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Saturday, July 13, 2024

Dog vs. Strawberry, story by Nelly Buchet and art by Andrea Zuill. Random House Studio, 2024. $24.99 ages 5 and up

 


"No surprise to see such a big turnout today. 

Listen to that crowd ... 
Can I get a D? An O? A G?
Give it up for our reigning 
champion: the one and only 

DOOOGGG!!!"

If you were lucky enough to read Cat Dog Dog by this talented team, you heard the story of a blended family where a woman with a cat and a dog, and a man with a dog came together to create a new family. The transition was awfully funny! 

The book begins with a bowl of fruit. and the offer of a strawberry treat for a dog lying quietly on the floor near the sofa. Dog is interested immediately, and the greatest race of all time is imagined! It's Dog against the red fruit ... 

The stuffed animals are lined up and READY! Dog is keen, and being touted as champion from one half of the captive audience. The berry is clearly in favor with the audience on her side of the room. GO is the signal and Dog is off at a quick pace. Strawberry is completely unconcerned with the action. 

Dog spins around the room, showing excitement and energy for the race, even chomping on his own tail to prove his worth. Strawberry remains quiet and fully focused. Dog continues on, proving his mettle and outdoing Strawberry with every new move. Oh, dear! Dog appears to be tiring. Finding a comfy spot, she goes right to sleep. 

In the meantime, a wind blows a plant over ... one leaf lands on the cool red fruit. When Dog wakens, Strawberry is missing from action. There must be something Dog can do to win the race! Tearing off again, she is soon jumping over and landing on a chair with a loud FLUMP!  The leaf blows off, Dog sees that Strawberry is in the lead. Strawberry is going to win! Then, NOT! 

Dog declares herself the winner, of course! Read as if it is an actual race, with drama and excitement at every turn, this will be shared time and again. Well-read children will be able to compare its tone and action to the tale of the tortoise and the hare. What fun! 

As she has done in numerous other titles, Andrea Zuill brings her quirky sense of fun in ink and digitally colored artwork to the tale. She gives readers a real sense for the silliness of the dog and her antics as she speeds from place to place, always sure she is running the race of her life. 

Friday, July 12, 2024

Beaky Barnes and the Devious Duck, written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein. Penguin Workshop, Penguin Random House. 2024. $24.99 ages 7 and up

 


"Okay! Here's all my money! 

$$$

Elixir of Strength, 
come to Papa! 

POIT!

Bleah! It smells like 
low tide.

Beaky Barnes is back in a second graphic novel that has much to do with libraries and librarians. Devious Duck arrives on a train that stops at the Simpleton town limits. Readers will know that his reading material is a tad suspicious; the book is called How to Fool People. 

Immediately, he begs for bread. The baker is kind enough to share a slice; he is not impressed with Duck's messy eating habits. There are other things going on around town: the Inspector is eating oatmeal with too much molasses and complaining about it; Beaky is off to work at the library while leaving her chick in the capable hands of her roommate, the Inventor; Chickie is causing a great deal of trouble in the Great Idea Nest; and Duck is conning an old woman to get all the food she has that was meant to feed the birds. 

Duck needs money to live. His book gives him an idea for making some. Filling some bottles with pond water and trying to sell it as an elixir, he cons the Inspector into giving up all of his money to buy it. Duck now has the money needed; the Inspector is building the strength it promises. Both soon require a sleep.

It is not the last of Duck's plans to dupe community members. As that is happening, much is going on around town. When Duck ends up at the library looking for more information to scam people, he has met his match. What follows says a lot about the talents and value of those who make libraries run smoothly. Devious Duck learns needed lessons through exceptional artwork that is trademark David Ezra Stein. Each of the elements in this tale of community support and kindness come together in an unconventional finale. 

Be on the lookout for the next installment!

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

The Great Lakes: Our Freshwater Treasure., witten by Barb Rosenstock and illustrated by Jamey Christoph. Alfred A. Knopf, Penguin Random House. 2024. $26.99 ages

 


"The Great Lakes took their current shape
only three thousand years ago. They're the 
youngest major geological feature on the 
planet - millions of years younger than the 
Appalachian Mountains, the Great Plains,
and the Mississippi River. They keep changing 
today. Storms move shorelines and sand dunes. 
Land rebounding from the glacier's weight 
rises. Rocks wear down as the lake levels 
surge and fall. Still, the water flows on, 
west to east.
"

Learning about the Great Lakes and how they formed will be of interest to readers keen on knowing more about water conservation and caring for the environment. Only 3,000 years old, they were formed when a huge glacier melted and trapped water in five holes surrounded by thawing land. Over many following years, the lakes changed in both size and shape. Today, they continue to change due to storms and erosion.  

Ms. Rosenstock explains how one drop of water moves through the five lakes, past Niagara Falls, and down the St. Lawrence River to the Atlantic Ocean. It's a trip that takes ONLY 300 years! There is a LOT of water in the Great Lakes: 'almost all of the surface freshwater on the North America continent', 

"One in every five glasses of the surface freshwater on Earth!

How remarkable is that? Originally, Native peoples cared for the lakes and their many benefits, using only what they needed. When Europeans arrived, they took much more than they needed and left the lakes in a world of trouble. Concerned citizens started speaking out, and making the effort needed to improve the beauty and physical state of the lakes themselves. As is true all over the world, more help is essential to continue forward progress. She assures her readers that they can help to get things done.  

"The same way we can all help. 

By caring for wild places. By working with groups that protect the lakes. 
And by saving freshwater, wherever we are, whenever we can.

The Great Lakes are a treasure we must always protect. 

The text is clear and compelling. The artwork is detailed, helpful and always engaging. Back matter is informative and provides encouragement to help make changes for the better.  

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Oris and Peanut Forever and Ever, words by Naseem Hrab and drawings by Kelly Collier. Owlkids, 2024. $21.95 ages 4 and up


"A second cake?

We'll save the first 
cake for a very special
occasion ... 

and we'll eat 
this one for no reason 
at all! 

Eat cake for no reason? 

No reason is a perfectly 
good reason.

Otis and Peanut are back with three stories about friendship, cake, loss, and memories. In the first, Peanut brings a surprise. It's the strawberry cake they both love because it was one of Pearl's favorite recipes. Otis thinks it should be saved for a more special time. Peanut solves their dilemma by bringing another cake the next day. The first can be saved for another time; this one can be eaten right away. When Otis learns that Peanut iced it with Pearl's cream cheese frosting, he's willing to eat it 'for no reason at all'. Over the next few days, they eat the cake with tea, on a swing, and on the bus ... until every morsel is devoured. 

In the second, Peanut is nearly frantic when he thinks he has eaten the last of Pearl's strawberry jam. He searches high and low for more, and is lucky enough to find the last jar. Remembering that Pearl left  strawberry seeds, he takes the time to plant them in his garden. Once done, he settles in for lemonade and a read on the porch. Fatigue leads to a snooze and a dream about the fun he and Pearl once had together. He knows it will never be the same again without Pearl; a beautiful memory it remains.

In the final chapter, Peanut's visit to Otis leads to a discussion about memories. Otis likes to save his in a memory book; Peanut says he keeps them in his head. Maybe those memories will fade as time passes, says Otis. As they pore over the pages of Otis's book, they remember fun times with Pearl. The next day, Peanut returns with his wagon and a box he's filling with his favorite memories. Together, they head off to make more, and add them to the box. Now, they have both new and old memories. How lovely! 

Kelly Collier's artwork shares the emotions of friendship and loss, while also leaving readers recognizing that our memories can hold both happy and sad moments in life. Support from friends makes all the difference. A list of ideas for remembering is appended. 

I love these characters, and look forward to meeting them again!

Monday, July 8, 2024

When Nature Calls:The Unusual Bathroom Habits of the World's Creatures. Written by Maria Birmingham and illustrated by Dave Whamond. Red Deer Press, Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2024. $23.95 ages 6 and up

 


"Yes, it's true. The capybara eats its poo. 
In the morning, this furry rodent gobbles
up its own poop for breakfast. It turns out 
the capy's dung is loaded with nutrients, 
and the poop also contains bacteria that 
help the capybara break down the grass 
found in its stomach from earlier meals.
"

I have an 8-year-old granddaughter who is totally fascinated with anything that hints of potty humor ... especially poop jokes and puns. She was very excited to discover that this well-researched picture book is filled with the bathroom habits of creatures as diverse as badgers and Adelie penguins, capybaras and hoopoes, and a whale and a house fly. 

With each turn of the page, Ms. Birmingham presents a topic that is the same for creatures on both sides of the spread. The Hardwicke's woolly bat and badgers find the perfect place to use as their bathroom. The young tortoise beetle and a hoopoe use their poo as a weapon. (If you really want to know how they do that, turn to pages 8 and 9).

Each is accompanied by a cartoon-like, captioned illustration that gives context to the information paragraph shared. Kids are sure to chuckle as they take a closer look.  An author's note explains Ms. Birmingham's love for learning about nature and provides advice on her writing process. Following that there is an index, and a list for suggested reading if further facts would be of interest to the reader. 

 "No bird wants a dirty nest. Luckily, some have a handy way 
of getting rid of their nestlings' poop. The babies of certain bird 
species, including robins and bluebirds, poop out their waste 
inside a thick, strong pouch called a fetal sac. It's sort of like 
a baby diaper!
"

Sunday, July 7, 2024

Ginny Off the Map, by Caroline Hickey, with illustrations by Kelly Murphy. Little, Brown and Company. Hachette, 2023. $22.99 ages 8 and up

 


"I go back inside and mix up a large 
pitcher of lemonade with some of Mom's  
diet lemonade mix. As I do, my mind 
wanders to Dad and the heat in Afghanistan.
A million questions suddenly occur to me. Does 
he get to drink lemonade? Does he have 
cookies? Fans? Air-conditioning? 
Why didn't I think to ask him any of these
things before he left? 
Why didn't I ask if he was scared to go?

Ginny has a passion for geography like no one else she knows, and she has a special connection with her father. She and her family have moved many times due to transfers for the army-doctor dad. Their newest move from North Carolina to Maryland included much talk about the changes and the plans made for Ginny to attend a geography camp now that school is out for the summer. 

Just as they are about to move, her father learns he is being deployed to Afghanistan. The family will make the move without him; he will be gone for six months. As if that is not disappointing enough for Ginny, she also learns that her geography camp is canceled. What a disaster; that camp is the only thing keeping Ginny's spirits up as she deals with her dad's leaving. She also learns that she is wait-listed for her school of choice for the fall. What a disastrous time for Ginny! 

On the other hand, her sister Allie is quick to make friends in the new neighborhood and spends most of her time with these new friends. Ginny has a tough time fitting in. Not only is she totally focused on her own interests, she is worried about her father: how he is doing in Afghanistan, why his communication is intermittent, and if he is safe. 

When she finally hears from him, her emotions cloud everything good about the call. She loses it, causing stress and strain for the whole family. It takes some time for Ginny to understand herself and her actions. Only then, can she begin to make changes that make things better for everyone. The characters are fully realized, the story is well-told, and the relationships understandable as Ginny faces some of her own demons. 

The geography facts that preface every chapter will hold interest for many; they certainly do for Ginny. Her story is so real, and engaging. The realities that face military families are handled with great understanding through the family's reactions to all that happens to them. 

Saturday, July 6, 2024

Gifts From Georgia's Garden: How Georgia O'Keeffe Nourished Her Art. Written by Lisa Robinson and illustrated by Hadley Hooper. Neal Porter Books, Holiday Hoouse. Penguin Random House, 2024. $25.99 ages 6 and up

 


"To this palette of greens,

she added splashes of color --

crocuses, daffodils, irises,

lilacs, poppies, and hollyhocks."

If you have heard about Georgia O'Keeffe, it's likely because of her art. Her flowers have inspired many artists and collectors. Her works are found in museums and art galleries worldwide. While she loved painting those flowers, she wanted to inspire others to take the time to really look closely at them. When she tired of the noise, the buildings, the constant go of city life, she fled to New Mexico. 

There she found exactly what she was looking for; the soil that reminded her of a happy childhood growing up on a farm. For the first time, she decided to grow a garden of her own. She planted fruit trees, vegetables, and flowers of all colors and kinds. 

"While she waited for the seeds to sprout, 
Georgia painted."  

She surveyed her new surroundings while sewing, gathering, and collecting. When she could finally reap the rewards of all she grew in her garden, she shared soups, salads, main courses, and even desserts. She bought other needed items from community members, hired them to help her out, and continued her painting. 

"The art of caretaking - 
of her home and her garden - 
nourished Georgia's art-making.
"

While learning about Georgia's gardening successes, readers also experience her style of painting and what she painted in illustrations created with 'traditional pen, paint, and paper and then assembled in Photoshop' by Hadley Hooper. The perspectives shift, and the fascinating design includes fine details described in the text.  

Back matter includes an archival photo of the artist, brief biographical information, details about some sustainable gardening techniques, a list of sources, and O’Keeffe’s recipe for pecan butterball cookies.