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Monday, July 31, 2017

The Great Treehouse War, written by Lisa Graff. Philomel, Penguin. 2017. $18.99 ages 8 and up

"Winnie read it.

 As she read, a thought began to bloom in Winnie's mind. The thought was small at first, like a seed. But by the time she woke up the next morning, that letter still clutched tight in her hand, the thoughts had bloomed, huge like a sunflower. And suddenly, Winnie knew precisely what she needed to do."

Winnie's parents have divorced. Winnie is bearing the brunt of the situation that pits one parent against the other to prove who loves her more and to ensure that each gets exactly the same amount of time with a beloved daughter! Neither appears to care how Winnie is being affected by their continuous, contentious battle. They make the decisions; Winnie is meant to go along with whatever they decide.

To say it is hard is a vast understatement. The decision made by the parents to live in two separate houses on one small cul-de-sac which has those two houses and a treed space between them suits them fine. Winnie is with one parent three days a week, the other three days a week. On Wednesdays, she spends the day in a treehouse constructed in the huge tree between her parents' homes. Winnie loves Wednesdays and puts up with the celebrations her parents create for every other day of the week - that is what a good daughter is expected to do, isn't it?

One day Winnie decides that enough is enough! She has had it with obscure holiday celebrations, her parents unrelenting battle, and a lack of time to keep up with her schoolwork. She finds solace and independence in her treehouse, refusing to come down until her parents meet her demands. In a show of support, and because they also want their parents to know they are unhappy with decisions being made for them, her nine fifth grade school friends join her. It's a strike! It grabs attention. A legal blip keeps them there, away from angry parents and interested onlookers.

Their parents resort to bright lights and loud music every night, wanting to disturb their sleep and force them to come to their senses. The atmosphere in the treehouse becomes more and more tense for all living there. Winnie, with guidance from a very special uncle who recognizes her very special talent, helps her friends realize they are needed at home. Only then can she help her parents see the error of their ways.

Readers are sure to enjoy this memoir of a trying time for the Tulip Street Ten. It's fun to read the sticky notes, maps, messages, recipes, cartoons, how-tos; they help establish character and provide fodder for thinking about friendship, family and upheaval.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Dance of the Violin, written by Kathy Stinson and illustrated by Dusan Petricic. Annick Press, 2017. $19.95 ages 4 and up

" ... Joshua's parents drove him to Kalamazoo. For five long hours he practiced his music in his head. By the time they arrived at their hotel, Joshua's insides felt the way the violin sounded if the strings were tuned too tight."

Do you know about Joshua Bell and his exceptional musical performance in a Washington, D.C. subway station? I hope so. It is described in an earlier book called The Man with a Violin (Annick, 2013).

In this book, Kathy Stinson and Dusan Petricic return to share an earlier time in Joshua's life. They show how his love for music at a very young age led him to compete at a very high level. The piece he chose, at age 12, to perform at a competition which could lead to his playing with a full orchestra was much too hard for him. His teacher was not convinced he could do it. Joshua was determined. The training began, and lasted for weeks.

His nerves almost get the better of him.

"Then his fingers
stumbled. His bow
stuttered. The notes
wobbled and - splat! -
tumbled a dancer,
flat on her face."

Joshua could have stopped there. He did not. Instead, he asked if he might start over. The result of that bravery?

"One final note, one final swoop, and Joshua knew -
from every hair on his head to the very tips of his toes -
that he had played better than ever before."


 Mr. Petricic's use of color and movement is the perfect accompaniment to Ms. Stinson's deft tale of tenacity and talent. Readers feel the joy that music brings to this young boy, and envision it through the mixed media artwork so brilliantly created by an accomplished artist.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Away, written by Emil Sher and illustrated by Qin Leng. Groundwood, 2017. $18.95 ages 5 and up .

"You won't be
gone forever.

Just two weeks.

I told Eli
I only need to borrow
his sleeping bag for
ONE night."

I am totally sympathetic to Skip's reluctance to leave home on her own - and for the first time ever! I felt the same way - and I was a teenager.

It's time for Skip's first ever camping experience. Her mom is encouraging. Skip is unconvinced. Readers experience their conflict through a series of sticky notes. The two battle back and forth, reasoning on the mom's part negated by all that Skip needs to stay home and do concerning her friends, and her cat. As the time for departure looms ever closer, Skip shares observations from her grandmother (Mimsy) about Mom's first sleepover camp. Grandmother and mother have varying memories of the past.

"Mimsy showed
me a picture
of you.
A 9 years old you.

A crying you.
Holding a suitcase.
And a fuzzy walrus.

I remember that
My tears didn't
last. My memories
are as warm
as biscuits."

What a joy it is to read a book that is so inventive! The relationship between mother and daughter is charming, and telling. The notes provide just enough text to make for a relatable story of reassurance and recalcitrance. Life is busy for the two, and they are in it together. Every parent and child can recognize the pull and push that will hopefully lead to a mutually happy ending.

The book's pages are filled with gorgeous ink and watercolor illustrations that bring this patient mother and obstinate child to glorious life for little ones who share their story - and for their readers. The details bring focus to every exchange between mother and daughter. The mood is comforting, while also being realistic. Visual perspectives change often. We are fully aware of Skip's growing concern as she eyes the calendar and the target date for camp to begin. Often chaotic, always personal and pleasing, this is a picture book that offers readers a chance to stop, look and ensure that every one of its lovely details are savored.

On a personal note, I think you are going to love Lester!  Oh, and Skip's notes from camp.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Ada Twist, Scientist. Written by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2016. $20.95 ages 5 and up

"Her parents yelled,
(as all parents would).

Ada's chin quivered,
but she did not cry.
She took a deep breath
and she simply asked,


Beware the child who does not speak until her third birthday! She is likely keeping a keen eye on the world around her, and formulating all sorts of questions meant to satisfy her curious nature. Why? What? How? When? Why?

Ada Marie is that girl! She watches and wonders through those three years, and is now ready to have her many questions answered. Her parents do their best to satisfy their inquisitive little one, learning as they go. Her questions get bigger; her wonder at the world leads her to experimenting at every turn; her excitement over new discoveries even wreaks occasional havoc in school. Ada is a scientist of the first order. It is no surprise for a girl named after Marie Curie and Ada Lovelace!

"How does a nose know there's something to smell?"
"And does it still stink if there's no nose to tell?"
She rattled off questions and tapped on her chin.
She'd start at the start where she ought to begin.
A mystery! A riddle! A puzzle! A quest!
That was the moment that Ada loved best."

Even the Thinking Chair, after a failed experiment with the family's cat, does not stop her search for the answers to her many questions. A family decision to fully encourage their 'young scientist' leads to much reading on everyone's part. Perhaps together they can find the answers to SOME of her questions. The rest they will leave to Ada.

The lively, rhyming text advocates for young women who love science, and honors their need to ask the big questions. David Roberts uses watercolors and pen and ink to create fun-filled and detailed images of an inquisitive and charming girl whose passion for learning is endless and consuming. Kids will love seeing the chaos created as she seeks answers through much experimentation.

Let the conversations begin!

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Give Bees A Chance, written and illustrated by Bethany Barton. Viking, Penguin. 2017. $22.99 ages 5 and up


Why are you telling me
all this stuff?


I hope that you read a copy of Bethany Barton's I’m Trying to Love Spiders (Viking, 2015). If not, check for it at the library and take a careful look. This time, she is making a case for caring about bees. Our narrator's best friend Edgar needs a lot of encouragement to give up the terrified feelings he has for them.

"Mostly because of
their "stingers,
and attached venom sacs,
which are the cause
of painful bee stings.""

Admittedly, he was stung by a bee last Sunday. But, it was only one bee. Why would he put all bees on his 'things to be hated' list? Our narrator does a superlative job of making a case for the benefits and anatomy of bees, providing fact after interesting fact about them. All information shared is meant to persuade Edgar to give them the chance they deserve to be considered in a much more favorable light.

"They act as a
pollen delivery service,
helping give flowers
the ingredients they need.
A single bee can visit
over 1,000 flowers a day, 
making bee pollination
powers unparalleled!
Which means without bees,
there'd be a lot less
yummy stuff to eat."

Those kids who are concerned about bees meet a fellow worrier in Edgar. They will understand his reticence to just accepting all of the information provided, despite its engaging and informative style. Bee stings remain top of the list for him. They are painful, of that there is no doubt. But, there are so many other things we need to know about bees, and Bethany Barton provides us with that, in spades!

There's comedy here, as well as welcome cartoon illustrations 'rendered using inks, paper, computers, Photoshop, laughter, iced tea, exhaustion, and silliness.' Together, they work for our enjoyment and new learning. Don't miss it!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

wishtree, written by Katherine Applegate. Feiwel and Friends, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2017. $23.99 ages 10 and up

"But this isn't a fairy tale, and there was no spell. Animals compete for resources, just like humans. They eat one another. They fight for dominance. Nature is not always pretty or fair or kind. But sometime surprises happen. And Samar, every spring night, reminded me that there is beauty in stillness and grace in acceptance. and that you're never too old to be surprised."

Some books come in the mail, and I can put them in a TBR pile and know that I will get to that book sometime in the future. Some arrive and go straight to the top of that pile to be read that very same day. Because I lent Katherine Applegate's incredible new book to a friend, I waited one extra day to read it. Karlyn got it back to me the day after she borrowed it, and I finished it that evening. Am I glad that I did? A resounding YES!

Red is a two hundred and sixteen year old tree - the rings prove it and offer a multitude of stories to tell. The voices of the animal and bird characters are strong, unique and amiable. The story is beautifully constructed and powerful in its treatment of intolerance as well as the need to protect our environment. Using Red as her narrator, Ms. Applegate crafts a story that will live long in the memories of those who share it. It would be a wonderful way to begin a year filled with wonderful books, if it were shared in the first days of the coming school year in any middle school classroom.

Bongo, a crow who lives among Red's branches is a terrific character - funny, caustic and supportive in the best possible ways.

"Charm," Bongo sneered. "Did you know that's
what people call a bunch of hummingbirds?"
"No, actually."
"Hummingbirds! Which, let's face it, are pretty
much just overdressed flies. But a bunch of us crows
together, guess what we get to be called?"
"A murder! A murder of crows! Can you believe
it? A bunch of trees, you're a grove. A bunch of rac-
coons? A gaze." Bongo flapped her wings. "But crows?
We're a murder."

Red plays a very special role in the neighborhood, as home to many animal families and as the depository for many personal wishes every year in early May. Those wishes are heartfelt and important to the 'wisher'. Samar is a newcomer to the neighborhood and an important human voice. Her Muslim family is the target of hate, her neighbor is a boy from her class at school whose parents also ostracize Samar's family. Both need a friend. The carved message meant for Samar's family upsets the owner of the land where Red resides. She decides that cutting the wish tree down will solve all problems. Red decides to take a stand!

Powerful, thoughtful and filled with kindness that will inspire, this is one terrific book from a very gifted author. Lucky we are to be able to share it.

I enjoyed reading this post from Katherine Applegate at Nerdy Book Club on January 17, 2017.

Red is a red oak, common and tough and beautiful. A neighborly tree in an immigrant neighborhood, it’s stood witness for over two hundred years to the best and worst of human behavior. Sadly, it’s not entirely a surprise when someone carves “LEAVE” into Red’s bark, clearly targeting the Muslim family that lives nearby. “I love people dearly,” Red says. “And yet. Two-hundred and sixteen rings, and I still haven’t figured them out.” In writing wishtree, I wanted a simple story, one where even the youngest reader would be prompted to ask that most heartbreaking of questions: why are those people being treated unkindly?  I wanted an outsider’s look at human behavior, not unlike the way Ivan the gorilla, in The One and Only Ivan, worked to understand his world. The character of Red provided me with just that kind of observer. But Red gave me something else:  hope. In Red, I found a narrator who could reassure us that — big picture — it’s going to be all right. I wanted a narrator who’d been around the block, so to speak, a historian.  ... I didn’t want to sugar-coat things. But I wanted Red to comfort readers (and me) that this, too, shall pass. That there is always goodness to be found in the midst of fear, and hope in the midst of darkness."

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Way Home in the Night, by Akiko Miyakoshi. Kids Can Press, 2017. $18.95 ages 3 and up

"Most of our neighbors
are already home.
I can see their lights
in the windows.

I hear a phone ring.
Who is calling?

Mmm ...
It smells like pie."

It is SOOO quiet as mother and her youngster make their way home along dark city streets. As they go, the child notices what is happening around them - the everyday events that often bring a close to the day. The two walk until they meet up with father who then walks along with them, and is there to tuck the young miss into bed.

Once warm and prepared for sleeping, she begins to wonder about the many scenes observed, and even plays out some of them in her mind for what might have happened after they passed by.

"Is the person on the phone getting ready for bed?

Maybe the cook from the restaurant is taking a bath,

and the bookseller is reading on the couch."

Do you ever find yourself doing the same thing? I love to sit on a bench and watch passersby, and wonder what their story is. Sometimes, I dream up a story for them. Certainly, we can ask our listeners to imagine the same things, and even write about it.

For this tiny rabbit, comfort comes in knowing that, at the end of the day, 'we all go home to bed.'

Using varying perspectives and an urban environment at dusk, the reader sees through the young one's eyes and is made a keen observer for all that is happening in the neighborhood. Using charcoal, acrylic gouache and pencil on textured paper ensures that readers feel the warmth in the lights and the bunny's bedroom as she readies herself for slumber.

There is mystery in the darkness and wonder, too. It's a perfect bedtime story.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Cricket in the Thicket: Poems about Bugs, written by Carol Murray and illustrated by Melissa Sweet. Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2017. $24.99 ages 3 and up

"Just Jumping Spider!

The jumping spider
has a handy-dandy
way to travel.

He spins and winds
a silky thread,
and lets it all unravel."

If you are looking to find books to read in your classroom, or at home, that have a scientific bent, this one will be perfect for you. It's poetry, to boot!

There are 29 poems here: they are mostly short, filled with information, and sure to pique any child's interest in bugs. Kids will love to listen to the rhythmic language. The insects often voice their own opinions and observances, making the poetry personal and engaging.

"Let's Hear It for Dung Beetle

I don't get much respect, and I suspect you didn't know
that I was very popular in Egypt long ago.

A sacred bug. Oh, yes, indeed! A charm with magic power.
Too bad you didn't know me in my former, finest hour."

Before the page is turned, we also learn:

"Dung beetles are ground dwellers and especially like manure piles.
They live off the waste of animals, particularly plant eaters like
cows and camels. In ancient Egypt, some dung beetles were called
scarabs. Ornaments in the form of scarabs have been found on

There you go!

Kids love reading, and hearing, text that provides a link to something they may not know. Carol Murray fills the pages with poetry and ends the book with three full pages of 'Cricket Notes', adding informative paragraphs that up the learning. Melissa Sweet's humorous and ingenious watercolor and mixed media artwork bursts with color and detail. Kids will experience an 'EWWW' moment when they see the careful look a fly has before descending upon a dessert laden table. Or the long 'probing proboscis' of the much dreaded mosquito. They will 'ahh' at the beauty of a dragonfly, and giggle as they watch the inchworm makes its way along a ruler.

Lively, entertaining ... and oh so, educational.                                                                  

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Stay: A Girl, A Dog and a Bucket List. Written by Kate Klise and illustrated by M. Sarah Klise. Feiwel and Friends, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2017. $24.99 ages 4 and up

"Astrid and Eli had many
things in common. They
lived in the same house,
ate at the same table, and
slept in the same bed.

There was only one
difference: Astrid was
a girl, and Eli was a boy.
And a dog."

Eli has always been Astrid's best friend. From the day her parents returned from the hospital with Astrid in their arms, Eli has been her 'personal bodyguard, her favorite pillow, and sometimes her best hiding place.' They have a mutual admiration society and are rarely apart.

As happens, Astrid grows up and Eli grows older. It is the way of life. Together, they share many wonderful moments. Recognizing that Eli is aging faster than she is, Astrid decides to create a bucket list, thus ensuring that she and Eli will experience as many adventures together as they possibly can. Not everything on the list is accessible for an aging dog. Astrid finds a way to help Eli with riding a bike, checking out library books about dogs, seeing a movie, sleeping under the stars, having a bubble bath, and a final treat that is not exactly what Eli had hoped.

As the unpredictability of aging causes Eli to remain at home, Astrid adjusts. She does check with him to make sure they have missed nothing. Eli is content.

"Being with Astrid was the only thing
left on Eli's list.
It was the only thing that had ever
been on Eli's bucket list."

Their story is so carefully and beautifully told, with accompanying acrylic artwork that adds detail and context. A gentle reminder that love wins every time!

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Giant Jumperee, written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. Dial Books, Penguin. 2017. $23.99 ages 3 and up

"So Bear swaggered up to the
burrow. But just as he put his
big furry paw inside, he heard
a loud voice.

and I'll sting you
like a bee!"

"Help! Help!" bellowed Bear."

There's a problem, and it is apparent from the first page of this wonderful new story by a team of beloved artists. Julia Donaldson introduces a voice that is full of mystery and bravado, and heard from inside Rabbit's burrow. That voice terrifies Rabbit and has him hollering for help. With each successive helpmate comes an offer of assistance and a backing-off as soon as the voice resounds from where it is safely hidden from view. It's a big voice and no animal friend seems willing to pursue its expulsion.

Mama Frog has no such concerns. She hears their cautionary tone, and pays no heed.  Upon her arrival, the GIANT JUMPEREE repeats its warning. Mama shows no fear. In fact, she provides an ultimatum:

"Come on out,
GIANT JUMPEREE!" she said.
"You're the one we want to see,
             so I'm counting
                          up to three!"

The results are surprising to everyone but Mama Frog. Her exasperated stance is clearly shown in Ms. Oxenbury's expressive illustration, only one of many that will have all readers enthralled. Julia Donaldson proves once again that she is a master at creating suspense meant to intrigue and fascinate little ones, while making them take a bit of a step back. The rhythmic patterns in language make it accessible for early readers, matching text to animal as they worry themselves sick over the perceived threat. Helen Oxenbury is a perfect collaborator for this joyful story, enhancing its pages with watercolor images that provide a lovely setting, great variety in expression, and ultimately, a
chance for the animals to laugh at themselves.

The joy I feel in not sharing this with Sicily and Chelsea while they were here in June comes from the anticipation for sharing it with them when they make a return visit. Can't wait!

Friday, July 21, 2017

BE QUIET! Written and illustrated by Ryan T. Higgins. Disney Hyperion, Hachette. 2017 $18.99 ages 4 and up

"Hi Rupert!
What are -

Shhhh. Be QUIET.
This book does
not have words.

Wowee, a
wordless book!"

After battling the mean-spirited bear whose house they infested while he was vacationing with his adopted goslings in Miami, Rupert, Nibbs and Thistle have given up on the hotel business and a new plan for profitability is in the works. They will publish a book! It's Rupert's idea; he knows exactly what he wants. He will be the star, and the book will be wordless.

Difficult? We don't  know the half of it, until we get a look at  just how talkative Nibbs and Thistle truly are. They have so much explaining to do:

"Hey guys,
what's with all
the shouting?

Hi Thistle! We're making
a wordless book, but I've
promised to be quiet, so
I can't tell you about it."

You get my drift?! While Rupert maintains his wish to keep it wordless, you can only imagine how many words are actually spoken as the other two (with constant direction from the book's star) discuss its merits and its meaning.

"Quiet, you!
This book will be more
than FUN. It will be
visually stimulating.

What does "vishery
strigulating" mean?

I think it means we're going
to poke our readers in
the eyeballs with pictures.

That's not what it means!
It means ... we need to
have strong illustrations."

There follows a silly discussion about the meaning of strong, which leads to total absurdity and chaos for Rupert who wants his project to be taken seriously. Impossible ... there is no stopping the two as they move hilariously from one thought to the next in quick succession and with no filters for their continuing conversation. It is a giggle fest for readers and listeners. I have read it often, each time finding something new to see in the irresistible illustrations and to relish in the telling.

The absurd nonsense, smart dialogue, and comedic pace make this a perfect piece for performance. Find three kids who appreciate the humor, have a dramatic flair and let them loose. This book is destined to be a perennial favorite at story time.

I am a huge fan of the Bruce books, Mother Bruce (Disney-Hyperion, 2015) and Hotel Bruce (Disney-Hyperion, 2016), and I am highly anticipating Bruce's Big Move in September. That being said, I would also love to read another book about Rupert and his pals. Any plans, Mr. Higgins???


Thursday, July 20, 2017

the forever garden, by Laurel Snyder and Samantha Cotterill. Schwartz & Wade, Random House. 2017. $23.99 ages 3 and up

"Sometimes Mom sends me to Honey for an egg to bake with. Honey's eggs are pink and green. Smooth and speckled. The chickens get mad. They scatter. Cluck! "Presto!" says Honey as she slips an egg into my hand. The egg is warm. Each Friday night, I ask Honey to dinner. She brings bouquets ... "

Honey is the consummate gardener, neighbor and friend. Laurel lives next door. Honey works tirelessly in her garden. Laurel and her mother reaps many of its benefits. Along the way, Laurel learns as much about friendship as she does about tending the plants in a garden.

If it's sunny, Laurel visits. If it's rainy, she watches from her window. Often, in the evening, she shares a cookie with Honey on a blanket as they gaze at the stars. Theirs is a mutual admiration society. When a FOR SALE sign goes up at Honey's house, Laurel is surprised and dismayed. She wants things to remain the same. Honey has no choice; her mother is sick and needs her help. Still, Laurel has a warning.

"You know there might be wasps where you're
moving to," I warn her. "Or tornadoes."

Honey turns to me and smiles. "I'll miss you, too," she says.
I touch a strawberry leaf, dark and glossy. It trembles."

And Laurel has another lesson to learn. When she asks why Honey is planting something she will not be there to enjoy, Honey explains that gardens can be there forever if someone takes the time to care for them. Just as she enjoyed the grapes a previous owner planted, the new neighbors will have strawberries to eat when summer rolls around next year. It is a lovely thought.

When new neighbors move in, with four tiny tots, Laurel is more than happy to share what she has learned under Honey's tutelage. The 'forever garden' lives on!

Samantha Cotterill uses pen and ink for images that are then colored digitally to illustrate this winning and winsome tale. Young readers will delight in its many wonderful details and are sure to have much to discuss as the story is shared. From the opening idyllic scene revealing Honey's full backyard with its well, chickens, raised beds, cat dozing on the back porch, and a new bed just waiting to be planted, to the final image showing a bed of kale as seen through Laurel's bedroom window and Honey's gardening hat perched on the bedpost, her visual story hums with life and love.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Bera: The One-Headed Troll, by Eric Orchard. First Second, Raincoast. 2016. $24.99 ages 8 and up

"Maybe ask the human first?
Ahem! Hello Human!

Worth a try ...
hello, little one.
How did you com to my

Maybe it doesn't speak Trollish?

Probably not."

Bera is a humble and content one headed troll who enjoys her life as a pumpkin farmer in service to the troll king. And then, she hears a baby cry. Humans are not meant to be in the troll lands. Bera is distraught when she comes upon that baby being tormented by mean-spirited, ugly mermaids. Filled with compassion for the little one, she tries to find an explanation for its presence.

Cloote, a witch who was once close to the troll king, provides the answer. She wants to use that baby to create a monster. Bera is having none of it! She and her owl Winslowe seek guidance from heroes found in Bera's beloved books. Perhaps one of them can help to get the baby home. Bera's search leads her to meetings with various entities, all willing to do what they can to tangle with Cloote and help Bera in her attempt to find the baby a forever home.

Her kindness and her willingness to seek help for a quest she finds a trifle overwhelming puts her in touch with those who will change her life for the better. A one-headed troll may lack the strength and power that those with two or three headed ones have; Bera surpasses all with the size of her heart and her capacity for caring. She is quite the hero. Family is at the center of her story, no matter how it is defined.

Terrific graphic art, a quick pace and a number of obstacles make this a book that many readers will appreciate and want to share with others. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Birthdays: Beyond Cake and Ice Cream. Written by Nikki Tate and Dani Tate-Stratton. Orca Book Publishers, 2017. $24.95 all ages

"If you are a single man turning 30 in Germany, there may be some public housework in your future! Tradition says a single young man should sweep the steps of city hall. Helpful friends even gather to throw dirt, confetti, bottle caps and other hard-to-sweep items onto the stairs to give him more to do! This is supposed to be a bit embarrassing ... " 

Orca Origins is a series that is worthy of attention, and of use for public, school and classroom libraries. So, I am pleased to share this newest addition here today.

Nikki and Dani Tate have shared many birthday celebrations, as mothers and daughters so often do.

"Over the years we've enjoyed
borrowing birthday traditions from many different places
and had a lot of fun inventing ways to celebrate that are
unique to our family."

Memories from such celebrations make their way onto the pages of this fine book that explores the history of birthdays in its first chapter. From the ancient Egyptians to modern times, the authors explore the origins of such celebrations. In fact it is only in fairly recent times, when people began to record actual birthdates, that people actually took note of them. Birthday Treats information boxes add interest, as do captioned archival photos and tidbits of pertinent information. Give It A Whirl encourages readers to journal responses to suggestions. And the piece de resistance ...  a recipe for Omi's Apple Cake which is  always served at Tate birthday celebrations!

The focus in Chapter Two concerns a world view of how birthdays are observed.

"The Asante people of Ghana
call their birthday a soul day.
Special washing rituals, feasting
and wearing white clothing are all
part of the festivities."

I found it very interesting to learn more about the guests, the foods, the gifts given, the games and songs enjoyed by so many. The authors include two personal stories from Stevie and Hoka that honor their memories of special birthdays celebrated with family in a variety of countries.

In the third and final chapter, text concerns special birthdays as they are celebrated around the world.
These milestones vary; honoring the young and the old, commemorating growing up, and taking special note of certain ages in a person's life. Again, two personal stories are included and a recipe.

As we have come to expect, the book is beautifully designed, well-researched and will appeal to many. It is sure to inspire new ideas for an upcoming party!

Monday, July 17, 2017

BIG CAT, little cat, written and illustrated by Elisha Cooper. Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2017. $23.99 ages 3 and up

"The cat showed the new
cat what to do.
When to eat,
when to drink,
where to go,
how to be,
when to rest.

Big cat, little cat."

In spare and elegant prose Elisha Cooper helps his young audience make sense of the cycle of life. His introduction to the big white cat and its daily routines is quiet and pleasing. Then, one day, a black kitten arrives. The kitten has much to learn, and the white cat is a firm and gentle teacher. The two share their space with aplomb. The little one grows, and is soon the bigger of the two. They soldier on, sharing space and the doings of feline companions.

"... every day there was work.
Cooking, cleaning, climbing,
hunting, exploring, making plans. "

And they don't forget to play ... until, after many years, the older one is forever gone. He leaves much sadness in his wake.

Soon, a tiny white kitten arrives and life with two cats begins again. Astute readers will not miss the cyclical nature of the story, or the thought that the same thing might happen again.

Mr. Cooper, obvious cat fancier and student of their presence, uses thick lined drawings in black and white to provide personality for these friendly, occasionally frisky, felines. He ably captures the grief felt by one for the other, and then for everyone else in the house.

Tender and reassuring, this is a lovely look at life with pets ... and without them. It is sure to assuage a hurting heart.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

My Awesome Summer by P. Mantis. Written and illustrated by Paul Meisel. Holiday House, Thomas Allen & Son. 2017. $26.50 ages 3 and up


All the aphids are gone.
I'm hungry.
Growing so fast!
I ate one of my brothers.
Okay, maybe two.


I ate another brother."

She is a praying mantis, and she is our narrator. Through her observations and confessions we learn much about her world and the role she plays in it. It is nature in all its glory, with its strange and surprising happenings. Through three seasons, she describes what life is like for her as she manages to find sustenance, escape certain death to those predators who would find her delectable, and shed her skin numerous times as she continues to grow.

She is open and upfront about her eating habits:

"For a pipsqueak I've
got some sharp teeth.
My razor arms
are superfast, too!

A grasshopper hopped
next to me. I grabbed
him before he could
say Jiminy Cricket."

She is funny, and matter of fact. Hunger is the root for all action, until she finally finds her way back to her birthplace bush. There she lays her eggs, protects them in an egg case and takes a well-deserved 'nap'.

Rich and colorful forest images are detailed and grab attention. Endpapers contain plenty of further information, a labelled illustration, and websites for further investigation.

""The praying mantis has a triangle-shaped
head that, like the human head, can swivel
on its neck. It has one ear and two large eyes.
During the day it can see objects as far as
50 feet away."


Saturday, July 15, 2017

And Then Comes Summer, written by Tom Brenner and illustrated by Jaime Kim. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2017. $23.00 ages 3 and up

"WHEN every day is like a
Saturday and porches and lawns and sidewalks are playgrounds, and a familiar jingle interrupts the game ... 

THEN race to be first
in line -

Sorry, this is late. You will want to have it on hand when school winds down next year! Kids will be drooling with anticipatory glee for the carefree days to come. It is a tribute to and an exploration of summer, in all of its many guises.

Choosing only one season of the year allows Tom Brenner to pay close attention to the long and lazy days that hold such allure for school kids and their families. It is memory-making time for many. Who among us does not have stories to share of family trips, growing gardens, picking berries, swimming at the local pool, and welcoming visitors? Summer's many delights are enjoyed by this carefree group of children who spend their time near home, revelling in all there is to do there.

The sounds of lawn mowers, jubilant kids, birdsong, bicycle bells and backyard games pepper the warm, sultry air. Watching the Independence Day Parade, those glorious evening fireworks, hopscotch games, ice cream trucks, and sprinklers creating rainbows fill days with delight. While some days may seem a little tedious, there is always a diversion.

"WHEN the dog days of summer roll around,
and it's so hot you're practically panting,
and not even the sprinklers provide relief ...

THEN it's time to head to the lake.

It's the grand hurrah for this memorable summer, with more adventure in store and more memories to make.

Jaime Kim's acrylic illustrations sparkle with sunshine and light. The rhythmic, carefully chosen language is fully enhanced by detailed, familiar scenes depicting all manner of summer living.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Stef Soto, Taco Queen. By Jennifer Torres. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2017. $22.49 ages 9 and up

"After school, I find Tia Perla
at the far end of the parking lot,
her front end peeking shyly out
from under the shadow of a big
ash tree. But since I'm still
feeling so full of bubbles and
butterflies to have (sort of) met
Viviana Vega, it doesn't even
bother me to see her there. When
Papi honks the horn and waves,
I wave right back ... "

I'm sure you have read stories about immigrant families who are very protective of their children, and the rebellion that middle graders feel when they are embarrassed by those same parents. Stef feels as those other seventh graders feel when her father arrives at school in the Tia Perla, and waits patiently for his daughter to climb in for the ride home.

Tia Perla is her father's taco food truck, as much a member of the family as Stef and her parents are. In fact, the truck plays a large role in the way this story develops. Her father loves the work he does, serving his customers with pride. Her understanding for the pride he feels grows as she works alongside him, and gains confidence in herself. Others, especially her former friend Julia, make disparaging remarks about the dilapidated truck. Stef appreciates her father's work ethic, and the long hours spent wanting to provide a good life for his family.

When his livelihood is threatened by the city's perceived need to put unreasonable regulations in place for mobile food trucks, Stef speaks up in support of her father and other vendors. But, food is not the all that Tia Perla produces. Stef uses her to save a class dance, winning new friends and much admiration from her classmates.

Stef's first person narrative is honest and reflective. She appreciates the hard work her parents do to make a good life. She helps her Papi with his business and with translation when needed. She is a gifted artist and proves to be an effective problem solver. Her story is sure to appeal to many middle graders, and would be a great readaloud in any middle grade classroom.

It will also leave you hankering for a warm and spicy tostada!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Vimy Oaks: A Journey to Peace. Written by Linda Granfield and illustrated by Brian Deines. North Winds Press, Scholastic. 2017. $19.99 ages 8 and up

"Leslie mailed the acorns, tiny bundles of life, to his family in Canada. He could not have imagined then what would result one hundred years later from his pocketful of promise. Sadly, the capture of Vimy Ridge, a battle credited with bringing world respect and acknowledgement to Canada, did not mark the end of the war."

This is the story of Leslie Miller and the acorns he picked from the ground at the battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917. He was only 25, and a child of Ontario. A teacher in Saskatchewan at the time of his enlistment, in 1915 he was sent to England to prepare for his part in WWI. His assignment to the Canadian Signal Corps was a dangerous one, being tasked to maintain a connection between headquarters and the battlefield.

His diary provided a place to record how he was feeling as he experienced the events of war. He also made note of the local flora, as any interested farm boy would likely do. After the fight at Vimy Ridge he picked acorns from the ground and sent them home to his family in Canada. Upon discharge, he eventually returned to the Ontario farm where he was raised. Marriage meant a gift of farm land. He named it Vimy Oaks. living there until his retirement. Leslie Miller died in 1979.

It took a family friend's visit to Vimy Ridge in 2004 to realize that oak trees no longer grew on the ridge where so many had fought and died. Could the oak trees from Mr. Miller's farm provide the seeds needed to green up the infamous ridge again? From that idea grew a project to have Vimy oak trees planted across Canada, and near the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France.

Linda Granfield, as she always does, has penned an important story of but one of the soldiers who fought in the trenches during WWI. But, that is not all there is to Leslie Miller's story, nor that of many others. The story told here proves that. Getting to know him personally is important for all Canadians. The inclusion of many clearly captioned archival photos and entries from Leslie's journal are the reflections of a man who loved nature, and valued its blessings.

"When walking through this promenade [of trees], we found it so
calm while a strong wind was blowing outside, the light so strange-
ly softened and diffused, and the gentle rustling of the leaves so
soothing a sound that the place seemed a bit of fairyland."
                                                                                Leslie H. Miller            
Brian Deines's oil on canvas images add context and bring Mr. Miller, his farm, his time at war and his lasting legacy to life for readers. A very important story, well told.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Little Fox in the Forest, by Stephanie Graegin. Schwartz & Wade Books, Random House. 2017. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"When a young girl
brings her beloved
stuffed fox to the
playground, imagine
her surprise when
a real fox takes off
with it!
Join the little girl
and her friend, the boy ... "

While Reynard did not make the trip from Victoria to Brandon in June, he is one of Sicily's many 'special friends', who happens to be stuffed. He provides comfort when needed and companionship for many a walk or car trip.

The front endpaper for this very special (and wordless) illustrated book offers a glimpse into the bedroom of the girl at the center of the storyline. It has a bookshelf filled to the brim with books and buddies. The wall behind holds meaningful photographs. It certainly foreshadows the coming action!

Turn to the title page and we learn even more. She is asleep, arms wrapped around the little fox, a book by her bedside, and handmade art adorning the walls of her bedroom. She is an explorer as shown by the butterfly net, rubber boots, backpack and the artwork displayed.

At school at the end of the day, an invitation is issued for show-and-tell tomorrow. The descriptors are 'something old, something treasured'. Her stuffed fox comes to mind immediately. Preparation for his visit is filled with memories of times past.

Leaving that treasured fox in her backpack as she enjoys a swing at the playground after school leaves it vulnerable to a real fox absconding with it! What follows is the chase between girl and fox to get her buddy back. Her school friend follows, abandoned backpack in hand. The chase is long, and followed with much interest by many forest animals. Help is sought and a new trail followed.

Our attention turns to the fox, who is happily imagining life with a new 'found' friend, and to a wily weasel bent on taking what is not his. Bear is the arbitrator for that skirmish, sending weasel packing and leaving Fox to find his place in another part of the forest. It is full of color, bursting with animal life, and home for the little one.

What follows is a heartfelt discovery and exchange that is sure to satisfy a young audience!

The detailed illustrations are rendered in pencil, watercolor, and ink, assembled and colored digitally. It provides fodder for meaningful discussion and will be pored over again and again, with readers finding something new each time it is shared. (Don't miss the back endpaper.)vg

Rich in meaning and filled with beautiful images, this is tale to be treasured.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Bad Girls of Fashion: Style Rebels from Cleopatra to Lady Gaga, written by Jennifer Croll and illustrations by Ada Buchholc. Annick Press, 2016. $16.95 ages 12 and up

"As a child, Kathleen Hanna always
knew she would grow up to be some sort of artist. Though she was born in Portland, Oregon, her family moved around to follow her father's job changes. But by the time she was fourteen, they had settled in the Pacific Northwest. Hanna was a creative kid, and participated in dance and musical theater."

Beginning in ancient Egypt and moving forward to present day fashion, Jennifer Croll presents the roles played by 10 famous fashionistas. She includes Cleopatra, Marie Antoinette, Coco Chanel, Frida Kahlo, Marlene Dietrich, Diana Vreeland, Madonna, Rei Kawakubo, Kathleen Hanna and Lady Gaga. She does not stop there, being sure to mention many others.

Interest in fashion and all that is fashionable can begin at a very young age, more noticeably when young women move into their teens and begin to think seriously about their own sense of how they want to look. In text that is accessible to her intended audience, Ms. Croll describes the many ways in which women have used what they wear to send a clear message about themselves. She presents a historical look at many of the women who influenced changing fashions, and who often marched to their own drummer when it came to making a statement.

Each chapter presents fashionable women whose style has had an impact. Beginning with basic information that includes name, birth date, occupation and her 'bad girl cred', the author moves on to relate a part of her story and the influence wielded by her fashion sense and understanding of the power it held in others' eyes. Three other women are spotlighted. In this case, Empress Dowager CIXI, Elizabeth I and Angela Davis.

Throughout Ms. Croll encourages those who read her book to be brave and confident in themselves as they choose a style of their own for the life they want to lead. Historical in scope and reader friendly, there is much to learn here. The many photos and the accomplished illustrative work of Ada Buchholc provide a clear look at the women who have determined many of the stylish trends of both past and present. Whether read in order from front to back, or by choosing those who hold the highest interest for the reader, this is a book that will entertain and enlighten.

Women of today need not be slaves to fashion; rather, they can choose their own course in terms of fashion and how they will use it to their best advantage. They can be 'bad girls' and take risks as did those who are presented here. The message is clear. Style can be what we want it to be!

Monday, July 10, 2017

I Wrote You A Note, by Lizi Boyd. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2017. $23.99 ages 4 and up

"I wrote you a note.
Did you find it?

Duck found the note.
She made a dock so her
ducklings could rest.

They ruffled their
wet feathers. Then
they paddled away."

Please look carefully at the gorgeous spreads Lizi Boyd has created for her new book before you ever read her text. If you know her work, you are sure to be an admirer of the wordless worlds she has created in Flashlight (Chronicle, 2014) and Inside Outside (Chronicle, 2013). She is an accomplished artist whose books tell lively stories without need for words in the telling. So, begin with the wondrous illustrations, and move on to the storytelling for this one. You are sure to be charmed.

It seems simple, but there is much to enjoy on this written note's journey. You will meet some thoroughly enjoyable characters as the note itself meanders from place to place, always catching attention. The journey is filled with twists and turns, not the least of which is the final one which puts the note in the best place of all.

Along the way, the note is noticed by a group of familiar wild animals. Each one finds a perfect way to use the note, before it moves on to further adventure.  The gouache illustrations, with backgrounds in cool hues, are filled with lively details sure to appeal and to hold attention as the book is shared. Each page connects quietly to the next, making it a joyful experience for all.

It is a brilliant read-aloud, as well as a book that beginning readers will treasure for its repetitive language and engaging storyline. A gentle homage to the natural world, to being curious about the creatures within it, to the joys of writing and note-making, and to sharing adventure with a friend.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

A River, by Marc Martin. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2017.$24.99 ages 4 and up

"Sometimes I imagine
myself floating along the
river, swept away in s silver
boat toward the horizon.
Where will it take me?
I goes through the city,
under bridges and past the
speeding cars that zoom by
in an endless stream ... "

What a journey of imagination this book provides for all readers! The child narrator sits at a bedroom window, attention captured by the river in view. As she watches it meander slowly past, she draws her own ideas for what she believes happens as it moves beyond where she can see.

Each new spread is a flight of fancy, as she thinks of the sights she might see. In a silver boat, with her eyes to the horizon, she passes busy city streets and roads. Once past the bridges and urban traffic, she makes her way into an industrial area where factories belch black smoke and pour waste into the once clean waters. Her journey is long and varied. Eventually, she wends her way to the ocean where she enjoys the smells, the sights, and the stormy conditions that bring her back to the reality of rain on her window.

Reverie ended, but not before readers are privy to the beauty of these various spaces through Marc Martin's mixed media illustrations and his eye for detail. From urban to rural, from quiet countryside to jungle abundance, he makes this imaginative journey a feast for the eyes. Much time will be spent returning to the book's vibrant spreads in an attempt to find all that he has included. Readers will want to reach out and touch the glorious textured scenes presented to them.

What a wondrous way to show little ones the world that exists around us!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

A Bandit's Tale: The Muddled Misadventures of a PIckpocket, by Deborah Hopkinson. Alfred A. Knopf, Random House. 2017. $21.99 ages 10 and up

"I hope that all this talk of sausages hasn't made you as hungry as I felt right then. And even though more than anything I longed to bite into something juicy and hot to fill my empty stomach, that didn't happen. All I got that day was more trouble. I wandered for what seemed like hours, bedraggled and miserable as a chicken in a hailstorm. I even began to worry a little about Marco and Luigi."

I just finished reading this wonderful novel about late 19th century New York, the tenements, the poverty, and the adventures of a young immigrant Italian boy, Rocco Zaccaro. You want to know more about him. So, I want to share with you a summary of his story.

After a mysterious, disgraceful event in his Italian community, and with no prospects for a sunny future, Rocco is indentured to the unscrupulous and unsavory padrone and sets sail for New York. His parents will receive twenty dollars a year for his keep. As you might expect Signor Ancarola does not have the boy's best interest in mind. Instead, he keeps Rocco and a number of other young boys in slavery. They are forced into the streets every day as street musicians. They bring back one dollar a day, or they don't come home to the unbearable living conditions he provides. Beatings result when they cannot pay the total amount. They are fed little, have no protective clothing, and are often shoeless.

Rocco is 11, but he has a plan. He wants something better. To that end, he makes acquaintance with two pickpockets who see his potential and ply him with food and thoughts of wealth. It works for a while as he learns the skills needed. Soon, Rocco wants more independent work. He is caught by the police and sent to a prison for boys. He makes his escape just in time to face the famous Blizzard of 1888 that virtually shuts down New York. As his luck would have it, he meets a young Irish girl named Meddlin' Mary for her work to save the work horses that are dying in the streets from overwork and starvation.  He begins to help her father, a blacksmith, and then accompanies Danish photographer, Jacob Riis. He needs Rocco's assistance with translation as he chronicles the brutal living conditions of so many immigrants. Rocco finds a calling in trying to help the kids who are just like him.

What a history lesson this is! Deborah Hopkinson adds pertinent and enlightening back matter. It helps readers understand why she wanted to write this tale of adventure, community, adversity, and transformation to find a new and better place in a cruel world. Rocco is a feisty, bright, and optimistic narrator ... and he's funny to boot. He has heart and he has gumption; both do him well as he navigates the many changes in his life.

Friday, July 7, 2017

One Day, The End. Written by Rebecca Kai Dotlich and illustrated by Fred Koehler. Boyds Mills Press, Highlights. 2015. $21.00 ages 3 and up

"One day ...
The End.

One day ...
I hid from
my brother.
He found me.
The End."

I don't know how I missed telling you about this terrific little book of short stories ... and I mean, really short! They are delightful, and full of fun.

The official title is ONE DAY, THE END: Short, Very Short, Shorter-than-Ever Stories. Let us begin with a note from the author:

"For every STORY
there is a
and an
but what
makes ALL the DIFFERENCE."

And, that's the truth. The proof is in the pudding ... well, in the pages shared here. Of course, I could share every one. There are, after all, only nine of them and they are VERY short. But, you don't want to miss them. So, hike to your nearest bookstore or to the public library. If they don't have it, they might just order it for you. Let's hope so!

The storyteller is full of energy, and wit. Each entry begins with 'one day' and finishes with 'the end'. In between, she shares wonderful little tidbits from her daily life. These events are going to be very familiar to the kids who read them. The words may be minimal; the ideas certainly are not. Fred Koehler is equally skilled at presenting artwork that chronicles just exactly what happens between the first two and last two words. Filled with detail and wonderful characters, he also allows readers to see what ties the tales together in the best possible way. Kids will see what many of the adults who share this book do not! You won't be able to read this one time, there is far too much to see at first glance.

If you have a child in your life whose dream is to write, hand this book over and let them see how they might get started. 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Malala: Acitivist for Girls' Education, written by Raphaele Frier and illsutrated by Aurelia Fronty. Charlesbridge, Random House. 2017. $$21.99 ages 8 and up

"As 2008 ends, the Taliban announces another ban: girls no longer have the right to go to school as of January 15, 2009. "How can they stop us from going to school?" Malala is upset. Her friends are angry, too. "They have already blown up hundreds of schools, and no one has done anything."

Malala Yousafzai, the young activist from Pakistan, recently became an honorary Canadian citizen, only the sixth and certainly the youngest to receive the honor. She, once again, showed the courage and poise that have made her a hero in the eyes of many as she spoke to the Canadian Parliament.

Her family's belief in a right to education led her father Ziauddin to open a school in Pakistan that welcomed girls, feeling that girls should be valued in the same way as boys are in Pakistani society. The Taliban did not, and do not, agree. Education was not their only target. Laws banned music, computers and television; women were to cover their faces and bodies; men were required to grow beards. Disobedience led to swift punishment, even death. Finally, girls were not allowed to attend school. Malala's anger with the Taliban and their oppression led her to speak out against them and to speak for the rights of girls and children everywhere.

During the war that broke out, Malala at 14, was not discouraged when the Taliban returned to her valley. She continued speaking out. The Pakistani government even honored her with a Peace Prize.

"By 2011 Malala is so successful, she is able
to create an educational foundation. It helps
her and those who support her work.
But her family is threatened by the Taliban.
The military group does not like her father's
schools or Malala's activism."

So, they shot her and two of her friends, on a bus as they were returning from school. Near death, she was sent to England to recover. The Taliban did not know who they were messing with, obviously. Today, she continues her important work throughout the world.

She will soon be 20. What she has accomplished in that short life is inspirational! This book helps readers see the path she has taken. It allows readers a look at her family, her country, the Taliban threat, and the lengths to which she has gone to spread her powerful message.

Back matter is extensive and enlightening.

"With guns you can kill terrorists; with
education you can kill terrorism."

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Little Red, by Bethan Woollvin. Two Hoots, Pan Macmillan. Publishers Group Canada. 2016. $24.99 ages 4 and up

"And he made a plan.

The wolf said goodbye to
Little Red Riding Hood,
took a shortcut through the
trees, and found Grandma's

Which was unlucky for

I will be first to admit that I have a soft spot for fairy tales written in a brand new way. I appreciate when authors stick to the bones of the story. A twist in the tale is what makes a new version work for me.

Bethan Woollvin's Little Red has spunk. You can see it in her eyes! The front endpapers invite some speculation for those new to the fairy tale, and a reminder for those who have heard it previously. A little girl in a bright red coat stands (hands in pocket) amongst the forest trees. A sly black wolf does his best to hide himself behind one of them. The back endpapers add a new twist, and a sweet touch of humor.

Little Red's mom passes a basket to her daughter with a familiar request. Grandma is ill and needs some cake. Her journey begins. It doesn't take long for the wolf to make his appearance. Little Red is fearless, and a tad suspicious. The wolf makes his plan and is off to act on it. Poor Grandma! As readers would expect, he settles himself in Grandma's duds and in her bed. Little Red knows something is amiss. She can see the poorly disguised wolf, but not her Grandma. Little Red makes a plan of her own. Totally prepared, she makes her way inside.

Poor Wolf!

She is bold and unfazed by things that are sure to scare other little girls, 'but not this little girl." This little girl has no need for rescue. She can take of herself, thank you very much! Her journey home sees her wearing a much different look, and a big smile. Bravo, Little Red.                                                                        

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

I Am (Not) Scared, written by Anna Kang and illustrated by Christopher Weyant. two lions, Amazon. Thomas Allen & Son, 2017. $25.99 ages 3 and up

"Don't worry,
there are much scarier
things than this.

Like what?

Like ...

Yes. They are scary!"

The bears are back! Young fans will be excited to see what they are up to this time. They have argued, as you know. They have shown us their world from separate points of view. Can they agree that a roller coaster is scary? I wonder.

In the beginning they seem to have opposing views. The little purple guy has a big smile, while the much bigger orange one looks concerned. Flip the page and they disagree.

"You are scared."

"I am not scared ...  
Are you?"  

Is it the LOOP OF DOOM that makes the bigger one admit that he might be? That roller coaster looks huge, and moves very fast. The little one lets him know there are much scarier things. They share what scares them. Finally, the roller coaster (with a snake aboard) scares them plenty. The snake, although shaken, seems keen to ride again. Can they be scared together?

Their fears are justified as they climb aboard and head off. Watching their expressions as they make their way around the coaster's course is a real hoot and will have kids begging for more. And, as so often happens when fears are faced, it sets them up to give it another try! Maybe being scared isn't so bad after all, if you are together.

This is a perfect pairing of text and art. Read it once, and then read it again. The kids will not tire of the story. (And they will surely want to add their own ideas to a growing list of expressed fears.)                                                                  

Monday, July 3, 2017

Shell, Beak, Tusk: Shared Traits and the Wonders of Adaptation, by Bridget Heos. Houoghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. 2017. $23.99 ages 8 and up

"But as the top predator in the ocean, an orca doesn't use its camouflage for protection. Rather, the orca's black and white pattern allows it to sneak up on the animals it eats, such as seals, whales, and even penguins (if the orca can see them!)."

The author continues: "Though they share the ocean, a penguin is a bird and an orca is a mammal. They both developed black and white coloring as an adaptation to life in the ocean."

I learn 'stuff' every day from my reading. Never has convergent evolution made as much sense as it does here. It is about those animals who share traits, but not a family tree. Pretty simple, huh?

I know Bridget Heos' audience is meant to be young readers. I just want her to know that she made the connection even with those of us who are much older, and didn't know what she so aptly teaches in this welcome book.

The gorgeous photographs are a huge help to understanding, but she does make her point in friendly text and small bits of information that make the learning accessible, and important. An explanation concerning traits and adaptation is helpful to get the learning started. The large, detailed and colorful photos give context and certainly have an 'ooh' factor.

Two page spreads discuss such similarities between animals as spines, shells, tall ears, wings, camouflage, light, beaks, bills, a long, sticky tongue, and tusks.

One pairing I found particularly interesting was the one about light.

"A LIGHT is for drawing attention.

A  firefly's glow is caused by a chemical inside its body. The flashing light is usually used
to attract a mate. But fireflies don't always play fair. Some trick other species. In that case,
a firefly will see a familiar flash and approach, only to get eaten by the trickster insect.

In the darkness of the deep sea, the angelfish's light dangles from its dorsal fin. It
glows because of light-up bacteria living inside the fish. The light lures other fish to
come near. Then the angelfish eats them.

A firefly is a beetle, a type of insect. An angelfish is, of course, a fish. In both cases, the
lights say, "Look at me!" What they don't say is, "I'm going to eat you!"

There you have it!

An extensive bibliography and an index prove useful for those wanting to go back to their favorite part of the book, or for extending knowledge of same.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Sun Is Also A Star, written by Nicola Yoon. Doubleday Canada, Random House. 2016. $21.99 ages 12 and up

"When they say the heart wants what it wants, they're talking about the poetic heart - the heart of love songs and soliloquies, the one that can break as if it were just-formed glass. They're not talking about the real heart, the one that only needs healthy foods and aerobic exercise. But the poetic heart is not to be trusted. It is fickle and will lead you astray. It will tell you all you need is love and dreams."

I wonder if a sophomore book causes its author as much worry and concern as a sophomore CD. When the first is as successful, and as star-reviewed as Everything Everything (Doubleday, 2015), it must give one pause. Nicola Yoon need not have worried at all, if she even thought about it. She proves her writing prowess with this follow-up novel. I was hooked from its first page!

Natasha does not believe in fate. Daniel does. Natasha does not believe in love at first sight. Daniel does. Natasha believes in science, the facts that rule the world. In fact, her family is facing deportation back to Jamaica on the very day she meets Daniel. They are undocumented, discovered and there seems little can be done to keep them in the United States. Daniel is a poet, whose Korean immigrant parents insist that he become a doctor. When they meet, Natasha is resistant while Daniel feels it is their destiny.

Their story is told in two first person voices. Daniel is so desperate to convince Natasha that they are meant to be, he uses a scientific list to help it happen. Natasha is distracted by her family's desperate situation and with trying to find a way to resolve it. What good would it do to fall for a romantic dreamer? There is no future in it.

There are digressions from the two perspectives, and they are quite wonderfully presented. Here is a part of one of them:

"four minutes
  A History of Love

Daniel sets his phone timer for four minutes and
takes both Natasha's hands in his. Are they supposed to hold
hands during this part of the experiment? He's not sure.
According to the study, this is the final step in falling in love.
What happens if you're already in love?

At first they both feel pretty silly. Natasha wants to say aloud
that this is too goofy. Helpless, almost embarrassed smiles
overtake their faces. Natasha looks away, but Daniel squeezes
her hands. Stay with me is what he means."

Have I tempted you to find a copy, and discover their story for yourself? I hope so. Nicola Yoon is a gifted wordsmith, whose story is certainly romantic. It also takes a close look at family, immigration and the ways in which certain events in our lives seem serendipitous. It explores life with its many blemishes, and offers a ray of hope for both optimists and pessimists among us.

You should read it!

Meant to be doesn’t have to mean forever.”

Saturday, July 1, 2017

My Canada: An Illustrated Atlas. Written by Katherine Dearlove and illustrated by Lori Joy Smith. Owlkids Books, 2017. $2017. $18.67 ages 5 and up

"My Canada takes you across our amazing country, stopping in each province and territory. The museums and monuments, wildlife and waterways, sights and shorelines all tell a story about Canada and the many different people, places, and landscapes you'll find here. Are you ready to explore Canada from coast to coast to coast? Let's get going!"

This is a terrific new book for younger children wanting to know about Canada - the country they live in. It is an important addition to the books being published in celebration of Canada's 150th birthday. I love that the cost to purchase is $18.67!

It begins with a Did you know that Canada has: 3 territories and 10 provinces; more lakes than any other country; the world's longest coastline; the world's longest international border; more than 36 million people ... "

The author follows up her introductory page with a Canadian map (with capital cities marked for each province and territory) first, and then a map of each of the provinces from west to east and finally, the territories. An accompanying legend assures that readers know what the federal capital city is and where each provincial capital is situated, as well as pointing out other cities and national parks. The provincial flag, bird, flower and tree are also mentioned. An inset points out exactly where the province lies on the map of Canada, occasionally adding another to show something else of particular interest to all.

Originally, the artist Lori Joy Smith did an illustration of her home province, P.E.I.. It proved so appealing and popular that she decided to expand her repertoire to include all provinces and territories, in a special tribute to this year's  sesquicentennial. Perfect for young learners interested in geography, it will be a welcome addition personal and school libraries.