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Friday, July 31, 2015

The First Flute: Whowhoahyahzo Tohkohya, written by David Bouchard and illustrated by Don Oelze. Red Deer Press, Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2015. $24.95 all ages

"Dancing Raven was often
called upon to lead in the
Buffalo hunt. Yet his heart
was in the dance.

Kohne Waci, ohena pte
odaypi cheepe gash
chonteh etunhun waci
echena cheen."

This is, once again, a winning collaboration by author, artist and musician. David tells me that it is his eleventh book written with a First Nation language translation. The design is impressive; the accompanying CD shares the story in English, French and Dakota. Jan Michael Looking Wolf's haunting flute playing is wonderful and adds special meaning to David's retelling of this traditional Dakota story.

The naming ceremony is of great importance; it has value, honor and respect for the person named. Dancing Raven lives on the plains. His life is quite ordinary, except for his ability as a dancer.

"He was the best and most renowned dancer among all nations."

He learned the many skills needed for all young men - hunting, trapping, racing, shooting, wrestling, and tracking. He proved himself to be a wise leader; but, dance was his calling. When he fell in love and wanted to marry, he was rejected by the girl's father.

"What can you offer my daughter?" the respected
Elder asked. "What do you have to offer that has
any worth or value? Dancing will not feed my
daughter, nor will it feed my grandchildren."

In sadness, Dancing Raven sought solace with Grandfather Cedar, and the Creator. To his surprise, there he found the gift that he had been seeking. Thus, the first flute helped the young man prove his worth to his village and to the woman he loved.

Dan Oelze's detailed images are infused with light, and set in the beauty of the prairie landscape. His fascination with North American Native life is evident on every page, giving readers clear context for Dancing Raven's life and experiences.

David is a very accomplished flutist himself, and thankful for that first flute, I am sure!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova. Written by Laurel Snyder and illustrated by Julie Morstad. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. $22.99 ages 5 and up

"The story unfolds.
A sleeping beauty
opens her eyes
... and so does Anna.
Her feet wake up!
Her skin prickles.
There is a song,
suddenly, inside her.
Now Anna cannot sleep.
Or sit still ever."

How lovely! The words are spare, but the telling significant, in this book about the graceful, beautiful Russian ballerina. She was born into poverty, the child of a laundress in a country where there were few opportunities for the poor. Her life changed immeasurably on the evening she attended her first ballet. From that day forward, Anna dreamed of nothing but ballet.
She was so young; when her mother finally allowed her the chance to attend a boarding school for training, she was turned away. She was eight years old. She would wait (impatiently) for two additional years before acceptance to train ... and train hard.

"The work begins.
The work?
The work!

and down
and back and turn
and on and on
and to and fro
and third position!

Anna was not like the other girls. They were sturdy, she was slight. Her back was weak, her feet arched. All that did was make her more determined to dance! Her career was stellar, dancing 'the lead role in all the great ballets'. She travelled the world in the belief that 'ballet was for everyone'. She didn't need accolades. She danced for the love of it. She wanted other dreamers to know that the dream could be theirs ... and so, she taught. When a winter cold turned to pneumonia, and left her unable to perform, Pavlova was distraught. It was her first missed performance. With her untimely death, the world lost an inspirational artist and exceptional person.

This is a lovely, quiet story, enhanced by beautiful art created by Julie Morstad using ink, gouache, graphite, pencil, and crayon. Her setting is clear and detailed. She uses white backgrounds to focus on Pavlova and her love of dance, her elegance, and her determination to share that love throughout the world.

An author's note, a bibliography and quotation sources follow.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Great Bear Sea: Exploring The Marine Life of a Pacific Paradise, written by Ian McAllister and NIcholas Read, with photographs by Ian McAllister. Orca Book Publishers, 2013. $19.95 ages 9 and up

"The Great Bear Rainforest and Sea abound with remarkable creatures, but if you were asked to name the most remarkable creature of all, what would it be? The spirit bear? The grizzly? The wolf? It may surprise you to know that most people who live in the rainforest would choose the salmon. That's right, the fish."

I knew little about the Great Bear Rainforest until my daughter moved to Victoria, and I wanted to be more familiar with her new home in British Columbia. In the reading that I have done since then, I have been greatly impressed with two earlier books by Ian McAllister and Nicholas Read ... The Salmon Bears (2010) and The Sea Wolves (2013). They were such enjoyable and informative reads; I often recommended them to middle graders and their teachers. Now, the team has penned an equally memorable book about the creatures that inhabit the waters close by.

"But rich as the forests of the Great Bear are in bird and animal life, its marine environments are even richer. The waters off the forest's rugged coast contain more creatures than the forest itself - creatures that form the basis of food webs that extend all the way up to the great whales, great bears and the even the great trees."

We know little about the sea. The authors assure that were it not there, the Great Bear Rainforest would not exist. In nine chapters they guide readers from the smallest (plankton) to the largest (whales) inhabitants, allowing a clear look at the impact that the Great Bear Sea has on all life in the rainforest. It is a most interesting and accessible journey of discovery. Concluding with the need to protect these waters from oil tanker traffic which is ever-increasing, they leave us with a sense of urgency to do something.

"But people opposed to the pipeline are making themselves heard. Despite the vocal support of the Government of Canada, it's no longer certain that the pipeline will be built. Too many people have stood up and said, "No." ... Working together to make the right decisions and take the right actions will make all the difference. As long as we do that, there's no reason why the Great Bear Sea won't remain wild and wet and teeming with life for years to come. It all depends on us."
As in the two previous books, the setting is so beautifully presented and described. Because it feels like a conversation, readers will be totally engaged in all that the authors have to share; and share they do. Informative sidebars, dubbed Maritime Morsels, well-written captions for gorgeous, telling photographs kept me reading chapter after chapter ... and learning. I like the comparisons they make when creating perspective for their young audience. Even the science made sense to the non-scientist in me!  

The diversity in sea life is astounding. How the various creatures manage to live and thrive in their surroundings makes for very compelling reading, and is always informative.

"Even so, when it comes to the Great Bear Sea, cute doesn't come any cuter than sea otters. With their round heads, marble eyes, large noses and long absentminded-professor whiskers, they're as cute as cute gets in the marine world. A video of two of them holding each other's paws in the Vancouver Aquarium has attracted more than eighteen million hits on YouTube. Now that's cute."

We know that our kids need to spend more time outside, learning to love nature and its many pleasures. It keeps them healthier and more connected to the importance of the greater world itself. It establishes a concern for the natural world, and its inhabitants. If we are going to change what is happening, we need to be informed and sympathetic to some of the concerns expressed so eloquently in this wonderful series of books. They show us that there is hope; it's up to everyone to help preserve our future.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Americanine, written and illustrated by Yann Kebbi. Translated from the French by Sarah Klinger. Enchanted Lion Books, Publishers Group Canada. 2015. $24.95 ages 6 and up

"When the subway goes underground, you wind through tunnels that seem to go on forever.

On subway platforms, there are miniature houses that fit just one person. Apparently, only people in blue are allowed to live inside.

If you love trains, you've got to see Grand Central Station. It's swarming with people."

If you are in need of a guide for a trip to New York City, look no further. On his return to his Parisian pals, and sporting an American flag on his back, our canine friend expounds on his recent trip.

"For starters, there are some really hilarious things about New York. Would you believe I actually saw people through windows who were running hard but never left their spot, and no ball ever showed up? I even saw people painting other people's paws."

Much of the dog's perspective is tongue-in-cheek, and recounts what he finds interesting about the many cultural areas of the Big Apple. He talks about Manhattan and Ellis Island, the ferries, the bridges, the subway, the hustle and bustle and noise associated with the city streets. An elevator ride allows a look at the many skyscrapers, and some of the iconic buildings that are familiar to so many of us through various media sources.

Each new revelation is accompanied by a loose-lined pencil crayon image, and followed by a full double page spread that further details it. For instance, a pet store with puppies in the window to be adored and entertained by those outside is followed up with a spread of a dog walker tied to eleven dogs by leashes attached to his belt.

"New York is full of museums,
but they also like to put us on display and everyone adores us!
There are even people whose entire job is
to escort us around town."

A note tells us about Yann Kebbi's art:

"The illustrations for Americanine were made with colored pencils. Though influenced by the sketching Kebbi did in New York as a student, the images for Americanine were all created in Paris, sparked by emotion and memory."

Monday, July 27, 2015

Leo: a ghost story, written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Christian Robinson. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2015. $22.50 ages 4 and up

"Leo was glad to have
company. On the first
night, he made them mint
tea and honey toast. Leo
thought he was being a
good host.

But the family saw
things differently."

Poor Leo! He has been living in this house for many years, with only himself for company. His life is sedate, yet pleasing. Then, when a new family moves in, he does his best to make them feel at home. The family is not enamored of the idea at all. They are afraid of ghostly doings, and the son doesn't like tea! As they sit together in the bathtub trying to decide what to do, they make it clear how they feel about the idea of having a ghost in their new home.

"The family called in a scientist, a clergyman,
and a psychic to get rid of the ghost.
But they should have saved their money: Leo
knew he was unwanted. He said goodbye to
his home and left."

Having been a home ghost for so long, Leo looks on this new stage in his life as an adventure. He will be a roaming ghost. But, the city has changed; he doesn't like the noise, or the fact that places are not as he remembers them. No one can see him, he can't ask questions, he is lonely. Then, one afternoon, he meets a girl who can see him. Jane notices him right away. Leo introduces himself, and becomes part of Jane's lively, imaginary world.

When Leo learns that Jane thinks he is imaginary, he is afraid to tell her the truth. As the story plays out, Leo must finally admit to her that he is a ghost. She readily accepts this new knowledge, liking him even more because of it.

Christian Robinson acrylic paint and construction paper in blues and blacks to match the tone of Mac Barnett's text. The child-like drawings on the endpapers are an invitation to young readers to 'come on in' and see what's happening. On the title page, we watch as Leo walks through the wall, and in the final frame, we see him walk out on the other side. In between, we are witness to the difficulties and delights that as testament to life lived as a ghost.



Sunday, July 26, 2015

The GREAT and the GRAND, written by Benjamin Fox and illustrated by Elizabeth Robbins. Familius LLC, Raincoast. 2015. $22.50 all ages

"The NEW is surrounded
by things to touch.

The OLD is surrounded
by touching things.

The NEW knows softness.

The OLD knows life can
be hard."

Having just taken my only grandchild to the airport after a month long visit, I have a special place in my heart for this truly touching family story. While it is not meant to be a book to read to a young child, it can be shared with older ones. It is certain to have an impact on older generations for its message of hope and renewal.

It is the story of two: a baby and its great-grandfather. Both are preparing to meet for the first time. It appears that they have nothing in common. The baby is new, the great-grandfather is not. The baby has not seen much of the world, the grandfather has seen, perhaps, too much. They are family; that is their connection, and they have much to share.

The tone is tender and quiet. On facing pages, the author compares the lives that the two lead. Each pair of images is sure to inspire memories for those who share it. The circumstances are so different, so poignant in ways that are lovely and sometimes sad. The paintings that accompany the text are full of light, love and anticipation. The events that lead to the two meeting are carefully plotted and make for a very special ending.

"They are the past and the future.
They are family.

Having just met,
each finds the other
not only great, but

Very special!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Prairie Chicken Little, written by Jackie Mims Hopkins and illustrated by Henry Cole. Peachtree, Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2015. $10.95 ages 5 and up

"Soon they met Beau
Grabbit the jack rabbit,
who was nibbling on
some sweet grass.

"Where are you two
going in such a hurry?"
he asked."

Kids will hoot when they hear this prairie version of an old fairy tale. Mary McBlicken is just as scatterbrained as the original Chicken Little. She hears what she is sure is a stampede, and sets off toward the ranch to tell Cowboy Stan and Red Dog Dan all about her concerns.

Her panic is as rampant as the stampede she imagines headed toward her. She runs helter-skelter across the prairie. Each friend she meets is frightened by her gloom and doom report, joining her in her quest to get the information to the rancher as quickly as is possible. Children who have heard other versions of the story will recognize the absurdity of the rush, enjoy the animals who join her on her trek, and know very well that the wily coyote has dinner on his mind, not assistance.

Listeners will meet Jeffrey Snog the prairie dog, Beau Grabbit the jack rabbit, June Spark the meadowlark; each is willing to join Mary. Slim Brody the sly coyote stops them in their tracks with the promise of a shortcut. The journey they take leads straight to his den, where they become suspicious and erupt with plenty of noise. It is enough to bring Cowboy Stan running, send Slim Brody off at a run and an explanation for the sound Mary thought she heard.

Henry Cole uses watercolors, ink and colored pencils to give us a merry band of expressively hilarious characters, sure to attract notice and sympathy for their plight. The repetitive text will please those wanting to read a book on their own. It also makes it a terrific choice for story time with little ones.                                                                    

Friday, July 24, 2015

Ask Me, written by Bernard Waber and illustrated by Suzy Lee. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Thomas Allen & Son. 2015. $21.99 ages 3 and up

"And I like beetles,
and bumblebees, and
And I like flowers.
No, I love flowers.
Bees love flowers, too.
And bees make honey,

When Bernard Waber died two years ago, we did not know that there would be another book from his pen, published posthumously. So, it is a special treat to be able to share Ask Me with you. It is a book for all; but especially for dads and their small daughters. If you happen to know someone like that, and are looking for a gift that is a gentle reminder of the beauty to be found in a shared walk, it is perfect!

As they stroll through autumn glory, the little one has her father ask her what she likes. She is full of enthusiasm and wonder. He is patient and fully engaged in their shared conversation. As they walk, she is reminded of the many wonderful things in this world that please her. He extends the conversation with pertinent questions. I love the feeling you get in reading this back and forth between the two. It is evidence of time spent together and how strong the bond between them truly is. What a delight to read their story!

Suzy Lee uses colored pencils with a soft touch, in keeping with the tenor of the tale. Primary colors attract the eye, while making the whole design look deceptively simple. The loose lines, expressive faces, have our attention placed squarely on the two as they wander together.

The ending to a perfect day comes all too soon:

"Wait. Ask me something else.
Ask me if I want another good night kiss.
Would you like another good night kiss?
Yes, I would like another good night kiss."

What a gift Bernard Waber left us!


Thursday, July 23, 2015

LOOK, by Edouard Manceau. Owlkids, 2014. $19.95 ages 2 and up

"One day,
a curious little kid
picked up this book.

He looked through
the hole and saw
all sorts of things!

Why don't you take
a look through the hole, too?"

Oh, my! Sicily and I have been enjoying this terrific new book! It's interactive, it's filled with important concepts, and it's clever to boot.

Open it and you see a rectangle-shaped die cut right in the middle of the double page spread. You can look at the world through it ... and curious kids are sure to do that. The two of us play 'peek' from one side to the other. Keep turning the pages and you are invited to note many things. One page has colored circles ... red, orange, blue, green. We are encouraged to see if we can see anything that is any of those colors! Off we go ...

There are high and low circles, a circle that is still and one that moves, triangles that are big, small, and then medium. There is Velcro involved, and a shiny page that mirrors the face of the reader. Textured and smooth, the pages offer an opportunity to look closely at a child's world through their own eyes, and those of the reader. The talk will be constant, the responses endless and the invitation to look closely at the outside most enjoyable and engaging (while also educational). It's a win-win for everyone involved in sharing it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Why Dogs Have Wet Noses, written by Kenneth Steven and illustrated by Oyvind Torseter. Enchanted Lion Books, Publishers Group Canada. 2015. $22.50 ages 5 and up

"They sailed away. Land had long since vanished. Only sea and sky remained. The rain fell heavier and heavier, and lightning shot from the black clouds, gleaming like snakes’ tongues. But apart from the crashing sounds of rain and thunder, it was completely quiet. As though there were no other sounds left in the whole wide world."

You will want to take close note of the artwork on each and every page of this stellar book! There is much to see, and to be surprised by. Take, for instance, a close look at Noah and his wife. Notice anything special about them? Does it encourage you to make inferences about their life? What do you notice about his construction scaffold? Interesting, isn't it?

Kenneth Steven is a storyteller. The language he uses captivates and inspires:

"At this same time, there lived
a man named Noah, who was both
watchful and wise. So it was that as
the clouds gathered overhead and the
storm rumbled, he began to build a
lifeboat. He used enormous trees to
make it and called it ... the Ark."

As he did in the Bible, Noah goes out and encourages ALL creatures (even those that people would gladly be without) to join his family. The last animal aboard is a dog. The most noticeable thing about him is soft, black nose. Its enormous and heavy cargo causes the Ark to list to one side. As the waters rise, the boat floats. Off they go!

Outside, all is quiet but for the noises of the storm. Inside, there is a constant cacophony of sound. Noah is so busy, he gets no sleep. From sunup until sundown until sunup he works to care for the creatures and assure their good health. Twenty days into their trip, a hole appears and the boat begins to leak. Noah appeals to his dog for guidance. Getting no help, he comes up with his own plan ... to use the dog's nose to plug the leak!

"The monkeys shrieked, the donkeys
brayed, the mice clapped their little paws,
and Noah and his wife danced for joy.
The Ark had been saved!"

But, what about the next twenty days? Will they reach land? Can the dog save them?

The storytelling is awesome, the book's design is creative and entertaining. Using a fine black pen, Oyvind Torseter creates double page spreads sure to have everyone talking! You will want to share it again and again to ensure that every small detail is noted and discussed. In the end, you will know why your dogs nose is wet!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Outlaws, Spies and Gangsters: Chasing Notorious Criminals, written by Laura Scandiffio and illustrated by Gareth Williams. Annick Press, 2014. $14.95 ages 12 and up

"John had been a reckless boy with a wild streak, always promising to straighten out when he got in trouble. But nine years in prison changed John Dillinger from mischief-maker to something much more dangerous. Maybe those years had made him bitter, the police guessed, bitter enough to embark on a crime spree two months after getting out."

Wow! There are eight hunted criminals here - The Mad Trapper, John Dillinger, Adolf Eichmann, Manuel Noriega, Aldrich Ames, Vladimir Levin, Christopher Coke, and Osama bin Laden.

"The stories in this book are accounts of those hunts and captures - eight dramatic chases that unfolded around the world, from the 1930s to the present day. From an arctic manhunt on dogsled and snowshoe, to tracking the electronic trail of a cybercriminal, each of these hunts pits a very different kind of suspect against a range of pursuers."

The author begins each new section showing a case file summary with an illustrated likeness of the criminal, a world map that places the chase, and a comprehensive listing for the one being tracked. It provides name, age, crime/s, location, duration and those who were involved in that chase. She then goes on to present a story that will ensure attention and understanding. I knew four of the eight, and a good part of their stories. The other four were little known to me, if at all.

While reading about the captures, readers are certain to learn much about the history of the time being presented and shared. The stories come from around the world, and are written to be read easily by most young adults. The artwork is dramatic and compelling, adding interest and a sense of place and time. Chronological in presentation, they begin in the 1930s, assuring that readers understand the means by which each was tracked and caught. Information boxes add interest, bringing those who share it up to date with more modern techniques and explaining some of the issues presented. It  allows readers to see how the future of forensics has been shaped by some of the events of the past. It also points out that international cooperation is extremely helpful and integral to the success in closing such cases.

Opportunity for discussion results when the question 'does the end justify the means?' is asked. I would love to be a fly on the wall in a middle or high school book club that considers this well written book as subject for one of their studies. I am certain that many interested readers would have

opinions to share.

In back matter are a short inclusion that concerns work being done today to track down known criminals, a source list and an index. All add dimension to the appeal of the book as a whole.

"This complex teamwork seems a long way from the posse of local constables and volunteers in past searches. Yet the goal is still the same - to bring a criminal to justice, no matter how tough the case."

Monday, July 20, 2015

Dory and the Real True Friend, by Abby Hanlon. Dial Books for Young Readers, Penguin. 2015. $16.99 ages 6 and up

""I went to the zoo and
tripped and got this boo-boo."

"My dog threw up this

"I found this little sparkly
gem at the park, and then
I lost it, and then I found
it, and then I lost it again."

Dory (nicknamed Rascal by her family, and that nickname fits!) is BACK!!!! Huzzah! She has as much spunk as before, and her imaginary friends are intact. Mary continues to sleep under Dory's bed. Mr. Nuggy, her fairy godmother, lives in the woods nearby.
Dory's preparation for her first day of school includes advice from Mary who caused numerous problems previously.

"Please bring to school tomorrow: Your dad's dirty laundry, extra salami, and lemon juice."

Dory is apprehensive; Mary assures her that the list is correct. The supplies go in Dory's backpack. Her siblings also have a long list of 'don'ts' and 'can'ts' for her first day! They include: no wearing nightgowns to school, no talking to yourself, no furniture moving in the classroom, no imagination ... and no Mrs. Gobble Gracker! Good grief! What is allowed?

They have an explanation:


It's going to be a long year isn't it, Dory? With luck on her side, Dory quickly meets a girl who looks like she might be the perfect friend - big poufy dress, missing teeth, and a name that sings: Rosabelle. With advice from Mary, Dory goes back to being her sunny, imaginative self and captures Rosabelle's interest.  A new best friend - who could ask for more in the first week at school?

Dory's voice is authentic and rare. The innocence of this young narrator is reflected in the black and white drawings, speech bubbles, and humorous events that are sure to capture hearts and have young fans begging for more. Unrestrained in her telling, Dory's readers are rarely sure of what is coming next, which makes the book that much more appealing.

"That afternoon during math time, I whisper
to Rosabelle, "There's one more thing I have
to tell you. I have a fairy godmother named
Mr. Nuggy, and he accidentally turned into a
"Oh! That same thing happened to my fairy
godmother once!" whispers Rosabelle."

The Princess and the Pony, written and illustrated by Kate Beaton. Scholastic, 2015. $19.99 ages 4 and up

"This year, it would be different. Pinecone made sure to let everyone know exactly what she wanted: A big horse! A fast horse. A strong horse. A real warrior's horse! And they tried their best ... But they didn't get it quite right."

Sweaters are the go-to gift for Princess Pincone. She has many! This year, she wants something completely different. Her heart is set on it. While the family does their best to honor her wish, they miss the mark.

Princess Pinecone is a warrior. She has good reasons for being disappointed in her gift. How do you say 'no, thanks!' when it's a birthday gift? You can't! So she keeps the pony and accepts its minor flaws: eating things it should not, not resembling any warrior steed she has ever seen, and farting too much .

There is a great battle on the horizon: the warrior princess does her best to teach her new steed what he needs to be a champion. The lessons don't take. On the day of the battle, she leads him to the field and encourages him to 'do his best'. The fighting is intense; it doesn't look promising.

"The starting horn sounded, and what a battle it was!
There were dodgeballs and spitballs and hairballs
and squareballs (those were new).

People were getting knocked over left and right.
Pinecone stood at the edge, looking for her chance to dive in."

Just when it looked as if Otto the Awful would annihilate her, the cuteness of her pony comes to the rescue. Otto is enthralled. He falls in love with that round, cute, cuddly pony and is happy to be able to show his own 'cuddly' side, something warriors rarely do. Princess Pinecone is helpful in perpetuating that; she finds the perfect use for the abundance of sweaters she has accumulated over the years!

The message is clear ... you can be a warrior, a female, and fight using spitballs, dodgeballs and hairballs. You can be a terrifyingly huge warrior and sport a 'cuddly' side as well. Even a rotund, googly-eyed miniature pony can be a warrior when needed.

There is so much in Kate Beaton's cartoon-like artwork to attract close attention. The new pony is a delight, with his wayward eyes, his constant farting and the admiration he garners at every turn. Funny, expressive, smart and worthy of our attention, you need to see this brilliant book for yourself.
It's worth reading repeatedly. Fight on, brave warriors!  


Saturday, July 18, 2015

How To Save a Species, by Marilyn Baillie, Jonathan Baillie, and Ellen Butcher. Owlkids, 2014. $12.95 ages 10 and up

"All living things on Earth fit together like a giant, complex puzzle. You and I are part of this puzzle along with every animal and plant. Since our lives are intertwined, we depend on each other. Earth is healthiest and works best when we value and care for each other. In small ways, you and I can help out."

The authors concern themselves with the work already done, and future plans for the conservation of a variety of animals and plants to keep them from extinction. There have certainly been some successes: the humpback whale, and the black robin being two of them. A great deal of work was needed to bring them back from the brink. The numbers have increased; scientists only hope that the increase continues.

Using these successes as encouragement,  there is hope that the future will be brighter for other species that are in dire need of protection:

"In this book, you will have close encounters with some of the most endangered animals and plants on Earth. They are taken from the list of one hundred species identified ... "

The authors then describe the basis for their book, letting us know about the many dedicated people who work tirelessly to discover reasons for the declining numbers of so many, how they work to find out as much as they can about them, how they constantly uncover mysteries around the globe, how they make plans to ensure that what needs to be done is done. Then, we meet the species and many of the scientists whose admirable work is so important to their existence.

Each of the double page spread provides captioned photos, a notebook summary sidebar, and a short history of what has happened up until today for the species included.  We are also lucky enough, at times, to meet a scientist whose work has been instrumental in assuring a plan of action for the future of the species.

About the Tarzan's Chameleon, scientist Frank Glaw has this to say:

"Due to the severe rainforest destruction in Madagascar, the discovery of a new species often appears to be a race against their extinction. The beautiful Tarzan's chameleon is a typical but sad example of this."

In back matter, a Where on Earth? map shows each of the species highlighted in green and placed where they can be found. Each of The World's 100 Most Threatened Species is also numbered and placed on the world map. A glossary, an index and a list for further information brings this important and accessible example of exceptional nonfiction to an end.

The design of the book is striking, making it very appealing and meaningful to its target audience. Readers learn an important and serious lesson in its pages. It might just spark some students to become involved in efforts to protect these and other species around the world.

Touch the Brightest Star, written and illustrated by Christie Matheson. Greenwillow, Harper. 2015. $19.99 ages 2 and up

"Tap the sky beside
the tree.

Make a wish
and count to three.

Swipe the sky
from left to right.


In this companion book to Tap the Magic Tree (2013), Christie Matheson uses the coming darkness to lull her little listeners toward restful sleep. Once again interactive, it entices with the falling dusk, the gentleness of the coming night, the fireflies that light that night ... all for the enjoyment of a little one.

Press the firefly; they all light up! Pat the deer before saying good night. Tap the sky, a star appears. In rhyming verses, readers are given clear and simple instructions to move them forward. It gives that sense of power they so appreciate in a world where many things are out of their control. Imagine their excitement over directing what is happening in their book!

They are invited to wave, press, blow, pat, say, tap, wish, count, swipe, blink, touch, trace, look, whisper, watch, turn, rub, close, and nod. All quiet verbs of encouragement to take part in the fun, without revving them up ahead of tucking them in to wait for morning to peek across the sky once again.

The last page is a glossary that provides information concerning the enchantments that night provides. Collage artwork makes the dark an enchanting, inviting place to be. It is a book that makes little ones want more of the same, while falling in love with books and reading. Well done!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Painted Skies, written by Carolyn Mallory and illustrated by Amei Zhao. Inhabit Media, Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2015. $16.95 ages

"My grandmother told me that if you whistle, the lights will come closer and the ball might hit you on the head. Because these spirits are very strong, they use a big, old walrus skull for a ball. Nobody wants to get hit by that ball!"

I remember being fascinated by Michael Kusugak's Northern Lights: The Soccer Trails (Annick, 1993) when I first shared it with my kids at home and at school. I had never heard the Inuit belief concerning the incredible light show that we call 'aurora borealis'. Fortunately, that book is still in print, and would make a perfect pairing for this lovely tale.

In it, she introduces us to Leslie, a young girl who has just moved to the Canadian North. Leslie and her friend Oolipika are doing what most kids do when faced with a yard full of pristine white snow - they are making snow angels in it. As they lie laughing and talking about her new home, Leslie is astonished by the darkness and the green sky. Together, they watch as swirls of other glorious colors make their way across the night sky.

Because she is afraid, Leslie whistles. It is something her mother taught her to do to take her mind off what frightens her. Oolipika is quick to quiet her friend:

"Stop whistling," Oolipika said. "They'll hear you."

She, in turn, begins to move her fingernails together, making a clicking noise. She explains to Leslie what her grandmother has told her about the lights they see in the night sky. Leslie cannot believe what she is hearing, watching closely as the lights change color and move closer. That shared story from Inuit tradition is sure to intrigue young listeners; it will leave them feeling much as I did twenty years ago.

Amei Zhao's stunning artwork adds even more wonder, bringing readers the majesty and beauty of the lights and making her audience feel as if they are right there with the girls as they delight in the dark skies. Her use of perspective allows us to see the lights from both far and near. They seem almost to be talking with the girls, as they experience the grandeur of the display.

A final page explaining the science that causes this exceptional occurrence is useful.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Meet the DULLARDS, written by Sara Pennypacker and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri. Balzer & Bray, Harper. 2015. $21.99 ages 4 and up

"...  mix the gray paint and the beige paint together, and the new color was indeed perfectly dull - like oatmeal left in the pot. After they finished painting the room, Mr. and Mrs. Dullard tried not to look at the walls. But it was no use - they were completely mesmerized. All day long, the Dullards watched the paint dry.

Take a careful look at the front cover! There is a hint that this book may not be quite as dull as is intended. Wandering eyes give a hint at what's to come - and there may be some action. The dull grey endpapers set us up to be introduced to the Dullards - Mr. and Mrs., Blanda, Borely, and Little Dud. The title page does little to change our perception. There is little to enjoy about the life they lead. The parents protect their children from everything that is not dull - that is the way they feel life is meant to be lived.

Those children have a different perspective. On the first page, they are caught reading books! On the next, those books are exchanged for blank paper. Blanda accepts their fate. Borely looks perturbed. Little Dud is conspicuously upset by the exchange. Outside, too much is changing in their neighborhood to keep the parents comfortable. A move is arranged.

Their first encounter in the new neighborhood is unpleasant to them:

"Just as they brought the last box into their new home, a lady
came to the door. "Welcome to the neighborhood," she said.
"I baked you an applesauce cake!"
"Please don't use exclamation marks in front of our children,"
said Mrs. Dullard."

Calming down after the excitement of the move means watching an unplugged television set. The parents are apoplectic when they discover a room wallpapered in sunny yellow with orange and green flowers. None of the children appreciate their vanilla cones, without the cone or the vanilla. Is there about to be a revolt? As the Dullard parents search for a perfect paint color to cover up the flowered wallpaper, we get an inkling of what interests their children. Astonishing!

Watching the paint dry makes the parents somewhat inattentive to what is going on beside them. The children make their break! That will give readers a sense of what is to come ...

Humorous and thoughtful, reading this book aloud is sure to elicit giggle and conversation. Daniel Salmieri uses watercolor, gouache and colored pencils to create an environment that is as dull as dishwater, and as appealing for the three children trapped by it. The perfect greys, the boxy look of his humans, the occasional bursts of color that upset the parents' equilibrium and show the spirit of their children work perfectly in accompaniment with the inventive text. There is much to see as you wander through its pages.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

I Will Take a Nap! Written and illustrated by Mo Willems. Hyperion Books for Children, Disney Book Group. Hachette, 2015. $10.99 ages 3 and up

"What are you doing?"

"I am trying to take a
nap because I am TIRED
and CRANKY!"


"And a nap helps if
you are cranky?"

I have been living with a ten-month-old for the past three weeks; she has taught us what cranky is when she's in need of a nap! She hates to miss a single thing, finding it hard to succumb to sleep when there is a chance that a visitor might come to the door, or the phone might ring, or a text might arrive. What will she miss? There will come a time in the near future when she will appreciate Gerald and Piggie's newest story as much as I do.

Appreciate it, I do! Gerald wants to take a nap. He is aware that he is cranky and irritable. He has a sleeping mat. He has his Knuffle Bunny in his arms. He has the hopes that good dreams might be his.
Enter Piggie - in a dream bubble. Can this be good?

As Gerald stretches out and settles in, Piggie loudly calls his name. It startles him, making him even crankier with his best friend. Quickly contrite, he apologizes. Now, Gerald is not the only one who is cranky - and getting crankier by the second. Both are now in need of that nap. Soon, they are settled and content.

Or, are they? Turns out that Piggie might have found her real talent - snoring! Her snoring is relentless. Gerald is getting no sleep. When he thinks she is finally done, Piggie lets loose another terrible snore, just prior to waking up with a smile and a yawn. She is refreshed, alert and not cranky at all. Can the same be said for Gerald?

Piggie has yet another surprise in store!

If you, or your kids, are readers who notice the slightest change in the trajectory of a tale, you won't be too surprised at the ending. Mo Willems has an unstoppable ability to create stories of friendship that make us consider every aspect of the telling.

23 times he has done it! These stories never get old. They entertain, delight and leave readers young and old begging for more. Please, Mr. Willems!

Monday, July 13, 2015

by mouse & frog, written and illustrated by Deborah Freedman. Viking, Penguin. 2015. $18.99 ages 3 and up

""Oh," said Frog to Mouse.
"I just wanted to help."
Then Frog explained to
everyone else,
"This story is Mouses's."

"So," Frog said,
"Mouse set the table for tea.
Then what happened?"

Mouse's early morning story just doesn't have enough pizzazz! Mouse would be quite content; she likes simple and quiet. Frog, on the other hand, likes nothing more than action and enthusiasm. When he makes his presence known, and his wish to have a story that is full of elements that appeal to him, he just takes over.

"some had two feet and some had four and some had a comb and a brush and a bowl full of chicken soup, with noodles, not rice, and they cheered we are here! And they played bump-bump-tumble, and hey diddle diddle all-fall-down, kuplink, kuplank, do you like my hat? Yes, monkeys, you, I do! I do! What would you do if your mother asked ... are you my mother?"

Savvy readers and astute listeners will make connections to some of their favorite stories as Frog forges ahead with his idea. He just keeps going - until Mouse puts an end to it! She reasons that the story is a mess. Frog is bewildered until Mouse explains that the story was hers. Frog is distraught at his inability to help. He erases each of his characters, now realizing it is not his story to be told. Mouse, realizing she has hurt Frog's feelings, surrenders herself to creating a story that suits both. It is the very best kind of solution between friends. Their need to write their own stories hasn't changed; their need to compromise creates a story they can be proud to have written together.

'The illustrations are made with pencil, pastel, watercolor, and gouache, and assembled in Photoshop', and are to be as admired as is every bit of work previously done by Ms. Freedman. Her characters stand out from the rest of the images, keeping attention fully on them and the parts they play in this fine story about creativity, and collaboration.  They are funny and charming, with an astute ability to learn the best way to be friends.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Vacation, written by Polly Horvath. Square Fish, Farrar Straus Giroux, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2015. $7.99 ages 10 and up

"I thought about this. At first I accepted it and then I remembered all the vacations that the kids I knew took. They sounded pretty planned to me. You didn't just drive around looking for stuff for three months. When I mentioned this, Aunt Pigg said, "But that's what we're doing. We're driving around looking for stuff. Well put, Henry."

When Henry's mother suddenly picks up and leaves for Africa to do missionary work (and his father accompanies her), Henry is left to the care of his two maternal aunts, Pigg and Magnolia. Well, they are only maternal in that they are his mother's sisters. There really is nothing else that is 'maternal' about them. They arrive quickly, allowing Henry to complete his school year before they head out on the road in search of adventure:

"I WANT TO GO TO THE BEACH!" yelled Aunt Magnolia. And then she sat up and finished her dinner quite politely as if nothing had happened. Maybe she just had to get it out of her system. But no. It was not out of her system the next day, so to the beach we were going. All three of us, for an unspecified period of time."

So begins a summer journey that will take the three to Virginia Beach, Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Mount Rushmore and finally, to Iowa. It's a strange, and occasionally exciting trek. There are some adventures along the way, including Henry's three days lost in a swamp with a child who has autism; a weird connection with extended family; one aunt finding her one true love on a ranch in Oklahoma; finally, a meeting with Henry's returning parents in Tulsa.

If you know Polly Horvath's writing, you will not surprised to meet these eccentric characters and read their unusual story. She makes the most remarkable situations seem quite commonplace. At the other end of the summer trek, Henry has learned something new that just might change his life's path and his ability to survive when faced with life's bumps in the road.

Always wise, and often very funny, Ms. Horvath does not disappoint. If you didn't read this story when it was first published, now it a great time to add it to your library shelf.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Trapped: A Whale's Rescue, written by Robert Burleigh and illustrated by Wendell Minor. Charlesbridge, Random House. 2015. $19.95 ages 7 and up

"Towering waves cascade
down her leathery back.
She arches and leaps.


She spanks the cold blue
with her powerful tail.


It's wonderful to begin this tale in the wondrous ocean waters off the California coast, where the enormous humpback whale is feeding on krill and cavorting freely. Wendell Minor's gouache artwork makes me feel as if I am in that water alongside her as she splashes and 'flashes her flukes'. On a hot, humid and sunny Manitoba morning it emits a feeling of cool release.

It would be lovely to just watch her as she enjoys her play; but, there is more to this tale of caution than the opening scenes show. Below the surface, in the dark waters, there is danger. This time it comes in the form of a crab net left behind by fishermen as they made their way home with their catch. To say it is a problem is an understatement.

"The struggle begins.
The web of ropes cuts into her skin.
She flails, starts to sink, fights for air.
With each thrust of her tail, she tires.
Her sides heave. She flops. She flounders.
At last the great whale shudders and lies still."

Now, she is TRAPPED!

Luckily there are brave and concerned rescuers willing to do their best to ensure her safety. They know the dangers. They work tirelessly to console her so that they can begin the work of freeing her from the ropes and release her to the ocean once more. It takes a number of workers to free her mouth, her body, her fins, her tail. Once she is released, she is back to swimming and moving about in the water near her rescuers. It is as if she is saying thank you for their hard work!

The true beauty of the artwork cannot be fully described. You will need the see it yourself to appreciate the colors, the light, the perspective in size between whale and human. Young readers will be awestruck by both the power and the gentleness shown so eloquently.

Based on an actual rescue, Robert Burleigh uses endnotes to source his interest in telling this story,  offers information about the humpbacks themselves, the danger that is involved in attempting a rescue and increases our awareness of both the concern for and human disregard for marine life.

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Five of Us, written and illustrated by Quentin Blake. Tate Publishing. 2015. $21.95 ages 5 and up

"But when they had finished their sandwiches and were having a little rest, Big Eddie said, 'I think I feel a bit peculiar.' Then he went green. Then he went white. And then he fainted clean away - THUD. 'Perhaps it was the sandwiches,' said Mario. 'Poor Eddie,' said Simona. 'At least I can hear his heart beating,' said Ollie."

What an adventure for five friends! Off they go on a picnic, in a big yellow bus. Big Eddie is the driver and all are excited to head into the country for a lovely day together.

As luck would have it ... Big Eddie gets sick and cannot continue to drive. What can five children do? First of all, I should tell you that they are quite 'amazing', each in their own right. You know that if they have come from the imagination of the incomparable Quentin Blake, they will indeed be exceptional. They are Angie, Ollie, Simona, Mario and Eric.

"Angie could see a sparrow sitting
on top of a statue five miles away.
She was amazing.

Ollie could hear it sneeze.
He was amazing.

Simona and Mario were so strong
they could lift anything you could think of.
They were amazing.

Eric was just as amazing,
but you will find out how later on."

That is some foreshadowing for you! The five are wonderful friends; Mr. Blake makes that evident at every turn. As they travel along they take note of the fascinating country vistas, sharing their talents to ensure all are part of the discoveries. They are on the lookout for the perfect picnic spot. While the others have opinions and observations to share, Eric is almost speechless.

"Eric said, 'Erm ... erm."

When Eddie becomes ill, the five decide that they must get him some help. Off they trudge. Eric is in the rear, Angie and Ollie are holding hands and walking beside each other, Simona is pushing Mario's wheelchair while he hoists Big Eddie above his head.  When it looks like there is no help to be had, it is Eric to the rescue!

Quentin Blake is true to his long-held belief that children ought to be able to find themselves in the books that they read. It is that familiar mirror/window analogy. Through books, children see themselves (as in a mirror) or they see the lives of others (as through a window). He makes the point perfectly in this book, without banging us over the head with it. It is a quietly beautiful story of friendship ... and that is all!

Take careful note of the characters, of the disparity between the city and the country, and the way in which Mr. Blake so carefully chooses his watercolor palette to bring a sense of calm to the entire tale.


Thursday, July 9, 2015

LIttle Melba and Her Big Trombone, written by Katheryn Russell-Brown and illustrated by Frank Morrison. Lee & Low Books, Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2014. $21.95 ages 8 and up

"From as far back as her memory would go, Melba loved the sounds of music. Blues, jazz, and gospel rhythms danced in her head -
the plink of a guitar,
the hummm of a bass,
the thrum-thrum of a drum ... "

Not many people know about Melba Doretta Liston ... yet! This lovely and lively picture book biography will change that. Melba was raised in Kansas City during the Depression. It was the perfect birthplace for someone who would grow to love music as much as Melba loved it:

"The year she was born was 1926. The place was Kansas City, where you could reach out and feel the music. The avenues were lined with jazz clubs, street bands, and folks harmonizing on every corner. All the hot music makers made sure they had a gig in KC."

Music was a part of her being, and she listened every chance she got. She was only 7 when she discovered she could make the music she wanted to make on a trombone. Her mother and her grandpa gave her love and support, and Melba taught herself to play with difficulty, and a great deal of patience. She was asked to play for a radio show one year later.

When times got tough in Kansas City, Melba and her mother moved to Los Angeles. She excelled at school and was soon an accomplished member of her high school band. Other band members proved jealous and made life very difficult for the young girl. She used music to calm her while she learned more and more. Asked to join a jazz band at 17, she began a life of travel. People who heard her play knew they were in the company of a 'master musician'.

Through tough times while touring in the bigoted southern states with Billie Holiday, music kept Melba in the public eye. When she considered giving up, those who loved her music would not let her. Thankfully!

The text itself almost sings. It clearly shows its audience the best and worst of Melba's experiences as a talented, unique musician. Frank Morrison's oil paintings further enhance our understanding of Melba's story. He uses wonderful lines and expression to show her love for the music she felt blessed to play.

An afterword, a selected discography, a list of sources and websites are found in the back matter. Use the list to find something to play in the background as you share this with your students, and with your own children.

"Spread the word! Melba Doretta Liston was something special."


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Untamed: The Wild Life of Jane Goodall, written by Anita Silvey. National Geographic Kids, Random House. 2015. $21.99 ages 10 and up

"Unlike traditional scientists who believed that chimps should be identified by numbers, Jane firmly maintained that they must be viewed as distinct beings - with emotions, personalities, and minds capable of solving complex problems. At first, Jane focused on the differing physical characteristics of each chimp."

If you are still of the mind that one person cannot make a difference in this world, look to Jane Goodall. She has been working tirelessly to prove that change is possible since she was a child. Her life is an inspiration to many. Now readers of this new book can see how they might help in some small way to make their own difference.

In this chronological account of her life, we learn (if we didn't know from previous works about her) that she loved animals from the get-go. She studied her pets and other nearby animals, keen to note their behaviors.

"She spent hours waiting for a chicken to lay an egg. She tried to keep earthworms under her pillow. She tempted an ordinary bird into her bedroom as a companion. She trained a dog to do tricks, watching him to understand how his mind worked. But she always wished she could observe animals in more exotic places; in fact, because of the books she read, she wanted to go to Africa."

Never losing sight of that goal, she made a trip to Africa in her 20s; that changed everything -for Jane and for the scientific community at large. Her understanding of scientific observation led to work that would change how many scientists see the world today. Her love of the chimpanzees she encountered and observed in Gombe has resulted in accumulated research that caused us to think more clearly about the connections between humans and apes. Her love of her Gombe Family encouraged her lifelong work in conservation and education that continues to this day.

In the foreword, she has a message for the children and teachers who will read this engaging account of her life and work.:

"You may feel there is not much you can do to help, but when hundreds and thousands of young people do what they can, it makes a huge difference. So if you love animals, like I do, let us roll up our sleeves together and each do our own bit. Remember - your life is important. You make a difference every single day. And you get to choose what sort of difference you want to make."

Using archival photographs from National Geographic, as well as from the Jane Goodall Institute, the author allows a clear look at the love and admiration that Ms. Goodall has always had for her chimps:

"Jane would eventually study three generations of chimpanzees over a 55-year period, one of the longest continuous field studies of wild animals ever conducted."

She loved that life and worked tirelessly to help the world understand what she was learning from them. She was inspired by their intelligence and their tenderness. She loved Gombe, their homeland. I love the photos that so clearly show her interacting with these amazing creatures. I have some favorites and the readers for whom this book is written are sure to find their own.

Anita Silvey includes sidebars, double page bursts of information relevant to Ms.Goodall's life in Africa and with other scientists, maps, accessible and informative captions for the many photos, field notes, a Gombe Family Scrapbook, a time line of Jane's life, an extensive resource list, notes, and index. All serve to help readers find out about this honorable teacher and scientist who has given so much to our knowledge of the world beyond our own borders.

Intelligent, adventurous, curious and caring, Jane Goodall is a hero for young people to emulate when wanting to make a difference in our world.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Chu's Day at the Beach, written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Adam Rex. Harper, 2015. $21.99 ages 2 and up

"Chu took off
his sunglasses.
He looked at the sea.
The day was so sunny
and bright.

Chu's nose tickled.

It was a tickling that got
bigger and bigger and

You may have met Chu in previous books. If you have, you will know him to be a happy panda cub with a propensity for sneezing. It's a habit he can't seem to be break - not even at the beach. Chu has been anxious to go for days. Finally, the day has come.

The family's arrival is unremarkable. It's hot. Chu gets an ice cream cone from a generous octopus, visits with a rock pool crab. His mom sits under a shady umbrella to read, while his father makes his way into the cool water. Chu is ready to enjoy every moment - then, a tickle in his nose. OOPS! He cannot contain the sneeze.

You won't believe what happens next. Chu breaks the sea! Fish are sad, a whale is trapped - nothing is the same as it was before the sneeze. He is cajoled by every living beach creature to try and repeat the sneeze. He can't do it!

"All of the grown-ups were very sad.
"Chu will not sneeze," they said.
"Now the sea is broken and
we cannot fix it."

When a tiny snail (haven't we seen him before?) suggests a solution, Chu is willing to follow his advice. Will it work? If so, will things be back to normal?

Adam Rex perfectly matches his oil and mixed media artwork to the charm and friendliness of the written words.  There is so much for a young reader to see as the spreads are pored over, each and every time the book is read. There is always something new to discover and discuss!


A Rock Can Be ... Written by Laura Purdie Salas and illustrated by Violeta Dabija. Millbrook Press, 2015. $21.99 ages 3 and up

"A rock is a rock.
It's sand, pebble, stone.
Each rock tells a story,
a tale of its own.

A rock can be a ...

Tall  mountain

Park fountain"

It took me ages to get a copy of A Leaf Can Be (2012), and then I waited impatiently for a copy of Water Can Be (2014). I am happy to say that I had pre-ordered my copy of A Rock Can Be (March, 2015). I am still late telling you all about it.

It is equally as beautiful as the first two in this stellar series. Laura Purdie Salas is a master wordsmith. She makes the absolute best word choice decisions, and graces the pages of this book (and the others) with rhyming couplets in celebration of all that a leaf, water or a rock can be.

We find rock in a variety of forms and it has many uses. Ms. Salas describes some of them, leaving her audience to consider other words and ways to give meaning to their purpose in our world.

"Lake skimmer
Building trimmer
Hopscotch marker
Fire sparker

A rock is a rock,
our Earth in your hand.
Our world's full of rocks,
some simple, some grand."

Isn't that all the incentive you need to try to come up with some further ideas? Each couplet is placed on a page of its own on beautifully illustrated artwork, done in digital collages. Using bold color and radiant light, Violeta Dabija is able to interpret the word images fully.

The final pages add impressive information concerning each of the couplets, while offering a clear explanation for its inclusion:

"Lake skimmer: Have you every skipped a stone across a lake? A flat round stone works best. If you fling it at the right angle, it might bounce over the surface of the water. The world record is more than fifty skips."

There is also a glossary and a list for further reading. If you want to use more nonfiction during story time, this is one of those perfect books. It leaves room for discussion and encourages thoughtful writing. It is sure to encourage kids to get outdoors and have a closer look at the beauty in nature that surrounds them.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Are you what you eat? A guide to what's on your plate and why. DK Canada. 2015. $18.99 ages 10 and up

"Just as a machine needs fuel to generate power, we require fuel in the form of food to give us energy to be active, play, and grow. Our food provides nutrients in the shape of carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals. These all do different jobs in the body."

This new book from DK explains the mechanics of how our bodies work, and what we need to eat in order to be the best that we can be. In order for that to be true, we need to feed it the 'right stuff' and ensure that we are aware of those foods which are beneficial to us in many ways.

"Go for color! Make sure you eat your greens, reds, whites, purples, and oranges, because many colored fruits and vegetables contain key chemicals called phytochemicals. They help us fight off disease, strengthen the immune system, and keep us in working order."

There are quizzes to take, facts to ponder and questions to be answered. There is much to discover for interested readers, and a real boost to help them make a move toward healthier eating. It makes such a change for every part of our lives. One of the double page spreads that really interested me compared the size of portions from the 1960s with portions in 2009.

The size of the average dinner plate was 8 1/2 inches (21.5cm) in diameter. This size of plate held about 800 calories of food. It meant that in one sitting, people ate less than they do today.

The size of the average dinner plate is now 12 inches (30cm) in diameter. It can hold about 1,900 calories. One of the reasons why people are larger and heavier than ever is that the portions are bigger."

A handy guide provides information concerning the right portion size for most of us.

The following videos are helpful:

A table of contents, an excellent glossary and index add to the appeal. The editors leave us with 'food' for thought:

All happiness depends on ... breakfast.

Look Where We Live! A First Book about Community Building. Written and illustrated by Scot Ritchie. Kids Can Press, 2015. $16.95 ages 4 and up

"Next stop is Amir's gas station. This is where Yulee brings her bike when her tires need air. Today Amir is having a car wash party. He wants to thank the people who come to his garage. All the money he makes will go to the library."

This is a fine addition to a set of books by Scot Ritchie that includes previous titles, Follow That Map! and Look at That Building! The children from those books return with a new goal in mind. They want to raise money to be donated to the library.

Mr. Ritchie begins with a bird's-eye view of what the community looks like in its entirety. He also re-introduces the children - Nick, Yulee, Pedro, Sally, Martin, and Max, the dog from his previous works. From above we can see important landmarks and those buildings that will be noted as we explore the community itself.

Each double-page spread will help young readers to see what a community looks like, what happens when community members come together to do something that will make a difference where they live, and the support that is given one to the other in trying to make it safe and strong.  A yard sale, visiting local stores, a car wash, working together to clean up streets and parks, painting a giant decorative mural, listening to stories told by elderly community members, the library, a communal garden, a game at the soccer pitch, and the many workers who do their jobs to provide guidance for everyone are all included.

Each spread provides accessible information and offers food for thought for the intended audience.

"Martin wanted to visit the community garden, where people share a large piece of land to grow flowers and vegetables. Lots of people in the neighborhood have a garden here. It's a great way to make friends! Today some people are selling what they have grown. They are going to donate the money they earn to the library. In a community garden you can grow your own food. What would you grow? Beans? Tomatoes? Pumpkins?"

Encouragement is given to think seriously about the kind of community you can create, and ways to raise money for community growth and fun. Directions are clearly given in backmatter for making a puzzle project. A glossary of 'words to know' brings the book to its conclusion.

The watercolor artwork will hold attention. The detailed illustrations invite young children to have a close look and take note of all that is going on, searching for pets and for the children. It's perfect as an introduction for little ones to help them understand the concepts presented.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Where, Oh Where, is Rosie's Chick, written and illustrated by Pat Hutchins. Hodder Children's Books, Hachette. 2015. $ 15.99 ages 3 and up

 "But, oh no!

Where is little
baby chick?

Rosie looked
under the hen house,
but the little baby
chick wasn't there."

Oh, how we loved Rosie's Walk! We read it at home, and at school. It was one of those perfect books for children learning to read. Now, here is its sequel ... and it is sure to be another classic for young readers.

It's been almost fifty years since we first shared it. In today's book, Rosie's egg has just hatched and the chick is missing. Neither mother nor offspring are terribly astute. Rosie is focused on finding her precious little one and searches the farm's every nook and cranny. No matter where she looks, the chick cannot be found. Little listeners will be unable to keep themselves from letting Rosie know exactly what is happening behind her. Her little one, still sporting part of its shell, is following her every move. Rosie, of course, never looks back.

Luckily, her friends come to her aid. They finally let her know that her chick is right behind her. It appears that they have also been in some danger (echoing events of that first book). Having found each other, the two are off for a pleasant walk together.

 Children who know the first story will recognize the beehives, the familiar bold colors, the detailed backgrounds, the inadvertent humor and the return of old friends. Who could ask for more? Sharp-eyed readers will take note of the many differences that exist between the story the words are telling and the one being told by Pat Hutchins' glorious images.

A new favorite can now be placed side by side with an old favorite on a child's own library shelf. It is a book to be shared with generations to come, just as its companion book has been.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Little Miss, BIG SIS, written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. Harper. 2015. $21.99 ages 4 and up

"Little Miss
will be a big sis.

Will be a big sis?


Waiting and waiting.

Then ... "

Yesterday I told you about Rodeo Red and the troublesome Slim. Today, I want to share a brand new companion book to Plant a Kiss (Harper, 2011). In that first book we met Little Miss and learned that one small act of being kind to others can grow until it encompasses far more than one might expect.

In this second book about such a lovely young girl, we learn about the drama and delight of a new sibling. Yes, there are difficult times. It seems that those are far outweighed by the lovely ones. She is pretty excited to learn that a new baby is expected, waits endlessly for the arrival, and is set to experience all that being a big sister means.

There is nothing she won't try. She changes diapers, allows drool to drip on her cheek and chin, does her best to accept the new sibling's foibles with grace and patience. She sits alongside the sleeping sib, helps with feeding, and basks in the love that smiling, growing baby has for her. She enjoys the funny moments, worries when danger seems imminent, puts up with stolen toys and pulled hair. All the while, that baby falls more and more in love with the big sister who is always there to hug and support.

The text is spare, but meaningful. Peter Reynolds' artwork perfectly matches the charming tale. He assures that readers will understand and appreciate the love felt between the two. There are some issues; the images created in soft watercolors assure that no matter the fuss, love wins out.

This is a perfect book for any family expecting a new addition, and would make a welcome gift.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Rodeo Red, written by Maripat Perkins and illustrated by Molly Idle. Peachtree, Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2015. $21.95 ages 5 and up

"I'd come home to find
my belongings all in a
jumble, my spurs missing,
or grape jelly smeared on
my favorite hat. I tried
reasoning with Slim. I
showed him the border
between his camp and
mine. But that scallywag
talked nothing but

Rodeo Red is a cowgirl through and through: from the tip of her hatted head to her pointy-toe boots. She and her hound dog Rusty live a charmed life, until Slim ...

Red and Rusty have been together since infancy. They have grown up and learned roping and riding in each other's company. When her tiny brother Slim arrives, things change for the older two. Red is not impressed from their first meeting:

"The first time our eyes met, I knew Slim was trouble.
He looked as slippery as a snake's belly in a mudslide."

He hollers and causes poor Rusty to seek help from Red in protecting his sensitive ears. Red's folks (the Sheriff and her Deputy) cannot get enough of him! Red tries, advises, watches over, and finally gives up completely. She cannot stem his mischief-making. So, she gathers up Rusty and all of her farm animals and heads for the hills.

When Rusty turns up missing, you know who is the lead suspect, don't you? Red is 'ready' to have it out with Slim. Finding Slim asleep with Rusty in his arms does nothing to deter the intrepid investigator. She wants her dog. Slim's howling and the Deputy's impatience sends Red off to conjure up other ways of recapturing Rusty. Time out for guess who!!!

A late birthday gift from her Aunt Sal gives Red the perfect ploy for getting her best friend back. But, she is cautious in offering the new toy up for the old. It's enough to make Slim green with envy and vibrant with want.

"But the sight of that dolled-up dandy was
finally too much for him. He handed over
Rusty like he was a hot coal at a barbecue."
Problem solved!

Great fun to share so long as you are prepared to use your best western drawl, and make the telling as funny and engaging as the writer gives you encouragement to do. Kids will chuckle at the descriptions shared by a reluctant older sister in the wake of her baby brother's arrival and subsequent upheaval for the household.

The muted pastel palette chosen by Molly Idle to create her visual interpretation of the story is perfect. So many fine details give readers a chance to pause and ponder. They may even see themselves in some of the threats and efforts made to bring the younger one into line.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

In Mary's Garden, by Tina and Carson Kugler. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Thomas Allen & Son. 2015. $21.99 ages 6 and up

"Over the next few days,
they found another
scrap here,
another jumbled lump

Mary loved to
collect things
she found."

I recently spent a wonderful weekend with four fine friends in London, Ontario. It afforded us the opportunity to take a couple of short day trips around southern Ontario and pay impromptu visits to a few new spots. One was a large outdoor garden, designed and added to on a yearly basis. It was very peaceful, filled with plants and object art reflecting the artist's desire to have his visitors leave a littler happier than when they arrived. It worked its magic on the five of us. It reminded me of this picture book biography I had read just prior to leaving on holiday.

Mary Nohl was born an artist. From an early age she loved making things, and she loved to draw. 
Her big ideas led her to projects in woodworking, helping her father build a house near Lake Michigan, where she continued to live until her death. While traveling the world, she loved to draw the things she was seeing.

The long Wisconsin winters made her long for the bright colors that had been a part of her travels. She created art to bring color to the inside. But, it wasn't until she was wandering the beach near her home that she began to see what she might construct from 'found items' for placement in her garden. Mixing cement as her father had shown her, she built and decorated structures using what she so eagerly collected.

Her garden attracted many visitors, as well as some detractors. Luckily, Mary did not make her art for anyone but herself. When some of her pieces were vandalized, she just used what was left to create another unusual structure. Her home remains a legacy today to her life's work.

Perfect fare for aspiring artists, this is a book that will be appreciated for the story it tells and for the inspiration it provides. An author's note offers additional information, and explains the controversy that has often been associated with Mary's garden.

Mixed media artwork captures the joy the garden provided for Mary. Using traditional watercolor with digital painting, collage and vintage papers, the Kuglers show their young readers the transformation that took place over the years as Mary worked to create these works from her abundant imagination.