking combines
various ingredients and uses
heat (and sometimes other
steps, like kneading dough)
to create a reaction that turns
the ingredients into something different. To make a perfect popover that's crispy on the outside and hollow on the inside ... "

When I read about Cooking Class, I also made note that a companion book about baking was published a few years later. So, here is a follow-up post for today.

This one is geared toward 8 to 12 year olds, because of the more complicated recipes and need for more sophisticated materials and methods of preparation. Once again, the photos provide a step-by-step guide for novices and for those with more experience. An introductory welcome offers short lessons for getting started - good habits, the right tools, a stock of bakery basics, useful vocabulary, measuring tips, being safe in the kitchen, and serving up the yummy goodies made.

Chapters 2 through 7 offer 8 or more recipes in each, including morning treats, crackers and breads, bread bakery, cookies, pies and tarts, and cakes and cupcakes. The pages are filled with great ideas, and delicious foods that are sure to appeal to children and their parents. Number of servings, needed ingredients, and common baking methods provide guidance and result in delicious and nourishing family foods.

Have fun with bread art, pizza dough, sugar cookie tricks, lemon squares, pie crust shapes, even cake-in-a- mug. So many wonderful recipes and ideas to share - and then you can give them away. There are gift tags, stickers, stencils, even bake sale price tags included.

The ideas shared provide important life skills that will come in handy for years; enjoyable activities to be shared between children and their parents; and, if you are already thinking about holiday baking, you will not be disappointed in this useful and kid-friendly book. You are sure to find favorites that will be baked again and again. What a grand way to spend time with your kids and grandkids!
                                                                           

Cooking Class; 57 Fun Recipes Kids Will Love to Make (and Eat!), by Deanna F. Cook. Storey, Thomas Allen & Son, 2015. $28.95 ages 8 and up with help

"It's lunchtime!
Whether you are packing
lunch for school or pulling
together a hot lunch at home,
preparing a midday meal is a
great way to practice your
cooking skills. In this
chapter, you'll review the
basics, like how to make
peanut butter from real
peanuts and how to cook a
mean grilled cheese ... "

This book was published a few years ago, but I have just discovered it. It is already on my ccokbook shelf, waiting for the next time my granddaughters visit. Cooking using basic techniques, described in accessible language and with photos galore, will entice children aged 6 and up to try their hand at cooking some of their favorite meals.

Chapter one introduces all aspects of what is needed to know when preparing to do some cooking - rules, orderliness, good ingredients, kitchen vocabulary terms, measuring, using sharp stuff, oven safety, clean up, and serving the food prepared. In successive chapters, beginning with breakfast, readers are introduced to a broad array of foods to prepare. Side bars add appeal; specific directions that include number of servings, materials and ingredients needed, and numbered, captioned photgraphs make trying new recipes easier.

The ideas are many, the food very appealing, the suggestions for cooking up a storm a real incentive for parents and kids who want to try their hand at cooking - together!
                                                         

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Hummingbird, written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Jane Ray. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House, 2019.$22.99 ages 4 and up


"Out on the veranda, everything
is ready: the nectar feeders are
filled and tiny flies buzz in the
bug dispenser. Just after dawn,
the hungry guests arrive for
breakfast. The sisters laugh as
they remember how their daddy
used to say, "Hummingbirds
need meat AND potatoes, same
as we do!"

What a gorgeous book this is. In the beginning, a young girl and her Latina grandmother wait patiently for the ruby-throated  hummingbirds to sip from the bowls they are holding. They know they will soon fly north, just as the granddaughter will. She is boarding a plane for her home in New York City; the hummingbirds are leaving Mexico to fly north, where they will build nests, lay eggs, have their babies, and wait until it is time to return to the warmth of the south once again.

As one such hummingbird spends the night in the rigging of a sailboat, observant listeners will notice the airplane carrying the girl north to her home.

Nicola Davies, a noted zoologist and exceptional nonfiction writer, ups the impact of the story by including her customary additional notes about the hummingbirds. 

"Hummingbirds lose half their body weight when they 
fly north over the Gulf of Mexico in one long trip."

Page turns show the long journey the birds make from the south, all the way to Canada. Along the way, they are noticed by many people, including the granddaughter in Central Park, who finds a reminder that they have been there. Making that special find on the lawn results in a special package being sent to her grandmother with a note of explanation.

Jane Ray uses 'watercolor and watercolor pencil with gold ink' to create the vibrant artwork. Brilliantly colored, and filled with the beauty of nature and the constantly flitting wings of these wondrous birds, it is accompanied by clear and very informative text which makes for a memorable story. Some of the more than 300 species of hummingbirds adorn the endpapers.

Plenty of facts about these tiny gems are provided as the story moves forward. A map that shows their journeys, an introductory note, and a further note in endmatter add appeal. A bibliography and an index are appended.

"Roads, houses, and cities built by humans
mean that there are now fewer places for 
hummingbirds to refuel on their trip."
                                                                       
                                                       

Monday, August 19, 2019

Go Show the World: A Celebration of Indigenous Heroes, written by Wab Kinew and illustrated by Joe Morse. Tundra, Penguin Random House. 2018. $21.99 ages 6 and up

"These, a few of my heroes,
maybe now your heroes too.
Let's look ahead at our lives,
think of what we want to do.

Maybe be a doctor
or movie star, it might happen.
Maybe we do both,
like our friend, Evan Adams."

In the section called Biographies that follows the text of this book, Wab Kinew shares this:

"Dr. Evan Adams
(1966 - present) is a Two
Spirit physician and public
health official from Sliammon
First Nation in British
Columbia, Canada. He is also a
well-respected actor who has
appeared in movies like Smoke 
Signals and many theater
productions. Today he works
as the chief medical officer for
the B. C. First Nations Health
Authority."

In his first picture book, Wab Kinew introduces his readers to indigenous heroes whose lives and actions have made them worthy of attention and admiration. A singer and musician, Mr. Kinew wrote the rap lyrics used to honor the leaders chosen, and to spark confidence in those who read it.

He begins with men and women from past history who remain an inspiration:

"Before he made the big leagues or won Olympic Gold
little Jim Thorpe ran all the time, I'm told.
His twin died at boarding school, leaving Jim alone.
All he knew to do was run,
so ran the whole way home."

Most page turns introduce a new person of interest to those reading. They will learn about historical and contemporary heroes, always with just enough information to encourage a further look at that person's life. Both Canadian and American, each has impacted the world they live in. Not all will be familiar, but they have all had an impact. Back matter includes brief biographical information for all, accompanied by a pencil sketch.

Joe Morse has created exceptional images using watercolor, digital color and collage. The linework, textures and color palette are sure to encourage readers to take time to pay careful attention. Filled with expression and details from the historical times, they add important context. His final spread of a northern landscape with three children in the foreground, looking up (and forward, one can hope) at the beauty of the northern lights. Smiles on their faces and hope in their hearts, the text reads:

"We are people who matter.
Yes, it's true. 
Now let's show the world what people who matter can do."

In his author's note, Wab Kinew says:

"We walk on the same lands as the heroes celebrated
in this book. I hope their examples can help each of us, big
and small, relearn that the lands are sacred and we ought
to respect them. I also hope their stories of triumph over
adversity inspire each of us to reach our full potential."

Sunday, August 18, 2019

The Imperfect Garden, written by Melissa Assaly and illustrated by April dela Noche Milne. Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2019. $19.95 ages 4 and up

"This carrot looks like it has two legs. Mom says carrots come in all shapes and sizes. We are just used to the ones in the store.

After we pull a few more carrots, I wash them and Mom peels them. I take a bite of my two-legged carrot and a bite ... "

What might Jay, who is helping his mom in their garden, discover about the two carrots he tastes? You're right! They taste the same. 

It's an important lesson for each of us to learn, isn't it? We have become accustomed to perfection in the fruits and vegetables we buy at the grocery store. In fact, I would venture to say we expect them to be without a blemish, or we don't buy them. How many times do you put back a grocery item because of an imperfection?

Jay and his mother are growing their own garden, and busy harvesting what is ready. Some of the fruits and vegetables are weird and unusual shapes - cucumbers, carrots, apples. Jay knows that apple pies taste delicious no matter the shape, size, or color of the apples used to make them.

From spring to fall they work together to reap what they sow. Once their garden produce has been consumed, the two return to the grocery store for the food they need. Jay is surprised, once again, to see how identical each item is. He has a question for the grocer:

" ... "Don't you have
any twirly-whirly, lumpy, bumpy
fruits and vegetables?"

The grocer has a surprising response; Jay is delighted.

The author follows up with a note, and a plea for readers to help reduce food waste, taking any small steps they can. She includes a section on 'tips for planting with children.'
                                                                       

Saturday, August 17, 2019

William Wakes Up, words by Linda Ashman and pictures by Chuck Groenink. Disney/Hyperion, Hachette. 2019. $18.99 ages 3 and up


"Wake up! It's spring!
Today's the day -
a special guest is on the way.
Rise and shine! No time to lose!"

One rolls out. Two others
snooze.

"A special guest? Arriving soon?
I'll tidy up the living room." 

This springtime book should have been posted before today. I hope you will be able to share it as you talk with children about seasons and the changes each brings.

William wakes up, and wants his animal friends to do the same. It's been a long winter and they are expecting someone special. Looking out the window he can see the changes in his surroundings. He calls to his bedmates; only Chipmunk makes an appearance. They begin their baking, soon  realizing they will need help.

"Then Chipmunk conks out on the floor.
"There's way too much for us to do. 
We'd better wake the others, too."

With each excited plea for help, one more animal rolls out of bed - Porcupine helps with the cleaning; Groundhog does the same; Bear helps with decorating the cake. Is there someone else to help? Raccoon sleeps on. Or does he? Will  he miss sharing the cake, and welcoming the visitor? What do you think? And what will assure he does his fair share?

The rhythmic and repetitive text, the counting down of animal friends, the responsibility taken for tasks yet to be done make it special for young readers. The pencil and Photoshop artwork is warm, inviting and expressive. It is a terrific read aloud book for little ones.

If you don't have a copy of William's Winter Nap (Disney-Hyperion, 2017), you might want to check it out, too.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Origin of Day and Night, written by Paula Ikuutaq Rumbolt and illustrated by Lenny Lishchenkpo. Inhabit Media, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2018. $16.95 ages 5 and up

"At the very beginning of time, there was no light on earth. Darkness surrounded everything. Only nocturnal animals, those who could see in the dark, could easily hunt for food. Tiri, the Arctic fox, was lucky enough to have a pair of eyes that could see in the dark. He could hunt animals while they were sleeping ... "

This creation story mixes the best of the Inuit oral tradition. It is both a myth, and an animal fable. It concerns a time before there was light in the world. Spoken words had great power in the beginning. Once spoken, they could make things become true.

So it is said that Tiri, a nocturnal Arctic Fox, did not have any difficulty finding prey in the darkness. The ability to see there was strong. Calling "Taaq, taaq, taaq" ensured the land remained dark. Ukaliq, the Arctic Hare, needed light to see the path ahead and to find food. Calling "Ubluq, ubluq, ubluq", light would take the place of darkness. Now, Ukaliq could find the sustenance needed.

The two battled back and forth, changing the skies from dark to light over and over again, creating chaos around them. There was never time from one sky to the next to find the food needed. Something had to be done. Eventually, the two found common ground and allowed enough time for each to search for and eat a satisfying meal. Today we call those times night and day.

I am so pleased to be able to share cultural stories that provide a peek at lives lived by others. Ms. Rumbolt comes from a lively oral tradition, having lived throughout her life hearing the stories passed down by family members. Her retelling of one of the many stories that are part of her childhood helps children learn about tradition, compromise, and how to solve what might seem like a unsolvable problem.

The storytelling is just right. The illustrations bring it to life, with a black and white palette that only changes in moments of great wonder - the rising yellow sun, the surprised look on Tiri's face as sunlight makes it hard to see, the yellow of the animals' eyes, the dull red of the caribou meat. 

Those who share this book will learn about Inuit folklore, the culture and language, as well as the northern setting and the natural habits of Arctic animals.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Dumpster Dog, written by Colas Gutman and illustrated by Marc Boutavant. Translated from French by Claudia Zoe Bedrick and Allison M. Charette.Enchanted Lion Books, Publishers Group Canada. 2019. $13.50 ages 8 and up

" ... beneath the mangy coat of this
unfortunate creature, there lives a
sweet and affectionate being who
sees himself as something of a
Labrador.

Sadly, his appearance - that of an
old shredded carpet - drives even
the most courageous children away.

Dumpster Dog shares his garbage
can ... "

This is the first in a series of early years illustrated chapter books, originally published in France.

Dumpster Dog is homeless. He is not terribly smart, but he is very kind. It is his dumpster-mate, Flat Cat, who helps him understand what an 'owner' is. She encourages him to take a chance in the world away from their dumpster. It sets Dumpster Dog off on a mission to find that person, 'who will love him and give him treats.' His appearance does little to encourage success. He smells bad, looks like a well-used carpet and has a few other issues. But, he is determined and adventurous.

Knowing little about the world, he is constantly confused by what is happening around him.

"After mistaking a jump rope for a leash
and following two pigeons that he guesses
might be owners, Dumpster Dog sees
someone who seems just right."

Not so ... the person is deceitful, plying Dumpster Dog with food, and then offering him to the Hot Dog shop to be made into hot dogs. Not a chance. The owner is not interested. How about a watch dog? He's ugly enough to be scary. It works for a while. One day a child comes along, offering treats.  Who wouldn't trust a child? Her treats quickly put him to sleep, leaving an opening for a group of burglars to break in and steal from his owner. The adventures have barely begun.

The nefarious doings of the burglars land the kidnapped girl, Dumpster and other animals in big trouble. Soon, he and the girl are making an escape plan. Will they get away? If they do, will the child find her parents again? What can Dumpster Dog do to help and how can he help Flat Cat, the only real family he knows?

Dumpster Dog's naivete will entertain readers and make them smile. His antics are giggle-worthy, and his demeanor makes him more lovable with every page turn. The artwork, done in full-color,  add a much-appreciated dimension to the action and the friendships.

https://vimeo.com/325956692

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Captain Rosalie, written by Timothee De Fombelle and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault. Translation by Sam Gordon. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2019. $21.99 ages 8 and up

"Each day, my mission continues its advance. Each day I, Captain Rosalie, am at my post at the back of the class, ready for a surprise attack beneath the coats. I look at the inscriptions on the blackboard as if they form a battle plan. I try to remember everything. I copy little bits down in the back pages of my notebook. No one pays me any attention.
The older children have forgotten about me."

Her father is off fighting in the Great War, her mother is working, and Rosalie sits at the back of the nearby one-room schoolhouse watching while all the other children do their lessons. Rosalie creates no commotion at any time. The teacher and the other children think that she is doing what five-year-olds do, drawing pictures and daydreaming.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, Rosalie is very busy learning just as the other students are doing. She is on a mission of her own choosing.

"When at last the class sits down, I pretend to be elsewhere,
lost in my thoughts, even though I am concentrating perfectly.
I am Captain Rosalie, and I have infiltrated their squad this fall
morning in 1917. I know what I have to do. One day I'll be
awarded a medal for this. It's already gleaming deep within me."

It takes time. Along the way, Rosalie describes the classroom, the learning, the other children in the school. Evenings at home are often spent listening to her father's long letters, praising Rosalie and her mother for the bravery they are showing as the war goes on. Her father sends drawings he has made of his experiences there. Days and nights run into each other. The time is long, and they are lonely. Then, one night, everything changes.

"For a month I have lived in the memory of that night after the
snow. My mother still cannot bring herself to look at me. She has
changed. When she drops me off at school in the morning, I'm
almost relieved to see her go. She walks off, shuffling, even though
the ground is no longer at all slippery."

Captain Rosalie springs into action. She knows she is ready. She poses her first question of the teacher, asking to go home and retrieve the notebook she has left behind that morning. He is reluctant. Edgar, an older student and Captain Rosalie's lieutenant, agrees to accompany her. As she climbs onto a chair to bring down the box that holds her father's letters, she makes an amazing discovery.

"This closed box starts talking.
The words come slowly.
Assorted  . . .  sweets. 
It's written there, on one line, in violet letters.
I have been fighting that for months.
It was my mission.
I can read."

The letters she reads from her father are not the same as the letters her mother has read to her. They are dark, and full of despair. Because she can read, Rosalie discovers the truth. On that same day, another letter arrives from the Ministry of War. It contains a medal, awarded to her father for his bravery in action. Her mother gives it to her. Rosalie, though tearful, is able to smile.

Isabelle Arsenault's spare, muted gray and black artwork perfectly matches the story told. There are  few hints of color - Rosalie and her mother's red hair, the glow of the fire at school, the blue of the her father's drawings, the envelope and the box containing the medal.

Timothee De Fombelle uses no unnecessary words to share with his readers the emotional impact of war on families and communities. Rosalie's voice is strong and resilient, and brings readers into the story she narrates. Eloquently written, while heartbreaking, it is a story that will live long in your heart. Please share it!

                                                                     

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Bark in the Park, written by Avery Corman and illustrated by Hyewon Yum. Orchard Books, Scholastic. 2019. $23.99 ages 3 and up

"Bedlington Terrier
The Bedlington Terrier
Couldn't be merrier.
A really nice dog to keep,
Who feels like and looks like
a sheep.

Bull Terrier
A scrappy guy with lots of hustle,
He's one part dog and one part muscle."

Well, who doesn't like books about dogs? Cat owners? Readers meet 38 different breeds in this enjoyable book of poetry. Each poem is descriptive of the breed being introduced. Many will be familiar, some less so. They range from tiny to enormous, from quiet to not-so-quiet, from working dogs to family pets,  and include both genders of the species.

The poems are two or four line stanzas that use descriptive language to help readers familiarize themselves with those presented. Most rhyme, and many add a touch of humor. A pink-coated girl and her father are a part of each new spread as they roam the neighborhood, enjoying a cafe snack, a companionable walk, and stops along the way. In most scenes, the child shows her interest in these canine companions. At times, she watches from a distance; at other times, she gets up close and personal with them. As she and her father go about their day, she is always aware of the neighborhood pets.

"Puli
She's a softy, not a bully,
And she's also fully woolly.

Old English Sheepdog
He's friendly and he's lovable,
And pushable and shoveable."

 The two return home to a doorstep filled with a broad assortment of dogs, all worthy of love and a place in their home.

The illustrations are action-filled and very appealing. Children will spend a lot of time poring over the details, taking note of the differences, all of the events that are playing out in the community as the two travel along its streets. Don't miss the endpapers - both front and back - which provide a label for each of the breeds from the book.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Look Again: Secrets of Animal Camouflage, by Steve Jenkins and Robin Page. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. 2019. $23.99 ages

"Some animals sip flower
nectar. Others prey on creatures
that are attracted to blossoming
plants. And a few fool their
enemies by concealing themselves
among the petals.

The high-casqued chameleon 
can alter its color to match its 
environment. This lizard also 
changes color to send messages 
to other chameleons." 

I will never miss telling you about new books from Steve Jenkins and his wife, Robin Page. I think they do a brilliant job of engaging and educating young children with their beautifully designed science books.

Signature collage artrwork graces the pages of this book which shows children how animals use camouflage to ensure safety and a longer life for themselves. They live in diverse habitats, and use their best instincts to assure that they are carefully hidden from their natural predators. Coral reefs and kelp forests, trees, flowers, leaves and plants, the snowy Arctic, leaves and vines, and rocks provide the protection these 36 creatures need.

Each environment is described in two short paragraphs; one depicts the value found in each, the next tells how the animals find safety there. On the first of the two double page spreads, the camouflaged animals are placed within the habitat shown. On the second spread, they are singled out in images that help young readers go back and make sure they can see them. A thumbnail sketch placed inside a circle is accompanied by a clear caption for the carefully reproduced animals who find safety there. As we have come to expect, the animals' sizes are placed in perspective to a human image. This is done with care and is always of interest to those who read these books - child or adult.

Back matter is of equal importance, offering further information about each of the creatures included.

"The high-casqued chameleon 
dwells in the forests of eastern Africa.
It gets its name from the tall helmet-like
crest, or casque, on its head. This
lizard is about six inches (15 centimeters)
long, and it can extend its tongue farther
than its body length. It uses this long,
sticky tongue to snag insects and spiders."

Readers will also find a list of books for further reading, and Internet resources and search terms for finding out more than they have already learned.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

The Magic of Letters, written by Tony Johnston and illustrated by Wendell Minor. Neal Porter Books, Holiday House. Penguin Random House, 2019. $24.99 ages 5 and up

"Letters hold
POWER. 

You can shuffle them
around to make loads
of mighty words.

Limber words like
acrobat. 
Thumpy words like
clunk."

In this striking ode to the power of letters and words, Ms. Johnston invites young readers to look carefully at the magic to be found in each and every one of them. Without letters, there would be no words. What would our world be like it that were so?

One of the first things children learn to recognize is their name ... so many unique and different ways to give a child a very special identity. With each turn of the page, Wendell Minor provides wonderful images to help children see the power to be found in the words they learn and use. A look at the power of words shows a huge dump truck piled high with words that evoke that power: heart, watch, art, blue, stars, time, books, etc.

And, there is fun galore:

"Giggling
words
like

flibbertigibbet. 

Yummy words like
QUESADILLA. 

Bewitching words like
enchanted."  

It's fun to play games with children using words that strike their fancy. Words like discombobulate, supercalifragilisticexpialadocious, brouhaha ... it can go on and on. There is magic in the things that letters help us do, and the entertainment they provide once we know a little something about them. The imagination soars! Language builds and word learning becomes a worthy preoccupation.

"Now string them
together until they
say what you
need to tell
somebody.

The 
flibbertigibbet
ate an enchanted 
quesadilla 
and 
became 
an acrobat
who slipped
on a trout - 
clunk!"

There is as much wonder in Wendell Minor's digital illustrations as there is in the adventure with words. Bonus! Once you learn about those letters, you can read and you can write! What could be better than that?

We had great fun wrapping our tongues around many of the included words and ideas when my granddaughters were here this summer.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

A Plan for Pops, written by Heather Smith and illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan. Orca Book Publishers. 2019. $19.95 ages 5 and up

"The following Saturday
begins the same as the last.
Grandad and Pops share the
paper. Lou plays with the
paper umbrellas. But on the
way to the library, something
terrible happens.

Pops has a fall.

Sirens ring in Lou's ears."

Saturdays are always the same for Lou and his two grandfathers. He spends the day watching and sharing the activities that make each so special. They have very different interests; the one thing that is the same is the love they have for their grandson. Grandad loves learning, Pops loves doing. Grandad loves reading, Pops loves listening to rock and roll. As Lou spends time with them, he learns a lot about many things.

"Lou goes back and forth between the
two and learns that zippers are made
from teeth and Elvis was king."

A visit to the library is an essential part of the days spent together. Then one Saturday, Pops falls and that fall changes everything. Pops is now confined to a wheelchair. He does not adapt well to the change, staying in bed for weeks. It takes hard work, and much thinking, to make an adjustment to  their circumstances. Lou is instrumental in influencing what happens next. 

Brooke Kerrigan's tender scenes match the tone of this loving intergenerational story, allowing young readers a chance to see a serene setting and a series of expressive encounters between the three.

Friday, August 9, 2019

The Pencil, written by Susan Avingaq and Maren Vsetula and illustrated by Charlene Chua. Inhabit Media, Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2018. $16.95 ages 5 and up


"You know the reason we have to use our things very wisely is because they are quite difficult to get. We have only one pencil right now, and we won't be able to get another until we return to the trading post," she said.

Susan and her siblings know the importance of the one pencil the family has. Their mother uses it to write letters to friends in other northern camps. One day, when her mother is called to help with the birth of a new baby, the children spend time with their dad. He involves them in storytelling and games while they wait for Anaana to return.

Looking for something else to do when their tolerance for regular games runs out, the children are thrilled when their father retrieves the pencil from the wooden box filled with very important things.

"The pencil, the pencil!" Peter and I yelled.
We hardly ever got to see it. It got a little bit
smaller every time we saw it."

Not much is left of that pencil. Susan is encouraged to use it for drawing. Not willing to lose her chance, she immediately begins drawing pictures of her family, the tools they use, and the animals of the far north. Everyone gets a turn, including Ataata. The pencil gets shorter.

Is there reason to worry about their mother's reaction when she gets home and sees what they have done?

This memoir is a telling look at life in an iglu, and the need to protect the resources a family has. Susan and her family experience the same boredom that comes to all children when time is long. The joy they get from using the pencil is clearly shown in the drawings done by Charlene Chua. Endpapers capture the childlike joy of drawing what you see and know.
                                                                     

Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Magic Boat, written by Kit Pearson and Katherine Farris and illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard. Orca Books, 2019. $19.95 ages 3 and up

"One morning Ellie wandered
along the beach collecting
pebbles. An older girl was
sitting on a log. She watched
Ellie for a few seconds.

"Want to see my magic boat?"
she asked.

Ellie followed the girl to an old
blue boat that was half buried in the sand."

Ellie and her Nonna spend summer days at the beach. Ellie loves what the beach has to offer - sand, shells, pebbles, kelp bulbs and cooling waves of water. She is happy by herself, too shy to make a connection with the other children on the beach. Her Nonna worries.

Everything changes when Ellie meets the imaginative and adventurous Piper, who invites Ellie to join her on her 'magic' boat. Imagination soars as the two enjoy flights of fancy where they encounter all the beauty of their surroundings. They sail on a dinghy, float into the sky on a balloon, and return just in time for snacks on the beach with Nonna.

The following day they enjoy underwater scenes of jellyfish, an octopus, perch and otters. Then, it is time for Piper to return to the city, leaving Ellie alone with the old blue boat.

"She tried to sail out to sea. She tried to fly in the air. She tried
to sink under the water. But nothing happened."

Returning to her normal pursuits with Nonna is not quite as satisfying anymore. Ellie watches a boy on the beach. When he returns the next day, she uses what she has learned from Piper to initiate a new friendship and further adventure.

I love the pace of the story, as well as the many west coast scenes that are created in words and pictures in this collaborative work. Sunny watercolors and penciled details take readers effortlessly from what is real to what is imagined, delighting young readers and providing a real sense of wonder for the setting.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The Visitor, written and illustrated by Antje Damm. Translated by Sally-Ann Spencer. Gecko Press, Lerner. Thomas Allen & Son. 2018. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"A strange thing flew 
in through the window
and landed at her feet. 

Elise looked at it. 

"That'll have to go!" 
she decided. 
She scooped it into the 
fire. 

But that night ... "

I had read many good things about this wonderful book, and am pleased to be able to share it with you. It comes originally from Germany. Thanks to Bonita for sending it.

Elise lives alone, frightened and unwilling to leave the gray house she calls home. It is without color or character. But, it is well kept and orderly. Although she is fearful, she is also content with things as they are. When a bright blue airplane flies through her window one day, she immediately tosses it in the fire. It unsettles her enough that she cannot sleep that night.

A knock on her door the following morning changes everything for Elise. Her refusal to answer is met by persistent knocking. Finally, she opens the door to a freckled boy, dressed in bright clothing and wearing a red cap. Against her better judgement, she lets the boy in to go to the bathroom. He brings color to her home with his visit. H also has questions as children so often do.

"What's that?" he asked.
Elise looked at the picture.
He waited patiently.
"It's me - when I was young,"
she said with a smile.
"I was invited to a dance and
I wore my prettiest dress."
"Cool!" said the boy and he looked
around some more."

As he asks and she answers the two begin to develop a friendship. When it is time for him to go, readers know it is not the last time they will see each other. Emil will be back. Elise prepares for that event in the perfect way. 

The dioramas created for this book are brilliant. Emil's arrival brings light and color to every corner of Elise's house as they two bond over moments shared. Heartwarming and uplifting - and also understated, which gives it a very peaceful tone.
                                                                      


Tuesday, August 6, 2019

The Great Indoors, written by Julie Falatko and illustrated by Ruth Chan. Disney/Hyperion. Hachette. 2019. $18.99 ages 4 and up

"Everyone gathered around
the glow of the television
while the beavers whipped
up snacks.

Can I have more ice in my 
drink? asked the mother bear.

Of course! said the beaver.

Nothing like a frosty cold drink,
said the bear."

So, do you know what has been going on at your house while you've been on vacation? If you are unlucky enough to live near the woods where a motley crew of animals are also in need of a life change, you might be in for a big surprise when you return.

As a human family departs their house in search of summer adventure, the bears lead a parade of forest animals inside to partake of all of the amenities of 'the indoors'. They have become tired of outdoor living and want to enjoy the many benefits of the life that nearby humans lead. They have good reasons - a roof, television entertainment, a kitchen where they can cook meals and enjoy ice cream, exercise equipment, electricity, karaoke, tools - even comfy beds and indoor plumbing. What more could they possibly want?

You've heard of too much of a good thing? It isn't long until problems arise and the squabbling begins. Someone drinks all the coffee; the teenagers take an inordinate amount of time in the bathroom; someone licks the butter. You can see it all now. It doesn't take much time before they are longing to be back outside.

"I miss the peace and quiet,"
said a deer.
"The great indoors is too much work,"
said a beaver. 
"I miss peeing behind a tree,"
said a little skunk."

Never having lived indoors, the animals have no idea about leaving the place the way it was found. Yikes! The returning vacationers are in for a rude awakening.

Readers will enjoy the imaginative silliness of the book's premise. The goofy scenarios are well-matched with cartoon like illustrations. Teeming with action and full of expression, they will appeal to the intended audience. Chaos ensues in detailed images; and there is a promise for a return visit when  the family takes their next summer vacation.

Don't miss the end papers!

Monday, August 5, 2019

Abner & Ian Get Right-Side Up, written by Dave Eggers and illustrated by Laura Park. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2019. $24.99 ages 3 and up

"Hey, kid! We need a hand.
Do us a favor. Shake the book,
then turn the page.

Wait. What? Why would 
you want the kid to do that

To get us right-side up. I've
see it work before. Shake
the book, and when you turn
the page, everything's back in
the right place."

I was not expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did. I guess I was thinking it might be a lot like some of the other interactive books I have shared with kids. It is not. The characters, Abner and Ian, have a lot of personality. Their conversation explores and expands on those personalities. Readers will have an affinity for their voices, their requests, their appreciation for any help given and their ability and determination to find a solution to their difficulty. After all, being stuck on the sides of the page rather than on the bottom where one would expect them to be is a real dilemma.

"Please stop describing how you
feel about this. Do you know how
long we've been perpendicular?
My ankles are beginning to hurt.
Now can we start?

Sure. But first do you think we
should ask if the kid 
is ready?"

The first attempt at having the kid right themselves is a disaster. Now, they are upside down. Heights might be a problem. Next try ... no better. Maybe the kid is the problem. The next time isn't much better at all. Willing to try again, they ask for help one more time. Nope, nope, nope and nope!  

"Wait for things to settle. We keep
telling the kid to shake and turn,
and nothing's getting better.
The harder the kid shakes, the
weirder things become. What if we
just waited a second. Or even ten 
seconds? We can't fight madness
with madness and hope to find sanity."

What an absolute delight! I will sharing this one in fall workshops.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Puddle, written by Richard Jackson and illustrated by Chris Raschka. Greenwillow Books, Harper. 2019. $21.99 ages 4 and up


"Splat! 

A sneaker
 
  with a hole in the toe -

         two toes

              showing."

We are waiting for puddles again. Although we cannot complain about the rain that has fallen in past weeks, it doesn't take any time at all for things to get dry and dusty once again. Besides that, kids love splashing through them, and feeling the joy of dancing in the rain. We have only done that once this month.

This particular puddle has had enough, wanting the rain to stop pouring down and leave it be! It is getting much bigger than it would like. In comparison to all the others, it is embarrassed to be growing bigger all the time. If the rain doesn't stop, it will soon be a pond. If only there were a drain close by, it could whirlpool into it. Oh, the many visitors it has - including a dog who chooses to do its business while it stands in the puddle.

When the sun shines once more, the puddle watches its brothers and sisters suddenly disappear. Recess ends, the children rush past - until they are stopped in their tracks by the beauty to be seen in the puddle's reflection. Watching a child reach toward that beauty negates all feelings the puddle has thus far experienced. What wonder there is in our world!

Watercolor and gouache artwork by Chris Raschka perfectly match the joy in Richard Jackson's rich text. So lovely to see that puddle grow and change. It should inspire each one of us to take a close look at the next puddle we see - even stay a while to watch it carefully.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Take Your Pet to School Day, written by Linda Ashman and illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman. Penguin Random House, 2019. $23.99 ages 5 and up

"It's story time.
The pets pile in.

Ms. Libby, the librarian,
begins to read but can't
be heard above the din
of beast and bird.

They interrupt with
barks and quacks.
They hide in nooks,
they climb the stacks."

Maple View School has a rule about pets; they are not allowed to come to school. Well, maybe for one day. The note sent home says Friday will be that day. The kids are thrilled to be able to bring their pets for a one day visit. And, it's easy to see that the pets are feeling the same. Was anyone prepared for the hullabaloo the visits might cause to happen?

The animal visitors love to be a part of music class to the chagrin of the music teacher. He is convinced that allowing them their visit was a big mistake. So it goes throughout the day. The librarian, the art teacher, even the principal are dumbfounded by the behaviors exhibited.

It turns out that the pets themselves, disgruntled by an unfair policy, wanted their opinions known:

"We do not like your "No Pets" rule.
We miss our kids when they're at school.
We thought that it would be okay
to come to school - it's just one day."

                                    -Pets"

The principal is further astounded when she reads the official-looking note that was sent home about bringing pets to school. It was not written by her. Who did write it? She reluctantly agrees to let them  stay, as the pets make all sorts of promises concerning messes made and better behavior. All goes well. The pets disperse ... but not before making their feelings known in a follow-up note.

Fun to read, with action-filled artwork in bright colors. The scenes require close attention to be sure young readers miss none of the fun. And the laugh is on the powers-that-be when the second note is ready to be sent to unsuspecting families once again.

Great fun to add to your collections of books about school, pets, and humor!

Friday, August 2, 2019

The Pigeon HAS to Go to School! Words and Pictures by Mo Willems. Hyperion Books for Children, Hachette. 2019. $17.99 ages 5 and up

"What if I 
don't like school? 

What if I 
REALLY don't 
like it!?

What if I 
really, REALLY 
don't like it!? 

WHAT IF - "

Kids will be as happy as I am to see that the pigeon has a new book. He's been away for a while, and is back because it's time for school. He is not thrilled. He can't see the point in going when he
already knows EVERYTHING! Hmmm! Is that true?

If you know Pigeon, you also know that he is not quite as confident as he would like us to think he is. In fact, he is feeling a trifle anxious. Anything that starts in the morning is not for him. He even considers being little once more; then, he won't have to go. There are a number of things that he is less certain about when he really thinks about the changes that school is going to bring to his days.

"WHAT WILL HAPPEN AT SCHOOL?" 

There is far too much that might go wrong. But, there is ONE thing that makes it all right! If you think really hard about it, you might even guess what it is. You know how Pigeon loves buses!

Everything that has always been good about Pigeon is right here for fans to appreciate. Those fans are sure to be delighted to see him again. Readers new to his personality and shenanigans will laugh uproariously at the drama created in the many speech bubbles that tell his story.

Get your copy of Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (2003) ready, and prepare to begin the new school year with a bunch of fun!

Thursday, August 1, 2019

The King of Kindergarten, written by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin Random House. 2019. $23.99 ages 4 and up


"As you walk up to the
towering doors, you'll
remember Mommy
saying, "Hold your
head high and greet
everyone with a
brilliant, beaming,
majestic smile. For
you are the King of
Kindergarten."

Mommy and Daddy are full of confident assurance as they help their little one prepare for his first day of kindergarten. Every morning action from getting up, to teeth brushing, to getting dressed is meant to encourage him to feel like a king.

The bus ride is quick. Confident and feeling regal, he steps inside to meet his teacher and classmates. His day is filled with new experiences, and he is very keen to be where he is. There is a lot to learn about his new classroom, the day's activities, the new kids; he is keen to experience every moment and then return home to tell his parents all about it.

Then, he will be ready to do it all again ...

"And tomorrow, it will begin again - another day as
 the charming, the wonderful, and the kind ...

King of Kindergarten."

So many highlights of the day presented in playful images that will have aspiring kindergarteners anticipating a day much the same. The colors are bright and beautiful, the many details engaging and noteworthy, and the text upbeat and very positive, start to finish. There is no doubt that this five-year-old boy has got it - the charm, the confidence, the friendliness to make his first day the best it can be.

It's lovely to have a book to share that exudes excitement about starting school. Kids are going to love it!