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Friday, October 31, 2014

Princess Pistachio, words and pictures by Marie-Louise Gay. Pajama Press, 2014. $12.95 ages 7 and up

"Every day, the king and queen showered her with presents - silver skates, invisible kites, a parrot that spoke five languages, and a piano-playing monkey. A thousand and one presents, each one more wonderful that the one before. But one day, a ghastly witch, green with envy, stole their precious princess. The witch abandoned her on the other side of the world, at 23 Maple Street..."

Pistachio finds it very hard to believe that she is where she should be and doing what she is doing. She is convinced that her home is not her real home, and that her parents and little sister have no place in the life she is meant to live. She knows, even  if no one else does, that she is a princess!

Her parents are the king and queen of Papua! Everyone should be aware of that. So, when a card that has no signature and the gift of a golden crown arrive just in time for her birthday, she has all the proof she needs. Along with the many other indulgences they have provided, 'Princess' Pistachio has one more gift to add to her stash. She is sure it will be no time at all until they arrive to claim her for their own. She is ecstatic!

This princess leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to manners, and her treatment of others. She doesn't like her little sister, she refuses to eat spinach, and she always has better things to be doing.

"Can't you see I have other things to do?" Pistachio replies.
"Besides, princesses never look after smelly babies."
"Princesses," her mother says, "always obey their mothers,
or they go without television for a week."
"My real mother would never deny me anything," Pistachio mutters."

Have you been there? I know I have...with both a prince and a princess!

It's a great deal of fun to read about Pistachio and her attempts to prove her worth as royalty, despite many parental obstacles. Her parents are not about to give in, her classmates dismiss her assertions and tease her, her dog yawns when she introduces herself. Poor Pistachio!

Despite her many attempts to prove herself worthy of a royal title, Pistachio must finally admit that her family is her family. It is her Grandpa who breaks the unwelcome news...he sent the present. It is a rude awakening. It isn't until a family emergency fills her with worry and sets her on a course to find her little sister that she realizes what is truly most important in life.

This is  welcome early reader that is sure to earn even more fans for the very popular and charming Marie-Louise Gay. You will find Pistachio to be lovable, energetic and very opinionated.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

IVAN:The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla, written by Katherine Applegate and illustrated by G. Brian Karas. Clarion Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Thomas Allen & Son, 2014. $21.99 ages 4 and up

"The one thing Ivan didn't
need to learn was how to eat.

The more he ate,
the more he grew.

The more he grew, the less
he could live a human life
in a human house."

First, let me tell you that I have loved The One and Only Ivan from the first time I read it (and for each of the next five times). I have a few copies left for giving, even after having given a number to both children and adults. It is a story that is remarkably well written, and full of everything you would want in a memorable read. As happens with a story that you have strong feelings about, I was a tad nervous when this book arrived in the mail. I know that Katherine Applegate is a gifted writer. I know that Ivan meant a great deal to her; but, I wondered how she would tell his poignant story in a 32 page illustrated book of nonfiction. I need not have worried one bit!

Ms. Applegate tells Ivan's story with all of the love and honor she showed in her fictional account of  his story. She captures the essence of his character using a third person voice that is well-suited to this nonfiction look at his life. She begins where he began. Born in Africa and raised in a family group of lowland gorillas, Ivan thrived. He learned what his family had to teach him, watching and imitating the older members of his troop. He had no knowledge of humans until:

"Poachers with loud guns
and cruel hands
stole the little gorilla
and another baby."

While Ivan's life was unusual when he first arrived in Tacoma, Washington, he was happy. He learned much about sharing this new reality with his human caregivers. When he grew too big to be kept in their house, he was moved to the mall and for many years he watched people watching him. His life was limited to a cage, and a few distractions.

Eventually, people began to protest his captivity and his life without benefit of family and freedom.
Twenty-seven years after his arrival, Ivan was moved to Atlanta where he was carefully cared for, and slowly assimilated into a more normal life for a grand and gentle silverback.

"In leafy calm,
in gentle arms,
a gorilla's life began

G. Brian Kara creates emotional and telling illustrations to match the changing tone of the story, and to bring Ivan to readers with the many joys and sorrows of his long life. An archival photo of Ivan, and an author's note are included  to give readers a summary of his life story, and to make a plea for more humane treatment of all animals.



Wednesday, October 29, 2014

On the Wing, written by David Elliott and illustrated by Becca Stadtlander. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2014. $19.00 ages 5 and up

"The Japanese Crane

What music do they hear
that makes them flutter so?
It's early spring;
the cranes are dancing,
dancing in the snow."

This is another impressive book of poetry from the talented Mr. Elliott. If you, as I do, appreciate books that teach, awe, and give us mentors to honor and emulate, you are going to read this welcome book more than one time. It is beautifully designed and readers will learn about a wide variety of bird species while it also serves well as a chance to see different poetic forms.

Each bird is carefully rendered in gouache, and placed in a stunning surrounding which adds to the learning being done by young readers. The birds are named in bold print, and then one or more features are presented in the accompanying poem:

"The Cardinal

He's a hotshot
She's a Plain Jane.
But one without
the other...
a song with no refrain."

Perfect for little ones wanting to know more about birds and very entertaining for those who will share it with them. I hope you have seen, or have in your collection his previous books: On The Farm, In The Wild, and In The Sea. Complete your collection of David Elliott's poetry with this often humorous, always engaging book!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

El Deafo, written and illustrated by Cece Bell. Amulet Books, Abrams. 2014. $11.95 ages 8 and up

So, who all's here?
You're the first,
ac-tu-a-lly. But it'll
be Car-rie, Ell-en,
and Miss-y. I can't
be-lieve Miss-y's
com-ing - she is so
The other guests

Fans of graphic novels will not be the only ones who enjoy this new memoir from Cece Bell. Meningitis at 4 causes a loss of her hearing for the young girl. Suddenly deaf, she is scared and she is also confused by her dramatically changed world. Sticking close to her mother for security, Cece is not so sure about the hearing aid that her mother suggests she wear. It straps around her neck, and makes her look funny. Her hearing improves, but it is not perfect!

When she enters first grade, she is given a 'Phonic Ear' which is much better. It is strapped to her chest, and has wires up to her ears. Her teacher wears a microphone to ensure that the first grader is hearing instructions and able to participate in new learning. It is very funny to learn ALL that she hears! The captions that accompany a full-page rendering of the Phonic Ear are many, and funny. Readers will want to stop and enjoy each and every one of them.

When she realizes that her Phonic Ear affords her entrance to the staff room (she can hear everything when her teacher has the transmitter on) and the staff washroom...embarrassing! No one else knows what she can hear and she begins to think of herself as having a superpower...El Deafo is born. She knows exactly when her teacher is returning to the class, and saves the mischief makers from trouble. Those powers come in handy, time and again.


School can be traumatic enough for many children. When you add being deaf, things become even more complicated. Ms. Bell helps her audience see how she often feels ostracized and lonely because of her inability to hear all that is being said. She learns to lip read, and avoids learning sign language (thinking it will make everyone take note of her being deaf). A sleepover with friends is an issue when the lights are out, and she can no longer 'read' what her friends are saying. She only wants to be back home. Her quest is to find a friend who likes her for who she is, not because she lives next door, or is deaf, or for any other reason than they connect and care about the other. It's a tough task, but doable. In the end, Cece finds that 'just right' friend, and is content.
Both funny and poignant, this is a memoir that will give readers pause to think about friendship, and about differences. The terrific color illustrations and the clarity with which the story is told is sure to make this a favorite for many. If you are in a library, you might want to have more than one copy!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Bob's Hungry Ghost, written and illustrated by Genevieve Cote. Tundra Books, 2014. $19.99 ages 4 and up

"Ghosts don't like to
fetch at all. And they
can't actually sit.

"Walking a ghost on
a leash isn't a very
good idea either.
Fluffy can't walk.
BUT he sure can

Well, pets are pets! Bob wants one, and the one he gets happens to be a ghost. Not a lot of people have experience with caring for ghost pets. Bob does his best to provide for its every need, and keep it happy. Named Fluffy, an innocuous and sweet-sounding moniker, doesn't help with the ghost's penchant for ignoring all that Bob wants from his pet.

Fluffy doesn't come, sit or fetch. A leash doesn't work. But, he can fly and he likes to play hide-and-seek. Bob is not too impressed with that little trick. There's not much to do with your ghost then, is there? Fluffy feels boredom setting in. Apparently when ghosts can't find enough to keep them busy, they get hungry. That happens with puppies and kittens, doesn't it? They just may not go to the lengths that Fluffy does.

As Fluffy gets bigger and bigger, Bob's belongings seem to be disappearing. Could it be that Fluffy is devouring them? Bob sets out to solve the problem. His problem solving skills will impress. As well as honing those skills, he also learns an important lesson in caring for a pet.

Rotten Pumpkin: A Rotten Tale in 15 Voices, written by David M. Schwartz and photos by Dwight Kuhn. Creston Books. 2013. $21.50 ages 8 and up

"Some think that mice like me are cute nibbling on a pumpkin, but it's not cute being everybody else's lunch. Weasel, gopher, owl, snake, badger, bobcat, house cat, rat - they all want mouse pie!"

I read about this book last year, and didn't get it in time to share. So, here it is for you now!

It's a great mix of fact and fiction...I call that faction. The pumpkin is happy to be a jack-o-lantern and help the children who come to the door celebrate this exciting time of the year. Following that special night, it is off to the compost bin where a mouse, a squirrel, a slug and even a fly have something to say about how much they enjoy pumpkins. The fly is about as gross as you might assume:

"My keen fly nose smells what I am looking for - dead fish, rotten meat, dog doo - the stinkier, the better! A rotting pumpkin is perfect. I taste with my feet. You're gonna love hearing how I eat. I vomit on the pumpkin flesh. My vomit dissolves pumpkin nutrients so I can lap them up. A delicious, nutritious morning smoothie!"

Again I say....EWWWW!

As the memory of Halloween fades, so does the pumpkin itself.  The molds grow and tell readers what they are and what they do. It is only when the skin has rotted that the sow bug can find sustenance in the rotten flesh. The pumpkin continues to have a voice, despite the changes from that once admired jack-o-lantern:

"Am I still a pumpkin? My top is collapsing, and my skin is a mess of molds. they grow all over each other and right through me, eating my flesh from the outside-in and from the inside-out! Not even winter snows and low temperatures have slowed them down..."
Soon, it is nothing but a 'rotten mess spilling my seeds on the garden soil.' Not good for anything any longer. Or is it?

This is science at its most interesting! David Schwartz gives great descriptions of the whole decomposition process, without lengthy explanation or writing beyond his young audience's understanding. The photographs are visually informative and quite memorable. Watching how the pumpkin's face changes over time might just remind them of other pumpkins from past Halloweens. Now, they know exactly what happened!

 A glossary of terms and useful “Classroom Investigations” are found at the end of the book.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Dog and Bear: Tricks and Treats, written and illustrated by Laura Vaccaro Seeger. A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2014. $16.99 ages 4 and up

"I just saw another
bear, and he looks
just like me."

"No way," said Dog.

"It's true. He looks
EXACTLY like me!
Please, Dog, let me
show you."
"Okay, Bear. Show me."

In their fourth book concerning friendship, Dog and Bear are happily preparing for Halloween. In the first of three short chapters, Bear is busily trying on costumes (Dog has already got the perfect one!) when he makes an alarming discovery. There is another bear in his dressing room! And, it looks just like him; it is the same color, does all the same tricks. Calling Dog to the rescue, Bear makes another amazing discovery!

In the second story,  Dog is only too happy to greet the trick-or-treaters at the door. It isn't until Bear notices that their stash of treats is getting bigger, not smaller, that Dog realizes his mistake. Finally, their visitors have come and gone. Dog and Bear are off to collect their own treats, until a ghost stops them in their tracks for not wearing costumes. No costume, no treats! They are more than happy to prove the ghost wrong.

Enormously appealing for all listeners, and for those readers who are just making the move to accessible short stories. It's the perfect size for small hands, colorful, full of expression, and has just the right ending for each of the tales! You'll smile!                                                              

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Brief Thief, written by Michael Escoffier and illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo. Enchanted Lion Books, Publishers Group Canada. 2013. $20.95 ages 3 and up

"They might belong to someone...
But who would come all
the way up here?

And anyway, they're
full of holes.
Leon finishes his business.

Then he throws
the underpants into the bushes
and goes back to his rock."

Leon has caught and eaten his morning 'fly; then nature calls, and he must answer. Once done his business, he cannot find suitable material to wipe his bottom. Leaves and grass are too prickly and messy; what about the underwear that is hanging nearby. Who would leave their briefs (holey ones, at that) hanging on a tree, if they really wanted them? It seems an invitation for a chameleon under stress. He uses them, then tosses them in the nearby bushes.

Done and done, right? You would be remiss to think so. As he strides away, he is cautioned by a faceless voice. The voice explains:

"I'm the little voice
you hear inside your head
whenever you get up
to something naughty."

A conversation ensues, Leon assuring his conscience that he has done nothing wrong...except for the underpants. Leon makes his excuses, and is told in no uncertain terms that he might, in fact, have caused distress for the owner:

"Or that maybe, just maybe, he had washed them
and gone off for a walk in the woods,
while they were hanging out in the sun to dry?'

Oh boy, could his conscience be right? Just in case, he takes direction from 'the voice', and leaves the underwear clean and exactly where he found it.

You, and your listeners, will howl when you learn the source of the voice and the reason for the 'holey' briefs. I guarantee it!

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Iridescence of Birds, written by Patricia MacLachlan and illustrated by Hadley Hooper. Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2014. $19.99 ages 5 and up

"And your mother,
to brighten your days,
Painted plates to hang
on the walls

With pictures of
meadows and trees,
Rivers and birds,

And she let you mix
the colors of paint - "

What a beautiful title for an equally stunning book!

Patricia brings her incomparable gift with words to tell us the story of Henri Matisse, and his childhood dreams. She uses one long sentence that invites her audience to imagine what life might have been like had they been Henri in northern France in the mid-nineteenth century. While his outdoor surroundings were gray and dreary, his mother filled his home with bright colors and an artist's sensibility. Her willingness to let her young son explore the world of color, artistically arrange her market purchases, and care for the colorful pigeons that came to their windows encouraged Henri's inherent gift.

This book celebrates color in our world, finding inspiration in everyday things, and the love of a mother for her gifted son. There is never a doubt in my mind that when Patricia MacLachlan sets out to write a meaningful book, she will do it flawlessly each and every time. The artwork that Hadley Hooper creates using a combination of relief printmaking and digital techniques communicate all that his mother did to inspire Henri's future as an admired and successful artist.

Both author and illustrator add a note in back matter to further describe the artist's life, and to provide information concerning the research that resulted in its amazing images.
 In a recent interview, Hadley Hooper talked about her work:

I looked at every painting of his I could find. What a great luxury! I tried to find fabrics that he may have seen in his hometown, which was a textile town. I looked at the era’s fashion, architecture, even thought about the music he might have listened to. I used Google Maps to knit together the street he grew up on, which really hadn’t changed much, architecturally. For most illustrations, I’ll cut and/or emboss foam and cardboard to make relief prints. I use different transfer techniques and old carbon paper to get interesting line qualities. I’ll scan all the parts in and assemble in Photoshop.

Truly beautiful!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Lion and the Bird, written and illustrated by Marianne Dubuc. Enchanted Lion Books, Publishers Group Canada. 2014. $22.50 ages 4 and up

"Let's bandage you up,"
says Lion.

"That will help."

"Oh, no! They're
flying away."

Don't worry!
You won't be cold here."

Before I tell you about this heartwarming pair, I want to say that I think you should be on the constant lookout for books published by the stellar Enchanted Lion Books. They continually publish remarkable examples of books that we need to be sharing with our children!

On we go! This story concerns a dapper lion who is out working in his fall garden when he spots an injured bird. An attentive individual would never leave the bird in its sorry state. So, the lion applies a bandage; but, it's not soon enough for said bird to join his flock on their migration.

The lion, ever accommodating, takes the bird home and provides warmth, food and friendship throughout the fall and winter. With the advent of spring, the bird's flock returns. Off they go...which is just as it should be.

"And so it goes.
Sometimes life is like that."

Through the long, slow summer the lion goes about gardening and living a lonely life. As flocks pass overhead in the fall, the lion is hopeful...and then disheartened. Wait! What is that melodic note?

Marianne Dubuc uses a quiet color palette to capture mood, and only deepens the soft tones when the two spend the long, cold winter together. It is very effective. She provides warmth and quiet understanding for the two, and children will be charmed by the many details of the home life they share.

This book is a treasure, and to be treasured for its tale of steadfast friendship.

Telephone, written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jen Corace. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2014. $19.99 ages 4 and up

"Tell Peter:
Hit pop flies and homers.

Tell Peter:
Prop planes are for flyers.

Tell Peter:
Put your wet socks in the

Leave it to Mac Barnett to take an old game and make it new again!

Our first glimpse shows a street filled with colorful houses, children playing and telephone poles and wires that provide a place for a long line of birds to sit and ponder their surroundings. A casserole-toting, aproned pigeon passes a message to a nearby bat-carrying cardinal (sorry, St. Louis fans!). Her message is clear:

"Tell Peter: Fly home for dinner."

The game begins with the cardinal passing the message, changed and having a baseball theme. Each message is passed with resultant changes, and on it goes down the wire. Depending on how each bird sees its world, the message moves forward, a bit funnier each time and according to their particular view of things.  

Jen Corace uses watercolor, ink, gouache, and pencil on paper to give us a aviator goose, an ostrich maid, a rock star bluebird, a snoopy, binocular-toting toucan, a hoarding pelican, a writer duck, a terrified turkey...all the way down the wire to Peter Pigeon and his baseball team. Luckily, the owl who prides himself on being informed gets the tongue-tied chicken's message:

"Tell Peter: There's a giant monster lobster named Homer!
He smells like socks and he breathes red fire!
His eyes blaze like stars and he rides a crocodile that flies
and he's coming to this wire!
Tell Peter to fly!
Fly far far away!
He's too young to be
somebody's dinner!"

The owl passes his own wise interpretation...and Peter heads home for dinner.

Too funny for words, clever, and worthy of more than one look to ensure that you 'get it' all.


Wednesday, written and illustrated by Anne Bertier. Enchanted Lion Books, Publishers Group Canada. 2014. $21.95 ages 3 and up

"Pine tree, house!"

"Stop, Big Square,
I can't do it!"

"Look at me, Little Round,
I'm the color of the sky
and the sea!
It's so great! I'm waves
and mountains."

When I opened this book, I was immediately reminded of one of my old 'favorites' -  Little Blue and Little Yellow (1959) by Leo Lionni, an author whose work I shared with my own and my kindergarten children over many years.

Using shapes, size and color, Anne Bertier invites her readers to take a close look at friendship and disagreements. It's Wednesday, and Big Square and Little Round are set to play their weekly game!
It goes like this:

"As soon as one of them says a word,
they transform themselves into it."

All goes well, as it has done before, until Big Square wants to make bigger and bigger images, ignoring his friend's ability at transformation. Circle is adamant that Square is showing off, and refuses to play. Being alone isn't much fun; Circle suggests a compromise:

"What if we both think of things together?"

It works:

"Little Round becomes cheeks,

Big Square becomes a hat and a coat."

Friendships aren't always easy. Often it is in compromise that a new reality is found. Anne Bernier uses two vibrant colors, strong graphic detail, and understated emotion to help young listeners open a discussion about conflict and cooperation.

Imaginative and entertaining, you won't want to miss it. Now, get out the paper and scissors and let their imaginations soar!

Here Comes the Easter Cat, written by Deborah Underwood and illustrated by Claudie Rueda. Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin. 2014. $18.00 ages 3 and up

"Well, of course
everyone loves the
Easter Bunny.

Why? Because he's nice?

He delivers chocolate
eggs to millions of kids.

It's a hard job."

Gosh, I don't know how I missed this in the spring! I do know that I don't want to wait until next spring to tell you all about it. Besides, it is a book that you can read at any time, in any place, and as many times as your young listeners are willing to hear it.

A cheery cat is taken aback when he notices an Easter Bunny poster. In that moment, a new Easter symbol is born: the Easter Cat. Now decidedly bad-tempered, the cat is willing to respond to an unseen speaker about the's the Easter Bunny. Using hastily drawn placards and easily recognisable facial expressions, the cat makes his point while the narrator attempts to help him understand the dilemma.

Would being an Easter Cat work? Why on earth not? This cat is not done with being annoyed at the Easter Bunny; at every turn, he lets the audience know it! He would deliver chocolate...chocolate bunnies! Why, bunnies? The page turn shows a chocolate headless bunny, and a gleeful, tummy-rubbing cat holding the illustrated version of it. How to get all the deliveries made? Simple, a motorcycle! That should make outpacing the Bunny easy...

Entirely too funny for words, your audience will be mesmerized by the antics displayed. Their hearts will melt when the Cat, wearing his heart on his sleeve, realizes that the Bunny does have a tough job and might need some welcome help. Once their deliveries are made, and the two have cemented their friendship, there is only one thing left to do.

Ta da! Another surprise ending that ensures a future visit with this sparkling personality.

Ms. Underwood's humorously told tale is captured on two page spreads that allow Ms. Rueda to interpret (in ink and colored pencil) the Cat's nonverbal gestures to our great delight. So much can be shown in her imaginative renderings for the tale being told. It is a flawless collaboration!



You Are (Not) Small, written by Anna Kang and illustrated by Christopher Weyant. two lions, Amazon. $19.99 ages 2 and up

"They are just
like me.
You are small.

I am not small.

They are just
like me.
You are big."7

Does size really matter?

Apparently it matters enough to this husband and wife team to consider it as a subject for their debut venture.

Two creatures: one big, one small; one purple, one orange. They meet on a grassy field, and a conversation is initiated. It is a back and forth about size, and the discrepancies between the two. Not to be deterred by the other's argument, the conversation continues...and finally, SHOUTING erupts! It could go on forever...


a giant blue foot stomps down with a BOOM! and separates the two feuding groups. A tiny pink parachutist drifts softly to earth. Both put an end to a seemingly eternal discourse concerning size.
Tired, satisfied that each is both big and small, and hungry, the two satisfied groups gather for lunch, leaving the newest two to themselves.

Leave it to the smallest to have a final say, and to leave the audience hooting!

It is written with just the right touch for young listeners! The cheery watercolor and ink artwork provides a perfect visual interpretation, leaving the audience with a smile and a warm, fuzzy feeling!
Don't miss both front and back covers.

Have you got a toddler on your Christmas list? You can't go wrong with this book!


brown girl dreaming, written by Jacqueline Woodson. Nancy Paulsen Books, Penguin. 2014. $18.99 ages 8 and up

"When I tell my family
I want to be a writer,
they smile and say,
We see you in the backyard
with your writing.
They say,
We hear you making up all
those stories.
We used to write poems."

That beautiful poem goes on to say:

It's a good hobby, we see how quiet it keeps you.
They say,
But maybe you should be a teacher,
a lawyer, 
do hair...

I'll think about it, I say.

And maybe all of us know

this is just another one of my

I have read this book twice now...and I know I will read it again, and then again. That is the power of words written brilliantly by one of my forever favorite authors! I think that you should share it with your children, your grandchildren, your friends, your students. It is a celebration of childhood, of family, of history and of story.

Written in free verse, it begins with her birth in 1963:

"I am born on a Tuesday at University Hospital
Columbus, Ohio, USA -
a country caught

between Black and White."

There is so much here to love! It is Ms. Woodson's homage to her family, her upbringing, her life in Ohio, in South Carolina and in Brooklyn. As she grows, so does her need to write the stories that she hears, and then to create stories of her own. She is influenced by all that surrounds her, and by memories and stories from her childhood. Her voice is powerful and lyrical, honest and candid.

Gifts throughout her life allow her to explore her own gift - her passion for words. Her first notebook is a warm and lasting memory:

"I don't know how my first composition notebook
ended up in my hands, long before I could really write
someone must have known that this
was all I needed...

Nothing in the world is like this -
a bright white page with
pale blue lines. The smell of a newly sharpened pencil
the soft hush of it
moving finally
one day
into letters."

Finding John Steptoe's Stevie at the library is a revelation:

"If someone has taken
that book out of my hand
said, You're too old for this
I'd never have believed
that someone who looked like me
could be in the pages of the book
that someone who looked like me
had a story."

Her love of Langston Hughes' poetry is an inspiration to her writing self, and a push to follow her own dreams. What a blessing for us that she speaks what is in her heart and hones her skills by penning 10 picture books, seven middle-grade novels, and 10 YA novels!

Take the time to savor the richness of her words. And, please listen to what the author has to say about her newest book in the following:

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Sebastian and the Balloon, written and illustrated by Philip C. Stead. A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2014. $19.99 ages 4 and up

"He charted a course.
He checked the breeze.
He cut the strings...
and floated free.

Soon it was time
for a snack.
Sebastian landed his
balloon beside a
leafless tree."

Poor Sebastian! He is one dissatisfied boy...atop his house, he looks out upon his neighborhood and sees nothing to spark enthusiasm in his head, or his heart. Well, if that is to change, it's going to be up to the small unsmiling boy. He makes the decision to change the course of his days and nights.

Using his grandmother's afghans and quilts, and packing every single thing he might ever need, and accepting a bright red cardinal as his travel companion, he sets off on a journey that will lead to new friends, worthy adventure, and endless excitement. Once the strings are cut and the balloon flies freely, Sebastian is at the whim of the wind.

A much needed pickle sandwich snack means a brief stop, where he meets a bear, shares his snack and is happy to welcome his new friend aboard. A foggy sky means trouble when they fly too close to a 'very tall bird'. The balloon pops. As luck would have it, their emergency landing brings them in contact with three sisters whose skill with knitting needles have them all airborne in quick time.

The journey continues....

You know that I am an avid fan of Philip Stead. He never disappoints. His talking animals, his adventurous journeys and his appealing, well-realized characters are only a small part of what leads me to admire his work. Using pastels, oil paints and pressed charcoal, he gives us beautiful images that beg for slow observation and an unhurried read. Young listeners are sure to appreciate the comfort that comes when friends share such beautifully imaginative travels. Don't be surprised to be asked to read it again, and then again!

I would love to make a place in my house for this:

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Girl and the Bicycle, by Mark Pett. Simon & Schuster, 2014. $18.99 ages 4 and up

"A little girl.

A shiny green bicycle.

A plan is set

into motion..."

I'm hoping that you remember The Boy and the Airplane. If so, I trust this new book by Mark Pett will remind you to take it out and love it all over again. If not, please look for it at your local library or bookstore. It is a wonderful wordless book for all readers.

Mr. Pett follows up that book with this new one about a girl and a green bike. She and her brother are out for a walk when they pass a toy store. A glance in the window brings the bike to her full attention. She is off at a run to gather up all the change she can find, in the most obvious places: her piggy bank, pants pockets, the dryer, under the couch cushions.

She doesn't stop there. She sells lemonade, sells all of her old toys, and rechecks her piggy bank. Insufficient! Watching her brother play in the fall leaves is inspirational! Off she goes, rake in hand, to seek additional work.  She finds a willing employer; together, they work through the passing seasons. There are countless tasks to keep them busy.

As she walks the dog past the toy shop, the green bike is still in the window! HUZZAH! Back home she goes to empty her piggy bank, grab her brother by the hand and head back to the shop. Oh, dear!

There are no tantrums; just thoughtful consideration and a selfless action. And an equally generous reaction...

This is a powerfully told story that needs not one word to convey a world of feelings. Using pencil and watercolor in sepia tones, Mark Pett tells a masterful tale. The only color is given to the object of the young girl's affection - the green bicycle. (For those who read The Boy and the Airplane, there is a small nod to it as well).

Monday, October 20, 2014

Do You Know Komodo Dragons? Written by Alain M. Bergeron, Michel Quintin and Sampar and illustrated by Sampar. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2014. $9.95 ages

"Komodo dragons often hunt by lying in wait. They can wait for hours before suddenly attacking prey that pass by. Despite their large size, these reptiles are fast and swift. They can run faster than 20 kilometres (12 miles) an hour for short distances. They are also excellent swimmers."

This is the third set of four books in the Do You Know series, and they are as funny and informative as the first eight were. Each is 64 pages long, and includes a glossary and index. Both will help interested readers to get back to any information needed.

The cartoon images add fun, while the text is often fascinating and just gross enough to hold the attention of avid fans. There is much to learn, as was the case in previous books. There are absorbing facts about how the animal looks, what it eats, reproduction and also how prey is hunted.

My favorite double page spread in the book about Komodos has the dragon smiling nonchalantly at a passing wart hog. The hog is unconcerned, the dragon's hunger intensifies. At just the wrong moment the Komodo's cell phone rings loudly, frightening the wart hog and sending it scurrying away. The Komodo answers the call with a sneer, and an admonition:

"Stop calling me when I'm grocery shopping!"

Haven't we all been in a grocery line when our own phone rings? Too funny!

While imparting information about an animal that we don't know well, the authors do not soften the facts about its eating habits, or its violent ways when capturing its prey. The gore is made easier to stomach with the fun that is created in the cartoon drawings and the pointed barbs placed in speech bubbles.

They will be loved by some, and not by others. I love that they offer an unusual format for learning about Komodos, praying mantises, hyenas and dinosaurs, and I find myself really appreciating the bizarre humor.

Did you catch me to save my
life or to eat me?

If it's crunchy on the outside,
it must be creamy on the inside.

Hey, guys! Look!
I can make my head disappear.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Animal Antics, written by Derek Harvey. DK Publishing, Tourmaline Editions Inc. 2014. $15.99 ages 7 and up

"A Gentoo penguin loves nothing better than surfing the waves as it returns from a feeding session out at sea. Speed is important for catching fish and escaping predators - but also when launching out of the water for a quick landing on the beach. The Gentoo's torpedo-shaped body is perfect for these antics -..."

I love it when I get a new box of books from Chris at Tourmaline. The exceptional books from DK that are part of the shipment make me want to sit right down and learn!

So, that is exactly what I did when this last box arrived; and the first book that I looked at was this one. Who could ignore that amazing cover? Each double or single page spread has a full color photograph and a titled paragraph to describe what is happening in that photo. As happens with well-done nonfiction books, readers can page through them at random, stopping to read anything that captures their interest.

I found myself going from page to page; not doing any flipping at all. The text boxes are not overwhelming, the information shared is accessible and encourages readers to always move forward learning as they go.

I didn't even know what bee-eaters were, but I stopped quick when I saw a branch sporting nine identical birds, all snuggled up:

"Snuggle up!

Company is especially important when you need it to keep you warm. On their own, little bee-eaters would find the early morning too chilly - so they huddle together to keep warm.

As new ones land on the perch they do little side steps until they are tightly packed together, all facing the same way - but with one keeping lookout at the other end. Many birds in the row belong to the same family group. Sometimes they do this when the weather turns dull and cloudy."

Now, I need to know more about t bee-eaters. So, I am off to check it out and see what I can find! It didn't take long, and I learned a lot. Isn't that the best thing about reading books? What you learn makes you want to learn more!

Billy goats in treetops, frogs using toe disks for traction, a turtle traffic jam, lions dancing, elephants playing in the mud...need I say more? Don't you just want to get your hands on this book, and take a look for yourself.

An index will help you make a quick return to your favorites!

Tiny Creatures: The World of Microbes, written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Emily Sutton. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2014. $18.00 ages 6 and up

"And a teaspoon of soil can have as many as a billion microbes. That's about the same as the number of people in the whole of India. Microbes live everywhere - in the sea, on land, in the soil, and in the air. They live in places where nothing else does, like in volcanoes, or inside rocks, or at the back of your fridge."

In a book meant to help young children understand just how tiny a microbe is, and what it is, Nicola Davies uses all of her incredible talent to bring that world to her readers. Her size comparisons even helped me to put it all in perspective. Each is a pretty amazing creature!

"Right now there are more microbes living on your skin than there are people on Earth, and there are ten or even a hundred times as many as that in your stomach."


"(Don't worry! Although some microbes make you sick, the ones that live in you and on you all the time help to keep you well.)"

OK...that's encouraging, right? They may be small, but they have a huge impact in our world. We need to know about them so that we can be thankful for all that they do for us. As you may know, if you are a regular reader of this blog, I do not consider myself scientific in any way. I believe that my brain goes sideways whenever talk turns to science. In books like these, I begin to think that even I can learn scientific material without overextending my brain. Thanks to such informative text, and to a writer who knows how to share it with her audience, I have a sense of the immensity of the job these microbes do and a better understanding of what they are!

Emily Sutton's winning illustrations perfectly complement Ms. Davies' words. I love the way she shows how the E. coli microbe reproduces so quickly, giving children a real sense of that growth over a twelve-hour period. Astounding! The book's design is very appealing and is sure to garner second looks.

They may be invisible to the human eye, but there is no doubt that they have a tremendous impact. This book is sure to be useful when trying to help young readers understand germs, fermentation and composting for enhanced garden growth. It is not a subject often discussed with this age group. Now, teachers and parents have help in bringing it to a child's attention. Well done!

The Ultimate Construction Site Book, by Anne-Sophie Baumann and Didier Balicevic. Editions Tourbillon, Chronicle. Raincoast, 2014. $21.99 ages 9 and up

"To make the ground beneath the road more stable, the workers add lime and cement. The road reclaimer pulverizes the material into an even layer.

When a busy road is built through an area that is filled with wildlife, the animals need a safe place to cross to the other side. Sometimes a special tunnel is built..."

I opened the cover to the title page and made a complete stop to take a look at the many different building materials the children pictured were using in their own special constructions...blocks of all kinds, a wagon, a dump truck, a crane, hard hats, even a barrier for safety. I can hear the talk as young listeners share stories of the things that they build when they have the chance; and they haven't even begun to explore this stellar book!

Moving beyond that, we have access to a variety of sites...from start to finish we watch as a building goes up, view a nighttime scene of cranes at work, see all the work that goes into building a brand new road, a subway, bridges, a roller coaster, an airplane, a ship and finally, to a child's great delight, a traveling circus tent.

The spreads take up two pages, and are filled with so many details they will never all be seen at one sitting. That just ensures it will not be a book that is pushed aside for something more interesting. If that should happen, a child will miss the delight of lifting flaps, opening folds, helping things rise up and come down, pulling tabs and going back to do it all again. All of those actions bring life to the sites being explored, and are not to be missed.

It won't take long to find a favorite page and set yourself to exploring each and every interactive bit of it. Many young children will spend endless time outside watching those places where new things are being built. Here there are more than 60 interactive parts to help them see what happens behind the scenes of some of the best and most fascinating construction sites. There's color, there's action and many questions will be asked and answered in an exploration of its ten incredible spreads.

You might also want to check out its companion book,  The Ultimate Book of Vehicles, which was published earlier this year.

Giant Vehicles, written by Rod Green and illustrated by Stephen Biesty. templar books, Candlewick Press, Random House. 2014. $18.00 ages 5 and up

"The biggest type of submarine ever built was called the Typhoon, and six of them were made for the Russian navy in the 1980s. Ten times as wide as a bus, the Typhoon was as long as a 17-bus traffic jam..."

Take a good look at that cover, and you are sure to start thinking about the readers who will want to have it in their hands. Giant vehicles is right...eight of them!

The coal car is the first to make an appearance, in its place behind a locomotive on the super-train. The two page spread stretches from corner diagonally to the opposite corner and shows readers all the parts of the train that is wending its way across the two pages. The train cars are endless, and all contain coal. It takes three engines to haul the attached cars:

"One locomotive is strong enough to pull a normal train, but some trains are so huge they need seven! The locomotives are not always grouped together, a train might have some at the front, some in the middle, and some at the back."

Other vehicles described are the giant jumbo, the whopper chopper, rocket to the moon, the mighty dumper, the floating hotel, and finally a sub sandwich (as described above). Each of these mammoth means of transport were designed to haul huge loads on land, in the sea and through air and space. You cannot help but be impressed.

Stephen Biesty does his usual incredible job when illustrating these amazing machines. The details are precise enough that we are able to see workers and passengers. The captions and labels provide just enough information to intrigue without overwhelming readers, and the cross-sections and small flaps offer a close look at their inner workings. The extra small images that surround the main illustration provide for further study.

Accessible and endlessly fascinating, this is a book that will long be appreciated for those who have a love for engineering and immensity. WOW!

Voices From the Wild, written by David Bouchard and illustrated by Ron Parker. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2014. $24.95 ages 6 and up

"We are drifters in the night.
You have trembled at our moon call.
In a pack we roam the woods,
And we know that you are present,
Yes, we know you by your scent.

If you're looking for the proof,
Our sense of smell is legendary.
There are those who could convince you
Who aren't hear to tell the tale."

I am thrilled to see a re-issue of this marvellous book, aptly subtitled An Animal Sensagoria. I still have my original, well-loved and somewhat tattered copy. While I was teaching, I shared it often in classrooms and in a library setting. Children were blown away by the discoveries they made about animals they clearly recognized, and were often astounded by the true nature of their powerful senses.

I first heard it read when David came to our school to share his love and excitement for reading. It was great fun to listen, and to guess along with those eager listeners the animal he was describing in his poems. David held their attention time after time. He also worked hard to keep them from shouting out their guesses until he had finished reading the poem. The excitement to share ideas would build, and he would ask them what they thought. Every child was immersed in the experience as they paid close attention to the words of each of the poems.

This new smaller format will be much appreciated, as it is easier to hold for reading to a group, and easier for young hands to carry home. Ron Parker's impressive wildlife paintings of  twenty-five international animals won a new fan for him the first time I saw them. They are quite extraordinary, allowing readers a chance to see each of the animals in their natural environment, and close-up. The book is divided into five sections, one for each of the senses. The animals vie for the artist's attention by touting their own brilliance in their quest to be included here. Their voices are compelling and telling.

A question about humans is asked at the end of each section, concerning that particular sense:

"What about us? What's the reason
That we've not been featured here?

What's happened to our sense of touch,
That doesn't seem to serve too much,
Unless we're seeking comfort
In a world that's filled with things?

What about us as you see it?
What happened to our touch?"

An appendix includes thumbnail sketches and additional useful information to help readers learn more about these animals, and page numbers offer a quick trip back to reread their plea for acknowledgement as the most unique in this verbal battle of senses.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

What's So Yummy? All About Eating Well and Feeling Good. Written by Robie Harris and illustrated by Nadine Bernard Westcott. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2014. $18.00 ages 3 and up

"Eating many kinds of food helps us feel healthy and good. So each day it's important to eat plenty of vegetables and fruit. It's also important to eat some fish, or eggs, or chicken or other meat - or tofu, beans, peas or nuts. Some brown rice, or whole-grain breads, cereal or pasta..."

This is the fourth in the series called Let's Talk About You and Me, and its format follows a winning pattern. Meant to serve up information for young children, it is plain talking and provides information about staying healthy because of the foods eaten and the activities enjoyed.

On the first page a bold statement is shared, and the two kids comment by way of speech balloons:

Everybody everywhere needs to eat and drink.

Hey, Gus, it's picnic day! What I love about picnics is all the good food we get to eat. It's so yummy!

Nellie, what I love is running all around the park with our puppy, who loves to run, too. It's so fun!"

Cartoon art allows readers to journey along with the family as they set about visiting their community garden plot, add to their purchases at a farmer's market and make their final stop at the grocery store to get the rest of the items on their list.

As they make these stops, they also take time to have a healthy snack and some much needed water. At home, they unpack their many foods. All the while the two are providing a running commentary on the benefits of eating the right foods and getting enough exercise. They also discuss those foods that do not provide for healthy living. They talk about their likes and dislikes, not always agreeing:

"I never liked green peppers, but I tasted one every day this week. Now I think they're delish!

I love food, Nellie. But only SOME kinds of food. So I eat red peppers every day, but never green."

The children talk, the author explains, and the illustrator creates colorful, appealing digital visuals to help young children understand the connections between shopping for good foods, creating wholesome and delicious meals and sharing them at a picnic in the park. It's all good!


Friday, October 17, 2014

True or False: The Book of Big Questions and Unbelievable Answers.Written by Andrea Mills. DK Publishing, Tourmaline Editions, Inc. 2014. $20.99 ages 10 and up

"True or False? Robots will take over the world. The modern world has been revolutionized by robots - automated machines programmed to perform tasks. At least 10 million robots exist, but world domination is beyond them. Robots cannot show initiative or react spontaneously. They are always ultimately following human instructions."

Here's another of those books from DK Publishing that is sure to keep kids reading for hours, in an attempt to find out what is true or false about their world and some of the strange and funny things they have been told.

The table of contents tells us that the book is divided into 6 sections - human body, nature, science and technology, space, earth, and history and culture. Readers can skip straight to the page that holds the most interest for them, and just read on. I found myself reading through the statements and heading to the one that I had not heard, or that I wanted to see if what I thought was right. There were many statements I had never even considered.

The format is familiar, and satisfying. The section is introduced and followed up with double page spreads that open with a true or false banner, the statement is made, and then answered with the real deal about it. The spread also includes other facts that have to do with each of the parts of that section. We are left with a question to consider. For instance, the robot page asks: "How many car production workers are robots?" Just prior to the index, the answer is given: 'One in every 10 car production workers is a robot."

Of course, there are the trademark colorful photos, clear illustrations and credible infographics we have come to expect that this exemplary publisher. There is much to learn here. You will know exactly the reader who will benefit from finding this book in the classroom or home library.

The Farmer and the Clown, by Marla Frazee. Beach Lane Books, Simon & Schuster, 2014. $21.99 ages 3 and up


You know where it is
when you're there.

But sometimes you
get separated from home,
and you may need a little
help finding your way back."

In this tender story of community and connection, and without a word being said, Marla Frazee will open your heart to the possibilities of new friendships. In a recent interview at Horn Book magazine, she talked about 'emotional engagement'.

"I try to play it out in my mind to see whether there's something there to follow - what I would call the beating heart of that idea. If I can't find it, I won't be engaged in the idea anymore."

The heart of this idea is brilliantly portrayed in the engagement that comes when a stern, hardworking farmer stops his work to watch a circus train pass on nearby railway tracks. As he watches, he is surprised to see a small form fall from the back of the train. He goes to investigate and finds a tiny clown, sitting and holding his toes. In pantomime, the clown shows the farmer what has happened and ends his pantomime clinging to the farmer's thin legs.

Standoffish, but not unreasonable, the farmer grasps the little one's hand and they walk off together. A farmhouse offers conversation, food, washing up and a dilemma. Bedtime is fraught with worry for the unmasked clown. The farmer sits with him through the night. Morning brings unfettered delight, a sustaining meal and much work. They do it together!

When a lunchtime picnic is in order, the two take their rest under a shady tree - just in time to see the circus train's return. Off they go! We are left with conflicted feelings about the reunion...and a very funny and satisfying ending.

Black Prismacolor pencil and gouache are used with great skill to show readers a lot about changing mood, about the characters themselves, and the real pleasure to be found in new friends. I love the trade they make at the end. It is sure to provide a constant and happy reminder of their day together.

This book is an outstanding work of art...and story! So much is conveyed without saying a word. Its many nuances are carefully constructed to ensure that readers have full access to its timeless tale of friendship. Surely it will be a Caldecott contender. Bravo, Ms. Frazee!

BEFORE AFTER, by Anne-Margot Ramstein & matthias Aregui. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2014. $23.00 ages 4 and up

"Everyone knows that a tiny acorn grows into a mighty oak and a caterpillar becomes a butterfly. But in this clever, visually enchanting volume, it's also true that a cow can result in both a bottle of milk and a painting of a cow, and an ape in the jungle may become an urban King Kong. No words are necessary... (from the back cover)"

There is not much to tell you about this new book from two French artists...but to say that I think it just beautiful, and thought-provoking, and that the words related to it will come fast and furiously from those who share it!

It is a study in two words only...before, and after. They are only shared on the front cover. The conversations that it will spark are sure to be countless and inspired. As you turn  from one digital image to the next, you will note their connections; you will be entertained; you will laugh; and you may even stop to carefully reflect on what is being presented to you and those who are looking at it with you.

What happens over time to pink spring blossoms that invite and welcome bees, and a bird looking to build a nest, to their tree? Could it be that tree grows larger leaves, its blossoms turn to apples, and the parent bird feeds its young fledglings a worm from one of those apples? It could be!

Not every pair (or more) of images conjures an easy answer. There are times when careful consideration must be given to the passing of time, and its results. The images are simply constructed to make it accessible for young readers, while also being inviting enough for older readers to take the time to investigate its many natural and seasonal changes.

There are few humans in sight. But, there are connections made that are sure to evoke talk about how they relate to familiar tales. It is not an ongoing story. The artists have just provided an invitation to talk and honor memories for the parents and children who share it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Cat at the Wall, by Deborah Ellis. Groundwood Books, 2014. $9.95 ages 10 and up

"...although no one calls me Clare anymore. No one calls me anything anymore. I died when I was thirteen and came back as a cat. A stray cat in a strange place, very far from home. One moment I was walking out of my middle school in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. There there was a period of darkness, like being asleep. When I woke up, I was in Bethlehem - the real one. And I was a cat."

This is a most interesting book to read. It is unlike any that I have read from Deborah Ellis; and yet, it is not. It is a compelling story from Bethlehem, Israel about a sly and vocal cat, two soldiers, a young boy and a mission. The cat speaks because it was once a girl named Clare. Its voice is unique and totally believable due to Ms. Ellis' impressive writing skill. As she has so capably done before, she is able to introduce her readers to an ongoing war that they may know only from news headlines.

The girl Clare died (while texting) when hit by a truck as she left her middle school. Reincarnation came in the form of a cat, and in a land far from her Pennsylvania home. Today, she forages for food, always wary of other cats and only wanting a place to rest. Tensions are high for all who live in the West Bank. Clare is not immune to the conflict.

The underlying theme of the entire book is conflict...and is shared by Clare from both perspectives. Chapters move back and forth from her previous life to her present one. In both places, Clare is mostly concerned with herself, and only learns to care about others due to the circumstances of the story. Her wry sense of humor offers readers an occasional respite from the ongoing and escalating disputes between student and teacher, and between soldiers and civilians.

Clare the cat escapes certain death when two Israeli Defense soldiers enter a Palestinian home. She is in the right place at exactly the right time, and scrambles indoors with them. She learns that they are using the home to spy on others. They do not know that a child is hiding inside. Clare discovers Omar first, and listens to him as he relentlessly recites the poem Desiderata. The words bring back memories of Clare's former life and a teacher whose detention assignment was to write the words of that same poem...once for every detention. Clare, the middle grader, is adept at putting herself in spots where detention is the result. As she writes and rewrites the poem, she pays no attention to its meaning. There is power in its words for both the young lady and the cat.

I think that the best thing about this book is that Deborah Ellis quietly and with the greatest care nudges us to realize that we can make a difference in our world. Her dedication 'to those who bring kindness to chaos' is a reminder that I want to be in that procession!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Sam & Dave Dig a Hole, written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2014. $19.00 ages 4 and up

"When should we stop
digging?" asked Sam.

"We are on a mission,"
said Dave.

"We won't stop digging
until we find something

To complete today's trifecta of stunning new picture books, I want to tell you about the newest collaboration from this stellar team. Sam and Dave Dig a Hole is a wonder, and sure to spawn conversation and repeated readings.

Lucky we are to get so much more than the two boys get in their quest to find something 'spectacular'! Their story begins with an apple tree, placed carefully in front matter and then shown again on the title page, as the boys set out on a new adventure. Their dog accompanies them while the cat watches furtively from the porch step. It's Monday, and the two have a plan.

The digging is tedious, and slow going. But, Dave reminds that they are 'on a mission.' Deepening the hole results in no great discovery. As we in the listening audience look on, we can see just how close they are to success. Their dog seems to sense it, too. They just keep digging! Determined in their quest, they have no idea how close they come before they veer off in another direction. Can you hear your young listeners giving unscripted advice to where they should be looking?

When they run out of food and drink, they make the decision to rest. Luckily, that resting spot is very close to 'something spectacular' for their intrepid companion. While they sleep, he digs down and unwittingly causes a rupture in the ground beneath them. They all take a tumble down, down, down...back to where they started. Or is it?

Full of wry humor, and accompanied by mischievous artwork in the restrained color palette we have come to expect from Jon Klassen, this lively new book is sure to attract the attention of the Caldecott committee...again!

Once Upon An Alphabet: Short Stories for all the LETTERS, written and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. Harper, 2014. $26.99 ages 5 and up

"You can do all sorts
of things with jelly.
You can eat it.
You can throw it.
You can make stuff out of it.
That's what Jemima did.
She made her front door
out of jelly. That way, if she
ever left home without her
keys, she could just reach
in and grab them."
As is typical of Oliver Jeffers, this is not your conventional look at the 26 letters that make up our alphabet! He loves to surprise, and takes pleasure (I hope) in creating books that are remarkable in their nonconformity. This time he uses the letters of the alphabet to create short stories:

"If WORDS make up STORIES, and LETTERS make up WORDS, then  stories are made of letters. In this menagerie we have stories, made of words, made for all the LETTERS."

Got that? On we go then. In this brilliant collection we read tales that tell of wishes and dreams, of anger and angst, of accidents and danger. They are sure to make you smile as you recognize familiar faces from earlier books, and find delight in the recurring characters found within. I love that Edmund the astronaut is first up, and last as well; while we've been reading, he has found the spot-on solution to his acrophobia. 

Funny, well paced and exuding charm, this is a book that ups my admiration for the work that Oliver Jeffers is doing. His illustrations are recognizable, loose and full of humor. Black and white with bits of color and some collage, they perfectly match the tone of each of the stories and add to the pure delight of sharing them with anyone who will listen. I have read some pages over the phone to my daughter, ensuring that a copy has been added to her ever-growing wish list of books for her five-week-old daughter. Ah, the pleasures of the alphabet will not escape that wee sweet girl!

I do not YET have a favorite, but I hope you will indulge me in sharing a few with you!

"I i

There once lived an ingenious
inventor who invented many
ingenious things.

His latest invention allowed
him to observe iguanas in their
natural habitat...


Your imagination is not likely to take you to the island, that spot in the ocean where a periscope might be placed, or the covert operation that allows the inventor to spy on the island iguanas. Trust me, it's a hoot!


Q q

"This story is supposed
to be about a question.

But I can't find it anywhere.

Do you know where it is?"

Typical? Not in the least! Whimsical? You betcha! Intelligent and imaginative? Oh my, YES!
Thanks to Oliver, and to Oliver's Dad to whom the book is dedicated: Thanks for never making us get a real job. Love Oliver and Rory"